Half a Century of Dedication: Martin’s Remarkable 50 Year Journey at Berthon

Published on: 25 January 2024


On September 10th 2023, Martin Young celebrated 50 years of highly-skilled work at Berthon, a career that began in 1973 when he started as an apprentice joiner. His early influences were the older skilled joiners, foreman Don Slocombe, Ken Woolgar (father of current Berthon project manager Iain Woolgar), Tony Keeping and Ron Hampton. Day release at college completed his education. Berthon was building the 70’ Environist for Jack Seiger during his first year, and Martin helped the skilled joiners make and fit the teak interior, a steep learning curve. A year into his apprenticeship, Martin won the Shipbuilding Industry Training Board’s Agar Trophy for best trainee, in competition with 75 others from around the country.

The following year, 60’ Savik was in-build for Mr Knott, and Martin helped with the sycamore and rosewood interior. During the late 1970s, Berthon built nine Fisher 46 sailing yachts, and Martin helped craft the teak joinery.

In the early 1980s, Berthon built the first Mari-Cha for Bob Miller, the Duty Free Shoppers tycoon, and Martin led the team making the sycamore interior for this 70’ sailing yacht. Not long after, Martin met Anita Flood from the Berthon accounts department at the company’s Christmas party: they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in 2023.

In the mid-1980s Berthon built three Arun class lifeboats for the RNLI and Martin made the plywood joinery with solid mahogany trims.

Then came a restoration of the 57’ Drumbeat, a 1957 sailing yacht: Martin and his team created the American cherry interior. Dalvina was also in build at the time, an 80’ aluminium motor yacht, with a lightweight foam-cored plywood with teak veneer joinery, for Robert Iliffe (and whose father in 1936 had commissioned Berthon to build his 17-ton Gauntlet, Syrinx, built by those who taught Martin all his skills 37 years later). During the Dalvina build, Don Slocombe became ill with cancer, and Martin’s talent, energy and leadership led to his promotion to joinery foreman at the age of 31.

Martann followed, a 65’aluminium motorboat for Martin Hazell with a bird’s eye maple and Canadian rock maple interior. Now named Silver Space, she returned to Berthon from the Mediterranean recently and her joinery has lasted well, with Martin himself recently carrying out some repairs and touch-ups.  

The 90’ steel river-cruising barge Tigre d’Or was next, with Martin again leading the team fitting out the joinery. A few pilot boats were then in build, with Formica-faced plywood interiors.

From 1993 to 2003, Berthon was dominated by the construction of 20 Severn class RNLI lifeboats (plus three finished off when other shipyards failed). Ever adaptable, to save weight, Martin and his team built the interior from aerospace-grade F board, a grp/epoxy sandwich with an aluminium honeycomb core.

Then came the three-year rebuild of the 1936 80’ gentleman’s motor yacht, Bounty, which included an all-new but very traditional Edwardian mahogany interior keeping Martin and his team of Berthon joiners busy for a long period. Following on was the build of twelve Shannon class RNLI lifeboats, again with Martin switching back from wood to F board.

Over the years, Martin has diversified his skills to include GRP and composite laminating, laying teak decks, and invisible repairs to woodwork. He has also carried out the regular maintenance of the sawmill and workshop machine tools.

Martin has passed on his expertise to two generations of apprentices, having trained individuals like Curly, who is now joinery foreman. Curly fondly notes: “Martin’s impact on my career is huge. Having trained me up as an apprentice 38 years ago, and then handing me the foreman role, he’s been there throughout my entire career. He’s passed down a wealth of knowledge and skills that I’m grateful for, and I wish him all the best in his retirement.”

When Martin reflects on his legacy, he feels proud of the accomplishments of everyone he has mentored. Hearing from those Martin has worked with over the years reinforces how everyone sees him. Berthon shipwright Gabriel, who has been working with him, says: “It’s not only that he’s brilliant at what he does; it’s his personality that stands out the most. His positivity is infectious.”

With his retirement date set for 31st January, coinciding with Anita’s, Martin has exciting plans, spending quality time with his grandchildren in both Australia and England, balancing these precious moments with his woodworking hobby and leisurely New Forest walks. Despite all his achievements, Martin’s modesty shines through as he graciously expresses his gratitude to Berthon for providing him with five decades of fulfilling work. Celebrating the camaraderie of his colleagues, Martin looks forward to staying in touch even after retirement.

As Berthon bids farewell to Martin, his impact stands as a symbol of the enduring legacy of his skilled craftsmanship. His imprint on Berthon’s history is vast, as is his impact on the generations he has guided and taught.

Berthon director Dominic May commented: “Berthon is its people. Martin Young is a huge part of the last half century of Berthon. He learnt his skills from the previous 50 years of craftsmen, and he has passed those skills on to the young apprentices who will be the next 50 years. We wish him a very happy, long and well-deserved retirement.”


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