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Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
 
     
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Tales from the Yard

 

The Tea Break in the Henry Robb Shipyard

Fact is stranger than fiction!

 

In the late 1950’s at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, there was of course no official tea break for the men who worked in the yard on the new ships that were being fitted out in the basin, but that fact would never put the men off sneaking a fly cuppa in the morning or the afternoon.

All the managers knew this practice went on but most would turn a blind eye even though they could quarter any man caught taking such a liberty with the companies time (in other words they could take a quarter of an hour from the men’s pay) they did not act on this not from any act of kindness but more from the fact that they knew it would cause all kinds of action from the all union shipyard workers.

Most of them in fact would stay out of the men’s way at the times when it was known they would take tea.

One day though it was just about that time of day when the then yard manager was aboard a new ship fitting out in the basin, and as he was on his way to the gangway to get off the ship going for his own tea break, just as he stepped onto the gangway to go ashore he seen a small apprentice making his way towards him, to go back onboard the ship with 3 Billie cans of steaming hot tea in his right hand and another 2 cans of tea in his other hand .

The yard manager stepped back from the head of the gangway to let the apprentice onboard saying to him, “come here you”. The lad replied yes sir (as they did in them days) as he made his way over to the manager somewhat sheepish and trying all the time to conceal the offending cans of tea.

Although the yard manager as all the other managers turned a blind eye under ordinary circumstance he could hardly be seen as ignoring this blatant abuse of authority, so in a situation like this he had to be seen as doing something about this. From the men’s point of view the tea-break was not given any type of official sanction by the management.

Who’s tea would that be then son, said the yard manager, the young apprentice gulped with trepidation and stuttered “Am not very sure sir” but “I think it might be Brooke Bond’s”

The yard manager had to fight hard to keep a straight and angry face, without laughing out loud as he said "Well you just go and tell Mr Bond"  that if I catch him sending you ashore again to get his tea, then I’ll have him quartered before he can say “Typhoo”

Note:- You were paid by the hour in the shipyard and this hour was broken into quarters, in the morning you could be one quarter late, then half an hour late without pay then the gates would be closed and you could not get in for the morning shift. At noon the one hour dinner break had a safety net of one quarter to allow the late-comers (mostly guys getting back from the pub) in for the afternoon shift.

  

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