Shaun Mc Mahon


I joined PWSTS in November 1974 and was in Hesperus class together with Steve Norman (Bristol), Hugh Parsons (Penzance), Graeme Harker  (Sunderland), Mike Post (Bristol) land Phil Sheratt (Manchester).
I can still remember being collected at Dover railway station by John Carey from Falcon class on a wet and cold Sunday evening. John was my “senior” and on the way up from the station he informed me that the school day started at 6 am. I was shocked at this and began to wonder what I had let myself in for. My apprehension grew upon arrival at the school when I was dispatched to the barber and had my head shaved within minutes of walking through the front door.

Discipline seemed to be the main theme at PWSTS with rigid rules and instructors with a mindset from Victorian England. To this day I cannot understand why the regime was so strict and what exactly we were being prepared for. Thankfully, life onboard merchant ships was nothing like life at PWSTS. Oh, before I forget, the food was appalling!

I have, however, good memories of my fellow pupils. I was there at the same time as Falcon 74, Grenville 74, Arethusa 75 and maybe another class who I have forgotten. Looking at the photographs and reading the names in the pocket money register has brought back a lot of memories. I have some photos taken during my time there. Thanks to this website and the pocket money register, I can now put names to faces and will post the photos at a later date.

After leaving PWSTS I joined BP Tankers together with Hugh Parsons, Mike Post, Graeme Harker and Phil Sheratt. Steve Norman being the only boy who was not employed by BP, he joined Athol Line and I have no idea what became of him.

All five of us sailed together on British Merlin and British Commerce. Mike Post contracted malaria in Nigeria while on British Commerce and as far as I know was then flown home and discharged from BP. Hugh Parsons and myself then sailed on British Centaur as JOER’s before being laid off by BP along with many others.

I then done three trips as a GP onboard British Humber, British Trident and finally British Unity. According to the BP crew lists published at the time, Phil Sheratt also sailed as GP. I have had no contact with any of my old class mates or indeed anyone from PWSTS until I found this website. It would be great to get in touch with anyone who was at the school same time as me especially my old class mates from Hesperus.

I have very mixed feelings about the whole experience of both PWSTS and as an ER rating with BP. As I already mentioned I cannot understand the emphasis on discipline at PWSTS. I believed I would get a grounding in Marine Engineering at PWSTS but instead spent most of my time rowing round Dover harbour in a lifeboat! Joining my first ship, British Merlin, was a bit of an eye opener with regard to shipboard hierarchy. The officers had it OK, good accommodation and some status while the crew were there basically to carry out all the menial and dirty tasks. I can still vividly recall standing at the bottom of the pump room with my fellow ERB’s covered in oil/grease/dirt and being shouted at by the so-called training officer. In his rage he told us never to forget that “you lot are just s**t on here”. This guy was called Alex Carroll and had made it to third Engineer because he had served an apprenticeship in a shipyard. He should never have been in charge of training because his interpersonal skills and teaching abilities were zero. A very humiliating experience. I learned little about Engineering with BP so it was not exactly a big disappointment to get made redundant two trips later. I then done three trips as a GP which was actually better than sailing as an ER rating. The upside of it all was getting to travel all over the world and having some good “craic”.

After leaving the Merchant Navy around 1979/80 I worked ashore in Belfast for a while but prospects were bleak so I moved to London.

Went back into full time education and finally graduated from Middlesex Polytechnic in Mechanical Engineering several years later. Have worked In the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) branch ever since as service engineer, project engineer/manager both in England and Scandinavia.

I am now living in Norway with my Norwegian wife and two children and work for a Danish company producing air handling units, fans and controls.

Anyone from PWSTS recognize me? Send an e-mail.