Report on August meeting, Talk by Doug Rowlands

Last month’s meeting didn’t go quite as planned… Due to unforeseen circumstances, our booked speaker, William Silverstone of Silverstone Green Energy, was unable to attend. Thankfully, our chairman, Doug Rowlands stepped into the breach with only six hours to spare!

As I’m sure many of you are aware, Doug spent the majority of his working life at sea; 36 years in total, and the talk he gave was a fascinating insight into what being a mariner in the 20th Century is all about. After learning the basics of his trade at Warsash Maritime Academy, Doug worked for Port Line, running cargo such as butter, cheese, apples, and lamb from Australia and New Zealand back to the UK. Doug referred to Sydney as his second home due to the amount of time he spent there!

After many years running cargo all over the world for Port Line, container ships became the norm, and the way ships were run changed dramatically. As an example, the ships Doug worked on might have a crew of 60-80 people, with all cargo being loaded by hand. Today, as a comparison, the Emma Maersk which is the one of the largest container ships in the world, only has a crew of 13. This was the signal for Doug to change jobs and he moved into cross-channel ferries.

Doug’s sea-faring career was interrupted for two years when he went into business with his brother in Oxfordshire as an agricultural contractor, but the call of the sea was too strong, and he returned to Southampton, first working for the harbour-master, and then moved into cable-laying ships where he stayed until the end of his career. These vessels were responsible for laying the transatlantic telephone cables which have had such a dramatic impact on the world today. So next time you’re on the internet, or on the phone to someone in a different country, just think, it might be all thanks to Doug!

I’m sure we’d all like to say thanks to Doug for stepping in at such short notice, and for giving us such an interesting talk.