The Pier 21 Staff Story of John Charles Richards (Shipping Agent)

Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Creative Commons: 
Accession Number: 
Story Text: 

John Charles Richards

I went to work at IH Mathers&Son Ltd. In 1950 Mathers were steamship agents for the Greek Line, and they were also agents for Montreal Shipping (Mar) Ltd. Who were agents for the Italian Line. Now when after the war and the immigrants came to Canada they came by some of the following vessels, Conte Biancamano, Saturnia, Neptunia, OLYMPIA, Anna Salem, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cristoforo Colombo, Nea Hellas, Vulcania, Augustus.

We would receive a message from the vessel advising its ETA, cash required for the crew, etc. and we would have to notify the following of the vessel’s arrival: Harbour Master, tugs, stevedores, customs, immigration, port doctors, ship’ chandlers, Partridge motorboat, CNR.

The passengers when they got their ticket overseas, there would be included a rail fare and money for meals to their destination. We would have to meet the passengers and give them their rail money and money for their meals, but later this was cancelled and the CNR would give the passengers their rail ticket and money for meals, then advise us so we would reimburse them. This was done so we would not have to carry large amounts of money.

When the vessel came to the pier it had a list as most of the passengers were on one side. Sometimes there was a band playing made up of the crew of the vessel. When the tugs held the vessel off from the pier, Partridge Motorboat would go out and get the lines and bring them to the dock, and sometimes it would look like they would be caught between the ship and the pier, but always made it. Upstairs in Pier 21 they had a gangway that had to be pushed out to the vessel by the stevedores that was attached to a boom. A couple of times this gangway fell to the pier below. As time went on a new telescope gangway was built to replace the old one and was much easier to place on the vessel.

After the vessel was secure the boarding party went on board. They were the Port Doctor in his navy uniform, Customs, Immigration agents. They all went to the Purser’s Office, except one of the agents who went to see the Captain, to see if he wanted any special requirements.

The Customs would seal up all the bars and receive a list of the crew’s cigarettes, etc. as they were only allowed so many at one time, and if they had any over the amount allowed it had to be sealed up. Also they received a list of all bonded stores on the vessel which were also put under seal.

The Immigration would get their list of passengers and advise the Purser of how many passengers would come off and at what time. The Port Doctor would check to see if anyone had been sick on board and then would give the Purser a bill of health, which was required by the Customs when the vessel was entered at Customs.

The passengers would come off the vessel upstairs in Pier 21 in groups of 100 or so and the guard at the door would count them and have them seated on the benches. From there they would be passed by the Port Doctor and be seated again to wait for Immigration to pass them. Then they would pick up their hand baggage which they brought with them and pass down the hallway where the Customs inspected their baggage. Now one time a vessel came in late at night and the Purser and the kitchen crew made up some sandwiches and when they came by the Customs and Agriculture inspector he noticed that there was meat in the sandwiches and this was not allowed and therefore he collected several garbage cans of sandwiches.

After the Customs the passengers would come down to where they received their rail tickets form the CN men. And there was the Red Cross room where they could put their babies in cribs, have a bath, etc. Now the stevedores were unloading the passengers’ heavy baggage and bringing it over to the annex and placing it under the letter of the passengers’ names. After the passengers received their ticket and money they could go down to the annex, which was a small store where they could buy some goods for their trip. Then they would wait here until they were allowed on to where their heavy baggage was and have the Customs inspection. Then the baggage was loaded on the train and the passengers then were allowed on the train to await the time of departure.

John Richards