Maleny Tennis

Peter Stockings

PLAYER PROFILE #3:  Peter Stockings by Phil Crowe

All of us in the Maleny Tennis Club who know Peter appreciate his gentle sense of humour.  One day Peter hit a lusty forehand which landed half way up the back fence.  He calmly asked:  “Was that out?”  It took us a minute or so to regain our composure and for play to be resumed.

Peter grew up in a rural area in the south of England where life was basic but probably close to idyllic.  No mains power to the house, and the water supply came from a well.  They grew their own food, supplemented by produce from a nearby farm.  They walked to the shop three miles away for anything else.  Life was simple and Peter remembers this as a very happy time.

Together with his twin sisters (a pair of Stockings!  Peter’s joke, not mine) they walked to primary school at Ewelme Church School in Oxfordshire.  Built in 1437, it is the oldest primary school in England and it remains structurally unchanged to this day. The only difference is that the students now carry laptops instead of slates.

Peter then went to board at the King Alfred’s Grammar School at Wantage in Oxfordshire but this turned out to be a less idyllic experience.  On the last day of school he decorated, but did not damage, the house Master’s cherished Bristol car.  After receiving a caning, the Headmaster shook Peter’s hand and wished him a better life – which Peter can happily say he has had.

Although he grew up about as far away from the sea as you can get in England, Peter decided on a maritime career.  In 1962 he entered Officer training school at Warsash near Southampton.

The discipline was strict but fair, and the training first class.  A four-year apprenticeship followed with the venerable shipping company of Shaw Savill and Albion during which time Peter travelled to Australia and New Zealand, and many countries in between – as many as 20 ports on a single voyage.

His favourite ship was the Gothic, a stately old steam ship which in 1953-54 had brought the Royal couple to Australia following the Queen’s coronation.  This was the only time a reigning monarch has travelled on a merchant ship.  His other favourite was the Northern Star – a single-class passenger ship taking emigrants to the colonies and returning with holidaymakers to Europe.  It was on this voyage that Peter met his future wife, Jinty (an old Scottish given name, Peter explained), who was working on board as a nursing sister.

Prospects were bleak in the shipping industry in England in 1974 so Peter and Jinty moved to Australia where Peter took a position with the Australian National Line in Melbourne.  After serving as a Chief Officer for many years, he finally reached command.  His vessel was the River Boyne, the first steam ship in the world to have a fully automated coal-fired engine room. The ship is still working efficiently thirty years after being commissioned.

Peter now works as a shipping pilot with Australian Reef Pilots for vessels travelling between Torres Strait and ports in southern Queensland.  It is the longest one-man pilotage in compulsory pilot waters in the world.  On a slow vessel it can be a very tiring trip.

In all, Peter has piloted more than 1200 ships.  Some of the special ones that stand out for him over the past 21 years are – the QEII, Sydney to Darwin at a cracking speed sometimes averaging 30.5 knots; the Athena, the world’s largest privately-owned yacht with its three 60-metre masts; and the replica of Cook’s sailing ship Endeavour.  On the other hand, there are some he’d like
to forget, such as the old Chinese vessels carrying logs from New Guinea to Indonesia where conditions on board are primitive in the extreme.

Despite his easy going nature and his sense of fun, Peter carries a lot of responsibility in his work.  Should a vessel founder on the Great Barrier Reef the environmental consequences could be catastrophic.

Peter works for a full month before he gets a break, and finds tennis a great form of relaxation when he returns to
Maleny.  He started tennis young, and was a member of the Under 16 team in his home town.   He didn’t get to play much tennis in his days on the high seas – the decks kept moving – and he has only really got back to the game since settling in the Hinterland.

After nearly 50 years at sea, Peter is looking forward to retirement and being able to spend more time with the family – including their eight grandchildren – and playing more tennis “in the superb surrounds of the Maleny Tennis Club”.  Well said Peter.