The Diaper Heritage Association
Fisherman, Ferryman, Sailor, Spy - the Diapers of Itchen Ferry
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Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Making Sail

Narrator : Over the course of the last 12 months in researching information for the exhibition Fisherman, Ferryman, Sailor, Spy and its linked events and publications the Diaper Heritage Association has collected numerous written memories and documents from the family and in particular its association with the sea. What we would like to do this evening, in the company of the Sarah Siddons Fan Club is to present some of these to you, using the original words, phrases and writings just as we have found them. Itchen Ferry did not become part of Southampton till the beginning of the 20 th century and was seen by many a strange and foreign place. We begin our readings this evening with an extract that paints a picture of the inhabitants of Itchen Ferry in the early 19 the century.

Henry Moody, Hampshire Advertiser 1844

The inhabitants of Itchen Ferry are a primitive race and any stranger who may settle in their small domain is regarded as an intruder. Since ancient times the people of the village celebrated the festival of the Prince of Fishermen. This was on St Peter's Day, the 29 th of June, which, after the fashion of their Catholic ancestors, the fisherfolk kept as a holy day.


On this day the finny tribe had a respite. A procession of the entire inhabitants of Itchen Ferry was formed and an image of the fisherman saint was borne in triumph. The custom, though prevelent in other parts of the world, stayed late here: and it certainly seems a strange survival for Protestant England.


Narrator : Strange and insular the inhabitants of the Ferry village may have been to those outside the community but from the earliest days the villagers were prized for their sailing and rowing skills whether it was by the Royal Navy looking for recruits to press at time of war or by rich patrons who were popularising racing.

The History of Yachting by Arthur H Clark

On September 17 1802, there was a sailing match at Southampton, for which nineteen vessels started. The prizes appear to have been given for working vessels, and the first prize of 6 guineas was won by the Trial, John Bryer ; the second prize of 3 guineas by the Two Brothers, Charles Chapman; and the third prize of 2 guineas by the Jane, John Diaper; the others were allowed 1 guinea each. William Cooper, of the Mary Ann ;was very forward on the return, but instantly backed sail and stood firm to preserve three men who had capsized a pleasure-boat, whom he succeeded in saving. The Marquis of Anspach's beautiful yacht, Mr Fitzgerald's etc, were loaded with ladies and gentlemen to behold the contest, together, with a vast assemblage of fashionables on the beach. A band of musicians was on the Rose cutter.


Narrator : By the second half of the 19 th century yacht racing was not just an amusement for the social season but had developed into a professional sport funded by millionaires and royalty

The Echo October 1877

The Yacht Matches

The three matches for £50 each between the Coralie, 40 tons, Sir F Gooch, Bart, and the Britannia, 40 tons, Mr W C Quilter, were brought to a conclusion on Saturday when the race was probably the best of the series. There was no 'fluking' in the plentiful wind to try their speed and gear to the full. Coralie won £100 of the wager. She was sailed by W Phillips, her skipper, and the Endeavour by R Diaper, with T Diaper of the Norman, in charge of the headsails. The matches have excited a considerable amount of interest in Southampton and in Itchen Ferry, off which the

Britannia now lies, ready for lay-by for the winter. The course for the races was from

Southampton Pier to the Warner lightship and back. Mr Dixon Kemp was one of the referees.


Narrator : despite the opportunities given by this development of yacht racing, life in the village was still harsh and precarious

George Diaper, extract from a presentation to Ludlow School in 1986

Itchen Ferry was often referred to as a Rough, Tough neighbourhood, but it was not anymore so than other Waterside communities along River Itchen, bad housing, pockets of poverty and long periods of unemployment may have contributed to this reputation. Pear Tree Church and the Congregational Church had a strong following here, The Ferry had its own Mission Hall where Sunday School was regularly held and Mothers would gather weekday afternoons.


The dwellings were small, many without a garden, in the Back Lane area there was no roadway to some houses, a twisting gravel path led to the doorway, the door was usually open, there were large families running into double figures and to ease the overcrowding in the two up and two down accommodation the boys on leaving School found a home at Sea and the girls a home in domestic service. Taking pride of place in the Home would be a paraffin lamp cleaned each day to provide maximum lighting in the evening for reading and sewing, heating and cooking were by the wood-coal fire from the kitchen range, the coal was stored in the cupboard under the stairs.


Employment for the majority, both skilled and unskilled was of casual labour in Southampton Docks or the local Boatbuilding and Shipbuilding yards, a few loyally continued fishing selling their catch locally, many chose the life at Sea and sailed in the Ocean liners calling at Southampton, others chose the seasonal employment of the Steam Yachts, Racing and Sailing yachts. The attraction of Yachts could have been that owners each year provided a very useful wardrobe and it was seldom necessary to purchase other clothing or footwear. The Ferry Hard was always kept clean and tidy, for it was here that everyone would gather to sit and chat, to check and maintain their boats, occasionally there would be a flying boat moored off of the Supermarine to add to all the other interesting things to see or take part in on the water or on the beach. In the Summer months the younger ones would swim, do a little fishing, picnic on the beach, play about in boats and in the water, for a change from all of this there was always a game of Marbles, Dibs, conkers, hop-scotch, hoops, kick-the-tin or whipping top to be found. For an hour or so in the winter evenings, children would gather around the glow of the lamp posts to play games, a flickering candle light in an upstairs window conveyed to everyone that there was sickness in the family, you approached and passed that house quietly, children found a lamp post further away to play under.


Narrator : Living on the banks of a river opposite the important settlement of Southampton on one of the main coastal routes, it is not surprising the Itchen Ferry folk found it an important necessity to have a boat, and one that was particularly suited and developed for fishing, sailing and ferrying across the Itchen. The next extract is by Mr Chambers whose grandfather had moved down from the North to work at the new Oswalds, later Thorneycrofts factory, he lived on the houseboat the Four Maries

Mr Chambers

Some 20 boats, of 18 to 20 feet were fishing from the Hard. The first Itchen Ferry smacks had a loose-fitted mainsail, with no boom and just the foresail on the little iron bumpkin.


I remember Dan Hatcher's yard at Black House. It was called that because a big black house stood there. All through the season the smacks would be put on legs on the Hard every Saturday night and thoroughly cleaned inside and out. They were very well kept.


On regatta days they would borrow any yacht's sails they could get hold of and really 'pile it on'. When they were fishing the wives would always be waiting for them when they came in and the fish would go over to the fish market next morning.


There were also smaller boats, about 13 or 14 feet, mostly sprit-rigged. These went out for sprats and herring. When they were away all night they had a little coal stove for making tea – even in those small open boats. When regatta day came round these little boats used to put a deal plank, about 11ins deep, on their keel, with a piece of lead or iron in the middle.


When any member of the great Itchen families – the Parkers and the Diapers – won a race, there was always a tremendous celebration. No launching was considered complete without a launching supper. For pouring a lead keel the men were allowed all the beer they could drink.


Narrator : Fishing remained an important part of the livelihood of the village and a the method by which the ferry folk learnt their maritime skills. Walter Wake, nephew of Alfred 'Old Chap' Diaper, was born in the George pub in Itchen Ferry Village and later kept a fish shop in Woolston.

Walter Wake

Do you know how the Itchen Ferry fishermen told the time? If we were fishing, when I was a lad at the helm, the fishermen would say: 'Go over near that buoy, I want to see what time it is.' He could tell by looking at the water lapping round the buoy. I asked if he could tell to the nearest hour?


'The what!' he exclaimed. 'Within five minutes, you mean. You have only three hours of ebb tide in Southampton Water and if you weren't accurate you would lose the help that would get you home. Those people knew everything there was to know about the tides and the weather.'


Tide knowledge is knowledge about the moon. The tides are governed by the moon and the Itchen Ferry fishermen had a profound and reverent knowledge of the moon, the sun and the stars.


It was based on a lifetime of close and intimate relationship with these three celestial bodies. No man could unlock their secrets without giving a life-time to it and its doubtful whether anyone could read the tides or the weather without such long experience.


Before the first world war, Itchen Ferry fishermen went out in 21 foot boats, with long keels, shallow draughts and a beam of eight or nine feet. They had a bowsprit and carried a main and fores'l, in an open boat with cuddy under the foredeck which reached to the mast.


They were handy because you could pull them up on the hard ground and leave them there for the next trip. A distinct advantage over forking out £20 a week for a marina berth.


They fished all winter-time from the end of September until mid-April, going out at nightfall and returning with the dawn. Their nets would be dropped in favourite haunts in Southampton Water and the Solent, like north of the Brambles or around Calshot Spit at nearby Stanswood Bay, trawling for plaice, sole or whiting.


If we were trawling off Hillhead, a fisherman would look at the weather and say:'We will get inside. The wind will fly nor-west presently' He could predict a wind change an hour or one-hour-and-a-half ahead. They would make for Calshot, inside Southampton Water, and carry on fishing there.


The fishermen were never idle. By mid-April, after fishing all winter, they would sign on as deckhands on the big racing yachts, getting their pay and food for the yachting season. Thus, they were all-the-year-round sailors.


Two of the skippers of the biggest private yachts, Ben Parker of the German Emperor's yacht Meteor and the skipper of Hamburg, would spend the winter in Itchen Ferry village going out with the fishermen. They were usually broke by the end of the season having celebrated too well and needed the cash.


Concentrated in this tiny area of Hampshire was a brilliant selection of sailing talent, with more sheer sailing experience, day or night, summer and winter, than at any time before or since.


As a lad I stood under the gleaming new 15 metre racing yacht, Istria, at Gosport, cutter rigged, about 70' with long overhangs, 10' draught and a narrow beam. The great designer, Charles Nicholson, asked me what I thought of her. I replied she has got the three points – but will not be pressed. She would sail well in light weather only and that she would go to windward, reach and run she had no shoulders.


Well this boat won every race on the East Coast, sailed to the Elbe and was through the canal for the Kiel International Week races, winning them all. But racing out of Le Havre, and leading the fleet, she cleared the headland when she ran into a 'jump' a heavy wind and sea, and a Scottish boat, Lady Ann, which had come nowhere in the racing, steadily overtook her.


She came out and passed us as though we weren't there. It was the only race we lost in the season of 1904, simply because we were extremely lucky to have a season of light airs.


But the Itchen Ferry fishermen went out in all weathers. So they chose bigger-bodied boats, with no points of sailing advantage, but ten times safer in a 'jump'. A boat that would ride out anything.


Narrator : Most boys born in Itchen Ferry village were destined for a life at sea.

Percy Diaper

I was born 10 April 1923 I went to Pear Tree Green Church School. All were five years old the girls wore pinafores, the boys hand me downs. We all had chalk and boards. I visited a class mate who lived in an upturned boat in the Ferry.


I progressed to Ludlow School and then to Merry Oak School it was very modern and new, I thought I was an average student.


I left school before my 14 th birthday to work on a yacht as Fors'l Boy and Galley Slave,f or six months we cruised up and down the coast, went to France but Spain had civil war going on.


I never went ashore for six months, 7 days a week, it taught me patience, this job is what all the family did for a living.


I was on another boat when war broke out. On returning home my mother got me a job in the Supermarine Air Craft works. 5 ¾ farthings an hour as an apprentice sheet metal worker. The Battle of Britain was soon on . Everybody had to work overtime, 7.30-5.00, 6-8. This went on till the works were bombed and the work scattered around the country. I was about 17 and applied for a job with Joe Danby to work on Bomb Damage in Woolston.


Some roads we had to go along six or seven times. We also did work in factories. Myself and a retired painter camouflaged all the big sheds, yellow, brown and green so the firemen would not fall through. When the bombing died down I became a lorry driver and ended up working on airfields and army camps. I was earning over one shilling per hour. I was at last called up and joined the navy.


Narrator : The boys grew up quickly at sea

Tom Diaper's Log

My father got me a berth as pantry boy on board the steam yacht Queen of Palmyra. Leaving Southampton in February, 1879, the yacht was chartered by a Mr Cross of London from the owner, the Marquis of Exeter.


I remember the first trip well for there was another boy on board; he shipped as cook's boy. After we had passed the Needles there was a strong wind east, and a bit of a sea running. The sailors set the squaresail and the trysails, and the wind freshened as we proceeded. We had the deck full of coal in sacks to make sure we had enough to take us to Gibraltar; myself and the other boy was very seasick, and we lay completely done-in on the coal sacks on the after part of the ship. About 5pm when we had the Start Point abeam, the first mate came in and told us it was time for us to go and turn in. We both slept in the forecastle in one wide bunk. We started to go forward and the cook's boy said he wanted to be sick again. He leaned over the side to do so, and I continued on forward. I had just reached the deckhouse forward when the cry of 'Man Overboard' rang out. The second mate was at the wheel steering the ship – he was the father of the cook's boy. The first mate pushed me in the deckhouse and told me to stay there. All was in a hustle then, taking in sail and rounding the ship to search for the boy who, I learned, had over-reached himself and had toppled into the sea. Some-one had thrown a lifebuoy, but the last that was seen of the boy he was swimming for the log-line that was over the stern. We searched about for two hours but never caught a glimpse of him, so we had to give him up as lost. It put a sad gloom over us all, and all pitied his father. The boy was very winning and I can tell you I cried and missed him awfully, as he was my bedmate. We proceeded on as we could do nothing else, but we talked only about his loss, wondering if a large sailing fishing smack had picked him up, and why the old man (meaning the skipper) had not waited to speak to her. Being only a boy I could not understand much.


Narrator : The National Archives reveal the cook's boy was one Abraham Collins of Tollesbury who drowned on 9 March 1882. Apart from the dangers of life on board, one thing that pre-occupied young Tom Diaper was getting enough to eat

Tom Diaper's Log

A deck boy's life at that time was pretty hard. We used to be on all day, and turned in all night. We turned out at 4am and had coffee and biscuits. There was no soft bread for us; for dinner we had salt pork and peas and salt beef and potatoes every other day, biscuits and butter for tea and breakfast, and only boiled rice and molasses for Saturday's dinner. We had no fresh meat after three days out until reaching Capetown. Then on the African coast we had beef and spuds or mutton. The able seamen were very strict on the boys at meal times, the boys had to stand back, the men taking their share first. After them the ordinary seamen took theirs, then came the boys to help themselves to what was left. Sometimes, I can tell you, they had a pretty poor share.


After we went on deck at 4.30am our first job was to go round with a bucket of sand and water and a piece of rough canvas to sand-and-canvas all the ladders and steps which was bare wood, whilst the men in the Watch washed down the decks. It was winter and dark and cold; sand-and-canvassing was not a pleasant job. After that we had to clean all the brasswork. There were only two deck boys, myself and one other. Every two hours starting at 6am and finishing and 8pm with two ordinary seamen and the quarter-master, we had to go aft and heave the log.


Narrator : Family connections were an important way of gaining a place on a racing yacht, which is why half the crew on Tommy Lipton's Shamrock in 1920 were closely related Diapers, brothers, nephews and cousins. A man's character was also an important factor and all sailors treasured their letters of recommendation such as the following belonging to Frederick Christopher Diaper

Letters of recommendation for Frederick Christopher Diaper

from G Richards master of the barque Titanic of Sydney

This is to certify that the bearer F Diaper has served with me in the above vessil from 25 Sept 1908 to apr 4 th 1909 as A.B. during which time I have found him strictly Sober, Civil and always attentive to orders and taking interest in his work. He is leaving as the ship is going on Australian Articles. I hope to hear soon of him holding a better position.


From W Griffith master of the ship Langdale

This is to Certify that the bearer F Diaper has served onboard the Barque Granada as Boatswain acting 2 nd part of the time under my command, then transferred with me to the above named ship to act as 2 nd mate, from Sydney home to Liverpool, during all of which time I found him to be sober, honest and careful officer, therefore I can with confidence recommend him to any shipowner or shipmaster who may require his service.


from B Erickson master of the 4 masted barque Dovenby 10 March 1913

This is to certify that the bearer F C Diaper has served as AB onboard the above named vessel on a voyage from London, South Africa, Australia, West Coast of South America and back home to London a period of nineteen months twenty days during which time he has given me entire satisfaction, being strictly sober, honest and trustworthy man.


Narrator : Sobriety was obviously an important factor and suggest that drunkeness was an occupational hazzard as the Itchen Ferry Song puts it


Old Itchen Ferry on a Saturday night

women do quarrel and men they do fight.

The women drink whiskey as well as the men

And when their cup's empty they do fill it again

To Li To Li hey hey


Sailing was a dangerous profession and made more so if the crew were the worse for drink.

Southampton Times March 16 1861

A Pilot Drowned in Southampton Water

Yesterday (Friday) evening J H Todd esq, coroner for the Southern Division of Hampshire, held an inquest at the Red Lion Inn, Itchen, on the body of Joseph Diaper, a pilot of the Southampton district; aged thirty-three, who came by his death under very melancholy circumstances. The deceased was master of a pilot boat belonging to James C Penny, a pilot living at West Quay, and was known as an industrious, sober and steady man. Unfortunately he has left a widow and six children to mourn his untimely fate, and without any means of subsistence, but we hear that some of his fellow mariners and friends are raising a small subscription for their relief. The following evidence was adduced after the usual formalities.

John Blizard, customs' officer at Southampton, said he knew the deceased who was a pilot and last saw him on the evening of Tuesday at the stern of the ship Massilia, in the Itchen creek, in the boat by himself. He called out to some one on deck to let go his port rope, which witness did. The stern of the deceased's boat caught the bows of the customs' boat, which was also attached to the stern of the ship and capsized. Afterwards deceased went direct under the customs boat and came up astern. Witness called out 'Stop her, stop her' and 'There's a man overboard' and the vessel was stopped as soon as possible: He saw no more of him and he did not believe he was drunk; deceased had left a wife and six children, and was a most industrious and respectable man.

By a juror; 'There was nothing said about a man being in the customs boat but the deceased said if they were to haul her up a little she would tow better; which they did. If there had been any one in the customs' boat it would not have prevented the accident. The deceased had put a pilot on board the Massilia, from Alexandria, some distance down the river, but the customs' boat had been taken in tow only about three miles down. It was usual to keep two men in the customs' boat, but the tide surveyor thought it unsafe that there should be anyone in it, the boat having such a great length of tow, and from the speed of the vessel. It was purely an accident that could not be foreseen or prevented.

James Molyneux said he belonged to Poole, and was a seaman. The wind was fresh when he came up the river on board the Massilia, but not a gale. The pilot-boat came to the vessel just about Yarmouth, and put the pilot on board. The deceased was in the pilot-boat all the way up the river. The customs' boat towed astern also, but here was no one in the river and the pilot at his post. Saw no danger and deceased was quite sober and steady. Heard the deceased sing out twice to let go the painter on the port-quarters, and his intention was to slip when he got farther up. The customs officer let go the painter in the usual way, and the next thing that attracted attention was the cry of 'Stop her' and 'A man overboard' and the vessel was stopped as quick as possible. Could not account for the accident, as he never saw the boat capsize.

One of the jury here stated that the deceased had assisted in this very boat in saving the lives of 120 people at the time of the destruction of the Eastern Monarch and also picked up Captain Harrison of the Great Eastern, not half a mile from where he lost his own life.

Thomas Diaper said he was a fisherman, and lived at Itchen Ferry. Yesterday morning about eight o clock, witness picked up the body of the deceased with a trawl net at the bottom of the river and at the same spot where the accident happened. There had been about sixty men trying for him every day since the accident occurred.

The Coroner at this stage of the proceedings said he thought it unnecessary to examine any more witnesses and the jury concurring in that opinion returned a verdict that the deceased was 'Accidentally drowned'.


Narrator : The Eastern Monarch had been a returning home from India with over 350 members of the Indian army and their families on board in June 1859. The ship was also ladened with 2782 bags of salt petre. An explosion on board broke up the decks, the cuddy and skylights and a sulphurous vapour steamed up through the openings. The discipline of the soldiers prevented greater loss of life which was one woman, and five children killed by the explosion and one man who died after being brought ashore. The incident involving Capt Harrison happened when on leaving his ship the boat that was carrying him was capsized in a gale. Although rescued Harrison later died of his wounds

All families have their black sheep and not all Diaper's used their sailing skills in the service of Lords and princes. William Diaper after a rackety career which included being a blacksmith, carpenter, linguist, miner, navigator, sailor, sawyer, shearer, shepherd, soldier, goldminer and finally beachcomber became an object of research and study for one postgraduate student in Australia.

Lyndon Green

Postgraduate student paper 'The Reverend and the Beachcomber' 2005


My research paper deals with a nineteenth century beachcomber called William Diaper, who joined nineteenth century pacific island cultures and had his unenlightening autobiography, 'Cannibal Jack', published after his death. We know that he was born under the name of William James Diaper in 1820, but he changed his name with frustrating frequency. After he left his English homeland, he adopted the name John Jackson. According to Christopher Legge's essay 'William Diaper', he was known as Jackson for about 30 years...keeping it (his birth name ) a secret from almost everyone. Diaper appears in ' Jackson's Narrative' or Appendix A of John Erskine's tome 'Journal of a Cruise Among the Islands of the Western Pacific, Including the Feejees and Others Inhabited by the Polynesian Negro Races,in Her Majesty's ship Havannah (1853)'. Diaper also wrote a self-titled autobiography called Cannibal Jack. It is extremely difficult to track Diaper, Jackson or 'Cannibal Jack' through history and, over a century after his death, this individual still somewhat eludes us through his plethora of names and manifold movements (he assumed no fewer than nine separate identities). This paper examines the account of Reverend William Wyatt Gill, who described Diaper on the missionary vessel John Williams in 1862.


Although Diaper wrote an autobiography, he did not give a physical description of himself, Gill answers these questions in his Jottings From the Pacific, in which he notes that Diaper 'is somewhat below middle height and excites the wonder of all by the tattooing on his arm, neck and part of his face'. Diaper captivates his audience but, at the same time , offends the missionary when he 'removes part of his clothes to show' them. We examine this in regard to Herman Melville's novel Typee, which was published contemporaneously. While Melville's narrator, Tommo, shows his aversion to being tattoed, Diaper flaunts his body to his captivated, yet offended Victorian audience: tattos are the beachcombers symbols of otherness.


However, Diaper's tattooed body becomes insignificant alongside his boasts of cannibalism. Diaper exaggerates his claim to the Reverend by stating he does not just sample forbidden flesh, but has participated in fully-fledged 'banquets'. Gill notes that all those travelling on the John Williams unite in rejection of this white savage. As in many other cannibal encounters, the 'civilised' witnesses share a common humanity and reject Diaper with 'jibes and scorn' he dares to taint the missionary vessel with forbidden knowledge.


The paper reads Diaper or 'Cannibal Jack' in the context of his temporal and physical location , and tries to give a better picture of the savage identity. The good Reverend may describe not a cannibal, but a lazy sailor who amuses himself with the cannibal joke.



Narrator : If a man was successful on the yachts he could have a long, and active career and the wages plus prize money was a welcome addition to an income that would otherwise be based on fishing or casual work in the docks. And then there was the excitement of the race which kept luring men back to sea.

Extract from Tom Diaper's Log describing a race between the vessel on which Tom served, The Navahoe and the Prince of Wales yacht, Britannia.

Now a curious thing happened when we raced from the Needles over, round Cherbourg breakwater and back. We were racing under American racing rules. At the starting line, between the Needles and a tug-boat moored about half a mile west of that, there was a strong wind east, and each yacht had a double reefed mainsail; the start was at 12 noon. We in the Navahoe allowed the Britannia to cross the line one minute and eighteen seconds ahead of us, so that by the American rule, she would have to allow us one minute and nineteen seconds over the line at the finish of the race, to take the prize away from us or retain it.

It was an exciting race between us. First the Britannia was ahead of us, then we would overhaul her and pass her and keep ahead of her. Then she would do the same. We went in at the west end of the Cherbourg breakwater neck and neck and we came out of the east end with a slight lead. There was a nasty sea and more wind, both of us lowering out staysails. We continued on our way back across Channel in the same way, first one yacht taking the lead and then the other. On nearing the Needles and the finishing line the Britannia had a slight lead; we were close astern and yawing about in the heavy sea that was running at the time. Both vessels having set their staysails, Captain Hank Haff sent me forward to assist the mate and to see that we did not touch the Britannia, so close were we when crossed the line of the Needles. We hauled our staysail down and sailed in easy. There was no gun and afterwards we found there was no committee boat, but when we reached Alum Bay, we saw her anchored there. Afterwards we found out that the weather being so bad and the sea so rough and not expecting us back so soon, she had put in there for shelter. We continued up the Solent and moored off Cowes for the rest of the night.


When we turned out the following morning we saw that the Britannia had the winning flag up. Our owner would not have ours put up and would not go on shore to see about who had won out of the two of us. So all the crew and the extra hand mustered together and told him that no-one on board would sail in another race if he did not see into it, as by the American rule we had won the race fair and square. So he went on shore and the committee settled it that we had won the prize and not the Britannia. The Britannia hauled her winning flag down and we pulled our first prize up.


Narrator : The reason for the threatened strike was that the crew wanted to receive their prize money, rather than any desire to ensure that Navahoe was credited with winning the race. The owner presumably had been reticent to protest the Prince of Wales. Those who rose to the heights of captaincy were respected figures in their communities.

Eulogy for Capt Richard Diaper by Mr Henry Thompson in 1905

The death of Captain Richard Diaper one of the old school of Itchen Ferry skippers, of which so few now remain, brings back to my memory the year 1865 when he joined me as mate in the yacht Hirondelle then building at Poole at the yard of the late Thomas Manhill, and owned by the late Lord Henry Lennox.


We had some stiffish races that year and since then have raced together twice in the Britannia 40 ton cutter, Diaper as skipper and I as pilot. We have also raced against each other, notably he in the Formosa, belonging to the then Prince of Wales (later

Edward VII) and I in the Samoena belonging to Mr John Jameson of Dublin, when we invariably beat him.


I remember on one occasion racing against him for the Cowes Town Cup. We both

were reaching the Peel Buoy off Osborne Bay and after a biffing match we overhauled and passed him to windward taking the lead. My master Mr William Jameson, after passing looked up to me and said 'Captain, do you know what you have done? You have taken the wind out of the Prince of Wales sails' My reply was 'I care not for the Prince of Wales nor his skipper, I would serve the Queen of England the same if I were sailing against her and had the chance to do so' Which reply caused a general laugh among the afterguards.


Captain Richard's last yacht was the cruiser schooner Linda, belonging to Mr Charles Harrison, of London. He had been with him several years and had several times taken the Linda to the Mediterranean and along the coast, in the harbours of the Bay of Biscay. He resigned his mastership some ten years ago and has been laid up in ordinary since.


I know of only three of the old school of skippers surviving, viz Captain George Cozens of Weston, Captain John Diaper of Bitterne (both born in St Mary Extra parish) and myself, the only living in the village proper. Time and illness presses upon us – to me at least it does, and we must be prepared to follow the late Captain Dick willingly after our long innings.


Narrator : Ivy Diaper recorded the following epitaph in the family bible which came from an unknown Captain Diaper's grave


Many a stormy sea I've travelled

Many a tempest shock have known

Have been driven without anchor

On the barren shores alone, yet I now

Have found a haven, never moved by tempest shock

Where my soul is safe forever

In the blessed rifted rock



Narrator : Many of the famous yachts sailed by skippers such as Richard Diaper were also laid to rest after the death of their owners as was remembered in this report of the passing of Captain Alfred Diaper in 1950

Southern Echo January 21 1950

Captain Alfred W Diaper, 78 years old professional yacht skipper, who died last week treasured this magnificent picture taken by Beken of Cowes in 1927. It shows the J Class schooner Westward leading from King George V's Britannia in a race during Cowes Week.

Both of these famous J-Class yachts were scuttled after the deaths of their owners. Skipper of the Westward for the last nine years of her racing career, Captain Diaper won more Kings' Cups for her owner than any other professional skipper.


Previously he was skipper of Sir Charles Allom's 15 metre Istria, built by Camper & Nicholsons. Istria – one of the first to have the Marconi (Bermudan) rig – had an outstanding run of successes in her class.


Narrator : Although the Diapers and their contemporaries are primarily remembered as yachtmen they also served on liners and cross channel ferries such as the Hantonia.

Daily Echo March 1 st 1952 – Hantonia's Farewell Channel Crossing After 40 years' service

The Hantonia – 1,594 tons – made her maiden sailing from Southampton to Le Havre on May 7, 1912. Last night she slipped quietly away from her berth without fuss or ceremony on her last run. For at least one member of the crew, Quartermaster Ernest Diaper, the journey across the Channel was tinged with sadnes. He has been with the Hantonia continuously since 1915, when she was the pride of the fleet, and has made several thousand trips the across the Channel.

Mr Diaper acquired his love of the sea as a boy when he accompanied his father, Mr Mark Diaper, on fishing and yachting expeditions from the Itchen. He joined the old London and South Western Railway Company in September 1914, when he was 26, as an able seaman in the cargo ship Bertha, sailing from Southampton to the Channel Islands and French ports.

After six months in the Bertha and three weeks in the Lydia, he joined the Hantonia which had then been in service for three years. He was made quartermaster of the ship in April 1919.

“I could have gone to other ships in my time, but I always preferred to remain with the Hantonia. I have served under 2 captains, the first of whom was Capt. Holt.”


In the 1914-18 war the Hantonia was on the passenger and mail service to France from Southampton, the only route open. Mr Diaper recalled that

'one night the vessel stood by a hospital ship which had been torpedoed in the Channel and rescued about 250 sick and wounded troops.'


The war over, the Hantonia returned to the Southampton Le Havre run, making six single crossings a week.

“We have left port when all other ports were closed through bad weather” said Mr Diaper.

In the last war Mr Diaper went in the Hantonia to Fishguard, where she was on the Rosslare service until 1942. After a refit at Plymouth the ship was used as a military stores transport on the Clyde and in Dutch waters. She ended the war as an accommodation vessel.

The Hantonia was on the Channel Islands service for a time after the war, and then returned to the Le Havre run to end her days. If she is laid up Mr Diaper who is 65, hopes to remain with her as a watchman. On her last crossing to Le Havre the ship had 36 passengers and a cargo comprising three cars, 11 ponies, 4 ½ tons of grapes and two tons of general goods.


Narrator : Life in Itchen Ferry village was changed forever in 1940 when an air raid designed to destroy the Spitfire factory in Woolston also tore the heart out of the village community. The Fate of Itchen Ferry was recorded in shanty form by Barry Wake.

The Fate of Itchen Ferry by Barry Wake

Once there stood the ferrymen's home – see the hoys go down

As Itchen Ferry it was known, - down by Woolston Shore.


Through Hill Street down to Itchen side – see the hoys go down

The ferry families lived and thrived – down by Woolston Shore


Main Chorus

Time goes by, life goes on, but Itchen Ferry on the Woolston Shore

Died one night in the throes of war, lost for evermore


From ancient times, the hoys sailed forth – see the hoys go down

They prized their boats, they knew their worth – down by Woolston Shore.


From Cross House Hard, before the wind – see the boys go down

Carrying fools and carrying kings – down by Woolston Shore


Time goes by, life goes on, but Itchen Ferry on the Woolston Shore

Died one night in the throes of war, lost for everymore


One cold dark night, the bombs rained down, - see the hoys go down,

Shops and homes raised to the ground – down by Woolston Shore


Now Itchen Ferry lives no more, - see the hoys go down

You'll find no trace of times before, - down by Woolston Shore.


Time goes by, life goes on, but Itchen Ferry on the Woolston Shore,

Died one night in the throes of war, lost for evermore


When Ludlow children learnt the tale – see the hoys go down

They found no streets or hoisted sails – down by Woolston Shore


But now that tale is cast in stone – see the hoys go down,

To tell the world of a place long gone, - down by Woolston Shore.


Time goes by, life goes on, but Itchen Ferry on the Woolston Shore

Died one night in the throes of war, lost for evermore


Time goes by, life goes on, but Itchen Ferry on the Woolston Shore

Died one night in the throes of war, lost for evermore.


Narrator : what was begun by Hitler's Luftwaffe was compounded by planners in the 60s and 70s. In 1974 the floating bridge, which itself had been accused of destroying the livelihood of the ferrymen back in 1834, was itself replaced by the 'New Bridge' but as we have found memories are not so easy to erase.

Poem, The Itchen Ferry by Mabel Turtle nee Diaper, youngest daughter of Tom Diaper

The Floating Bridge is dead and gone

the clanking of the chains are still

I remember when I was a child, to ride on the bridge was a thrill

Times have changed over the years, the Itchen Regattas are a thing of the past

To stand on the Itchen Hard and watch the boats

with their white sails billowing in the wind, is a memory that will always last.

I can still hear the people cheering the men, as they took part in the races,

'Come on Tom', 'Come on Alf', show them your paces.

These are the memories the New Bridge can never take away

and I will remember them to the end of my days.


Narrator : Which brings us back to the starting point for this project, a slim volume written at the end of his long life by Tom Diaper which was the inspiration for the exhibition on the Diapers and all the events and projects and research that has taken place over the last 12 months.

'Jack Yard's' review of Tom Diaper's Log Aug 29 1950

How many times have you heard an old salt telling of exciting and amusing incidents long past and said to yourself: 'if only someone could take a shorthand note of this, what a wonderful book it would make?'

But it usually left to the professional author to recapture the atmosphere with an occasional story which – brilliant though it may be – rarely captures more than the external reflection.

Few of these old salts have ever had the inclination to write. Never great scholars – as they would probably express it – they always viewed the written word with a certain amount of suspicion.

Not such a one was Tom Diaper professional yacht hand and racing skipper for over 50 years, who came of a long line of 'fishermen, sailors, and in early days noted smugglers inside the Isle of Wight and especially at Netley, Hythe and Itchen'.

Tom Diaper kept a diary – his log he called it – written in a style of pages torn out of old exercise books filled with closely written, scraggy writing.

There were no chapters, no paragraphs and often no punctuation. Capital letters popped up awkwardly like tall men in a row of raw recruits, and the spelling was – well somewhat erratic.

But in those bundled pages is a human and virile story. The story of a man of real character, confident, outspoken and intensely proud.

Tom Diaper died before his diary was published under the title 'Tom Diaper's Log' but the many members of his family still living will feel an intense pride that his Log will be read wherever there are yachtsmen.

For in the pages are recorded the early struggles of the yacht hands, the uncertainty of employment, and yet the real joy of living that these men experienced.

The professional racing skipper is disappearing from yachting. Compared with the early days of the century there are now only a handful. The modern owner sails a smaller yacht and for the most part,races it himself.

But Tom tells you of the days of the J-class in all its glory, days of wealthy owners and professional crews.

They were the days when the Kaiser's yacht Meteor raced off Cowes – and Tom was aboard her.

As skipper of the German yachts Polly and Klein Polly, Tom Diaper made a name for himself that will long be remembered on both sides of the Channel.

His racing in Germany: the 1920 attempt by Britain to win the America's Cup in Shamrock IV – Tom was mate in the paceship Shamrock; and his mysterious assignment for 'Pinkerton of the Pinkerton Detective Agency', when the Prince of Wales came to open the floating dock at Southampton – all is told in vivid narrative.

'Tom Diaper's Log' is a book you should not miss reading whether you are a yachtsman or not. Few people have the gift of saying just what they feel and mean on paper.