Scottish Maritime Museum helps raise funds for restoration of extraordinary Dunkirk rescue boat ‘Skylark IX’
Whilst the new Hollywood movie ‘Dunkirk’ gathers glowing reviews, the Scottish Maritime Museum and Skylark IX Recovery Trust are working ‘behind the scenes’ to raise funds to restore one of the heroines of the famous real-life mass evacuation of Allied Troops, Skylark IX.
Christopher Nolan’s World War Two film ‘Dunkirk’ tells the story of ‘Operation Dynamo’, the astonishing top secret mission to save 338,000 Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk on the northern coast of France.
When the signal to begin Operation Dynamo rang out at 6.57pm on 26th May 1940, over 800 ‘little ships’ commandeered and commanded by both naval officers and civilians embarked on the perilous rescue journey across the Channel including the extraordinary Skylark IX.
Over the nine day mission, Skylark IX, which is believed to be the only surviving Dunkirk vessel in Scotland, rescued over 600 cold and tired soldiers helping transport them onto larger naval ships whilst under fire.
After serving in WW2, Skylark IX was a familiar sight on Loch Lomond, where Sweeney’s Cruise Company operated her for 33 years.
In June 2010, she sank on the River Leven deteriorating under water for two years before funds could be raised to rescue her.
The Skylark IX Recovery Trust, which was formed in 2013 to raise funds for her restoration, moved her from Dumbarton to the Scottish Maritime Museum on the Harbourside in Irvine in May.
If sufficient funds can be raised to embark on her two year restoration at the Museum’s Scottish Boat Building School, the Skylark IX Recovery Trust hopes to sail her to Dunkirk in 2020 to help celebrate the 80th anniversary of Operation Dynamo.
David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum , says:
“We are working hard to help the Skylark IX Recovery Trust secure funding for the restoration of this extraordinary little boat which made a difference to not only the 600 individual lives back in 1940 but all their families and loved ones then and since too.
“As well as seeking funding awards from trusts and lottery bodies, individuals can help play a part by making a donation. Those donating over £100 will also be able to name a loved one on a plaque which will be placed on Skylark IX when her restoration is complete.
“We’re hoping everyone will join us in keeping the wonderful Skylark IX and her amazing achievements alive for generations to come.”
Originally built as a motor cruiser in 1927, the wooden vessel’s wartime service began in 1939, when she served as a shallow water minesweeper placing anti-invasion obstacles around Poole Harbour.
After WW2, Skylark IX, which was the ninth in a series of 11 Skylarks built by Bolson J and Sons of Poole in Dorset which went to Dunkirk, moved north.
After stints at Morcambe and Burntisland, she arrived at Loch Lomond where Sweeney’s Cruise Company operated her for 33 years. During this time, owner John Sweeney gave free Remembrance Day Service trips for Dunkirk veterans who laid poppies on the Loch.
A poignant moment came in 1987 when Charles Fairman, the former Petty Officer, RNVR, who commanded Skylark IX in 1941, recognised her whilst on tour in Scotland.
A charitable organisation, the Skylark IX Recovery Trust aims to promote the heritage and history of shipbuilding in Dumbarton and Scotland, in particular celebrating the history and making possible the restoration of Skylark IX to her former glory.
Once restored, it is hoped that Skylark IX will take veterans, visitors and schoolchildren on trips on the River Clyde, where everyone will be able to hear about her important role in Operation Dynamo.
Individual donations to the restoration of Skylark IX can be made at www.skylarkix.com