Kathleen and May sails away

The Kathleen and May sailed away from Bideford - but will she come back?

HUNDREDS turned out on Bideford Quay to wave farewell to the historic sailing schooner Kathleen and May last Wednesday night – and to wonder if she will ever return.

The 111-year-old vessel left the River Torridge, her home for the past 12 years, bound for Londonderry and Liverpool, where she will be taking part in maritime festivals.

She has done so before, but this time she may not return to Bideford, said her owner, local businessman and councillor Steve Clarke, who bought and restored the vessel.

“I am disappointed and saddened by the prospect that she might not return and believe this would be a massive loss to Bideford, he said. “But there has to be a reason for her to come back.”

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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.

He said: “At the moment there has been no positive engagement whatever. But if the newly elected council wishes to engage with me and work towards getting her into public ownership - with no cost to the council – there could be hope and I would be delighted and happy to talk with them.”

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The Kathleen and May left Bideford under engine power and against the incoming tide, made necessary by the tight time scale available for her towering masts to pass under the Torridge Bridge.

She proudly flew the Royal Ensign with a gold crown embossed on it, one of only 50 ships entitled to do so as a mark of her place in the Core Collection of Historic Ships. She is Britain’s last remaining wooden, three-masted, topsail schooner.

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