Built in 1931 as a flour barge and originally named the Gainsborough Trader, MFH moved from the Humber to the Thames when Pickfords bought her as a lighter for their Port of London operation. She was the first steel Humber Keel to have a motor as well as her sails and still retains her original Kelvin diesel engine, known as 'Harriet'. (Previously these vessels were either sailing barges or steam powered). She is mentioned in a book called 'Humber Keels and Keelsmen' by Fred Schofield, which describes life on the Humber in the last 100 years.
Jay and Dawn Jones-Cooper found MFH in a poor state in 1994 and, after due consideration reverted to her original name of Gainsborough Trader as it was more in keeping with her Humber keel history. (MFH being the abbreviation for Master of Foxhounds, it was thought to be a good name for village pub, but not so for a barge!) It had been rumoured that she was a Dunkirk veteran, but it was not until Dawn found John Knight, the Hon. Archivist of the Association that she received confirmation.
MFH was requisitioned from Pickfords by the Ministry of War Transport. Commanded by Capt. WH. Smith, she arrived in Dunkirk during a bombing raid on 31st May 1940. At first she ferried troops from the beaches to the larger vessels. Then she was ordered to the Mole to pick up 140 men and take them all the way back to England.
After her war service she was returned to her owners and subsequently worked at her original trade until 1986, when she was bought by a private owner, who added the superstructure. Jay and Dawn found her for sale in 1994. They still have her masts, sails and rigging and are about to have some of her plates replaced, although she is solidly built in 8mm steel rivetted throughout.
Jay writes: "We have dreamed for years of living aboard and cruising/sailing in her. For us it will be like living with a part of history, rather than just in a home built of bricks and mortar.