Recently I made a sad journey from the Isle of Man to attend the funeral on 2nd September at Ayr of an old colleague and friend from my Sea Container days, Captain Russell Fitton.
Captain Fitton was born in February 1957 in Nelson, Lancashire. He attended the Nelson Grammar School and on leaving joined the General Cargo Division of P&O in 1973 as a deck cadet. In his time deep sea Russell served as Cadet, 3rd Officer, 2nd Officer and Chief Officer. He gained his Master’s Certificate at John Moores Institute in Liverpool.
Russell and his wife Sue married in August 1982 and in 1992 with a young family of three, he sought employment allowing greater time at home. He joined Sea Containers Scotland Ltd, the then operators of the fast wave piercing SeaCat catamaran service between Stranraer and Belfast, soon achieving his command. A move to Stena Line on to the HSS, an even bigger fast ferry led to his sailing as Chief Officer, but stepping up to Master as required. Following the withdrawal of the HSS from Stena’s Stranraer-Belfast service he made the step back to conventional ferries in 2010 reacquainting himself with ships of steel, with propellers and rudders and only one hull. When the ‘Superfast’ ferries were introduced sailing from Belfast to Stena’s new Scottish port at Cairnryan, Russell was again appointed to command and also became the Training Master for Superfast VIII.
A very active man, Russell had many interests including sub-aqua diving, skiing, motorbikes, horse riding and piloting light aircraft. In 1992, whilst on SeaCat in the port of Stranraer, an incident occurred when a shoreside crane fell into the dock – trapping men in the water; Russell quickly donned his diving gear, dived into the dock and became part of the rescue attempt to free the trapped workers.
Captain Fitton’s untimely death shocked us all, but the large turnout of family, old friends and many shipmates at his funeral reflected the liking and respect in which he was held. Captain David McMillan gave a eulogy of Russell’s life to the congregation.
Above all, Captain Fitton was a family man and it is to his wife Sue, his children and grandchildren, and to his wider family that our sympathy goes at this time. Russell will be greatly missed and long remembered.
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