Mersey pilot Captain Kevin Walsh has encouraged ratings to think big about their own career and achieve similar levels of success to him by 'grabbing the opportunities' provided by the Nautilus- administered JW Slater Fund scheme.
Capt Walsh's journey from rating to a master was revealed in a video testimony he provided for the Union's seminar on Monday 10 July 2017 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Fund. He said support from the charity 23 years ago had provided a much needed 'bridge' for him as he struggled with the demands of providing for a young family and studying to progress in his career.
In 1980 Capt Walsh had worked for 14 years as an AB – having left school with no qualifications – and was in a 'bit of a quandary', in the face of looming redundancies for ratings in the UK.
Lacking confidence to go straight to nautical college, he decided to go to night school and study for a GCSE 'to see if I could cope with an academic challenge'. Buoyed by success, he signed up for a deck officer course at Fleetwood Nautical College.
Four months into his studies, he became increasingly worried that he would not be able to stay on the course and provide for his family. However, after a call to the Slater Fund, he was reassured that £2,000 was on its way.
'That was my little bridge to get me through the next two months of the course and through to my qualifications. You can't imagine how much of a relief that funding was to me,' explained Capt Welsh.
For the last 14 years, he has been a Liverpool pilot and 'loves every day of it'. Capt Walsh says the support has also created a deeper legacy, as he has two sons now working in the Merchant Navy, who have friends working across the maritime sector. 'A couple of the lads are ABs, and I have made them promise me that they will become officers in a few years,' he adds.
'So, grab the opportunity, get on with it, it's a life-changer,' Capt Walsh concludes. 'Appreciate it, and it will change your life and maybe you will change someone else's life.'
That was my little bridge to get me through the next two months of the course and through to my qualifications. You can't imagine how much of a relief that funding was to me