'Niggers' and tobacco

On reading Frank Davis and Dick Puddlecote's blogs on how smokers are now vilified on a par with blacks being called niggers, it brought to mind my late father.

He was a deepsea fisherman from the age of 14. Deepsea fishing is recognised as the most dangerous occupation in the world. Don’t believe me? … take a look at Hull’s archives listing lost fishermen It dates from 1830's ... take your time it's 203 pages!

The blogs conjured up for me the image of Old Friend tobacco by WH & WO Wills. I make no apologies for my association of the blogs use of the word ‘nigger’ and the tobacco. It’s from a time gone by where my father and his workmates used the word ‘nigger’ along with others and thought nothing of it. It was, however, quite surprising to me because although l don’t use the word my memory still brought up this image. When my father was at home he never swore at all but as soon as he stepped on his ship ... it was every other word. In later years when l was on cruise ships l found it the same. I worked with many nationalities and we all slagged each other off but it was always done in humour. Something the PC Brigade will never understand so if any of them are reading this and are getting upset ... tough!

Anyway, my father smoked Old Friend, l can still remember all the tins in his wardrobe. Some like the photo and some in rectangular tins. He brought them home from the ship’s bond (duty free). There were HMRC regulations regarding the ship’s bond as anything brought back to the UK would have to pay duty.

Of course my father never did and neither did anyone else l know of in the industry. When the ship came home from a trip, it temporarily berthed at the quayside whilst the lock gates were operated. Here the Customs Officers often boarded the ship and searched the crew’s kitbags for contraband.

I remember once going down to meet my father at the quayside and getting on his ship. Relatives of the crew often did this but it was usually the kids. Health and Safety would have a hissyfit nowadays. On this particular occasion l had my new girlfriend with me. She was of the tender age of 16 and as sweet and innocent as could be, l was 18 at the time.

I think my father had met my girlfriend once before. It had to have been a short meeting … he was only home for 60hrs every 3 weeks. We went up to the bridge where my father was in control of the ship. He always brought the ship into dock as ‘3rd hands’ usually did. On seeing us he beamed and then said to my girlfriend ‘I’m glad you’re here’ and went across to a box or bag. He took out some tobacco and said  to her ‘Put these up your jumper or down your knickers, l think we’ve got Customs coming aboard. They’ll never search you.’ Bless her, she did just that.

She went on to become my wife and brought into this world two wonderful daughters ... neither of which were ever corrupted into smuggling by their grandfather a.k.a my father!

Goodbye Old Friend.


  1. I was a Customs Officer on St Andrew's Dock in the early 1960's. All fishing vessels from the DSFG were always boarded on arrival by Officers (not 'sometimes') and Old Friend tobacco was a favourite amongst crews. Shipment as ship's stores ex bond was strictly rationed and after three weeks at sea the ship's bonded store was just about empty and for this reason, seizures of undeclared tobacco were usually very small. Salt of the earth that community...

  2. What do you think of the standard of UKBA officers nowadays?

  3. I have made two attempts to reply to your question without success.


"In the eyes of the Tribunal the review letter contained several preconceptions, prejudgments and non-sequiturs"

"the absurdity of this reason is demonstrated by simply stating it"

"We therefore find that Mr Sked misdirected himself as to the Policy in carrying out the review and his decision is therefore one that no reasonable review officer could have arrived at."

... commonly known here at N2D as 'Skeds' ... that is to say these are Judges comments regarding UKBA Review Officer Ian Sked's reasons for rejecting peoples appeals against seizures.

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