Reminiscences of my 60 years in South America
Trevor Stephenson 1915 -
Arranged by Tony Morrison

Trevor left Engand for Brazil at a time when air travel and roads had not made the huge impact on Amazonia we see today

The Booth Line offered the exciting prospect of work anywhere from the mouth to tiny villages far upstream in a world of their own. The isolation experienced in the early 20th century is hard to imagine but as Trevor discovered it was a place with its own vibrant way of life

The Booth Steamship Company had offices everwhere and usually represented Great Britain with consular services, insurance coverage or agencies for British and other companies. Trevor's first destination was a desk in São Luis do Maranhão or Maranham on the Atlantic coast about 450 kms southwest of the Amazon mouth

São Luís is built on an island and is one of the oldest European settlements in Brazil. The older parts have more than 3,500 Portuguese colonial buildings

Maranham 1936-41
"they long to marry English boys"


May 1st 1936 - departure

Saying goodbye to my mother and two brothers, Barry and Graham, my father and I travelled by train of the Wirral Railway, then by the Mersey Railway to James Street where we took a taxi to No 2 Queens Dock. I had wanted to go in a horse-drawn cab but father said "No", so that was that.

The good ship Anselm was alongside. We went aboard and a steward showed us to my cabin. I was relieved to see that my new cabin trunk with my initials THS on the lid, had arrived. It had been sent off the day before by Carter Paterson[ ed: a road haulage company]. Captain Barlow appeared and father commended me to his care. Then he went ashore and I was on my own. Shortly afterwards, two tugs arrived and fussing around like little old ladies, slowly towed our ship out of the dock and into the river Mersey. Ropes were cast off, the ship's telegraph rang for 'speed ahead' and we moved down river in the hands of our pilot. As we passed the Cunard Building and the Royal Liver, I wondered when, if ever, I would see them again. At the mouth of the Mersey, we dropped the pilot, then full speed ahead on our way to North Brazil.

The sea was relatively calm; I wasn't seasick so I enjoyed all the good food at every meal. It was quite chilly so didn't spend too much time out on deck. I was seated at the Captain's table which pleased me not a little.

Our first port of call was Leixoes or Oporto. Captain Barlow said "Why not go ashore and walk around" so taking him at his word, I wandered around. My Portuguese was not too good so decided not to attempt to use it. I remember standing on the famous bridge over a ravine. We loaded hogsheads of Portuguese wine and then proceeded to Lisbon, tying up close to Black Horse square.

After leaving Lisbon

The weather got warmer, flying fish were seen skimming over the top of the water and deck games started. I played deck golf, deck tennis and quoits with the other passengers and officers. Time passed pleasantly enough and then the Island of Madeira came into sight. I climbed up the mountain to Reids Hotel on the summit where I had lunch. I was offered some Madeira wine but as I didn't drink at that time, I refused and had a lemonade.

Leaving Madeira, we then steamed across the Atlantic which was like a mill pond. A gentle up and down motion, very soothing, which left most of the passengers going to their cabins after lunch for a siesta. When we came to the Equator, there was the "crossing the line" ceremony after which all taking part were handed lovely certificates signed by the Captain and King Neptune himself!

We enter the Amazon

At last, on the early morning of the 16th May, the sea had turned a sort of light muddy colour. Lumps of grasses and tree trunks floated by. We were approaching the Amazon mouth. The pilot came aboard. Then just after breakfast, I went on deck. The Captain lent me his binoculars. Looking through, I stammered "But the people wear clothes". Captain Barlow hid his chuckles murmuring "Some do."

As we neared the port of Belém, I could see numerous buildings and the top of the cathedral. Tugs picked up our ropes and began churning and twisting, bringing the Anselm slowly to the quay wall where we tied up.

Belém do Pará

The official visit came aboard, my passport was stamped and then an old gentleman, dressed in a white suit and wearing a straw hat came aboard. His complexion was a kind of almost transparent off white. He introduced himself to me. "I am Sr. Gouvea, Passenger Manager, and I have been instructed by the Manager, Atahualpa Purcell, to take you to the office." "What about my trunk?", I asked. "Leave that on board till Sr.Purcell gives you your instructions."

We proceeded down the gangway on to the quay. Past a bar called "Port of" and into the street facing the river. It was Rua Gaspar Viana. About half way along was a large Portuguese style building. Huge wooden front doors were wide open. Inside was a wide staircase with a corridor either side.. The staircase led to the main office on the first floor. Here I was met by Atahualpa Purcell, Alex Macrae and Harrison. Everything seemed so strange. I went into Alahualpa's private office where he informed me that I was to sail that every evening on the Lloyd Brasileiro vessel "Prudente Moraes" for Maranham where I would be sub-manager under a Julian Clissold.

Around midday, Atahualpa, Macrae, Harrison and myself got into the firm's open tourer motorcar in which the firm's chauffeur drove us to Rua Sao Jeronymo where the firm owned the staff house. It was a lovely old single story building with a wide varanda in front.

Back at the office, Atahualpa instructed me to return to the Anselm and remain there until Sr.Gouvia would come for me about 7.30 pm to accompany me to the Prudente Moraes. Meanwhile, I should pack my trunk. As I left, he warned me "Wait until someone comes to meet you when the ship arrives at Maranham. I don't want you roaming about North Brazil."

On board I advised Captain Barlow that I was going to Maranham and would sail that evening on the Prudente Moraes. Looking extremely serious, the Captain remarked that since Brazilian ships did not provide food for passengers, I had better go and see the cook and get him to make up a hamper of sufficient goodies for two days. He also warned me never to drink the local water. "If you do, you will die within 24 hours. You wouldn't want that to happen just as you are about to start your career.!" That thoroughly put the wind up me.

At 7.30 pm Sr Gouvea came and we went aboard the "Prudente Moraes". He explained to the purser [ed: the officer incharge of the money and business] that I didn't speak much Portugese and would he look after me. I had a two berth cabin to myself.

We sailed around 8.30 pm when I went to bed. Next morning I opened the hamper. It was packed with several types of sandwiches, apples, oranges, a tin of condensed milk (but no opener) a jar of marmalade, sugar and salt. My breakfast consisted of some sandwiches and an apple. I couldn't peel the orange as I had no knife nor could I open the tin of condensed milk.

Around noon, A gong sounded. I paid no attention. Then a steward came and said something to me. I couldn't understand a word. Then the purser came and in very broken English told me lunch was served in the saloon. Of course I didn't believe him and thought he was pulling my leg. He insisted, however, dragging me to the saloon where I was surprised to see other passengers busy eating. Bewildered, I sat down and ate whatever I was given. However, I did not drink anything. Dinner time, again I ate in the saloon but by this time I was dying of thirst. I could hold out no longer. I grabbed the water jug and drank all the water. Back in my cabin, I sat down to await the worst.

Next morning, I was surprised, indeed agreeably surprised, to find that I was still alive and apparently none the worse. Then I remembered that when I was examined by a doctor at the Liverpool Tropical School of Medicine, he had told me that I was very lucky as I had something in my blood that insects would find distasteful so I would not be bothered by such things also that I had a very good digestion.

About 10 am on 18th May 1936 - São Luís

The ship passed an old Portuguese fort with a number of rusty cannon pointing peacefully towards us and entered a large bay where we anchored. On shore I could see a large single storey building painted in pale pink, several old Portuguese buildings built on high ground and the towers of what I supposed to be the cathedral. "Como se chama aqui?" (What is this place called?) I asked the purser. "Sao Luiz" he replied. Obviously, I thought, Atahualpa had forgotten that we were calling at an intermediate port before reaching Maranham. So I went into my cabin, picked up a book, went on deck and began to read. Meanwhile there was a steady stream of passengers leaving for the shore.

Bolivar Kup

Quite suddenly, a young man approached me. "I presume you are Stephenson. Come long, I am to take you ashore to the office." "Sorry", I replied, "but Mr.Purcell gave me strict instructions not to get off the ship until we reached Maranham." "But this is Maranham, or Maranhao as it is called in Brazil." "But the purser told me this place is Sao Luis!" "Look, come along with me and I will explain." So I was persuaded to go ashore with Bolivar Kup as he introduced himself. At the same time he explained that Sao Luiz was the name of the capital of the State of Maranhao.

We landed at a sloping jetty, called 'the rampa'. Down the centre was a line of trees. To the right of the "rampa" was Rua Portugal with 'shippers' warehouses and opposite a wooden building overhanging the water containing the Customs. All inward and outward cargo passed through this building to and from lighters since vessels could not come alongside and had to anchor in the bay. At the top of the rampa was an avenue lined with two rows of small gardens called Avenida Dom Pedro 11. On the right, Kup told me, was the Municipal Office, painted pale blue, then came the offices of the Bank of London & South America, the office of a Frenchman, Paul Jourdain, the offices of Francisco Araujo & Cia, Bessa & Cia , Lloyd Brasileiro and finally the Western Telegraph Co.Ltd on the corner. On the adjacent corner was the Post Office with blue, yellow and white Portuguese tiles on the outer walls. Then came the best (?) hotel in town, The Hotel Central where all the Englishmen would meet to drink beer. The only public room was the restaurant, open to the street. Otherwise guests must take their chairs out on to the street. Some of the bedrooms had been divided into two by a flimsy partition which did not reach all the way to the ceiling. This has the advantage that if the neighbouring occupant snores, a well aimed boot will stop him. The hotel abounded with rats which gnawed the soap.

On the left hand side of the road was the Governor's Palace, the pink building which I had seen from the ship, then several 3 storey buildings with verandas on the second and third floors. The middle building with large green wooden doors, opened by an iron key 8 inches long, was the Booth Office and British Vice Consulate. Inside was a wide space partly covered with stone paving. Two marks cut into the stone slabs showed where iron rings had been many years before. Between them were signs of there having been a trap door at some time. Then came a wooden floor which stretched to the end of the huge room. There was a counter behind which was the open plan office. At the far end, behind a low partition, was the Manager's room and British Vice-Consulate.

Alongside the office entrance was a smaller wooden door. The lock used to be worked by a slightly smaller iron key but the lock had been replaced by one worked by a flat iron key some 2 inches long, the like of which I have never seen before nor since.

A staircase led to the staff residence which consisted of a billiard room over the staircase, a large bedroom and dressing room for the use of Mr & Mrs Julian Clissold, a large dining room, then a corridor off which was the bathroom, kitchen, another bedroom and at the far end a large sitting room with wide windows looking out over the bay.

From the dining room, a flight of stairs led to the second floor on which was a large front bedroom with varenda, a locked room containing old junk and broken furniture, the servants's bedroom and another smaller bedroom. Also from the dining room, a narrow staircase led down to a small shower and toilet and out on to a pathway past a large space underneath the office with heavily barred windows. This was used to store old files and documents. However, Kup informed me that in the 18th century, the house had belonged to a Dona Jensen who was a large importer of slaves. The slaves were dropped through the trap door in the entrance down to the space under the floor of the office and kept there till market day when they were taken to the market and sold.

The pathway led to a small building in which was an oblong marble bath with three steps inside. The water gushed from a lion's head. An open window gave a wonderful view of the bay and not being overlooked, one could lie in the bath and admire the scenery.
Upon our arrival at the office on my first day, Kup introduced me to the Clissolds and the staff, took me for a tour of the staff house, then left me to unpack my things. At noon we sat down for lunch which was served by the boy wearing white gloves, all very proper. When lunch was finished, I threw my beautifully starched table napkin under the table. There was an ominous hush, then Julian Clissold roared "What the devil do you think you are doing!" Meekly I replied that I had been advised on the "Anselm" that when at a Brazilian house, it was the height of good manners to throw one's napkin under the table indicating that the family was so rich that napkins were only used once! I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was an idiot to believe such tales, to pick up my napkin and to behave properly in future.

Kup stayed for 10 days to teach me the ropes before being transferred elsewhere. My job as sub-manager was to write the correspondence, look after the Cash Dept, visit the Booth ships when they came into port and, in the absence of the Booth engineer, to visit the workshops each morning to check up on the repairs to tugs and lighters. Since only 3 ships at the maximum came in to port each month, we were not overworked and I used to play tennis two afternoons a week!

During the first few weeks after my arrival, my bedroom was on the first floor between the kitchen and the large sitting room which had a splendid view of the harbour.

The furniture consisted of a wardrobe, washstand, chair and a brass bedstead

Surrounded by a mosquito net. I noticed that the legs of the bed stood in round tins filled with kerosene. I also became aware of a number of large brown beetles about one to two inches in length with long feelers running all over the floor. Bolivar Kup informed me that they were called "baratas" or cockroaches, were perfectly harmless, to be found everywhere and if squashed gave off a not very pleasant smell. He then went on to explain that there were many more insects and beetles in Brazil, the majority being more or less harmless, but that I should be careful to shake my shoes before putting them on as "aslacrans" or scorpions were apt to lodge there and could give me a nasty sting. I thanked him for this interesting information. On the walls of the bedroom were small lizards which spent their time hunting small insects. Useful I thought. Fortunately I had been told at the Liverpool Tropical School of Medicines before I left the UK that the majority of insects would not bite me because I had some sort of substance in my blood which was not to their liking. Very reassuring!

The first night, after undressing, I pulled the door of the wardrobe and the handle and part of the wood came off in my hand. The wood was completely eaten away by woodworm. The house boy promptly removed the wardrobe and I received a new one the next day. Not a promising start! Two nights later I was disturbed by noises coming from the kitchen. I went to investigate and discovered several large brown rats running around. As nobody else seemed to have been bothered, I decided to do something about it. Getting hold of a bucket full of water and an old towel, I crouched down in the doorway and threw one of my shoes at the rats. They all made a leap for the doorway and catching one of them in the towel, I held it in the water until it drowned. On the following nights I managed to catch two more and then the others obviously decided it was a no-go area and I was free of them.

When Kup was transferred to Belém, I took over his bedroom, a far better room at the top of the building with a balcony overlooking the street. There was a mahogany dressing table, wash stand with china jug and a huge wardrobe. By the side of the bed was a bedside table complete with china potty.

Breakfast usually consisted of bacon purchased from the Booth ships, egg, bread and goiabada [guava]jelly. Lunch was formal at noon when we were permitted to remove our coats. Vegetable or chicken soup followed by prawn omelette and either boiled chicken or fish. Dinner at 6 pm was very formal. Clean freshly starched white linen suit, white shirt and tie, white socks and brown or black shoes. Dinner was served by a waiter wearing white gloves. I was told that "Just because one lives in the Tropics, doesn't mean one has to go native!" Dinner was usually soup followed by a roast such as chicken, sucking pig or armadillo. Afterwards fruit such as papaya (Mamao) or pineapple and then cheese from off the ships. Then coffee which was served in the sitting room.

A party - my first steps at the Lunatics Club " be very careful of the local girls"

At least once a month, there would be a party at the Booth House when most of the British colony would come along. There would be dancing with the younger members of the colony and bridge for the others. I said I did not know how to play bridge for if once I played, then I would always be called upon to make up a table and I much preferred to dance. The parties were paid for by the company.

Some weekends we would be invited to the Western Telegraph station at Olho'Agua where there were some five or six Englishmen. A lot of drinking went on there but as I did not drink at that time, I contented myself with Guaraná or coconut juice.

There were three servants, all black. There was the cook, a marvellous cook too, the maid, who claimed that her mother had been a slave, and a boy. The maid cleaned the bedrooms, sewed anything needed and washed Mrs Clissold's clothes. The boy, besides waiting at table, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, washed and waxed the floors, washed the windows and ran errands. We also had a washerwoman, a massive black woman who shook with laughter at the slightest provocation. She washed every day for all of us. I myself used some 8 pairs of white linen trousers and 5 coats each week, more if I went to a party or dance, as well as umpteen shirts, dress ones with starched fronts and of course stiff collars. Then there were Julian Clissold's clothes and his son Jimmy's. We paid her Rs 50$000 (about £1) per month. Her husband then gave up work saying that his wife earned enough to keep him!

The first Saturday, Kup took me to a dance at Os Lunáticos club. The girls sat on chairs placed around the room against the walls. The men stood either alongside the girls or parked in the doorways. "How do I ask girls to dance with me?", I asked. Kup told me so at the first opportunity, I went over to a pretty looking girl and said the little phrase he told me. She seemed rather upset and the man at her side said something to me which I didn't understand but gathered that it was not particularly friendly. I returned to Kup to ask what was wrong. "Oh. You should never ask a girl who is engaged to dance." "How am I to know whether she is engaged or not?" I asked. "If she is wearing a wedding ring on her right hand, it means she is engaged."

After that I carefully looked at the right hands of the girls as they passed round the room. Spying an attractive girl without a ring, I went over and said my piece. "Pois nao" she replied. I knew "nao" was 'no' so I apologised and said "Perhaps we can have the next?". The following dance, I again went over to her. This time she replied "Como não". I thought this a bit peculiar but was determined to get her to dance if I could so again I apologised and suggested the next dance. The third time I said to her "May we dance this time?" She said "Porque não". I gave up. She followed me back to where Kup was standing. "What a peculiar English boy you have here. Three times he asks me to dance. Three times I agree but then he apologies and says 'Perhaps the next one'.

I had been warned by Mrs.Jordain the first day I met her, to be very careful of the local girls. "They long to marry English boys. Be very careful. Never go into their homes. Never dance more than once with the same girl at a dance. Otherwise they will say you have compromised them and you will have to get married!" This scared me so I was determined to be extra careful.

I finally danced with the girl mentioned above. When the music stopped, I started to walk with her to her seat when the music started up again. Before I could do anything, she grabbed hold of me and started to dance. I began to perspire. The music stopped. I started to rush away but the music commenced again. She held on to me and I was forced to dance a THIRD time. I was desperate. Almost in tears, I told her that I couldn't marry her, that I didn't earn enough and finally that my parents wouldn't allow me. To my surprise she burst out laughing, so much that Kup came over to see what was the matter. When she told him, he too burst out laughing. But I had had enough and left for home and bed.

We gave at least one party each month for the foreign colony which consisted of Mr Searby, manager of the Bank of London & South America, his wife and daughter Leo, Mr.Latta, Manager of the Western Telegraph Co, wife and daughter Joan, Smith, Pinhorn and Rae, all three with the Bank and 5 or 6 engineers of the Western Telegraph Co who lived at the Cable station at Olho d'Agua [ed: a beach lined suburb of the city]. There were Mr & Mrs Jordain (French) and the Americans Mr & Mrs Clay of the water company and a Mr Elliott in charge of the Light & Power [ed:the electricity company]and the trams.

One of my duties was to visit the workshops each morning to see how repairs were going on to the tugs and lighters. One morning, the Capataz said something to me which I didn't understand. Not wishing to appear ignorant I replied "Yes". Next morning, the Capataz asked me the same question. As, obviously 'Yes' was not the right answer, I replied "No." The third day, he again questioned me so this time I said "Perhaps." He came up to the office and complained to Mr.Clissold that he had three times asked me "What he was to do with the workers' employment books." All Mr.Stephenson says is "Yes", "No" and "Perhaps".

Later Mr Clissold told me to find out when such and such a lighter [ed: small ship for loading to larger ships offshore]would be completed. When I asked the capataz, he seemed to delay answering so I suggested "Next Tuesday?" "Yes", he agreed, "Next Tuesday it would be ready". On the following Tuesday, I went down to the workshops expecting to see the lighter nicely painted and ready for service. It was obviously NOT ready. So I asked "Will the lighter be ready for the end of the week?" "Yes", he replied. Again it was not ready. I was getting annoyed so I said to him "Look. I asked you if it would be ready for Tuesday and you replied "Yes". When I asked you if it would be ready for the end of the week, again you said "Yes" and it is still not ready. What are you playing at?" He was much older than me and he looked at me with pity. "Look", he said, "You obviously wanted the lighter to be ready for Tuesday. So I agreed which made you happy.Then on the Tuesday you asked if it would be ready for the end of the week. If I had said no, you would have been unhappy so again I agreed and you were happy. Isn't that the best way to live?"

My first motorcycle and I find my way around the city

After I had been in São Luíz for some 6 months, I bought myself a secondhand motorcycle. I went to the police station to take out my licence. The policeman told me to ride around the town and return in 15 minutes. When I returned, he wanted to know if I had hit anything or fallen off. When I said "No", he said "Well that's all right. I will give you your licence"

A few days later I was speeding along when I came to a crossing. The policeman had his arm out to indicate that I was to stop. However, I was going too fast. As I whizzed past him I hit his arm. He spun round and fell over. I stopped and came back to apologise. All he said was "Don't do that again."

The cathedral at the end of Avenida Dom Pedro ll was started in 1763. The altar was very fine and covered in gold and silver. Inside were tombs of a number of former bishops as well as that of Dona Jensen, a previous owner of the present Booth House. Alongside the cathedral was the old Bishop's palace, now a school.

The central square is Praça João Pessoa where previously slaves were sold. There were a few trees but otherwise it had a very abandoned look. All the taxis started from here. They were all American and the drivers kept them in tip top condition. All the trams passed by this square. There were several services, the longest one being to Anil which was run with two cars in tandem, one first class and the other second. The fare cost Rs 800 first class and Rs 400 second class. About 2d and ld respectively. The tram ran past the fruit market, then past the few remaining Dutch houses built when Maranhao was in the hands of the Dutch. Almost opposite was the football ground. From here on the paved road ceased and continued as a red mud track. On either side were the remains of old Portuguese gateways which belonged to the homes of rich Portuguese and English families who had large sugar estates worked by slaves. Here, too, lay Admiral Cockrane's anchor. He was here in 1822 to help quell the opposition to the Independence of Brazil. From here onwards, lived the poor of Maranhao in their mud huts. Finally at the end of the line was the village of Anil. There was a large cloth factory here, the owner living in a large house on the property with a tennis court. At Anil a road ran to Sao Jose de Ribamar, a popular resort on the far side of the island whilst another road led to Olho d'Agua where the Western Telegraph had a station. There is a large sandy beach at Olho d'Agua which on Sundays would become rather crowded. There were a number of small huts which were rented to local families who would bring their families to stay over the school holidays. One problem was that there were no hotels nor general stores in the vicinity so it was necessary to ride into Sao Luis for food etc. As the forest was nearby, the insects and other creepy crawly insects were always out in force at night to make merry!

As can be imagined, there was not a lot to do in São Luís so I often used to hop on the tram in front of the office and ride to the end of the line at Remedios. On the way we passed the Praça João Lisboa, then Rua Oswaldo Cruz, the main shopping street. Then past the barracks, built about 1797, to the Praça Goncalves Dias, the famous Brazilian poet. Finally the tram would arrive at the church of Remedios.

There was a rather sad story attached to this place. Two young school children, she was 12 and he was 13, met here one afternoon about 6.30 to have ice creams in a nearby café. At 7pm there was a terrific thunderstorm which cut all the electricity in the town. The tram service. too, was stopped. The children sheltered in the café until 8 pm when the electricity was reconnected. They immediately caught the first tram home. When the children reached the home of the girl, the boy rang the bell. The father came to the door. Looking at the two, he just said "Go away!" The boy then went to his mother's home and told her what had happened. Immediately the good lady gave her son some money telling him to go to the Hotel Central for the night. Then she took the little girl inside and she spent the night there. Next morning, she went with the little girl to her home. The father of the girl merely said "I am not having that girl in my house. No daughter of mine stays out after 8 pm with a boy." The end result was that the boy's family managed to convince the girl's family that the two children should get married. This they did but, quite naturally, the marriage only lasted a few months.

In the Praça João Lisboa is the old Carmo church of the Capuchin monks. It was built in the early 17th century and rumour had it that a number of tunnels ran to other churches and convents in the town. As many of the works of art had been stolen or damaged, restoration was going on and new paintings by an Italian artist were being done whilst I was there. The monks live in an even older building alongside. This was much larger but part of the west wall was demolished to make way for a road.

The local dentist, Sr. Passarinho, had two daughters and I was introduced to them. Then came an invitation to the birthday party of the younger, Daisy Passarinho. I put on a clean white suit and set off filled with enthusiasm to see what a Brazilian birthday party would be like. The house was full of boys and girls. Sr Passarinho introduced me around and then I was left with Daisy. Thinking to say something nice to her, I commented, so I thought, on a nice necklace she was wearing and asked if I might touch it. The next moment, two of her brothers came over, lifted me up by the arms and literally threw me out into the street. What had I done wrong?, I wondered. Just then I saw a boy I knew so I called to him from the front door. "Why have I been thrown out?" He spoke to one of the brothers, then came back to me laughing "You told her she had lovely breasts and could you feel them."

Christmas 1936

It didn't exactly feel like Christmas with the heat even though Naih Clissold produced roast turkey and we had a pudding received from England. Afterwards, we all went to the Clays' house on the Beira Mar for drinks. I, of course, was still having nothing stronger than guaraná but I was persuaded to drink a cherry brandy which I found rather pleasant. Then cigars were passed around. I took one without thinking and Julian lit it for me. A few puffs and I began coughing and was sick!

Every Wednesday, when we didn't have a ship in port, as well as on Saturdays, I would play tennis on a court below the staff house. There would be Julian Clissold, Searby and Leo, his daughter and myself.
I noticed that a young girl would always stand at the entrance and watch us so one day I asked her if she played tennis. She blushed and said she liked to watch me. Interesting! So I asked if we could meet that evening at 6.30pm on the promenade. She came with 2 sisters. Her name was Lya, her sisters were Lys and Lisle. From then on I used to meet her several evenings a week. Nothing serious but I suggested she taught me Portuguese and I would teach her English. A very nice arrangement. I also danced with her and her sisters at the frequent dances in town. Then one day my boss told me that Lya's father, a prominent lawyer, came to the office to ask my intentions. Told that they were entirely innocent, he said that I should be very careful. Shortly afterwards the Governor issued a decree that couples of the opposite sex were not permitted to sit on the benches on the promenade closer than 30 centimetres apart! Nevertheless Lya and I continued to see one another from time to time and for my birthday she gave me a green satin pillowcase embroidered with my name.

One day I got talking to a young priest who spoke English. He told me there was a tennis court at the back of the cathedral and asked whether I would like to play with him. After that, I frequently went there. The , priest hitched up his cassock and played a very good game. In time, he spoke to me about religion and I discovered that there was very little difference between the Catholic Faith and the High Church of England. I went to mass using my communion book which I had been given when at Cranleigh School. The service was very much the same and as I missed Sunday services, I commenced going every Sunday to Mass at the cathedral. Then the Cardinal confirmed me as a Catholic.

Work was not exactly onerous

Letters were only written when a ship came in. There was the occasional cable to be coded or decoded. Para sent us funds from time to time which I collected from the bank. One day I had to collect payment of an invoice from the Portuguese owner of one of the cloth factories. When he handed over the money, I started to write out a receipt. He became furious. "How dare you insult me by giving me a receipt. You are an Englishman. That is sufficient for me. If I didn't trust you, I would not have done any business with Booths. Now get out."

All letters were numbered and two copies taken. One for the file and a second copy would be sent by following mail. Since all our mail was sent care of one of the Captains, it seemed very unlikely that an original would be lost. But that was the system and it had to be followed. The copies were taken by typing with a copying ribbon. Then the original was placed face down in a tray of gelatine. It was wiped over by hand, removed and then several copies could be taken. Official letters to the Authorities, which had to be written in Portuguese, were typed by the chief clerk, Machado. Then the original was placed in a special copying book containing tissue pages. The book was put in a letter press, the handle was turned and the letter left for a few hours. When opened, the copy of the letter was firmly fixed in the book and could only be removed by tearing it out!

The Cash book was loose leaf and at the end of every month I would have to send the written up pages together with all the vouchers to England. We kept no accounting books in Brazil. Apparently the Authorities never queried this and we only paid local taxes. My salary was Rs 800$000 a month from which I paid for my food and petty expenses. I paid no rent. Medicines and doctors fees were paid by the company so I usually found I could save money as I did not drink in those days. Back in England, I received £100 a year which I left to accumulate with compound interest. No income tax to pay either. What a wonderful life!

Occasionally, I would go to the Cine Eden. Quite up-to-date films were shown. Thursday and Sunday nights were festive nights when all the girls would dress up in their finery. The boys would stand with their backs to the screen to watch the girls come in. A bell would ring. One ring to start with, then two and finally three rings which would signal that the show was about to begin.

My first move

Then on the 12th March 1937, word arrived by cable from Belém that I was to proceed immediately to Parnahyba by the "Polycarp" to relieve Gamon, the sub-manager there who had been taken ill and was being repatriated. I returned to São Luís arriving on 16th March 1938 aboard the chartered vessel Cape Howe On 7th May 1938, I boarded the Brazilian steamer Potengy for Belém to catch the Hilary on 13th May for Liverpool and 3 months. We arrived in Liverpool on the 28th May.

Much of my leave was taken up calling on relatives and old friends. During that time, I met Barbara Rowley at a party. She lived in Montreal and suggested that if I returned to Brazil via Canada, I could stay with her family. It seemed a wonderful idea so I looked around for a way to get there. The "Duchess of York" was leaving Greenock on 12th August so I asked Booths whether they would pay at least part of my fare. This they refused to do saying that my contract called for me to travel by a Booth ship. Eventually, I booked my passage by third class which upset Mr Booth who said that I was 'letting the side down' by travelling steerage. However, I stuck to my guns and had a very pleasant trip meeting many nice people. My stay in Montreal was very interesting and the subject of a separate story.

When I returned to Maranhão on my second contract in February 1939, I was older, wiser I hope and I now drank beer. I tried whisky but it was not to my liking, I particularly liked the Brahma Chopp.

There was now a new Manager, Geoffrey Leigh-Bryan and his wife Molly. I was now no longer treated as a son but as a business colleague and lodger. It thus behove me to spend less time in the living room and more either in my bedroom or outside. Fortunately, since I had been away, two young Americans, Jack and Buddy, had come to Sao Luiz to work at the Light & Power Company. They rented the upper storey of an old mansion and whilst the furniture was of the bare minimum, they did have beds, table and chairs, kitchen stove and refrigerator. Thus at weekends, I frequently stayed overnight on Saturdays, just as well as most Saturdays, we danced and drink beer at Dona Honorinas, a very high class cabaret. One of the girls there called Didi was the 'special' girl of Satu Belo, partner in the firm of Francisco Araujo. She only danced with Satu and when he was not there she would just sit and watch the others. However, I managed to persuade her to dance with me. Later when I went to Rio de Janeiro on my holidays in 1940 I met Didi at the Banco do Brasil Carnaval dance. Satu had sent here there whilst he took his wife and family to the States on holiday. She agreed to be my partner at the Carnaval dance in Botofogo. We had a wonderful time.

The 3rd September 1939 - war

Whilst listening to the wirelesss, we heard Chamberlain saying that we were now at war with Germany and wondered how it would affect us. Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from Head Office announcing that I was in a reserved occupation. Then in October 1939 came an official document from the British Embassy in Rio de Janeiro nominating me as British Pro Consul in Maranham. Leigh-Bryan was named as Reporting Office and British Vice-Consul.

Then a diplomatic courier delivered two large code books and as I already handled the Booth codes, I was detailed to use the diplomatic codes. Mainly the messages we received related to information about German warship movements in the South Atlantic which I then had to recode and pass on.

Towards the end of September 1939, the Booth ship Clement arrived in port. The captain invited the Bryans and myself to dinner aboard. Not long after she sailed, we heard that the vessel had been sunk by a German U-boat and the Captain and crew taken prisoner. Some time later came the Battle of the River Plate. A coded message advised that two of the officers of the Graf Spee were aboard an "Ita" passenger vessel with the idea of escaping to Germany. I was instructed to remain on board the Ita until she sailed, watching the two officers and listening to their conversation. As it was the officers remained in their cabin all the time and although I sat just below the porthole of their cabin, not knowing German was not much use.

Code-books and naked girls

Then we received an urgent message "Destroy code books immediately and confirm". I took the two books down to the end of our garden, lit a fire and threw the books on to it. All that happened was that the covers got charred. Eventually I had to take page by page, light them and wait until they had been consumed and then grind the ashes to dust.

For several years we had been the Agents of the German shipping line NDL. Naturally, now that War had been declared we could not continue to represent an enemy company. We consulted the British Consul in Belém who told us to hand all the books to the German Consul in São Luis. This we did throwing the books through the door so as not to step on enemy territory! However, until the end of 1939 we were still replying to NDL office in Bremen regarding certain items as authorized by the British Consul.

Leigh-Bryan continued the custom of holding monthly parties for members of the British colony. At one of these parties, there was a young Englishman called Rae. He was a lonely sort of fellow with few friends. However he had a girl friend called Giboia. I believe he handed his salary over to her and she allowed him so much for his expenses. At this particular party, we suddenly heard Rae's name being shouted out from the street. We went to look and there was Giboia yelling for Rae saying that there was a great party going on to celebrate his birthday and to bring along his friends. Several of us decided to go with him and we had a great time dancing and drinking at Giboia's place. Around 2 am someone suggested we all go to Olho'Agua where one of the men knew of a house we could use. We piled into a taxi. The house was beside a river just off the track which led to the Western Telegraph station. When I awoke the bed seemed to sway. I was in a hammock, There was a straw roof. I thought I must be dreaming so I shut my eyes. When I reopened them, a naked girl passed by the door and said "Good morning. There is some coffee but that is all for breakfast as there is no food." I got dressed and went outside. The house was a straw hut. The others were dressed and drinking coffee with Giboia and 3 other girls. Someone had brought a bottle of gin. There were no glasses but we found some half coconut shells so we used them. However, soon afterwards we were attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. It became impossible to remain so we took off our clothes and sat on the bed of the river with the water up to our necks and holding our coconut shells just out of the water. And so we passed a sort of enjoyable morning. Then someone wondered how we were going to get back to the city. We drew lots and the unfortunate one had to walk to the WT station [ed: Western Telegraph] and phone for a taxi which eventually arrived and took us home.

Leigh-Bryan bought an outboard motor and fitted it to one of the firm's rowing boats. Saturday afternoons we sometimes went for a ride about the bay. Then he suggested we went fishing for sharks. We fitted up a wicked looking barbed hook on to a rope, stuck a chunk of meat on the end and threw the hook overboard, Within minutes the rope went rushing overboard. Fortunately we had tied the end of the rope to one of the seats. We soon found ourselves being pulled towards the entrance to the bay in spite of the outboard motor going full speed. Fortunately I had a knife so I cut the rope, the boat slowed down and we were able to steer back to the rampa and safely.

Another episode

When we received news that a lifeboat with survivors of the ship wreck had landed somewhere along the coast. We despatched the tug boat "Arary" which later returned with a group of bedraggled sailors including a naval officer. We placed them all in hospital until they had recovered sufficiently when we provided them with suitable clothing and put them in a hotel until they could be repatriated. It turned out that their merchant ship had been torpedoed off the west coast of Africa. The Naval Officer and several maritime officers together with a number of Indian crew managed to get into a lifeboat and after an incredible journey managed to land off the coast of Brazil. They drank rain water and ate whatever fish they managed to catch.

I was very friendly with Enrique Gandra who had several sons and daughters and a little girl called Rosilda, an orphan from Barra do Corda in the interior. She was 13 when I met her at a dance. Being so young I decided that it would be safe for me to dance several times with her without having to get married as I had been warned by female members of the English colony. She was a wonderful dancer and when Carnaval came around in 1939, I asked her if she would be my partner. She agreed and we had a wonderful time. Years later when she was married and had two daughters I met up with her again and we maintained a correspondence until she died on 13th September 2009.

One day around 1941 an old man with long white hair and beard came into the Consulate. In a Scottish accent, he told me that he had heard that England was at war. "With whom is England at war?". He asked. "With Germany", I replied. "I bet the Queen will be upset making war against her relatives." "Which Queen are you referring to?", I enquired. "Why. Queen Victoria, of course." This seemed a strange answer, I thought. "But Queen Victoria has been dead for over 40 years" I told him. This seemed to stun him. After a few minutes he asked "Then who is the King now or Queen?" I told him it was King George VI "I suppose he must be Victoria's eldest son." I finally sorted things out for him. It appears that he came to Brazil at the end of the nineteenth century to work with the tribes and had remained amongst them ever since. I asked him if he wished to take out a new passport but he said he would have no use for one as he would stay with his tribe until he died.

By May 1940 my leave had fallen due but since I was not allowed to travel to England due to the War, the firm suggested I might like to take my holidays in Brazil. I thought this a good idea especially as they agreed to pay my passage.

I booked my passage by the Lloyd Brasileiro ship Rodrigues Alves.
And sailed from Maranhao on 30th December. I got off the ship in Recife as my friend Gerald Sills lived there and had invited me. I had a wonderful time with him and his two sisters who took me sight seeing and to Olinda to bask on the beach and go swimming. Then I sailed on the "Buarque" for Rio de Janeiro I had a fantastic time both there and in Santos and São Paulo. .

Never to return

I arrived back in São Luís on lst April. On 23rd July the same year, 1941, word was received from Pará [Bélem]that I was to proceed immediately to Manaus a thousand miles up the river Amazon. There was no ship available at that moment, Leigh Bryan suggested that I flew to Belém by Panair do Brasil. It seems that flying was something new for Booths, as the Manager cabled my father requesting permission for me to fly. My father, quite naturally, replied that I was 36 and it was entirely up to me whether I would fly or not. So, on 25 July I finally left São Luís never to return to work or live there.

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