I was fourteen years old, in the workforce and didn’t really like it all that much. Guess I should have been born 50 years earlier. Spent all my free time on the Quay Fishing, or under the quay babbing for eels with my pal Philip Burgess.
Babbing was always good fun. For those who have never tried it the procedure is as follows. During the summer months we would wait for a wet night then we would head for the nearest council gardens, drive a stick into the ground in the grassed area’s, strike it with another stick thereby causing a vibration in the soil. This in turn caused the earthworms to come to the surface where we would collect several dozen. Then taking a darning needle and a length of worstead, or darning wool, We would thread then through their entire length, until we had 2ft. Of worms, we then wound this into a ball, tied the ball onto a 3-ft. Length of twine and with a 3 ft. stick, climb down the wooden steps until we were on the ledge’s which at that time were just about everywhere near the harbour entrance. We then lowered the ball of worms into the water and as soon as the eels grabbed the bait, their teeth would mesh into the wool and before they could extricate themselves, we would drop them into our sack. The only trouble being that so many vessels smashed into the quays at that time, several of the ledges we used disappeared. One late afternoon towards the end of that summer, we were under the quay opposite the King William IV. When four U.S. Navel Minelayers entered the harbour. The first one struck the Quay near the raised gun platform, which housed an anti-aircraft gun plus twin Lewis machine guns opposite the Bellevue Tavern. The second hit the quay 75 yards further up the harbour towards us, the third hit the quay on the opposite side of the harbour passed the Spending Beach, but the fourth minelayer came flat stick right to where we were under the Quay! We dropped our gear and scrambled up the side of the quay just as she smashed into where we had been babbing. Another of our favorite ledges had disappeared.