Last year one of the RMS St Helena’s most familiar faces jumped ship and switched from purser to Assistant Customer Service Manager at the island’s iconic Post Office building. This week we sit down with Alan Bennett to chat postal service and trips to Tristan da Cunha.
We all have fond memories of trips on the RMS St Helena. Whether it’s the food, the great company or just having those three or five days to stop and relax. Passengers come to recognise those RMS faces. And some crew stick with us more than others, not least the pursers whose are the first faces we see the moment we step on board. The good news is that Alan can still be found customer-facing, here he talks about his new role…
What made you decide to work at the Post Office?
Well, I already had some experience within the postal field before joining the Royal Mail Ship, as a Senior Clerk in the Post Office. However, today it’s a one stop shop as we are now the Customer Service Centre within the Post Office building.
What actually attracted me to this post was, although I already had experience in the postal service, I had a chance to learn other aspects of government which I have found very interesting. I am the Deputy Register of births, deaths and, not quite yet, but one day, marriages. We come under the umbrella of receiving all the general revenue for finance, therefore all the accounts come in as well. It’s a little bit of each, which I find really interesting.
Are there any skills you brought from your years with the RMS St Helena into your new role?
Definitely. A lot of people don’t realise when they are on board that the pursers actually look after the accounts and admin of the ship, as quite a few know us just for the entertainment.
Also I think that working away from St Helena I have developed more of a cosmopolitan attitude, which I think I have brought into this job, enabling me to inject a different perspective into the role.
Do you still feel you work with the RMS, as you are still in the postal service?
The funny thing is, I don’t, as I see myself as having stepped away from that role. But then again we do deal with the RMS on a daily basis, so I do feel like I am still connected. Life revolves around the RMS for so many here.
What do you miss most about the RMS St Helena?
I do miss travelling, although we were only travelling to Ascension and Cape Town, it was getting away from the island and getting out there, so that is something I miss.
Do you have any plans to travel on board before she goes offline?
I don’t. If I were honest I am really looking forward to the airport. The RMS was a good experience for me for thirteen years, but I’d like to make the most of my holiday by only travelling for a few hours as opposed to a few days. I’m sure many on St Helena will agree.
What was your fondest memory of life on board?
There are so many fun memories. When you’re working on a ship you always take the rough with the smooth (pun intended), but I think my fondest times were the Tristan trips, which I loved. This was because of the kinds of people on board as they were so ‘geared up’ for their trip and had such high expectations, which we had to live up to, so the preparations for that trip were quite gruelling. But you could see that these people appreciated what we did for them, and how much work we put into it. Tristan is so beautiful and I always enjoyed going there.