FROM sailor to solicitor, Kathryn McGreary certainly took the long way round to the law.

Indeed, it was a route that took the now trainee solicitor with Hexham law firm Nicholson Portnell across oceans, to tropical situations that were a world away from the legal and financial desk-bound jobs her fellow Oxford University students tripped off to post-graduation.

“I read history but in my third year, when everyone else was going to interviews for grown-up jobs, I realised I wasn’t ready to sit at a desk from nine to five,” she said.

“There’s quite a strong sea-faring tradition on both sides of my family – my dad was in the Merchant Navy and he met my mother because her father was a chief engineer – so it was inevitable, perhaps.”

Kathryn (37) spent almost six years in the Royal Navy, as a logistics officer tasked with duties as varied as they come. “It’s a bit of a misnomer,” she said, “because you can only have a certain number of people on board ship, which means everyone who isn’t either driving the shop or in engineering does two, three or four jobs.

“I was the captain’s secretary, covering secretarial, HR and payroll, stores and catering. One minute you’re looking at the menu for the week, the next making sure the radar part needed has been dispatched and then after that, preparing the paperwork to send someone who’s done something they shouldn’t for summary trial.”

It was that last one that first gave her the taste for her new-found career. Summary trials, equal in level and seriousness with a magistrates’ court on land, are carried out on board, but for more serious offences, that would otherwise go to a crown court on land, the perpetrators are removed from the ship and court martialled.

“If you bottle up young, fit and restless people in a tin can you do experience problems, but it’s surprising how little trouble there actually is on board.”

The real trouble they dealt with was ‘outside’ , of course. The aim while she was serving aboard HMS Ocean in 2007, for example, was to fulfil Britain’s role in a counter drugs operation in the Caribbean.

“There are certain British protectorates there, such as Montserrat. We were working with the US coastguard and the Dutch navy on that occasion.

“We brought on board big bales of pure cocaine and the operation seized about £100m of the stuff. Unfortunately you soon learn that’s just a drop in the ocean ... “

She also did a tour of the Falklands and South Georgia aboard HMS Glasgow, a Type 42 Destroyer that had ‘taken an Exocet’ during the Falklands War. “They have a lovely memorial down there that says ‘In memory of those who liberated us’,” she said

“I did feel miles from anywhere in South Georgia – it’s like being at the end of the world.

“I felt so much admiration for Shackleton, particularly when I saw the mountain they got over.”

Then there was the tour of the Persian Gulf, ensuring the security of oil installations, the presence maintained off the coast of Somalia to keep pirates at bay, and the emblematic, diplomatic role they played during a gathering in the US naval base in Virginia, to mention but three of many similar operations over the years.

Ultimately marriage to Gerry, a fellow logistics officer she met during a NATO exercise in Germany, and the birth of the first of their two children led to Kathryn changing tack.

The family weighed anchor near Matfen, and Kathryn couldn’t be more delighted at the “big investment” Nicholson Portnell is making in her change of career.