Blog: Joy McGlinchey, from Gravesend, is youngest captain on the River Thames
Those of us who have to work over the New Year period aren’t usually the subject of much in the way of envy. Who wants to be stuck in an office when there’s partying to be done and celebrations to be enjoyed?
Joy McGlinchey is part of a very select group of people who are actually excited by the prospect of working through the night on December 31, as it guarantees her an outstanding view of London’s spectacular fireworks display.
The 24-year-old works for MBNA Thames Clippers — the river bus service on the Thames — and the company’s vessels were out on the water just as 2017 came into view.
As the youngest captain working on the Thames, and one of only two females captains, it has been a rapid rise from her starting role as a deckhand six years ago.
“It was never something I planned,” admitted Joy.
“I didn’t know a lot about the river when I was growing up or doing my A-levels, which was a bit of a mismatch of subjects.
“My dad ran a high speed passenger boat from Embankment and I used to talk to people that worked there and learn from them.
“I really enjoyed working with my dad but moving onto the company I’m at now was a huge difference. It’s hard work but I knew it would be and it’s something I wanted to carry on doing and work towards.”
Her career has really kicked into high gear in the last couple of years, which was around the same time she moved to Pepperhill in Northfleet with her partner Rob, who she met working on the Thames.
Before that she lived in Dartford, but her roots are in the east of London, where she grew up and went to school. Certainly humble beginnings for someone who now harbours so much responsibility.
“The responsibility is a lot — sometimes when I’m driving there are 220 passengers downstairs,” she explained.
“It is quite daunting at the beginning with the number of passengers that you’re carrying, but it’s something you get used to.
“The first day I took the boat out it felt quite scary — it was really daunting. I was quite lucky that I had a really good crew on board. I remember checking the weather first thing that morning and hoping that there wouldn’t be really bad fog.”
Joy’s commitment to her job has never been in question, with her even having completed an apprenticeship with the The Company of Watermen and Lightermen, and it has been rewarded with some fantastic opportunities.
Recent journeys have included taking fans to the O2 Arena to watch the likes of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic compete in the ATP World Tour Finals, plus a concert featuring Canadian pop star Justin Bieber.
She was also part of 2012’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, which saw 670 boats come together to mark the Queen’s milestone. Her Majesty was on board one of the vessels alongside Prince Phillip and other members of the Royal Family.
The event is listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest parade of boats ever recorded, with one million people watching from the banks of the Thames and more than 10 million tuning in from home.
Joy said: “Nothing like it had ever been done before so it was great to be part of that, to be part of history.”
Such opportunities certainly makes some of the earlier starts worth it. Depending on what shifts she is given, Joy’s day can start as early as 4am.
Not that it seems to be putting others off from following in her footsteps. When Joy started on the Thames you could count the number of women in similar roles on one hand, but that is changing quickly.
Her two younger sisters, Fay and Holly, are now part of crews on the river and it is becoming a much more accessible career path.
“Relatively speaking I am still quite new, some of the guys have got a lot of experience,” said Joy.
“I had to start at the bottom, cleaning the boat and things like that, but it’s all part of it and it does take hard work. It’s something that you really have to stick at.
“Women starting now have a lot more people they can talk to for advice and things like that.”