MARY GORDON is the oldest electrically powered craft still in existence. In 1898, she was built by W Sargeants of Eel Pie Island in the Thames and has a carvel hull of teak planking on oak frames. She has two timber masts and was one of the largest launches of her day, carrying seventy-five adults or one hundred and twenty children.
MARY GORDON was commissioned by Leeds City Council and named after the wife of the Mayor of Leeds. She was transported overland by steam lorry and launched on Waterloo Lake, Roundhay Park, Leeds, in 1899. In 1914, MARY GORDON was fitted with a trial eight to ten horse power Alpha marine motor from the Blackburn Aeroplane Company. She continued to ply her trade at Roundhay Park until she was sold in 1923 to Stephen Askew, a Wakefield cinema owner. She was then moved on a horse-drawn wagon to the River Aire and taken to Wakefield. A petrol engine was installed and she was used for half-hour Sunday trips on the River Calder between Chantry Bridge and Kikthorpe Weir.
In 1943, MARY GORDON was moved to Lincoln under the ownership of Frank Baines, Desmond Bates and Mark Woodcock. This wartime trip took five days, with over twenty-six pieces of paper demanded by the War Department. Special dispensation was obtained from the Ministry of War for the boat to be brought onto the tidal Humber. She arrived in Lincoln engineless and Frank installed a model 'T' Ford engine (modified to run on paraffin), later joined by another to give twin screw propulsion, although this was not a success and a Kelvin forty horsepower engine had to be fitted. She was missing windows and doors and Baines had these re-fitted, along with a new deck canopy. Baines also constructed a slipway for her maintenance on the side of the Fossbank. MARY GORDON was used to take parties of up to thirty-six passengers between Gainsborough, Lincoln and Boston. She took many local children and families for wartime 'holidays at home' and, on VE Day, provided free trips for all. In 1948, she was sold to William 'Skipper' Ross Hendry, who plied between Brayford Pool and the Pyewipe Inn or Saxilby. The ‘Skipper’ was a famous character who became legendary during his twenty year ownership of MARY GORDON, during which thousands of locals sailed onboard her. Sadly, he was run down by a car and died shortly afterwards. MARY GORDON was sold to Tony Ellis in 1969 who continued the trips from Brayford for a brief spell before passing her on to a local consortium. She ended up abandoned and sinking on the River Trent. She lost her cabin top at this time and many original features, before being rescued by Graham Mackereth in the late 1970s.
In the 1980s, she was taken by road to Hartlepool where plans were made to restore her. Some work began, but with the cessation of shipbuilding on the Tees, she was once more abandoned and scheduled to be burnt. Again, Mackereth saved her and subsequently sold her to a trust dedicated to her restoration. Plans are being made to fit her with an electric engine and base her in the heart of Lincoln.
Classic Boat: Mary Gordon to be restored, April 2000
Hawthorne, Edward, Electric Boats on the Thames Alan Sutton Publishing Co Ltd, Alan Sutton Publishing Co Ltd, 1995
To date, this vessel has received funding of £23,600 by Heritage Lottery Fund
An award of £1000 to cover the costs of education planning for an HLF bid was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships
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