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.

Alan”

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