Research and editing by Martha Jette
Story by Steve Vaz
Going back many years, I was a diver in Holy Loch, Scotland. The Holy Lock can be found two miles north of Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula. It is about a mile across and extends inland about two to three miles when the tide is low.
This strip of land is called ‘holy.’ “But why?” Is a good question. Some say it got that moniker due to St. Mungo (also called St. Kentigern) the founder and patron saint of Glasgow during the 6th century. Others believe a ship carrying soil from the holy land got lost. That soil, they believe, was headed for Glasgow Cathedral where Saint Mungo was buried in AD 612.
Anyway in 1959, the U.S. Government sought a suitable location for a forward servicing facility for the First SSBN squadron to be based in the United Kingdom. Holy Loch was chosen in July 1960 to be the site of a U.S. submarine refit facility on the Firth of Clyde, which included a large dry dock, a submarine anchorage and supporting craft to assist the Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines.
While stationed there, we used to take the dive boat to the Town of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute for ‘training dives.’ We also picked scallops and sold them for beer money. Besides good scallop hunting, I think the LPO (lead petty officer) had a girlfriend in that town.
During one trip to Rothesay, we hit town the same weekend as a Royal Navy submarine rescue ship and ended up in our favorite pub with a bunch of Royal Navy divers that were big and burly.
If you have ever been to Scotland, you know that singing in the pub is a big part of the entertainment. The Royal Navy divers sang, “We call on the Yanks to sing us a song,” so Tom took the microphone.
Off he went singing Johnny Horton’s The Battle of New Orleans:
In 1814 we took little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Missiissip;
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in a town in New Orleans.
We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they begin to runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
Well, I was looking for a door so I could escape because I thought the whole place would break out in a fight. Thankfully, I was wrong. In fact, the Royal Navy blokes thought it was great and it was pints for everybody!