The Way I Was: Master of the ship school dorm: Tam Dalyell

I WAS about 25 at the time this was taken, and a teacher - a very serious teacher.

The background is that I had put forward a motion at the conference of the Educational Institute for Scotland proposing that they should support the use of a ship for educational cruising during term-time. I had also written a book, called The Case for Ship Schools, which was seen by a young student friend of mine called Brian Redhead, on the then Manchester Guardian.

Brian wrote a friendly leader saying at least it is worth trying to give this man Tam Dalyell his head, he might have a good idea, and it was seen by British India, a subsidiary of P & O, at the very moment that they had a problem. They had a 12,000-ton troopship, the Dunera, coming off government charter and were looking for a use. So they got in touch with me, and the long and the short of it was that I was appointed deputy director of studies.

This was 1960 and we took parties of pupils to Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, Greece - where this photo was taken - Oslo, Copenhagen, Hamburg . . .

I spent two years on the Dunera, 13 days on and about three days off and then the turn-around. I worked an 18- hour day. I was a toughie, generally, because I was the teacher responsible for discipline: the number of people who, 30 years later, still come up to me with a smile and say: 'You were the bastard who hauled me out of my bunk to write out the ship's fire regulations . . .' which I always did with any dormitory that caused trouble.

Well, actually, I'm forgiven because for many it was a formative experience and thousands say: 'I was on the Dunera and it was wonderful.'

It was wonderful. It was very hard but I was extremely fit and I was good at it, frankly. But I'll tell you exactly what made me come away. I was in the Mediterranean and I got a telegram from my mother saying: 'You have been nominated for the West Lothian constituency.' (Boundary changes later created Linlithgow from this constituency.) There was a by-election and what had happened was this: I had taken abroad boys' football teams in the past and one of these boys was a difficult, awkward youth who got on well with me.

His grandfather was the local boss of Nacods - the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers - who decided I had to be rewarded and so he gave me the Nacods nomination that was within his grasp. With that, I became a serious candidate and to my astonishment I was selected: that was 1962, in the famous by- election when the Tories lost their deposit. It was chance. I once told this story to Ian Mikardo and he said: 'Well, I've known worse reasons for being selected.'

Eventually, more than a million pupils went on those cruises. The Dunera was succeeded by the Devonia then by the Nevasa and eventually by the Uganda, which was taken over as a hospital ship during the Falklands War. That brought it to an end because the Uganda was so battered in the South Atlantic.

It was one of the many reasons I think the Falklands War was a tragedy. I was opposed to the whole thing for quite separate considerations, but it brought to an end 22 years of constructive activity from which so many young people benefited.

Where my time on board made a tremendous difference was during the controversy over the Belgrano. I was the guy who was absolutely at home with co-ordinates, directions, fathoms and all the rest of it, and I knew from my knowledge of the sea that I wasn't being told the truth . . .

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence