Memoirs of an Irish Seafarer

Keep Her Head Into The Wind by George Humphries

By Eoin Meegan

This little book is a recount of George’s life and stories when he worked on board many Irish vessels. He tells about his days working as a chef which saw him progress to Ships Cook, and about the many adventures they had, which included sailing to just about every part of the world. But as well as his own story George relates the history and life of many excellent Irish ships such as the Irish Rowan, Irish Cedar, Irish Maple, the Irish Sycamore, the Irish Oak, and the Irish Stardust, to name but a few. He tells of what it was like to work at sea, how they had a 5.30am start and were kept busy preparing food and cooking, but also enjoyed the best of food with steak and a good wine twice a week, and something called tab/nabs, which I think were a kind of delicacy, around midday. And of course, there were many good sessions and the camaraderie of fellow shipping mates when work was done. But the book also recalls the decline and end of Irish Shipping, which was a sad time as so many men were laid off, and how he witnessed good ships being sold, and sometimes later going to ground.

Irish Rowan (source:

The book’s blurb states that George Humphries started his seafaring career as a pantry boy on board the Irish Pine. He set out from Tilbury in 1974 on a voyage that lasted six months and brought him to Antwerp, up the Panama Canal, Los Angeles, Seattle, British Columbia, Japan and around Cape Horn to mention just a few of the ports of call. George’s fascination with all things nautical led him to write this collection of reminiscences. He recalls the rise and fall of some of the ships he sailed in and remembers personal moments of both joy and sadness. 

The book is further embellished by many photographs of these old seaworthy vessels, collected with the help of some of his friends who served with him, and which play an integral role in bringing the narrative to life. Sadly George passed away in 2011 and we are indebted to his brother Michael for a copy of George’s book. I am happy to report that Keep Her Head Into The Wind was published by our own Sandymount Community Services. At just 52 pages it’s short, but packed with great information, loving memories, and terrific photographs. An excellent read about one man’s life and the many ships that grace our seas.