Ton Class Tales
Choco Munday, LSETC HMAS Ibis, 1974 - 1977.
The mid-day crowd was thinning out, their business lunches done,
I got my schooner freshened up and sat out in the sun.
As I basked in my retirement while I sipped the foamy brew,
I heard some young folks racing down the steps of Woolloomooloo.
They headed for the Frisco, which is where I parked my arse
In the exact same spot I parked it when the pub had much less class,
I recognised their banter, though it had a modern trend,
A bunch of Aussie matlows on a mid-week make-and-mend.
I listened to them yakking as they spoke of runs ashore,
Of bulkheads, decks and gangways and the roughers that they saw,
Then one of them said something that made me spill my grog,
"What the fuck's a ton-class, and what's a 'mollygog?'"
I growled into my Reschs, "That's a ton-class sweeper, son,"
And I pointed to the wall where all the ton-class pictures hung.
"They were noisy, hot and slow, but I'd go back if I could,
To when men were made of steel, and ships were made of wood."
Like mullets, stunned, those Navy lads watched as I came inside,
And stood before the 'Wall Of Fame' and took my place with pride.
I turned and pointed to the ship upon which I once served,
And gave these blokes a lesson that they obviously deserved.
"The mollygog sits on the stern, it's like a bunch of rollers,
With cable drums of steel wire rope that come up to your shoulders.
That big one in the middle? That's the "loop" that we are towin',
The duty greenie drove the crane that hauled it through the oggen."
"This picture shows you where we stowed the big Acoustic Hammer,
Towing that at seven knots caused quite a lot of clamour!
Above it is the PNM that swings out on a cable,
I saw it crush the buffer's foot one night in seas unstable."
The mouthy bloke that started this was far from sad and sorry,
He pointed to the wall and said, "Who's Big Al and Orrie?"
The picture was a close-up of some dib-dabs pulling tarps
From the Algerine and Orropesa floats stowed port-side-aft.
I laughed my fuckin' head off, he said "What's so fuckin' funny?"
I said "That's what we named the floats, not the sailors, sonny!"
He rolled his eyes and all his oppos slapped him on the head,
Then someone freshened up my beer which, by then, was dead.
I told them tales of ton-class ships when they were in mint condition,
The sweepers and the hunters that had long since de-commissioned.
Of Gull and Hawk and Teal, which were the first to leave the fleet,
Then followed Snipe and Ibis, which had never missed a beat!
The Curlew, now a fishing boat, still sails the Torres Straits,
And still remains the Navy's longest serving ship to date.
Then I drank down my last schooner, I'd put my heart upon my sleeve,
But I had one more thing to say before I took my leave.
"I thank you, lads, for letting an old sailor reminisce,
It brings to me such memories of a time I often miss."
Those young blokes raised their glasses, and said with honest zeal,
"When ships were made of wood, and men were made of steel!"