Brian Hammett - a tribute to the "Life of Brian"

Brian Hammett at the helm of a Thames Sailing Barge
©Mike Robertson

Brian Hammett passed away 20 September 2018.

Brian Hammett, old friend, staunch supporter and stalwart of the OGA at both national and local level crossed the bar on Thursday 20 September, having confounded his doctors who had predicted less time for him and having impressed all who knew him with his determination to hold on to life and make the best of it to the end. Our condolences go to Lorna as well as their daughters Trish and Clare and their two grandsons.

Brian's funeral took place on 10th October at Ipswich where his widow Lorna delivered a moving eulogy entitled "Life of Brian". We bring you extracts of this eulogy below, with the addition of a few memories from East Coast gaffers.

"Life of Brian"

Brian Edward Hammett was born 4 January 1939 in Plaistow, London.

He went to school at St Edward’s in Romford Market.  He then went to Brentwood Prep School and after passing the 11+ went to Brentwood Boys Public School.

At school, he was described as ‘middle stream’.  He had to attend school on Saturdays for games in the afternoon, mainly football, which he hated, but he did enjoy cross country running. Sailing was a great passion for Brian: he sailed on the east coast from the age of 11 and was a member of the Blackwater Sailing Club.

Brian left school at 16 to embark on a 5-year apprenticeship with the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co, in New Street, Chelmsford. Towards the end of his apprenticeship he landed the job of instructor to the first all-girls apprentice scheme teaching them workshop practice at Marconi College.  This is where he met his wife Lorna. After what Lorna describes as a "a shaky start" (he was chasing one of the other girls) their friendship blossomed. After completing his apprenticeship, he went to work for Marconi Marine.

Brian had a lifelong love of films and would have loved to work in the film industry.  To supplement his apprenticeship income, he used to do film shows for children’s’ parties - mainly 9.5mm silent film cartoons: Charlie Chaplin & Buster Keaton etc.  The joys of yards of jelly- & ice cream-covered cable then ensued for some time. Considering his Austin 7 Ruby unsuitable for carrying film equipment Brian then bought a Mini Van. Brian teamed up with an old school friend and started doing Public Address hire for small events and ‘fetes worse than death’.  As the part time work increased Brian and his partner in PA decided to leave Marconi Marine and start their own audio hire business. "Trusound" was formed in 1964. They rented a single factory unit in the Crittall Road Industrial Estate in Witham. Later they bought vans and a specially converted caravan so that they could do horse shows, county shows such as the Essex Show, Dagenham carnival, motor cycle scrambles, Donkey Derbies and so on. Trusound went into manufacturing specialist audio systems and in the end was sold in 1989.

Brian was a qualified RYA Offshore Instructor with a commercial endorsement.  After "standing in" for the manager at the Victoria Dock Water Sport Centre Brian eventually took over the job, which he left 10 years later. He said it was the best job he had ever had, teaching more than 5000 East London children rowing, canoeing & sailing. He retired from this role in 2000 on the Friday and then went off sailing on the Cruising Association Millennium Rally to the Baltic on the Saturday.  He was away for 3 and a half months!

Brian was a great ‘joiner’ of clubs, societies, associations etc. He was a member of Harlow Round Table for many happy years. After the purchase of Brian and Lorna's beloved gaff cutter "Avola" in 1980 they joined the Old Gaffers Association and Brian went on to become its National President and East Coast President.  He was very involved with the East Coast section even up to his death. Members will particularly remember his firm management of gaffers races, counting down to the start from Avola at full volume on the VHF with the words "Three, two, one, BANG" just in case the gun didn't go off loudly enough. He cut quite a dash in his favourite hat complete with stuffed (toy) parrot and members and public alike enjoyed his colourful commentary (via his own PA of course) on the Rubber Flubber Football matches at the Ipswich Regatta at the start of the annual OGA East Coast August Cruise.

He was interested in Arthur Ransome and wrote 2 books about him. His interest resulted in Brian joining the Arthur Ransome Society and becoming its East Coast Chairman.  He was also a member and then Chairman of the Nancy Blackett Trust. He was also a member of the Felixstowe Master Mariners Club.  Brian joined the Cruising Association in 1987, served for many years on the Membership & Publicity committee, CA Council and became a Vice-president. He also ran the Disco for many functions in CA House, Limehouse. Due to what Lorna describes as "extreme pressure" from Brian she joined the CA and then became their General Secretary.  She held this job for 16 years.

Brian and Lorna sailed ‘Avola’ for many miles voyaging to the Baltic, Russia, Germany, France and spent many very happy holidays over many years cruising in Holland, making numerous lovely friends over there. One of Brian's great contributions to the OGA was his work, together with his great friend gaffer Jon Wainwright, forging links with Dutch gaff sailors and classic sailing boat enthusiasts leading to the invitation of the OGA by the VKSJ to participate in their Dutch Classic Yacht Regattas at Hellevoetsluis and leading also to the founding nearly 15 years ago of the Dutch OGA. One highlight of his speech each year at those Regattas which always gained a big laugh was his attempt to address participants in Dutch, which he would eventually abandon, ruefully commenting that he would continue in English so the Dutch could understand him.

Brian & Lorna had married on 4 May 1963.  Tricia was born in November 1965 and Clare in September 1969. Their 3rd daughter Jennifer born in 1967 died 2 days after birth from a congenital heart condition. Brian adored his daughters and later his 2 grandsons Taylor & Brody.  He was a wonderful father & grandfather to them.

Shortly after moving to Ipswich Brian suffered heart failure and then had to have a triple bypass and a pace maker. Brian’s last illness started in late 2015 early 2016.  He kept up all his activities and sailing despite this.

Lorna finished her eulogy by saying that unlike the Monty Python character of the same name "Brian was not a "naughty boy”: he was in fact a determined, stubborn, kind-hearted person who would do anything for anybody.  He would never knowingly do anybody any harm and his main wish was for everyone to “Look on the Bright side of Life”. "

Published: 
21 Sep 2018