A Master Mariner who began his shipping life as a catering boy is to complete his final working day with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company next week – 50 years to the day since he first went to sea!
When Captain Allan Albiston retires on 28th May it will be exactly half a century since his first day working for the Company.
Allan, who lives in Onchan, obtained his Master’s Foreign Going Certificate in 1983 and later took command of both SeaCats and conventional vessels and also took the Lady of Mann on charter trips to the Azores over four consecutive seasons.
His love of sailing and the sea began as a catering boy in 1969, the first of three summers he spent on the former Ben-my-Chree, a period he recalls fondly.
‘It was the school summer holidays and I was employed in the catering department, firstly as a catering boy and then in 1971 as Assistant Steward. That’s where it all started really and the salt was in my blood from there,’ he explained.
His mother, born and raised in Laxey, also had family with deep rooted connections to the sea.
On leaving school, Allan obtained a cadetship with Andrew Weir Shipping (Bank Line), joining his first foreign-going ship in Mombasa in November 1971.
He re-joined the Steam Packet Company in April 1978, as Second Officer on the cargo ship Conister II, since when he progressed through the ranks to Captain.
He continued: ‘I was fortunate enough to undertake my training all over the world in places such as Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, America, Africa, India and the Far East, and to spend the majority of my working life with this Company has been an honour.
‘Of course, I’ve seen plenty of changes, not least when Sea Containers came along and took over, but it is still a personal company to work for with lots of personality and loyalty. The Chief Executive has brought back some traditional values and made it more Manx again which is something I applaud.’
As for special memories, Allan cites the Azores’ trips – the first time he was in command of a vessel outside of the Irish Sea – and when he was part of the delivery crew which brought the former Mona’s Isle to the island after the Company purchased her from Malta.
‘The first memory in any captain’s head is their first command, when you take the boat out on your own, effectively let loose to drive solo for the first time, and that was with the Seacat Isle of Man in 1997 so, that is a special memory too,’ he added.
‘I’m retiring with mixed emotions really. I was 65 last October and began my seagoing exploits on 28th May, 1969 so that’s why I have chosen this retirement date which will be personally poignant. (He also first sailed as second officer on the former Ben-my-Chree on the same date in 1979).
‘I’ll certainly miss the people and the camaraderie and, of course the job itself, but I won’t miss the south-westerly 35-40 knot winds, approaching Heysham on a flood tide, in the dark and in the middle of winter quite as much!
‘It’s heartening to know that I am leaving the bridge in the capable hands of younger, dynamic and dedicated professionals, many of whom I have mentored and who I know will continue to serve the Company well.’
Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward added: ‘Allan has a proud record and has played an important role in the history of the Company.
‘His dedication to seafaring is evident and everyone here wishes Captain Albiston a long and happy retirement.’