Humber keel Daybreak made flagship of the year


Humber keel Daybreak has been made national flagship for the year by National Historic Ships UK.

The award goes to the owners of the vessel with the most impressive seasonal programme of public events in the forthcoming year and is designed to increase the public’s appreciation of historic vessels in the UK’s heritage.

The winning vessel receives a broad pennant to fly from its masthead wherever it goes, and a grant of £1000 towards the cost of keeping the vessel in operational condition and opening her for public viewing.

Daybreak is a 61-ft keel built by Richard Dunston of Thorne and launched­­ in 1934, which makes her one of the last keels built. She was owned by Hanleys, a firm of Doncaster flour millers.

Motorised in the 1940s, she was restored to sail in 1986, and has been based on the River Thames for the last 38 years.

Daybreak’s has an extensive public programme for this year including festivals, barge matches, open days along the East Coast and a reconstructed trading voyage under sail from Hull to Doncaster.

Daybreak is on the National Register of Historic Vessels (NRHV) held by National Historic Ships UK.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum Boat Club’s extensive programme for the herring drifter Reaper from Anstruther to the Yorkshire coast caught the judges’ eye, and the organisation has been awarded runner-up, with a grant of £250.

Photos of the Humber keel now known as MFH

Old photos of the steam keel Gainsborough Trader, supplied by the the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society

Alan Gardiner has sent me two old photos of the keel MFH, otherwise known as Master of Fox Hounds and in her earlier life Gainsborough Trader. In doing so he’s really replying to Peter Radclyffe’s question following an earlier post about the Humber sloop Spider T.

I gather MFH is now at Falmouth; I certainly saw her there a couple of years ago and may even have a photo somewhere.

Here’s what Alan has to say:

Gainsborough Trader was built as what was locally known as a steam keel, though in her case she was diesel powered from the day she was built. She was, I believe, the first vessel that Dunstans built with engine power and, although these barges still had the keel tag, they were not rigged in the normal way. Their use was to act as towing barge for the company as well as carrying cargo. Often, as in the case of Gainsborough Trader, they would rig a small sail from a mast that was primarily used with a derricking pole to handle cargo.

‘Of the two pictures, one shows her very early on in her life just about to drop a tow from a wooden keel actually at Gainsborough, and the other shows her alongside King’s Staithe at York with two sloops and a lighter or keel behind that she has towed up the River Ouse. It also clearly shows the small sail that she had on her mast to assist her on the inland stretches when the wind was favourable.

‘I have not done any research on Gainsborough Trader specifically, so would be interested in anything surrounding her working life.’

Thanks for the photos Alan! If any reader has any information they would like to pass on, please contact me at and I will pass the information to Alan.

Gainsborough Trader is listed in the National Historic Ships register.

See the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society website:

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