Friday, February 23, 2018
Justin Merrigan and Andrew Douglas

Donald Gelling, former Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, described him as a caring man, a dedicated and safe pair of hands, a man you could rely on. How right he is.

When Andrew Douglas “Crossed the Bar” Sea Breezes lost a proud and dedicated editor and its regular contributors a very real and true friend.

I first heard the name Andrew Douglas in 1996 while on the bridge of Stena Line’s Stena Traveller on passage to Holyhead. I took a mobile call informing me that a new editor for Sea Breezes had been appointed by the magazine’s new owners following the death of predecessor Harry Milsom. Finishing the call, I related the news to the ship’s Mate/Master, Tony Lavis-Jones, who exclaimed “Oh that’s great news – a good choice!” I would later discover such reactions were not uncommon whenever his name was mentioned – he was known the length and breadth of the Irish Sea and beyond.

It was April 1997 before I would meet my new editor and his lovely wife, Doreen. How proud and excited he was – proud that he had been entrusted care of this most respected of shipping publications and its associated library; excited by the possibilities before him – to chart a safe passage for Sea Breezes into the 21st century.

And he did just that.

It could be argued that Sea Breezes might very well have ceased to exist in 1996, but under Andrew’s command the title was brought through tricky waters, not least of all the move to A4 format and full colour; risking the wrath of the traditionalists, loyal to the magazine through several decades!

That Sea Breezes is alive and well today, including his stewardship of the most recent change of ownership, is his lasting testimony. How fitting that he has passed the baton of care to his close friend and indeed former colleague, Capt Hamish Ross, now the magazine’s publisher.

And colleagues they were; while Hamish was Sealink’s Shipping & Port Manager at Stranraer during the late 1970’s, Andrew was Marine Superintendent with Manx Line, the fledgling yet groundbreaking new operator between Douglas and Heysham, later becoming the company’s General Manager in the Isle of Man under Sealink ownership.

It is perhaps for his time with Sealink/Manx Line that Andrew is well known in the ferry industry. A Conway man, he went on to serve with the Isle of Man Steam Packet, later becoming Chief Officer and it was as such in August 1974 that he sailed on the old Mona’s Isle under his friend, Capt Jack Ronan, on what was then the final Steam Packet sailing from Heysham to Douglas. Within a few years Andrew would be back at Heysham in a very real way!

How I loved his tales from those challenging years with the Manx Viking. How I laughed when he related the escape of his ship from the strikebound dockyard at Leith, whose town he had threatened to lay waste to, just as his ancestors of the “Black Douglas’ clan had done centuries before!

That was Andrew. No matter what the situation, his uncanny ability to add humour to the occasion always helped things along.

But to those outside our industry, he was so much more. A family man through and through. A man who loved his church. A tireless youth worker. An author of several books on his beloved Isle of Man. And of course public service – how tirelessly he gave of his time as a member of the world’s oldest parliament.

To me personally, he was so much more than my editor. He was my friend and indeed I am so happy to include him as one of those people in my immediate circle I call mentor. Instrumental in my move from Stena Line to Dublin Maritime where I was to handle the Isle of Man Steam Packet’s affairs in Dublin Port, I can thank him for ramping up my ferry industry career.

I will miss him.

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