Bon Voy­age, Nor­man

Is­lay shore staff hold spe­cial cel­e­bra­tion at CalMac ship mas­ter re­tires

The Oban Times - - News - STEVEN RAE srae@oban­

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.

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