My First Boat was a Log
'The first boat was a log. It was probably 12 x 12 and about 18 feet long – it used to handle two or three kids and you would row it. And it used to turn over quite a bit. And I guess, they used to float around, they used to use them in those days for different things - building docks and they’d get away. And it was a real sea going thing, you never had to bail it out – that log lasted…I guess it was eight or ten years before the ship worms ate it up!'
Teddy was a keen naturalist from an early age. An innate empathy with the natural world fueled hours on and in the water, observing and drawing the fish he saw.
'My bedroom window was less than fifty feet from the water's edge. My earliest memories, many and vivid even now, are of being awakened at day break by the sound of splashing fish, especially jacks and snappers, feeding on fry and anchovies along the shore. Children in those days were more aware of the natural world than children are today. Some collected butterflies, I collected fish. By the time I was seven years old I was keeping a notebook of species, complete with their Latin names.'
As a child Teddy enjoyed keeping an older company, spending time with the sailors, fishermen and divers at the docks – they would tolerate the presence of an eight year old – perhaps they warmed to the precocious interest in their world.
'The most interesting people to my mind, were the fishermen, with their tales of ships wrecked and cargoes of gold, silver and jewels and their other tall stories of piracy, hurricanes, storms at sea and all sorts of adventures that would leave a lasting impression on the mind of a boy growing up in the 1930s who was already hooked on life on or in the sea.'
He was fascinated by all things marine; diving, engineering, fishing and ecology and the old timers would indulge his thirst for knowledge. He loved this grown up world and would revel in knowing things that the other children did not.
This determined individualism did however cause his mother some problems – with a keen intelligence and a blithely independent nature Teddy did not settle within the confines of a formal education. His mother struggled to find a school that would tolerate his more liberated approach to learning. By the time he finished school at the age of 16 Teddy had attended six schools.
The old man used to tell me “if you want something, go and scratch for it like a chicken”
‘Right where we lived was a drain that came off the road – and right next to the place was a bar where the soldiers and sailors would call and I suppose the soldiers used to get drunk and fall off their bicycle and lose their coins – and a deluge – there was quite a volume of water used to come down the hill and the drain came out on the bay.
The old man took me down and showed me and said you get there when there’s been a lot of rain, heavy rain, low tide or a strong westerly wind and dig around you found coins!
And I used to go there and clear the rocks and bottles and cleaned it all away then you’d get all kinds of things. Old sixpences and silver coins. I found earrings – Well that was real treasure hunting – I used to spend some time! All winter I waited for a high tide and a strong westerly gale – and I couldn’t wait to get down there.
Many times, I made the Saturday afternoon movies with what I dug up – and I was pretty young – I used to get down there on the bay and spend hours down there. That was top secret – nobody new about that or where it came from.
That was the beginning….'