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News > Announcements > Obituaries > In Memoriam: RICHARD OLDEN (S 42-46)

In Memoriam: RICHARD OLDEN (S 42-46)

Richard Olden (S 42-46), a retired Captain in the Union-Castle Line and a Younger Brother of Trinity House, passed away on 23 September 2021 aged 92 having caught covid earlier in the year.
1 Nov 2021
Written by Robin Knight
Obituaries

Richard Olden (S 42-46), a retired Captain in the Union-Castle Line and a Younger Brother of Trinity House, passed away on 23 September 2021 aged 92 having caught covid earlier in the year. His wife Jane died on the same day in 2018, and two of the couple’s four daughters also pre-deceased him. Tom Woolley (60-65), wearing his OP tie, and two Old Conways, attended the funeral 26 October. Before first becoming unwell in November 2020, Richard wrote a short account of his life. This is an edited version.

“I was born in 1928 in Mere, Wiltshire, the son of a banker. The family moved to Braunton, North Devon in 1943. I was educated at The Nautical College, Pangbourne from 1942-46. On leaving Pangbourne I entered the Merchant Navy as a deck cadet with Clan Line Steamers in 1946. Most of my cadetship was spent in Clan Angus, a coal-burning steamship trading to India, South & East Africa, the USA and Newfoundland. In late- 1949, having acquired the necessary sea-time, and after studying at King Edward VII Nautical School in the East End of London, I sat and obtained my Second Mate’s Certificate. Being virtually penniless, I went hurriedly to the Clan Line head office and was appointed to Clan Campbell as Third Officer. After one voyage, in June 1950 I transferred to The Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company.

Union-Castle at that time operated 15 cargo passenger liners, eight refrigerated cargo ships and various general cargo ships. My next five years were spent in its cargo passenger liners on the South African Mail Service and Round Africa Service. In 1955 I obtained my Master’s Foreign-going Certificate and was promoted Second Officer of Capetown Castle, sailing between Southampton and South Africa. While in Capetown Castle in 1956/57, I met and became engaged to Jane Woolley who was the Children’s Hostess on board. Jane left one voyage and arranged our wedding which took place in March 1957. Later that year we bought our first home in Wiltshire. After marrying, I was promoted Chief Officer of Roslin Castle, a refrigerated-cargo ship carrying fruit from South Africa to European markets. Later I transferred to general-cargo ships with heavy-lift derricks, trading between Europe and South & East Africa, frequently completing discharge in Mauritius.

By 1964, Jane and I had four daughters, and we moved to a larger property in Whaddon, near Salisbury. I then spent four months in 1965 in the Swan Hunter shipyard, Tyne & Wear while the Good Hope Castle was being built. At that time, she and her sister ship were the fastest cargo ships ever built. During that year, I was also Staff Commander of Stirling Castle on her last voyage as a mail ship. From 1967-69 I was staff commander of the Union-Castle flagship Windsor Castle. At the end of 1969 I was promoted captain and transferred to cargo ships in British & Commonwealth Shipping Company, the merged entity of Union-Castle and Clan Line.

Here I commanded a variety of ships. Many of the voyages involved trading newsprint from Bowater’s paper mill at Cornerbrook, Newfoundland either up the St Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes, or down the east coast of USA and occasionally into the Gulf of Mexico. In 1972, I was elected a Younger Brother of Trinity House. During the 1970s I also became a member of The Honourable Company of Master Mariners, a founder member of The Nautical Institute and a member of Southampton Master Mariners’ Club. In 1975 I was appointed Marine Superintendent for Union-Castle Line in Southampton. The job included overseeing the safety, maintenance and storing of their mail ships between voyages. Sadly, due to containerisation and losing passengers to airways, the South African mail service was being run down, and ceased in October 1977 and the cargo service was superseded by Overseas Containers Ltd. (OCL)I had been responsible for Union-Castle’s Seamen Shore gang, and had the horrid job of making 70 long-standing, loyal employees redundant.

Towards the end of 1977 I returned to sea as Master of a 10,000 tons Clan ship for a return voyage to East Africa, which transpired to be my last sea appointment in the company. This led to me being seconded to Dar es Salaam as British Shipping Lines’ Representative in Tanzania responsible for Clan Line, Ellerman City Liners, Harrison Line, P&O Strath Services, Union-Castle Line, and later OCL. My job was to liaise between ships’ Masters, the Tanzania Harbours Authority and the Nationalised Shipping Agency with a view to speeding up the turn round time of general-cargo ships. Within six months, British, German and Belgian shipping lines decided to undertake a containerisation feasibility study of East Africa. My secondment was extended and I joined the team to cover Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Malawi. The study endorsed the readiness for a containership service. My secondment was again extended. As the new service developed, I became more involved with road and rail transport in Tanzania. By April 1983 my usefulness in Tanzania came to an end. On my return to the UK, I was made redundant.

I needed another job and was interested in marine surveying. I applied to Murray Fenton & Associates Ltd, a small London-based marine survey company, with two offices in the Middle East, and one in Southampton. In March 1984, after badgering for months, I had a phone call asking if I could start in Southampton the following morning, and promise to do two weeks while their one surveyor there took leave. Eight years later, I was still on their payroll. My surveying work was varied and very interesting, and on occasions involved travelling abroad.

In 1993, Trinity House asked me to sit as a Trinity Master (Nautical Assessor) assisting the Admiralty Judge, The Honourable Mr Justice Sheen, in the hearing of a Marine Collision Case in the Royal Courts of Justice. The case lasted eight days. For me it was a new and very interesting experience. Barry Sheen retired at the end of that Case, and I was privileged to be present with about ten judges and a full court of lawyers in the Admiralty Court for his valediction. All my life I have been fortunate in having a close family. I am forever grateful that Jane, being a very competent wife and mother, enabled to pursue my career in merchant shipping as the breadwinner while she stayed at home and brought up our daughters.”

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