A ‘stunning’ set of sails on tea clippers | Nostalgia

On December 9 I published a picture of a model ship from the 1930s which was 1/6th the sizeof HMS Victory.

Saturday, 28th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 28th December 2019, 6:05 am
This magnificent painting by Geoff Hunt shows Ontario with a spread of studding (stun’sails) sails.
This magnificent painting by Geoff Hunt shows Ontario with a spread of studding (stun’sails) sails.

I mentioned that the model was so good she even had stun’sail boom-yards attached. I was then asked by several readers what these were.

When a sailing ship was in light winds, boom-yards attached to the yardarms had sails affixed. These were then pushed outwards from the main yardarms to give extra yardage of sail and, of course, more speed.

Without getting too technical, the actual term was studding sails but this was shortened to stun’sails.

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These sails were more commonly used in the days of the great tea clippers trying to set speed records on the voyage from China to England.

In very light winds all the yardarms on all the masts had stun’sails set.

In this magnificent painting by Geoff Hunt of an 1815 scene, we see the Ontario with mainmast and topmast studding sails set giving a magnificent display.

• My photograph of the former ornate gateway into HMS Excellent in The News yesterday was seen by former naval officer Captain Gordon Walwyn, an instructor at Whale Island(the home of Excellent) in the late 1950s.

He said what should have been written on top of the gate was: ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’. And he should know!

• Gareth Derbyshire, the secretary of the HMS Royal Oak Association has asked me to thank everyone who who attended the 80th anniversary service of remembrance of the sinking of Royal Oak in 1939, in St Ann’s Church in Portsmouth naval base on October 5.

It was a superb turnout especially with The Princess Royal and her husband Admiral Tim Laurence also attending the service.

• Although I was thinking more about bomb craters rather than cleared land, Mark Newman has corrected me about the last bomb site in the city, one I’d forgotten about. It was the former Hippodrome Theatre site in Commercial Road, now Guildhall Walk.

As you may remember, comedian Bob Hope was due to appear at the Guildhall when an unexploded 500lb bomb was discovered on the site and his show was cancelled. Any other memories of bomb sites across the city?

• Darren Coffin has asked me to mention his ancestors George and Charles Coffin. George died in 1907 and acquired much wealth from housebuilding in the Eastney and Milton areas. Census records also show that many Coffins were involved in the brickworks as employers.

Darren would appreciate any information about the family.

He would love to know about the business of the housebuilding and the brickworks.

He can be contacted at [email protected]

• Many of you may know John Bevan, the author of two books about the mysterious disappearance of Commander Lionel Buster Crabb in Portsmouth Dockyard in the 1950s. John was also a professional diver who worked around the world.

I am sorry to tell you that John has not been well in recent months his wife, Iris, tells me.

A year ago John had a mild stroke as a result of which I discovered he had been suffering from myeloma for the previous two years.

Iris says: ‘At the same time the myeloma went into overdrive. Chemo reduced John to a zombie state and by the time he finally beat the cancer into partial remission he had severe fluid retention which required another hospital admission.

‘Unfortunately, from that time on John went downhill so rapidly the hospital discharged him to return home on end-of-life care. Since then he has steadily improved but is still bedridden and has the appetite of a gnat. Any recovery will be a slow one.’

I am sure you join me in sending John and Iris our best wishes for the new year.

• David Barber has made another model of the Rex cinema. He tells me the cinema, which once stood almost alongside the Carnagie Library in Fratton Road, Portsmouth, opened its doors in 1913 under its original name The Globe, seating about 500.

In 1937 the name was changed to the Rex. During the war it was closed and used as a furniture store for people whose homes had been destroyed in air raids.

After the war, its name changed to the Rex Continental. In 1973 the cinema finally shut for good.

After an attempt at turning it into a bingo hall, it was finally converted to the Shoot Pool hall which lasted until 1986. After laying semi-vacant for another year or more, it was finally demolished. The block of flats called Shoot Pool now stands on the site.