Last Friday saw the turn of the younger members of the Devoran community to hear all about the iconic vessel, the Rhoda Mary, which was built close to their village.
Our Memory Day in the autumn in Devoran Village Hall had provided us with rich pickings in terms of people willing to share their stories and as a result we made 4 digital stories illuminating the vibrant history of Cornish merchant schooners and in particular the Rhoda Mary. As with all our work at Storylines, the stories we gather and make into films are exciting tools that we use to creatively inspire others and so these films came into Devoran Primary School to inspire a class of Year 6 children. This was a continuation of our involvement in the Rhoda Mary Project and we were delighted to have Anna Brunyee from the team join us on that day.
As expected of a school perched close to the Fal estuary, the children were familiar with boats. We opened with 2 films describing the work of schooners, the voyages they made, their importance in the wider context of day-to-day living and life aboard. There was frantic note taking as the children gathered as much information as they could about the iconic Rhoda Mary from the local Ferris family film. The Rhoda Mary was the focus of this day so learning as much as they could about her was vital. They learned about her creator William Foreman Ferris, how and when she was built, the cargo she carried, the crew who worked her and the circular journeys she made. They were to turn all this knowledge into a poem in honour of her. And what a poem it turned out to be… ‘The Life and Times of the Rhoda Mary’… an anthem in rhyming couplets charting her life from birth to her present resting place on the mudflats of the Medway in Kent.
A further film about Robbie and Maureen Tatlow and their joint creative passions for schooners delighted the children and they were astounded when the couple later walked into their classroom to spend the rest of the day with them. Robbie and Maureen had brought artefacts from the time of the Rhoda Mary with them and so the children were able to handle sail makers needles and tools. Of course the burning question from all the children to Robbie was…. ‘How did you get that ship into that bottle?’
The afternoon saw a flurry of activity for the creation of the Rhoda Mary canvas. The children worked in groups to collaborate on this piece, with some painting the background with the expert help of Maureen, some creating a crew and painted nautical symbols for the border of the canvas and another group patiently repairing the torn sails of the vessel. Meanwhile the class scribe, copied out the poem on a special scroll which was to hang underneath.
While the finishing touches were made to the artwork the whole class joined Robbie and Maureen in singing the song they had written to celebrate the Rhoda Mary. To show their appreciation to Robbie and Maureen the children compiled a small ‘bottle’ book of drawings and messages.
The Rhoda Mary canvas will stay at Devoran school as a reminder of a very exciting and successful day and as a farewell gift from the Year 6 leavers. The children were excited to hear about the Rhoda Mary Project’s aim to rebuild the Rhoda Mary are now hoping to witness the return of this now familiar vessel to their village.
The Rhoda Mary Project is a charity which hopes to rebuild the Rhoda Mary; providing vocational training in the maritime trades to young people in Cornwall and across the UK through the reconstruction and operation of this legendary Cornish 19th century sailing vessel.
We would like to thank class teacher Katie Thurston for all her support, Robbie and Maureen Tatlow for bringing everything alive, Anna Brunyee from the Rhoda Mary Project for all her help and the Cornwall Heritage Trust for funding this workshop.