A friend’s memories of the river

One of my oldest schoolfriends – another barrow boy and a fellow student of languages – sent me the following email after reading the post On the Beach, which includes the following photo:

“Your picture of Tower Beach is a good one. I can remember frequenting it as a small child. Stairs were lowered from the wharf in the Tower at low tide. I’m amazed we didn’t get sick and die, given how filthy the water was.

In later years, I used to walk to school across Tower Bridge. I was often late, and on occasion got flogged for it. I learned early on that I couldn’t use the excuse that I’d ‘caught a bridger’, since the Oaf knew that the bridge was never raised during rush hour, whatever the state of the tide – the ships had to wait!

On the north bank, next to the bridge downstream, was Irongate Wharf, the London base of the General Steam Navigation Company, whose ships sailed to a number of European ports. I used to like standing on the bridge and watching the cargo handling. At the south end on the upstream side was Mark Brown’s Wharf, where you mention Tom worked. I used also to watch the work there. The wharf was used regularly by a couple of Polish ships. If you go here, there is a picture of one of them, the Jaroslaw Dabrowski, tied up at the wharf. And there’s another picture of it here.

There’s an interesting piece of history in that during the fifties the ship had to be stopped by the Royal Navy on its journey downriver and boarded by policemen to bring away a Polish man who had tried to jump ship and seek asylum. And the irony was that there were also two Americans on board who were there willingly because they were fleeing an attempt by the authorities to extradite them to the US where, they claimed, they were being persecuted in the McCarthyite witch-hunt. You can read about it here www.oup.co.uk/pdf/0-19-923150-8.pdf.

There’s now a museum at the bridge, and you can go aloft. It costs £6, which is reasonable for London.

There was a boy at school who was the Bridge Master’s son, who thus lived, not in the bridge, but in the Bridge Master’s house, a fairly grand red-brick and stone affair just south of the bridge, behind our playground.

So your picture certainly sparked a lot of memories.


This entry was posted in Bermondsey. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A friend’s memories of the river

  1. Bill Killick says:

    If you worked at Mark Browns,were you there when they used he Jaroslav Dobrowski for the film,The Pool Of London,with Bonar Colleano in.I was an Aprentice Electrician at the time,and used to eect the Cargo Lights for the Night shoots.

  2. thebarrowboy says:

    Hi, Bill.

    That was before our time but I’d love to see the film – it must have some great shots of the river and the wharves.

  3. thebarrowboy says:


    I tried sending you an email but it bounced back.

    My grandad Tom must have been working at Mark Brown’s at the time they made Pool of London.

    I looked up the film to see if it is available on DVD but no luck. It must have great footage of the dock and the river. I shall keep looking for it – it may become available at some point.

  4. Bill Killick says:

    Hi,i had an Uncle that worked all of his life on the Bridge,Tom Bishop,he was on Duty the time when they didnt raise the bridge in time for a Ship,and in the panic,a 42 Bus was left hanging over the partly opened bridge.His explanation ws that ,,they used to play cards,and always got a Call from Cherry Garden Pier,if a Ship was coming through the Bridge,but on this occasion it never came,and the Ship was almost on the Bridge when they spotted it.In those days they had to Ring a Large Bell,and put the barriers across the road,But they were too late,and the Bus went through..They all got a rollocking,but kept their Jobs.When i worked at Courages,the Bridge Engineer call Percy,took us all over the Bridge,even down into the Caisons ?where the Counter weights of the Bridge are,its very creepy down there.At that time the upper walkways were not open to the public,and were not closed in.We(Courages eng dept)were all up on the top to watch the Belfast enter the Pool for the first time.It was a lovely sight as it came around past Cherry Garden,the Fire Boats were Hosing up in the air across the Ship,and with the Sun Behind it,it made a lovely picture.I have several pictures taken from the top of Tower Bridge of the Whole event.There was a Crew member at the top of the Mast,to ensure that there was clearance under the Walkway at the top of the Bridge….needless to say,as he passed beneath us,we all threatened to do the obvious over him,to his shouts of “Oh No”.A day i shan’t forget

  5. Bill Killick says:

    Hi,about the film “The Pool Of London”.i cant remember on which site i obtained the copy of the film,but it was on E-Bay a couple of years ago.I have tried since but no luck yet.I dont think it would get any air time these days as it is full of Racial comments about the Coloured Seaman,some really violent outbursts.On one occasion in the Film the Coloured Seaman goes into a Club in Peckham,and is thrown bodily out onto the pavement with the comment”We Dont want Your Type in Here”..i dont think that the Film could have been made in any other time but the Late 40’s early 50’s….. Bill Killick

  6. Bill Killick says:

    Oh by the way,the Jaroslav Dobrovski was renamed the “Dunbar”,for the film,They used to stick a Paper name over the oriiginal,before the ship came through the Bridge….just thought you might like to know…Bill Kiillick

  7. Bill Killick says:

    Hi….Regarding the above film “The Pool of London”,it is going to be released on DVD from Aug 17th 09…and is available on Pre Order from Amazon, around £10..You will love it…I am Going to get another copy as a Back up.Best wishes Bill Killick my e-mail is :killickp@aol.com

  8. thebarrowboy says:

    Thanks for the update, Bill, I shall order it immediately.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s