Monday, 27 September 2021

Celebration for pair with 93 years at boat firm

TWO men who between them have worked for more than 90 years at Hobbs of Henley

TWO men who between them have worked for more than 90 years at Hobbs of Henley have been honoured for their service.

A celebration dinner was held at Leander Club for Colin Hinton and Peter Herbert, who continue to work for the boat hire business part-time.

Mr Hinton, 65, of Talbot Close, Caversham, joined Hobbs in 1965 when he was 15 and undertook a five-year apprenticeship in marine engineering.

The firm was then run by Dick Hobbs, whose son Tony later took over before he was succeeded by his son Jonathan, the current managing director.

“The Hobbs family have been very good to me,” said Mr Hinton. “I’ve been loyal to them and they have been loyal to me.”

He is the company’s outboard engine services manager and also drives launches. Since 1968 he has driven umpire launches at Henley Royal Regatta and will continue to drive the number one launch, Herakles.

“I’ve been through four regatta chairmen now,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve got on well with all the stewards. You feel very proud and privileged to sit there at number one.”

Mr Hinton has had many famous people in his launch, including the Duke of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal and Prince Andrew as well as Sir Edward Heath, Dame Kelly Holmes, Sir Chris Hoy and Ruby Wax.

He said the highlight of his career was being made a Royal Waterman to the Queen in 1996 and holding the role for 19 years. He was part of a guard of honour on the Spirit of Chartwell, a barge which carried the royal family for the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations in London in 2012. He remains an Extra Waterman today.

The Royal Watermen are chosen from the ranks of the Thames Watermen whose duties now are now purely ceremonial. Each is paid a nominal sum of £3.50 a year.

Mr Herbert, 67, from Greys Green, joined Hobbs in 1974 after graduating from the University of Southampton in yacht and boatyard management. He became a director of the business in 1991, was managing director for 10 years from 2002 to 2012 and remains a director.

Mr Herbert said: “I don’t go out on the river so much or skipper the big boats anymore but help in the office with the boat hire fleet.

“It has been great fun and it’s a marvellously interesting job. It certainly doesn’t seem to have been 40-odd years and we have had some great times. You could be driving a film star about or emptying a toilet! Every day is different.”

He said his career highlights included having the New Orleans built and bringing it to Henley in the early Nineties followed by the Hibernia.

He has had a number of film stars on board, including Oliver Reed when filming a remake of The Big Sleep at Turville in the Seventies.

“They played poker all the way and drank beer,” said Mr Herbert.

Jonathan Hobbs said: “Peter and Colin’s service to Hobbs of Henley has been magnificent and their working knowledge of the river and boating has been invaluable to the success of our business over the years.

“Although both will be reducing their working hours this year, they will continue to play a major role in the team here.”

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