Yesterday should have been the Annual General Meeting of the Society for Sailing Barge Research, which would have been at Leigh-on- Sea.
For now we have had to postpone and we all go on in our present posts. The Society is solvent and membership subscriptions have come in well despite all the difficulties. Members will have received the recent excellent Spring issue of Mainsheet, which Charles must be complimented for putting together against all odds and Studio Six must be complimented for getting it out in the post. Richard is at work on this year’s Topsail although I guess he may have problems in obtaining some of the pictures, etc, he needs. Nevertheless, knowing Richard, he will overcome those problems. Tim has been busy banking subscriptions and keeping our accounts in order and John deals with queries from members, the public, TV companies and learned institutions. We all work from home except Don, our Archivist. These days he can do much of the cataloguing from home, but anything else would involve a journey from Maldon to North Fambridge, impossible in the lockdown but perhaps allowable now. He would certainly be alone at the Archive. Visitors would not be possible. It is so crammed with our over 35,000 items that no way could anyone else be two metres apart.
Between us we will continue to look after the Society, and we look forward to seeing everyone when conditions permit.
Time to pack up at the end of a cold and tiring day. It was TSBT’s Open Day at Maldon Hythe Quay yesterday.
Large number of visitors enjoyed tea and home-made cakes on board sb Centaur and were no doubt pleased to sit down out of the wind for a while with a warming cuppa. Wonderful TSBT volunteers were showing adults, children and dogs round the barge. Funny to see little dogs with short legs not liking the steep slope up to the deck at high tide. Several stopped half way and didn’t want to move.
TSBT generously invited SSBR to have a table in their tent on the Quay. Don Wright and I talked to lots of visitors and acted as a Scooter Park for all the children, but sadly did not sell a single book! Still at least we were there showing the SSBR banner.
Sb Thistle went out for an afternoon sail to Osea. Here she is nearly home.
SSBR was at Fambridge River Festival yesterday in its fourth year. But no sunlit pictures this time. We were all drowned SSBR rats, and the picture shows two of us together with hastily boxed up books, sopping wet table covers, wet posters shredded by the high winds, and plastic covers over the tables.
From opening at 10.00 to about 11.45 everything was lovely: fine weather and lots of people; Pudge and Ironsides on the pontoon, together with Pioneer, Marigold, the tug Barking and the Burnham on Crouch RNLI inshore boat; a classic car show; a climbing wall; music from the stage so old that even I knew the lyrics; Kevin Finch with some of his shipwright tools, “I just went round the workshop and picked up some things I thought would be of interest”; lots of food and drink stalls from Posh Coffee to Pimms, from lamb shank to hot dogs, from crêpes to ice cream – and no, I didn’t have an ice cream, too wet and cold; yes, I did have a crêpe. We sold a very respectable number of books including Jimmy Lawrence’s new one, “London Light, a Sailorman’s Story,” and the last “Sailing Barge Compendium”. We took some membership subscriptions and found some potential new members.
But by 12 noon the rain was steady. Can’t sell books and magazines in the rain. We covered the table tops with plastic sheets. The high wind seemed determined to rip the SSBR banner away from its pole – the usual two cords tying it to the tent frame had to be increased to four and still the wind pulled the metal pole out of shape. We tied our splendid new gazebo by its legs to the tables, themselves so heavy with books they were unlikely to move. We stuck it out for well over an hour while the wind increased and the rain got heavier. Surprisingly the visitors stayed for quite a long time, all getting drenched, but eventually they drifted away and the place became deserted
We packed up and took all the stuff back to the Archive. There are a lot of things that now need mud removed and drying out – not least me. Clothes went straight into the washing machine. Still, at least we were all home much earlier than expected.
Many thanks to Don Wright, Graham Dent and Tim Mileson who all responded to the plea for help, and to Dilys Renouf who also came along.
Very well attended SSBR AGM today at The Three Daws, Gravesend. The room was full.
Chairman, Elizabeth Wood, had come to the end of her three year term of office, in which much has been achieved. She thanked all her fellow Committee members for their help to her and to the Society.
Secretary, John White, said that inquiries from people seeking information about barges on which family members had worked, etc, averaged two a week. In addition, he was working on a book about the 4,500 sailing barges for which he held records. It would probably be called something like The Barge Directory. He was making good progress with it, but there was still much to do. The earliest barge he had found was built in 1751.
Treasurer, Graham Dent, presented audited accounts for 2014, which showed a loss of £2,877, but this had been caused for good reasons. There had been extra expenditure to mark our 50th anniversary year, and members had received free of charge two books, The Prowess of Charlie Fielder and Still in the Samphire, which involved printing and postage costs. Excellent value for members. Graham thanked Chris Snelling for examining the accounts.
Membership Secretary, Margaret Blackburn, reported that membership in 2014 totalled 421, so keeping us well above what had been our target of 400. 27 new members had joined in that year. To date, in 2015, 369 membership subscriptions had been received, including 9 new members, so hopefully we would maintain our numbers and maybe increase them.
Charles Traill, Editor of the twice-yearly Mainsheet, said he was very grateful for the news and information provided to him by members and for photographs he was sent. He thanked Margaret and Brian Blackburn for proof-reading and despatching the magazine. Next year would see the 100th edition of Mainsheet published, and in the same year the annual Topsail publication would reach its 50th edition. So something special would be needed.
As well as being Editor of Topsail, Richard Walsh co-ordinates other Society publications and keeps us informed about other barge publications. Still in the Samphire by the late David Wood reflects the history of the Society gathered from Committee minutes and the recollections of David and other members, and had been published in 2014 to celebrate the Society’s 50th anniversary. Also written by David Wood, (a long-serving Committee member), together with Richard Walsh, is The Prowess of Charlie Fielder. It has received excellent reviews, including one by a distinguished reviewer who described it as “ground-breaking”.
The next Society publication, (currently being prepared), is the history of EJ Goldsmiths of Grays, the company which had the biggest fleet of sailing barges. It is being written by Graham Dent and edited by Richard Walsh, with many pieces of information about both the fleet and the Goldsmith family continuing to be received.
Our Archivist, Don Wright, reported that 2014 had been a good year for the donation of photographs, manuscripts, books, etc, to our Archive at Fambridge. More than 16,000 items had now been catalogued, with a further 4,000 partly done. Don said that members were welcome to visit the Archive by appointment, and that anyone who wished to do so should contact him.
The next item on the Agenda was the election of officers and Committee members followed by the presentation of the Society’s three trophies to the winners for the year.
Richard Walsh was elected SSBR’s new Chairman; Charles Traill was elected Vice Chairman; the other members of the Committee were re-elected, to be joined by a new member, Linda Hoy. Since the meeting, Tim Mileson has been co-opted to the Committee.
The trophy winners were:-
Half Model – Robin Neale for cataloguing the Charles Dance collection.
Colindell – Toby Lester and Linda Hoy for the restoration of sb Ironsides.
Deadeye – posthumously to the late David Wood for The Prowess of Charlie Fielder.
Chairman Emeritus, Tony Farnham, kindly donated a barge picture – a steel engraving – to be raffled for the Society’s funds.
After a break for a welcome cup of tea, two films were shown: a short dvd made by Robert Gillard of his father’s cine film of the 1966 Medway match, and one by Simon North about the restoration of sb Centaur.
See what you’re missing if you’re not a member!
Our Archive will be open and one of our committee will be there to show you the vast collection of photographs, books, documents and other artifacts about Thames sailing barges. Sterling work has been done over the years by our Archivist, Don Wright, ably assisted by Society Secretary, John White, in getting all this treasury of information catalogued and properly stored. (Picture shows John and Don outside the Archive.)
Then down by the river, we shall have a gazebo with display panels and literature about the Society of Sailing Barge Research, and our committee will be very
happy to talk to visitors about barges and the Society. Our books and magazines will be on sale and we shall, of course, also have membership forms there. At £20 a year it is great value and you will receive our two excellent publications, Topsail annually and Mainsheet twice a year. And members receive occasional books published by the Society for Sailing Barge Research free of charge; last year there were two excellent such freebies, Still in the Samphire, the Society’s 50th anniversary history, and The Prowess of Charlie Fielder.
The festival will coincide with the Old Gaffers Association 30th Anniversary Crouch Rally visit to the North Fambridge Yacht Club. There will be gig racing on the river, and stands including those taken by the Coastguard, the RNLI, a sail-maker, and many more. sb Ironsides will be present.
More details nearer the date.
At the last Committee meeting it was felt that people who like to see sailing barges, but
are not quite as involved as some of us, simply do not know where to go to have a good chance of seeing one.
Our splendid Archivist, Don Wright, has put together a list of where to see Essex-based barges, and we have therefore put a new page on the blog showing the information. We hope to add to it with the Kent locations soon.
Click here for the “Where to see Sailing Barges” page.