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Albert
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Albert and the coal ship
Royal Naval College
View full size imageRoyal Naval College

There is a clatter in Little Thames Street. A little bulldog chases a rat across the yard. A metal bucket and a zinc bath crash together.

Albert wakes up. The day has begun, and it is raining.

Albert puts on his lighterman's boots. They have leather straps and buckles, and are heavily polished. They will keep his feet dry in the rain. On his way out of the house, he picks up an old bowler hat. He puts a crease down the middle of the crown, and puts the hat on his head. The rain water runs down the crease and off the back of a hat. Underneath his bowler, Albert stays dry.

pub
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Albert walks down Church Street, and turns sharp right at Garden Stairs. He walks past the Ship Tavern, and Greenwich Pier, along the river front by the Naval College. He checks the time and the wind direction on the dials at the Naval College. It is nearly half past seven, and the light wind is in the north-east. The tide is flooding into London. The water is halfway up the river steps in front of the Naval College. Albert walks on behind the Trafalgar Tavern, and along the alley called Crane Street.

He comes to a gateway on his left. He goes through the gateway and down an old cobbled causeway. He walks down to the water's edge, and waits. Soon he sees a small ship rounding the bend into Blackwall Reach. Thick smoke pours from the ship's funnel, as it steam-engine chugs away. It is the John Bowes, the collier from Northumberland, with a cargo of coal. Albert waves to the little ship, and a rowing boat comes from the ship to fetch Albert from the shore.

Scene Off Appleby's Wharf
View full size imageOff Appleby's Wharf

Albert climbs on board the ship. On board the ship are the skipper, the mate, the engineer, four hands and three stokers. Some are eating breakfast. ‘Have a kipper with us,’ says skipper Gibson.

Albert’s job is to guide the ship as it turns around and get it to the wharf just at the right time. Albert knows the tides, the depth of the river, the traffic, and how this ship moves in shallow water. The ship is full, and low in the water. The river traffic is busy and the tide is strong and fast. The job will take two hours. Skipper Gibson has brought ships into the Thames from the sea many times before, but he still needs Albert’s help.

The Sarah Amy
View full size imageThe Sarah Amy

Albert takes the ship up to Rotherhithe, and into the middle of the river. Opposite the Mayflower Tavern they meet the steam tug Victor. They pass a line to it from their bow. The ship’s whistle gives four short hoots and one long one, and the tug pulls the ship around to the right. The tide pushes the stern to the left. The ship has turned right round, and heads slowly back down the river to Millwall.

The Greenwich vehicle ferry pauses to let them pass. Albert waves to the waterman in the ferry.

The John Bowes has brought half its cargo of coal for the forges and the foundry at the horse shoe factory. The rest of the cargo will be loaded into lighters and taken up the river to London. The ship passes the antimony works and the boiler works on the Millwall shore. At the horse shoe factory, the crew throw ropes to the shore. The ship’s winch pulls the ship in to the shore, first the bow, then the stern. Albert has taken the ship in at exactly the right time. The tide has risen just enough to give the ship 12 feet of water to float in.

 
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Meet Albert
Albert and the coal ship
Play a punctuation game
Meet more family members

Glossary

Glossary

Grammar Glossary

Grammar glossary: what words do


 
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