By: Blonde One
The recent Walk Scilly festival included a fascinating guided walk on the Maritime History of St Mary’s and the Isles of Scilly. I thought I knew the area quite well but this walk gave me so much more and made me realise that my knowledge merely scratched the surface.
We were guided by Richard Larn OBE. He was the most charismatic and knowledgeable man and I’m guessing that if he doesn’t know something about maritime history then it’s not worth knowing! He has written over 60 books (I recommend the ‘Built on Scilly’) and his OBE is for services to nautical archaeology and marine heritage. He’s a fascinating person in his own right: a career in the Merchant Navy, Royal Navy, diver, historian, writer, to name a few of the interesting things he’s done.
I learned so much more about the area from Richard and it took on a whole new level of interest for me. I couldn’t wait to tell Mr Blonde One all about what I’ve learned. I knew he would enjoy hearing about the ships that were built on this beach, the blacksmiths that used to occupy the building next to our apartment and the lofting that used to take place at a well known building. It’s hard to imagine that these tiny islands were the home of thriving shipbuilding and repairing businesses; it doesn’t seem exactly cost efficient to import all of the materials to a tiny group of islands (infamous for their treacherous waters) to build the ships there. St Mary’s has long been a port for hundreds of thousands of ships on their way to and from the mainland, since as early as the 1300’s and Richard made each story come to life with snippets of local anecdotes combined with recorded facts and photographs. The past seemed very much in the present, especially as we ended the walk with a visit to the Lifeboat station and read details of the wrecks and rescues of the crew.
One of the more fascinating stories was of Cloudesley Shovell, who died in 1707 as Admiral of the Fleet. His flagship HMS Association was wrecked off St Mary’s and the disaster is recorded as the greatest maritime disasters in British history, as it recorded 2000 deaths. Shovell’s body was washed up and buried on St Mary’s and then later moved to Westminster Abbey, where it lies now.
Richard told many more interesting stories from a Scillonian, a ship builder and a sailor’s point of view that makes me want to attend more of his walks and read more of his books.
Find out more and see for yourself. Here’s how:
The nights might be drawing in, but autumn’s the perfect time to explore the wilder side of the Isles of Scilly at Walk Scilly Weekend. It’s a chance to experience the islands at their most magical and discover their wild beauty on a long weekend of themed, guided walks with experts who live and breathe Scilly.