The beautifully restored Humber Keel COMRADE will sail down the River Hull and into the Humber Estuary as part of the Open Bridges journey.
Find out about the COMRADE from Humber Keel COMRADE’s Sailing Master, John Medland’s biography of the vessel:
“The steel hulled barge originally named Wanda was built in 1923 by Warren’s Shipyard in New Holland, Lincolnshire. She was bought by John Taylor, who renamed her Ada Carter, the maiden name of his wife. Six years later, John exchanged Ada Carter for a wooden Keel called Galatea owned by Arthur Schofield. The exchange was Keel for Keel, plus £600 to John Taylor from Arthur. Fortunately all the sailing gear and Cog boat on Galatea was exchanged to Ada Carter as part of the settlement.
At the earliest opportunity Arthur Schofield changed her name to Comrade and rigged her with the sailing gear from Galatea. The sailing rig was with square sails, similar to the rig of the ancient Saxon Ceols or Viking Longships. Humber Keel Comrade was in business and carried various cargoes from Hull Docks to Beverley, South and West Yorkshire and back. Being Sheffield sized – (61 ft 6in x 15ft 6in) the Keel could fit in all the lock chambers to Sheffield as well as Nottingham, York, Leeds and Lincoln. Fully laden the cargo could be up to 110 tonnes and the vessel drawing up to 7ft 6ins. Unladen, Comrade was just over 62 tonnes.
The colour schemes or liveries of the barges was not just a random choice of colours. Company owners or individual owners had their own liveries which were applied to specific parts of the superstructure. In Comrade’s instance, this was pale blue gunwales and timberheads with orange top strakes and hawse plates, this enabled accurate identification at a distance. This colour scheme is retained to this day.
In 1934, Arthur was able to install a 40hp semi-diesel which was used as a auxiliary engine with the sails. Later in 1942, the Ministry of War Transport supplied 21hp Lister Diesel engines for Inland waterway craft. This replaced the previously fitted unreliable engine and signalled the end of Comrade’s days under sail.
War surplus searchlight generator 31hp Lister diesel engines became available in 1953 and Comrade’s 21hp engine was part exchanged for the 31 hp Lister. At the same time, Arthur Schofield agreed to let his son Fred buy a half share in Comrade. Fred agreed to work Comrade on thirds so it would provide a pension for Arthur.
‘Thirds ‘ was how the profit for a voyage was distributed. Out of the gross money paid for the carriage of the goods (freight). All commission or brokerage was deducted plus any dock or canal fees and any towing fees on the Estuary. This net sum was divided into three – hence thirds. One third went to the vessel owner, who would pay for marine insurance and repairs. Two thirds went to the skipper, who would pay for the mate, casual labour needed to work the ship or cargo and any horse haulage fees on the canals, plus feeding the marine in charge of the horse. With the installation of the reliable engine, towing fees became a thing of the past.
In 1970 the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society (HKSPS) was formed with the aim to restore and sail a Keel and a Sloop, as examples of the two types of vessels which carried substantial cargoes in the region. Fred Schofield was looking to retire in 1974 and agreed to sell Comrade to the Society.
Early 1975 the restoration started, superintened by Fred. A new mast was fashioned from a long rough timber log. The sails ordered from Jeckells of Wroxham and the running and standing rigging from Hall’s Barton Ropery.
By August 1976, Comrade was sailing on the Humber. In July 1977 Comrade formed part of the Flotilla to welcome the Queen and Prince Philip on the Royal Yacht Britannia at Grimsby Roads. In 1978 Comrade was used as an eighteenth century sailing ship in the film ‘Black Jack’. In 1979, Comrade made a voyage to Bridlington, the first time a Keel had made that voyage since 1905.
In 1981, Amy Howson, a Humber Sloop which was built in 1914 at Beverley Beck, East Yorkshire and restored by HKSPS, joined Comrade as they sailed underneath the Humber Bridge as the Queen and Prince Philip drove across the bridge to Barton.
The two vessels remain under sail today and can be chartered by passengers for trips on the River Humber and inland via the Ouse. These’ grand old ladies’ show the later generations, how cargoes were moved under sail in the Humber Region.”
Visit The Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society website
Open Bridges is a whole tapestry of threads. It’s a celebration of Hull’s lifeblood, the River Hull, 13 movable bridges, the vessels that use the river and the heritage & culture that have grown up in both East and West Hull.
Project concept Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard
Photographs by Richard Duffy-Howard