Passionate sailor who ran popular excursion service on southeast coast

 

Richard Fletcher:RICHARD “Dick” Fletcher, who set up the Galley Cruising Restaurant in New Ross, Co Wexford, in 1971, was so young at heart that many of his friends did not know what age he was until his death notice appeared in The Irish Times in late December 2009. He passed away in Waterford aged 86.

Born in Cork in 1923, he was the second son of Robert Fletcher, a merchant tailor from England, and Emily. His brother Robin was four years older. In 1929, the family moved to Crosshaven. The house had wonderful views of the harbour, and this was undoubtedly a factor in Dick’s love of the sea, rivers and boats.

Another major influence was his education at Newtown School, Waterford. Among his contemporaries were Ivan and Myrtle (nee Hill) Allen, later of Ballymaloe. He studied horticulture at Trinity College Dublin and got his BA in 1946.

On graduation, he worked for Ivan Allen at Imokilly Orchards in Shanagarry, Co Cork, where he was assistant manager. In 1948, he started out on his own, growing mushrooms in Rathangan, Co Kildare. He also raised pigs and chickens.

He moved on to Henry Denny’s, the bacon and sausage processors. He was mainly based in Dublin for 12 years and became sales manager, but his heart was elsewhere.During this time, he enjoyed leisure activity on the Shannon and on inland waterways.

In the early 1960s, he bought the Annabella Bridgid hooker from Martin O’Flaherty of Carraroe, Co Galway, and during his summer holidays sailed her around to Dún Laoghaire.

The hooker became a striking sight in Dublin Bay, but during a storm that first winter she broke her moorings and was wrecked.

He was determined to make up for the loss. There was another dilapidated hooker, the Ark of Connemara, on the quays, which he obtained and set about replanking and restoring. He then brought it on many intrepid east coast sailings.

Fletcher’s greatest enterprise was setting up the Galley cruises. He ran the business for 30 years until he sold it in 2000. He brought over a boat from the English midlands, The Ross, and started the service in June 1971. He acquired a second vessel, The Officer, before purchasing two former CIÉ Shannon pleasure craft, the St Ciarán and St Brendan.

With Dick at the helm and later his son Jonathan, there was always a convivial ambiance on board, and with food of a high standard, thousands of people relished the trips from New Ross, downriver to the Barrow bridge or upstream to St Mullins or to Inistioge on the Nore. Later there were excursions on the Suir out of Waterford to Ballyhack and Passage East.

Fletcher was also an enthusiastic sports fan. During his time in Dublin he sang tenor in the Culwick Choral Society. A life member of the Newtown, Mountmellick and Foyonian Old Scholars Association, he was president in 1967 and served as honorary treasurer from 1994 to 2001.

Christian Science was a significant part of his life, and it helped to keep him extremely healthy: he only missed 3 ½ days in his career.

He is survived by his wife Valerie, his son Jonathan, daughters Nikki (Ford) and Rachael (Guest) and four grandchildren.

Richard Henry Fletcher: born June 25th, 1923; died December 28th, 2009