Robert Leslie OBE

Robert Leslie was born at Sanday in the Orkney Islands in April 1854, the son of blacksmith Thomas and Margaret Leslie and he was educated at Kirkwall Grammar School and then Edinburgh High School.  He was then apprenticed to engineers John Scott and Son of Inverkeithing, Scotland where he learnt his trade.

Marine Engineer

At the age of 20 he joined the P & O Steamship Company as fifth engineer on the steamship Surat and began a stellar career as a marine engineer.

Robert was clearly skilled and benefitted from joining P and O at a time of Empire as he became Chief Engineer in the SS Brindisi by the time he was just 24 years of age.

He progressed as Chief Engineer through the fleet serving on 21 P and O Steamships in the next 14 years becoming a senior engineer within P and O finishing in 1888 of the SS Britannia which broke the record for fast sailing from London to Australia by completing the journey in 34 days.

After the records breaking voyage he was appointed as P and O Manager of Albert Docks in London where he was to stay for 15 years. During this period he managed the docks and oversaw the fitting out of many company vessels as well as transports and hospital ships for the Admiralty.

In 1903 he was appointed as Chief Superintending Engineer of P and O and took on many tasks including the move of berths from London to Tilbury Docks.

Robert belonged to the Institute of Naval Engineers and was a founder member of the Institute of Marine Engineers.

Robert retired just before the war but in 1914 was immediately recalled to work as a consultant for the Royal Navy throughout the war. Given the large number of P and O vessels taken over by the Navy, his knowledge proved invaluable.

In 1918 he was awarded an OBE in recognition of this work.

Burnham on Crouch

Robert first stayed with his brother at Mangapps Farm but when in 1910 he decided to make Burnham home he bought a plot in Green Lane and built a new house, named Holyrood after his native Scotland, into which cleverly incorporated an old Methodist Chapel.

His obituary in the Essex Newsman stated that he had always been generous to all local religious, charitable and sporting associations locally.

He was chairman of the Maldon District Boy Scouts Association, and was one of the main movers of the establishment of Burnham Golf Club, holding the office of President from its formation until his death. He was also presidents of Burnham Ramblers Football Clubs, a member of the Royal Burnham Yacht Club and a founder of the Royal Burnham Lodge of Freemasons.

Personal Life

Robert married Joan H Nichol at Edinburgh in 1884 and the couple moved to England to live at West Ham and Ilford but sadly Joan died in November 1914 at which time Robert moved permantly to Burnham on Crouch.

He married 34year old Bertha Bird Badcock in June 1915.

Bertha was appointed as a Magistrate in 1934 and sat regularly on the Southminster Bench.

Bertha remained in Burnham on Crouch after Roberts death until she died on 30 November 1960 and was also buried in Burnham cemetery.


Robert fell ill in November 1938 and a month later on 26 December 1938 he died.

Roberts funeral took place on 31 December 1938 at St Mary’s Church, Burnham on Crouch where there was a huge attendance of local people alongside representatives of the many facets of Roberts Life.

He was buried in Burnham Cemetery