Reminiscences of my 60 years in South America
Trevor Stephenson 1915 -2015
Arranged by Tony Morrison


Trevor had been working for Booth Line in Brasil for two years years when he was given 'home leave' It was his first journey back to England.

Trevor left Pará at the mouth of the Amazon in 1938 on the Booth Line steam-ship Hilary - the third of the Line with the same name. The SS Hilary - 7,403 tons was built in 1931 and theFirst Class was sheer luxury

Homeward Bound 1938
Homeward Bound on SS Hilary
"Catch that ship "


At the mouth of the Amazon

In Pará, a north Brazilian city near the mouth of the mighty Amazon, the afternoon rain had stopped early on l3th May 1938. Alongside the quay the Booth steamer, ss"Hilary, laden with Brazil Nuts and rubber, was tied up waiting until the last passenger had boarded. Then with one blast of the fog horn, she moved away, assisted by the tug boats Pelorus and Criado, slowly into mid-stream before casting off the ropes and commencing her journey homeward bound for Liverpool.

Apart from the cruise passengers, who had each paid the princely sum of £35 [thirty-five Pounds] each for the privilege of travelling "1000 miles up the Amazon" including all shore excursions at each port of call, there were Mr J.W.Booth, Manager of the Booth Steamship Co. in Liverpool and his wife, Mr & Mrs McCrae and daughter Crimp, Manager of the Para Light and Tramways Company, Mr & Mrs J.W.Massey, Booth Manager in Iquitos, Mr & Mrs Gordon and daughter Joan, British Consul in Pernambuco , Mr Greenfield, Manager of Manaos Harbour Ltd, the Bolivian Tin Baron Nicholas Suarez, Sandy McWilliam, an old school friend of mine working with the Booth Line and Yours Truly, returning home to Hoylake after completing his first overseas contract for the Booth Line in Maranham and Parnahyba. The Captain was Lewis Evans.

The sea was calm. No one was seasick and the days passed eating, playing deck games and sleeping. In the evenings, the passengers would line the side of the ship to watch the phosphoresce twinkle on the tops of the waves. During the daytime, they watched the flying fish skimming over the surface of the water. Occasionally porpoises could be seen swimming in unison alongside the ship.

At the Equator, all but the cruise passengers who had already crossed the line on the outward voyage, took part in the Crossing of the Line ceremony receiving afterwards a large and colourful certificate signed by King Neptune and Captain Evans as evidence that they were true members of the Equator Crossing Brigade.

First port of call was at Madeira

Together with the ship's doctor, we climbed the cobbled road up to Reids Hotel. Then we descended on a hair-raising trip by toboggan! After that, we needed the visit to the Madeira wine lodge for tasting. We tasted both for ourselves and for those passengers whom we felt would not be coming!

Leaving Madeira, the ship headed for Lisbon. Whilst the cruise passengers were taken for a tour of the city, I took a tram to the end of the line, an excellent way to see the city sitting down and in comfort. Back again on board the
Hilary, I learnt that the passengers had not yet returned and were not expected for another quarter of an hour, also that the ship would set sail in half an hour's time. It being rather warm, I left my jacket with money and passport in my cabin and walked down the gangway on to the quayside. Nearby the Lamport & Holt steamer Voltaire was moored. I decided that I would like to see over her so, being challenged by no one, I went aboard. I enjoyed seeing all the lovely public rooms, the swimming pool, gym and other amenities. Walking back to the Hilary, I saw a Portuguese submarine moored to the quay. I stopped and a friendly seaman asked me if i would like to go aboard. Naturally I agreed with alacrity. I found the innards of the submarine fascinating and time passed quickly. Then I remembered that I had to be aboard the Hilary.

Hurriedly thanking the kind seaman, I disembarked and walked to where the Hilary had been tied up. There was no sign of her! I looked right and left but there was no Hilary to be seen. Just then a small tug boat came alongside and a young man jumped ashore. "Have you seen the Hilary by any chance?", I asked. "Why of course. She has just left"

Catch that ship!

Then, pointing with his hand, he said "Look. There she is just casting off the tow ropes."There was the Hilary indeed, out in mid-stream and the propeller just starting to revolve. Without another thought, I jumped aboard the tug boat shouting to the astonished Captain "Catch that ship". Then I added, as though to give weight to my command, "I'm from the Booth office."

The tug boat steamed ahead at full speed. "Sound the hooter" I shouted. The Captain sounded a series of short sharp blasts. Then, to my great relief, I saw a figure on the bridge go to the port side and peer at us through binoculars. Frantically I waved both arms. The Hilary began to slow down.

As the tug boat drew close,. I saw all the passengers lining the side of the ship watching me. The tug master adjusted his speed to match that of the Hilary; a seaman lowered a rope ladder and when the tug boat was almost scraping the side of the ship, the Captain, of the tug boat shouted "Jump. I jumped and scrambled up the ladder calling over my shoulder "Many thanks". The purser gave me a hand over the side of the ship whispering in my ear "If I were you, I'd stay in your cabin till dinner time. The Captain's hopping mad." I decided to take his advice.

I debated whether to go into dinner

and take my seat hoping nobody would notice me or go in with the last to enter hoping that I would not be too visible as we went in. In the end I decided to wait until the last person went in. As luck would have it, the Captain had given a cocktail party that evening in his cabin for the passengers at his table. They came down last of all to the dining saloon. I was waiting just outside the entrance when they arrived so of course they all saw me. The Captain looked at me, then said "Stephenson . You can thank Mrs.Booth for telling me to pick you up. For myself, I would have left you to get back home by yourself" To my surprise nobody ever commented on my escapade and apparently all was forgotten..

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. It was early morning of the 28th May when we picked up the pilot, crossed the bar and entered the river Mersey. Whilst having breakfast, we saw the Pier Head, Liver Building, Cunard and Mersey Docks & Harbour Board Buildings through the windows on the port side. Soon after we entered Queens Dock where the ship tied up and, the official visit over, we were free to say our good-byes and disembark.

My father was on shore to meet me. He arranged for my trunk with all m y possessions to be picked up by Carter Paterson and forwarded to my parent's home in Hoylake. We took a taxi to the station, then by Mersey Railway to Birkenhead Park station and from there by train to Meols station. Then b y bus to Hoyle Road and home where my Mother greeted me

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