Sailing People

Capt. Mick Lungley  1934-2010

A tribute – By Richard Walsh

I remember sailing Kathleen to Pin Mill for the 1966 barge match. We had only just rigged-out the barge with torn-out gear and sails on a zero budget. It was our first sail, having just ‘borrowed’ a mainsail from Paddy O’Shea off the Nellie Parker and a leeboard, at Maldon Hythe, from the Ethel Ada, to make it possible. Having had a lengthy passage, we anchored off the Butt & Oyster, but on the North shore, some hours before high water. Even then the yacht moorings off the hard, where we wanted to be, looked impenetrable to us amateur first-time bargemen. We went ashore at Pin Mill and were steered to a young Mick Lungley, whom we had never met nor heard of, who, without a moment’s hesitation offered to sail Kathleen through the yachts onto the hard.

He came off early to the barge and got her underway, sailing to windward up to Woolverstone and beyond, for an hour or so to get to know her, before turning to punch the flood back down to Pin Mill. The tide was well in by then with plenty of water on the berth. Mick skilfully steered her through the many yachts, reducing sail as we went (we had no engine!) to safely berth Kathleen alongside other arrivals and local barges gathering for the match. Nothing was asked for, payment enough being the pleasure it gave him to be helping somebody. That was Mick; a giver rather than taker; an honest, likeable and generous person, whose acquaintance I have highly valued ever since that moment.

Mick was born at the Tendring workhouse in 1934, and grew up at Bradfield, near Mistley. His enthusiasm for barges grew as he watched them off Wrabness from his bedroom window. After his parents died, when he was aged 15 he joined his sister in Ipswich, his brother-in-law being a bargeman. At 17 he went into Cranfield’s and Paul’s barges and whilst still in his teens was entrusted by Cranfields, the flour millers, with the Venture, engaged mainly on the grain run, back and forth up to London and down to Ipswich.

Our paths have met on many occasions since that day in 1966, from time to time years back when he served on the Association of Bargemen Committee until after he had retired from the sea. Then, following a few years as a crane driver, he ran The Angel in Woodbridge, followed by The Limeburners in Offton for which I made his pictorial pub sign. We met up more often after he joined the Sailing Barge Masters Qualification Board on which he served from September 1988 to the present. We also had the chance for a yarn in the late 1990s when I chaired the Thames Sailing Barge Match in which he either competed or served on the Bridge Committee. He was also a member of S.S.B.R. for which he was never short of constructive input, drawn from his vast experience under sail.

This ever popular character from the days of sail will be remembered affectionately by us all, whether for the wisdom he brought to the bargemen’s Qualification Board, his 30 years as Officer of the Day for the Pin Mill Barge Match, or for the pleasure he gave singing shanties with the group High Water Mark. Thank you for it all, Mick, you will be sadly missed.

Michael John Lungley, 1934 – 2010.

The above article first appeared in Tops’l no 44, the magazine of the Society for Sailing Barge Research SSBR and is published by kind permission of Richard Walsh – one time owner of SB Kathleen. Richard’s book , ‘Kathleen – the biography of a sailng barge’ may still be available from Roger Newlyn, here.

The article below was written by WENDY ROSE for the BBC RADIO SUFFOLK website:

In 1949 Mick Lungley lived in Ipswich with his sister Ivy. His dad didn’t like the idea of him going away to sea so Mick had to go to work in the laundry.
“Don’t you let him go on them barges,” Mick’s dad use to say to Ivy
Then when Mick was 17 his dad died.
Mick told Ivy that there was now nothing stopping him going to work on the Thames barges. Once Mick had been on a Thames barge he knew that sailing one was what he wanted to do.

The first Thames barge he went away on was ‘Gladys’. He went to London with ‘General’ Stanley Reed – everyone called him General.
“My first job as a mate of a barge was on Venture with Harry Driver. We carried flour from Ipswich to London and brought wheat back to Cranfields Mill.
“I got paid £4 and half a crown a week.”

BBC Radio Suffolk Broadcast Assistant Nigel Lungley, Mick’s son, said: “They used to be known as man and boy and later when Mick had passed his exams he became a captain at the age of 19. He took on a mate who was even younger!
“They took the barge to London and when they were seen running around on the quayside, they were asked what they were doing and when they said they had come from Ipswich the locals laughed and said: “You wouldn’t know the way from Ipswich!”
“But of course they did. They were known in Ipswich as Boy and Boy!”


Mick said: “A Thames barge weighs 80 tonnes and was the original cargo ship, the lorry of that time. Barges were owned by the Suffolk farmers who used to ship their straw from their farms to London for the horses that pulled carts and carriages.
“Then we would bring back horse dung to fertilise the fields. So we recycled in those days too.
“On the stern there are draught marks, which measure how deep the water is up the side of the barge. We only need 4 feet to float in when empty and 6ft 6inches when fully loaded.

War time

“During the war at Dunkirk in 1940 they used the Thames barges to ship soldiers around the coast. Orwell ship builder Charlie Webb sailed his barge in the war and got stranded high and dry on the beach.
“Because of the amount of soldiers that got on board, he was unable to sail off before the tide went out.”

Mick said the only good thing that came from the floods of 1953 was Shotley and Levington Marinas: “The land became flooded so deeply they established permanent areas to keep yachts. Shotley Marina used to be a rugby pitch for the naval training base HMS Ganges.”
In fact Mick loves the Orwell estuary not only because of its beauty but for the fish and the birds there too. He now sails his own barge Centaur up the estuary for fun.

Mick also belongs to the Pin Mill Sailing Club and believes that before you can skipper a barge you need up to five years’ experience depending on how much time you devote to learning the trade.

In the old days there were just two members of crew for a cargo boat as opposed to five to crew a barge in competition: “You have to go third hand so you learn the ropes, so in effect you start from the bottom and work your way up.”

However Mick is sceptical about the interest in sailing a barge because of the dedication it takes to learn to sail them safely: “Music and dancing are more important to young people than learning to sail.”

Barge Matches

“I started the barge matches back in 1961. In the very first match there were just five barges, it was held during a regatta day and the barge Memory won.”

At the 47th Pin Mill Barge Match 2008 there were 18 barges but only 17 sailed because there was a lack of crew members. Mick said: “Finding people to sail the barges that the Barge Trust has restored isn’t easy.”

Modern Technology is taking over and the old wooden barge will be a thing of the past if the magical experience of sailing one isn’t passed down to a new generation of sailors.


Stan Yeates 1915 – 2007 – a skipper of Centaur in trade.

Skipper Stan Yates at the helm of CENTAUR

Stan was born on the 26th of April 1915 in Kentish Town, London, according to hearsay during a Zepplin raid. The family lived at 18 Lawford Road. He was the youngest of the family, with five sisters and two brothers. He never knew his eldest brother as he was killed at the Somme aged 18, six months after Stan was born.

Despite the size of the family, his parents ran the house as a boarding house for Theatrical and Music Hall artists and from this Stan developed his musical talents, including his love of the piano. His father was a groom and then a horse tram driver.

He started work at the age of 14 in a small engineering factory and then went to a garage as an apprentice for 5 bob (shillings) a week. This was not enough money for his mother so he went to work with his brother Les in art metalwork. This was for a pound a week, but in a dingy workshop under the pavement of Percy Street W1. He stuck at that for several years, getting fresh air by walking and cycling in the countryside.

His interest in shipping came from hanging around London Bridge watching the craft below. The workshop shared the space with a large central heating boiler for the showrooms upstairs. They had to feed it with the rubbish that was sent down. From that he salvaged a yachting book to read at lunch time and that really started him off. Fascinated by the great Windjammers, of the then Gustav Ericson fleet, he set to learn all the names of the sails and rigging, with the British Square Riggers, Vol 1 & 2 as his bible.

Cycling was his main way of getting around until he collided with a car. Later he bought a car and started to travel further a field before his second road accident and motorcycles became the mode of transport.

Barging started as a result of sailing on the East Coast in an 18 foot boat called ‘Spindrift’. He met up with two barges and hitched a lift up to Battlesbridge on one, the ‘Dorothy’. He ended up using a sweep for four hours, rather than sailing but proved his worth. Not liking working under the pavement, he enquired after a job as mate. As the mate was leaving the ‘Dorothy’ for his own barge, ten days later he started his first barge mate job.

When WW2 started he was in the Merchant Navy on the barges ‘Glenmore’, ‘Duplicate’ and ‘Ninety Nine’, watching the war played out overhead the Thames and Medway Estuaries. Whilst mate on the ‘Duplicate’ he was recalled home from Sheerness only to find the family home had been bombed. Both his parents and one of his sisters were killed, but another was saved. All family photographs and documents were lost. Stan regretted
never knowing his parents when he was old enough to appreciate them. Straight after the funeral, it was back to wartime duties, later becoming an Engineer on a small Tanker.

He met his wife Chick when she was nineteen (she didn’t use her name Maude) They married in 1941, in St
Paul’s Church, Camden Square, followed by a wartime austere reception in her parents house and a honeymoon in Queenborough! The marriage lasted for 57 years until Chick’s death in 1998.

Both carried on in their wartime roles, living first in Gillingham and then Dovercourt. In February 1943 he was drafted into the Army. 961 Coy IWT (Inland Water Transport) although he thought that Inland meant inland, it did not. After six weeks Army training it was off to the West Country for preparations for D Day. Experiments and trials with various types of invasion craft and Rhino barges proved an interesting time for all.

D Day saw Stan crossing the Channel with the Canadians to Juno Beach and then unloading ships in the Mulberry Harbour. Eventually he made it to an Inland waterway, the Rhine crossing in Germany. Returning to
England he ended up in Sandwich with a boring land based job. Seeing others of his 961Coy afloat, he made the mistake of requesting a move back to tugs. Two days later he was in charge of one, the TID Tug 72 in Scotland for six months before de-mob.


TID 72

Back in Civvy Street he and Chick had to work and find somewhere to live. The matter was resolved in January 1947 when Stan went as Mate on the ‘Veravia’ and Capt. George Battershall agreed to take Chick as 3rd hand. 1946/47 was a hard icy winter. All went well for the next year but after a change of Skipper, six months later they left after Stan was offered a Skippers job with Francis and Gilders on ‘General Jackson’. So they started barging as Skipper and Mate, employees and owners.

In 1955 he went to work for Lapthorns, whom he stayed with for thirty years, first in the MB ‘Nellie, followed by ten years in the ‘Mary Birch’ a story on its own. The ‘Mary Birch’ was a converted X lighter (Beeetle), the 1915 forerunner of modern day landing craft. Whilst working for Lapthorns he was volunteered for practically every task there was to do. Skipper of every vessel in the fleet, painter, decorator, engineer, driver, you name it Stan did it. Having had the experience of wartime tug work, he had some interesting times with Lapthorn’s tug ‘Hooligan’.

Relaxation in those days took the form of sailing barges for pleasure, crewing for the Lapthorn or Brice families. In 1969 he bought the converted smack ‘Pembeth’ and then in the summer of 1973, the converted barge ‘Anglia’ .

During his working life, in the 1950s he became a Founder member of Hoo Ness Yacht Club and was a Trustee of that Club up until just before he dies. He spent many enjoyable times sailing with the members and engaging in interesting conversations over a pint in the Club. He was a long-time member of the Thames Barge Sailing Club (Now Trust) and sailed as Skipper on ‘Centaur’, one of his former work craft, and ‘Pudge’, more frequently after his retirement in 1985.

He was always willing to pass on his knowledge to his crew and was a patient teacher. He carried on sailing as Skipper  into the start of this century at the age of 85. In 1998 he and Lew Fowraker arranged a one day charter for early TBSC members. To qualify for a place you had to be over 65. The total age of the crew was 780 years. The Skipper was 83 at the time. They couldn’t find a Mate over 65 who was fit enough; a younger one was therefore permitted on board. His last trip out on ‘Centaur’ was as the Charterer in August 2007.

Hoo Ness Yacht Club was formed from the foundations of the Marina Club, started by the residential and pleasure barge owners based at Hoo after the war. Stan was keen to carry on the links between Sailing Barges and the HNYC and arranged several annual rallies to Stangate Creek. Very social and entertaining events!

Between 1985 and 1994 he sat on the SBA/AOB Qualification Board examining the skills of new skippers, including those he had sponsored. He was employed as Officer of the Day to the Southend Match Committee for many years. When accommodation was not available, or provided, he had his VW Camper Van to sleep in. No doubt it brought back wartime memories of his time in Southend.

Stan’s Van, the VW Camper went many miles in his retirement. With Chick it went around England and Scotland, across the Channel through France and Spain. Not content with local travel, following retirement at 70 from full time paid employment, they got the Travel bug. Chick said they were retired people not pensioners. Cruise and Passenger Cargo ships took them to Bangkok, Saigon, Australia, Bali, Jakarta, and the Pacific Islands. Nearer to home, Barbados and of course, up the Amazon!

After Chick died on Christmas Day 1998 he carried on sailing. He also decided to update his computer skills for his writing. You don’t see many 80+ pensioners buying books on Windows and Word. Even in his last week, a bad day was not his health but ‘that bl**dy new computer (a Laptop) isn’t as good as my old one’. The extension leads were out and the old one was in use again, on his lap!

His life spanned 92 years. From the era of horse drawn trams and sailing barges, to space travel and the modern digital computer age. David Lapthorn said at Stan’s funeral, ‘It is a sad fact that one learns much more of a person once they have gone, and one is deprived of the opportunity of hearing it from the horse’s mouth. It would be an understatement to say that his life was full, and I cannot do justice to his memory in the short time I have available’. Who could disagree?

Roger Newlyn

I first met Stan and Chick during that long, cold winter of 1947. Stan as mate of the ’Veravia’ and Chick as Third Hand, they sailed up to Colchester with a cargo for R&W Paul. Me and my mate (still at school) Minnie, who would soon be mate with Stan, met the ‘Veravia’ coming up the Colne with just her topsail set. It was dark, the wind failed completely at the swinging berth and Stan ran the dolly wire out. We were on the opposite side of the river and had a bike between us which had a powerful dynamo, so we lifted the back wheel off the ground and wound the pedal like mad, thinking the powerful beam shining on them would be of help. We soon learned a bit more of the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ tongue and decided the best thing was to bike round via the bridge and lend a proper hand. Three boys on one bike was quite normal.

The two things I remember most about that occasion was the happy atmosphere on board and the delicious smell of Chick’s dumpling stew wafting up from the Forecastle hatch. Stan was back in Colchester some time later to take charge of Francis & Gilders’ barge ‘General Jackson’. My pal Minnie, now a proper bargeman, went mate with him. Chick always sailed with Stan of course. ‘General Jackson’ was cut down in the Thames by a steam boat and though she was beached, she never sailed again.

Stan then took the ‘Saltcote Belle’, mostly doing East Mill  (Colchester)  work as had the ‘General Jackson’ and later the bigger, and therefore better earner, ‘Centaur’.

To me and undoubtedly to Minnie, Stan was an inspiration and a link between the old school and the new.

Jim Lawrence

Jimmy  Lawrence at the helm of Centaur