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Burma Road

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Unique ID:19449
Description:A man describes the 'Burma Road' the working alleyway below deck on the 'Queen Mary'. 
Creator:Unknown
Date:Unknown
Copyright:Southampton City Council
Partner:SCC Oral History Unit
Partner ID:M0071

Transcription

Now the Burma Road.  Burma Road was the working alleyway that went from forward to aft.  And those people that were on the Queen Mary well remember that.  It was the working alleyway where everything was served in the attitude of the chefs going down from the galleys into the storerooms, the linen rooms were down there.  I didn't smoke in those days but if you wanted a quick drag you nipped down the galley stairs, down into the Burma Road working alleyway and had a quick drag.

Question:  Did that run into the Pig and Whistle?

That ran into the Pig and Whistle.  Actually it ran right down to the glory holes.  The glory holes, and they were glory holes, were the crew's accommodation.  You talk about the sublime to the ridiculous.  When you had come down from the first class main deck cabins and skated through the Burma Road, through the Pig and Whistle and down into the glory holes, that was really going back into the dark ages.  Yes.  The Pig and Whistle.  This was the general place where those of us that drank, went and had a pint down there and the nice thing about it of course is if there were any famous people, famous in the sense of stars, film stars, variety artists, people like Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Petersen, George Shearing, that dates me when I talk about people like that.  They'd come down, do a turn, have a drink with the boys. Of course they were being accepted as normal people because, not to be too blasé about it, we were getting these sort of people travelling backwards and forwards, whether they were those type of people, diplomats, politicians, whoever they were.  So it was just nice for them to come down, do a quick turn, and they were getting fabulous money when they were doing it for commercial reasons.  Yes.

Question:  And was there some sort of gambling that would go on?

Well, gambling.  Yes.  We had the craps, which is the typical American game.  We had Crown and Anchor which was a good old Naval … and of course poker.  What used to happen, as I can remember it, it always used to be on the last night of docking.  Suppose we were coming into Southampton early in the morning, 8 o'clock the next morning. We'd finish say quarter past 9, 10 o'clock at night, we were going down to the mess room which was on the Pig and Whistle, and have our meal and then somebody would suggest a poker game.  In those days, I can remember anything from four to five hundred pound, and that was a lot of money in those days, changing hands.  You'd get one man that probably lose two or three hundred pound, not too worried, because he knew on the way back to New York exactly the same before we go into New York there'd be another poker game and he'd probably get it back again then.

Question:  Could you drink spirits there?

No, you couldn't, no, it was only beer.

Question:  Did people sneak spirits in, I mean there's all that spirits around?

There was plenty of opportunity. I mean if you were in New York you could buy spirits but I was a tender … tender young lad, I didn't know what spirits were in those days (laughs).

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