Record of Achievements of the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society 1984 - 2004
(Hon Secretary David James 44 West Haven Cosheston Pembroke Dock SA72 4UL Tel 01646 683764)
Aims and Objectives (as itemised in application form)
Aim 1. To conduct and encourage research into the maritime history of the region.
(a) Ship models
Several members are accomplished model shipwrights with examples of "museum standard" ship models in the following museums and Pembroke Town Hall. Each model represents ships of direct interest to the museum stated.
Tenby (one Tenby Lugger and two Brixham sailing Trawlers)
Milford (sailing trawler Sybil and whaler Aurora),
Haverfordwest (the mediaeval ship of 1277)
The Gun Tower, Pembroke Dock. (Pembroke Dockyard model; the 74 gun ship HMS Bellona of 1760; the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert 1843; Imperial Japanese Navy Armoured Corvette Hiei 1877 (pictured); Royal Yacht Enchantress 1862)
Pembroke Town Hall, sailing ship Kathleen and May 1900
NB. HMS Bellona was built in London but her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, was built in Neyland in 1765, hence the connection.
(NB David James has been invited to exhibit no less than four ships at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and David Holt exhibited one. Also the Dockyard model was a team effort by David Holt and David James).
All these ships were extensively researched to ensure accuracy before construction began.
From this research much data was collected that while not really needed for the construction of the models it was saved. From this material, David James has written numerous articles for Pembrokeshire Life magazine, Maritime Wales magazine, (produced by the Museums and Galleries of Wales) and also sent an article to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich in response to a question they posed. The National Maritime Museum wrote a glowing letter in reply stating that people rarely wrote so eloquently to them and published the entire article unedited covering two large pages of their Horizon Magazine.
David James is currently writing all these tales into book form.
For many years we have run a Winter Talks series, aimed at entertaining and educating members and non-members, both locally and further afield. These talks are given by members and guests with specialised knowledge of maritime topics and are aimed at making others aware of the society’s activities - and raising a little income at the same time.
David James frequently speaks on maritime topics to numerous groups interested in the subject, not only in Village halls but also in the Pembrokeshire College’s Merlin Theatre, in the open air on historic sites and even aboard the Paddle Steamer Waverley.
(d) BBC TV Fishlocks Sea Stories
Quest (see below) crewed by Society members, was filmed and shown on this programme, with Trevor Fishlock actually interviewing local historian Rob Scourfield while vessel was under sail up the Milford Haven. Later shots of her sailing majestically down river into the sunset followed the interview. David James also did two interviews on local maritime topics, so in a six episode serial the Society featured in no less than three episodes. The Maritime Volunteer Service escorted Quest (at Society request) to act a safety cover.
(e) Land based events
Atlantic Challenge international event 2004
Last July the Society had an exhibition marquee at Fishguard. This was well attended and did a lot to promote the society, also generating valuable income as well as publicity. Several members, under Peter Davison’s leadership put a great deal of effort into ensuring this event ran smoothly.
ii. Endeavour visit
When the replica of Captain Cooks vessel came to Milford there were so many Society sweat shirts to be seen, with members working as guides as well as visiting, that the Bosun thought his ship was being taken over! The Society was helping other organisations as well as enjoying themselves.
Aim 2. To encourage preservation of craft.
It has been our aim to locate and restore traditional craft and to use them as a "living museum"; to demonstrate woodworking skills rope work and other traditions associated with wooden ships and sailing. To date we have restored Ten boats ranging from 8 feet to 53 feet in length. A few of these are boats, which have been restored by individual members (* see below) These are listed below in Chronological order:
* Undine – c.1938 Pembroke One design, 18 foot motor sailing dinghy.
* General Picton - 18 foot Trinity House Light Vessel lifeboat.
* HSL 296 – 53 ft. Harbour Steam Launch – built at Pembroke Dock 1942
* Quest – 1926 Flamborough Sailing Coble (Hull Fishery No. H371)
* Rosyth Dinghy – Built by apprentices at R.N. Rosyth.
* Bob – Clinker pram dinghy, c.1955
* Pyglett – 14 ft. Fairey Firefly sailing dinghy (Uffa Fox)
* RN Captain’s Launch – Ex R.A.F. used during Flying Boat era in P.D.
* Two Sisters – 26 ft. 1904 Itchen Ferry sailing boat.
*Pilgrim – 20 ft. 1953 Fairey Fulmar F53 – associated with Uffa Fox’s Atalanta
Most the Society’s craft have been received from donors. Often the vessel are in a poor state and it is only through the efforts by the dedicated workers often working in cold and unpleasant circumstances that they are brought back to seaworthy condition.
In seaworthy condition are :
Quest a 28 foot Flamborough Coble built at Flamborough by Arg Hopwood (a renowned builder) in 1926. Given to Society with a £500 starter and some years of steady effort returned to her to seaworthy condition (see promotions below).
Undine an 18-foot clinker built motor sailing boat built 1938 in Aberystwyth by David Williams and delivered by rail to Burry Port. Donated to the Society in good condition and maintained so by willing volunteers.
General Picton an 18-foot clinker built lightship lifeboat strongly built and completely restored by members
53 ft. Harbour Service Launch – ex RN. Built in 1942 at the yard we now occupy in Pembroke Dock. Much work has been done to restore this craft and the steam engine and associated plant is in near working condition, thanks to a dedicated crew in our Milford workshops. The future of this project depends very much on our finding a permanent home and raising the necessary funding.
Rosyth Dinghy, an 8 foot boat built in 1962 by second year shipwright apprentices in Rosyth Dockyard (she has a brass plate in the stern to record her construction)
Bob, a 7-foot pram dinghy. Donate in perfect condition by a former member’s widow.
Piglette Fairey Firefly (designer - Uffa Fox), Dinghy 15-foot racing dinghy donated in excellent condition.
Plus Individual efforts:
Not only is the above a team effort but several members have also saved and restored wrecks working independently of the teams. Such vessels include an ex-naval fast launch, which was used during the flying boat era in PD:
* 18 foot RN Captains fast dinghy, of 1943 (essentially an early hard chine speed boat with unusual construction, having double diagonal bottom and clinker built sides) Restored to excellent condition by Mr & Mrs I Williams acting independently but with the full knowledge and support of the Committee the framework of the society.
* They also own an ex RAF air-sea rescue boat.
* Two Sisters David James was given the wreck of this beautiful 24 foot Itchen ferry yacht, built in 1904 (the owner was about to set it on fire until David commented that she was too pretty to do that. The owners’ response was "OK you have her"). Five years later she swam these waters again.
* Pilgrim F53 A 20 ft. Fairey Fulmar sailing cruiser, built in 1953, small sister to the Uffa Fox designed classic Fairey Atalanta. Originally offered to the Society and subsequently taken on by David Holt. This boat is one of only a few remaining of this design. Shortly to be launched, it will make a very good sail trainer and be a useful asset to our fleet.
* Such vessels although privately owned always attend society events (see below).
Aim 3. To seek to preserve artefacts and records associated with this history.
The literary aspect has already been touched upon. The Society has a modest but growing library of maritime books that are current housed in the County Library at Haverfordwest. Once we have a permanent place to house the collection, it will be possible for researchers to gain access to them. It is hoped that this will be achieved in the near future. Included in this collection are numerous ship models to a small scale and several oil paintings by amateur artists, charts and other artefacts. Numerous artefacts, including steam engines are stored in our Front Street sheds awaiting the opportunity to display them properly and in an interesting fashion. The society even has a five ton steam dock crane and the rails she ran on.
Aim 4. To retain and encourage the skills associated with all aspects of building repair handling and use of such craft.
All members of the work party have had to learn ancient shipbuilding skills to enable them to carry out the exacting work necessary to complete our restoration projects. One member recalls having learned how to use a shipwrights adze and using it (very carefully!) in a local boatyard. On pausing and looking up he found he had an audience drawn by its distinctive sound silently watching him intently. This is typical of the skills needed by all members of the work parties, which are needed along with the mundane and often dirty and tedious jobs that are part and parcel of restoration works. Not just skills with timber but also with rigging, iron work, and engine maintenance plus painting, varnishing and the myriad of skills needed to keep theses boats in seaworthy condition.
Handling of vessels
The sailing of old vessels has to be learned, many of them do not respond to 21st Century methods of sailing so even experienced skippers have to learn old skills to sail competently. New crews, before leaving the mooring, have to be shown the ropes and briefed on what to do. This is important aboard the older vessels where sails and their halliards and sheets are completely different to modern boats. Safety is always our first concern. Some of our members are disabled and provision must be made for and encouragement given to them so as to include their various skills in our endeavours. One member, in spite of her handicap (or because of it!), makes tremendous efforts both ashore & afloat and cheerfully encourages the rest of the crews. It is an aspect we wish to expand on when considering our future developments. Two members hold RYA dinghy sailing instructors certificates . One member is on the staff of TS Warrior where he
teaches youngsters, often from under privileged backgrounds, to enjoy sailing. Several of his pupils were physically handicapped but wished to be treated as all the others (one had an artificial leg and insisted on playing football).
Aim 5. To encourage members of the public to take an interest in these skills.
The society promotes itself on the water, and raises valuable income, from set piece events at the request of local authorities in particular the Pembroke Town Council, the Pembroke River Festival Committee, the Atlantic Challenge Festival (Fishguard) and for 2005 these are joined by
Pembroke Dock Town Council and the
Milford Haven Port Authority.
Set piece events
The Pembroke River Rally, an annual event that has been held for 18years, is run in conjunction with Pembroke Town Council. A parade of sail is led by the mayor of Pembroke and the Council in a large vessel capable of providing corporate entertainment and some measure of comfort. The craft departs from Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock and enters the Pembroke River. There a flotilla of vessels awaits to form a convoy behind them for the voyage up to the Castle Pond, Pembroke.
The flotilla is made up of vintage vessels (all seaworthy society craft plus private members boats and invited guests). Also in attendance are The Maritime Volunteer Service, a detachment of the Sea Cadets of TS Warrior,
Dyfed Powys Police marine section, HM Customs and Excise, Angle inshore Lifeboat, Port Authority Water Ranger. Finally those who wish to come in modern boats are welcome to attend.
To control such a flotilla the Society sends sailing directions to all who respond to adverts (also the regulars). A contingency plan is put in place for skippers who may turn up unexpectedly.
The Maritime Volunteer Service and the Water Ranger are briefed by the Secretary and their task is to act in a convoy forming and safety role at the beginning, guide the large vessel through the narrows and direct boats to their respective moorings inside the Castle Pond so that everyone can see and be seen. They also provide ferries to and from the landing for those who wish to go ashore. The owners of The Royal George are probably as appreciative of this service as anyone.
Last year 22 boats attended and it went so well that the Mayor of Pembroke asked the Society to repeat the event in 2005 before the 2004 event was over.
Organisations attending are drawn from Associations that this society has mutual membership agreements with, (viz. No annual subscriptions are paid but each society benefits from the arrangement. e.g. The Cornish Shrimpers Association required navigation advice about the Pembroke River in 2004. While the Society was not directly involved it was able to provide data about buoying of the channel and provided calculations (and the formula for future reference) of the opening times and dimensions (including available depth of water) of the barrage gate which enabled them to run their event run smoothly.
This years programme is enclosed herewith.
Helping other groups: Organisations that have benefited from the mutual membership agreements are:-
Sea Cadets of TS Warrior, receiving weekly instruction in spring summer and autumn on an 18 foot Admiralty sailing craft and a fleet of six Topper dinghies always accompanied by rigidly observed safety measures. They also benefit from being directly involved in the set piece events, thus promoting their own service as well as the Society.
Boy scouts While not principally maritime the Secretary has had talks with the Assistant District Commissioner to see how this Youth Movement may benefit from association with the society.
Cornish Shrimpers Association benefits to this group in 2004 detailed above.
Old Gaffers Association The local and Bristol Channel Area Secretaries attended last years Pembroke River Rally and were pleasantly surprised that such an event could be mounted in West Wales in 2004. David James (whose boat is classed as a Gaffer) has recently been nominated and elected to the Bristol Channel Area committee.
Maritime Volunteer Service: A highly qualified volunteer group upon whom the Society is able to rely upon at set piece events in a safety, convoy organising, narrow Channel navigation and mooring direction roles. David James discusses all forthcoming events with the Area and Local Commanding Officers and issues sailing directions to them (identical to those sent to skippers attending such events). The MVS see the task as a valuable seamanship and training operation and even brings in the Swansea unit to assist. The MVS also enjoy the use of our premises at Front Street for winter refits.
Milford Haven Port Authority Water Ranger: Duncan Brown was also included in the MVS briefings. He was informed early in every year of the forthcoming events so that he could post Notices To Mariners advising shipping of the events. He joined the events as an observer and assisted whenever he could. As Duncan has accepted a post in North Wales the Society looks forward to meeting his successor.
The Atlantic Challenge Association: Their Gig Integrite has served on several Pembroke River rallies, and in return this Society has assisted at their international event at Fishguard in July 2004. Quite a few Society members have also crewed her on several occasions, also the Cwch John Kerr based at Neyland. They too have enjoyed the use of society premises at Front Street for winter refits.
The Sail Training Association: while our events normally use small boats they receive the same sailing directions and often attend in their own boats.
Official Maritime Bodies: detachments of Her Majesties Customs and Excise, Dyfed Powys Police Marine section and the Angle Inshore Lifeboat have all attended several Pembroke River Rallies in the not too distant past.
Personalities involved: The late great Sir Geraint Evans, Jamie Owen (broadcaster), Sir David Mansel Lewis - The Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed now retired, who regularly makes the trip in his ten ton yacht (ably escorted by MVS craft); Commander A Mason, Naval Liaison Officer sailed and commanded the flagship for several years.
Local Authorities upon whose behest maritime events are organised
(Or the maritime segment thereof)
Pembroke Town Council,
Pembroke Dock Town Council,
Pembroke River Festival Committee,
Milford Haven Port Authority.
Other Organisations with whom Society has close links,
Pembroke Dock Museum Trust,
Pembrokeshire Military History Group,
East Llanion Marine.
Pembroke Dock heritage trail
The society is providing space at Front Street yard and information about local maritime history to Perryn Butler, sculptress to enable her to sculpt panels to be sited around Pembroke Dock as part of the Town Heritage trail. Robert Jakes, also employed on this project has also had several talks with David James regarding his task in this project.