At Brayford, Lincoln

Frank Baines, Esmond Bates and Mark Woodcock brought the Mary Gordon to Lincoln in 1943. The middle of World War II, this trip which took five days, was complicated by paperwork, 26 different bits of paper were demanded by the War Department.

The Mary Gordon was missing windows and doors. These and a new deck canopy were added by Frank Baines. The cabin was, like the hull, built from teak, and had clerestory skylight and stained glass panels featuring birds and fish.

The Mary Gordon was fitted with a new engine, a marinised Model T Ford engine, running on petrol, later modified to run on paraffin.

For annual maintenance, Frank Baines constructed a slipway on the side of the Fossebank.

The Mary Gordon took parties of up to 36 passengers between Gainsborough, Lincoln and Boston – wherever they wished to go.

She also took many children and families on holiday trips between Lincoln and Gainsborough. VE Day 1945, was celebrated with free trips for all.

Here is the Mary Gordon docking at Gainsborough.

To work on the tidal River Trent, Frank Baines fitted a second Model T Ford engine and the wing mountings are still evident.

Eventually, the sandy Trent river took its toll on the prop shafts and trips were restricted to the Fossdyke canal with just the one engine. A Kelvin 40hp motor was fitted.

In 1948 Frank Baines sold the Mary Gordon to the legendary William ‘Skipper’ Ross Hendry and it is during the period of his ownership that most people remember her, taking thousands of Lincoln folk between the Brayford Pool and the Pyewipe Inn or Saxilby. Here is link to one of the posters.

Here is the Mary Gordon in the Brayford taking holiday makers on a trip in 1948.

Many tales are still told of the old Skipper’s colourful character. Passengers would be told on arrival at the Pyewipe that the Mary Gordon would be returning to Lincoln in 20 minutes. Often, over an hour later passengers would still be waiting on the boat whilst the Skipper was still in the bar. On at least one occasion, a passenger had to be recruited to steer the boat back to Brayford Pool.

The landlord at the Pyewipe began charging a penny deposit on bottles and glasses, and the Skipper soon realized that this could be a lucrative sideline. “All aboard! Ladies and Gentlemen. Bring your glasses and bottles with you!” was the cry. On the next trip, Skipper Ross would take back all the empty glasses and bottles and claim the deposits.

For more than twenty years the Mary Gordon plied between Lincoln and Saxilby, giving many Lincoln children their first experience of a boat trip. Many of those children have fond memories of this important part of their childhood.

Skipper Ross entertains small boys on Brayford Wharf, in front of the Mary Gordon – a classic picture taken by the Lincolnshire Echo.

Dressed up in flags, the Mary Gordon took part in all the water carnivals in the Brayford during the 1960′s. According to Skipper Ross, it was by then, the oldest passenger boat in the British Isles still in use.

Sadly Skipper Ross was knocked down by a car, and never fully recovered. In a letter to his grandson he tells him: “I am sorry to say I had to part with my boat the Mary Gordon, the boat I loved, and ran her for 23 years, a happy contented life, meeting and mixing with hundreds of people each week. Visitors to Lincoln from all over the World, chatting with them, their views of life and our country. And on a fine evening, running like hell for leather, to the Pyewipe Inn for a wee gin and it, music, full belt. Coming home everybody singing “tell me the old, old story”.

His grandson Stewart Hendry recently emailed Peter Harrold. He sent one of the posters advertising the trips under Skipper Ross Hendry, and a news paper cutting about the selling of the Mary Gordon. He also sent some copies of letters which show how he felt about this (the extract above and some additional information on the website comes from these.

In 1969, the Mary Gordon was sold to Tony Ellis. He continued the trips from the Brayford for a short time, but then sold her to a local consortium. They planned to take her by water to London. The Mary Gordon never made it further than Nottingham.

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