Book Review: East a Half South. John Curry

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I am pleased to announce the publication of Retired Liverpool pilot, John Curry’s, autobiography. As I anticipated  in my pre-publication notice in issue 310, John has produced a well written account of his life in Liverpool in general and time serving as a Liverpool pilot in particular.

Starting with his passing of the pilotage apprentice interview in front of the Liverpool Pilotage Committee at the age of 16, John takes us through his period of initial sea time which was followed by time served on the cruising cutter as a junior deck hand where, in addition to undertaking all the menial tasks associated with being a crew member such as washing up and polishing brass, John gained his first boat handling experiences manning the boarding and landing “punts” which transferred the pilots between the ships and the cutter. A further period at sea to obtain the required professional certificates was followed by a brief spell back on the cutter as Senior deck hand prior to being called to take his examination to become a Third Class pilot.

With his new 3rd Class certificate duly obtained, John embarked upon his long and fascinating time served as a Liverpool pilot. The rest of the book consists of John’s experiences as a pilot rising through the ranks to become a senior pilot right up to his retirement after 39 years service in 2009*. As you can imagine, any pilotage career spanning nearly 40 years involving piloting around 6000 ships will have had many memorable moments, both good and bad and John’s book provides a full account of many of these. Storms, adverse tides, near misses, friendly and grumpy Captains, tricky manoeuvres are all there in abundance!

John was also deeply involved in the post 1987 Pilotage Act “politics” and as Chairman of the pilots’ committee successfully led the battle to return the service back to self employed status which was achieved in 1997. However, John was not just involved in pilotage since as a mature student he gained a Master’s degree in Medieval French history! From an early point in his career he also became a volunteer lifeboatman with the West Kirby inshore lifeboat where he served for over 20 years until he reached the compulsory age limit for serving crew. However, John’s involvement with the RNLI didn’t end there  since at the time he retired as an active crew member, the All weather lifeboat station at Hoylake was looking for a Deputy Launching Authority to which he transferred , subsequently becoming the Station’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, a position which he still holds.

For pilots, this book provides a well written account of everyday pilotage which we can all appreciate. For the general reader, as well as providing a valuable insight into the role of a pilot, John’s book also provides an interesting and lively record of the changing pattern of shipping on the Mersey over the last 50 years .

*(see PILOT 298, July 2009             JCB

East a Half South

Countyvise Ltd ( Price £8.99 +p&p

ISBN: 978-906823-72-6

Signed copies, available from John (£11.50 inc p&p):,

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