Geoff Norman Remembers…
July 6, 2017 | News | By Lindsey Hart
Geoff is now Chairman of NP Holdings but back in the 1950’s his career started when his father sent him to the Brixton School of Building.
BRIXTON, BUILDING AND BOATS
My Dad thought I should learn about the building industry so in 1959 he sent me to the Brixton School of Building. It was rather seedy part of London at the time and I spent three years there learning about construction. When I returned I worked for the family business but we soon learnt an important commercial lesson. We either had to be a building contractor or a builders’ merchant as we couldn’t expect the businesses we were in contracting competition with to buy their materials from us. There was a real conflict of interests so we closed down the building side of the business to concentrate on being a merchant.
During this period my father became involved in the shipping business. BCIS, the British Channel Island Shipping company, operated the only regular freight service alongside British Rail which was primarily a passenger service. My father decided to set up a new business, which evolved into Commodore, which carried regular shipments to the islands from various ports including the Thames area, Shoreham and Portsmouth.
In those days there was no ‘roll on roll off’ but ‘lift on lift off’. He became involved in what we called the cauliflower run importing thousands of tons of the vegetable every season on seven chartered vessels from Roscoff to Plymouth and Portsmouth. Commodore at that time provided a service to Alderney and Sark and used old torpedo recovery vessels for cargo and Fairmile cruisers for passengers. They were not suitable for the cauliflower run so we chartered in ships that ironically we would have been trying to sink a few years earlier as they were mostly German owned.