The Herald on Sunday

Pain to pleasure


SKYLARK IX was built as a pleasure cruiser in 1934 in Poole, Dorset, and spent over a decade enjoying the leisurely existence of a pleasure boat until being drafted into war service as a shallow water minesweepe­r. One of her roles was placing anti-invasion obstacles around the entrance to Poole harbour.

Her finest hour, however, came over four days in late May and early April 1940 when she joined hundreds of “little ships” plucking soldiers to safety from the beaches of Dunkirk. Skylark IX alone rescued around 600, cramming 150 men at a time on board, well over her capacity of 115. With the war over, Skylark IX headed first for Burntislan­d in Fife and then Loch Lomond, where Sweeney’s Cruises operated her for 33 years.

Her past glory was forgotten until 1978 when a veteran recognised her as a one of Dunkirk’s little ships. Skylark IX became a focus for Dunkirk veterans who paraded in Balloch each May armed with poppies to pay silent tribute.

However, damage and time were against her. She took on water and began to sink in 2010. The effort to save and restore her brought together the collaborat­ion of Alternativ­es, Vale of Leven Remembranc­e Associatio­n, Leven Cruising Club, local community fundraiser­s and the Scottish Maritime Museum. Mary Burch, chair of the Skylark IX Recovery Trust, said: “Although we have had to sadly accept that she will never sail again, we will preserve Skylark IX in the most historical­ly authentic and dignified way.”

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