My family comes from the Northwest of England. My father had a strong interest in all forms of transport and photography, which he passed on to me. A family anecdote is that I grabbed the railings above a railway cutting in Fallowfield, Manchester (where my grandmother lived) when in my pram, and would not let go until I had seen a train. I remember being taken to see the Queen Mary as a small child and travelling on trams, buses, trolley buses, ships, excursion boats and of course trains. We often went on the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company boats from Liverpool to Llandudno or the Isle of Man.
I started collecting transport postcards when I was about 5 years old.
During school holidays I often stayed with my grandparents who lived near Blackpool, and spent many hours travelling on the trams. In other years I worked on the Talyllyn railway as a volunteer, and travelled on an Interrail pass to Germany and Austria with a group of friends.
I studied mechanical engineering at Salford University, graduating in 1976. While there, I travelled on and photographed ‘SELNEC’ buses, using the opportunity to visit many interesting pubs in the Greater Manchester area. My first job after university was in the drawing office of the engineering company Renold Chains. The company was located near Manchester Airport, so this allowed me to familiarize myself with many different aircraft as they flew low to land. One highlight was seeing a Vulcan bomber.
This was in the early days of computer aided design (“CAD”). I familiarized myself with the system we had at Renold’s and became the “office expert”. In turn this led to developing generally my expertise with computers.
I have always been a keen photographer, my interests encompassing ships, railways, buses, trams, piers, lighthouses, funiculars, cars, aircraft and tanks. My first “real” camera was a Praktika SLR, and subsequently I moved on to Minolta SLRs and finally to Minolta/Sony dSLRs.
I married my wife, Margaret, in 1978, and for annual holidays over the next few years, we travelled mainly to Northern Europe (to see and travel on paddle steamers, other excursion boats, railways and trams) staying at Lucerne, Interlaken, Davos and on Lake Geneva, plus Lake Constance, Gmunden and Zell-am-See in Austria, Hamburg and Bad Sachsa (in the Harz Mountains) in Germany and Copenhagen, Ödense and Sorø in Denmark. I took hundreds of photos during each of these trips.
In 1992 my wife and I were lucky enough to win a day trip to Marrakesh from Heathrow on Concorde. We spent the evening before the flight in the 5-star Hilton hotel, and had a champagne breakfast on the plane on the following day. We were taken on a tour of Marrakesh in horse-drawn carriages, followed by lunch in a desert castle, entertained by local musicians. Concorde flew supersonic to and from Morocco, and we were invited to visit the cockpit – in all, a truly wonderful and memorable trip.
Encouraged by my parents (who said they would look after our young son) my wife and I went on our first cruise in 1994 – a 2-night, non-landing cruise from Southampton on QE2. Many of the guests were quite rowdy on the first night –throwing each other in the swimming pool. The ship was noticeably quiet on the following day.
In later years we travelled twice more on QE2 – one of these being a short trip in Queen’s Grill class. We have also cruised on Queen Victoria.
We did a similar short trip on Canberra the following year. Canberra was reaching the end of her life, and the lack of maintenance was apparent in the rusty paintwork in places. But we were impressed favourably with the childcare facilities on the ship, and that was what led us to booking our first “real” cruise on P&O’s Oriana – the ship had an excellent creche (‘Peter Pan’s’), which would allow my wife to have a proper holiday. In the event our son enjoyed it so much we had to drag him out for meals.
After that we went on many cruises with P&O, travelling on Aurora, Arcadia, Oceana, and more recently Britannia and Iona.
We began taking cruises with other cruise companies when our son was old enough not to need a creche. These included Royal Caribbean (Splendour of the Seas, Brilliance, Independence, and Oasis). The last of these ships involved a positioning cruise from Rotterdam to Hamburg, where she was to undergo maintenance because nowhere in the USA (where she was based) could accommodate her. An amazing ship with amazing facilities, we considered our experience to be more like being on a floating town than a sea-going vessel.
We have also cruised with Celebrity (Eclipse, Constellation and Silhouette), Princess (from LA down the west coast of Mexico and from Miami down the East), Fred Olsen, CMV and Costa – in 2019 we went on the maiden voyage of Costa Venezia from Trieste to Dubrovnik and return, before the ship left Italy to be based in China. All the direction/information postings on the ship were in Chinese and English only – OK for us, but I imagine rather baffling to most of the Italian passengers who were in the majority on the ship.
I travelled on Costa Europa from Genoa with a friend who was most unimpressed with the lack of compliance with no-smoking notices. On one morning I requested kippers for breakfast, and was served with a huge mound of capers. We also went on Funchal (very uncomfortable beds) and on Dalmatia (from Venice down the Dalmation coast – terrible food! The first thing we did on returning to Venice was to have a good meal in a restaurant.)
We have been on 4 river cruises in recent years – almost the whole length of the Danube from Passau to Bucharest (cruises on Emerald Star and Emerald Sky), one trip down the Rhone from Lyon to Marseille on Emerald Liberté, plus one trip down the Rhine from Dusseldorf to Basel on Fred Olsen’s Brabant. In my opinion, the advantage of river cruises is that you can get off directly where the boat moors, and the mooring is usually in the centre of a city or town.
In 2009, Miles Cowsill of Ferry Publications asked if I would be interested in writing a book about ‘Boat trips in Devon and Cornwall’ detailing all the ferries and excursion boats operating in those counties. I took the opportunity to visit the area, and the book was published in 2010.
I began publishing and selling postcards of ships, based on my photographs and my extensive postcard and book collection, around 1989. This led to the development of my simplonpc website a few years later, both to publicise my wares and to document my interest in, and extensive knowledge of, ships, ferries and excursion boats. Subsequently I expanded the website to cover most of my other enthusiasms and I set up a number of Facebook groups. I stopped publishing and selling postcards many years ago.
I was also ‘webmaster’ for the Ocean Liner Society www.ocean-liner-society.com for many years until recently.
The websites and book have resulted in many fruitful contacts with like-minded transport photographers and postcard collectors. I have exchanged postcards photographs and information with many people across the globe and in the UK. And developed many lasting friendships, for which I am grateful.
I have not added anything to my website for more than 5 years. This is mainly because I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in February 2020, but also because of the restrictions on travel resulting from the Covid pandemic.