A stowaway has to begin somewhere and the best place is at the docks. Mine was the Liverpool Docks. Liverpool in 1913, with its seven-mile dock road running parallel to the River Mersey, and its elevated street-railway overlooking both. The road itself, straight but not very wide, which flanked the line of docks at that time stretching from the Herculaneum to the Hornby was, except on Sundays, daily congested by two long streams of horse-drawn traffic, two slow-moving processions moving in opposite directions at a set pace, and carrying merchandise of every description as piled-up evidence of the din and activity aboard the ships in dock, ships whose ports of call touched every part of the seven seas.
To and from them, lumbering along, past warehouses, railway depots ship repair-yards, and the many gaudy public-houses wedged in between, crawled these two continuous lines of vehicles: wagons and carts of different lengths and shapes; two-wheeled floats, heavy drays and high springcarts; four-wheeled timber-drags, pony wagons, one-horse wagons, and team-horse wagons; loaded with everything from wet hides to new boots, chocolates to deadly poisons, feathers to marble slabs, and gold ingots to scrap iron.
Harnessed in the shafts were horses of varying breeds and hues: brown horses, black horses, white horses, speckled horses; all pictures of unrestraining strength and cleanliness, with their coats glossed, their gears shining, their shoes polished, their sleek manes be-ribboned. Knowing horses, too, heeding the words of the carters sauntering leisurely at their sides, who spoke to them intimately, endearingly, or reprovingly as the mood demanded. And all for the purpose of regulating the pace of the long slow-moving procession, interrupted occasionally when one or more of the vehicles reached as breaking-off point either a side-street or dock gateway. This alone was the recognised reason for leaving the main body abruptly. ‘No rushing out of your turn,’ seemed to be its unwritten law. Exemption was only copper-bordered fire-engines, whose galloping steeds were convincing proof of the desperate hurry that usually brought them down to the docks. Apart from these, and considered in a special class, were the masters’ prancing pony traps that went dashing by, their cocky drivers almost proclaiming to everybody within range: ‘We run this show, don't forget. All the orders come from us.’ The commanding sweep of their eye was a reminding link between the horses and the deck-crowded ships in dock.