18 February 2013
It was with a great sense of loss and deep regret that we learned of the death on 30 January of Mike Stammers, Keeper Emeritus of Merseyside Maritime Museum. This was a title Mike held from his retirement in August 2003, after almost twenty years of devoted and inspired service as the Keeper of the Maritime Museum, an establishment which he led with grace and a fine sense of what truly mattered in getting to grips with the history of ships and seafaring and in bringing the subject alive and making it accessible, and relevant, for an increasingly landlubberly audience. Not least, from the viewpoint of NHS-UK in particular, was the inspired leadership Mike showed in setting the standard for the care of the preserved ship collection at MMM, which was the absolute acme of sound curatorial principles and in an ideal world would have become adopted as the standard practice for the care of vessels in museum hands. Alas, to Mike's great regret, we do not live in such a paradise and so today our endeavour continues to see his excellent scheme become embedded across the preserved fleet.
In the world of maritime heritage, Mike was perhaps our most accomplished modern practitioner, with outstanding curatorial, interpretation and collections management skills, who was also a fine scholar, widely familiar with the printed and manuscript sources for his subject both in this country and abroad and who, in spite of a fiendishly busy professional life as a museum leader, possessed a seemingly indefatigable ability to get the results of his scholarly research into print and out to his many readers. Mike wore his learning very lightly and with an endearing modesty, but his record of publications for someone in his position is simply awesome, and includes besides numerous short articles and essays on local craft, docks, harbours, dockside buildings and other maritime structures and on local seafaring folklore, definitive works of international scholarship in maritime history and nautical archaeology which will unquestionably stand the test of time.
Besides all that, to anyone who met Mike and who had anything to do with him, either personally or professionally and consulted him on any matters associated with maritime heritage, nautical archaeology, ship preservation, or oral and archival sources for the writing of maritime history, or on the history of ports and harbours, or on any one of the innumerable other aspects of our calling with which he was extraordinarily well-informed, what always and immediately struck one, in addition to his characteristic good humour, was the great generosity of spirit which he displayed, and total willingness to share his knowledge. That, and an innate decency, sense of dignity and great kindness of spirit in dealing with people is what most of us will recall when we think of Mike Stammers at this time. The wonderful, and wonderfully diverse turn-out for his funeral on 7 February in a packed Sefton Parish Church was a truly eloquent testimony to the great respect and warm affection in which Mike was held by all who knew him.
With thanks to Campbell McMurray, ex-National Historic Ships Advisory Committee member