Des Newton, who has died after a long illness aged 67, was one of the world’s leading ship bottlers and I, Stephen Guy, admired him for his astonishing dexterity and well as his cheerful personality.
Des made ship models with amazing skill and precision and it was a delight watching his hands daintily getting things to work. He could also talk at great length about the history of ship bottling, dealing with the most difficult questions effortlessly. I asked him how seafarers kept the bottle steady as sailing ships pitched and tossed on rough seas. He immediately produced an ancient photograph illustrating the answer – they rested the bottle on a stick.
Des, who also made ship models for the Royal family, was one of the best-known personalities at the Merseyside Maritime Museum where he had a ship bottling and model workshop for 20 years.
He was born in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, the son of a seafarer. After his apprenticeship, Des became a welder working on submarines in the Vickers shipyard. He later became a professional entertainer and musician learning his trade on the nightclub circuit.
This was time well spent because anyone seeing Des demonstrating his ship bottling skills knew they were in the presence of a great entertainer. He always jokingly referred to himself as a Glass Receptacle Miniature Artefact Inserter.
Des - who lived in Bootle, Liverpool - appeared on television several times, most notably on Blue Peter and the panel game What’s My Line?
He supported Merseyside Maritime Museum at many exhibitions and events and this led to him demonstrating his skills at maritime festivals around the country. Even after retirement in 2004, Des was still in demand demonstrating his knowledge and skills on cruise ships as well as back at the Maritime Museum where he held his last workshop in September 2008.
Des was passionate about lifeboats and was a former crew member of the Barrow lifeboat and a RNLI life governor. He raised thousands of pounds towards the purchase of a lifeboat through running the annual Southport Model Lifeboat Rally.
Des made a model of the Royal Yacht and presented it to the Queen when she visited Merseyside on board the Britannia in 1993.