“Don’t let her story die” by Mary Burch
After leaving HMRC, I started a counselling practice and began volunteering with Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA) and the performing arts charity Industry Minds. My involvement with Skylark IX began with the Remembrance Association. In 2010, we made the annual Remembrance sail, stopping as always to pay our tributes. It was therefore a huge shock to be notified just a few days later that Skylark was underwater.
With the threat of being broken up hanging over her, the Remembrance Association started a campaign to rescue her. The task seemed a massive one for the small committee and the matter was debated over many meetings. It was the determination of one of our members, local businessman John Holms, who wouldn’t let the matter drop from the agenda and he fought hard to persuade the rest of the committee that she needed to be saved.
We (The Remembrance Association) commissioned an underwater survey by Loch Lomond Aqua Club in 2011 and were delighted with her condition so negotiations started to find a way to re-float her and secure her future.
Bryan Warren, a huge stalwart of the Remembrance Association, and myself started a media campaign to highlight the plight of this historic little ship – appearing on national and local TV and we kept her story in the press.
It was a joy a year or so later to be approached by Alternatives to give consideration to setting up a Trust and so the Skylark IX Recovery Trust was formed. The Remembrance Association formed part of that Trust and fundraised in the early years to help with her storage costs.
Fast forward another few years and we have a project that brings together a community, involves those side-lined by society and has a board of Trustees who all bring their individual skills and talents to ensure that Skylark IX’s story is shared and never forgotten.
Just as Skylark turned in the direction of Dunkirk in 1940, I have witnessed over the years the wonderful people who have turned in her direction when her need was at its greatest and to every one of those individuals, we have a huge debt of gratitude.
In 1940, the hope was to rescue 45,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk and in the end 338,226 were rescued by over 800 boats.
In 2010, the hope of the small committee of The Remembrance Association was to simply re-float this historic little ship; in 2013 the hope of the newly formed Skylark IX Recovery Trust was to restore this historic little ship; in 2021 as I write this, we are on our way to ensuring that Skylark IX remains in our community as a significant reminder of the history of Dunkirk and the little ships, as a tool for education, employment and inclusivity and a landmark that will merge with the future plans of Dumbarton and will bring visitors to witness what hope and resilience can achieve.
The importance of Skylark to the Dunkirk veterans has always been at the forefront of our minds and as we go forward with our plans, remembrance of the men who fought at Dunkirk will not be forgotten.
A few years ago, I attended the funeral of the last of our Dunkirk veterans to join the annual parade and Loch Lomond sail, Geoff Bryden. He had left a message for the Skylark team – “Don’t let her story die”.
Skylark IX and her history will not die. She continues to play a part in rescuing those who are in need and will continue to do so in the future.
I am incredibly proud to have been a part of her story and her journey and hope to continue to be a part of that journey until she is once again docked safe and secure.
I mentioned the incredible people who have helped her on her journey, but the last mention must go to the Heritage Lottery Fund who saw her importance and the work she still had to do and made the next stage of her journey possible. Her work is certainly not finished.
In the words of the Skylark Song written by Duncan McCrone and Cy Jack:
“Steadfast and sure, her name will endure like the poppies of early November….
……The voice of the Skylark never will fade away, never will die”
Mary Burch BEM, Chair, Skylark IX Recovery Trust
Pictured above: Mary with Lyle Davidson, The Vale of Leven Remembrance Day AssociationFiled under: News