Category Archives: Culture: songs, stories, photography and art

Traditions and culture relevant to the world of real boating and sailors

More of Roger Davies’ classic marine paintings

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Roger Davies has been a marine artist for 30-odd years, although he claims it wasn’t a conscious decision – rather, it seems that living in a series of seaports had a powerful influence on his work. Over time, he lived in Newport, London, Belfast and Hull, and became drawn into the history of boats and ships, and those who sailed them. Perhaps unusually, his interest was caught by both the world of wealthy yacht-owners (and the crews, who were often fishermen also) and by the world of working sail.

The foundation of his very detailed work is undoubtedly his almost obsessive research. The atmospheric quality of his paintings probably derives from most of his career being spent as a watercolourist: ‘For a long time, I found I couldn’t develop sharp and precise detail with thick, sticky oil paint, and so I preferred working in watercolours.’ However, he’s now back working in oils, attracted by what he calls the extra ‘oomph’ of the medium. His classic yacht paintings in particular are almost exclusively in oils.

The Big Five
THE BIG FIVE,1926
Named by journalists of the time, The Big Five were a mixed class of superyachts who raced on handicap throughout the mid-1920s. They were:(L to R) White Heather II, Westward, Lulworth, Shamrock, Britannia, and are shown here at the start of a race during Cowes Week 1926.

Lulworth dominated the class during the year, as she had the year before. This painting was commissioned by her owner to be the centrepiece of the newly restored Lulworth’s saloon below:

The Big Five in Lulworth's Saloon

The Rebirth: Lulworth off Portonvere
THE REBIRTH: LULWORTH OFF PORTOVENERE
After working for over two years on Lulworth commissions, Roger decided to commemorate her restoration himself with this painting of her sea trials in the waters of northern Italy. He was a privileged guest at her regatta debut at the Argentario Sailing Week in June 2006, and says that racing on Lulworth was unforgettable.

Sloop off Hessle Cliff
SLOOP OFF HESSLE CLIFF
A Humber Sloop sailing eastwards past a mill at Hessle on the north bank of the Humber, circa 1920. Hessle Cliff refers to a nearby quarry visible from the river. This the site of the Humber Bridge today.

Sloop approaching the river hull

A SLOOP APPROACHING THE RIVER HULL
A Humber Sloop about to leave the Humber and enter the river Hull. The mate is beginning to work the foresail halyard winch to reduce sail for the journey through the confines of the narrow river. I should explain that the location is given by HMS Southampton in the background. She was a borstal ship moored just to the east of Hull until 1912.

Thames barge in a blow
THAMES BARGE IN A BLOW
Originating in the Thames region, these capable vessels ranged far and wide round Britain, wherever they could find work. They could be sailed by just a man and a boy.

In a Clearing Mist
IN THE CLEARING MIST
Roger’s notes: The painting shows a Humber Sloop and Keel. These later barges were iron or steel hulled, while the earlier ones were wooden. The Sloop, being unladen, shows the typical bluff bow. Her mast is stepped further forward than the Keel’s to accommodate that long boom.

The Big Five and Sloop off Hessle Cliff are sold, but the other four are recent work and still available. These and other paintings and prints by Roger Davies can be seen at Top Pictures, 7 Hepworth Arcade, Silver Street, Hull, HU1 1JU. Go to: http://www.toppictures.co.uk

Roger also undertakes commissions.

Time to wet your whistle and let out a song

Tonight, I think it’s about time we had some music on the intheboatshed blog. Boating isn’t just about boats and sheds, boatbuilding or restoration, or even about navigating your boat – it’s also about a rich tapestry of personalities and culture.So tonight we have sea songs from my old friend Keith Kendrick. I hope Keith won’t mind when I say that with his dangerous smile he has something piratical about him and that when he sings with his concertina, he looks every inch everyone’s idea of the old fashioned sailor man. I’m sure he won’t mind when I say he’s a great singer of sea songs, as the MP3s I’m posting tonight will prove.

Ironically, Keith is a land-lubber by birth, originally hailing from the English county of Derbyshire and still living there today. Despite this, he did live on the East Kent coast for eight years where he was able to nurture more effectively an already strong leaning towards all things maritime. He has a long established and well documented history of performing and recording all kinds of music of the sea worldwide both solo and with various collaborations over forty years!

Keith is clearly passion-driven in his performance of sea shanties, fore-bitters and various other maritime related material including dance tunes on the English and Anglo concertinas.

He draws his influence from the old sailors and source singers of the material like: Stan Hugill (the last real shanty man), Bob Roberts and Cyril Tawney to name just three.

All of these three great singing heroes are now sadly gone and singers who have really studied their singing styles and songs, such as Keith, play an important role in carrying their legacy forward.

Listen in particular for the breaks and turns in his voice in the shanty set, for example – they’re one of the keys to real shanty singing.

Here are two tracks from his latest CD on the Wildgoose label Songs from the Derbyshire Coast. The first is the shanty Bold Riley (I’ve read somewhere that it’s a halyard shanty) and a set of three shanties, A Hundred Years Ago, Essiquibo River, and Rolling Down the Bay to Juliana. The files will take a moment to download but I can assure you that they’re well worth the short wait – this is shanty singing with real class.

Bold Riley is a windlass shanty that started life making the sugar run from the West Indies to the UK. Who ‘Riley’ was, unfortunately, is anybody’s guess.

A Hundred Years Ago is to one of two melodies commonly associated with this halyard Shanty from the USA – the other one is English in origin and both can be found in Stan Hugill’s seminal book, ‘Shanties From The Seven Seas’. Two other shanties: ‘A Long Time Ago’ and ‘Leave Her Johnny Leave Her’, share the same metre and are likely its two closest relatives.

The name of the Essiquibo River gives away the West Indian origins of this song – it would likely have been used originally inland for heavy shifting work and would have been lead by a Negro ‘shantyman’ eventually finding it’s inevitable way to sea where it’s use would need little adaptation. I take this at a slightly faster lick than it would have been sung in a working context.

Among the shanty set, I guess Rolling Down the Bay to Juliana, sometimes called Emma, is probably the least well known. It’s nevertheless one of the best halyard shanties around, and Keith tells me he believes it was collected in the early 1950s by folklorist A L Lloyd from ex-sailor Ted Howard. Ted, it is said, was on his death bed in a sailors’ hospital surrounded by all his shipmates when he sang this to Mr Lloyd. Apparently, his dying words were ‘Strike up South Australia and let me die happy!’

Bold Riley

Shanty set

Songs from the Derbyshire coast is available here:
http://www.guestlistwebarts.co.uk/eyup/cds.htm

More songs from Keith and friends:
http://intheboatshed.net/?p=78

A song from me:
http://intheboatshed.net/?p=609

Keith Kendrick, singer of sea songs and concertina player

Photo by Andrew D C Basford (2006)

Can you help save a gracious old lady?

Rania was built in 1937 by the Rampart Boat Building works in Southampton. Just before delivery in 1939, however, she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, when many small British craft sailed across the Channel to rescue the British Expeditionary Force – and army of 400,000 or so.

This astonishing exercise took place in perfect millpond conditions (see the images of this event at the Rania site, and see Wikipedia for more on the fighting and evacuation). She continued to serve in the ‘Mosquito navy’ for the duration of the war.

She is now in real need of help. Rania has been dismantled and is in urgent need of repair; she has been saved by the Dunkirk Little Ship Restoration Trust but unfortunately the funds are not available – nevertheless her supporters wish to restore her to her original condition and return her to Dunkirk in 2010 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuations.

For more on Rania, and some very evocative music:
http://www.rania.co.uk

Rania in her heyday