All posts by Gavin Atkin

Gypsy, the Hornby weekend cruiser with an amazing story

These photos are all (or believed to be) of Gypsy, an impressive 1936 Hornby weekend motor cruiser with an event-filled history.

Michelle Bird has written in to appeal for more information about the boat which is owned by her partner,  David Pannell.

‘We’ve seen a picture of her in front of one of the historic HMS ships at the Portsmouth Heritage dockyard museum, shown to us by the curator there, and would really love to find out whether she was used in Dunkirk, as seems to be suggested.

We know she was originally commissioned by an Admiral and had a steel bulkhead instead of a wooden one, and had two Vosper Thorneycroft engines installed in the 50’s to replace the original Morris engines. We know too that she was owned by the Spragg family of Sparks Marina on Hayling Island but have been told that she was stolen in 1968 as part of the getaway for the Great Train Robbery.

She was rammed by a Customs vessel at some point when used for drug running.

Michael Stiff of Blemheim Road, Ipswich, found her abandoned on the River Ide and took posession after making a deal with the Spraggs and doubtless their insurers.

We have an article from the Daily Express from July 1971 that Mr Stiff sent us. At the time, he was about to embark on a trip to Scandinavia in her, and the article quotes him as saying that an Interpol investigation looking at the question of where she’d been for three years was still open…

Mr Stiff had lots more information and items he’d stored from her that he was going to give us, but he sadly passed away not long after we bought he boat.

Dave has painstakingly cleared inches of oil and gunk from inside her and she’s starting to look great, but she’s still a long way off completion. We’d like to find replacements for a couple of brass portholes that were stolen, and to restore the Vosper engines if possible.

If anyone has any further info about Gypsy, please message me at gmatkin@gmail.com,  and I will pass the message on.

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Recommended CD: Sam Larner, the singing fisherman of Winterton

Many of us are thinking of Christmas presents, so here’s a little recommendation from me, priced at just £16.

Sam Larner (1878 – 1965) was a fisherman who lived at Winterton who late in life became legendary for the quality of his singing of old songs, and his extensive repertoire.

This pair of award winning CDs of recordings made by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger of his songs and reminiscences is a gem that includes 65 songs and fragments, plus some illuminating spoken passages.

At 149 minutes, the collection is said to amount to pretty well all of old Sam’s recorded repertoire, and gives a powerful impression of his life and times, and of course his character and the way of speaking on the East Coast in years gone by – for when I hear him speak, it could be my East Coast grandparents talking.

Read the very informative CD booklet and check out the review by an expert in traditional songs.