by Dr. Iain
is the commonest name in the UK, but Peter Smith, the director of AA Condo
Real Estate and AA Insurance brokerage, is a most ‘uncommon’ man. He
has traveled extensively, been in a movie starring Tom Cruise and Gene
Hackman, allowed Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles to have a
picnic, introduced Chinese gooseberries to the UK and Jaguar XJ6’s to
Australia (UK got the better deal) and shown the Rolls Royce company where
they were going wrong making bootlids! Such people have to be interesting.
He was born in Oxford, in the UK, in the Churchill
Hospital, which apparently owes nothing to Sir Winston, but a lot to the
pre-fab huts used by the Americans in WW II.
He admitted that he was lazy in grammar school, doing
just enough to get pass, because unlike most of us, Peter actually knew
what he wanted to do. He wanted to go to sea. He looked at the Royal Navy,
but decided that there was a fair chance he could be the target of an
unfriendly nation’s bombing practice, so opted for the Merchant Navy
The Merchant Navy sent him to engineering college and
then he went to sea as a ship’s engineer. He spent nine years afloat, in
a job that took him all over the world. It was during this time that his
ship took the first Jaguar XJ6’s to Australia, where they then picked up
the first shipment of Chinese gooseberries to take to the UK. “Chinese
gooseberry” as a name did not catch on, so they were renamed as Kiwi
fruit (so now you know). Incidentally, the ship’s engineers carried out
so much ‘taste testing’ on the return voyage that he is still unable
to look one in the face!
However, even though he was earning good money, he had
also married, and in an attempt at meeting his domestic responsibilities
he returned to the shore. “I resigned. It was maybe the worst thing I
did in my life,” said Peter, after having had several minutes of
nostalgia, telling me about his days ‘before the mast’!
On returning to the land, he took a job as a hospital
engineer in a UK National Health Service run hospital. He did not last
long. Having come from running 250,000 ton supertankers for the
Kuwaiti’s, where money was no object, he was told that unfortunately
there was no budget this year to carry out much needed maintenance, and it
would have to wait till next year. Peter said it could not wait till next
year and walked out. “I was a hot-head,” said Peter, but he was shown
to be correct when the hospital had a major engineering failure before the
next year’s budget came through.
He had no job, but very quickly he was snapped up by
Eutectic, a company that made specialized welding rods and was heavily
involved in metallurgy. He was an engineer and loved factories and
engineering processes, and it was during this time that Rolls Royce were
having a problem with cracking alloy bootlids. Peter was the person to
show them that the items were made from the wrong grade aluminium. Heads
rolled in the RR purchasing department after that gaffe!
However, after three years with Eutectic, Peter felt
that it was time for him to chase the ‘big money’ and go into business
for himself. This he did, starting a welding and fabrication outfit and
also a plastic injection molding company that made knobs for Jacuzzi’s.
He did have some spare time, but rather than remain on
land, he took to the air, becoming a glider pilot, and also went
underwater, becoming a very competent SCUBA diver. This latter hobby was
to have a great influence on his life.
By the early 1990’s, another watershed was to occur.
He had been away from home so much that his marriage succumbed, though
Peter and his ex-wife have remained friends. He felt that it was time for
him to do something new and in 1991 he sold up his businesses, to go to
America to become involved in SCUBA training. Like many divers he wondered
if he could make it a job, and then heard of a small island that was
looking for an engineer slash dive instructor. The position was made for
him, and he was to spend the next three years on Little Cayman Island.
There he rose to become the resort manager, but as he
said, “I became burned out with Island Fever,” and he resigned.
However, that was not before he was woken one morning by a Royal Navy
warship requesting permission to use one of Little Cayman’s atolls for a
“royal picnic”. Charles and Camilla can thank Peter Smith for the sand
between their toes. It was also there that he met Tom Cruise and Gene
Hackman when he ‘starred’ as an extra in the movie ‘The Client’.
“I hid behind a beer at the back,” said Peter.
After Little Cayman, he returned to the UK where he
worked as an auxiliary nurse in a hospital. “I enjoyed it. For the first
time I felt I was actually doing something.”
But this was not to be his swan-song, as he began
traveling again and discovered SE Asia, “I’d been everywhere else!”
He enjoyed Pattaya so much, he stayed, setting up a real estate company
and is now happily married to Wan, and enjoying being a father to their
little daughter. He is also the President of the English speaking Lion’s
Club, again enjoying ‘doing’ things for other people.
Peter Smith is certainly here, but is still saying, as
he has done for many years, “I want to retire!” He also said in the
next breath, “But I’m too busy right now to think how I can do it!”
Peter is certainly a man who has lived life to the full, and still is.
AA Condo and AA Insurance can breathe easy for many
years yet, I am sure!