Anthony Laughton: childhood boating

Anthony Laughton describes the development of his and his brother's interest in boating and sailing as a child in the 1930s.

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Initially, when I was very young, I was being pushed around in a pram by my nanny and so I didn’t do much outdoors – well, not much independently. Then one got to ride tricycles and then bicycles. And by the outbreak of the war in 1939, when I was twelve, I was able to explore further afield with my brother. We would sail boats on the ponds, both the Whitestone Pond, as I mentioned, and on the various lakes in Hampstead Heath. The love of boats and boating came initially from reading Arthur Ransome’s books, Swallows & Amazons, which were a regular Christmas present as they came out. And we devoured these and loved the concept of sailing. And so we made, or bought, model sailing boats that we sailed and enjoyed setting up that and losing them occasionally and finding them again. But it wasn’t until our family holidays that we did down in Cornwall from about 1936 onwards – we stayed at a little village called Coverack and – just on the Lizard Peninsula, and there my father rented a rowing boat, which Dennis and I would row round in. When we got a bit fed up with rowing we tired one of the oars vertically and attached a canvas sheet to it and made it sail. And then subsequent years, my father brought a bamboo pole and my mother made a sail and we fitted that and then we’d row or sail out into the sea. We by this time had learnt about semaphore and Morse and so we’d row out to sea and signal to the coastguard with semaphore saying we were alright and not sinking. And that experience down in Cornwall for the years leading up to the war was very formative in my love of the sea and for boats. And had, I think, probably quite an influence on my life.
  • Interviewee Anthony Laughton
  • Duration 00:02:34
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 9/2/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/29

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