The Maritime Memories Machine – a van themed around the sea – tours England from June to August 2017 and visits sixteen different towns and cities along the way to collect people’s sea stories and memories.
On Tuesday 25 July 2017, the Maritime Memories Machine visited and added to a fun-filled Community Day event at the Sailors’ Society, an international maritime charity working in ports across the world, based in Woolston, Southampton. They help seafarers and their families, from all faiths and none, with welfare and practical support.
The charity transformed its premises into a seaside featuring sand pools, face-painting, a pop-up charity shop, balloons and treats from its own BySea charity brand.
Local residents came to share their connections to the sea with us through creating song, writing postcards, making drawings, singing sea shanties, engaging with seascapes and handling objects themed around the sea, including an original piece of wood and metal from Nelson’s HMS Victory shown by Sailors’ Society’s CEO, Stuart Rivers, pictured below.
Here are some participant’s thought-provoking stories of the sea caught by the Maritime Memory Catchers Joe and Tash:
“Richard lived for two years on the Orkney Islands and he watches the forces of nature and storms on the sea from a distance. There is a causeway nearby named ‘Churchillbury’ that was built in World War II to stop German submarines. Near this causeway there is an old fleet of wrecked ships including HMS Royal Oak. Richard, his wife and five-year-old daughter got caught on the causeway in a storm and as they were passing a massive wave broke on their car. It was so big it forced the wind screen wipers apart and it was quite scary. Richard watches the storms on the sea, but now looks at them in a different way...”
“I went on a boat from Southampton in 1964. It was called the SS Dronsay. We sailed through Egypt and the journey ended in Mumbai. It was called ‘Bombay’. Then we went to live in Alipore, in Kolkata. It was called ‘Calcutta’. Mother Teresa used to come round. It was called ‘Sunday Dinner’.
“We were in an 18 foot sailing slope coming out of the mouth of the River Stour. The wind blew up and despite the engine, the sails and rowing; we were barely making head way. As we continued, the wind took us towards the path of the old Sally Ferry coming out of the docks at Ramsgate.”
Hear what Joe and Tash thought about their visit to Sailors’ Society:
“Some brilliant moments today were holding and touching pieces of HMS Victory belonging to the Sailors’ Society and having conversation with Bill Mcrea, a Chaplain who has retired from the Sailors’ Society but who is still involved with the charity in many ways. Bill has been on ships since he was sixteen years old and shared such incredible stories and memories. Participants found it very enjoyable when Joe played his guitar together with Bill as he played his harmonica during a sea-shanti session. We were really well received by the Sailors’ Society and the community.”