'World’s highest qualified merchant seamen' dies aged 62

John Fisher on the deck of a trawler off East Anglia during the 1970s wearing a red jacket and yellow trousers

John Fisher on the deck of a trawler off East Anglia during the 1970s - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Tributes have been paid to one of the world’s highest qualified merchant seamen, who died aged 62 on his beloved narrowboat.

Captain John Leslie Fisher, who was known by many as “Joe”, spent most of his life travelling the world and climbing up the ranks in his profession, which ended in Norfolk.  

He was born and raised in Carlton, near Saxmundham, Suffolk, on July 6, 1958. He lived local to there his entire life.

His son, Stewart Fisher, 35, described his father’s childhood as one which had been enjoyed with his parents Joe and Bonnie Fisher, and siblings, Julie and David.  

He especially enjoyed joining his father, who worked in road haulage, on trips and would spend a lot of time with him.  


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Although he considered his childhood village his base, Mr Fisher was fortunate enough to discover many different cultures and countries across the globe. He spent time in the Middle East, Japan, the Philippines, and Texas, America, just to name a few places.

Mr Fisher attended Leiston Grammar School after passing the required exam to study there. He did well at school and after graduating from there, began an apprenticeship in advanced woodwork as a cabinet maker.  

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He spent a year in that role before realising it was not for him. Instead, aged 17, he got a job working on the trawlers off Lowestoft. Eventually he moved to work on the coasters, which sailed out of Wells on the north Norfolk coast, as well as in the Norfolk Broads, Great Yarmouth, and even Holland. He spent three years in those roles before embarking on another apprenticeship as a deck officer with Shell.  

Here he enjoyed a successful career and went on to study at college in Cornwall, before obtaining a degree and masters. He became one of the world’s highest qualified merchant seamen and was qualified for more than 25 years. At the time of his death, he was able to captain every merchant ship in the world.  

His son said: “He had three main passions in life. Cars, fishing, and his narrowboat Wild Jasmine. He had a mooring at Bill Fen Marina, in Ramsey, in the Fens.  

“He absolutely adored the sea and his career, but he also was a member of the Toyota Supra Owners' Club for years, and owned an Aston Martin. 

“If you looked up the definition of ‘a colourful character’ in the dictionary, my dad’s picture would be there, without question.  

“He was a very intelligent, worldly-wise man. He was larger than life and the type of man who would be heard walking into a room before he was seen, and everyone would want to chat to him.”  

Friend, Michael Smith, described Mr Fisher as “a good mate” during their school days and said they had lived near each other on more than one occasion. 

Another friend, Chrissy Holmes, added: “You will never be forgotten and thanks for some lovely memories. Although our time was short it was nevertheless sweet. Thanks for just being you. You always had my best interest at heart and I'm always grateful that our paths crossed.”  

Finally, Bob and Breda Bucys, of Ipswich, said he would be "greatly missed”.  

They added: “He was always great laugh and had lots of fun stories. Gone, but won’t be forgotten."  

Mr Fisher died from Covid on October 29, 2020, near Wisbech. He had returned to England the month previously, following seven months in Ghana where, due to lockdown, he had been unable to return.

At the time of his death, he had been working for Fendercare Marine, based in Seething, between Norwich and Bungay, as a marine superintendent.

As well as his son, he leaves behind his siblings, nieces Karen and Leesa, and friend and former wife, Tina Fisher. 

His funeral took place in November 2020 and donations were raised for the RNLI and Seafarers UK. 

A memorial service will take place at the end of summer this year. People are invited to email Stewart Fisher at stewartfisher9@gmail.com for details. 

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