Sailing ahead with heritage project

Alison Nicholson, Malvins Close headteacher, Horton Grange Primary School pupils Laura and Callum, and Clive Gray, Blyth Tall Ship chief executive.
Alison Nicholson, Malvins Close headteacher, Horton Grange Primary School pupils Laura and Callum, and Clive Gray, Blyth Tall Ship chief executive.
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A historic journey two centuries ago is helping inspire school children.

All Blyth’s eight primary schools have got together to offer 350 Year 6 pupils a unique experience aimed at bringing new hope to the town.

The children are learning about the town’s nautical history and future, taking part in science, technology and maths challenges, and discovering the range of jobs the town’s port has to offer ahead of the Tall Ships Regatta in August.

The project is a partnership between the Blyth Tall Ship project, Port Training Services and schools, supported by The Rotary Club, Blyth, The Blyth Academy and Newcastle University.

Alison Nicholson, headteacher of Malvin’s Close Primary Academy, said: “This is such an exciting time for Blyth that we all wanted to make sure the children didn’t miss out.

“This project aims to raise their aspirations and shows the commitment of all schools who are working together to improve the opportunities and outcomes for our children.”

All pupils are spending a day at the Port of Blyth and the Port Heritage Centre, taking part in activities ranging from learning how to make a boat float to practising a song celebrating a voyage of discovery two centuries ago.

The song – written by the deputy headteacher of Seaton Sluice First School Amanda Bennett – tells the story of Captain William Smith who discovered the continent of Antarctica on his Williams ship in 1819.

Captain Smith died a pauper and was not recognised for his achievements.

Although celebrating the past, the Blyth Tall Ship project is also laying foundations for the future.

Young people in Blyth – starting with Year 6 pupils – are now learning some of the boatbuilding skills mastered 200 years ago.

Teenagers and young adults are refitting and restoring a vessel similar to the original Williams.

It was built in Denmark as a Baltic trader 100 years ago, brought to the UK by Blyth Tall Ship with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund, and has been transformed into the Williams II.

The experience and engineering training gained working on the ship has already helped secure many apprenticeships and full time jobs with local employers who operate in the local engineering and offshore sectors.

In 2019 – exactly 200 years since Captain Smith and his crew set sail – the Williams II, crewed by young people from Blyth, will recreate their epic voyage.

Clive Gray, chief executive of Blyth Tall Ship, said: “I am so proud to be involved in a project which is already helping to change lives and will continue to offer opportunities to young people in the town.

“We are delighted that so many of the town’s Year 6 children are coming to find out what we are doing and let’s hope we see many of them returning in the next few years.

“We are reviving old skills to help young people acquire new skills.”

He added: “It’s also about time the achievements of Captain Smith and his brave crew are recognised.”