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Harbouring history: commemorative plaque reinstalled

Monday, 16 October 2023

A piece of the Isle of Man's maritime history has found its way back home, as a commemorative plaque is reinstalled at the Sea Terminal in Douglas. It's the result of an inquiry by the Corlett family, descendants of the Harbours Engineer during the Sea Terminal's inauguration. 

The plaque, installed in 1965 and unveiled by Princess Margaret, memorialises the contributions of the Harbours Board at the time, including Mr. A.E. Corlett (Albert Edgar). His son, Robin, now lives in Cheshire but regularly visits the island with his family.Princess Margaret meeting members of the harbour board during the opening of the sea terminal on the Isle of Man in 1965

Amidst various renovations, the plaque at the Sea Terminal was removed and stored for safekeeping. Triggered by familial memories and a desire to preserve history, Robin’s son-in-law, Jon, recently inquired by email about the plaque's whereabouts, saying:

 Mr A.E Corlett, standing at a table with Deemster Kneale and Deemster Macpherson looking at a model of the sea terminal on the Isle of Man.

Robin Corlett standing next to the plaque at the sea terminal on the Isle of Man commemorating the opening of the sea terminal in 1965 by Princess Margaret.

‘My wife and her family have always been very proud of the contribution of her late grandfather and whenever visiting would point out the plaque bearing his name.’

The inquiry initiated a search and the plaque was soon located and then reinstalled in prominent position in the entrance to the Departure lounge. Mr Corlett, who fondly remembers visits to his father's office in the Crow’s Nest, recently visited the Island to see it back on display. He said:

‘It's a public acknowledgment of the work that my father did. I hope my children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews will all come over to the Island and see the plaque which commemorates how their ancestor was a part of history.’

During the visit, Harbours Officer Richard Townend presented Mr Corlett with a Harbours crest pin badge, which bears the same mark as the commemorative plaque. He said:

‘It’s wonderful to mark the reinstallation of the plaque. I extend my gratitude to the Corlett family - their commitment has made this reunion possible. It's heartening to celebrate this piece of our shared history, symbolising the resilience and continuity of the Isle of Man's maritime legacy.’

Born in Douglas in 1911, Albert Edgar Corlett’s career began when he gained an engineering degree from Liverpool University. Following graduation, and due to scarce job opportunities, he returned to the Island to work for the Harbour Board, initiating a path that would see him tackle coastal erosion projects in Essex and rise to the position of Chief Engineer in Preston.

During World War II, he served in the Royal Marine Engineers where his commando unit played a crucial role in clearing debris in Rotterdam, ensuring that the ports could be used by the Allies for supplying the invasion.

In 1959, he returned to the Island and assumed the role of Harbour Engineer, a post he held until his retirement in 1971.

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