A celebration of the Mirror

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Mirror Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

Bucknell sisters Margaret Palmer and Mary Ralph with
Andy Wyke; Mirror Dinghy building instructions; Mirror
on roof of Austin Mini; Barry Bucknell and sister sailing;
how we still think of the Mirror today

Copyrights: NMM; International Mirror Association; NMM &
Jack Holt; NMM; Turtle Photography

The Mirror is not everyone’s idea of a classic, but there’s no doubt that it has been a hugely influential design: it won huge numbers of people over to sailing as a pastime, and its influence on dinghy designers can still be seen today, not least because it was probably the first dinghy to be built using the stitch-and-glue technique; up to that time I gather only canoes had been built using the method.

And besides, like many people I have a certain slightly mixed-up affection for them: I built one with my father Brian Atkin when I was a kid, and more recently my partner Julie sails one.

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall recently received two very special visitors: the twin sisters of famous TV DIY expert and Mirror dinghy designer, Barry Bucknell.

The twin 93-year old sisters saw the first Mirror dinghy ever built on show at the Museum, and an original publicity film used to launch the class, including footage of their brother.

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Designed by Bucknell, together with Jack Holt in 1962, the Mirror dinghy was named after the Daily Mirror newspaper and was promoted as an affordable boat. Costing just 63s 11d when it first came onto the market, it did more than any previous design to make Read the rest of this post: dinghy sailing in the UK available to anyone.

During the 1950s, Bucknell (1912–2003) became a household name and popularised DIY in the UK when seven million viewers tuned in to watch his BBC TV series ‘Barry Bucknell’s Do It Yourself’ and later the 1960s show ‘Bucknell’s House’.

From the mid-1960s he became increasingly involved in sailing and, after designing the popular Mirror dinghy, he went on to design a two-man canoe for the RNLI.

Andy Wyke, the Museum’s boat collection manager, said: ‘We’re privileged to have the #1 Mirror on show here at the Museum, but having the sisters of the man who designed her come and visit us is just fantastic. We were thrilled to have the chance to show them not only around our current exhibitions but also the vintage footage of their brother doing what he did best!’

There’s a nice short history of the beginnings of the Mirror dinghy by one of the Daily Mirror marketing people involvede here:

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5 thoughts on “A celebration of the Mirror”

  1. Dear Sirs,
    I have Mirror no 32, still in very good sailing condition, with lots of early features and wondered how many of these early boats are still about. I hear that Mirror 14 was at the Volvo Dinghy Show this year, but can’t track down any photos.
    There are lots of Jack Holt opens at various sailing clubs. I plan to take Mirror 32 to Wraysbury and Shearwater. It would be great to meet up with some other ‘oldies’.
    Best wishes,

  2. He did NOT design the 2 man rescue canoe for the RNLI, my father did. Bob Rook on Canvey Island Essex. A 2 man Sea Rescue Canoe with sunken transom and 2 small outriggers. Barry’s 1st attempt was a failure. It capsized in front of the press. So he approached my father to build him one that would be very stable, fast and be able to slide a rescued person up the transom for recovery.

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