Edward Ricketts commissioned the building of Mermaid by Alfred Payne, when he lived at Twyford House, St. John’s Park, Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. He was the fifth son of George William Ricketts (1760-1842) of New Canaan, Jamaica, and Twyford House, Twyford, Hampshire. Edward’s great-grandfather had moved from Hampshire to Jamaica in the seventeenth century. His mother, Letitia Mildmay (1768-1839), was from Twyford and Edward was born on 26th May 1808 at Twyford, near Winchester. He was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, and matriculated on 8th March 1826 at the age of 17. Edward made his career in the Civil Service and became principal clerk to H.M. Treasury. He spent some time in Italy and three of his children were born in Naples between 1837 and 1840. His wife was Isabella Gibson and they were married on 7th January 1836 in Kilmuir, Easter-Ross, Scotland. One of their children, Charles Robert Ricketts, became an artist and painted marine subjects. Edward appears to have retired around the age of fifty, shortly before he had Mermaid built. He was a member of The Royal Southern Yacht Club and of The Royal Thames Yacht Club.
In 1877 Mr Ricketts sold Mermaid to Captain George Staunton Lynch Staunton, late of His Majesty’s 14th Hussars. He was born in Florence, Italy, as a British Subject, in 1840. He was the son of Henry Cormick Lynch (Captain in the East India Company), of Galway, Ireland, and Charlotte Margretta Lynch, of Crickhowell, Wales. All his siblings were born in Italy between 1840 and 1850, except for Amy Georgina Lynch, who was born at 2 Hougue a` la Poire, St. Peter Port, Guernsey. At this time he was known as George Staunton Lynch, but by 1861, at the age of 21, he had added the extra Staunton to his name and was described as a landed proprietor, but was still living in the family home, at Leigh House, Havant, Hampshire.
In 1877 Mermaid was sold to Lt. Frederick George Innes-Lillingston of Coillimore House, Lochalsh, Ross, Scotland.
He was born 15th June 1849 at Balmacara House, Lochalsh, Ross, Scotland, and christened on the 28th August. He married Frances Elizabeth O’Brian on October 3rd, 1871 at Holy Trinity, Paddington. In 1881 they were living at 25 Waterloo Crescent, Dover, Kent. Mermaid is listed in Lloyds Register as being owned by Lt. FG Innes-Lillingston from 1877-1882. By 1891 they had moved to Bartley Lodge, Bartley, Hampshire and were attended by ten servants. From there they moved to Bute Court, Torquay, where Frederick died in 1904.
He became a member of The Royal Yacht Squadron in May, 1873, and, like Capt. Lynch-Staunton, had a number of yachts on the Squadron’s list: (Capt. Lynch-Staunton’s) schooner Sibyl from 1873 to 1876; SS Iolair, 65 tons, registered in Greenock, from 1877to1878; the yawl Lavrock, 60 tons, Southampton, in 1878; the cutter Alerte, 56 tons, Cowes in 1885; and the yawl Kirmew, 71 tons, London, from 1891 to 1895. It is noted that he had “rendered yeoman’s service on the Sailing Committee” of the R.Y.S. He was also a member of the Royal Southern, the Dorset, and the Portsmouth Corinthian yacht clubs. He flew a blue flag with a white St Andrew’s cross when racing Mermaid. Lt. Innes-Lillingston owned Mermaid at the same time as he owned the steam yacht Iolair. Mermaid does not appear on the R.Y.S. list, but we can see he had some racing success in her. In the Hamble River Regatta held on September 18th, 1878, Mermaid took the second prize of £5, being beaten by E. J. Sartoris’s yacht May.
John Morant bought Mermaid in 1883 and kept her for 5 years. John Morant (1825-1894) lived at Brockenhurst Park, Lymington, Hampshire. Like the Ricketts family, the Morants had moved to Jamaica shortly after the British had seized the island in 1655. By 1754 a John Morant owned 4,631 acres in Clarendon and 3,582 acres in Vere, the sugar plantations being called The Bog, Ballards River, Chateau and Penders River. It is recorded that in 1824 John Morant (the father of Mermaid’s owner) owned 487 slaves on his Jamaica plantations. The family bought the Brockenhurst House estate in 1770 and it became known as Brockenhurst Park in the later nineteenth century.
In 1888 Mermaid was sold to John Weston Foakes M.D. of 45 South Street, Grosvenor Square, London. He died in September 1888 at the age of 65 and Mermaid passed to his widow.
Mrs Bessie Sarns Foakes, who kept the yacht for a number of years.
In 1896 Charles Smith of Park Lodge, Truro Road, Woodgreen, London bought Mermaid and kept her for 10 years. Charles Smith had been a bank clerk, as had been his father, Robert, but when he owned Mermaid he was a self-employed insurance broker. Up till 1896 Mermaid’s home port is given as Southampton, but, in that year, Charles Smith had her registered in London under Part 1 Registry, with the official number 105,779. He entered Mermaid in a race held by the Royal Burnham Yacht Club in June 1896. Mermaid was first across the line, but spent five minutes aground on Foulness Island and was unplaced. Charles Smith belonged to the Royal Burnham Yacht Club and the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club.
From 1907-1908 Mermaid was owned by George Pardy of 2 Blomfield Villas, Uxbridge Road, Middlesex. He was a member of the Royal Burnham Yacht Club and the Royal Temple Yacht Club.
There is no record that we have found yet as to what happened to her during the First World War and immediately after.
In 1924 Arthur Leslie Jasper of Wenlocks, Blackmore, Chelmsford was the sole owner of Mermaid. Later she was jointly owned by 1927 by A. Leslie Jasper and S. I. Veale. They were members of Colne Yacht Club.
In 1928 for two years Mermaid is owned soley by Stafford Ives Veale (1890-1961), a marine and poster artist, of 33 Chancery Lane, London.
Below is an email from Charles Battrick -
Stafford Veale as you know was a Poster Artist in London, and in the 1920's he and my G.Grandfather Edward Victor Bertie Battrick took a loan from Marcus Smith (Editor of Brighton & Hove gazette for whom they both worked), in order to start a design/illustration agency called 'Grafton Arts.' The offices were just near Fleet Street, and were held in very high regard at the time. They were responsible for a great many classic designs and campaigns of that era.
Many thanks, Charles."
In 1931 Arthur E. Hagg of Maloola, Marsh Lane, Stanmoore, Middlesex is recorded owner. He fitted Mermaid with a Morris-London 4-cylinder petrol motor, made in America. In 1933 he registered Mermaid II with Lloyd’s, as a 40 foot auxiliary ketch, designed by W. S. Parker and built in Lowestoft by G. Secret, in 1930. Arthur Hagg is probably the same Arthur Hagg who designed the Tiger Moth and Albatross aircraft for De Havilland and his lightweight composite wood structures were used in the Mosquito bomber. He went on to design plywood motor boats for the Walton Yacht and Launch Company. Coincidently Vickie's parents once owned a Hagg designed petrol twin engine motor wooden motor boat. Arthur Hagg was a member of the Little Ships Club.
In 1934 Mermaid is advertised for sale on 2nd November by Capt. Martin, House Boat, Dell Quay, Chichester as follows:
Mermaid was owned in 1936 for 3 years by Mr W. H. Johnson, Bewdley, Newham, Weybridge, Surrey. It was Harold Johnson who converted her from gaff rig to Bermudan in 1937. (Lloyd’s Register for 1937 describes her as an auxiliary Bermudan cutter with Ratsey sails, No.4401.) In September 1943 Yachting World and Power Craft published 1860 – 1943 "MERMAID the OLDEST YACHT in SERVICE?" by W. Harold Johnson. In it he relates how he chartered her out in his first year of ownership and nearly lost her. It later transpired that the charterer had planned to steal the boat and sail her to Africa, but was held up by the French authorities at L’Aberwrach. Harold Johnson had to go down and bail them out, and sail the charterer, his wife, their Alsatian dog and Siamese cat back to England. At the end of it he was left holding a worthless I.O.U., but at least he still had his boat.
For the years 1946-50 Richard Hopkins of The Oaks, Lacock, Chippenham, Wilts was the owner. He was a member of the Parkstone Yacht Club, at Poole.
For the next six years, 1950-56, Mermaid was owned by Richard James Ross of 60 Waldegrave Park, Twickenham, Middlesex. Mermaid was berthed at Moody’s Yard, Bursledon, Hampshire. Mr. Ross worked at Thornycroft’s and appears to have spent much time repairing Mermaid. Many years later in 1997 his niece, Mrs Patsy Pope wrote a letter to the Classic Boat Magazine describing Mermaid's current condition and that she was in danger of being destroyed.
In 1957 Mermaid was bought for £400 by Daphne Bradley, who married Frederick Clive Goodley (a police officer) of 78 Whitworth Crescent, Bitterne Park, Southampton, where Mermaid was berthed in the yard. Sue Fitt, nee Goodley, e mailed that her "very earliest memory is being shut below decks while the sails were furled away.... For a brief period she was home to myself and my two older brothers as well as mum and dad." Mermaid is recorded as belonging to Mr Goodley from 1958 until 1959. He is said to have added the dog-house described as ‘like a bus shelter’.
Cdr. Cyril E. Colbournof Caldecote Hall, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, bought Mermaid on 2nd April 1959 and owned her until 1967. He was a member of Christchurch Sailing Association and the Royal Naval Sailing Association. He bought Caldecote Hall in 1953, renting the main part of the house to St Chad’s School. The school’s principal very quickly got into arrears with the rent and the Hall was put on the market for £15,250 on 27th April 1955. The following day a fire destroyed the west wing and Cdr. Colbourn settled in an apartment in the east wing. An article in Country Life identified Cdr. Colbourn as a property developer. The Lloyds Register for 1960 shows that Mermaid has a 3 cylinder 25BHP Smart and Brown paraffin engine.
At this time Mermaid was struck by another vessel in the English Channel and holed on the port side. Repairs were carried out in Guernsey, but they were of rather poor quality. A sizeable area of 1¼ inch thick pitch pine planking amidships was replaced with ½ inch plywood and the tops of the frames were repaired with softwood and not properly tied in. One of these frames had to carry one of the chain plates for the shrouds. The whole of the exterior in the region of the repair was covered over with glass cloth and the patch is clearly visible in old photographs.
Mermaid was owned by RW Taylor of 24 Laleham Avenue, Mill Hill, London NW7 as listed in Lloyds Register.
Capt. Christopher Rodskjer of 9 River Walk, Bitterne Park, Southampton, bought Mermaid for £100. He laid her up for two years at Camper and Nicholson, until he retired. He then sailed her to France and in the Solent. He is believed to have covered the decks with plywood and canvas, rebuilt the dog house, removed the engine, and rigged her as a ketch for single handed sailing.
Saul Thomas owned Mermaid. He worked at Weir Quay Boatyard, Bere Alston, Devon and lived on the boat there. He fitted a Yanmar diesel engine with a new sternchute through the port quarter. Saul is working again at WQB as a shipwright.
Michael Plumtree of 8 Devon Consols, Wheal Josiah, Gullworthy, Devon. He bought Mermaid and entered her into Sotheby’s Marine Sale with an estimate of £4,500-£6,000. This was the first and only time Sotheby’s had attempted to sell classic yachts. Mermaid sold for £3,500 plus the 10% Buyer's premium. Below is the photograph from the listing in the Catalogue.
Julian Tregoning of Redwood House, West Lavington, Midhurst, West Sussex owned her and began researching her history, hence the correspondence with Cdr. Colbourn. This Mr Tregoning very kindly sent on to us when he heard of our project.
Tim Lawrence of 1 Stopford Place, Stoke, Plymouth, Devon, bought Mermaid for £1 as Julian Tregoning was not able to progress with her restoration. Mr. Lawrence then accrued debts to Weir Quay Boatyard where Mermaid was moored and was forced to sell her.
Chris and Victoria, members of the R.T.Y.C. and The Old Gaffers Association, but living in Derbyshire, bought Mermaid for £1,000. A condition of the sale was that she was removed from the boatyard, whose owners had threatened to burn her if a buyer could not be found. (Note: Weir Quay Boatyard has since changed owners and undergone a transformation too Mike and Lisa Hooton. It now has 120 swinging moorings, and operates as a traditional boatyard.) Mermaid was towed down the Tamar to Plymouth, where she was craned out of the water and then transported by road to Mickleover, Derby, where she arrived on the morning of 3rd June. Work began immediately on restoring her. By 2008 the work had reached the stage where she needed a mast and spars building and an engine fitting. The yacht was sent to The Ocean Yacht Company in Cornwall. It took a lot longer to finish fitting her out than we had anticipated! In 2016 we decided it was time to sail Mermaid and we entered her in the Falmouth Classics and joined the Classic's Parade on a very wet Sunday morning with a volunteer crew. We followed this up with a sail on the Helford River on a much sunnier day, which was very pleasant. Nigel Sharp, the marine writer and photographer, came out with and took photos. His article is in the April 2017 edition of Classic Boat. In June 2018 we took part in the racing at the Falmouth Classics. There is a short video of Mermaid https://vimeo.com/343686375?ref=em-share. In August 2019 Mermaid was sold to Mr S Yates of Essex.
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