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Boy Willie

Have we found the original "Boy Willie" - update September 2013?

Yes this is "an" original "Boy Willie" - updated June 2014


PZ 602: "Boy Willie" represented the final and ultimate development of the West Cornwall mackerel driver. It was a wooden sailing lugger built in Newlyn by Henry Peake for Newlyn fisherman William Simons who was then 28 years of age. It was launched in 1896 and named "Boy Willie" after William who lived to 102.

It was built close to the shore for ease of launching in the Tolcarne area of Newlyn . 

The length was 52' LOA with 14' 6" beam and 47' keel, carvel built and fine in the bows and stern, yet still with a good load capacity. It was considered a fine example of this type of craft although it was about a foot narrower in the beam as Willie Simons liked racing.

1896 was the year of the historic Newlyn riots when Mount's Bay fishermen were in revolt against Sunday fishing by the East Coast boats which was to the detriment of their own early-week markets.

During the first fishing season of 1896 the "Boy Willie" was mackerel driving as far as Kinsale in Southern Ireland and in the following year the Newlyn men took the lugger fishing in the North Sea.

The lugger was sold in 1918 to the Pender fishing family of Mousehole and is thought to have gone to Falmouth in 1941 for wartime use and after that the history is not clear.

Descendants of the Simons and Peake families still live in Newlyn, but there is no trace of the "Boy Willie".

The original plans and line drawings taken off in 1936 by P. Oak were available at the National Maritime Museum in London. They were retained and stored after the loss of a Scottish fishing fleet in bad weather as there were demands in Parliament for improvements in the design of inshore craft around the British Isles.

There are two models of the "Boy Willie". One was made by Mr. Simons' grandson, Percy Harvey, the other by his grand-daughter Leontine's husband, the late Vaughan Pender.

Boy Willie model

Boy Willie in Mousehole in 1936. Note the sharp floors and round bilges in the bow view.

Boy Willie in MouseholeBoy Willie in Mousehole

A reproduction of the lines and sail plan.


Boy WillieBoy Willie


Updates & NewsCharles Munro, a Cornishman now living in NSW, Australia kindly forwarded a copy of an article in the July 2013 edition of Cruising Helmsman which indicates that "Boy Willie"was photographed at Cooktown in 1986 and is now in Darwin where she has been for the last 20 years undergoing some refurbishment by a shipwright Tony Duvollet. We are trying to find out more! Click here for the link to the article in pdf format

Boy Willie

Here is the reply from Tony Duvollet regarding "Boy Willie":-

"G'day from Darwin. Bob from MHA has forwarded your message re young 'Boy Willie'. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) I am not the owner of 'Boy Willie, but merely the humble shipwright that has worked on her over the past decade. I have forwarded your e-mail on to Norbet Zahara who I think has owned her for some 30 years and so will have quite a few stories to tell. By sheer coincidence a previous Australian owner went to Porthleven and browsing around a shop there found a box of old photos...and there was an old sepia photo of young 'Boy Willie' under full working sail which was subsequently glued to the fore and aft bulkhead near the companionway ladder. Unfortunately over the years in this harsh tropical climate of Northern Australia, it has deteriorated. I managed to photograph it about 5 years ago, but alas the original is now beyond redemption.
To be quite honest, there is very little of the original timberwork left. When I have replaced planks I have had the devil's own job trying to pull out the iron fastenings from the original oak frames. Whenever I work on her I always stop and think about, with deep respect and admiration, the old shipwrights who built her on the beach at Porthleven nigh on 110 years ago. I dips me lid to 'em!     
I am intrigued that you saw my letter in Cruising Helmsman...but then perhaps cruising and the love of sea knows no boundries.
Antoine Duvollet d'Arkenstone d'Arwin.Tony Duvollet. Shipwright (Rtd)."

Norbert Zahara hasn't replied so far, but still trying!

Updates & NewsNorbert Zahara contacted me on 4th may 2014 with this comprehensive document on this Boy Willie FH 83 which is typical of Porthleven boats with a straight bow and transom stern.

She was built as an oyster dredger and is identical to Pet which was built around the same time as an oyster boat, as many others were from Porthleven.

The naming Boy Willie after the son is possibly a coincidence with the Boy Willie PZ 602 built for Willie Simons by Henry Peake of Newlyn.

Quite an amazing story of a voyage from Falmouth to Holland, through the "Bay" to Portugal, across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and to the South Pacific, Fiji, Philippines, Japan, China, Philippines again, Papua New Guinea and then Cairns Australia. This was just the start before further long voyages to the Philippines amongst others and finally back to Darwin, Australia where she is now. A sequence of voayages equal to, and perhaps to surpass all others in a lugger of West Cornwall.

This lengthy article is worthy of a read and I have presented it in pdf format here. (MH)