Are we to lose Kathleen & May?
Photo. © Courtesy K&M website
It was with great regret that the many people keen on maritime and social history heard in July that the last three masted wooden schooner in the United Kingdom, Kathleen & May, was being put up for sale by her owner, North Devon businessman, Steve Clarke. None were more concerned than the folk of Youghal where the ship had been owned by merchant Martin Fleming for almost twenty five years in the early twentieth century. Although she was sold away to Captain Tommy Jewell of Appledore, North Devon in 1931 the ship continued to trade to many ports along the southern Irish coast for the next thirty years and it is said that Captain Jewell seldom passed by Youghal without putting into the harbour, for many of his crew members continued to come from that historic town.
My interest in the ship is that of a maritime historian who has written about many of the vessels that traded under sail around the coasts of Britain and Ireland and I have developed a particular interest in the Kathleen & May since she returned to North Devon in 1998 to be restored by Steve Clarke and his dedicated band of enthusiastic helpers, who came from all walks of life and gave their time to a labour of love. At the conclusion of this long task they were rewarded by the sight of the old vessel (by that time over one hundred years of age) putting to sea on a voyage across the Irish Sea to her old port of Youghal. The welcome that awaited her in that historic port was astonishing and showed that the people of Youghal and its surroundings still wanted to see what was undoubtedly a major part of their heritage. Youghal’s life revolved around the sea and its trade for centuries and it was clear that the people still recognised that fact.
The fact that the ship was restored after many years of semi-neglect and has subsequently sailed to other places such as France and Spain as well as other British and Irish ports graphically illustrates the need to keep her in a suitable condition to continue to do so as a constant reminder of our heritage as seafaring nations and the importance of such ships in the economy of each nation. An enormous amount of money has been expended to bring the ship back to life and much of the financial burden has been shouldered by Steve Clarke who, although he entered into the commitment willingly and has continued to support the project for almost ten years, is now finding that the burden is just too much to bear for much longer.
The ship has, therefore, been put up for sale with a heavy heart although it is hoped that any buyer will be sympathetic to the paramount importance of keeping her in British or Irish waters since those are her traditional locations and it would be a great loss if she were to be taken away to some foreign country. The ship is important for several reasons: she is the last survival of the once numerous fleet of sail trading vessels that plied their trade around coastal ports, she has significant importance in the memories of many of the people of the ports to which she traded including, most importantly, Youghal and Appledore and she provides the opportunity for people young and old to experience the thrill of sailing a ship of this type which few people alive today still recall. The life aboard a sailing ship in the coastal trade was not easy but few things that are worthwhile do come easy and this ship presents a link with a world that is rapidly being forgotten in a fast moving age.
I earnestly feel that the ship should remain within her original environment and implore the good folk of southern Ireland and the west country of Britain to help to achieve that desirable objective. It would be a sad day, indeed, if this vessel should disappear to unfamiliar waters and would be a poor reward for those who have given so much in financial and physical effort to achieve what we have today.
[Members will find Colin Green's contact details at the end of the printed copy of this letter in SW Soundings No.70. Non-members are welcome to post a message via the Comments Form at the end of this letter. Webmaster]
From Colin Green
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I understand she is based in Liverpool. A detailed article will appear in the next Soundings
Where is the Kathleen and May at present? November 2012
I have photographs of Kathleen and May late 60's, when she was sitting on sand banks off Bideford, being bought at that time by Trevor ? who had put his life savings into restoring her.
Unfortunately he ran out of money but i shall always remember seeing the wonderful interior and having tea on board.I was a student then,involved with local journalist doing articles about K &M.
2-3 years ago I had the opportunity of visiting K&M,and sail across the Torridge on her after she had been over-wintered,before putting to sail for the summer.I knew she might have to be sold, and would be interested to know if she is still afloat off Bideford Quay please, and is she still owned by Steve Clarke? He had done a wonderful restoration job on her, and it was the first time I had seen her with full sails, a tearful reunion after many years!
I have photographs of Kathleen and May late 60's, when it was sitting on the sand banks off Bideford, being bought at that time by Trevor ? who had put all his life savings into restoring her.Unfortunately he ran out of money but i shall always remember seeing the wonderful interior and having tea on board.I was a student then, involved with local journalist doing articles about K &M.
2-3 years ago I had the opportunity of visiting K&M, to sail across the Torridge on her after she had been over-wintered,before putting to sail for the summer.I knew she might have to be sold, and would be interested to know if she is still afloat off Bideford Quay please, and is she still owned by Steve Clarke? He had done a wonderful restoration job on her, and it was the first time I had seen her in with sails, a tearful reunion after many years.
The Government's response to the petition can be seen at
[Opens in a new window]
We have now been informed that the Friends of Kathleen & May have set up an online petition on the 10 Downing Street website to draw the government's attention to the fate of this unique local icon, and help keep her in her home port of Bideford, Devon.
Please sign the petition by clicking this link
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Kathleen-May/ It will only take 2 minutes of your time to complete and by doing so you will be helping to preserve a beautiful, classic and historic vessel.
After clicking the link you will be taken to the petitions home page, fill in your name, email address (twice) home address and postcode then click the button marked 'SIGN'.
(All of these details are kept private except your name which will be added to the list)
10 Downing Street will immediately send an email to the email address that you have given, you need to open this email and click on the link in it which will take you back to the petition page and complete the process.