Captain Lewis Pritchard
Lewis was born and bred in Holyhead. Like many Anglesey boys he started his career at sea as a cadet on H.M.S. Conway on the banks of the Menai Straits. After that he went to sea and served his time in Clan Line, where he stayed until obtaining his Master’s ticket in 1960.
Then in traditional form of local boys, including his brother in law Walter Lloyd Williams, he came home to further his seagoing career and settle down on the cross channel boats from his home port.
He served on all the ships that came and went out of Holyhead and his first command was the container vessel Brian Boroime in 1975. I was privileged to be with him then as his 2nd Mate. I recall that when I incorrectly gave the Master’s name as Capt. Leslie Pritchard to Dublin Hailing Station on the first trip, that being the first name that came to my head, being a local optician who bred Welsh Black cattle like my parents, Lewis very quickly, politely but firmly corrected me. One of his hallmarks, never any ambiguity.
It became an even greater pleasure and privilege for me to sail with him many years later as his regular Chief Officer, as he approached the years towards his retirement in 1991, during those halcyon days of St Columba, before the introduction to live aboard and week on week off. He was widowed in 1982, with two sons and a daughter to take care of, support and encourage. He did it, as he would do, very well and unselfishly.
Lewis retired a few years early at the age of 59. He had done his bit by then and had no intention of leaving home, his family and dogs for more than 24 hours. He would jokingly admit after each 48 hours off duty and on return, he had put in another letter for V.R., in case the previous one had got lost in the post. He bowed out in July 1991 as the first crews joined St Columba to do their week on board and the 5 crew block rosters came to an end.
He taught me, along with others, of how to handle a ship, of what to do and what not to do. He did it well, to date I have not hit anything, although there is always a first time. He taught me that as well, never to be over confident. He would emphasise the importance of honesty, of sympathy and of fairness, through and through, in the execution of duty in command of a ship. So considerate was he in the power a Master could exercise, he would explain that when a seafarer stood before you to be disciplined to the magnitude of dismissal, it was not just the seafarer, idiot although he may have been, standing before you, it was also the seafarer’s wife or partner, and probably children, who were going to suffer and that must always be a mitigating circumstance. That was the measure of Lewis Pritchard, a man of solid principal, a proud Welshman to basic core values. I have been fortunate to be able to set my standards by his standards. To learn to work alongside “proper people”, his phraseology, and not been drawn in by those who are not. A better shipmaster because of him.
Lewis crossed the bar on 28th October 2008, aged 76. Although he lived a full and eventful life, by today’s standard he did not fulfil his retired years. It would have been nice if Dewi, Gareth, Nona and his grandchildren would have had him with them for a few more years.
For me, and I am sure I speak for many of his former shipmates, it was a privilege for having known, served with and benefited from him.
DPF, June 2009.
Right: Captain Lewis Pritchard takes the Stena Cambria out of Dun Laoghaire shortly before his retirement. Photo: Justin Merrigan