John Rochester Dies

John Rochester, one of The Trust’s most down-to-earth and practical supporters, sadly passed away on Sunday, 19th November 2017.  John was one of the World’s larger-than-life characters whom I first met when, as the ‘John’ of John Martin Construction, he was main contractor for the re-construction of the entrance of the Yacht Basin.  This enabled the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club to install pontoons for visiting yachts, and created the historic ships’ berth for the MINCALO and visiting historic vessels like EXCELSIOR.

His support for historic vessels ranged from giving the Cromer Lifeboat Shed to Southwold for the ALFRED CORY, to providing a standby tug for the first Lowestoft Revival Smack Race in 1996, which brought former smacks from as far away as Sweden to Lowestoft for a few days of nostalgia – the largest gathering of British smacks for many years to come.

His interest in the sea began when he was in the Royal Navy serving in HMS VANGUARD and later in destroyers and even an aircraft carrier.  He wanted to help young people get a taste of the sea as well as the world of real work, so the Trust’s efforts to obtain and develop an operating and maintenance base for EXCELSIOR particularly appealed to him.  He was able to help us adapt a former standby-vessel maintenance yard so that traditional wooden vessels like EXCELSIOR could be maintained there while at the same time young people could be trained in the many associated skills. 

The yard went from strength-to-strength culminating in John helping install a slipway and boat shed for the last Hull smack (CITY OF EDINBORO) which had been deteriorating in Grimsby.  She was to be the Trust’s training ‘vehicle’ to follow on from the completion of the yard. 

However, Governments are fickle, and funding was summarily withdrawn from manual skills training in favour of IT training!  A European Interreg scheme where the Trust was one of ten partners helping to maintain manual skills was set to proceed when the economic collapse caused so many of the partners to withdraw that it could not proceed.  The UK Government then withdrew from sponsoring sports that were not Olympic sports, thereby excluding sail training!  Despite these vicissitudes John remained a supporter of the Trust in the hope that a new scheme to re-invigorate training (and CITY OF EDINBORO and the Yard) could be put forward. 

His humour and robust views on what it takes to turn lads into men will be sadly missed!

John Wylson