Silk River

Tilbury Interview Transcript

Les Morgan


Production by Mike Johnston
Transcript by Jane Ford
Historic photos by Tilbury and Chadwell Memories
Run time: 3:02


My name is Les Morgan. I am a member of Tilbury Riverside Project who do things for Tilbury including the Christmas lights and the Festivals.

I remember the Cruise Terminal as being the most busiest place you have ever seen. I used to come down as a child and my dad would work on the porterage. So when a ship came in – a big liner – you would have continuous trains coming in and my father would be there as a porter and my dad would take the stuff up and they’d give him half a crown or two shillings or maybe ten shillings I don’t really know. All I know is, when the ships came in, when my dad came home from work on the ship we would go out in the car to Canvey Island and have a picnic, or Southend or Shoeburyness because he’d have a pocket full of half-a-crowns, two bobs. I used to come down and see my dad when the ship was on.

I started in the Docks in 1966. You’d have 20 men in the hold unloading the hold and putting it in a sack. You’d have a couple of men on board the ship so they were looking over the hold and telling the crane man to hoist out and stop and hoist it up. Then you’d have 20 men on the quay. So that when the net came down the net would open and they’d barrow all the stuff into the sheds so it would be ready for the delivery. So you’re talking say 50 men that ship was employing.

When I was about 17-18 the Bay Boats came in. Now they were the biggest container ships in the world and they came into Tilbury Dock. These ships were so long they had bicycles at one end so you could ride down the other end – honest to God – they used to ride – I’d never seen a ship so long in my life. The men used to ride along on the bikes, do their jobs down the end and ride back. That was the first time I had ever seen a container ship.

There was man with a big crane, there was a man guiding him down catching it up and there was a man on the lorry saying onto the lorry. 3 men doing 50 mens’ jobs which was the death of the dock really.

On 21st June 1969, which was my 18th birthday, all the iron ships moved to Southampton because of the tides. I was apprentice card player, I was apprentice domino player, dart player, everything because there was no work then because it all went.

So when I was a kiddie you used to go over the ferry and you’d have to wait 20 minutes for ships to go by. As you went across the ferry from Tilbury to Gravesend there was a hundred tugs – a hundred and fifty tugs. Well these tugs were continuously moored there because ships were coming in all the time. So it was a hive of activity all the time. When you look now, you get some chaps that go down the river, and they sit down there every day ‘cause it’s a nice place to sit, but there’s hardly anything that goes by.


Thank you to Les Morgan for taking the time to speak to us.

Special thanks go to the Tilbury Riverside Project, their staff and partners for the planning and facilitation of the Tilbury walk.

The Tilbury Riverside Project worked with the following people and organisations for Silk River:


Tilbury Riverside Project was started in 1992 by a Tilbury man named Peter Hewitt who wanted to help create civic pride for Tilbury. The past twenty years has seen the project grow into a well known and respected charity.

The Tilbury Riverside Project are involved in the Silk River project as it has connections that are important to the people of Tilbury. We hope that the project will educate people both here in the UK and India about each other and their cultures. By working together and learning about different ways of life will bring some tolerance and understanding.

Walkers will have the opportunity to experience the Gravesend/Tilbury Ferry which links Tilbury with Kent and is the first passenger crossing upstream from the Thames Estuary.