Off to London by Sea

David departed External Affairs sometime in the Spring of 1961 and there is a break in the record until early September, when he booked passage from Montreal to London on the MV Rutenfjell, a Norwegian ship (built Tyneside in 1953). The Rutenfjell was on its way east from Duluth and had a total passenger capacity of four. David’s memories of the crossing were happy – he said it was the first time he had ever boarded a ship by going DOWN the gangplank. It was quite a rough crossing. David spent considerable time on the flying bridge by the wheelhouse, “watching these mountainous waves building and building in front of us, and then, just as it seemed we were about to go under, the ship slid UP the wave and hurtled down the other side in time to catch the next one”. His one complaint about the trip was that, being a Norwegian ship, there was an over-abundance of herring at mealtimes. The Rutenfjell approached London from the North Sea and up the Thames, a view of the city David had never seen. After 13 days at sea, he said he found walking on something that wasn’t heaving underfoot rather odd. 

Once in London, David moved in with his dearest and closest friend, Sylvia Tysick. By this time, Sylvia had long since finished playing in “West Side Story” and had moved on to “Bye Bye Birdie“, where she had the juvenile lead, Kim MacAfee. Sylvia’s character did a lot of singing and, as you’ll see in some of David’s letters, her throat and voice gave her a certain amount of grief during the show. None the less, Sylvia was part of the original London cast soundtrack released on LP in 1961.

Bye Bye Birdie Programme

Bye Bye Birdie Programme

Sylvia, ever resourceful, found David a job in theatre: second electrician at Wyndham’s, a very well known and respectable house in the West End. (David’s prior knowledge of electrics was nil, but he was apparently a quick study.) To work in the theatre, David had to join a union, the National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees. His first show was “The Miracle Worker”, the Annie Sullivan/Helen Keller story.

David's union card (outside)

David’s union card (outside)

David's union card (inside)

David’s union card (inside)


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