Bon Voyage, Norman
Islay shore staff hold special celebration at CalMac ship master retires
AN OBAN ship captain has said ‘bon voyage’ to more than 50 years at sea after retiring from his career with CalMac.
Norman Martin, 68, moved to Oban in 1976 to work with the ferry operator, having grown up in Glasgow and held summer roles with the company in 1971 and 1972 before finally being promoted to ship master in 1984.
Having trained with British and Commonwealth Shipping Company between 1964 and 1969, Norman’s career has seen him transporting different cargo to destinations including Australia, Africa, New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa.
To mark his retirement, shore staff at Port Ellen on Islay held a special celebration during his last sailing to the destination, which has been Norman’s main route for the past five years.
Neil Kirkpatrick, a steward for CalMac, who lives on Iona, wrote a Canadian barn dance titled Captain Norman Norwest Martin in Norman’s honour, performing and recording it with musical partner Charlie Kilpatrick, Davie Hastie on drums, and presenting a CD of the song to Norman.
The former skipper also received eight bottles of whisky from the various distilleries on the island, including one from Laphroiag which was specially labelled: Captain Norman W. Martin The Great Escape, along with the date of his retirement, November 11. During his lengthy career, Norman has sailed every route on the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS), except to Dunoon and Rothesay.
‘I’ve enjoyed sailing all the routes,’ said Norman, who has been married to wife Patricia for 40 years. ‘It’s particularly interesting to visit each island and see the unique and vast differences between them. The Islay folk are great, they really do enjoy life.
‘You learn about so many islands and meet regular and non-regular travellers. There’s days I’ll walk around Islay and I’ll see dozens of people I know from over the years.
‘The whole of the island really did me proud, including Port Ellen and Port Askaig, with a celebration at Kennacraig too.’
One of the most memorable moments of Norman’s career was during Hogmanay 2006, when he was travelling from Islay to Kennacraig during a hurricane.
‘It was a bit of a battle but even- tually we tied up at Kennacraig, but couldn’t get off the boat as the causeway was marooned. Luckily we had enough supplies to enjoy Hogmanay onboard.’
Norman’s colleague, chief engineer Ambrose Harper wrote a poem based on the incident, using Tam O’Shanter as inspiration.
One of Norman’s proudest moments as a seaman was last year, when he was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal at a ceremony in London – a prestigious award recognising acts of courage or meritorious service by people from the United Kingdom, or British Overseas Dependent Territories, within the Merchant Navy or fishing fleet.
Norman plans to remain actively involved with charity fundraising organisation Oban and Lorn Lions Club, and other maritime union activities, during retirement. He added: ‘I certainly won’t miss the ‘rising tide’ of paperwork I’ve seen accumulate over the years.
‘CalMac has been and is a fantastic employer for many reasons, though. They really are an enlightened employer and whatever difficulties there are with the west coast ferries, it wouldn’t improve with a change in operator, so naturally, I hope CalMac are successful in their bid for the CHFSS contract.’
Although admitting he would ‘help out if needed’, Norman plans to spend more time with his family, including daughter Lorna, son-in-law Mark and grandchildren Erin, 4, and Daniel, 2, who live in Montrose.
Norman, above, with the Merchant Navy Medal he was presented with last year
man04; and left, Norman with the crew of the Hebridean Isles, on his retirement on November 11.
Photograph: Elliot Bowman.