Another Move for Admiral Boscawen

You may wonder why there is an article about an eighteenth century Admiral in a child care magazine, and the link certainly is a bit tenuous. It is not because the Admiral was a great sailor, (which he was), nor for the way in which he gave the French a hard time. (He fought in numerous battles and actually captured one French captain three times, taking his ship off him each time!)

Admiral Boscawen was so famous that a battleship was named after him, the HMS Boscawen, and naturally, as he had been a figurehead in the navy, the ship named after him had him as the figurehead.

It was in 1874 that this ship – its fighting days over – was used as a training ship for young offenders, to replace the HMS Wellesley, the original reformatory ship allocated in 1868. The name Wellesley, however, was retained for the Nautical School when the Boscawen was taken on.

In 1914, as with many of the old reformatory ships, the Wellesley was gutted by fire.

Following some temporary quartering, the school was eventually re-sited onshore at an old submarine shore base at Blyth in Northumberland. Admiral Boscawen’s figurehead was retained as a memory of the link with the sea and was placed at the front of the school.

In 1933, following the Children Act, the establishment became an approved school.

Following the 1969 Act, like other approved schools, Wellesley Nautical School became a community home, and it lost its nautical associations. During this period the figurehead had rotted beyond repair and was eventually replaced by a replica in 1991. Wellesley was finally closed down by Sunderland Council in 2006, and Admiral Boscawen’s proud figurehead then suffered some years of neglect, having been vandalised and then stored in a transport yard in Blyth.

The latest news, though, is that the figurehead has been restored and has been presented to Ashington Sea Cadets as their figurehead at their base, T.S. Tenacity.

If you have been watching Dan Snow’s television series about the history of the Royal Navy, you will have heard him mention Admiral Boscawen, and you will be aware of the proud tradition of which the Ashington Sea Cadets are part.

So this story has a happy ending, but there is an important footnote. The men who put the colour back in Admiral Boscawen’s cheeks all had connections with Wellesley Nautical School themselves, mostly as boys who had been sent there by the Courts in the 1950s and 60s. They have since built themselves a wide variety of successful careers, but they are still proud to associate themselves with the old school. The fact that they put their energies into this task is a retrospective credit to the work of the School. Admiral Boscawen will no doubt be happy about it too.

Our picture shows from left to right, Dr Michael Hendryk Majer and George Hale (ex-Wellesley), Dennis Roe (ex-Wellesley) and Vic Clarke (ex-Wellesley). Mike, George and Dennis did the bulk of the work in restoring the figurehead. Vic and Graham Corkhill (not pictured) organised donations and logistics. Congratulations to the team.


4 thoughts on “Another Move for Admiral Boscawen”

  1. My name is Vic Clarke. I would like to thank you for this article, to all concerned it was a labour of love, and we really are proud of our old home. The Admiral looks fantastic on his new ship. I would like to say thank you to every one who help in the restoration of the Admiral, and a big thanks to the Cadets fpr having him on board.

  2. I know the guys who restored the figurehead we still keep in touch, I was a Wellesley boy from 1960 to 1963 put there by the courts simply for running away from the ophanage. It was my first real home, I felt secure. Wellesley gave me so many things, self pride and disoplin being just two, these two lessons have done me proud in life. I congratulate my ship mates for a job well done; our history lives on.

    Wellesley Boys

    We are the Wellesley boys
    Brave, Bold and true,
    marching to our duties,
    in a uniform of blue.

    Polished decks, windows bright,
    Walls painted blue and white,
    Beds in rows bed packs square,
    Feel the tension in the air.

    Inspection finished all outside,
    From the POs gaze we hide,
    Was our kit clean, was it bright,
    Will we be punished on this night?

    In the chapel singing hymns,
    pretending to confess our sins,
    for those in peril on the sea,
    Will Gods light shine down on me?

    Looking back these many years,
    I think about my hopes and fears,
    Of Wellesley boys so bold and true,
    I’ll always be a part of you!

    By Chalky White 10.10.03

  3. hi its realy nice to see what you have done . i was at wellersley as a lad in 1975 and lov’d every minute o the experiance . good on you . mick boardman i was known as from liverpool .


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