Tom Peebles passed away on April 3rd 2017
Brought up in the fishing port of Arbroath and with a family seafaring background, Tom joined the merchant navy as a cadet on leaving school, going on to qualify as a marine engineer. However; after falling in love with a local lass, and with marriage on the horizon, the attraction of life on the ocean wave ebbed somewhat and he ‘jumped ship’ at the chance to join RNLI Scotland as District Engineer, responsible for all mechanical engineering aspects of commissioning, servicing and repairing the Northern fleet. He was initially based in Helensburgh, where his thoughts turned to building his own pleasure boat: having decided to run on steam power, he chose a 21ft version of the Selway Fisher ‘Indian Runner’ design.
The RNLI then decided to move their centre of operations from the Clyde to Perth, so Tom had the task of moving home, wife Lynne and daughter Elaine, and part-built boat the 70 miles inland. The name ‘Talisker’ was chosen as Tom jokingly claimed that this amber nectar helped him solve many of the problems that always arise during construction of a boat.
Talisker was completed in 1998 and was initially moored on Loch Earn, with trips to Loch Awe to join the other steam boats in Scotland for the rallies there. Later, Tom was largely responsible for obtaining permission for SBA boats to use Loch Katrine, Glasgow’s water supply, alongside the SS Sir Walter Scot. Loch Katrine is now well established as the Scottish Steamboat base, and from Easter to October is usually used twice a week by the regular fleet.
Tom also enjoyed trips to other lochs in Scotland, Windermere Week, and the Scottish canals. On the latter he was less keen, describing the experience as ‘steaming along muddy ditches’! He was a regular attendee at the Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy where he would meet up with lifeboat friends who enjoyed making waves around Talisker with their twin diesel powered craft, much to Tom’s ‘amusement’. Along with Gudmund and Silkie, he also took Talisker over to Norway to a veteran ship festival in Stavanger (where the SBA register photo of Talisker below the bow of the QE2 was taken).
Tom was a true steam boat enthusiast who had read up and learned virtually everything there was to know about them. He was most generous in sharing this knowledge with others who asked his advice, giving not just the answer but the reasoning behind it. He was the model to copy in the way he managed his steam plant and handled Talisker. A very practical man, Tom frequently added new equipment to Talisker which he manufactured in his very well equipped workshop, just for the fun of it.
Apart from his family, Tom had two other main interests: radio controlled aeromodelling and music making. At the former, he excelled in both building and flying, becoming Scottish ‘Scale’ champion. This building skill and precision is reflected in Talisker, and he even managed to further combine these interests, on occasion, by flying a model seaplane from her. As a musician, he played flugelhorn and cornet with the Arbroath Brass Band, the ‘moothie’ in the Merchant Navy, and he entertained us all on many occasions with his melodeon and accordion. He had recently taken up the banjo, the delights of which we had yet to enjoy!
Tom was a quiet, unassuming man with a lovely sense of humour, and a good friend to know and have. He will be missed very much, not only by his family, to whom we offer our condolences, but by steam boaters and aeromodellers everywhere. Not so much perhaps, as Tom would say, by accordion players!
Tom Peebles died age 69 after a bravely fought battle with cancer on 3rd April 2017. He is survived by Lynne and Elaine.
Contributed by Roger Martin, Gudmund Jorgensson and the Peebles Family.