We had just come back from the Atlantic and were a day ahead of schedule so the Skipper, who was a Scot to his finger tips, decided we would drop anchor in a fjord in the North of Scotland, which we did. He went ashore to see some of his cronies. Apparently it was a favourite venue for his fishing trips and he was well known at the hotel. It was Sunday. In Scotland, at that time, nothing moved on Sunday, unless it was going to the Kirk, in the Kirk, or returning from the Kirk. One thing, definitely off limits was the hotel bar, it was locked up tight.
We received a signal and in due course we were told that the Off Watch had been invited to come ashore as guests of the locals. Not only that they opened up the bar and joined us – gladly I suspect. They told us that our appearance at the head of the fjord had prompted near panic, that reigned because they thought we were the vanguard of a defence force to inhibit an invasion in the North of Scotland. The Home Guard had rushed up into the mountains and the ARP were on Red Alert.
I don’t know whether it was relief or just typical Scots generosity but the drink was free and they gave some of us salmon fishing flies from a case on the wall. By evening we had dined and drunk well and were back on board. That was not the last of the matter – unfortunately. The Skipper was informed that night that the hotel had lost a grandfather clock and a hall carpet. Some inebriate had stolen the clock and wrapped it in the hall carpet to bring it onboard. All hell broke loose but no one owned up. It was then decided to search the ship and the Officer of the Watch accompanied by the Boatswain went from Mess to Mess searching. They reached the forepeak, where the Stokers had their Mess still with no luck. Things were looking bad. The ship was swinging at anchor and had turned across the current, and the story was that the search party was about to leave the Mess when the ship gave a slight roll and the clock chimed once. With the ‘dong’ reverberating through the Mess, there was no doubt what was where. In fact the carpet wrapped clock was hidden behind the hammocks in the Hammock rack. The search had not been diligent enough.
The Skipper sent the miscreant back to the hotel with the clock, all under guard, to make his own apologies and I’m sure he would have liked to scarper if he had half a chance, what waited him when we reached Rosyth did not bear thinking about, it was the Glass House, notorious and feared.