For far too long I have spent time at the Blists Hill Museum site studying the Severn trow the Spry, on display at the Victorian Village at Madeley, Telford, hoping to work out how she was actually sailed. Hauled out of the river, it is hard to imagine The Severn Trow "Spry" under sail, and although I had tried to work out the process of raising the sails, of steering her, it was difficult to imagine and describe how this was done, especially for someone whose experience of boats is limited to ocean liners and a canal barge, neither of which use sail power! The Spry was found deep in mud in the basin at Worcester docks several years ago. Just the hull remaining and very little of that, in fact she had the appearance of a turkey carcase after all the meat had been removed. Very sad. But with tremendous skill and dedication she was brought back to her former glory and after trials in the Bristol channel, she was brought to the Shropshire museum.
When I discovered that her construction and her river trials had been filmed, I thought it would be a simple matter of obtaining a copy of the dvd and watching and learning. Finding the name of the company who had filmed the documentary, I contacted them only to be told that as the Spry was not their property they were not allowed to copy the film and offer it for sale. A year later, when visiting the museum I saw the dvd for sale - permission had finally been given.
And so, after nearly eighteen months I am now able to begin the completion of River Dark, my children's book set in the Ironbridge Gorge and a story that contains the exploits of the young characters aboard a trow and sailing up the Severn. Having spent some hours re-winding the dvd and slowly understanding the process of sailing her, I hope to complete the book, have my children set sail in the Emily Grey, the trow of my imagining, so that readers of Candle Dark, the first book in the series, will hopefully enjoy sailing on the Emily in the the sequel, River Dark!
Do you encounter the same problems?
The Severn Trow "Spry" under sail. Photo courtesy Dave Bushell of "I.A.Recordings"