The Loss of Sailing Fishing Smack “Pert”
When you hear of the loss of any ship you immediately think of a disaster, but, of course, there are more ships that run a normal sort of time and wear out and rust or rot whilst laid up.
“The fishing smack Pert” was laid up and left on the pulsing opposite where I was born and brought up.
I’ve been searching a right up to date Collins Dictionary for ‘pulsing’ and I can’t find that or any other name for the mud flats on the sides of tidal rivers so maybe it was just what we youngsters used. For the lack of any other word I will carry on using it, till someone puts me right. Anyway, the
“Pert” was laying beside an just behind Galls Engineering Workshop (where the Quayside Garage is today). We kids, of course. Just could not resist clambering in and over the old boat. My grandfather had just taken over a brand new sailing smack, the “Three Brothers.” He went to the auction of the Pert’s fittings. Grandfather bought her fog bell, which when he retired, he gave to me and I’ve still got it. Why to me? never did know, we played in the “Pert” for some years and nobody bothered because we didn’t realise it at the time, but old Jack Firrell had bought it. At least he had acquired it, and we had done him a good deal, for we had started his job for him. He broke her up and took her away in a hand cart for fire wood. The pieces we had broken off in our play he only had to pick up, so if left a few more months, he would have been able to have just picked it all up.
Didn’t know much about Jack Firress except he lived in Winchelsea Road a bit nearer to Winchelsea than us, and his wife died a while before this incident, and so did my father’s brother, and they had then married each other, and Jack had two sons, twins, Norman and Bert but they weren’t anyway alike. He had become a new uncle for me which I didn’t mind as I liked my two new cousins, who I had been at school with. Norman, was killed working as an ordinary civilian in the Way, and I never knew what happened to Bert. My father and I felt sorry for Jack because my Aunt Nell had been a terror to my uncle Harry (her first husband), so when one day old Jack came by my fathers workshop, he shouted “The old so and so’s gone Bill”. There seemed then, great excitement and not much, if any, more work was done that day and neither of them went to her funeral. Now if we take that and the Bell, non of my family will ever forget the “Pert”.
My fisherman Grandad, at that time had the smack “Sunbeam” and his father had another smack “The Three Brothers” which has a story too.
Now she wasn’t lost for any other reason than the customs officers sawed her in half, thereby finding a hollow keel loaded with contraband. He was a notorious smuggler and besides having his ship destroyed he had some time in a cell in the Ypres Castle which was a prison at that time.
My cousin Cora seemed to know more about our great grandfather the smuggler, than I do but I don’t know if she wrote down what she knew. I don’t know if June Woolley knew because Cora married June’s father and they are both gone and I don’t know June’s address that’s funny, some people think I know everything although I do remember quite a lot and by what I have just written its easy to see why I call all old Ryers, one big family, anyway I do know that great grandad was a notorious smuggler, not really surprising because he was not too far away from the French immigrants, so might well still have some very good French friends or their descendents who would meet quite easily in mid channel. Customs had been suspicious for a long time, on this day he was close to custom house and had not hidden two pots of rum, so his mate (deputy) had to do all the business with customs whilst he tied the kegs of rum to himself and swam under water passed the office Cora reckoned she had seen his wigs, hats and other disguises, hence the E in Batcheler instead of O.
Everybody who lives in Rye knows what happened to the “Steam Trawler Margaret” that is the trawler “Margaret Cole Brooke”. She was blown up during the first world was and there is a memorial to the crew in Rye Cemetery.
I don’t suppose many people know what happened to the “Sun Beam” she was taken to Iden Lock and because of all the rivers and canals with junctions locks and all sorts of controls needed, she was sunk in the junction of the Rother and Royal Military Canal to help to control that junction for a while.
Just after the end of the first world War a big rusting German submarine was washed up on the beach at Harold Place at Hastings. I would have been five or six years old and went with mother on her “First between the wars shopping trip” to Hastings. We went to look at the wrecked submarine. There was a ladder leaning against her for any member of the public to go up and have a look a policeman stood at bottom of the ladder and when he saw a small boy looking curiously on, he picked me up and took me up on deck. But he didn’t think it safe enough to take me down the companion way, so I didn’t see how they worked down in there. Don’t know what they did with her, but assume they took her to a dock yard and cut her up for recycling. She would have made a good breakwater but it would have to have a big surface of deep water. So I don’t think she could have been used for such purpose around here. Talking of German ships, there was a German freighter called “Von Cluck” captured in the first war and in my young days was being used by Britain. Her name then was “Katharina” For anybody interested further of her, John Easters’s Grandfather was her captain for a longish time. I didn’t know her rig, but the nearest I would call her was a boomy. She would have been in and out of Rye with logs off spritty rigged barges (about 190 tons) so the crews would have told us. As they used to invite us aboard as the ship was their only home which when they were held up in Rye for lack of cargo. They became Ryers for a while. The Spritty Rigged Barges were centred on the Medway and some of them may be there now as a museum. The one I knew best was the “Lady Gwenifred” part of the John West fleet. There were also a few German spritters in the strand, and one of them was there when the last war started, she was given one of two options, one of which that they try and get home, an option they took and I reckon there would be gun boats in the channel and they could have had a water burial.
The river barges to fit our water ways were 23 ton and mostly in the fleet of L. A. Vidler. A trade well inland, with a wharfs at Newenden and one at a place called Platt Heath (now gone), but Newenden is still being used by a lorry firm. took place for most of my young life. Pollards Wharf where Kings Avenue now is, was, apart from a wharf an in-fill rubbish tip which they filled up with a housing estate without any serious trouble. These barges didn’t all belong to Vidler unless he hired some out, because the “Primrose” seemed to be run solely by Ellis Brothers, they had a board running along each side of the hold. Where a man with long pole used to walk along and push the boat. All reference of this is called punting but there was another word used locally which I cannot recall. I can still remember seeing members of the Cutting family walking along those boards for it was they who worked it for “Ellis Bros” and it was, because of that Ellis Bros laid up the “Primrose” many of the Cuttings were in or had relatives on the “Mary Stanford” disaster crew and the sight of the “Primrose” brought that unpleasant memory back to us who knew the story of both ships so goodbye to the “Pert” and all her contemporaries from the “Primrose” and all other vessels that served their home port of Rye.