Sunday 21 August 2011

Old Bob (Roberts)

With a stroke of genius, Mum is out shopping today and finds what could be the perfect beer for a link up with Dad's beloved barge, SB Cambria. Cambria was, as any fule no, the last Thames Barge trading under sail power alone in the UK, so our last sail powered merchant vessel, the end of an era. These sail powered vessels and their captains were referred to as 'Sailormen' and Cambria's last skipper, clinging onto the sailing tradition because he hated the new-fangled diesel and steam powered craft, was a bloke called Captain Bob Roberts.

Bob finally gave up on the sail powered life in 1970 as the barge was getting too old and starting to leak like a seive, not making any money as a business, and Bob was also getting older and less able to wrangle rigging and winches. He sold the barge to the Maritime Trust as a museum ship and briefly ran a motor coaster called Vectis Isle before retining to the Isle of Wight to live out his final years with his wife.

He died in 1982, if I recall correctly, cycling home from the village to his house so would never have known about the recent Lottery Funded rebuild of the Cambria to its present beautiful condition. His 2 daughters have enjoyed close contact with the project and have been to visit the team a number of times. The crew of these barges was traditionally two blokes - the Skipper and a Mate, plus a dog (In Bob's case a collie cross called Penny). The 2 most recent 'Mates' of the barge are also very much still with us and one, Dick Durham has written a book about Bob called "The Last Sailorman". The other, Phil (Ginger) Latham now lives in France but has been to see the barge many times and Dad has met him and had a good long (all be it star-struck) chat!

In his life he had also been an author (his books are very good), a journalist with National dailies, and was known as a folk singer and story teller around the barge ports. He and Cambria are also in a well known 1950's BBC TV documentary (might have even been presented by Roger Bannister, the runner) about living by old traditional means round the coast of the Thames Estuary (wildfowling in Essex etc).

See Culture with it!



Mr Silverwood said...

Beer and culture, you really are growing up Deefs

Barry Jackson said...

Just for the record, Bob Roberts featured in 1955 in a documentary called "Away From It All" presented not by Bannister, but Chris Chataway.