Oh! Mister Porter!
Every so often something rather special drops into the Phantom Inbox, something that makes my heart light and my fingers itch to share it with you ASAP. A few days ago, one of those moments happened. Gerald Dodd offered to share his photo album from his days in Greenwich as a young man in the 1960s. There are some absolute corkers in there of the town and Gerald’s life, and he’s happy for me to share them with you over the coming weeks.
Remember, just before my enforced absence, we were talking about the creepy Path Lab for the Dreadnaught Seaman’s Hospital, now the Students’ Union building, and that I was frustrated because I didn’t know what was in the basement? Well, that’s where Gerald, aged 19, worked as a porter – here he is on the spiral staircase that leads down into the boiler room, which was what it was.
Whatever happened to brown lab coats, eh…
The chap with Gerald is the boilerman himself – an Irishman and, Gerald tells me, “a great guy, very friendly, and always glad to see us on our security visit three times a night” – I’m not surprised given the shivery tales I hear about that place.
Gerald says “there were three boiler men at the time, one on each shift, a very lonely job, and very noisy inside the boiler house. You had to talk very loud, more of a shout , on nights we would do this round three times we started off at the gate house, the boxes on the walls were all over the inside and outside of the hospital, each point was numbered, the key to open them was attached to the clock ( I am holding it in the photo ).
Inside each box there would be another key, that was put into the clock and turned to register the box number and the time, we would do all the inside and also the basement, then the outside, after that it was accross the road to Devonport House. When we reached the arch we had to go in to the offices on the right, back out to the boiler house and the path lab, through the main entrance down through the labs and into the mortuary, past the room with all the jars filled with body parts.”
Gerald reckons it was “quite interesting” – he worked there three years and loved the job. I think I’d be too much of a scaredy-Phantom to do it myself – you need to have nerves of steel to wander round a mortuary alone at night.
Actually, even wandering round the outside of the hospital looks a bit wild at time – hard to imagine that the calm majesty of the Dreadnought Building once looked like this on a regular basis:
Gerald has sent some wonderful pics and postcards – of people, places and events in the 60s, this is just a taster - more another day soon…
Gerald lives in Wales now, but he’s hoping people will remember him and get in touch (just drop me a line, I’ll pass you on…)
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