Let us celebrate the life of Roger
Rogers Video can be downloaded here ROGER
Roger was a proud Yorkshire man, born in Hull on the 7th of April 1937. He was born into a family of seafarers, the middle son of Mabel and John Alfred White. Roger always admired his elder brother John, and shared his love of planes, trains and automobiles. His younger brother Chris was a close friend as well as a brother, and throughout their lives they would enjoy many a pint and joke together. They all grew up during the Second World War and while this was a time of hardship for so many, for a young child like Roger it was a time of great excitement. Their family moved to Leeds and then to Derby where Roger went to school. He was forever at odds with his English literature and French teachers but developed a love for metalwork, woodwork, and mechanical drawing. At 12 Roger went to stay with an Aunt in a picturesque village in Yorkshire Moors. Here he developed a love for cricket, gardening and singing. The latter led him to briefly be the 2nd best boy soprano in Britain and the former two loves he continued to cultivate throughout his life.
Roger left school at 15 and started an apprenticeship as a fitter at International Combustion, one of the world’s largest producers of steam generation equipment. During this time, he also attended night school and often did grocery deliveries from his parents shop to customers around the neighbourhood. At the age of 21 his brother John suggested he apply for a junior engineering job with the China Navigation Company and before long he was off on a one-way ticket around the world via Zurich, Athens, Cairo, Karachi, Bangkok and 6 other stops until he finally made it to Hong Kong. Roger fondly recalled the smell of the ‘Far East’, being fitted for his new crisp uniforms and getting ready to enter his ‘alternative to heaven’ – a ship’s engine room. The feeling of his first ‘Stand By’ call, when the awe-inspiring engines whirred, shook and took them cruising out of port, remained just exhilarating for each of the subsequent 32 vessels he worked on. That first voyage took him through the Pacific and on to Australia, a region of the world that would forever be close to his heart.
In 1961 Roger married Jennifer Greaves who he had gone to primary school with and who’s families were close. He spent some time back in the UK completing his ‘ticket’ (the name given to the qualification needed to work as a Chief Engineer). With the ink on his certificate still wet, Jen and Roger resettled in Sydney. They found a place to stay, in Cremorne Point, just opposite the Sydney Opera House, allowing Roger to catch a ferry from Circular Quay and take a short walk under the bridge to where his vessels would be berthed. Roger’s daughter, Michele, and son, Michael, were both born in Sydney and soon they moved to a larger house in French’s Forest. During this time Roger opted to take shorter voyages that allowed him to regularly see his family, tend to his roses and use his amazing DIY skills to improve the house.
Roger had so many stories from his time at sea, whether it was transporting pilgrims to the Haj, dodging typhoons, rescuing Vietnamese refugees, dealing with pirates and smuggled goods, or the mutiny of some of his colleagues. But if you asked him about his highlights you would likely be stuck in an hour-long ramble about the malfunction of engine room parts and the solutions they found to work around these challenges! He was an engineer to his core. In 1979 Roger and family moved back to Derby. Roger worked for a brief period on vessels serving gas platforms in the Persian Gulf. This work was not his favourite but afterwards Swire, his employer, gave him a rather unique set of ‘instructions’ – he was to be the Chief Engineer on an exploratory vessel to Antarctica. It was on this vessel, amid dramatic icebergs, seals and penguins, that he also met Mary Hall who he would later marry.
Roger and Mary settled in a small village in Cornwall where Roger’s third child Sian was born. At 54 Roger closed the door on his last engine room and after spending some time back in the UK with his family he realised that the cold and the wet were not ideal for enjoying retirement! Australia was again calling and in 1992 the family moved to Kalamunda, just outside Perth. Three years later Roger became an Australian citizen.
Roger filled his retirement with as much action as his working life. He played golf, worked at local aircraft museums repairing wartime engines, took up even more carpentry and gardening, and spent time with his four golden retrievers. Roger was very involved with Rotary International and through this he did a lot of fundraising, volunteering and event organising – often leaving lasting legacies within the communities where he lived. In 2008, Roger and Mary moved to the Sunshine Coast.
With all his children grown up, and the arrival of 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, Roger seized his twilight years to explore new regions of the world and enjoy new experiences. He continued to live life to the full right up to the end. Roger slipped away on the 24th March surrounded by his family (virtually and in person) who he always considered to be everything that matters in life. No matter where in the world he was, Roger loved a good Shiraz, a mature cheddar, fresh seafood, rich desserts, and views over well-manicured gardens, rolling hills or the ocean. Whenever you are enjoying any of these things – think of him.