Comrade – Society History – 1970’s

1974 – All we want for Christmas is a Humber Keel

As a part of an all out effort by HKSPS members to put together enough funds to enable the purchase of their very own Humber Keel, John Hainsworth asked Fred Schofield if he would take COMRADE to the Inland Waterways Association rally at Nottingham. This was an ideal opportunity to give the Society maximum publicity and, with new paint everywhere, an exhibition on board, press and TV crews in attendance, COMRADE set off from Beverley on the afternoon of August 19. She arrived at Newark the following afternoon (below left), had an open day for the public, then continued to the Nottingham rally (below right) to join nearly 600 vessels of all kinds.

In November the Society agreed to purchase COMRADE and the transfer of ownership (below left) made on December 16, however, Fred Schofield still had three more cargo carrying voyages to make to fulfil his trading commitments and these were completed using the old system of ‘thirds’.

1975 – A working life ends, attending events and restoration begins

On March 3 COMRADE entered Queen Elizabeth Dock to load her penultimate cargo, Myrobalans for Richard Hodgson & Sons of Beverley. Loaded from the Indian ship ‘Vishva Bhakti’ (above right). On March 13 Fred returned for a second load from the same vessel which was finally dischaged at Beverley on April 10. Having completed her commercial work, it was full speed ahead to restore COMRADE to sailing condition.

In mid-April the items of sailing gear stored at Clapson’s Yard in Barton Haven were collected and transported to Beverley. On May 5 the pole ordered to make the mast arrived at F Wharton Shipping Ltd, Keadby and Fred with several members aboard set off in COMRADE to collect it. After their return, on May 19, the pole was lowered into the beck (below left), being turned every two or three days.

In June COMRADE attended Lincoln Water Festival (above right) where her new burgee was flown for the first time, in July she visited the South Ferriby Boat Owners Association at Ferriby Sluice and in August the Inland Waterways Association Festival at York. On the way to York as she passed Goole COMRADE was filmed by the BBC for Look North, and during the event carried the Lord Mayor and Mayoress of Hull flying the flag of the Admiral of the Humber. On September 14 COMRADE moored up at the yard of Beverley Engineers and hooked up to the mains to enable work to continue through the winter months. In October the pole was lifted out of the beck , placed on trestles in Hodgsons yard to begin shaping into a mast with adze and plane (below left).

1976 – Pulling out all the stops to return Comrade to sail

The winter and spring saw Society members giving their all to bring the components together to enable COMRADE to be restored to her original sailing configuration. You’ve heard the saying ‘never in a month of Sundays’, well that was about the time taken to transform the pole to a mast. The lutchet (below right) was another time consuming fabrication job, meanwhile the blocks, deadeyes (below left) , winch posts, rollers and frames were restored or manufactured as required.

In May the standing and running rigging was collected from Halls Barton Ropery, Hull. In late June the sails, made by Jeckells of Wroxham, were ready and the mast was stepped (below left) on July 17. With less than one month to a date with the TV cameras work still remained to complete the winches, rollers and main yard. To put COMRADE in sailing trim 8 tons of concrete ballast was required, which was got onboard by August 12. With a temporary wire strop on the main yard  it was late into the night of Friday August 13 before being declared ready to sail.

An early start from Beverley on Saturday August 14 saw COMRADE moored in the Old Harbour by 0830, here the mast was raised and the mainsail set for the very first time. At 0945 she cast off at high water (above right) and sailed across the Humber towards the south bank, later the topsail was quickly bent on the yard and set, the engine stopped and for the first time in 30 years a Keel was sailing on the Humber again.

On Sunday August 15, with AMY HOWSON as press and camera vessel, COMRADE went up river and set main and topsail for the BBC and on Monday, with the same weather conditions, repeated the exercise for Yorkshire TV. On the way back into Hull Roads PS LINCOLN CASTLE crossed her bows (above right) and her Captain gave a salute on his steam whistle which made Fred’s day.

On August 22 we had an open day at Beverley, on September 4 COMRADE joined the Inland Waterways Association Cavalcade of Boats from Beverley to Hull and back, the aim to highlight the lack of safe non-tidal moorings in the Hull area with all vessels carrying the slogan ‘Save Humber Dock for Boats’, the event being well covered by press and radio. In the Old Harbour at Hull COMRADE stepped her mast and sailed out into the Humber, followed by flotilla of small boats sounding their horns. The final sailing days took place on October 2 and 3 then COMRADE returned to Beverley to continue working on her through the winter.

1977 – Two Royal visits in two days for Silver Jubilee Year

The Humber Bridge under construction - in September lit catwalks highlighted the working area for spinning the main cables

The Humber Bridge under construction – in September lit catwalks highlighted the working area for spinning the main cables

To obtain fully operational insurance, defects in the hull listed by the Surveyor required attention. This involved removing the shutts (floor boards) in sections, descaling, repairing floor fractures and worn frames, damaged by mechanical unloading, applying a preservative coat and re-distributing the ballast. Following this a visit to the dry dock for scraping, painting and general ‘fettling’ was carried out.

On the morning of July 11 COMRADE set off from Beverley down the River Hull. At high water, 1530 hours, the mainsail and topsail were set and she sailed out of the harbour into the Humber. At 1930 hours COMRADE anchored for the night, the crew had supper and presented Fred Schofield with a card to mark his 71st birthday (and still sailing a Keel!). Next morning, July 12, at 0850 hours the Royal Yacht BRITANNIA came out of the mist followed by HMS YARMOUTH. The Royal Barge, with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh aboard, and a launch came from the starboard side of BRITANNIA towards the Royal Dock Basin at Grimsby as COMRADE sailed by.

Then, a mad dash back to Beverley as the Town Clerk had asked for COMRADE to be moored at the west end of the Beck dressed with burgee and signal flags for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh passing by the following day….and they made it!

The sailing season did not begin until the end of July, crew training being arranged in special sessions at Beverley and during each sailing trip by Fred Schofield. The marine photographers, Walter Fussey & Son, spent a weekend photographing COMRADE from the Humber pilot launch PRICKETT. In August Society Open Days were held at Ferriby Sluice and the top end of Beverley Beck, poor weather affected both events and caused cancellation or curtailing of some sailing days, but COMRADE still managed eight sailing trips including the first charter party.

1978 – Here, there and everywhere…

April 22 saw the first trip of the season and altogether ten voyages were made under sail with passengers and crew. Four charter trips were made, three under sail and one ‘stevedores’ away day for the Hull and Humber Cargo Handling Co, under power down the River Hull from Beverley, which was enjoyed so much they promised themselves a ‘proper’ sailing trip next season.

On May 13 we were honoured to have Frank G G Carr aboard for the day, former Director of the National Maritime Museum, saviour of the CUTTY SARK, author of several books and founder of the World Ship Trust.

Both COMRADE and AMY HOWSON attended the Lincoln Water Festival on June 10 and 11. At least 800 people visited our ships, both of which carried exhibitions onboard. Following a recent interview with Fred Schofield BBC2 asked to accompany COMRADE from Torksey to Lincoln getting some excellent sailing shots, while on the banks of the Foss Dyke Yorkshire Television’s Calendar filmed a news piece witnessing a Keel under sail in these parts for the first time in nearly forty years. This exercise also illustrated why sailing on canals is not normally attempted these days. Low structures and cables erected since the use of sail faded out required the mast to be lowered and raised five times before Lincoln was reached!

The Maritime Trust asked the Society to provide slides of COMRADE under sail, these were required for a special presentation at Buckingham Palace on June 12.

In July COMRADE undertook a two week tour of the West Riding. Setting off from Hull for Goole on July 19, up the Aire and Calder Navigation to Castleford for a press conference on Friday July 21 and then on to Leeds for an open weekend on the River Aire in the city centre. On Monday July 24 COMRADE returned to Castleford Junction and up the River Calder to Wakefield, where her working life began carrying barley, for a two day stay before returning to Castleford on Thursday for a one day stay. On Friday July 28 the short trip to Knottingley was made where COMRADE was open to the public for a long weekend. The final port of call was Thorne which proved to be the busiest single day for visitors during the whole tour, then back to Goole. A breach in the canal resulted in a water level reduction of 3 to 4 feet and meant COMRADE was stranded their until it was repaired and the water level made up. It was Thursday August 10 when she returned with a full compliment of passengers and, with time to kill, sailed down below Immingham before returning to Hull.

Seventeen days later COMRADE sailed to Ferriby Sluice with passengers to join AMY HOWSON for the August Bank Holiday open day. Olaf Engvig, the modern day Norwegian Viking, joined COMRADE for a sail on the Humber before returning to Hull.

In November COMRADE was in York under hire to Kestrel Films Ltd of Shepperton Studios to take part in the film “Black Jack’.

1979 – ‘Black Jack’ film released and a full sailing programme

In May ‘Black Jack’ was shown at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and received the Critic’s Award. The feature film, directed by Ken Loach of ‘Kes’ fame, portrayed COMRADE as an 18th century coaster with several of our members having parts as extras.

NOTE: The BFI has recently re-released the film on DVD following a high definition digital transfer, coupled with a dolby digital soundtrack, both cleaned up to give the highest quality presentation possible. BFI Black Jack

Sailing trips began on May 04 with the final trip on September 30 covering a total of 173 miles under sail alone. There were several one day charters and the first weekend charter with a party from the Thames Barge Sailing Club.

COMRADE visited Grimsby Fish Dock Open Day on July 27, for which there were a large number of visitors. Sunday August 12 was our Open Day at Beverley and, thanks to effective publicity, the ship was crowded all afternoon.

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