Chance to see transformation

LIKE a caterpillar to butterfly, she's been transformed from clunking old minesweeper to a queen of the seas.

LIKE a caterpillar to butterfly, she's been transformed from clunking old minesweeper to a queen of the seas.

As Ipswich prepares to welcome the grand old Picton Castle to its Waterfront, one man who got to know her when she last visited the town today spoke of his joy over her return.

Legendary knot maker Des Pawson MBE is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the spectacular tall ship after he made friends with the then crew and her captain Dan Moreland when she called into Ipswich in late 1993.

Mr Pawson, the chairman of Ipswich Maritime Trust, said: “We are lucky. It's very, very rare this sort of vessel comes to Ipswich.

“I think it's an amazing story of transformation.

“Dan Moreland had this vision, he found her and got her going, she crept down the coast of Norway and across to Denmark and then she came down and the weather wasn't very bright and she decided it was more sensible to pop in for some shelter.

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“She came in to Ipswich and she lay there the entire winter about until she was due to be charged taxes.”

That was in 1993 after Mr Moreland found the Picton Castle in a state of disrepair in Norway. She had the name Dolmar then but had originally been the Picton Castle.

Built in 1928, she started out as a motorised trawler but was used by the Royal Navy as a minesweeper during the Second World War. After that she became a freighter but as the years went on her condition deteriorated.

Mr Moreland employed a crew to sail her from Norway to Canada, where she was refitted and converted to sail.

It was during that journey that they stopped in Ipswich and moored near Stoke Bridge for the winter as Mr Moreland returned to Canada to raise funds for the rest of the trip.

Mr Pawson said: “I think they came to me for some materials and we befriended the crew.

“The owner was off trying to raise funds and the crew were living on the breadline all over the Christmas period.

“I particularly befriended the sail maker because he got appendicitis and ended up recovering in our house.”

Based in Lunenburg in Nova Scotia, Canada, the square rigger will be in Ipswich as part of a ten-month tour of ports in Europe, Africa and the West Indies.

She will be making her return on September 5 and will berth at the Waterfront at Orwell Quay and will be open to the public between September 6 and September 9 between 1pm and 4pm each day, before leaving on September 10.

A flotilla of boats, possibly including the Ipswich-based sailing ship Excelsior, are set to welcome her as she works her way up the Orwell to moor in Ipswich.

Are you looking forward to the visit of the Picton Castle? Do you remember the last time she was in town? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

IPSWICH Maritime Trust is keen to hear from anyone who had a connection to the Picton Castle during her years as a trawler or when she was the Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Picton Castle.

She was used by the Navy mainly in and around the North Sea and, according to Tom Gamble, the radio operator who served aboard her during that time: “The minesweeper service lost more ships than any other branch of the Royal Navy as sweeping mines was very dangerous work.

“In fact, one day while on patrol a mine exploded under the ship and lifted her clean out of the water - all 300 tons of her. Fortunately no real damage occurred.”

David Stainer, manager of Ipswich Tourist Information Centre, said he hoped hundreds would flock to the Waterfront to take a tour of the vessel.

“We hope local people will really embrace it as well as it attracting people from out of town,” he said.

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