THISTLE was the only Thames sailing barge built in Scotland, and her name recognises her origin. She was built by William Hamilton & Co, of Port Glasgow, with a riveted iron hull, and is the oldest iron-hulled barge still sailing. She was completed in 1895 for H A Covington, a coal merchant of Battersea, London, and traded regularly from the Humber to the Thames. THISTLE could carry 150 tons on coastal voyages, or 170 tons on the rivers.
Her skipper was Captain Anmer, from Shotley, who took his sons Stanley and Jimmy as mate and third hand respectively. Later Stanley left whilst Jimmy stayed on as mate. In 1940 THISTLE was sold to the London and Rochester Trading Company. In 1948 her metal sprit bent whilst on passage and, having no engine, she was towed back to Rochester where her sailing gear was taken out and she was converted to a motor barge with a 66 bhp Kelvin engine. She continued to trade until 1972 when she was sold to Barry Bowes, before being sold on to Angela Olson in 1978 and to H C McLaren in 1979. During the 1970s she was a houseboat on the Medway. A restoration was started at Woodbridge in 1980, but she was then laid up for five years near Battersea Bridge as a houseboat, before further restoration to sailing condition followed at Greenwich in 1987. Her first charter was in 1988. THISTLE is now owned by Topsail Charters of Maldon, Essex.
Source: Paul Brown, Historic Sail, The History Press.
Hamer, Geoffrey, Trip Out 1995/6 - A Guide to the Passenger Boat Services of the British Isles, G P Hamer, 1995
Wood, D G, Barges Sailing Today: Sailing Barge Information Pamplet No: 1, Society for Spritsail Barge Research, 1995
Thames sailing barge built by William Hamilton & Co. of Port Glasgow
Owned by H.A. Covington, coal merchant of Battersea, trading between Humber and Thames
Sold to London and Rochester Trading Company with same crew
Metal sprit damaged, first engine installed and converted to motor barge
Sold out of trade into private ownership
Restoration commenced at Woodbridge
Complete restoration undertaken following five year lay up near Battersea Bridge as houseboat
Vessel selected to take part in the Avenue of Sail, Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012
Selected as Regional Flagship Winner by National Historic Ships UK
A Project grant of £250 for being our Regional Flagship Winner 2015 was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ship UK
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