100 year-old teenage apprentice’s journal uncovers life onboard the Tall Ship on the River Clyde

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The journal uncovered what life was like for an apprentice onboard the Tall Ship on the River Clyde.

The Tall Ship Glennlee have shared details from the logbook of a young apprentice - who lived and worked onboard the ship in 1918 - through a new exhibition open to the public.

Now sharing the story through a new exhibition, ‘The Apprentice’s Tale’, the story follows Ernest M. Anderson - known as Andy - from Bootle near Liverpool. Andy joined the crew as an apprentice aged 16 in 1916. At the time, The Tall Ship Glenlee was known as the Islamount, and it set sail from Sydney, Australia, with a cargo of wheat in the hold, bound for Cape Town, South Africa on 20th August 1918.

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Andy’s logbook was lent to The Tall Ship Glenlee by his granddaughter Stephanie Champion who, through family research, visited the ship on the River Clyde and shared this incredible resource with the Tall Ship Glenlee Trust.

Andy left school at age 14 and joined the sea cadets, before signing on as an apprentice to the Islamount in 1916. Over the next two years he sailed around the world during the Great War. After the Islamount was sold in 1918, Andy was released from his apprentice contract and sat his Second Mate’s Examination before sailing between New York and South America. He got married in London in 1922 and settled down to a life back in Britain.

Andy was one of up to six apprentices on board at the time, some of whom were as young as 14 - and whose families would pay the captain to take their son on as an apprentice. They were expected to do the same work as the rest of the crew but slept in a separate area of the ship. They would eventually receive training in navigation and managing a ship that would prepare them for the next stage in their careers.

Andy updated the logbook nearly every day of the 81-day voyage, recording the weather, the day’s activities, and the position of the ship. Now the Tall Ship Glenlee is open to the public in Glasgow, and is hosting this immersive exhibition on board until the end of the year. It gives visitors the chance to read Andy’s story in his own words, track the progress of his journey, and explore the ship he sailed on to get a real idea of his time on board.

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The Tall Ship on the River Clyde where it resides today.The Tall Ship on the River Clyde where it resides today.
The Tall Ship on the River Clyde where it resides today.

The exhibition brings the logbook to life, detailing aspects of daily life, which would otherwise have been lost to time.

There are first-hand accounts of the friendships, rivalries and living conditions stored among its pages alongside tales of the hardships, moments of joy and exhilaration and everything in between. Personal belongings of Andy’s, such as his sextant and tobacco tin, are also on display, giving a further insight into his life on board the The Tall Ship Glenlee.

Lauren Henning, Learning and Museum Manager at The Tall Ship Glenlee said: “It’s an honour to be able to share Andy’s tales of his time on board the ship and we’re grateful to his family for allowing us access to these precious memories from their archives.

“His is one of many stories from the ship’s 125-year history, and being able to share it with a wider audience as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories is a fantastic opportunity for people to learn more about the ship and Glasgow’s adventurous and industrious past.

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Andy in his Officer’s uniform c.1921 - courtesy of the Andersen Family.Andy in his Officer’s uniform c.1921 - courtesy of the Andersen Family.
Andy in his Officer’s uniform c.1921 - courtesy of the Andersen Family.

“It’s so important that these stories are celebrated and not forgotten with the passage of time, and being able to share Andy’s story on the very ship he worked on is extremely special. I would encourage everyone who can to come down and explore it for themselves, it’s a unique opportunity to be immersed in a piece of Glasgow’s history.”

From Tuesday 15 – Friday November 18, The Tall Ship Glenlee will host a number of performances for schools - bringing Andy’s logbook to life, sharing his stories of storms, onboard dramas and mysteries, animals and practical jokes, with room for reflection on what it would have been like to leave home at such a young age to travel the world at that time.

On Saturday November 19 there will be a day of performances open to the public that can be booked for free on the Tall Ship website. The Tall Ship is open to visitors from 10am – 4pm, Wednesday – Sunday.

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