By DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP, Reporter
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Built before the first world war the Norfolk vessel Ella has lain submerged in her watery tomb for nearly half a century.
But today (Saturday) saw the Norfolk Wherry Trust bring her back to life by commemorating 100 years since the building of this Norfolk beauty to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee.
Although Ella was flooded in the mid-60s a 200-strong crowd turned out to enjoy the rare sight of five magnificent traditional Norfolk wherries sailing on the Broads.
Henry Gowman of the Trust helped to organise the event with chairman Roger Watts.
He said: “There’s so much celebrating going on this year so we wanted to find a reason to celebrate the wherries and do different in Norfolk.
“The event gives the wherry family an opportunity to celebrate their uniqueness as all of them are different - they were not all built the same despite having the same style rig.”
Although there used to be over 300 Norfolk wherries there are only around nine left in existence and Ella was one of the last of these boats to be built.
Her former co-owner John Bircham was at the event held at the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club at Wroxham. He said the bittersweet day was nostalgic and allowed him to reminisce the happy times he had with his father Nat.
“My dad bought Ella in the mid-30s when I was six or seven years old and I knew her all my working life,” the 84-year-old said.
“Dad bought it for sailing and I can remember sailing on her just before the war in 1938-39.
“But eventually we had no use for her and sank her in Woodbastwick, with the intentions she would be better under water, and planned to float her again in the future and re-use her. But it never happened.”
Mr Bircham explained that during her heyday Ella was used to transport sugar beet in the winter and materials such as soil.
He added: “My dad would have been proud to see the wherries sailing - he was a typical broads man.”
The event echoed the ethos behind the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Mr Gowman said he believed that the celebrations brought together “people with a common purpose” and “created bonds.”
“There’s been a good buzz with everyone enjoying themselves,” he said.
“London may have the Thames but we have the Broads.”
Trading boats Albion and Maud, pleasure boats Ardea and Solace and the wherry yacht Whitemoth all took part in a parade of sails outside the club.
● To view the photo gallery of the event please click on the link in the top right-hand corner.