Towing Down the Thames
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Robert has always had a passion for the sail driven ship. An amateur marine historian, sailor and boat builder, he followed an engineering career, whilst at the same time painting paintings of ships and the sea. Small boat sailing, three years in the Naval Reserve and crewing on the barquentine, NEW ENDEAVOUR, in his early life has given him a close understanding of ships, the, wind and wave. His advice has been sought by museums and institutions involved in sailing ship restoration. He was one of the original-founding members of the Australian Sail Training Association. He is also a member of the Sydney Heritage Fleet (formal Sydney Maritime Museum), where his engineering skills also allowed him to contribute to the restoration of the steam tug WARATAH.
To assist in his research into the last commercial sailing ships, Robert became a member of the Australian Cape Horners Association (AICH) and was secretary for many years. This experience brought him into contact with the last living men and women from around the world, who had rounded Cape Horn in a commercial sailing ship. As a result he has written a book titled Windjammers - The Final Story, a collection of stories and anecdotes from contact and interviews with these last living windjammer sailors. It is illustrated with over 40 of his paintings.
In 1995 Robert was awarded the prestigious St. Malo Medal by the International Association of Cape Horners in France for his contribution in recording and illustrating the existence of the commercial sailing ship in its final years. In 1996 he founded the Australian Society of Marine Artists and in 1999 he was commissioned by the Aland Post in Finland to paint a picture for a stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the last ever voyage by commercial sailing ships, carrying a cargo of grain from Australia around Cape Horn to the UK. It was subsequently voted the best stamp of the year. In 2011 he was awaded the Order of Australia for his services to the arts and documenting the final years of the commercial sailing ships.