Man-O-War residents turned out on a bright sunny Saturday morning, April 1, 2017, to honour and record their heritage boatbuilders for posterity. Recognizing this historic link to the island’s fame, Obie Wilchcombe, Minister for Tourism, addressed the crowd and acknowledged his ministry’s financial contribution to the bronze memorial plaques.
Patriarch Scott Weatherford spoke on the work ethics of these dedicated men who built boats and sailing ships of many sizes entirely with hand tools. Members from the audience gave recollections on their childhood experiences of fifty or more years ago. Accolades were given to master boat builder Uncle Will whose boat building reputation is well known as well as his unofficial role as town father during his later years.
Boat building began on the island in the 1820 – 1830 period and continued into the early 1970s when fiberglass and modern production methods came into play and sidelined wooden boats. Even today, nearly 50 years since the last big boat slid into the water, Man-O-War’s boatyards are well known and respected for quality boat repairs and maintenance among foreign boat owners.
At the conclusion of the ceremonies three bronze plaques were unveiled on the Sea Road along the harbour. A traditional Man-O-War dinghy was launched and christened by Giovanni Manni, granddaughter of the late Edwin Albury, whose boatyards are well known and respected.
Minister Wilchcombe was impressed with the town’s interest in acknowledging and preserving its maritime heritage and promised to send a television crew to document Man-O-War’s boat building history.
The Albury Brothers have continued the boat building tradition by successfully applying their boat building skills and seamanship knowledge to constructing fiberglass outboards. They have licensed their skills to a partner company in Riviera Beach, Florida. Their boats uphold the Man-O-War tradition as being exceptionally seaworthy.
Cake and sodas were given freely at the conclusion. Food, sweets and other items were on sale to satisfy the crowds appetite. Special chartered ferries took guests from Hope Town and Marsh Harbour as well as substantial numbers of guests arriving on the scheduled ferries.