Lifeboats and love songs

Today I have two little history gems to impart. The first involves lifeboats and those that made them.

Henry Greathead was a boat builder in Yarmouth. One evening in 1798, the Adventure struck rocks and, although the entire town came out to help rescue anyone they could, it was all for naught. A great tempest was raging and many lives were claimed out of the ship’s complement. A great sadness was felt by the townspeople.

This sadness was shared by the Duke of Northumberland who immediately set a challenge for someone, anyone to come up with the perfect lifeboat. This spurred Henry into action. It also spurred a lot of other boat builders into action as they eyed the 100 guinea prize with eager anticipation.

In the end, it was Henry’s design which won the competition and, in many cases, this has earned him the moniker of inventor of the lifeboat. This is not entirely true. Apparently another man, Lionel Lukin, took a patent out for a lifeboat in 1785 but, I guess, he didn’t enter the competition. Henry perhaps should be known as the man who built a lifeboat and won a competition.

Along with Henry, and a whole load of other fortune seekers, a clerk, known for his extreme poverty and violent language, improbably called William Wouldhave, almost won but the judges weren’t keen on his use of a copper bottom on his boat. And this was in spite of the fact that William’s design was deemed unsinkable by the committee. Poor William. To rub salt into the gaping wound, Henry eventually changed his design giving his lifeboat a copper bottom!

I guess it’s just one of those times when your name is clearly working against you. No-one knows what happened to poor William Wouldhave but Henry Greathead was assured his place in history every time someone jumped into a lifeboat to rescue the drowning and waterlogged.

But, on the plus side, the judges did award William one guinea for effort.

The other little history story concerns the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). When the British took French prisoners, they would be taken to well fortified spots along the south coast and left to see out the rest of the fighting in relative comfort. Their biggest enemy, it seems, was boredom. In order to alleviate that boredom, they would make models.

Most of them were of French vessels, made of either wood or bone but they also made models of French harbours, which the cynic in me wonders if it was an intelligence issue. If so, it’s pretty stupid. If I was a French prisoner of war and my English jailer told me to make a model of a French seaport so they could attack it, I’d be putting a lot less guns on it than were actually there. The same with the ships.

Maybe they were doing it for the tourists. Even today, there are seaports where you can easily pick up a lovely wooden (but rarely bone) model of a boat or ship. A rather delightful little shop in St Malo springs to mind. I can just see the English guards buying the intricate little creations, expecting, one day, to have them displayed in the Science Museum.

Though, when it all comes down to it, they more than likely did it because they were bored. And they didn’t have the Internet. And most of them couldn’t speak English.

Tonight we went to the monthly Girls and Guitars at Farnham Maltings. We haven’t been for ages. Tonight we saw the return of Michelle Nadia, who we saw a while ago. It was our first return gig and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Michelle has a great personality which comes out, not just in her songs, but also in her ability to chat to her audience.

The one blot on the evening was what I have been reduced to drinking while the antibiotic alcohol embargo is in place.


Two bottles of fruit juice and a latte while watching Mirinda drink a pear cider, is rather hard to take for an old soak like me. I’m just thankful Michelle was so good and entertaining.

Michelle without lights

Just before the concert started, the lights above the little stage area died so Michelle played in a rather shadowy spot behind the microphone. Fortunately she thought to bring along her own fairy lights.

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1 Response to Lifeboats and love songs

  1. mum cook says:

    So did we get the Lifeboats out here from the same man?
    I think Michelle looks lovely with her own fairy lights what a shock for your tummy when the Apple and Mango juice hit.
    love mum

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