In 1995 Sean Laffey was living in Guernsey, where he collected the song Nottingham and Mars from a direct descendant of Philip Sausmarez.
One day Sean met Charlie
Torode the store keeper of the local boat yard , who told him
of a find of a sea chest in the loft of a recently renovated bungalow.
The chest belonged to George Hocart, shipmate of Stan Hugill on
the last voyage of the Garthpool. The song The Last Windjammer Boy was inspired by those contents.
THE LAST WINDJAMMER BOY - THE SHOW
First perfomed by Jenkins Ear in Guernsey on Armistice weekend 1995, in the Happy Landings Hotel . The show in a revised form was presented by WARP FOUR a the Hull Sea Fever Festival in 1999. The show opens with an empty stage, strewn about with nautical effects, with sailcloth screens for slide projection.A tape of early Jazz is crackling out of the house PA . A Narrator takes up the story:
"The year is 1929, the place Hull, England, an unusually warm Autumn. In the dockyard young men are busily labouring, excited by the romance and reality of a working sailing ship. Final preparations are being made to take a voyage, outward bound for Australia, aboard the Garthpool, the last of the British Windjammers. The purpose of the journey, the annnual grain race to Australia for wheat.
At this moment the lives of men and ships collide with the end of a chapter of maritime history.
In this folk documentary, with the aid of their own words, contemporary sketches and photographs, we pay tribute to these young men and their ship in an entertainment to conjure up the spirit of a lost age, when the passion for sail anchored in the shoals of nostalgia, and the iron men of this final crew entered the foc'sle of legend."
This is of course not the whole story of the last voyage of the Garthpool nor the nautical careers of Stan and George. Happily there were no fatalies on this ill fated voyage, all the crew returned to Britain to a heroes' welcome.
George got his masters ticket in 1933. Initially he sailed in Channel Island waters but before long he was off on a deep water voyage to Australia. Later he had a distinguished career in the Navy and back in civilian life after the war continued to Captain merchant vessels.
Stan, couldn't get enough of sailing ships, consequently he signed on foreign boats andcontinued his song collecting. His sailing career lasted for 26 years . He was a prisoner of war and even here his shanty singing was constantly in demand from his fellow interness.
After the war he became Bo'sun of the Outward bound school in Aberdovey and worked with Dr Hahn at Gourdonstown school . He was Bo'sun on the Pamir, a sail training ship which was crewed with British and German youths in the 1950s. The dual combination of seasicknes and a song being a great incentive to international co-operation.
In 1960 he published the monumental "Shanties from the Seven Seas" a collection of over 450 sea songs and the best to come out of Britain. Many of tonight's shanties have been taken from this source.
I am indebted to Mike Smith , George Hocart's son and to Mr Andrew Pearson of Hull son of Arthur Pearson (one of the Humber Pilot apprentices) for permission to use photographic and diary details from their fathers sea chests.
Material from Stan Hugill derives from a series of articles he wrote for the monthly magazine Sea Breezes, which first appeared in 1929, we are greatful to Philip Hugill for permission to include material from his father in this show .
The Last Windjammer Boy is the song that tells the whole story, click HERE to view the words.
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