From Beverley To Bristol

At Brunel’s SS.Great Britain

The ‘Trawling Through Time’ project is all about the story of Cook, Welton & Gemmell, Beverley shipbuilders, and bringing that story to as wide an audience as possible.  That is why we were delighted to be hosted by Nick Booth and his team at the SS.Great Britain in Bristol on Thursday 9th May 2019 for the final lecture in our outreach programme, delivered by Dr Robb Robinson.

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Dr Robb Robinson delivers his lecture to the Bristol audience at SS.Great Britain

“To bring our own story of maritime heritage from a small inland market town in East Yorkshire to Bristol’s No.1 tourist attraction was both a privilege and a great pleasure for us…”

The SS.Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, arguably this country’s most famous and celebrated engineer of the Industrial Revolution, and it was the first large ocean-going vessel to feature the combination of an iron hull with a screw propeller.  Launched in 1843, the SS.Great Britain took passengers on non-stop voyages from Bristol to New York and Australia respectively; the latter taking around 53 days to complete.

Nowadays, the vessel lies berthed at Bristol Harbour, and thrives as a world famous museum and fitting testament to Brunel’s engineering genius.  To bring our own story of maritime heritage from a small inland market town in East Yorkshire to Bristol’s No.1 tourist attraction was both a privilege and a great pleasure for us at East Riding Archives.

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Under the hull of the SS.Great Britain

“Robb’s references to the company’s unexpected connections to pop culture were particularly revelatory and entertaining for the audience…”

From the museum’s Harbourside Kitchen and Cafeteria, Dr Robb Robinson delivered his third and final lecture of our National Lottery Heritage Fund project to an enthralled audience, many of whom had probably never before heard of Cook, Welton & Gemmell and its significance to the fishing industry and maritime heritage in general.  Robb’s references to the company’s unexpected connections to pop culture were particularly revelatory and entertaining for the audience – Who knew that the Beverley-built MV Plassey is the wreck that features in the aerial view of the fictional ‘Craggy Island’ on the opening credits of the ‘Father Ted‘ sitcom, or that the vessel which was blown up in the opening scene of the James Bond movie ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (the ‘St.Georges’) was a Cook, Welton & Gemmell ship, originally called the ‘Thorina’?!

You can view footage of these unusual pop culture references here:

The wreck featured on ‘Father Ted’:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca9_nFfjYgs

The destruction of the ‘St Georges’ in the opening scenes of James Bond’s ‘For Your Eyes Only’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8dalGrOR30

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Onboard the SS.Great Britain

As well as Robb’s delivery of a lecture, the superb team at SS Great Britain, led by Head of Collections, Nick Booth, organised an exhibition in the Library onsite, which jointly featured items from their collection of over 7000 ships plans and a digital display of digitised general arrangement plans of Cook, Welton & Gemmell vessels, produced by our volunteers at East Riding Archives.  A special thanks must go to Tyler, Molly, Andrew, and Peter from SS.Great Britain’s staff, for devoting their time to the preparation and stewardship of the exhibition outside of their regular working hours.

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Superb team of staff & volunteers.  Left to right: Molly, Andrew, & Tyler

Of course, none of the three lectures delivered in the name of our project could have happened without the expert knowledge and presentation skills of Dr Robb Robinson, who combines that expertise with a humour and personability that appeals to so many audiences.  My sincere gratitude goes to Robb for agreeing to help us in taking the story of Cook, Welton & Gemmell to a public audience, and finally also to Nick Booth from SS.Great Britain, who helped us plan and deliver the event from start to finish, and without whom our gathering in Bristol would never have been possible.

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An exhibition featuring collections from SS.Great Britain and East Riding Archives was held in the Library

For more images taken of the SS.Great Britain and Robb’s lecture, view our ‘From Beverley To Bristol’ gallery.

 

Sam Bartle:  Digital Archivist, and Project Co-ordinator

(East Riding Archives)

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