Obituary: Robert Louis Mann 1933-2014

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Robert Louis Mann was born on 16 December 1933 in Beckenham, Kent. The family moved a year later to Eastcote near Pinner, and then on to Harrow just before World War 2. Lou remembered a very happy and privileged childhood; he was not evacuated and not subject to the bombings of South London.  As a child, Lou spent many happy holidays in Nantes, France, where
his love and passion for the  French language, food and culture would blossom.

After leaving school Lou attended King Edward VII Nautical College in the East End of London, and it was there he decided he wanted to go to sea. He joined his first ship as an apprentice with the British Tanker Company in 1951, and whilst completing his first trip, which lasted eleven months, he was fortunate enough to circumnavigate the globe.

After gaining his Second Mate’s certificate Lou joined the New Zealand Shipping Company, and round this time fell down a hatch whilst in New York. He had to go ashore for major surgery, and the doctors were unsure whether he would walk properly again. However, he made a full recovery and was sent to convalesce with an aunt who lived near Boston in Massachusetts, so he was able to spend time there enjoying life on the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard. He was then sent back to the surgeon to see if he was fit enough to return to the UK – he was, and returned as a Disabled British Seaman on Queen Mary – not a bad passage!

Lou joined the Burma Oil Company in 1958, and spent two years in the Far East. When Burma Oil went out of business he returned from Hong Kong, stopping off in Marseilles, then Italy, and finally Dublin, where he studied for and obtained his Master’s F.G. certificate. Brenda, whom he met at a dance in Richmond, visited him there, and in April 1962 he proposed, and they married that August in Ealing. Lou then applied for, and obtained, a lecturer’s position at HMS Conway and was accepted as a London Sea Pilot (Cinque Ports Pilot) in 1968, moving with his wife and daughter to Cliftonville, Margate, where a second daughter was born. The family there lived a very happy life, full of friends. Following the ‘Big Bang’ in Pilotage in 1988 Lou became an employed pilot with the Port of London, retiring in 1996.

During 2012 Lou was diagnosed with cancer. He responded well to the initial treatment and remained optimistic. Later that year he and Brenda celebrated 50 years of marriage, but not long after that happy event his beloved wife Brenda died. Lou continued in a very positive way, determined to learn to live a different life. This he managed, for a while, but sadly, on 30 May 2014 he succumbed to the cancer.

Lou is survived by his two daughters, Catriona and Rebecca, their husbands, and three much loved grandchildren. Those who knew him well will sorely miss him.


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