Festival celebrates Lynn mariner

SUE SKINNER He can hold his head up as one of the elite of British seafarers.But Captain George Vancouver has long lived in the shadow of Norfolk's most famous naval son, Lord Nelson, with his achievements largely unsung.

SUE SKINNER

He is among the elite of British seafarers.

But Kings Lynn-born Captain George Vancouver - the man who gave his name to the Canadian city - has been largely overshadowed by Norfolk's most famous sailor, Lord Nelson, with his achievements largely unsung.

Now a weekend of celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth is set to change that.

The arrival of the tall ship, the Earl of Pembroke, on Thursday, June 21 will herald the start of the Captain Vancouver Festival, a packed programme of music, dance, street entertainment, talks, exhibitions and children's activities.

Born into a well-to-do Lynn family on June 22, 1757, Vancouver went to sea as a Royal Navy midshipman with Captain Cook when he was 14.

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He had a flair for navigation and sailed the world on Cook's second and third voyages, witnessing Cook's death in Hawaii in 1779. He was later chosen for a mission to the north-west American coast, to negotiate with the Spanish for the return of disputed territory and to chart the dangerous and complicated shoreline, to facilitate trade.

From 1791 to 1795, Vancouver took his two ships, The Discovery and The Chatham, through danger, sickness and deprivation - but notably losing few men - to complete a chart used until the recent era of electronic mapping.

Vancouver in British Columbia was named after him. Around 150 other American and Canadian place names, many reflecting his home county, were chosen by Vancouver and are still in use to today.

Nick Daubney, deputy leader of West Norfolk Council, which is organising the festival, said Vancouver's achievements had not been given the recognition they deserved and the festival aimed to help put that right.

He said: "The way we live now, with our relative wealth, heat, food and trade, all goes back to people like Captain Vancouver and the voyages they made, the trade routes they found and the contacts they made with people and the lands they charted. Perhaps we never really appreciated how important that was."

Festival attractions drawn up by arts and education manager Liz Falconbridge and arts development officer Sheena Carmen, both based at Lynn Arts Centre, will range from seafood-tasting and a Georgian-style ball to demonstrations of traditional trades ,such as rope-making.

People will be able to go on board the Earl of Pembroke while it is moored at the Boal Quay and the festival as a whole, which runs until June 24, will be based around the quayside and the historic heart of the town.

Mr Daubney said: "There's going to be lots for everybody and a lot of it is going to be able to be enjoyed free of charge.

"I certainly believe we are going to have lots of visitors from all over the world.

"We are speaking to people from Canada, where there's a lot of interest and we know people are coming both officially and unofficially - and indeed from the United States as well. It's going to be fabulous and it's going to do King's Lynn a lot of good."

Full information on the festival is available at www.vancouver250.com or by contacting Lynn tourist information centre on 01553 763044 for a festival leaflet.