Commentaries, Reminiscences and Sea Stories
Frank McCafferty

USNS Dutton in Glasgow, Scotland, 1973
Posted on 10/18/2012

While I enjoyed the vast majority of ports visited while serving aboard the Dutton, none bring back more memories than the seven day period spent in Glasgow.

The transit down the “River Clyde” was interesting in and of its own right. As we passed the little towns and villages along the river, we eventually passed one city with a shipyard to our port side in which a frigate was about two thirds built. We were close enough to see all of the yard workers (men and women). I can only assume, because of the attention we were drawing, that seeing a ship waiving the U.S. flag transit down the river was an uncommon event. All of the yard birds were watching us steam by. The females started waving….of course we waved back. Seeing this the men started flipping us off and yelling “go home yanks”….of course we paid them no mind as we continued to wave to the women. Something inside me told me right then that this port call might be different from all of the others.

It sure was……

We eventually made it to Glasgow and found ourselves berthed in an older part of the city (King George IV piers). Four of us headed out and hit the first pub we could find (John Kritch, Jerry Burlack, myself, and Bill Dawson if I remember correctly). Of course it began to rain as we left the ship. The establishment in question catered to individuals who worked the piers and the surrounding industrial area. We were surrounded by men in dirty clothes evidently stopping in for a quick pint before heading home at the end of their workday….and no women. A very depressing night considering we had never been here before, didn’t know where to go, and the rain. After a few hours, we returned to the ship where Chief Rigg was sitting in the lounge. He was given a mouthful by me about how dirty the city was, how little there apparently was to do, and how I couldn’t wait to go somewhere else. Of course being the older wiser salt that he was, he just smiled….. Why do I think, now that I’m looking back at this, that he might have known something I didn’t.

Being the forgiving souls that we were, we decided to give Glasgow another chance the next afternoon. We left the ship (same group) and headed over to the city center in a cab. The cab dropped us off at Victoria Station (ever notice how every major city in the UK has a Victoria Station). We walked around the corner and saw the Albany Hotel. The hotel had a pub (the Cabin Inn) down on the first floor so we stopped in. Evidently we arrived just after the lunch crowd left as the place was relatively empty. We stood at the end of the bar and ordered our pints. I then noticed this man behind the bar preparing drinks for some of the other patrons….he was flipping ice over his shoulder and catching it in the glass for each drink. I pointed this out to the other guys and we began laughing about it having never seen it before. The bartender (John Angus) came over and asked us where we were from having heard our accents. I told him we were off of the Dutton and that we had just pulled in the day before. Over the next thirty minutes, as we conversed with John between his drink making episodes, he asked us if we had ever visited Glasgow before. We told him this was the first visit for all of us. He asked if he could show us around after he got off of his shift in another hour or so……of course we were delighted to have a local give us a tour and some pointers on where to go.

John got off duty and immediately took us to a bus stop. We boarded a bus and rode through the city for about fifteen minutes before he indicated that we were to get off at the next stop which was in front of a park. We followed John into the park and this very attractive woman came up to him, hugged him, and gave him a great big kiss. He then introduced her to us as his fiancée. We stood there and talked for a few minutes before she indicated that she had to go back to work. John kissed her goodbye, looked at his watch, and then had all of us back on another bus. We rode another ten minutes, got off only to observe another very attractive woman walk up to John, give him a hug and a kiss, and then have her introduced as his fiancée. Yes this was fiancée number two. To make a long story short, there were four fiancées (having stayed in touch with John over the next few years I am happy to report that he eventually married fiancée number two). Of course we were VERY impressed with this being the young and easily influenced individuals that we were. The remainder of that day was spent in several pubs in which the beer flowed freely. Before the four of us returned to the ship, we all agreed to meet John at another pub the next day.

This next day brought on some interesting events of its own. As was the case in most ports, the navy detachment area was always given a telephone while in port to use for cabs, etc. On this day, something unusual happened…..something that never happened…..the phone rang. We never got calls, we made calls. I forget who the security watch was but when he answered the phone his facial expression changed for a look of curiosity to one of pure delight. When he hung up he informed the rest of us that the call was from the Glasgow University School of Nursing. The student nurses wanted to set up a party with the yanks….. We didn’t know until later but ship arrivals and departures are announced in the local newspapers in various UK ports…….the girls had been anxiously awaiting our arrival. And as all Dutton sailors know, we worked very hard to be accommodating.

When we met up with John Angus that afternoon, he suggested we meet the girls in a pub in the city center, then that we all go to his flat which was actually just up the road from where we were berthed. So we met the girls, had a great time in the pub talking and later dancing before heading to John’s place. What transpired next was simply amazing. John’s flat became our headquarters for the next five days. We would meet the girls there or in town and eventually end up at Johns. These women would come and go throughout the day and evening as they had schoolwork to deal with or shifts to complete in training at the local hospital. In effect, the party ran twenty-four hours a day until we left.

Ensign Daily, our XO, brought his wife over for the in-port period. We ran across the two of them in a pub and invited them back to John’s. I hope he’s retired because what I am about to say might get him in trouble…. about five the next morning he woke me up, ordered me to go back to the ship and return with enough bacon and eggs to feed everyone breakfast. Being the good little third class petty officer that I was, I got in a cab, boarded the ship, found Baker Lee, and then absconded with the bread, eggs, bacon, butter, etc…. Breakfast was very good that morning……the XO was a good egg!

Best port stop I had in eighteen months aboard!

And I haven’t even mentioned the Rangers Club……..that’s another story.

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