In October 1971, on invitation,I went on board a ship which was berthed in Colombo harbor. Upon-boarding, we were taken around the ship by the duty officer, and it was out of this world. This was only a conventional type a cargo ship, and whilst viewing the interior layout, my imagination diverted to that of a passenger ship such as, the RMS ” Queen Elizabeth II “.
After my visit to the ship I developed a liking towards seafaring; with time, settled down to be my ambition.
I took time to ponder my future as a seafarer, and discussed the matter with my father. Initially he did not agree to my seafaring; giving reasons such as, ”Son, you are the eldest in the family, on ships you will be away from home for long periods and besides that, consider the dangers involved?”
Subsequently, due to the tenaciousness on the ambition, I was successful in getting my father’s consent to join the Merchant Navy as an officer cadet. He not only consented to my ambition, but also agreed to help me find a job.
As the word had got around in my family circle about my ambition, one day, I was informed by a relative that, in the near future, a shipping company in Colombo will be calling applications for Officer Cadets in the Merchant Navy. Conforming the message, few days later, advertisement appeared in a local news paper, and I submitted my application.
The only matter which concerned me was the educational requirements mentioned in news paper advertisement: Four subjects in GCE Advance level which should include, Credit passes in Mathematics, Physics and English; I did not have the required qualification for the job
Meanwhile, it was found out that, the Finance Director of the company was known to my father; who made us understand that. my application had been received and filed. Which means; I was not rejected for not having required qualifications.
I thanked God. It was very good news for me.
Thereafter, I was informed by the company that, I will be notified on the date and the venue of the interview.
Since I received the letter from the prospective employer, I had sleepless nights thinking over the problem with my qualifications. I did not have even the minimum required qualifications. All what I did was praying to Lord Jesus and mother Mary.
I attended the novenas for Mother Mary of the Miraculous Medal, which were held every Thursday. I prayed to St. Anthony, too. Several times my father told me that, it may be a waste of time that, I applied for a job without the proper qualifications.
I had confidence in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As expected, I received the second letter from the Shipping Company informing me of the date and venue of the interview. In the same letter it was mentioned that, I should have my eye-sight tested and have the report ready at the time of the interview. I, immediately thanked God for the news, and continued with my prayers. I went in for the Eye-sight test and passed the same.
On the day of the interview, I arrived at the venue at 8.15 AM; walked up to the reception and informed that, I was there for an interview and the time given to me was 9.00 AM. Few minutes later, I was called in by the Personnel Secretary of the Director Operations who was a senior Master Mariner. When I met her, she asked me for the Eye-sight test report, and it was handed over to her.
Thereafter, I was called in for the interview. When going-in, I was very nervous and, kept praying. Within few minutes I was standing in front of Captain Joe Wass, Director Operations.
I said “Good morning, Sir.” He said,”Good morning John.”. And continued, you have passed your eye-sight test, specially the color test, and that is good news for you.”
“Okay, can I see your GCE Advance Level certificate and all other relevant certificates and documents.”
I started to shiver and presented my GCE (Ordinary Level) certificate and other documents. He kept staring at my GCE (Ordinary –level) and looked at me, and said,” Is this all what you have?” I said, “Yes sir, that is all I have”.
Captain Wass, paused for few minutes and, said, ”John, were you aware of the required educational qualifications?” I said, ”Yes, Sir.” Just at this time his telephone rang and he told me to leave the room and sit- out until he called me back. After about twenty minutes, the secretary came up to me and said that, the Captain has to rush for an urgent meeting, and he will see me tomorrow at 9.00 AM. That was great news, and great relief, too.
I thanked God for the break.
When I went home, my father was anxiously waiting to here the news; I told him about the qualifications he got agitated, and told me.” I knew you were only wasting your time”. In the evening my father came and said that he will also join when I go for the interview on the following day.
I did not sleep that night, and prayed most of the time.
Only Lord Jesus could help me, and also prayed to Mother Mary to ask Lord Jesus as once she did at Cana to help me. I knew only a miracle could bring about a solution to my problem.
On the following day, my father and I were at the office of the shipping Company sharp at 8.30 AM ; I was called in within a few minutes. My father entered the room first and I followed suit. As he entered my father said to Captain Wass,” Good morning Captain, I am Hughes De Silva, John’s father. Captain Wass rose to his feet shook- hands with my father and showed him a seat.
I, sat next to my father with angst.
The conversation between Captain and my father went on for more than two hours. It included an anatomy of the disadvantages and possible calamitous situations which may be disdainful.
Captain: why did you decide to send your son to sea?
My father: ”It was his ambition and I consented”.
Captain: Your son’s eye sight is okay now. For some reason, if he fails the eye-sight test when
he goes up for his first exam which will be about 3 and half to four years from now,
he will be disqualified. What will be the position then?
My father: It is in Gods hands, Captain. God will not take him where his grace is not there!
Captain: When your son is at sea, and if there was an unfortunate event of the death of a close
family member what would you do?
My father: I will not expect him to come back.
Thereafter he exclaimed: “ John remember you are going to marry the sea. At sea we don’t take very seriously the minor sicknesses, and you will continue to work. Also, forget about weddings, funerals, etc. back at home, Are you agreeable to these conditions?”
I said, ”Yes, sir, I am agreeable.”
There was something very mystical in that meeting; discussing about God and acts of God.
From the time we entered the room every time the Captain looked at me, I thought that he was going to ask for the educational qualifications, which he could not finish the previous day.
It never happened! He did not mention anything about educational qualifications, but told me “ John, I have selected you, and you will have to join a ship, soon.
I was overjoyed, as I could see a vision of my future, and I thanked Lord Jesus and Mother Mary.