Hoping to save myself a December crossing to Belfast, I asked a friend over there if he would be prepared to do some preliminary research at the Public Records Office (Northern Ireland) – known for short as PRONI. Within a very few days he visited PRONI, but unfortunately chose the week they were in update mode and had only a skeleton staff working! However he did elicit some information about Lady Dixon and, following up these leads, I now know that PRONI does indeed have some Lady D records. The first group are the Master’s Log Books from 1943 to 1956. Each volume covers 3 or 4 years and contains 455 pages! As an example:-
Log Book of the Pilot Masters A. P. Kennedy and J. Owens, Deputy Pilot Master D. Hunt, on duty in the Lt. V. Lady Dixon, with folio entries under the headings of Date, Name of Pilots, Vessels Boarded, Tons, Time, Weather and Remarks and Watches (ie names of men on duty on each watch).
The second group are records of wireless traffic between the Harbour Office and Lady D from 1947 to 1957. There are 80 pages. This is titled as follows:-
Wireless Messages Sent and Received Between the Pilot Light Vessel Lady Dixon and the Harbour Office. Record of messages under headings of Date, Time, No., From, To, Message and Charge. Messages usually queries as regards time of arrival, weather conditions, docking instructions.
Now I cannot see myself copying three log book volumes of 455 pages each, nor 80 pages of wireless traffic. However, I think a few pages of each, bound in a posh cover, would be nice to have. Simon has also suggested we (i.e. I) should go through the log books and make a list of every man who served aboard from 1943 to 1956. My friend in NI has offered to accommodate me if I want to do any research over there, but I don’t think he realises how long Simon’s idea would take!
Meanwhile, back to mundane matters. The whole deck is now sealed with a combination of bitumen and rust proofing. The small area of teak decking at the bow, which we hoped to preserve, was too far gone and had to be removed.
This of course exposed bolt holes etc and these needed filling before the primer went on.
The primer, applied with a dustpan and brush type of brush, needed a dry deck and some parts were obstinately damp. They had to be dried with a blow-torch (it is not the time of year to be waiting for a run of fine days!) and this took some time.
The deck is now ready for the full process I described in Chapter 11 and meanwhile it is at least rain proof.