Riverbank memories flood back

ENJOYING the rivers Gipping and Orwell for boating and sailing in years gone by were recalled in Kindred Spirits recently.

David Kindred

ENJOYING the rivers Gipping and Orwell for boating and sailing in years gone by were recalled in Kindred Spirits recently.

Up to the 1950s there was sailing on the River Gipping. Before the Second World War rowing boats could be hired from the Royal William public house in London Road for leisurely and it seems romantic trips upstream along the River Gipping.

Robert Sheppard, of Ipswich, had a chat with his mother Vera (nee Powell). Robert said: “My 89-year-old mother has very fond memories of working for a boat-builders Wright and Sons of Cullingham Road, from the mid 1930s until I was born in 1950.


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“The business was then run by Gary Wright and his son Eric. Gary Wright's parents owned the Royal William public house on London Road and when he was young Gary spent his time on the riverbank close to the Royal William making small boats.

“This must have been the beginnings of his business. He hired out boats for a few pence on a Sunday. Apparently during the First World War, he was responsible for designing the floats which were tested at Felixstowe and used on the sea planes.

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“During the Second World War, when my mother was a young secretary at Wright's, the company was very productive in war work building air-sea rescue launches, which were fitted with powerful Perkins engines.”

Debbie Rushbrooke said via e-mail: “I spoke to my grandfather Lesley Potter who will be 90 this July. He had lived in Bath Street and Purplett Street, Ipswich, so he spent a large part of his life by the river.

“When he was 13 he was a cabin boy and 'chocolate boy' selling chocolate from a tray, similar to those used in the cinemas, on the paddle steamer 'Orwell' until working on the barge “Ena” several years later.

“He also used to take his pigeons down to the river on the 'Orwell' and released them at Dovercourt before travelling back on the 'Orwell'. Both my great-grandfather George and his brother were seaman on the paddle steamer Orwell.”

Wendy Orris (nee Thrower) of Christchurch Street, Ipswich, said: “As I studied the picture of rowing boats lined up along the tow path, I was suddenly back in 1947.

“My first husband and I hired a boat from the Royal William public house in London Road and had an idyllic few hours on the water, resulting in our getting engaged after pulling into the bank.

“The ring was too loose and I remember winding blades of grass round my finger to keep it on. Bliss! Taking the boat back we walked along the tow path, past the Co-op dairy and on to the Sproughton Road, then to the Bramford Road and home to my parents' house where we had an engagement tea.

“There was no party as it was still a time of rationing following World War Two. We also used the towpath as a short cut to the Ipswich Station.”

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