A newly re-published local book called ‘A Boatbuilder’s Story’ originally published in 1968 has been extended to include a host of new photos and a chronicle of the yard in Portmellon up until its closure in 1983. Roseland Online has been looking into the republishing of this important historical project.
“One of the finest traditional boatbuilders in the world” is how Commander W B Luard described Percy Mitchell of Portmellon. Born in 1901, Percy left school at the age of 14, just after the outbreak of the First World War, to commence his apprenticeship with a local yard at a wage of 3/- a week.
At the age of just 22 he took over the yard in Mevagissey from his employers and became his own boss. Shortly afterwards, following an order for a 39 foot lugger, he moved the yard from Mevagissey because the narrow streets made it impossible to launch such a large a craft. He went to Portmellon, an open cove a 3/4 mile to the west.
With only a rudimentary education Percy taught himself to design boats from a set of drawings in an old encyclopaedia. Starting with only a building space, open to all the wind and weather, no building sheds, no capital, no launching equipment, with only his practical genius and patient courage and perseverance, he overcame every obstacle and designed, built and launched a magnificent variety of fishing boats, yachts, tugs, motor cutters and launches destined for service all over the world, from a 7 foot pram dinghy to vessels of over 30 tons dead weight.
Described by Dr. Claud Worth, the eminent yacht designer, as “an artist in wood”, he built the world-famous Windstar, which was often sailed in before the war by His Late Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and after the war with the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Her owner, the King’s Sailing Master, Sir Philip Hunloke, G.C.V.O. described Windstar as “having everything that an ocean racing cruiser could wish for”.
As well as including many never before seen photographs from the Portmellon yard this new and extended edition of the book, continues with the story of Percy’s son, Gary Mitchell, who became an internationally respected designer of working boats in his own right. Gary’s designs are highly regarded and, continuing an extraordinary story of Cornish maritime talent, can be seen in many harbours in many nations around the world.
Classic boat enthusiasts will enjoy the wealth of line drawings, photographs and Percy’s descriptions of the boat building operations in Portmellon together with the continuing story of Gary’s designs, while the general reader will enjoy this very Cornish story of how, from humble beginnings, a true craftsman built a lasting legacy.
Book available to purchase online at: http://www.boatbuildersstory.co.uk/…/a-boatbuilder-s-story
Also available to buy at:
National Maritime Museum, Discovery Quay, Falmouth (availability date tbc)
Hurley Books, Jetty Street, Mevagissey
Mevagissey Museum, East Wharf, Mevagissey