TRIBUTES have been paid following the death of a leading light on the restoration of a historic ship.
The President of the HMS Trincomalee Trust, Captain David Smith OBE, died in Malta after a short illness aged 86.
Mr Smith played a key role in the restoration of the ship and helped raise £10.5m for the restoration of the landmark.
He had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy, starting as a cadet in the Training Ship HMS Conway, and serving as navigating officer on HMY Britannia and Commander on HMS Eagle.
After retiring from the Royal Navy he became an Elder Brother of Trinity House and then took on the chairmanship of The Foudroyant Trust in 1976, when Foudroyant was being used as a training ship in Portsmouth harbour.
In 1987 it was decided to stop using the ship for training and start much-needed repair and renovation work. In July that year he took the risk of spending all the funds the trust then had to hire a submersible barge to take the ship from Portsmouth to Hartlepool to be restored to its former glory.
The trust raised more than £10.5m for the work, it took 11 years, at least 750,000 man-hours of skilled work were needed and saw over £8m pumped into the local economy in wages and purchases.
The ship’s name was restored to her original of HMS Trincomalee in 1992.
The restoration, which retained more than 60 per cent of the original fabric of the ship, turned a rotting hulk into an award-winning maritime attraction of national importance which has subsequently been recognised by the inclusion of the ship in the Core Collection of the National Register of Historic Vessels in the UK.
In 2010, the ship became the first affiliate of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
Mr Smith retired as chairman in 2000, after 24 years in the post, when the restoration was largely complete, and handed over to Colonel Michael Stewart who had been his vice-chairman.
The dad of two was then ‘promoted’ to be the president of the trust.
David McKnight, general manager of the HMS Trincomalee Trust, said: “This magnificent ship, now fully restored, is a splendid testament to his long and dedicated work.
“This has been recognised by the award of an OBE, by the World Ship Trust’s personal award to him in 2001 for the “outstanding restoration and preservation of this historic ship”, by the personal award of a Victory medal in 2011 by the Society for Nautical Research for “the monumental achievement which is HMS Trincomalee” and by the many hundreds of thousands of visitors who have flocked to Hartlepool since the Ship opened as a visitor attraction.
“David will be missed by us all at the trust. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with David’s family and in particular with his two sons, Christopher and Richard.”