Back at the end of the 1970s, aged 10-11, I had a brilliant teacher for my last year of primary school; Janet Hall. She was a gentle, creative person with flowing hair, flowing skirts and clogs, and she lived on this boat. The Steam Tug Brent.
I’ve had the good fortune to have had enjoyed some excellent travel adventures but one of the best was during that last year of primary school. Mrs Hall arranged for our class to travel by boat (not the Brent!) from Maldon to Saint Osyth’s Priory. I still remember that exhilarating feeling of freedom as we skimmed across the water that dark grey morning with a hair whipping wind. Below – my school photo from around that time.
I got back in touch with Janet having returned to Essex after many years away. As luck would have it she was on the deck of the Brent as I walked on Maldon’s prom one day. Once Covid restrictions eased we met for a coffee and caught up on the intervening years.
Janet told me the story of the Brent’s rescue from the salvage yard in 1971, the years when she became the Hall family home through to the Steam Tug Brent Trust being set up in 2010 as a means of raising money and a voluntary workforce to conserve and restore this lovely old boat.
The Brent really is a labour of love and I highly recommend signing up for the supporters’ newsletter where you can see many beautiful photos and read the full story.
The Brent has achieved iconic status after 50 years in Maldon. To celebrate, a group exhibition of Brent related artworks was staged at St Mary’s Church Octagon in July 2021. The range, number and quality of pieces was really impressive; models, paintings on metal and board, watercolours, textile pieces, primary school submissions. Really lovely.
I was delighted to be invited to contribute, I made the pen and wash sketch below and helped to hang some of the pictures in the exhibition space.
Circumstances, Covid and otherwise, have so far conspired to prevent me from getting on board on one of Brent’s open days. I’d love to have a really good look around, and of course it would be marvelous to see her fully restored and sailing under steam power again one day.