Days on Mars followed a regular routine, with the boys working hard, observing strict discipline and enjoying little if any privacy of any sort. The early morning bugle call at 5 am in the summer and 6 am in winter was followed by a prayer and a cold water wash. Next came the hated deck-scrub before breakfast at 7.30. After breakfast the boys gathered for inspection, and for any punishments to be publicly administered. Then it was into the classroom or workshops until lunchtime. These
classes continued in the afternoons until teatime at 5 pm. The only real leisure time enjoyed by the boys came in the early evening when they could participate in various supervised leisure activities. Bed was at 8.45 pm.
Sundays offered a welcome break from routine with, notably, no deck-scrub! After Captain’s inspection the boys headed off to church services,
many of them marching into Newport for services at St Mary’s Episcopal Church on the steps above the High Street, and considerable numbers attending the Catholic St Fillan’s Church in King Street. A Church of Scotland service was held on board. With no classes on Sundays the boys had more opportunity for sport and leisure activities, both on board and ashore.
Outbreaks of disease were also inevitable in such a close-knit community. Thanks to the generosity of Mrs Stewart of St Fort, the granary building at Woodhaven pier was put to good use, and converted to serve from the 1880s onwards as a 30-bed hospital for the boys from the Mars. Until the hospital was available it had been extremely difficult if not impossible to contain outbreaks of serious disease on board. In the early years the ship had to be evacuated to allow thorough fumigation: evacuation of four hundred boys was no easy task. Even after the availability of the hospital facilities emergencies occurred, with boys being sent ashore to escape infection from scarlet fever, typhoid and other diseases.
As growing lads the Mars boys had healthy appetites which were not always satisfied by the fairly meagre and monotonous rations on board. It seems that any opportunity of finding extra food was eagerly followed up. Any chance of an onshore excursion, for whatever reason, provided the opportunity of more food! Musical talent presented that chance for many of them. The ship had a competent brass band which was regularly
invited to perform at many functions both locally and further afield. Any performance was usually followed by a splendid tea party for the boys. Members of the pipe band and the choir also enjoyed this privilege, and provided an added incentive to play or sing to the best of their ability. Occasionally some of the boys were invited to be beaters at game shoots on local estates: again these positions were much sought after as they would share in the hearty picnics provided.
During the sixty years that the Mars was on the Tay, there were just four superintendents in command of the ship. The first to take charge, and only very briefly as he was dismissed in less than a year, was Captain Baldwin Wake. He was followed by the very able and popular Captain Charles Scott who captained the ship until his death in 1892. His son Captain Augustine Scott followed until his retiral in 1919. For almost fifty years the ship had been supervised by father and son, both men being fully devoted to the task and earning much admiration for their work. For the final ten years until its departure in 1929 the ship was under the command of Captain Henry Heathcote.
The captains were assisted on board by other skilled staff members: schoolmasters, technical instructors and bandmasters all played their part in imparting knowledge and maintaining discipline among their young charges. Many members of staff were exceptionally loyal, serving for long periods. There is no doubt however that the most extraordinary period of service was by ship’s carpenter Alexander McDougall. He was the first officer to join the Mars on the day in 1869 that the ship anchored in the Tay. He gave fifty years of loyal service and in 1919 a ceremony of thanks was held on board to mark his retiral at the age of 79. During the first nineteen years he had no holidays.
A different form of loyalty was shown by William Bowman. Orphaned by the death of his father in 1900, he came to the Mars aged 11. He stayed for four years, but returned in 1910 to become a technical instructor under the leadership of technical master Richard Burns.
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Grateful thanks to Gordon Douglas for his assistance with these pages on the Mars.