How well did I know the man?... every school holiday from the time I was six until I was thirteen or fourteen I spent every school holiday weekday in his company. What an inspiration.... as here was an articulate, clever, knowledgeable person that would share his everything with you. The whole life at Clapsgate was centred around the vessels with firstly Hugh operating the Camborne and Ken the Ryelands . The panics when rough weather was off the coast and one or the other was stormbound and the long wait for the phone call that all was well and the panic was over until the next time. Even when Hugh retired he became the runner for Ken and he constantly visited chandlers, shipyards, agents and provenders to assist the running of The Eldorita so he never gave up in reality.
Thinking as to my earliest memory of him was being taken to Sharpness by Nan to ride on Camborne into Gloucester and being lifted down off the quayside into that vessel The wheelhouse was the Starship Enterprise with a large ships wheel and a mighty compass which was beyond understanding to one yet to go to school! The engine telegraph which was far too technical to understand was exciting at every ring, issuing commands and acknowledgements. The blowing of the horn for the bridges was a trumpet call to the Gods. Years later he taught me navigation with big charts stretched out on the glasshouse table and a pair of dividers you could stab an assassin with. This put me light years ahead when we got to this stage in geography at school as I had already been taught by a Master Mariner.
Firstly he was a kind man who spoke ill of only a few and then with a quotation of “That man is a blaggard” He never swore greater than “ Botheration” I think he had a kind, generous and loving relationship with Nan who was a simple Arlingham girl with little knowledge of the real world and he made allowances for this. His major failing was his relationship with his children a fact he admitting later in life as a sad lifelong event. Hugh constantly bickered with Norah, Bernard and Vera whom in turn fell out with one another. This state of affairs saddened Hugh most particularly as he could not overcome the problem and live in happiness. Their sibling animosity had to be an Aldridge feature as Hugh existed alongside his own brothers and sisters in total harmony. Hugh's relationship in my time with Ira was amicable as Ira was away living in Devon but I believe that when Ira was at home it was not the case. Ken was Hugh's champion doing what he himself did best and mastered his own vessels, without rancour or confrontational problems.
After Nan's death Hugh found great comfort in his friendship with Ginny Thomas. Ginny had been a bridesmaid at Hugh's wedding and a close friend of Nan's. This friendship was vilified and ridiculed by all of the children because it could lead to a possible loss of their future inheritances. Ginny was always lovely to me and hugged me whenever we met, something at the time no one else took the inclination to do. I do not believe Ginny ever spent the night at Clapsgate as that would have been improper but I hope they had some beautiful Golden Afternoons there together.
Hugh was very god fearing although not deeply Christian. His lifelong connections with Ireland made him well versed in the ways of Catholicism although it was a long way from his North Welsh Chapel roots. I never ever heard him speak or make any reference whatsoever to the Welsh Language which is not surprising as Deeside was very Anglicised . Politically Hugh was Conservative brought about by the fact he owned the ships so bosses were Conservative and those that worked the vessels were Labour, a simple political division of responsibilities.
Hugh Shaw Master Mariner