ID: WW01_441 / Winifred Hone

TitleBill Wyatt - Winifred Hone memoirs
AbstractBill Wyatt known as "The Admiral" became internationally as famous as Mersea Oysters, his father having come from Butlers Hard and started up as a shipwright when Bill was a boy. From these small beginnings it developed into a small but flourishing firm. It did'nt come easily as his policy was good workmanship and good value and this combination doesn't always pay. He had a fabulous memory for faces, dates and names and a great knowledge of proverbs. He was much much respected by the Owner Yachtsmen, most of them well known and usually rich. I'm talking now of the days when yachting was exclusively a rich man's sport, he always went aboard any yacht left in his charge after the Owner's weekends or cruises were over, to have a look round. It was not unusual for him to find something and often asked me to find a home for some article of clothing which wouldn't have fitted the owner's wife. In doing so he must have put an end to a lot of domestic strife. I'm writing of the days when a love affair was an act to be treated with discretion, what better than a yacht for this particular pastime. He used to tell me many secrets, not because he was scandalising, he just wanted a confirmation of a decision he had already made. I always knew when he had been 'figuring', an expression he used when he had been investigating. He would come along humming a little song which would make me astutely conscious that he had something in more ways than one. He was very fond of children, having none of his own and any mother who went out to work had no need to pay a baby sitter as he welcomed any little children to play in his boatshed, the floor usually covered with shavings. Many of the children that Bill used to keep his eye on are now grand parents themselves.

One of many amusing stories that he told was that as a boy he ran messages for a local doctor, who used a pestal and mortar to mix his pills and potions. In the mixing when stirring his medicines, he would chant for the rich "Linger and Live" and for the poor "Die and be damned". Bill often quoted a little rhyme he would say to yachtsmen, "Vessels large may venture far, but little boats should keep near shore." Some advice he gave also and he meant it "You can fight the sea and elements but don't be sure of winning". He had a very great memory for songs, he could always fit in a line or two to harmonise with any situation. During the war the daughter of a general and one of the Buchanan family stationed in Colchester, of Whisky Distiller Fame, was about to have a small engagement party when Bill arrived for his evening pint. Looking at the Buchanan kilt he immediately started to sing "What's that funny affair you're wearing where your trousers ought to be", the climax being a change of hats and a fling with Bill participating in a very agile manner though seventy years of age.

We always celebrated Admiral Wyatt's birthday which coincided with our Annual General Meeting. 31st January 1953 was a dramatic one, about 150 people, among them some very well known from all walks of life who looked forward to this annual event. The Admiral at his very best sang a little ditty to open the gathering. The usual one 'A starry night for a ramble kiss and never tell' as well as a little shuffle dance. All this at the age of 90. A wonderful birthday cake decorated with moss red roses that he loved so much and 90 candles. By 10 o'clock the starry night and notes of the song were accompanied by gale force winds and a raging tide two hours before high water; a howling gale that wrecked many beautiful yachts that were jacked up in an orderly line ready for refitting in the spring. The whole Coast Road was a scene of destruction made impassable with boats and boat gear left by the tide. The raging waters rushed into the picturesque cottages and houses in the 'Old City' leaving a residue of a dirty brown deposit to be dried out and cleaned up. As a precaution the electricity was cut off as many people live on the houseboats. We fortunately used an Esse fuel stove so we were able to give food and hot drinks to many less fortunate. My grandson Ronnie, only a boy, had been given a camera for his birthday in January and he took wonderful pictures of the destruction, in some cases by the light of the moon as it was so very brilliant. Many of these photographs proved true evidence for the owners of damaged yachts to be assessed. The wind continued to blow icy to hurricane force, still anxious to destroy and batter anything in its wake. This memorable night never grew dark, which I suppose was some consolation to those placed more or less in a homeless plight if only for a short time. The following day we were horrified to read in the papers of many deaths and tremendous destruction around the East Coast. This birthday part finished abruptly with Admiral Wyatt still true to form concluding this gathering with his usual song "Do your best for one another pulling hard against the stream."
The Admiral's birthday was a yearly get together, an occasion that young and old looked forward to.

William Wyatt was born on Mersea in 1865 and would have been 88 in 1953

AuthorWinifred Hone
SourceMersea Museum / Wendy Brady
Related Images:
 William Wyatt.
 Photograph used in 2005 Regatta Programme.  IA003245
ImageID:   IA003245
Title: William Wyatt.
Photograph used in 2005 Regatta Programme.
Source:Mersea Museum