Friday, November 4, 2011

A Memorable Weekend in Wareham

Westerman Yarns have had a busy few weeks in supporting Wareham Library, The Purbeck Information and Heritage Centre, The Redclyffe Yacht Club and Wareham Town Council in the delivery of the first celebration of Percy F. Westerman in the town where he spent the last 40 years of his life.

Westerman Yarns - inspiring another event
Following the success of the First Westerman Seminar my wife and I visited Wareham on the anniversary of the death of Percy F. Westerman back in February this year. Whilst we were there we approached Wareham Library and the Purbeck Information and Heritage Centre and suggested that it would be good to include Percy F. Westerman in their promotional material alongside T E Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. I was delighted when they called me a few weeks later to say that they wanted to arrange a special weekend in honour of Percy F. Westerman.

The event entitled ‘The Call of the Sea’ was held over Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th October.

The Westerman Yarns Exhibition
Westerman Yarns supported the event by producing a series of information panels for an exhibition currently on display in the Purbeck Information and Heritage Centre. The panels offer a brief outline of his life, following his journey from Portsmouth to Wareham.

The Westerman Yarns Reminiscence Project
On Saturday we launched a reminiscence project Thankfully, there are still people living in the area that had met or knew Percy and his wife Florence. The good news is that the project has got off to a flying start and we already have a number of interesting and useful stories, adding colour and detail to the Westerman research.
We had already met with a few Wareham residents with great memories including Michael Spilman whose father was a shipwright and who had carried out work on The Barge and Eric Axford whose mother worked for the Westerman’s and whose claim to fame was, that it was she and Florence wheeled Percy from The Barge into Wareham on a borrowed builders handcart after he fell and broke his leg. Their help has been invaluable in gathering and recording real memories that build on our knowledge of Percy F. Westerman.

If you would like to get involved in the project or know someone that may be able to help with information or memories or memorabilia, please email me at or pick-up a form from Wareham Library or the Purbeck Information and Heritage Centre.

The Launch
Everyone attending the launch was welcomed into Wareham Library by music from Hugh Elms and his wind-up gramophone. The opening ceremony was well attended and after the speeches and the official opening by the Mayor of Wareham and the Commodore of the Redclyffe Yacht Club, we were treated to a polished and entertaining performance by Wareham’s own shanty group The Wareham Whalers (right).

Raft Race
The Wareham Library ran a model raft building competition open to children and adults culminating with a race on the River Frome. Competition
was fierce, but the pirates, made up from Redclyffe membership (see picture at the top of the page) ensured fair play and the safe return of all the rafts.

An Illustrated talk ‘The Forgotten Author’
During the afternoon I gave an illustrated to talk on Percy F. Westerman. The talk was launched with a musical introduction by Dr Rachel Johnson from the University of Worcester who played The Westerman Hornpipe on her recorder. The University of Worcester kindly loaned some of the Percy F. Westerman Collection for the weekend and Dr Johnson was actively promoting the research collection. After the talk, the audience were invited to stay for refreshments provide by the Wareham WI. One memorable moment was when Michael Spilman from the reminiscence project told us that he had just recognised his father working on the roof of The Barge in one of the slides shown in the talk.

Literary Guided Walk and Redclyffe Yacht Club
Sunday began with a literary guided walk led by David Kemp. A tough collection of Wareham’s finest braved the rain for the walk finishing at The Redclyffe Yacht Club who opened their doors to provided welcome refreshments and an opportunity to see their own display of photographs showing the development of the club founded by Percy F Westerman, their first Commodore.

Captain Blundell’s Treasure – Play Reading

If I was to have a favourite event from the weekend, it has to be the play reading by a band of Wareham volunteers who bravely agreed to take on this project. My wife and I travelled up to Worcester in early September and copied the script sending it off to Wareham Library, giving them just a few weeks to rehearse. The play was produced and directed by David Kemp and narrated by John Barclay (writer and poet). Considering that the group only had a few weeks to study the script, their performance was excellent and included a special guest, Dr Rachel Johnson (Research Librarian, University of Worcester) in the role of Marjorie.


I really enjoyed the weekend and would like to thank the following people who worked so hard to make it all happen with apologies for anyone that I have inadvertently omitted, Jude Leyman and the staff of Wareham Library, Liz Roberts and David Kemp, and the staff of the Purbeck Information and Heritage Centre, Rod Curtis, Town Clerk, Pam Boddy and Allen Wilkinson, Commodore, and the members of the Redclyffe Yacht Club and Eric Axford, Michael Spilman and Nigel Barnes, the friends of Westerman Yarns whose generosity, time, reminiscences and loan of material to progress research has been so valuable. Very special thanks to the University of Worcester and Dr Rachel Johnson for generously supporting the event with the loan of items from the Percy F. Westerman Collection. Finally, my wife Wendy, who is my rock in watching that I don’t run aground!
Viewing the Westerman Yarns display and Percy Westerman Collection from The University of Worcester.