Ta-ra, Johnny Boy: Boy whaler to Rainbow Warrior

It is 1949, and 15-year-old Tyneside boy John Burton has become a whaler. Unhappy at his parents’ separation, he finds a job as a galley boy on an oil tanker. Abused by his boss and surviving a near-drowning incident, he returns home with a less idealised view of life at sea. But a year later he joins the giant whale factory ship Southern Venturer. Over the eight-month whaling season he grows up among hardened whalers. Violence is never far away among the 300-strong crew, but it is nothing in comparison to the horror of the whale kill. In sub-zero temperatures the Venturer’s crew wade ankle-deep in warm whale blood, climbing whale carcasses in spike-soled, leather thigh-boots to carve them up for processing in what is known as ‘hell’s kitchen’. Learning who to trust becomes a matter of survival, as the wonders of the sea – in the shape of icebergs, penguins, jelly fish and the whales themselves – present themselves in both deadly and humorous form to the young whaler. As the voyage ends, so too has his ‘old’ life. Years later he comes to see his whaling experience differently, and questions the carnage of which he was part. Seeing Greenpeace activists on TV, cutting across the bows of Japanese whaling ships, awakens his sense of the injustice of whaling, and leads him to work with Greenpeace. John’s experiences as a whaler turned campaigner brings him aboard the Rainbow Warrior. He then finds himself on another journey – to a remote Indonesian island where he meets men who still hand-hunt whale. While there, his mother – the person who pushed him away to sea in the first place – dies, and he returns for her funeral. The family story that started in 1949 has come full circle – with more than just demons and guilt laid to rest. This story is written by one of the few people who can recall first-hand a way of life that was already becoming history in the early 1960s, and as such, is unlikely ever to be told ever again.
ISBN: 9781803020006
Type: Paperback
Pages: 274
Published: 4 June 2021
Price: $12.95

Book Extract

The author has made an extract of the book available for reading. To download and read it now, click the link below.

Read Now