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The History of Boating on Scilly

Today all the large passenger boats (more than 12 passengers) operating from St. Mary's run under the banner of St. Mary's Boatmen's Association. However, 50 years ago it was a very different story, with all the boatmen working on their own, or in partnerships, trying to attract the same trade.

During the winter of 1957/58 several of the passenger boat operators decided to work together so in the 1958 season St. Mary's Boatmen's Association started.

The initial members were Jeff, Frank and Vernie Thompson with the Nemo, Kingsley and Busy Bee, Leonard Hicks with the Sapphire and Gloria and Gee Hicks & his son Mike with the Seahorse and the Lily of Laguna. The Isles of Scilly Steamship Co. also operated two boats in the Association, The Gondolier skippered by Horace Nicholls and the Golden Spray run by Lou Hitchens.

In 1959 Barney Thomas joined with the Sheppy Queen but only ran in the Association for one season. Leonard Hicks sold the Sapphire which was bought by Benny and David Badcock who started with her in the Association in 1960. In 1963 they replaced her with the larger Guiding Star. About this time Mike Hicks replaced the Seahorse with the Sea King

In 1964 several new members joined: Lloyd Hicks with the Swordfish, Eric Guy with the Southern Queen and Frank Pender with Gloria I and Gloria II which he replaced with the Britannia in 1965.. Shortly afterwards Jeff Thompson replaced the Nemo with the Surprise.

In 1966 Benny and David bought the Britannia and they operated this and the Guiding Star in partnership until they retired in 2002 passing the boats on to their sons Joe and David. 

In 1968 Frank Pender came back into the Association buying the Southern Queen from Eric Guy. About this time the Steamship Company pulled out, selling the Gondolier away from the Islands. Roy Duncan bought the Golden Spray and joined the Association. Lou Hitchens bought the Black Swan from the Island Hotel and started running her in the Association.

In the early 1970's Frank Thompson replaced the Kingsley with the larger Kingsley II. In 1977 Gee Hicks retired selling the Lily of Laguna to Gutherie Pender and Garfield Ellis. They were already running the Buccaneer as an independent, but they now brought both boats into the Association. In 1979 Jeff Thompson retired with the Surprise being taken over by his nephew Gerald.

In 1980 Lloyd Hicks died and Swordfish II was taken over by his son John which he ran in the Association untill the early 1990's after which he ran it for a few years as a "twelve boat". 
Lou Hitchens retired from boating in the early 1980's. After a brief spell as an independent the Black Swan was acquired by Mike Hicks to be run in the Association by his sons Fraser and Alec. In 1985 Frank Thompson retired and for two years the Kingsley II was jointly owned by the Association members who employed Jeremy Phillips to run her, after which he bought the boat and joined the Association in his own right.

In 1990 Frank Pender retired and Alec Hicks bought the Southern Queen which he ran for 5 years before replacing her with the Kingfisher. The Southern Queen was one of the "Little Ships" of Dunkirk and has since been restored on the mainland.

Gutherie's son, Joe, took over running the Lily of Laguna in the mid 1990's, replacing her in 2000 with the new "Sapphire". In 1997 Peter Martin completed building another "Seahorse" for Mike Hicks and Sons and for a couple of seasons they ran her alongside the Sea King and the Black Swan in the Association. With Mike Hicks retirement his eldest son Stephen continued running the Seahorse in the Association while Fraser carried on with the Sea King. In 1998 Garfield Ellis retired and Andy Howells bought the Buccaneer, replacing her in 2003 with the Osprey. In the same year Jeremy Phillips replaced the Kingsley II with the Meridian and the Kingsley II, the Buccaneer and the Black Swan all went to Falmouth where they are running visitors to the maritime museum.

Over the years the Association members have worked ever more closely together. However each boat is still individually owned and each skipper remains totally responsible for his own boat.

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