When Skylark became a Fisherman’s Best Friend!
‘All aboard the Skylark!’ may be indelibly etched in our popular culture as synonymous with a trip to the seaside but little is remembered of the unsung pioneers behind Britain’s pleasure boating culture – Victorian fishermen!
As the railway network expanded rapidly in the mid 19th century, people flocked for new found
adventures at the coast. Enterprising fishermen quickly recognised a novel way to
supplement their income, taking wealthy visitors out for an ‘authentic trip’ on their fishing boats.
As Britain’s seaside resorts grew in popularity, these resourceful fishermen became leisure craft
operators investing in passenger boats and launching them from the beach alongside donkey rides and deckchairs to avoid steamy jetty fees.
By 1923, ‘Skylark’ was a popular name for small pleasure boats and former fisherman Jake Bolson had a monopoly at Bournemouth with his fleet of bright white ‘Skylarks’ a familiar sight across the Bay. In 1934 he added Skylark IX, which is believed to be the last surviving of his eleven Skylarks.
“There’s a lovely tie between the spirit of Skylark IX, an indomitable pleasure boat which survived and contributed so much to coastal communities for almost eighty years and the entrepreneurial spirit of those early fishermen.
“Fond memories of pleasure trips aboard a Skylark have been an enduring symbol in
popular culture, inspiring books, TV programmes, nursery rhymes and even an album by Hawkwind. Without those spirited early fishermen, we probably wouldn’t have such a wonderful, rich seaside heritage.”
Claire McDade, Project Manager of the Skylark IX Recovery Project
Something fishy ….
Skylark IX’s history remained entwined with fishermen after World War Two.
In 1947, Skylark IX was purchased by Percival Budge Miller, a former fisherman who gained some
notoriety in the fishy story of the Helena Majewska, an American food transporter which beached on the Goodwin Sands. After removing 99 tins of food from the vessel, he became one of 12 Margate
locals charged and acquitted of ‘exceeding permitted salvage rights’!
In 1955, Skylark IX headed north to Scotland, first to Burntisland and Portobello and then across to the West coast where, after 33 years on Loch Lomond, she ended a long working life.