Eulogy for a Shipmate


War Hero
This appeared today on our Association website, I'd like to share it with you all. I served several times with Jim over the years, and spoke to him a a year before he died. Ruth has captured his feelings so well, and has given me permission to post it here.
RIP Shipmate.

Reflections on the life of Jim Robinson by Ruth Robinson

My Friend – Jack Tar the Sailor
What thoughts crowd your mind, my cantankerous old friend, and what sights do you see now your eyes fill with tears. How many potent draughts of liquor, and how much nicotine and other vices have pitted your craggy skin into craters of sun-scorched furrows?
Wild winds wail and scream, recalling the names of your long lost ship-mates. Listen! Listen as a gentle breeze blows the dry leaves. They scratch and scuttle around your feet like the sounds of shaken dice and shuffling cards.
Now, your bed is the crow’s nest – fixed high up in the galleon of your life. Over the far horizon, do you see yourself as a young lad? Do you remember strutting down the gangplank with a fistful of monopoly money and a pocket of strange faced coins? And, then seeing wide-eyed neglected urchins, low-life bars and the Seven Wonders of the World. Chinamen on bicycles selling chop-suey, traders peddling trinkets - smiling, ebony-black faces and shining white teeth – or the dhobi men sleeping on the ironing board, deep in the bowels of the ship? Are all these the visions you have gathered on your journeys to the far corners of the world? Do your thoughts turn to Davie Jones’ locker and to the ends of your days?
When you were only fifteen you travelled to the depths of smoky, grimy Portsmouth. Then your life was: Orders – scrub the deck, wash your socks and iron your gear. Followed by more orders, to march, to stand up, to sit down and to lie down and beg
Orders – Yes Sir! No Sir! Three bags full Sir!
But! Then you were a sailor – a Matelot, a jaunty Jack Tar. In your number one rig – polished and shipshape – swaggering down the high street and making straight for forbidden seedy bars.
The years rolled by, the seas rolled on and you rolled with them. You never forgot the comradeship of the hundreds of men. At the end of long watches, you’d all played uckers, poker, dice dominoes – for days on end. Arguing, shouting contests at anything and betting on everything. The smells of dirty socks and salty water. Men snoring and laughing mixed with the clanking of metal stairs and engines throbbing.
Did your blood run cold during the battles? Guns and mortars: shells and time bombs. There was nowhere to run, you were surrounded by snarling treacherous ten foot waves.
These were times when you hated the navy and there was times when you prayed to the God you did not believe in
But, when your service was ended and your kit stowed away in the attic. How your life changed. You pined for your shipmates for rum and blueliners. You dreamed of frigates, carriers, choppers and seawater.
Your new workmates were the despised civvies – in their neat suits, scrubbed and clean-shaven – who all sat in rows in fancy packaged offices and factories. All shiny and nice.
Now, in the autumn of your life you have time, endless, tick-tocking time. Time to stare and remember. Remember the wind blowing the water white and black. Time to remember watching the curly-headed cauliflower, restless sea. To gaze at the sky endlessly stretching like a blue-grey moor. And, all the time in the world to look at the dark, menacing, approaching clouds as they slip over each other like the silvery scales on a fish.
Your tears are for memories of the long lost comrades. Soon you will join them. Your soul will plunge deep into the jolly, frolicking, grasping depths of your beloved sea.
Jeez mate that has brought a proper lump to my throat and no mistake.
It has REALLY hit home and i'm sat here writing this with a tear in my eye.
RIP Jim.
I didn't know you personally but I know loads like you, including me. :(

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