Much-loved historian and boat keeper passes away

TRIBUTES Historian Brian Patterson
TRIBUTES Historian Brian Patterson

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BRIAN Patterson was a familiar face at Portsmouth Dockyard for six decades.

As a small boy growing up in Portsmouth during the war, his family were bombed out of several homes and at one stage lived near Unicorn Gate.

He took his first job as a yard boy aged 14 and, apart from two-years’ National Service with the army in 1958 to 1960, he spent his entire working life in the dockyard, rising to the role of Shipwright Liner before retiring in 1993.

Brian’s passion and pride in the dockyard saw him become a respected author on the history of Portsmouth Naval Base and the Royal Navy.

On retiring, he took on the role of historian and keeper of historic boats at Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust – a position he enjoyed for 19 years until his death last Thursday aged 74.

As a founder member of the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust and its Honorary Curator, he spent many hours researching and writing publications on dockyard history which were published by the Historical Trust. He also wrote The Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth 1929 and Dreadnoughts in Camera which were published by Acme Printing.

In 2005, he completed The Royal Navy at Portsmouth Since 1900, published by Maritime Books, and produced jointly with Stephen Courtney of the Royal Naval Museum Home of the Fleet, a photographic history of Portsmouth Royal Dockyard published by Sutton Publishing.

At the time of his death he had just completed a book on Timber uses in the World of Wooden Boats, initial proof copies of which were well received from within the boatbuilding and repair trade.

His last book, First Among Dockyards, a chronological history of Portsmouth Dockyard, remains unfinished.

This and Timber uses in the World of Wooden Boats will be completed and published by Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust in his memory.

As well as his written work, Brian often gave lectures and tours of the dockyard to thousands of visitors.

He also contributed to articles for The News and appeared in radio broadcasts and TV programmes, including Ours to Keep, a documentary presented by Jonathan Meades on the history of Portsmouth’s fortifications.

One of his great achievements was establishing the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust’s historic small boat collection, which includes the former naval barge, Green Parrot, in which the Queen was a passenger on several occasions.

The boat is currently undergoing restoration work planned by Brian ahead of its participation in the grand Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in June this year.

Brian had suffered ill-health as a result of asbestosis for the past year which had migrated into cancer and died in his sleep at home at Devonshire Avenue, Southsea, last Thursday, aged 74 years old.

Peter Goodship, chief executive of Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, paid tribute to Brian’s ‘enormous contribution’ and ‘endless supply of witty and amusing anecdotes’ about yard life. He leaves behind a son, daughter and several grandchildren.

· Born 8 August, 1937; died 2 February, 2012.