The sad death of IIMS stalwart Captain Barry Thompson is announced

Captain Barry Thompson addressing dinner guests at the IIMS 25th Anniversary dinner in London in 2016
Captain Barry Thompson addressing dinner guests at the IIMS 25th Anniversary dinner in London in 2016

The world of marine surveying is mourning the death of one of its most admired and respected practitioners of recent times. News has reached the IIMS Head Office of the passing of Captain Barry Thompson HonFIIMS. Barry died on 24 September 2020 aged 92 years old and will be known to many members as well as others in the marine world.

A more detailed obituary will be published in the December Report Magazine, but for now, IIMS CEO, Mike Schwarz, remembers a much-admired and skilful marine surveyor, who was a stalwart of the Institute.

I cannot claim to have known Barry closely, nor indeed for very long – only the past 6 years. But what I learnt immediately upon joining IIMS was the esteem in which Barry was held by fellow Institute members around the world, the board and, in particular, our members in New Zealand. He reached out to me early in my tenure as CEO and offered unconditional support and was most generous in his words of wisdom and encouragement. From then onwards, Barry and I would communicate often, and we struck up an instant accord and friendship with each other, despite our vastly different backgrounds. Indeed, when I approached him with the concept of publishing a series of handy guides authored by surveying experts, not only was he enthusiastic about the project but put his name forward as a potential author. He went on to write four handy guides, all of which continue to sell consistently well.

Barry was awarded an IIMS Honorary Fellowship in June 2010. The Barry Thompson Scholarship was subsequently established and James Newcombe, based in New Zealand, became the first and to date only student to win the scholarship.

Barry was the inaugural Regional Director of the IIMS New Zealand Branch and driving force, the first overseas branch opened up by the Institute a number of years ago and his efforts are well documented.

I always looked forward to seeing Barry and he made the effort to come back to the UK as often as he could before his health started to fail. He enjoyed visiting the Institute’s head office and looking at the books in our library. I would treat him to lunch each time he visited at the local pub and his request was always the same – “ham, egg and chips please.” After lunch, he would head straight down to the library in the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, just a ten-minute car journey away, to undertake research for his next book. Indeed, Barry liked to write and was good at it too. Apart from IIMS handy guides, Barry wrote other books, one of which was Deeds Not Words about the Coastguard, and another called All Hands and the Cook about sailors’ slang expressions.

I recall the IIMS Silver Jubilee Awards in 2016. Barry cadged a lift and travelled up with the rest of the IIMS team by luxury coach from Portchester to London. We chatted away about something and nothing to pass the time. He had been nominated in the Outstanding Contribution to the Commercial Ship Marine Surveying Industry Award category. His nomination extract read, “Barry has been a stalwart member of our Institute since the early inception of the IIMS over many years. Despite being in one of the remotest outposts of the IIMS empire, Barry has continuously supported the organisation and was the founder and chairman of our first overseas branch in New Zealand. Barry gained immense respect with the New Zealand Government maritime department. Through Barry’s sage advice he became an adviser to the department enabling them to draft national standards and protocols. He is a Master Mariner, consummate diplomat, author of various books and other journals and manuals and various technical papers.” Needless to say, Barry won the Award and it was richly deserved too. It was an honour to present it to him alongside Sir Alan Massey, the then CEO of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.

Captain Barry Thompson (centre) flanked by Sir Alan Massey (left) and Mike Schwarz (right) being presented with his Award for Excellence
Captain Barry Thompson (centre) flanked by Sir Alan Massey (left) and Mike Schwarz (right) being presented with his Award for Excellence

Barry’s career in brief

Brought up with a love of the sea and some experience in small boats in the South of England, Captain Barry Thompson embarked upon a career at sea, serving his apprenticeship with Port Line. After obtaining his Second Mate’s certificate he joined P&O, leaving after brief periods as Staff Captain and in command, to settle in Auckland, New Zealand.

He became a marine surveyor, shortly afterwards running his own business and was later appointed the Auckland Lloyd’s Agent and a consultant surveyor retained by the Salvage Association. Retiring in due course from full-time employment Barry became a Marine Consultant to the insurance and shipping industries in New Zealand. He was, for a time, Deputy Chairman of the NZ Committee of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.

Barry was a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and a Fellow of the Nautical Institute. Since 2000 he contributed several units to the IIMS Diploma Courses and was the author of the well-established text-book Surveying Marine Damage published by Witherbys and now in its 3rd edition.

My lasting memories of Barry are that he was a thoroughly decent human being, a courtesy man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of aspects of the marine surveying profession in which he specialised and I always felt easy in his company.

Captain Barry Thompson leaves a lasting legacy and will be missed by all who knew him. Rest in peace Barry.

Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

Mike Schwarz

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