Pathé newsreel films – including the ‘red boats’ of Brixham, boat building on the Thames, and making the Firefly dinghy

The British Pathé website has some charming bits and pieces of old film, not least this one of the Brixham sailing trawlers racing in a regatta more than 80 years ago.

From 1950, here’s a great old clip about a boat building family on the Thames. Listen carefully, and you’ll learn the secret of British worldwide boat building supremacy. Yes, ladies and gentleman Britain led the world in just about everything, or so we were always being told. I think we’re a little more realistic today…

Here’s a splendid four-minute piece outlining the three-layer hot-moulding process used by Fairey to manufacture the Firefly racing dinghy and others. I hadn’t realised that it was a vacuum process, but it’s well worth understanding. Who’s that in the boat at the end I wonder? They found some suitably entertaining weather for the filming.

Moving still further from traditional timber-based boat building is this jolly newsreel about making fibreglass boats in 1958 – a time when glass and polyester resin with still being touted as a wonder material.

Ahoy you Landlubbers is a not terribly informative report from the 1959 London Boat Show. The producer was clearly hell-bent on a subject that no doubt interested him rather than the boats.

‘We are now very much in the age of the motor boat. Diesel optional, girls essential,’ says the voiceover as the camera turns to a couple of models toying with a giant ball, and chatting with contemporary racing driver Mike Hawthorn – this was likely to have been just days before his death in a car crash on the 22nd January that year.

‘The Rolls-Royce of the boat show is the 10-berth 36ft Bevinda, the hull of which is the biggest single reinforced resin moulding in the world,’ continues the voice from another age. ‘Top speed more than 30 knots.’

Its top speed may have been comparable to many modern luxury motorboats of a similar length, but I bet it needed significantly smaller engines to reach it.

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