24 Apr Malcolm: How I got involved in Massey Shaw
As part of our ‘Crew Space Stories’ series of videos on Youtube, we are also exploring individual stories from our volunteers and supporters about their involvement and interest in Massey Shaw.
Today we explore Malcolm’s story, a volunteer and long standing member of the society, he is an integral part of our archiving team and a regular on board!
I joined London Fire Brigade in May 1986 and reported to Southwark House, it was there that I met Tom Bell for the first time. As I had just turned 40, Tom was obviously intrigued as to how and why I was joining the LFB. I explained that I was the District Resuscitation technician at Lewisham Hospital for the past 15 years and had been an Operating theatre technician for some years before that in Edinburgh. Before that I had been in the Royal Navy.
“You must be interested in boats then”
I answered yes as I did not want to disappoint his obvious enthusiasm, I did not have the heart to tell him that I was Fleet Air Arm. Tom then proceeded to tell me about the Massey Shaw and how the NHS was conceived aboard the Massey and this was followed by an invitation to come onboard one day when I was free.
Well, as I was to join the Protective Equipment Group as a Non-Operational firefighter, there were quite a few days when my class were doing more operational pursuits and I was free to study or do other activities. I was sometimes asked to collect and deliver mail from Tom at the Central Admin Desk to HQ and pick up mail from HQ for Southwark. On one of these trips Tom Bell asked for a lift to attend the Massey at HQ and he asked if I would like to come aboard to have a look around.
Well, that was it, I was hooked. Not long after that I was invited to Crew and it was on my first trip out that I met David Rogers. The thrill of being onboard such an historic vessel was fantastic and the fact that whenever she was out on the Thames everyone waved or acknowledged her made her special.
As I learnt more of her history, so my enthusiasm grew and eventually I became a Life member. I was privileged to meet other members like Dick Helyer, a crew member that went over on Massey Shaw to Dunkirk. Len Hinkley who had been a member of the crew when she was operational and Phil Wray who was the man led the crusade that saved the Massey from being an ornament on a roundabout in Thamesmead.
I have seen her sunk and resurrected, and then sunk again and vandalised and yet she continues to sail on regardless. This has been due to a band of dedicated volunteers that have come and gone over the years. They have put everything into repairing and replacing worn out and broken parts and I would not like to say how much blood, sweat and tears have been shed by these heroic people.
Maintaining any vessel is hard and costly enough but doing it on a very meagre budget is nothing short of miraculous. We are now moving into a new era in the Massey Shaw story as we apply for Museum status and are beginning to archive all the hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs, documents and artifacts associated with the Massey.
Every firefighter knows that his first priority is to save life and the Massey has saved hundreds. So, I am very proud to be counted as one of those that in some small way have been able to do my bit for the Massey and thank the day that I met Tom Bell back in 1986.