Goodbye to the Kathleen and May

WILL next week see the final farewell to Bideford for the historic schooner Kathleen and May?

That is the question as the 100-year-old vessel prepares to sail out of the River Torridge, bound for Londonderry and Liverpool to take part in maritime festivals.

Her owner, local businessman and councillor Steve Clarke, said: “Will she come back to her home port of Bideford? As things stand at the moment, it is highly unlikely. She needs to be sailed to get the salt water into her that acts to preserve her wood.

She also needs in the future to be seen by the public and visitors. I had hoped this would continue to happen in Bideford and was the reason I restored her some 10 years ago. Sadly it has not been possible. Unless there is a complete mindset change then she may not be able to return.”

Mr Clarke has been trying unsuccessfully for a decade to liaise with local authorities over the establishment of a permanent home for the vessel as part of a wider maritime feature for the town.

The Kathleen and May will leave her berth at Brunswick Wharf, Bideford East at 7am on Wednesday, May 18, and move to the town quay for the day before sailing away at around 5pm.

After a three-month refit, the vessel will be looking her best for her departure and will also be flying the Royal Ensign with gold crown, one of only 50 ships entitled to do so as a mark of her place in the Core Collection of Historic Ships.

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Mr Clarke said: “K&M has been offered prestigious places in other ports, where they will look after her. This is a bitter pill for me to swallow, but I have to think of what is best for the Kathleen & May preservation for future generations. The 18th will be very sad for both myself and all the people who have worked and helped on her over the past 12 years.”

Former Mayor of Bideford Cllr Andy Powell, a supporter of the Kathleen and May project, said: “To say I am incandescent with rage over this news - caused, I believe, almost exclusively by the lack of support shown towards the ship by Torridge District Council - is an understatement. Despite holding out the olive branch to work with the district council on Bideford’s future several years ago, the council has simply cast it and the centerpiece of our town’s vision for its future, aside.”

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