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Half-Century Man Leaves Port Of London Authority

A Canvey Island haven master, who worked on the River Thames for 51 YEARS, has set sail for retirement.

Port of London Authority’s (PLA) John Window, 67, who left earlier this month, was a popular figure on shallow-draught catamaran Easthaven, patrolling Canvey, Benfleet and the Holehaven areas, and was the authority’s “eyes and ears” in a number of roles over the past half century.

Grandfather-of-three John, who carried on a long and proud family tradition of working Windows on the Thames, said: “I started working at the PLA just after Christmas in 1964 as a messenger boy. I was 15 and a half. They gave me a bike and a five-shilling allowance to look after the bike. I had no idea I’d still be working there 51 years later. As a messenger boy, I delivered messages, parcels and all sorts round the Royal Docks. It was a wonderful time to be working there. The dockers kept me on my toes, I grew up quick.”

John remembers one wind up especially, when a driver in the Royal Docks tried to flog him a pair of trousers. Teenage John meekly tried them on, but turned round a few minutes later to find a joker had swiped his.

“It was pretty nippy that day,” he laughed. “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work on the Thames, I’ve loved every minute of it. When I was a lad, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to work on the river.”

As well as ferrying messages up and down the river, John was a tally clerk, a deckhand, coxswain, and a marine river inspector upriver at Richmond. The daily five-hour commute from his Leigh-on-Sea home proved too much and he left that role after seven years to take up an inspector role in Gravesend, Kent. And finally, he took on his last PLA job, as haven master in Canvey Island – a job he did for 11 years.

He added: “I’ve never got bored in 51 years of working at the PLA. Whenever I got itchy feet I just moved on to a different challenge and freshened things up a bit. I’ve very much enjoyed working with the people though, that’s been the main thing. Whether it was my PLA colleagues at Richmond, or the community in Canvey, I’ve loved every minute.”

PLA chief executive Robin Mortimer said: “50 years is an incredible amount of time to be at any job – and it clearly demonstrates John’s loyalty.

“Everyone at the PLA is incredibly sad to see John go. Colleagues regard him as someone who’s always been a professional, wise and trusted member of the team, as well as an incredibly popular figure with river users.”

John’s great great grandfather piloted colliers on the Thames and there have been Windows working on the river ever since. Although he’s retired, John’s sons Gary and Trevor – a VTS officer and marine river inspector at the PLA respectively, continue to work there.

John plans to spend his retirement enjoying his speedboat Jessie as well as a spot of travelling with wife Josie.



Media Contact

Gareth Dorrian, corporate affairs writer, Port of London Authority

Phone: 01474 562251/07711640099, email: gareth.dorrian@pla.co.uk