Noel Edward Challenger FICS
25.12.1935 - 21.12.2021
Gabriel Jug reflects on the full life of his Father-in- Law and Mentor Noel...
Noel was born in the Gate Inn, the pub in Llanfrechfa, on Christmas Day 1935. That may go some way to explain why Noel was so happy when he was socialising with friends in a pub or a restaurant. He lived in Llanfrechfa all his life, apart from a brief period when he was called up for National Service, including overseas service in Malaya.
Noel’s education started early at the early age of three. Not because he was a child prodigy but because he was desperate to be with his older brothers David & John. Bizarrely, he kept running away TO school. In the end the head teacher agreed he could stay to avoid him causing too much disruption. He was quite mischievous child by getting into scrapes and even included disrupting Home Guard Exercises - traits, that for those that knew Noel, followed him throughout his career. In the early 1950’s his wife Mary came to the village and so started a friendship which eventually ended in marriage.
At the age of 11, he started at West Mon Grammar school, following which, at the age of 18 he decided to get his National Service out of the way and deferred his entry into teacher training school in Cheltenham. A career, which he may well have been well suited, as he retained this characteristic throughout his career usually by nudging his colleagues in the right direction (usually his!).
When he left the Army, however he did not take up teacher training instead he commenced his shipping career with Jones Heard & Co. Ltd, in Newport, one of the many Shipping Agents/Brokers involved in the coal trade in the South Wales Ports. This company later became Pascoe Houlder Ltd, which in the late 1980’s was sold to the Escombe Group of companies, later to become Escombe Lambert Ltd, which also changed hands in the 90’s, being purchased by Inchcape Shipping Services. On being made redundant in the early 90’s he set up his own agency, T.U. Agencies, with the assurance that the W.E. Dowds business would follow him to the new company which is now still a thriving business.
Noel was a firm believer that business was best done around a table with a meal and a glass or two, or three of red wine or indeed a bottle or two. Little did he know at this point he would be awarded the accolade of “a legend in his own lunchtime”.
Noel was always a huge supporter of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, firmly believing in their motto “Our word is our bond”. Something he adhered to throughout his professional career. He gave active encouragement to many of his colleagues, to study and seek membership of the Institute. He was also twice, Chairman of the local branch including, at the commencement of the new millennium, he Chaired and actively engaged in the re-unification of the South Wales & the West Branch of the Institute. Also, he represented the local branch on the Controlling Council. He forged many long-lasting friendships, his vast experience and knowledge within the shipping industry was well recognised.
In his private life Noel was both a keen rugby and cricket supporter, throughout school and continuing into his service days. On his return from National Service, he joined Newport Civil Service Rugby Club where he played prop, a role for which he was well suited.
His other passion being Cricket, in which he was part of the founding group which dedicated themselves to creating a club with longevity including raising the funds to build Pontir Cricket Club. Noel loved cricket, he batted OK, managing a century along the way, a bit of wicket keeping but could not bowl and was rubbish in the field. When his playing days were over, he turned to umpiring. In later years he was still a regular down the field, checking the pitch, marking up the field or just sitting watching and having a chat, usually winding someone up in the process.
The Church in Llanfrecfa was also another constant in Noel’s life. Along with his brothers Noel was brought to the church by his mother, duly joining his brothers in the choir, where he remained until his until the day of his fall which was the start of his ill health. He took in, all aspect of membership of the church, learning to ring the bells, cleaning, church yard cutting, joining the PCC and was church warden 4 times.
Finally, Noel excelled at more than everything else, in his family life and the role he played in the centre of it. Following his marriage to Mary in 1960, his daughter Lynne was born the following year and second daughter Liz coming along 4 years later. Noel also considered himself lucky to have five granddaughters and three great grandchildren. No man could have been more loving and protective to them all.
In more ways than one, Noel was a giant of a man, both inside his local and the shipping communities, was also ready to help, guide and support and he will be sadly missed as a major character within the shipping fraternity in South Wales and the West.
(Gabriel Jug - Feb 2022)