Stills from the film Red Sails
Last night Julie and I finally grabbed some time to watch Mike Maloney’s splendid Red Sails film on DVD. I can report that it’s a cracker.
The new footage is wonderful, but the old footage Mike found is really something, not least because it reveals so much. I thought I’d read enough to know a little about these old working boats but had no idea, for example, that when they were loaded with bricks they were brought on board by hand, in small numbers by each man.
Again, I hadn’t realised that Conyer and Halstow had been such busy centres for the brick trade, and I’d forgotten if I ever knew it that the ‘rough stuff’ hearth ash brought down the estuary by the barges was mixed with clay to make the bricks. Presumably that’s what makes the dark markings that make the characteristic London brick so handsome.
The footage also of the old barge skippers Jimmy Lawrence and Don Satin adds to the value of the film – we’re so lucky it has been made at a time when there are still old barge skippers around to be interviewed. Needless to say, they’re both excellent value in this film – having seem Jimmy Lawrence telling his stories before I knew what to expect, but Don Satin’s a great find, for me at least.
I’d like also to thank Mike Maloney for taking the trouble to include some good, useful stuff about the last of the barge skippers Bob Roberts, including his role as a singer of old and traditional songs. This aspect of Roberts seems often to be neglected by enthusiasts for these old boats, and I think it’s a great shame. I remember him singing years ago, and it will probably surprise some readers that I sometimes take singer friends over to Faversham to show them the Cambria, as a kind of pilgrimage.
Red Sails, the new film about the story of the sailing barges, is available on DVD from the Countrywide Productions website.