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Long-serving harbour master publishes book paying homage to coastal town he was born and raised in

Wells Harbour master Robert Smith. Picture: Ian Burt

Wells Harbour master Robert Smith. Picture: Ian Burt

From its rich history to the people at its core, the soul of a north Norfolk coastal town has been captured in a unique book written by a long-serving harbour master.

Robert Smith on Wells Quay. Picture: Matthew Usher.Robert Smith on Wells Quay. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Born and raised in Wells, former lifeboatman Robert Smith has published the book Crossing the Bar: Tales of Wells Harbour after being inspired by the faces and places around him.

Mr Smith, who was made an MBE in 2016, said the aim of the book was to take people on a journey of discovery “encountering the drama, tragedy and dark days of Wells harbour”.

Some of the stories have been passed down through generations of the author’s own family, who have been residents in Wells since at least the early 1800s. While others are from the harbour achieve and memories of local people, many of which have never been told in print before.

Mr Smith said: “I feel privileged that so many people have chosen to share their memories and stories with me over the years. As time has passed, I have felt increasingly driven to put pen to paper, to ensure that the stories that have shaped Wells are not forgotten.

Wells quay bathed in afternoon sunshine. Picture: Ian BurtWells quay bathed in afternoon sunshine. Picture: Ian Burt

“It was about 20 years ago that I started scribbling these stories down. However, when I became harbour master 18 years ago, I was fortunate to have access to the Harbour Commissioners’ Records and my interest stepped up a notch. Spending so much time at the harbour, I guess it’s not surprising that I have been regularly approached by people in the local community and by visitors to Wells who want to share their stories of the town and, more specifically, the harbour.”

Writing the book has at times been a challenge for Mr Smith due to his dyslexia.

“I can become impatient with myself as I try to articulate the pictures in my head and the stories told to me into words on a page,” he added,

“The local community, my work, the harbour and even this book have taken me on a journey of discovery, not just of Wells, but also of myself.”

Wells Harbour master Robert Smith. Picture: Ian BurtWells Harbour master Robert Smith. Picture: Ian Burt

Mr Smith’s book launch took place on Saturday October 27 at The Maltings in Wells.

Copies of Crossing the Bar can be purchased from several shops in the town, including the post office, Holkham Hall courtyard shop, News Clip in Fakenham, and Jarrolds in Norwich.

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