James Forsythe

In Memory of James Forsythe.

James' unique service to Albion began at the inaugural meeting of the Trust in 1949 and he continued his love for her and commitment to her best interests for the next 55 years. Over that period he held every office from Treasurer, Secretary, Chairman, Trustee, President to Vice-Patron, as well as being very much hands on in the early years of the Trust.

He would recall the condition of Albion when she was first acquired and wondered whether his fellow Trustees: Lady Mayhew, Humphrey Boardman, Hector Read and Lewis Storey were either very brave or quite mad! His foresight and the courage of the early Trustees saved Albion. His long association covered major events such as the intrepid sail on the North Sea round the Norfolk coast to Ely for an assembly of old craft; the re-establishment of the old custom when the Lord Mayor of Norwich met the Mayor of Great Yarmouth at Hardley Cross; James' last trips on Albion took place in 1996 when the stone from Caen was transported from Great Yarmouth to Norwich to commemorate the 900th anniversary of building of Norwich Cathedral and shortly afterwards he was given an 80th birthday sail. Then in the celebrations of Albion's Centenary Year in 1998 James attended the visit of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh when HRH sailed Albion on Wroxham Broad. In 1994 James was presented with an Individual Achievement Award from the World Ship Trust for "dedication, enthusiasm, cheerfulness and tenacity in nurturing the Norfolk Wherry Trust for over 40 years". However, when informing the Committee of this Award he insisted "it was not just a tribute to myself but to our Committee and all our loyal helpers and supporters since 1949, the backbone of our effort". James recognised it was increasingly difficult with the passing of years to attend regular meetings and was delighted to be appointed to the post of Vice-Patron which recognised his past service to the Trust and enabled him to share frequently his lifetime's experience with continuing Committee members. For those who knew James and served on the Committee with him, each has happy memories of his mix of old fashioned courtesy, humour and enormous respect for the craftsmen and volunteers who gave their time and skill for the benefit of Albion.

Tribute from Timothy Colman - Our Patron

James Forsythe was one of the "old school", a distinguished representative of his generation. He saw all that is best in the values of tradition, and recognised that if future generations were going to be motivated to conserve, as well as enjoy our countryside, it was essential to preserve the principal landmarks within it. James happened to love the water and all manner of boats that use it. So it was that the Norfolk Wherry came to be such a great beneficiary of his energies in the same way that others thankfully have fought to maintain the medieval churches and few remaining windmills that still enhance the Norfolk skyline.

When, in 1996, Albion made her majestic arrival at Pulls Ferry commemorating the 900th Anniversary of Norwich Cathedral I happened to be in the receiving party. The first person I spotted was James, and I thought to myself what a splendid vignette. James over 80, Albion approaching her centenary, and the Cathedral towering over us all in its 900th year. History is important. It helps us all to keep a perspective.

It was a privilege to know James Forsythe; and he will be long remembered with respect and affection.

"It is the ship that matters! This has always been our aim"

A Pleasant Day for James

To celebrate James Forsythe's eightieth birthday in July 1996 a party was held at the base. Following a congratulatory speech by the chairman James responded:
“I simply cannot thank you enough for this splendid day out! You could not have given me a more welcome surprise for my eightieth birthday. To look back a little, it used to be said that if you had not seen a wherry and a windmill, you had not seen the Norfolk Broads. To us it is the ship that matters! Reverting to 1949, it was never thought that the Trust would survive or attain its objective – or indeed that I should still be here in 1996!"

"Now the windmills have mostly gone and of the trading wherries, at present only Albion remains under sail….. In the thirties I lived at Hickling and studied boat building with old Percy Hunter on this very dyke at Womack. Wherever you looked across the marsh you could see a number of black sails on the Thurne, Bure and Yare. Everywhere was busy with trade. Now the water borne trade for such craft has gone and, like the few Thames barges that remain and the narrow boats, we have had to find other ways of using and maintaining these historic craft. Now we provide adventure sailing holidays for parties of young people and others who are keen to enjoy the Broads as they once were – for a restful cruise as in the last century. One can hardly believe that, when we set up the Trust in 1949, Albion was the only suitable hull, found through the generosity of Messrs Colman."

It is the ship that matters!  This has always been our aim.  We had great problems in the early days when I was first involved and it was mainly through the courage and persistence of our early trustees especially Lady Mayhew and Humphrey Boardman (with myself) later supported by Ian Mackintosh and John Crane that the Trust survived!"

In Memorium

The Norfolk Wherry Trust was pleased to be able to name the base at Ludham "The Forsythe Wherry Yard" in memory of James and his contribution to Albion's survival. The naming was held at our AGM, in the company of James' daughter Jayne.


Forsythe Wherry Yard