Shipping Out by Gerry Evans

Shipping Out by Gerry Evans

In my sleep I still roar ashore with the crowd in Curacao and Lagos. I dream of mountainous seas sweeping the decks of fully laden tankers, and I encounter shipmates of long ago, and relive the humour and comradeship.  Gerry Evans

Photo: Jane Ussher

When I [Sarah] met Gerry around 2004, he had recently finished workshopping his memoir on Bill Manhire’s Creative Writing Course at Victoria University, Gerry had been jilted at the printing press by a someone who thought they might be a publisher. They weren’t, but I was, so when the page proofs passed across my desk (via the wonderful Mary Varnham), I just knew that publishing his book was something I was destined to do.

Gerry – who passed away in 2008 – was my kind of fellow … the sort of man you wished you’d known all your life and kinda felt you actually had. He was kind, warm, clever, funny, colourful. He was gentlemanly and upstanding. An ardent trade unionist, he had plenty to say about people, politics, the state of the world. So did I. I’d pop around to his family home in Karori to talk through something book-related and before you knew it we’d be chewing the fat randomly chewing for an hour or often two. I sure missed him when he went, and I still do.

So, about the book. This is what Iain Sharp said in The Sunday Star-Times.

Though Gerry Evans has been based in Wellington since the early 1960s, he is one of those relatively rare Welsh imports. He was brought up in the port of Aberystwyth and went to sea at 16 – a more common career choice back then than it is today. In 1954 the British merchant marine had 95,000 seamen in its employ. Now, in this little gem of a book, as he nears his 70th birthday, Evans looks back on his youth with fond nostalgia.

His memories aren’t all rosy, though. He readily concedes that on some of his voyages the food was foul, the quarters were cramped, the shipboard tasks were tedious and the skipper was a swine. Ah, but what larks Evans enjoyed with his shipmates (‘on the homeward passage someone threw a snake through the porthole of the chief steward’s cabin, right onto his bunk’) and what nights of revelry they had in the seaside dives of seven continents.

I particularly like his account of his first encounter with the barbarous six o’clock swill in an Auckland pub in the mid-1950s: ‘I have seen quieter riots – just to reach the bar was an extraordinary feat (it was easy to see where New Zealand rugby forwards had acquired their famous mauling skills).’

The best way to get hold of Shipping Out is to contact us direct, although good New Zealand bookshops can also order it up for you.