1975 – Sloop Committee formed and the search for a suitable ship
Membership of the Society had grown steadily and, with 41 of the Society’s 100 members living on the South Bank, it was decided to call a public meeting at the Angel Hotel in Brigg on March 1, to see what interest there was in looking for a sloop. So many enthusiasts turned up that a Sloop Committee was formed the same month.
We were very lucky to have, at that first meeting on March 22, John Frank of South Ferriby a former brickyard owner and skipper of the sloop NERO, who from then on gave invaluable advice on details of rig, and criticism when the committee made a hash of things.
Amongst the Society’s first members on the South Bank were Roy Rushby, skipper of LADY INA, Pete Winship, skipper of ADLINGFLEET, Les Reid , skipper/owner of the wooden ex-keel VIGILANT, Eric Burton, one time mate of AMY HOWSON and then, at the age of 18, skipper of MADGE JARVILL – the youngest skipper on the river, and Rodney Clapson, owner of Barton Shipyard.
Pete, Les and Eric, with Roy Smith a joiner and welder, Catherine Wilson from the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, Roy Archer from the Scunthorpe Telegraph, and Rodney formed the first Sloop Committee, with Les as secretary and Rodney as chairman, and the committee were given the task of finding a suitable ship to be rigged as a sloop.
They knew that many sloops had been larger than Sheffield size, but decided that it would be advantageous if the Society’s two ships were the same size so that they could visit the same places. Lists of ships were drawn up for consideration. The committee knew that it was pointless looking at wooden ships and most of the iron ships had gone, so steel was the only possibility. James Barraclough Ltd offered SPRITE, she had been the last sloop under sail, unrigged in July 1950. AMY HOWSON was suggested, but this went no further at the time. Other ships considered were ADAMANT, ANNIE H, ANNIE ELIZABETH, and FLEETGATE.
The committee members travelled as far afield as Sutton Bridge and Wells in Norfolk to inspect Holt’s EMILY. By this time ships were vanishing to the scrap yard at Stanley Ferry at an ever increasing rate, or suffering the even worse fate of being converted into houseboats.
After the AGM at Beverley the committee decided to look again at AMY HOWSON. This meant climbing over high wire fences to get onto Hennebique’s wharf where they saw, in the last of the daylight, that her hatches had been broken by missiles being dropped from the surrounding warehouses, and that the steelwork on deck was very rusty. However, after going below into the hold and lifting the limber boards they could see that the frames and rivets in the bottom looked sound.
1976 – Purchase of Humber Sloop agreed and restoration begins
A visit to Harold Barraclough, William Henry Barraclough’s grandson, was arranged and permission was given to start the engine and move her over to Barton for dry-docking and survey. After a survey (including an ultrasonic inspection of the hull plating which was carried out free of charge by a local company ) it was decided to offer £300 for the vessel, being about her value as scrap. Within a few days AMY HOWSON belonged to the Society.
Moored on the outside of the floating dry dock at Clapsons Yard, Barton Haven where restoration work commenced
The immediate urgent task was to clean the hold out by high pressure water jetting to remove any rust and chemicals, repair the hatches to make the hold watertight for keeping the Society’s exhibits safe and where they could be seen by the public while the important work of rigging COMRADE went on undisturbed. Luckily AMY HOWSON’s chemical cargoes had consisted of phosphate rather than the highly corrosive super-phosphate. This meant that hold cleaning was much easier than it might have been.
Work has progressed on rebuilding the anchor windlass, acquiring a replacement engine, sourcing possible trees for a mast and poles for the gaff and boom, plus fund-raising events including a laying-up supper for Yacht Club members at Barton.
1977 – Jubilee Year brings significant help with restoration
Now that the Society was seen to be working in earnest on a sloop offers of help came from all directions. Croda Paints gave 150 litres of paint, Nu-Swift gave fire extinguishers for both vessels, Dave Cook at New Holland shipyard gave valuable pieces of gear, Ken Osgerby provided road transport, and then, out of the blue came an offer of willing and unpaid labour from the South Lincoln Ranger Guide unit who adopted AMY HOWSON as their Jubilee Year project. They cleaned out the bilges (always a dirty job, but this time made worse by the debris from water jetting and rotten maize from old cargoes) and then painted the hold so that display panels could be fitted on each side.
At the same time as this work was going on, the sloop committee were fund raising by giving talks and setting up exhibitions in the libraries at Barton and Grimsby. AMY HOWSON was now moored at South Ferriby where a power supply, boatyard equipment and a crane were close at hand, and where she could be seen by local and visiting yacht owners.
New members were now joining the Society and helping with the work. Cyril Harrison joined the sloop committee in August, his contacts at the steelworks providing the vessel with steel plate when needed. The committee decided at an early stage that the eventual rig should be as authentic as possible, and in addition, that the interior of the ship should be restored as closely as possible to its original condition rather than make concessions to modern comforts.
At this time it was possible to get government assistance under their Manpower Services Scheme to pay for labour for a limited period and the committee were successful in getting a 12 month scheme approved. Pete Winship and Chris Horsfall, former skipper and mate of ADLINGFLEET were by now without a ship as the relentless policy of moving all cargoes off the river onto road transport gathered pace. With their help the cabin space was cleaned out and painted, the fuel tank moved into the hold, and the hatches repaired. A well deck was fitted in the aft end of the hold to provide seating space for passengers, and this formed the top of the new engine room. The forward cabin was stripped out and the space was fitted out as a very necessary bosun’s store. The Manpower Services Scheme contributed a total of £4184 to labour costs for this work. Unfortunately the scheme ended before the cabin was completed, but this work was finished by David Clapson, a shipwright at South Ferriby Marina.
1978 – First trips to Lincoln and Brandy Wharf
AMY HOWSON came to the Society with the engine located in the rear cabin, a tired 3-cylinder Lister which was oily and unreliable. During the course of restoration it was decided to reinstate a proper captain’s cabin and locate a more reliable engine in the rear of the hold.
A Gardner 5LW diesel engine with marine gearbox was offered to the committee as a gift from the Thorne Sea Cadets, and this was installed on new engine beds welded in place by Roy Smith. All that remained was to find a mechanic to check it over, connect up and test…
Dave Robinson continued the story:
“Now our friend Barry would do the job but, being a motorcycle racing fan and someone’s mechanic as well, catching him on a weekend was doubtful. But, someone invented the F A Cup ( better still The Final) where everybody, for the first time in a normal year, sits round the telly with cans of ale.
So with neither of us being bothered about the Cup, over to Ferriby he comes with his boxes of assorted tools and the staccato language mechanics use. About mid-afternoon Cyril joined us from work and he and Barry went through the dieselites’ ritual of loosening everything on the fuel system and paddling about in the results.
Then followed a brief pantomime of snitching batteries off our vehicles and attempting to coax the mill into life with a festoon of jump leads and “maybe” connections. The heap growled and rumbled sullenly, emitting sighs and fumes from various joints in the exhaust pipe.
At this juncture Rodney Clapson arrived to see how progress had gone, and a technical conference was held. Mr C departed to fetch his trusty Land Rover and Cyril and I cast aside the silencer in case it was “choking her up”.
With the Land Rover edged precariously over the bank, the jump leads just reached our “Battersea Power Station”. Try again with the starter-a-podging spanner across the terminals. No joy. Lacking the driver’s first resort ( a can of Easy Start, Barry used the cowboy’s friend ) a diesely rag burning over the intake.
When she struck up, with a crescendo of revs, the resultant cloud of fumes sent us all scurrying up to the deck choking and coughing. Sitting on the after-rail, we watched the fog drifting softly across the river while bemused yachtsmen stared and wondered. After a few minutes the engine settled down and the fog cleared.
We listened to THE GARDNER chuntering merrily away beneath us.
We didn’t know which team won the Cup though!
The cabin bulkhead was moved back to its original position and preparations were made to install cabin woodwork which had been given to the Society by Victor Waddington of Swinton shipyard.
With a fresh coat of paint inside and out, mobile under power and in need of funds to return her to sail, the committee decided to take AMY HOWSON to as many events as possible. With Rodney Clapson as sailing master here travels commenced with a trip to Lincoln Water Festival on June 10 and 11 along with COMRADE, both ships carried exhibitions and the event proved such a great success the crew were hungry for more.
However, with other rallies and events over for the season they were almost resigned to Open Days at South Ferriby when a new project on the River Ancholme came to light. On Friday September 1 they set off from South Ferriby with five of the South Lincolnshire Ranger Guides who had helped to chip and paint AMY’s hold. As a ship of this size had not been up the Ancholme for some considerable time it was a voyage of discovery, with rollers having to be removed to clear the lowest bridges. The Anchor Inn at Brandy Wharf was reached in the late afternoon and the crew were given a guided tour of the old warehouse in the evening.
Next day AMY set off up river to see how far they could get, which was Harlem Hill, and with the use of the cogboat and small outboard got within half a mile of Bishopbridge. On Sunday Mrs Harrison set up a sales table and a very busy day was rounded off with a passenger trip down river to Caistor Canal, back up to the River Rase and returning to Brandy Wharf. Monday came around all too soon and as AMY headed back to towards South Ferriby the crew agreed the weekend had been a great success with an addition to much needed funds.
Meanwhile, Yorkshire Dry Dock Ltd. had sold their wood bulk creosote lighter YORKIST and one of the subsequent owners purchased a large pine pole to make a mast with the idea of rigging her as a keel. The idea never came to fruition and YORKIST lay abandoned on the River Hull with the pole lying on deck. When she broke adrift at Wawne Ferry blocking the river the Docks Board offered her to the Society on condition that she was removed from the river. Jumping at the chance to get the pole for a mast, AMY HOWSON was taken to Wawne in October and Yorkist was towed to Barton where she was moored. The pole was dropped into the water and towed to South Ferriby. Cyril squared the pole up and took off the chamfers and it was then moved into the Marina workshop where David Clapson finished the mast to measurements which the yard had used since before SOPHIA, which was first rigged as a sloop in 1916. YORKIST was sold, at a profit, for breaking up in 1982.
At the end of the year a disco was held on board AMY HOWSON in aid of Society funds before dry-docking for work to the hull.
1979 – The Sheffield adventure and more…
In January AMY HOWSON was in dry-dock for work on her hull highlighted in the original survey. The bilge plates were de-scaled and the necessary welding carried out.
On April 1 she was moved from Barton to South Ferriby with April and May spent preparing for the new season, the most important job being to load 11 tons of iron ballast to get AMY down to near sailing trim.
On June 2 at 0930 she set off from South Ferriby with a full compliment of passengers for the run to Lincoln Water Festival, arriving at Torksey at 1840 and continuing up the Fossdyke to Lincoln, arriving at 2130 hours. John Frank was on board, taking AMY as far as Owston Ferry imparting a great deal of information about the River Trent. The event took place over the weekend of June 9 and 10, the highlight being a performance aboard AMY on the Saturday evening by the Old English Pub Band, with sea shanties and folk songs which attracted a good audience.
On July 15 a charter run from Ferriby with the Lincolnshire Naturalists Union, travelling up the River Trent as far as High Wires, then to Blacktoft Jetty and back to Ferriby.
After some careful pre-investigation into the route AMY’s crew began their adventure to Sheffield at 0350 hours on July 21 in order to arrive at Keadby before the tide turned. A downpour at Thorne lock at 1015 left the crew soaking wet but by the time they had reached Doncaster at 1230 the sun was shining and their clothing steaming. Passing through the picturesque Don Valley they moored up at Swinton at 1600. The opportunity was taken to look round the shipyard of E V Waddington, the last major carrier on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation.
At 0815 next morning we continued our journey, at Aldwarke lock there was a wasps nest in a mooring recess halfway up the wall, they were a little upset at being fumigated by exhaust gases as the crew hastily passed through. At Eastwood low lock we left behind the commercial used section to head through Rotherham, Ickles lock was full of weed and after reversing out and lifting the paddles to try to clear it and clearing the water intakes on AMY a couple of times they got through, then a dredger arrived saying they had come to clear the weed for us!
They arrived at the low end of Tinsley Flight at midday and Plumpers lock half an hour later where there was no water. This forced the crew to visit a local hostelry to top themselves up while the lock did the same and Sheffield Basin was finally reached at 1530.
The following Saturday, July 28, an Open Week with exhibition began aboard AMY HOWSON. Les Reid brought the Keel CHARLES WILLIAM up to Sheffield chartered by the Mikron Theatre Company, their evening performance attracted many people to the Basin and consequently to spend money aboard AMY.
Sunday July 29 was the planned cruise through the picturesque Don Valley on board Alan Oliver’s WYRE LADY. Alan had kindly donated the trip for the sole benefit of the Society, so not only did members have an enjoyable afternoon but also added to our funds.
On Sunday August 5 at 0745, with a full compliment of passengers, they left Sheffield Basin for Sprotbrough where member and operator of two cruise vessels, Alan Oliver, had offered a mooring with good access. AMY arrived at 1500 and opened to the public and then again on the following weekend. On Saturday August 18 again with passengers aboard AMY left Long Sandall at 1100, breaking for lunch at Stainforth, penned out of Keadby at 1640 and after punching the tide to Gunness Groves penned into Ferriby Sluice at 1930 hours.
An interesting and eventful journey which taught the crew a lot about working the inland waterway system, they also met up with many people who remebered or worked on the vessels when the canals were busy.
August 25 and 26 Open Days were held at South Ferriby, with very good attendance and local press coverage.
August 31 she went up the Ancholme to take part in the Brandy Wharf Regatta on September 1 and 2. South Lincoln Ranger Guide Unit presented AMY with a £20 donation towards the cost of a new Regatta Burgee. Attendance figures were very good and the weekend was rounded off with a run up to Harlam Hill lock.
September 8 saw AMY taken to the Chequers at Ferriby Cliff for cleaning and tarring round.
September 22 and 23 charter trips down river past the Humber Bridge, Hull Docks, Saltend and Immingham, returning along the Lincolnshire channel looking at the remains of the havens, shipyards and jetties.
Over 400 miles travelled to events and charter trips during the season.
Cyril Harrison had been busy dressing the mast during the summer. After lengthy discussions with John Frank and studying photos a sail plan was drawn up and the sails ordered from Jeckells of Wroxham, Norfolk. This was made possible by the hard work of many members, especially Mrs Harrison, who raised over £1100 during the last year.
On Saturday October 27 a party of south bank members left South Ferriby on board AMY HOWSON bound for Hull Corporation Pier for a half-day Open Day at the Horsewash. Colin Screeton and Mike Ulyatt had contacted North Country Breweries who agreed to donate a keg of beer to the Society as a symbolic gesture of the days when Market Sloops transported their beers on a regular basis to Barton. A steady stream of visitors came aboard with donations, sales and membership fees bringing in much needed funds for the Society.