Peter died in his kitchen from a heart attack at the age of 76. It was just before Christmas.
Stella and I first met him at the Boat Show some years ago, he was demonstrating how he restored and built classic Thames boats.
Shortly afterwards we bought a little slipper launch from him – Minivet. A few year later I purchased a semi-derelict motor cruiser – Lady Lucy which Peter re-built in his Hurley yard. Lady Lucy lies in the Mill Pond at Hurley today.
Over the past few years I have got to know the Freebody family, his wife Elizabeth and the children. I have seen the way Peter has run his business and have had the usual arguments that all who dealt with him have had.
Once I found him arguing with Michael Parkinson in his yard- rarely have I seen such passion or obduracy. Those words, together with “fun” are the words that I associate with Peter. He was afraid of nothing and had prodigious energy which expressed itself in boundless enthusiasm. I’m sure no one won that argument- he and Parky were a match.
He was quite simply the best boatbuilder on the Thames. There is not a craftsman building or restoring boats who does not know him, most were taught by him.
People like Peter are very rare. He was not conventionally kind – he was ruthless, shameless in pursuit of what he wanted. But to him, what he wanted was what was right – perfection. In his unerring sense of what should be, he could be frustrating beyond measure.
But when you needed his help, he was always ready to give it and his generosity and nobleness of spirit have been passed on in his legacy, his wonderful family, his most excellent workforce and his magnificent fleet of boats.
Thanks Peter for making our lives that much better these past ten years.