December 11 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 17, 2013
A boatbuilding champion in the heart of Broadland for half a century and race-winning sailor, Martin Broom, has died aged 79.
He took up the challenge to use a revolutionary material, fibreglass, which transformed the long-established family company at Brundall. It was three years ago that the third-generation boatbuilder sold Broom’s Boats, founded by his grandfather in 1898, to new investors.
A member of the Broads Authority for 30 years, he had a passion for boats and sailing which was infectious. In the 1991 new year’s honours, he was made MBE for his service to the marine industry and Broadland.
A competitive yachtsman, he confessed to another ambition. “I always want to design and build the perfect boat. We haven’t done it - yet,” he said in that year.
By then the business had a total turnover of £5m and employed 130 staff at Brundall and 45 at Rackheath making craft from 33ft, costing £93,000 to a 44ft boat with a price tag of almost a quarter of a million. The range of his firm’s craft was proving popular – at home and overseas.
When he took over from his father at the age of 30, having spent just a year working in the business, he faced a much more immediate challenge. His father had a heart attack, his uncle died, and his cousin decided to go into the church, leaving him in charge of a boatyard employing 25 men. But fibreglass was to revolutionise boatbuilding. Broom’s started in 1965, building hulls made by Aquafibre’s entrepreneurs John Linford and Ian Macintosh, who had set up the business with a consortium of boatyards including his family company. “I was lucky that fibreglass came along when I was relatively young. My father and people of his generation never accepted it – for years it was associated with cheapness,” he said.
Broom’s gained overall control of Aquafibre, then based in Rackheath, near Norwich, in 1971. It developed a range of sea-going and Broads fibreglass craft, which were sold to national and international buyers.
Born at Brundall in June 1934, he went to Norwich School and then became a boat-building apprentice with Herbert Woods at Potter Heigham. He did National Service as a boat repairer in the air-sea rescue service at Plymouth.
The family’s boating business had been established by his grandfather, Charles John Broom, at Brundall. In those days, it maintained privately-owned wooden yachts and built craft to order. In the 1920s, it started hiring sailing boats and by 1939 had built up a small fleet of motor cruisers.
He joined his father, Basil, who had taken on the firm, which during the war built lifeboats and destroyer tenders for the Admiralty.
“My father didn’t want me to go into boat-building, which in those days was very much a cottage industry. Before fibreglass came along it was difficult to see the potential you can see now,” he said in 1991.
At the same time, he promoted the Broads as a holiday destination for private owners and the hire sector.
He became vice-chairman of Blakes Holidays, which enjoyed conspicuous success from the late 1960s onwards. Introducing post-war Britain to the novelty of boats also featured strongly – with dealings with the Beaverbrook empire led by Max Aitken and the Daily Express’s sponsorship of the London Boat Show.
He was a leader with the British Marine Federation, which included a two-year term as chairman of the International Boat Shows, initially at London’s Olympia, then Earls Court before it later moved to ExCel.
A board member of the Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners, he was a long-serving member of the Broads Society. With other organisations, he had worked from the 1950s to bring about the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act, which set up the Broads Authority in 1989.
He was the first chairman of the authority’s navigation committee since its inception in 1988. When he retired almost two years ago, he was presented with a half model of his 14ft Norfolk One-Design Dinghy, number 59, Tideway. He was vice-chairman of the Broads Authority from 2002 to 2005. Mr Broom, who lived at Strumpshaw, has served on the authority’s planning committee since it was formed in 1983.
A committee member of Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association and several Broads sailing clubs, he was commodore of the River Cruiser Class. Sailing in a Norfolk dinghy, he was still competing until last year and won more than 150 trophies with his favourite craft during his career. He was also a multiple winner over the years in September’s Yare Navigation race from Coldham to Breydon Water.
His record as one of the county’s best helmsmen set him apart whether racing at the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club or elsewhere.
He relaxed by sailing his 38ft river cruiser, Rausena, built by Herbert Woods in 1932, and his other boats included the Yare and Bure half decker one design, Apollo.
He once said that he had only taken up sailing in 1948 – when aged 14 – because Tideway had been built for his older brother, Graham. When he went into the Merchant Navy, he didn’t want to waste her. “Until then I wasn’t interested in sailing at all.”
By 1972, when he had enjoyed triple success in the Diamond Jubilee Gold Challenge Cup, he was dubbed “Martin – king of Norfolk Dinghies”.
He dominated the traditional clinker class, also White Boats and then Enterprises, sailing Maidamistake. And in 21 years, he won the Frostbites 18 times.
One of the proudest moments of his long career was taking the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh down river on the Broom-built 45ft motor cruiser Albert of Blofield.
Later this year, he was to have been presented by the Princess Royal, president of the Royal Yachting Association, with a life-time achievement award.
He leaves a widow, Jennifer, and two daughters, Mandy and Emma.
A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, on Friday, November 22 at 3.15pm.