John Kemp Passes Away

The death of Thalatta’s skipper John Kemp was sudden and unexpected, and came just after the equally devastating shock of the death of Trust founder Hervey Benham only two months earlier. The chairman of the Trust at the time, Eric Pearce, wrote in March 1988;

John Kemp collapsed on Monday 21st September, 1987, on the deck of his beloved Thalatta. He with Hervey had been active in the preservation of sailing barges since the end of the trading era in the 1950’s. Eventually he turned his back on the world of commerce to do what he loved and wanted to do – his skill and knowledge of sailing barges and the east coast ships and men was enormous, and he was anxious that this way of life should not be lost to a new generation. He devised and worked hard to set up a unique new scheme to operate a barge for school groups in the local estuaries, forging links with the London Borough of Redbridge Education Service and later with Barnados, National Children’s Homes and schools from all over the country. He cheerfully and efficiently undertook the day to day administrative work for Thalatta – and for some years the Sir Alan Herbert too – during brief time ashore between a busy programme of sailings each season. this unseen contribution was enormously valuable to the Trust. He sailed as professional skipper first in the Memory and then in Thalatta for twenty-three years. During that time he carried over six-thousand young people from all walks of life, operating throughout with a first-class safety record, a record unsurpassed and widely respected. The fine condition of Thalatta today is a lasting tribute to him for he devoted countless thousands of extra hours to details of her upkeep: there could be no finer memorial to John than Thalatta herself, and for the present council to see to it that the work he started, giving youngsters a real taste of life at sea, continues for many years to come.