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Anthony Harvey, 1943–2022

Anthony Harvey, Honorary Secretary of the Maritime Foundation, has died at the age of 79, after a courageous and cheerful fight with cancer.

Relentlessly energetic, always convivial and amiable, he ran the Foundation right up to the last. Decades of dedicated labours yielded rich harvest: with the Foundation campaigning unstintingly to keep the British maritime flag flying, organising high-level conferences under the banner of ‘Britain and the Sea’, and launching the annual Maritime Foundation Maritime Media Awards – the only one of its kind.

David Anthony Pearce Harvey – known to many as Tony – was born in Beckenham, Kent, on the 12th of April 1943, the son of a senior engineer in the Molins company which specialised in cigarette rolling and packaging. Educated at Harrow, and trained as an accountant, he enjoyed an early career in shipbroking before joining British Shipbuilders (BS).

In 1977 he was the youngest director to be appointed to the board of British Shipbuilders under its chairman Admiral Sir Anthony Griffin. BS was the vehicle for nationalising 27 major British shipbuilding and marine engineering companies; six ship repair companies and a further shipyard were acquired by the corporation.

At its peak BS comprised 32 shipyards, six marine engine works and six general engineering plants, almost all of Britain’s merchant and naval shipbuilding, and its large diesel engine factories. Only Harland & Wolff in Northern Ireland was deemed to be a special case and remained out of its control.

Over the next decade, Anthony was appalled as BS set about reducing overcapacity by closing shipyards, and beginning the process of rationalising and privatising its remaining assets. His experience of this hollowing out of what had once been a world-leading industry made him determined to do all he could to turn the tide of indifference, as he saw it, to Britain’s proud history as a maritime nation.

On the closure of BS, he became the financial director of a fish farm company at Kishorn in the Scottish Highlands, going on to pioneer a new system of rope-grown mussels. When that venture ran its course, his maritime campaigning career began.

In 1993, he became Secretary of the UK Navy League, with a brief to modernise the organisation and develop an educational and research unit to inquire into Britain’s maritime interests, under the banner of the British Maritime Charitable Foundation. Over time, this grew into the Maritime Foundation.

When the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service was scrapped in 1994, Anthony, with the help of Sir Robin Gillett, set up the Maritime Volunteer Service, saving some 54 out of nearly 100 harbour launches for the charity. Three years later the MVS was formally recognised by the Royal Navy, and it continues to provide opportunities for youngsters to experience life at sea and personal skills linked to responsibility and achievement.

Later that year, he established the Melik Society, with the aim of preserving Lord Kitchener’s river gunboat Melik and the Bordein, the oldest surviving paddle steamer on the Nile, advancing awareness of Anglo-Sudanese history in the period 1883-1889.

In 1995, under the aegis of the British Maritime Charitable Foundation, the Desmond Wettern Award for maritime journalism was inaugurated in memory of the Daily Telegraph’s much-admired naval correspondent, Desmond Wettern, the last of the specialist naval correspondents in Fleet Street. The aim was to encourage journalists who bring the importance of the sea and seafaring before the public.

Under his leadership the single award grew to many, covering books, films and television, as well as digital media leading to the creation of the Foundation’s annual Maritime Media Awards honouring all across the media who have done the most to highlight the importance of the sea to Britain. The Foundation also publishes Maritime, an annual review of issues such as piracy, the environment, shipping developments and marine leisure activities.

He also drove the creation of the Lost At Sea Remembrance Book, held at the church of All Hallows by the Tower, in which are recorded the names of those who have lost their lives at sea, and have no known grave. Entry is open to all.

Anthony settled with his wife Vanessa in the Wye Valley, where they ran a sheep farm and bred the rare Eriskay pony – all in an atmosphere of abounding good will. He is survived by his wife Vanessa, their daughter, Charlotte, and two sons, Jamie and David.