October 26 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Haven sent: one woman explains why she has visited dozens of ships with a Catholic charity

After 100 visits to ships in the north-east of Scotland, including the stranded Indian crew of the Malaviya, Apostleship of the Sea volunteer Pam Millar tells Euan Mcarthur how she first got involved and what keeps her coming back for more.

Pam Millar’s journey with the Apostleship of the Sea began in unusual surroundings. As members of the Malaviya Seven crew attended a ceilidh one evening in rural Aberdeenshire: she knew then she just had to answer their call for help.

Now a respected ship-visitor, Pam will never forget her first step towards helping the Catholic charity which supports seafarers. She became determined to assist in whatever way possible as the Malaviya Seven, whose ship was detained for more than a year in Aberdeen harbour, remained stranded thousands of miles from home through no fault of their own.

The far-flung Indian crew, whose well-documented abandonment by their bankrupt ship-owners made so many headlines, also brought out a genuine willingness to help from someone who has since gone onto become an important part of the Apostleship’s ministry in the north-east of Scotland.

Pam, who assists award-winning Port Chaplain Doug Duncan, is a freelance dressage trainer but when time permits she loves nothing more than to put on her hard-hat and high-vis jacket to meet seafarers from all backgrounds requiring spiritual and pastoral care.

With vivid memories of growing up near the River Tyne back in her home city of Newcastle, she is now a friendly face in Aberdeen harbour, where vessels regularly dock to be greeted with an enthusiastic smile.

“Back in Newcastle, I grew up in the Methodist Church and when I came up to Scotland I joined the Church of Scotland,” Pam said.

“My parents actually moved up to the area two-and-a-half years ago. One of the things I did to try to help them settle into the community was go to a Christian Aid ceilidh in Pitmedden.

“Some of the members from the Malaviya Seven had been brought to that ceilidh as an outing.

“I felt very guilty because I didn’t know it was going on until then. So I was intrigued about the story and did some investigating about the guys and their situation.

“That’s when I learned—for the first time I must admit—about the Apostleship of the Sea. They were involved in a big way in supporting them.

“I felt at that time there were so many bad things going on in the world, and sadly many of them were relating to religion.

“I thought, I can’t do anything huge but if everyone can do a little it can make an impact overall.

“So I got in touch with Doug and asked, ‘is there anything I can do to help?’ I think he wondered who I was, but the first thing he did was take me on board the Malaviya Seven vessel.”

Pam was surprised by the experience. She said: “It was an eye-opener to me. I was absolutely fascinated. I kept going back visiting because I wanted to try to do something to help. So I organised horse-riding. My husband teaches archery and we enjoyed an outing there, while also going to see some birds of prey up at Huntly. We had a few badminton sessions as well as bowling, which were all good fun.

“We just got to know the guys. Thankfully, when all that came to an end I said to Doug I’d just like to keep going. So he said: ‘Come and try ship-visiting.’ He took me on board a few vessels and before I knew it, I ended with up with a hard-hat and high-visibility jacket.”

Her voluntary commitments were recognised at the charity’s September Stella Maris Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, where she was commissioned by Apostleship bishop-promoter for Scotland Bishop Stephen Robson.

Pam’s efforts know no bounds when it comes to aiding ordinary seafarers. She said: “I have just visited my 100th vessel. I’ve been on 102 vessels and 133 visits altogether.

“My first official ship-visit with Doug was on November 3 last year. When you chat to the seafarers, they realise it’s quite a break for them, seeing somebody different than the crew.

“Even if you tell the same jokes, it can help break the monotony of being in that same confined space seeing the same people for months on end.

She added: “I was delighted to get commissioned recently. I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’d been to the Stella Maris Mass the previous year so knew it was coming up and wanted to go along.

“It was kind of dropped into the conversation by Doug that I would be commissioned as well and I thought ‘Oh, right what would that entail?’

“I was told not to worry because it was just a blessing and a few words.

“On the night, I actually felt it was very touching and moving. I was touched by everyone saying congratulations afterwards. It’s just given me a little bit more confidence and encouragement for what I’m doing.”

Pam feels likes she’s the one truly privileged in her new role. Although there’s no direct seafaring link within her family, she’ll never forget the reality of growing up around the noise and sight of Wallsend’s shipyards.

“It’s a way of giving to get back. And the more you give, the more you get back,” she says. “I would love to do more but I still have to earn my living.

“I grew up in Newcastle, close to the Tyne, not far from Wallsend shipyards. When we drove along the coastal roads we used to see the cranes and the ships.

“At midnight on New Year, you would go to your front door and hear all the ships sounding their horns.

“I remember Mum taking me to see the launching of ESSO Northumbria which I think was a super-tanker.”

While return visits to Newcastle are less frequent, Pam does one day hope to visit a ship in a place she knows well to broaden her experience.

She said: “My parents are slightly surprised but, at the same time, quite happy with what I’m doing.

“I had no idea this type of charity and support existed. But I do feel I was led into doing it. In some ways, I still can’t believe I’m doing it.

“It’s brilliant. Obviously the background to the charity is the Catholic Church but it has welcomed me into it.

“I am aware, though, it doesn’t really matter what Faith people have when it comes to the seafarers.

“I don’t have any family down in Newcastle anymore since my Mum and Dad came up here. But I would love to go down to meet the Apostleship’s chaplain and perhaps do some ship visiting there. I’ve no doubt it would be great from a personal perspective.

“I love doing the visiting round about Aberdeen harbour—that’s where I feel comfortable. It’s incredible to see five or six vessels sitting there, something which has always impressed me.”


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