Last year we unveiled a new award, the ‘Richard W Smith Memorial Award’ which is to be given annually to the person(s) or organisation who, in the opinion of the Trustees of the Ipswich Maritime Trust, have contributed in a significant way to the understanding of local maritime culture or heritage.
Richard W Smith (died 31st July 2017) was a founder member of the Ipswich Maritime Trust an author photographer and great contributor to the appreciation of local maritime history and heritage. As such we have named the award in his honour.
Last year’s award was given to Robert Malster and we are sure you are all wondering who will receive the award this year.
Over the last year the effects of COVID-19 have been widespread affecting everyone in one way or another. Even a stalwart of the Ipswich Waterfront, the Sailing Barge Victor has not gone unaffected. Due to celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2020, it was to have a busy summer sailing season entertaining hundreds of people. But unfortunately, Victor has spent the last year like the rest of us in lockdown, moored up on the Common Quay.
Built by Horace Shrubsall at Dock End Yard in Ipswich in 1895 for Owen Parry. Victor worked along the East Coast collecting and transporting linseed from farms to be made into Linseed Oil at Owen Parry’s Mill in Colchester. In 1932 Victor was bought by the London & Rochester Shipping Company and was based away from Suffolk. Throughout the Second World War, Victor loaded munitions out of Chatham Dock to transfer to Royal Navy vessels. Victor was the last sailing barge to be decommissioned and in the 1950s was converted to a motor barge being sold in 1964. Since then, Victor has passed though the hands of several owners until in 2005 was bought back to the East Coast and underwent a major refit and repair at Mistley and Maldon. Now working as a charter and events barge, Victor is central to the river cruises offered along the River Orwell alongside the Orwell Lady and the Allen Gardiner.
It has survived the last year like it has the last 125 and hopefully this summer can resume more sailings once again. The survival of the Victor, one of only a handful of Thames Sailing Barges left afloat is a marvel. Victors pristine working condition is now down to the passion and hard work of skipper, David (Wes) Westwood and it is Wes, who we can unveil as the recipient of the 2021 ‘Richard W Smith Memorial Award’.
Like his father, who worked the barges and the dock, Wes has spent his working life on the Orwell. As a boatman he maintained buoyage and moorings on the river arriving for work in a bright orange boiler suit on a diminutive British motor cycle. Wes was involved with the restoration of the Ipswich-built barge Ardwina, which was converted back to sail in 1980/81 at Dock End Yard, sailing Ardwina in his spare time for Barge Matches and corporate work. He started crewing with Gordon “Willie” Williamson, became mate and sailed other barges such as Ena and Phoenician, passing his Barge Masters Board in 2003.
Wes helped with the rebuild of Victor at Mistley and Maldon and skippered Victor taking over the day-to-day management of the barge. The barge moved from Mistley to Ipswich and built a business of charters, day trips and bird watching for the public. Which has led to the delightful trips we proudly charter each year which you can book onto on our events page, which bring the maritime history of the river to life and provide a glorious day out.
Wes is a larger-than-life character who goes out of his way to help with his both his own knowledge and his extensive maritime network. A labour of love, the economics of running a barge are always borderline and Victor’s continued presence at the heart of Ipswich owes so much to Wes. His dedication, passion and expertise are the reasons that the Ipswich Maritime Trust honour him this year as recipient of the ‘Richard W Smith Memorial Award’.