Peter Willis, founder and president of the Nancy Blackett Trust, reflects on its 20th anniversary and the year in prospect…
This new year, 2017, will not only see the 20th anniversary of the Nancy Blackett Trust, but it will also be 80 years since the publication of “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea“, and on a more sombre note, 50 years since Arthur Ransome died. All of these anniversaries are to be recognized, not only by the Trust itself, but also within the community around Nancy Blackett’s home waters on the River Orwell. It’s going to be a busy, and exciting, year.
The Nancy Blackett Trust officially came into being in May 1997, just a year after the launch of the appeal to buy Arthur Ransome’s Nancy Blackett, and just in time to complete her purchase that June. And now here we are.
Nancy Blackett is still afloat, and still sailing, so we can say that – so far – we’ve done exactly what we set out to do. And hopefully got the hang of doing it. Thanks and congratulations are definitely due to all who have played a part in this, whether as members, who part-own Nancy Blackett and whose contributions keep her going, or by playing a more active role, sailing and skippering her and in helping to manage the Trust.
It’s appropriate, but really a coincidence determined by necessity, that Nancy Blackett is also getting a new mast this year. Our actual celebrations will include replicating the voyage of the Goblin by taking Nancy Blackett to Holland in the summer.
Her chosen departure date is Sunday 4th June, and local sailors, led by the Royal Harwich Yacht Club and Pin Mill Sailing Club (of which Arthur Ransome was a member) are planning a flotilla to accompany her down the River Orwell on the start of her voyage. It will take place (weather permitting of course) the day after our own Annual General Meeting (which will be on 3rd June, at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, as usual). The date, chosen purely for practical reasons, is the exact anniversary of Arthur Ransome’s death in 1967.
We will also be playing a leading role in the activities being planned by our local area, in and around Pin Mill. The first of these, at present, is scheduled for 13th May and is now formally titled the Arthur Ransome Pin Mill Jamboree. More details are to come, but Nancy Blackett will be there, and so will Peter Duck.
It sometimes feels that our little corner of the country is a minor outpost of the Arthur Ransome landscape, and it’s true that he and Evgenia only lived here for five years (although it might have been longer if it hadn’t been for the war). Yet he worked on four of his twelve books here, he set two of them in this area, and he brought his favourite yacht, Nancy Blackett, to sail here, and had two other boats, Selina King and Peter Duck, built here. Pin Mill and the Walton Backwaters and the neighbouring rivers and creeks acted as a tonic to his creativity, and the communities hereabouts are conscious of, and gratified by, their connection with him.
This then is, and deserves to be known as, Arthur Ransome’s East Coast, and it’s the home of Arthur Ransome’s Nancy Blackett. Wherever in the world you are, come and visit us, and discover the world of “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea”.