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Mourners pay tribute to the life of Tugboat Bill
12:12pm Thursday 26th March 2009 in Hampshire Heritage
FAMILIAR SIGHT: Complete with captain’s hat, Bill Collingwoodworked on Southampton Water for more than 40 years.
Collingwood was one of the most respected and skilled captains ever to take the helm on Southampton Water.
Today mourners gathered to pay their last respects to 82-year-old Captain Bill, a seafarer who, for more than four decades, helped to safely shepherd the great ocean liners in and out of the city’s docks.
On top of the coffin at Southampton Crematorium was Bill’s old captain’s hat proudly bearing the insignia of the former Alexander Towing Company on whose tugs he worked for a total of 41 years.
Floral tributes also included a wreath in the shape of a ship’s wheel, a reminder of the many years Bill was in command of his vessel.
During his time Bill built up a vast knowledge of the Solent and Southampton Water together with local tides, currents and channels that he used everyday he was in command of the tug.
Bill signed on as a deckhand at the company’s offices in Queen’s Terrace back in 1944 and in the years that followed worked his way up to become a tug captain in May, 1962.
The day he received his master’s certificate was the crowning achievement of Bill’s career as he was following in the footsteps of his father, Ernest, who was also a tug captain with Alexander Towing.
Bill’s widow, 79-year-old Vi, to whom he was married for 61 years, remembers her husband setting out for work f rom their home in Weston at all hours of the day and night.
Vi said: “Often there was a knock at the door and it would be a Post Office delivery boy with a telegram telling Bill that a ship was coming in and he was needed on his tug.
“He would walk from Weston to Woolston and then catch the floating bridge across to town and carry on walking to the docks.’’ For many years Bill was captain of the tug, Romsey, at one time a familiar sight on Southampton Water bustling around the port as she pushed and pulled countless vessels as they arrived or departed from the docks.
Among the ships Bill regularly guided to and from their b e r t h s w e r e Q u e e n M a r y , Q u e e n Elizabeth, SS France, Canberra, the Royal Yacht Britannia, America and Q u e e n Elizabeth 2.
Together with his tug, he was also on hand when the remains of the Tudor warship, Mary Rose were raised from the seabed of the Solent more than quarter of a century ago.
“Bill was there to meet Canberra when she returned to Southampton after her time down in the South Atlantic during the Falklands war in 1982,’’ said Vi.
“It was one occasion he never forgot.’’ When Bill finally left Alexander Towing, the then managing director, Ces Smith, praised him for his “loyal and efficient’’ service during his long career on Southampton Water.
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