Obituary: Roger Williams 1940-2017 (Retired Bristol Channel Pilot)

It is a serious relation, that in which a man stands to his ship. A ship is a creature which we have brought into this world, as it were on purpose to keep us up to the mark. In her handling a ship will not put up with a mere pretender.
Joseph Conrad

I am sad to announce the death of Roger Williams, at home in Bassaleg, Newport with his wife at his side on 4th July 2017.

Roger served his apprenticeship with the then Newport Pilotage Company, and served for nearly forty years on the Bristol Channel, a notoriously tricky body of water. His reputation as a skilled seaman and as a man of great integrity has been evident over his working life, and his colleagues attending his funeral on 19th July wished it to be known that he was held in high esteem. Indeed, Robin Wall, Bristol based pilot who worked with Roger on many occasions, wrote the following very moving piece of poetry to mark Roger’s passing.

Fared Well

Along the road of memory I wander now and then,

I hear the wind, I smell the air, I’m sailing once again.

I’m pacing on a sturdy ship with land a distant view,

Recalling of my younger days, worries but a few.

Laughter filled the morning watch, seafaring was my joy

When I was young and able, for I was just a boy.

Now my body is failing, I see a twilight sky,

The sea is in my blood still, at least until I die.

Salt water has its way – it has done over years,

In some form or other – often sweat or tears.

I have lived a happy life – no regrets for me,

With loving wife and family plus sailing round at sea.

I’d like to tell my family when I leave them all alone,

Please forgive these ramblings of when I used to roam.

For you are in my mind now, as I rue my destiny,

I’ll carry on forever, you are my immortality.

Soon I’ll cross the bar, for sure my time is nigh,

My turn has come my friends to bid you all goodbye,

It’s nature’s way, no worries … look,

Just scribe ‘FARED WELL’ in my seaman’s book.

Robin Wall

Bristol Channel Pilot and life-long friend of Roger Williams

Vivienne Williams (Roger’s sister) adds that Roger retired on grounds of ill health and his problems somewhat blighted a well-deserved retirement. He was a man whose horizons were once the world but which were in the end limited to enjoyment of his home and family. As a tribute to him and all other Bristol Channel Pilots I am working with Tony Anderton, current Bristol Pilot, to produce an archive of the history of the Channel and the pilots whose contribution to the wealth of South Wales and the English side of the Channel is largely unsung. If pilots past and present have stories or items they would like us to consider, please contact her at

Vivienne Williams

Leave a Reply

UK Maritime Pilots' Association
European Maritime Pilots' Association
Internation Pilots' Association SITE SPONSORS
Navicom Dynamics
OMC International