A chance sailing into Carlingford Lough in the late 1960’s might have scuppered plans Peter Louet-Feisser had for a round the world trip, but it was the beginning of a new life in Louth for the Dutch native.A man with an extraordinary life story, one which has taken him from a childhood spent in the Dutch colony of Indonesia, to West Timor, Amsterdam, Scotland, England and Ireland.
Compiled by Olivia Ryan
A chance sailing into Carlingford Lough in the late 1960’s might have scuppered plans Peter Louet-Feisser had for a round the world trip, but it was the beginning of a new life in Louth for the Dutch native.
A man with an extraordinary life story, one which has taken him from a childhood spent in the Dutch colony of Indonesia, to West Timor, Amsterdam, Scotland, England and Ireland.
The tale of a Dutch man who landed in a boat at the north Louth village has long been told around Carlingford, so actually meeting the man behind this mysterious story promised to be very interesting indeed!
“Well, the latest I have heard is that I arrived on a windsurf with my wife behind me! I don’t think that would have been possible somehow,” says Peter, who is perhaps best known as the founder of the hugely successful Carlingford Oyster company.
The actual truth of events is that Peter and his English wife, Anna, had built a boat and set off from their home in West England to sail around the world. But after a stop off in Carlingford Lough they forsook their worldly ambitions for a life in the picturesque village.
“I have to be honest about this story in that myself and my wife had stopped off. But we were setting off to leave, and had loosened our ropes and everything when a bad mist on the Lough prevented us from sailing. After that we took a walk along the street, and fell in love with a house which we bought a short while later for five hundred pounds in those days.”
Peter’s life before this had been, you might say, an exceptionally varied one. Although at 67 years old now, he seems unfazed by some of the extraordinary events he has lived through.
Born in Indonesia, in what was then the Dutch Colony, just a few years before World War II, he and his parents managed to escape Japanese concentration camps when they were given refuge by Franciscan Missionaries.
Later, he went to school in a village in West Timor, where he recalled crossing through a jungle every day to go to school. But by aged ten, his parents decided to move back to their motherland, settling in Amsterdam.
In his late teens he move to Scotland to study Science and Geology at St. Andrew’s University, where incidentally he met his wife.
“I didn’t have a word of English, so I was the rather unusual Dutchman at St. Andrew’s, which of course is famous now for being the university Prince William went to. In those days it wasn’t such the impressive place that it is now.”
Always inspired, he admits, by the work of religious missionaries, particularly after his experiences during WWII, he recalls wanting to be a priest for a time, but says he could not face life in a seminary.
Instead, he opted to become a teacher, and after gaining his Science degree in Scotland he first moved to Ireland with the initial intention of working with priests in Wicklow. “But they wouldn’t have me!” he jokes. “So I decided to do a teaching diploma in Maynooth.
Moving with Anna, whom he had since married, to her native England, it was then that he began to build the boat which would lead him to Carlingford.
“When I arrived here I didn’t have any money, or a job. But after a time I got a teaching job for a year in St. Louis in Dundalk, which helped as by this time we had two children.”
In 1974 he founded his own business what is now known as the Carlingford Oyster, and established one of the very first farms to start growing Gigas oysters in Ireland.
It was by no means an overnight success however, and Peter worked “night and day” to build the company up to being what is now one of the most successful of its kind in the country, supplying throughout Ireland and the UK.
His son Kian took over the business in latter years, but it was the Dutchman’s own determination which helped the company earn an international reputation.
The success of the company enabled Peter and his wife to make a life for themselves and their six children (including triplets!) in Louth over the last five decades.
With an interest in boat building and sailing, it seemed a natural progression for Peter to take up Windsurfing, but even he could not have predicted becoming a three time Irish Windsurfing Champion!
Recently he completed a feat never before tackled by Irish windsurfers when he travelled in the open bay from Gyles Quay to Portmarnock.
“It all depended on the weather, as the wind has to be right. But we got it and it went OK. My son came with me for part of the journey, which was 80kms in total.”
The mission was in aid of his close friend Mary Kearns fundraising efforts for the Amanecer project in Bolivia.
The Dundalk woman, a former teacher herself, is planning to volunteer to work with the project, which provides shelter, food, and education for abandoned children living on the streets of the South American country.
Reflecting on life’s little ironies, Peter muses that despite never having completed that round-the-world trip he had set out on in 1968, he ended up exactly where he was meant to be.