Brian Jackson, one of the very last remaining crew members to have worked aboard a Cosens’ paddle steamer, has died suddenly in Weymouth aged 78.
Brian joined Cosens as an apprentice engineer in the late 1950s. It was their practice to put an apprentice on their steamers where possible both to give them practical experience of working aboard a ship and also because it provided an extra hand aboard at a cheaper pay rate. Brian therefore joined Monarch and it was aboard her that Captain Defrates introduced my Dad and me to him in June 1960 as fellow paddle steamer enthusiasts.
Brian told me that when he first joined Monarch laid up in the Weymouth Backwater on a Monday morning, her chief engineer Alf Pover told him to spend his first week doing nothing but working his way around the engine and boiler rooms discovering and identifying for himself what all the pipework and valves were for and how the engine, pumps and boiler all worked. Then on the Friday afternoon they would sit down with a cup of tea and a slice of cake and Brian could explain it all back to Alf. It was a good way to learn. He passed this test with flying colours and so his appointment to Monarch was confirmed.
When Monarch was withdrawn at the end of the 1960 season Brian transferred to Consul under the tutelage of her chief engineer Cyril Julien. On his first go at handling Consul’s engine he got it stuck because he had not realised that Consul’s high pressure cylinder was on the left hand side of the engine where Monarch’s was on the right. It was a useful lesson to learn and would not be forgotten.
After Consul was withdrawn Brian came ashore and worked for a time as one of the engineers maintaining and operating the machinery in Cosens’ cold storage facility at Weymouth. However each winter he was back afloat again working on the refits of the engines Cosens was overhauling at Weymouth at the time including aboard Red Funnel’s, Medina, Vecta and Balmoral, British Railways’ Roebuck, Sambur, Caesarea, Sarnia, St Patrick and Sandown as well as P & A Campbell’s Bristol Queen and Westward Ho.
As the 1960s wore on it became clear that the excursion trade with the paddle steamers Brian so much loved was coming to an end. With his parallel love of buses he therefore left Cosens and joined the Southern National initially as a bus driver and later as a bus inspector. After he retired he found living on a tiny pension hard so found further work at HM Prison on Portland.
Brian also became a prolific author writing a series of tip top books about the history of Dorset railways including those serving Yeovil, Bridport, Portland and much else including ships. His “Weymouth to the Channel Islands, a Great Western Railway Shipping History” has pride of place on my bookshelves as one of my favourite books. He also wrote a vast quantity of articles for many magazines and was much in demand as a speaker on transport history at local events.
Brian was a convivial, good humoured and thoroughly good natured man in whom a smile and chuckle were never far away. He loved paddle steamers, Dorset, railways, buses and other ships which were all at the heart of his being. He had travelled around the UK following his transport interests but had never been abroad and never felt the need to apply for a passport. He believed that the things which he valued and loved were all much closer to home.
He is survived by his wife Jean.