In January’s “Message From The Bridge”, I bemoaned Britain’s failure to celebrate and preserve its rich maritime heritage, drawing attention to the uncertain fate of the Queen Elizabeth II currently laid up in Dubai.
Strangely enough, January also brought news of the passing of Sir Jack Hayward, businessman and philanthropist. Sir Jack achieved prominence in the football world for his heroic efforts to save and then revive Wolverhampton Wanderers, a once great club which had fallen on hard times. However, he is less well known for his prominent role in helping preserve one of the most famous vessels in the history of the British merchant fleet. It was Sir Jack who helped to finance the rescue of the SS Great Britain from the ignominy of her apparent final resting place in the Falkland Islands, back to her home port of Bristol where this historic vessel has since become a celebrated visitor attraction.
Designed by one of the most famous engineers in British history – Isambard Kingdom Brunel – for the Great Western Steamship Company’s transatlantic service, SS Great Britain was the first iron-built steamer to cross the Atlantic. When launched in 1843 she was the largest ship afloat.
Sir Jack was already prominent in the maritime world as a result of his role with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the development of Freeport, but his involvement in the preservation of the SS Great Britain, as well as other historic projects (such as the salvage of the Mary Rose, warship of King Henry’s Tudor Navy), is perhaps even more worthy of acclaim as we mark his passing.