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Maurice’s mother grew tired of the hardships of living in the mill. It was a constant battle to keep the family dry and fed in such basic conditions. There was nowhere to dry wet clothes, and bread had to be baked three times a week in a wall oven. The two boys slept in a room in the rafters, reached by a ladder which was withdrawn once they were in bed. ‘So once we were up there, we had to stay,’ said Maurice. At last the family renovated a bungalow and moved away from the mill. Maurice left Woods once his apprenticeship was completed. ‘They couldn’t pay a man’s wage.’ So he went to Eastex of Acle in 1937 and helped to build Royal Oak, a famous Cruiser. Maurice married in 1939 and he and his wife lived in a tied cottage in Potter Heigham where their son was born. When their landlord wanted his cottage he told the young couple that there were plenty of huts on the airfield at Ludham where they could live. Fortunately a new home was offered by Stalham Council and life became easier for them. After the outbreak of war in 1939, Maurice returned to Wood’s yard to help with building naval boats whilst awaiting his posting in the Navy. In 1943 he was drafted to Lerwick. Lying in bed in a Nissen hut feeling the walls move in the 100 miles per hour winds that raged outside was a new experience for the raw recruits. Despite having a wife and young son in Norfolk, Maurice enjoyed his time in the Shetlands and made friends with the locals. His work involved general repair to all the boats used in the war effort. “That could mean anything from a submarine to a motor torpedo boat, and the Norwegians sent their craft to Lerwick for repairs too”. Once he was called upon to take the responsibility of doing a complete survey of a vessel. “One hundred men’s lives were at stake as a result of that survey”. He said. Maurice served his country in the Shetlands for over two years before returning to Norfolk where he was de-mobbed in 1946. Way back in the days when he had been working at Woods’ yard. Maurice and some of his friends had talked and dreamed endlessly about having their own business. So in 1946 the dream became a reality. “Martham Boat Building & Development Co Ltd “ was set up comprising James Brown, Frank Skoyles, Derwent Wright and Maurice Davey. They moved to a yard at Martham owned by J C Pritchard whilst Jimmy Brown owned a site with sheds close by in Martham. Jimmy was the managing director – “He was the brains of the enterprise”, said Maurice – whilst Wright, Skoyles and Davey were directors. So began a remarkable increase in the “June” launch fleet. “Jimmy was a great asset; he raked in the contracts, and we all worked all hours”. Maurice was the main boat-designer. “I seemed to know what was required; maneuverability and the ability to pass through Potter Heigham bridge were my main concerns. My first designs were scout boats of 12 to 16 feet. Then came 30 foot sailing cruisers, next the “Janet” class, followed by “Janes”, “Janices”. “Judiths” and “Juliettes”. We also had five houseboats and bought in some Woods half-deckers”. Maurice gave full credit to the directors’ wives, the ladies who cleaned the boats and the men who built and repaired them, also to the men who guided the customers through Potter bridge to give them a good start to their holidays.

Profile for Ian Curtis

Japonica 5  

Boat Manual

Japonica 5  

Boat Manual

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