Obituary – Hugh Gallagher
13 February 2012
Founder member, Head of Unit Bexhill/East Sussex for nine years and member of Council 2008/9, Hugh Gallagher died on 11 February.
Hugh was an immensely practical man who had a remarkably varied career, having at various times been professional diver, boatmaster, fisherman, showman and builder. Hugh used this diverse experience to great effect in the MVS.
An NCO in the Territorial Army before joining the RNXS, Hugh became a tower of strength in the Bexhill (now East Sussex Sovereign Harbour) MVS Unit, initially as deputy HoU. He took over as HoU in 2001, and almost immediately set about galvanising the Unit into a planned programme of fundraising, maintenance and improvement for the then recently acquired ex-MOD harbour launch, East Sussex 1.
That ES1 has become such a successful training vessel owes much to Hugh. He put in a huge amount of time applying his practical skills to converting and improving ES1, turning her into a well fitted out Coded vessel capable of long coastal passages.
But he always saw ES1 as a means to an end – building up a strong, effective Unit and above all providing training to Unit members and youth groups. While he became ES1's most experienced skipper, more often than not Hugh would be standing at the back of the wheelhouse, allowing others to learn by doing but always ready to advise when needed.
Hugh was also an ideas man. Most of his plans worked. A few didn't but his enthusiasm for them was always infectious. The World Pantomime Horse Races at the Sovereign Harbour Fun Weekend, which the Unit ran for a number of years, were an example of a notable success which helped to significantly boost Unit finances.
Among the Unit's achievements of which Hugh was most proud were ES1's deployments to high profile events, such as the Festival of the Sea and International Fleet Review at Portsmouth. One particularly memorable occasion was during the 2010 return of the Little Ships to Dunkirk when, as senior MVS officer, Hugh received Prince Michael on board ES1 during the prince's inspection of her, Appleby and the two crews.
Hugh's contribution to the MVS was by no means limited to East Sussex Unit. He was one of those who took over Appleby when she was bought by the MVS and skippered her several times in her early MVS days. On one occasion he gave a superb demonstration of how to con the 80ft single screw ship in the very restricted confines of Sovereign Harbour – on a hot Sunday afternoon in full view of a crowded waterfront.
Then, much more recently, when the MVS nationally was going through a difficult patch, Hugh volunteered to join the newly reconstituted Council. His biggest contribution then was drafting a Code of Conduct for the MVS, something we had not used before. Hugh believed many of the problems our charity had encountered stemmed from a lack of such a code. In many ways, the code he drafted was a statement of the need for common courtesy, something in which strongly believed and unfailingly practised .
At short notice, in 2009, Hugh volunteered to skipper ES1 when she was required to stand in for Appleby for the first of the now annual MVS deployments to support the Combined Cadet Force summer camp on HMS Bristol. That this has developed into a highly successful arrangement, involving both Appleby and ES1, owes much to Hugh's hard work in that first season.
The CCF deployment involves working with URNU (University Royal Navy Unit) midshipmen, who act as training officers. This dovetails into another aspect of Hugh's work as East Sussex HoU. He went to considerable trouble to maintain a close working relationship with the URNUs. He managed to arrange for URNU squadron vessels to be present at a number of events at Sovereign Harbour (somewhere we have the photos of Royal Navy midshipmen dressed as pantomime horses!) and for Unit members to sail on and ES1 to exercise with URNU ships.
Hugh will be deeply missed by the many within the Service who have worked or sailed with him over the years. Several of the East Sussex Sovereign Harbour Unit members served with him back in RNXS days. Nobody in the Unit will forget Hugh – sometimes fiery, sometimes dogmatic when he was sure he was right (which he often was), often witty, usually focused on the next project and always a decent, generous man and true friend. The MVS in general and East Sussex Unit in particular has much to thank Hugh Gallagher for.
Our thoughts are with his wife Carole and the family at this difficult time.