Richard ‘Sam’ Strachan (58-62) died aged 78 on September 16 2022 in the Sunshine hospital in Melbourne, Australia. He had damaged his back shifting furniture in his house and been admitted to hospital. Following complications from a subsequent operation, he developed a duodenal ulcer and did not recover. His wife Lucille, a daughter Victoria and a son Will both of whom live in Europe, were at his bedside.
Born and brought up in Northern Ireland, where his father was a board director at the Belfast shipbuilding company Harland & Wolff, Richard attended the Mourne Grange prep school where he sang in the choir and developed his love of music.
With his heart set on a career in the Royal Navy, he entered the Nautical College in the summer term 1958 a few months after his father died at an early age. In time he became a Cadet Captain in Macquarie Division, a member of the 2nd VIII and 2nd XV, Drum Major of the Marching Band and a valued member of the College Jazz band. In this ensemble he played a “double bass” made from an old plywood tea chest, a broom stick handle and a piece of string.
Recalling his time as Drum Major in the College’s centenary history book published in 2016, Richard, known to many OPs as Sam after a character in an American television comedy show, wrote:
“Remember the marches? Aldershot, Burma, Anvil, Shotley, Grenadier-de-Corpus, Gurkha, Hookie, Rochester, Birdlington, King’s Own, Mechanised Infantry, Eastney, Dobbs, even the Waltzing Bugle Boy. Fife tunes are less vivid fifty years on but I do recall introducing a new one to the repertoire, namely ‘Polly and Oliver’ – the signature tune to a 1950s BBC Northern Ireland children’s radio serial. It was a catchy tune well suited to a 120-pace and it proved a serious hit…The tune was famously played during our march off the Parade Ground at my last Beat Retreat when, somehow, I managed to catch the mace after spiralling it over the high power lines by the recently built Mess Hall.
Not everything went to plan. When it came to the NCP’s turn to lead the Seafarers’ Parade through London to St. Paul’s cathedral ahead of the Conway and Worcester contingents in 1962, I took the entire procession across Blackfriars Bridge instead of turning left. As an Ulster boy, I might as well have been in Manila for all I knew of the City. But help was to hand. Alerted by a panic-stricken constabulary, “Flush” Rimmer raced to the rescue and commanded a prompt stop of all oncoming traffic and a just-as-prompt counter-march by the whole parade. Today, my own old copper bugle (along with its bullet graze from the Boer War) is carefully preserved as an over-size paperweight. After a few jars ‘of an evening,’ it is even played occasionally. Annoyingly, my Australian neighbours seem to have little appreciation of such erstwhile virtuosity – even with a hanky stuck up the end.”
Leaving the NCP, his hopes of an RN career dashed by achieving only one ‘A’ level, Richard worked for a time in Belfast in a shipping company and also served in the Royal Naval Reserve. On one occasion in the mid-1960s he managed to fit in a long RN cruise to Australia as an RNR officer in a new destroyer, HMS Devonshire. Not long after he joined P&O in London and its shipbroking arm. This led on to a job with P&O’s Australian subsidiary Anderson Hughes (AHA) in Melbourne in the 1970s.
Around 1981/82 AHA posted him to Seoul, South Korea to start up a broking office for the company there – a task he carried out with enthusiasm until he became unwell and had to be invalided back to Australia. Recovering, he re-joined AHA in Melbourne. In later years he was heavily involved with the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, often lecturing on Letters of Indemnity (his hobby horse), and becoming the OP Representative in Victoria.
In retirement Richard travelled widely and returned to the UK frequently to meet up with old friends and enjoy classical music concerts at venues across Europe. Throughout his life he was, in the words of his long-time associate Ross Brewer, “a wonderful colleague. He was always ready with a warm welcome and a joke or three.” His interest in photography endured; the professional-quality image he took of Lionel Stephens contentedly smoking his pipe after an OP Dinner, was to be published in The Times when it ran a Lives Remembered piece about Steve in 2021.
Ever a charming bon viveur and a lifetime lover of fine classical music, Richard also wrote well about shipping and had a wide audience among informed shipping circles. According to another close friend, Trevor Fairhurst, Richard retained this love of shipping to the very end, still asking questions, still supplying the answers and still wanting to be involved.