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
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
    Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

    Berlusconi's world of sleaze

    The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
    Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

    Could gaming arcades be revived?

    The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
    Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

    Heard the one about menstruation?

    Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage