Merchant Schooner Memories

‘Merchant Schooner Memories’ was a community project that uncovered local memories of merchant topsail schooners from Cornwall and beyond. Working in partnership with the Rhoda Mary Project, the project involved conducting multiple oral history interviews, the creation of a series of digital stories and workshops with Devoran Primary School.

Merchant Schooners

During the 19th century, coastal communities throughout the West Country financed, built and operated a great fleet of merchant schooners, creating a golden age of sail-driven transport with far-flung links to North Africa, the Baltic and the Americas. This was a period of booming world trade and brought great prosperity, as well as drama and risk to the local communities involved.

Although the times of merchant schooners are not within living memory, there are a legacy of stories that have been passed down through the generations. It is these stories that the project sought to uncover through oral history recordings.

Community & Schools Engagement

Audio recordings and photographs were used to create a series of digital stories to engage all ages. As well as screening within communities, the digital stories were a perfect springboard for learning and creativity in schools. Children at Devoran School turned their knowledge into a poem in honour of the Rhoda Mary. ‘The Life and Times of the Rhoda Mary’ charted her life, from construction near Devoran, to her present resting place on the mudflats of the Medway in Kent. We then worked together to create an amazing large canvas of the Rhoda Mary.

We would like to thank everyone who shared merchant schooner stories with us for this project. In particular Robbie and Maureen Tatlow for their passion and knowledge. Anna Brunyee from the Rhoda Mary Project for all her help and the Cornwall Heritage Trust for funding a school workshop.

The Rhoda Mary Project

The Rhoda Mary Project was set up as a charity and was seeking funding to provide 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.


  • The Rhoda Mary Project
  • For the Love of Sail
  • The Rhoda Mary & other Ferris boats

View all project videos >


View all project photos >


“What a wonderful experience the Storylines workshop was. So creative and immersive, the children were engaged throughout. There were plenty of opportunities for the children to be creative and a good level of support was provided for those who were less confident in their artistic abilities. The workshop made history come alive in our classroom. The pupils have produced a spectacular piece of artwork of which they are immensely proud.”

Katie Thurston, Class 6 teacher at Devoran School

Funders & Links