|Abstract||John Milgate, West Mersea shipwright, interviewd by Stuart Devenish for Mersea Island Lions Talking Magazine 209, recorded in March 1996.
John's grandfather came to Mersea in 1874 with his sister Sarah Philadelphia Milgate. John was born in Smugglers Way opposite the present-day Dabchicks. The family moved to Council Houses in Firs Chase in 1933. School and at 12 he was an errand boy for Howards Stores, owned by Mr Dixon, but Mr Eley was 'shop foreman' there. 2 shillings on a Saturday. He then went down to work at William Wyatts, just helping the gov'nor after school, because everybody else was at War. April 1945 left school and started work with the gov'nor - Admiral Bill Wyatt - just the two of them, until Harold Cutts, Fred Cutts, Pinkey Hewes came back from War, when it became once more a workable boatyard. John did National Service at 18. Back to Wyatts. 1956 John went up to London with River Police at Wapping. Lived near Putney. John's daughter has recently married Stuart Cock - his mother was Sarah Philadelphia Milgate. John came back to Wyatts in 1969, and about 2 years later became self employed - and has been ever since, travelling round repairing boats. There is no shortage of work, but the shame is that there are not enough youngsters coming into it. Chris Conway is the only young person involved in repairing wooden boats, otherwise there is nobody else.
Fibreglass boats almost took over, but there is a revival in wooden boats.
John lives in Shell Bungalow. Peldon. There was originally a shell crushing works behind the wall at Firs Farm on Mersea. A purpose built shell works was then built in 1920 at Peldon (builder Clifford White). Two lighters and towing boat were used to take shells up there. They were limpet shells, and it was sometimes called the Limpet Factory. Norman Priestley's father in law's father (old John Chatters) dug trenches to bring electricity and water down when they built the Shell Works.
When John got Shell Bungalow, it had been a private yachtsman's domain, with both gates locked, and old Mrs Ponder was the careftaker (her father was the River Policeman at Mersea - Sergeant Brown.
John is running evening classes on wooden boatbuilding, rebuilding the 102 year old smack PURITAN. They started with bumkin BOY GEORGE. BOY GEORGE was built for George Stoker and named after his son George, who was killed 1939 by a mine. PURITAN is being rebuilt with a lot of new wood, but it is still the PURITAN.
The last wooden boat was built on Mersea in 1950s - Wyatts were the only boat builders on Mersea at this stage - they built some nice oyster skiffs and yachts 1947 - 1960.
To read more about John and Pat Milgate, see PH01_MIL