Yorkshire Evening Post, Saturday, 7th February 1959
OLD SALT LOOKS BACK AT 83
To see the steamship Aire (1.116 tons) rusting in the mud of the Ouse is a sorry sight for Captain Robert Ward, of Goole, known to thousands of seamen in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire ports as Bob Ward.
The Aire is now being broken up for scrap.
Captain Ward, who was 83 on Christmas Eve, was the Aire's first master, back in the spring of 1911 (?). He now lives in Centenary Road, Goole, surrounded by old paintings and memories.
As a boy of 13 he left his home at Rawcliffe, on the banks of the Aire, and sailed in the 75-ton ketch Alice for London. He received 7s.6d. a month.
"In those sailing ships life was really rough." he said. "For the first three years I was ill time and time again."
"Those little ketches would go anywhere. We often sailed them right up to Leeds, bringing broken glass and taking back bathroom-ware to London. Some time after that I was in the old steamship Aire (800 tons). She was beached in the Ouse and broken up for scrap. The second Aire was a beautiful sight as she steamed into dock. Her paint and brass were gleaming and like all the ships in Goole, she was dressed overall. Hundreds of people turned out to see a new ship in those days. Cannon fired a salute in her honour. The Aire was one of three sisters, the others being the Blyth and the Calder, all built at Cammell Laird's Birkenhead."
The captain, who still wears his battered master's cap and a faded blue jersey, recalled that the Aire was wrecked in a collision with the German collier Helene B. Schupp at Saltmarshe on October 6 last year, only two miles from her home port and now lies half buried. One man was killed.
"But the loss of the Calder was a real tragedy to Goole." Captain Ward continued. "The whole town was in mourning and a plaque on the wall of the Parish Church commemorates that sad day - just a few weeks after the ceremony welcoming her to the port. She had made only two of three trips to the Continent and was lost in a gale while returning from Hamburg with about 20 men on board. No one really knew what happened. One of her lifeboats was washed ashore in Norfolk."
The captain flicked over a couple of pages in his personal log. He never wears glasses and can read with ease his own clear writing.
"I recall that night." he said. "I was sailing from Rotterdam. Captain R.H. Sherwood, the Calder's master, took a trip off and Captain Tom William Sutherby, my great friend, was bringing her back. That night was a horror. I have been scared at sea hundreds of times but that was really bad. We should have sighted the Calder in the North Sea but did not. When we reached Goole, we learnt that she was missing."
Captain Ward said that although he had been to South America once, he never wanted to sail the world. His life was spent between the Humber ports and France, Germany and Holland.
"If a man can navigate the North Sea, he can sail anywhere." added the captain.
In December 1935 he handed the Aire over to Capt. Harold Aaron, whose brother Howard is now master of the Bolton Abbey sailing on the same Hull-Rotterdam route.
"She was my last ship," said Captain Ward, "for I retired at 60. I have never been in another since and never go on the docks, though scores of lads who sailed under me and are now masters themselves have offered me trips all over the world."
A widower for 18 years, Captain Ward is visited by his three daughters, son six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
One daughter is Mrs Hilda Watson of Armley, Leeds. Another Mrs Violet Dean, lives at Burnside Avenue, Skipton. The others live at Goole.