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A friend to east coast fishermen: marine engineer Joe Fletcher dies aged 92

Joe Fletcher.
Joe Fletcher.

Around the harbours of Angus and Fife and the north-east ports, the man known as Joe Kelvin to fishing communities has died just short of his 93rd birth

He was the mainstay of Kelvin Marine Diesels, the firm that produced the engine that propelled Scotland’s fisheries.

Over many decades, Joe Fletcher won the trust of fishing crews up and down the east coast of Scotland.

Ship to shore

On call night and day before people this side of the Atlantic even heard of the expression 24/7, Joe was always available on ship-to-shore radio calls to deal with engineering matters.

In the days before the internet and mobile phones, ship-to-shore calls were a lifeline to fishing vessels nationwide.

Born in Glasgow in 1928, Joe was evacuated to Rothesay during the Second World War,

He developed his enthusiasm for marine engineering observing HMS Cyclops, based in Rothesay Bay and talking with local fishermen.

Engineering

Joe excelled at Rothesay Academy and after the war, followed his father, Joe, into Bergius Kelvin Marine in Glasgow.

He rose from shop floor to executive management in a career that would see him secure the most vital and respected commodity: trust.

Joe’s son Charles said: “Fishermen across the east coast and worldwide knew they had a friend in Joe Fletcher, a man who would always do his best to meet and often exceed their needs without compromising the business. He was reliable.

“The yards in Fraserburgh, Macduff and Peterhead respected his knowledge and prowess and crews around Scotland regarded Joe Fletcher as a friend. He retained the bond with them throughout his career as a man of truth and decency.”

Diagnostics

Joe Fletcher could tell the sound of a Kelvin engine, how it turns and he could swiftly pinpoint any problem with accuracy.

His agility saw him jump from one fishing boat to another in harbours across the UK.

He took the best of Scottish engineering across the UK and internationally, securing major contracts along the way for Glasgow’s Kelvin Diesels.

This included a fleet of sea-going launches in the Persian Gulf, to the Star Ferries in Hong Kong and Kowloon and the fisheries of Newfoundland and Canada. He crafted a special bond with crews and yards in Egypt and built lasting friendships in assignments to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Languages

“The family home in Glasgow was seen by neighbours and friends as a branch of the United Nations as he and his wife, Allena, welcomed visitors from around the world.
And family life was boosted by a litany of languages interspersed into every day conversation,” said Charles.

Joe had continuing success at the annual International Boat Show in London, where he showed his magical touch for sales.

When he married Allena McKechnie in 1955, the pair spent many weekends on Loch Awe and Loch Etive. Joe maintained and managed the engines on a series of cruisers on the lochs including the Darthula, while Allena was the tour guide as the boats carried passengers amid spectacular scenery.

In his early career he had the task of installing Kelvin Engines on Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, one of a series of installations he delivered all around the coast.

Retirement

When he retired, Joe continued to take his wealth of experience into marine consultancy in Scotland, Europe and the Middle East.

In recent years, Joe suffered a series of falls that impacted on his health.

While in hospital in Glasgow after a fall in March 2020, he acquired Covid-19. He showed the spirit of his generation by fighting it back and returning home.

He passed away in Glasgow aged 92, survived by his wife, three children and two grandchildren. He is pre-deceased by his daughter-in-law, Lyn.

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