In January 1972 I started my four-year Marine Engineering Cadetship, it was to be two years at college in Portsmouth, then a year at sea followed by a final year at college, which was at South Shields up on the Tyne.
It soon became very apparent that liking other boys sexually was not the thing to do, but that didn’t stop the desires.
There was a hostel which housed some of the guys on the course, but it was not big enough for all of us. So, I was in digs with two other guys, I can’t remember if we were all in one room or what, the house was owned by an elderly couple, and they looked after us really well.
I later moved to another place with one of the guys in the first place, his name was Gordon, he was from Scotland, he had quite a heavy accent, but I had no trouble understanding him. We got on very well together, but nothing physical, he had an old chopped rigid frame Triumph motorbike, and most of the time we would go to the college on his motorbike, it was not the most comfortable of rides though being a rigid frame.
I was more of a car person, the first car I had was a Standard 10. I was seventeen in April 1972 and took my test soon after my birthday but failed. I rebooked my test, but it was not until July. I had arranged to go up to Scotland for the summer holiday with Gordon, we loaded the car with the things we needed and Gordon’s motorbike on the back seat, having removed the front wheel and forks, it only just went in and had the forks yoke sticking out the back quarter window. This however all depended on me passing my driving test, which fortunately I did. We set off from Portsmouth at about 3:00pm and got to Dunblane at about 4:00am the next morning. After three weeks up in Scotland I headed back down south but a bit further south of Glasgow the engine blew up, so I abandoned the car and got a train back home.
While at college I realised being queer, gay didn’t mean the same thing back then, was not socially acceptable so I suppressed my feelings as much as I could. Sometimes a group of the lads from the hostel would go out queer bashing, they would look for guys that look as if they were queer and beat the shit out of them, I was with them when this happened one time, I felt so sorry for the two young guys but there was nothing I could do without the same thing happening to me. The worst part was that the lads I was with really enjoyed beating the poor young queers.
There was one queer pub in Portsmouth that most people seemed to know about, but I never dared go there for fear of being found out. It is so different today and I envy the young gay guys of today in this country, they can openly be gay and not worry about having the shit beaten out of them for it. I know there is still homophobia present, but at least it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of orientation. I sometimes wish I had been born twenty or thirty years ago, I may have been able to live my life very differently, but then I would not be where I am now, so I just get on with my life as it is.