Tributes to Skipper John, who faced pirates and broke fishing records

John Ketteringham is retiring after being a Lowestoft skipper for 50 years.

Touching tributes have been paid to Lowestoft Skipper John Ketteringham. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

He spent 50 years breaking numerous records and battling all weathers at sea as he was named a port’s top skipper.

Now touching tributes have been paid to a long-serving fisherman from Lowestoft who has been hailed as a "town hero" following his death.

Family and former colleagues of John Ketteringham - known to his friends as JK - have honoured a "great man" who will be sadly missed.

Married for more than 50 years to his beloved Pat, Mr Ketteringham, 71, passed away on January 16.

John Ketteringham is retiring after being a Lowestoft skipper for 50 years.

Touching tributes have been paid to Skipper John Ketteringham. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Mr Ketteringham, who grew up in north Norfolk attending East Runton and Cromer High School, went to sea at the age of 15.

He began his career as a deckhand in Lowestoft and quickly progressed up the ranks to second mate and then captain.

As a qualified skipper by the time he was 20 - although he could not legally take control of a ship for another year - Mr Ketteringham was the youngest skipper fishing out of Lowestoft at the time.

Most Read

His first job as a skipper was on board the trawler The Barhama, and he went on to skipper numerous familiar members of the Lowestoft fishing fleet - including St Lucia, St Matthew, St Mark, St Rose, St Thomas, St Patrick and St Michael.

Lowestoft skipper John Ketteringham has retired after 50 years at sea.
Mr Ketteringham is pictured

Lowestoft skipper John Ketteringham is pictured in the foreground with his crew on board Lowestoft trawler the St Michael during the 1970s. Picture: The Ketteringham family - Credit: The Ketteringham family

His skills at sea saw him honoured as Lowestoft’s top skipper for six consecutive years - an award that was presented to the skipper who had landed the most fish in that year - which was even more remarkable as it came during a period when there were up to 120 boats working out of the port.

Skipper John Ketteringham.

Skipper John Ketteringham. Picture: The Ketteringham family - Credit: The Ketteringham family

Mr Ketteringham was also the first skipper out of Lowestoft to catch 50 tonnes of herring in three minutes, with the amazing catch landed on board the trawler St Patrick during the 1980s.

Lowestoft skipper John Ketteringham has retired after 50 years at sea.Mr Ketteringham (third from

Lowestoft skipper John Ketteringham (third from left) and his crew stand jubilant on Lowestoft trawler the St Patrick after catching 50 tonnes of herring in three minutes. Picture: The Ketteringham family - Credit: The Ketteringham family

Having married Pat in 1970, they set up home in Whitton Green, Lowestoft and would have three children - Lisa, Karen and Dale - with nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren following.

His daughter Karen said: "We think it is very important for the town to celebrate and salute one of Lowestoft's youngest and top skippers.

"He gave 50 years to a career at sea that was extremely dangerous.

Skipper John Ketteringham spent 50 years at sea.

Skipper John Ketteringham spent 50 years at sea. Picture: The Ketteringham family - Credit: The Ketteringham family

"He was indeed a hero of the town having had an amazing career at sea as a top skipper breaking numerous port records on his way.

Another large haul captured by Skipper John Ketteringham and his crew.

Another large haul captured by Skipper John Ketteringham and his crew. Picture: The Ketteringham family - Credit: The Ketteringham family

"Dad's philosophy in life was to work hard, play hard and be kind, putting his wife Pat first and family second."

After joining the Merchant Navy when he was 53, his career continued with 11 years sailing out of Lowestoft on the Mary Ann guard ship and other survey ships looking for oil off the African coast.

This work would take him away from home for months at a time, to pirate-infested waters.

Mr Ketteringham and his crew were left shaken, but unharmed, during one trip on the west side of Africa after 60 pirates invaded their ship with guns and stole money and equipment.

After giving up work just before he was 65 due to ill health, he spent the years being loved and cared for by his wife Pat at their home in Lowestoft.

He also attended Pathways Care Farm in Lowestoft and worked "extremely hard" on the land, while he loved taking his boat Archie out onto the lake at Blundeston.

John Ketteringham on his boat Archie.

John Ketteringham on his boat Archie. Picture: The Ketteringham family - Credit: The Ketteringham family

Having kept active and well until 24 months ago, Mr Ketteringham's illness deteriorated and he needed specialist acute care from the Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust and recently the Blyford residential care home in Lowestoft.

Granddaughter Grace Winram thanked the staff on the Laurel Ward at Carlton Court for delivering "incredible person centred care" towards her "amazing grandad".

Daughter Karen added: "Our gratitude goes to the wonderful staffing team and management at Blyford residential home for their compassion, respect and dignity shown to dad.

"Our thanks also goes to the amazing support of East Coast Funeral, Julie Warren at Nsft and Tim Jenkins from the Lowestoft Fishermen's Mission." 

With the family "truly grateful" for all the care John had received, they added: "Fisherman John will always live on.

"Our incredible, humble, gentlemen Skipper John Ketteringham was well respected within the town - a skilled man who made good and we all had the pleasure to love and know him."

Lowestoft skipper John Ketteringham has retired after 50 years at sea.Lowestoft trawler the St Pat

Lowestoft skipper John Ketteringham was captain of Lowestoft trawler the St Patrick. Picture: The Ketteringham family - Credit: The Ketteringham family

Tributes such as "a gentleman to sail with" and "an absolute top skipper" dominate alongside "RIP Skipper", as friends and the community expressed sorrow on Facebook.

Skipper John Ketteringham captained the former beam trawler LT62 St Martin.

Skipper John Ketteringham captained the former beam trawler LT62 St Martin. Picture: The Ketteringham family - Credit: The Ketteringham family 

Skipper John Ketteringham will be having his final trip at 12.20-12.30pm on February 1 along Hamilton Road, on the near side of the Lowestoft fishing market, ahead of a funeral service - with numbers limited due to Covid - at St Peter's Church, Gunton at 1pm followed by a private burial at Gunton Woodland Park.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter