It is early on a Tuesday afternoon in the summertime. The year is 1950. My mother is at the loom at Horrockses on Salmon Street, Dad is working at Dick Kerrs on Strand Road and I and my siblings are being looked after by Grandma Wareing at her home on Maudland Road. Through the window, across the street, I can see the Star cinema. I have checked the Weather Forecast several times. This I do by looking at St.Walburgh’s steeple. If it is grey it will rain. Today it shines gleaming white and our afternoon of adventure can begin. Down Leighton Street, collecting ice creams sold from the door of a private house, past the end of the canal and down Marsh Lane. We enter the Dock Estate at Strand Road passing old bonded warehouses and the gatehouse. Grandma’s kindly eye ensured that we were never turned away.
We usually followed the left hand path along the river catching glimpses of long dead ships being broken up at Wards. Stacked, curing timber and blackberries characterised this area. About this time the Geest operation came to Preston sited on this side of the dock, with climatised storage for bananas and other tropical fruits, brought across the Atlantic from the Caribbean in the good ships Windward Islands and Leeward Islands.
Continuing, we reached the lock gates at the seaward entrance to the dock and looked out over ‘Little Blackpool’ and the remains of a concrete ship which we were told had been used for war training. If our timing was right, and the tide was less than full, we could now cross the closed gates, over the water, by the outer basin to where coastal tankers loaded and unloaded at Petrofina. Our own Tanker Trains are a result of this earlier trade.
Down the North side of the Dock we watched as coal was lifted in Railway wagons to be tipped into chutes which loaded directly into the holds of coastal tramps. Our own dredgers and tugs lived on the Eastern wall and names like Bibby -an old dredger and John Herbert come easily to mind.
But although Liverpool seeks the credit Preston’s great claim was to be the worlds first Roll-on Roll-off port, which brought containers from Larne and Belfast to the Northwest. I well remember when the first container ferry came through the long narrow approach and entered the Albert Edward Dock. Empire Cedric, a converted wartime landing craft was the largest craft to enter up to that time. This passage became commonplace with Empire Doric, Empire Gaelic and Bardic Ferry becoming regular visitors.
But even at my tender years the highlight at the dock was to see the many shunting engines as they fussed around the yard or steamed quietly awaiting their next duty. Loco names come easily across the years. Courageous,Perseverance,Indomitable,Impregnable,Energy,Progress,Prince,Princess and Duchess. I have a vague memory also of ‘Queen’. Of course the fireless Duke has a special significance for me now after my close association with Heysham No2 at RSR.
The work of these engines either started or finished with the workings of Super D Class 49s. These, braking hard down the underground Fishergate incline on the way to the dock loaded with coal, exploded in great eruptions of smoke, steam and noise with massive tractive effort on their way back up the hill to emerge at the Southwest end of Preston Station
These afternoons ended back at Grandma’s for three tired but happy kids carrying jam jars of blackberries and already looking forwards to the next day.
Years have passed, and so much has changed, but in my mind’s eye for a short while I see it all again.
BARDIC FERRY built in 1957 by Wm. Denny & Bros, Dumbarton for the Atlantic Steam Navigation. She entered service on their Transport Ferry Service route between Preston-Larne, transferring to the Tilbury-Antwerpen route between 1958-61. Bardic Ferry then reverted to Preston-Larne, with some sailings to Belfast from 1967. In 1971 ASN operations were combined with Townsend-Thoresen, and Bardic Ferry received their orange livery. In 1974, Bardic Ferry transferred to the Cairnryan-Larne route. She was sold in 1976 to Fratelli Cosulich, Genoa, and renamed Nasim II.
Wonderful views of Preston Docks in the late 1970’s
Photos courtesy of Ted Crosby