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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

The Gentleman's Game
by David Howard

Introduction: David Howard worked for Cable and Wireless as a seagoing marine engineer from early 1964 until late 1968, serving on CS Mercury, CS Retriever and CS Cable Enterprise (2). Here he tells a story of the lighter side of life in the cable industry.

See also David's stories: Losing a Buoy and The Rescue of SS Lakemba, and his photographs on the CS Mercury page.

--Bill Burns

David writes:

Cricket has traditionally been called a gentleman’s game, and so in 1965 the Cable Ship Mercury’s younger officers decided to challenge the Carlton United Brewery in Suva (brewers of Fiji Beer) to a game of cricket.

But this was to be no ordinary game. The traditional rules were (ahem) somewhat modified and a mutually agreed state of play was promulgated, that being:

Everybody had to bat and everybody had to bowl at least two overs each.

Batsmen could not be out unless they had scored a minimum of six runs.

A glass of beer was mandatory for all when the following occurred:

After every over,
After a four was scored,
After a six was scored,
After anyone got out,
After anyone dropped a catch,
And, well, at any time anyone decreed that it was necessary.

To dress appropriately we made stovepipe hats out of old charts and painted them black, wore bow ties, made ‘monocles’ to wear, made our whites look like plus twos and tied our Cable and Wireless ties around our waists as belts. We looked quite the part.

Dave Howard at centre, next to the young mascot holding the trophy for the match

Play commenced after a beer or two, just to be polite you understand.

When the first side was all out we scoffed a very tasty goat curry and had a few beers to wash it down.

The next side went in and play resumed; however, by that time there was some confusion regarding the rules, and the beer kegs (courtesy of Carlton United Brewery) appeared more and more frequently, so that at the end of the match we were, er – in an exuberant mood you might say.

The brewery team won (I think) and were awarded the trophy I had made in Mercury’s engineers’ workshop.

Our team staggered back to the ship, only to arrive on the wharf right in the middle of the Fiji Military Forces Band farewelling a cruise ship (either SS Fairsea or SS Fairsky). Needless to say we were soon amusing the passengers that were lining the ship’s rails watching the FMF band, with our antics. Word spread and more and more passengers lined the rails, so that the ship took on a very big list to port.

The finale was when the band started playing a particular tune that some wag decided had the same cadence as the music for the Death March (Chopin’s Funeral March).

A light bulb then dimly glowed in someone’s brain, and we formed a bier party, hoisted one of our team, with arms crossed on chest, onto our shoulders and slow marched to the cadence alongside the cruise ship – with the rest of the team acting as mourners following behind in twos.

We were met with thunderous applause and laughter from the substantial crowd lining the ship’s rails. The public announcer on board the cruise ship said… “I don’t know who these clowns are but I think they are off the cable ship behind us.”

We all thought it was great fun but word got back to us later that the FMF bandmaster was not amused, however we could do no wrong in Suva and were soon forgiven as we had a great rapport with the FMF and Police bands, so much so that both bands played us out of harbour when we said farewell to Suva and sailed away.

Dave Howard at right, holding umbrella

Last revised: 31 January, 2016

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