The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

8s. a week

That's how much it cost Poor Law institutions to support a boy assigned to a training ship. I'm not clear on whether the government paid the fees or whether the institution from which the boy was sent (in the cases of Walter and Bert, Sheffield Children's Home) paid.

The most thorough internet resource on training ships I've found so far is here. There were different categories, though they all had the reputation of being for boys with discipline problems. The Clio, Walter's ship, was an "industrial school ship" whose aim was to prepare the boys for the merchant marine or Royal Navy and/or give them some solid industrial or technical skill. Other categories included: reformatory ships, charitable training ships and schools, and merchant cadet ships/colleges. At least Walter and Bert weren't so bad as to be sent to reformatory ships!

On the Clio, all of the boys' boots and clothing were made on board to give the boys training above and beyond the seamanship. The article also mentions the Clio Boys Home in Liverpool, that could be used by the boys after leaving the ship. Walter mentions staying at the home until he was taken on as a cabin boy on the merchant ship Oropesa in 1907.

Here's his account of his training ship experience, beginning to end:

"The year rolled along into 1904, and one morning, Mr. Sykes the superintendent, sent for Bert and I. He told us we were about to leave school, and that he had arranged some suitable work for us to do. He never told us what it was. We both realized we had caused him a certain amount of trouble in more ways than one. We were taken to the railway station, and one officer took charge of me, and another in charge of Bert. I was taken to Bangor in N. Wales to be placed on a training ship called the Clio in the Menai Straits. Bert was taken to Hull to go on board the Southampton, another training ship in the River Humber in Hull. This was September 1904 and there I stayed until 1907, learning seamanship and many other nautical lessons. It was a hard life at the beginning, but I fitted in after a while. I was fifteen years of age now . . .

During 1905, King Edward VII visited Bangor to open Bangor University and the boys from the Clio formed a Guard of Honour, and it was a proud moment for me, as I saw the King pass along together with our Captain, Captain Langdon, asking him about the boys and where did they come from. It was quite a pleasant interlude to the daily duties on board ship. In the summer, we used to go Llandudno to camp, and carry out field gun exercises, and we stayed under canvas for one week. Trips were arranged for us to go to see Menai Bridge and the slate quarries in the outlying villages.

I stayed on the Clio until 1907 when the Captain wanted to see the boys due to leave. There were 6 of us, and he asked us all “what did we intend to do?” I told him “I wanted to go to sea,” as I had learned sufficient seamanship to help me along. Arrangements were made for me to be taken to Liverpool and boarded in the Clio Boys Home until I was found a ship. It was a nice home, and the officer in charge encouraged us to look around the docks for some likely ship."
Bookmark and Share
posted by MaryB @ 9:59 AM  


  • At 1:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Thank you for giving me some information about the Southampton. A family member was there and later became a fisherman out of Hull and died before the 1901 census before his daughter was born. Now I begin to see how that happened.

  • At 8:18 AM , Blogger MaryB said...

    So glad I could help. Tracking this information down is much easier now, with the internet. Let me know if you uncover anything else that might be of interest.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home