Skylark IX

Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
Skylark IX
Boat Type: 
Motor Vessel
Boat Length: 
Boat Beam: 
14ft 6ins
Boat Draft: 
Boat Displacement: 
30 tons
Boat Engine: 
Ulster HRWG
Boat Construction: 
Carvel, pitch pine on elm
Boat Builder: 
J Bolson, Poole
Boat Year: 

Many of the Dunkirk ships have moved far from the scene of their wartime exploits, but none farther north than Skylark IX, who began life in 1928 at Bolson's yard, in Poole, Dorset.

Her precise part in 'Operation Dynamo' was unrecorded until, one day in 1987, Charles Fairman, touring in Scotland saw a notice advertising cruises on Loch Lomond in a boat called Skylark IX. He became interested and recognised her as the ship he commanded in Poole when he was a Petty Officer, RNVR, in 1941. He had first seen her the previous year, first at Dunkirk and later in Ramsgate harbour, whilst ferrying a yacht round to Felixstowe, Suffolk.

At Poole, Skylark IX served as a shallow water minesweeper and was engaged in placing anti-invasion obstacles around the harbour. At one time she erected decoys on Brownsea Island, consisting of wooden sheds filled with coal and sprayed with oil. They were set alight when German bombers flew over, looking for the Admiralty Armaments depot at Holton Heath.

After the war, Skylark IX gradually worked her way north, via Morecambe and Burntisland to Loch Lomond, where Sweeneys Cruises operate her now. She has been modernised and made a more comfortable little ship to cruise in, with an enclosed foredeck and covered rear saloon.

John Sweeney gives Skylark IX's services free, to Dunkirk Veterans once a year, for their reunion on Loch Lomond. Veterans remember those who did not return from Dunkirk with Skylark IX and her fellow rescuers in 'Operation Dynamo' during those nine fateful days of 1940.

Source: 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 19 & 20

Not yet updated


Skylark Song released


May 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk Evacuation. Few of the small ships that played a crucial role in ‘Operation Dynamo’ remain, but one is getting a chance of a future, thanks to help from both sides of the country.

Skylark IX, which seemed doomed to rot on the bottom of Loch Lomond, has been raised from a watery grave and is currently being restored by the Skylark IX Recovery Trust, working with clients from West Dunbartonshire charity, ‘Alternatives’, which works with individuals previously or currently affected by drugs.

Those involved in the restoration are not only learning the boat building skills, earning qualifications which will make finding jobs a more realistic possibility, but they are giving this ‘brave little ship’ a chance to continue to inspire the community.

Mary Burch, one of the guiding lights behind the project, asked her friends Duncan McCrone and Cy Jack, who happen to be two of Scotland’s finest songwriters, to write a song about the story and they were inspired to write ‘The Song Of The Skylark’. Fife based musician, Bruce Davies, was then asked to sing and produce a recording of the song which is now available as a download. It is hoped that the stirring and moving recording will help raise money and awareness for the Skylark IX Recovery Trust.

Bruce, was assisted on the recording by a small choir and one of Scotland’s busiest and finest violinists, Seonaid Aitken.

“Skylark IX begun life in 1927 and in 1940 was responsible for saving the lives of over 600 men. With this restoration project, it’s possible that she is still saving lives today. We are astounded at the support received already but we need to raise even more goodwill and money to continue.”

‘The Song Of The Skylark’ by Bruce Davies (Featuring Seonaid Aitken) is now available from iTunes and Amazon.…/song-skylark-feat.-s…/id987992897
Mary Burch, Skylark IX Recovery Trust, C/o. Alternatives CDS, Quay Street, Dumbarton, G82 1LG (Telephone Andy/Anne Alternatives 01389-734500 or Mary 07432121590)

Skylark IX

Unfortunately, when Skylark IX was replaced a a cruise ship with Sweeney's Cruises it was sold privately. It was left on the River Leven, and only days after the annual Dunkirk Veterans Parade and Service of Remembrance in May 2010, it was found to have sunk. It now sits derelict in the River Leven with only the cabin above the waterline. It has been inspected by divers, but the owner does not have the money to pay for the boats raising and would pass on ownership if anyone could rescue it. I am in the final stages of planning this years Dunkirk Veterans Parade, and I know that the remaining four Dunkirk Veterans who attend this Parade will be very sad to hear of Skylark IX's demise. Despite contacting West Dunbartonshire Council and others, there are still no plans to raise and save it.
Ian Middleton
Lt Colonel
Army Cadet Force

Skylark IX

June 2011
Regret nothing new to report. The Vale of Leven Remembrance Day Committee are still looking for a solution and I will keep everybody up to date with any developements.

Ian Middleton
Lt Colonel
Army Cadet Force

Skylark IX

Regret that the boat now looks as if it is beyond salvaging. A sad end to a proud vessel and the job that it did at Dunkirk.

RIP Skylark IX.

Lt Col Ian Middleton
Army Cadet Force

Skylark 1X

The lady that owns the boat is willing to sign ownership over to the Vale of Leven Remembrance Sunday Committee.
Plans are afoot to get the boat ashore. No idea what will happen to it then or where it will go, but it is a definite first step.
Let us hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Skylark IX

The plight of Skylark IX was highlighted on BBC Reporting Scotland tonight 28th February 2012.

Lets hope the report brings the help that is needed to salvage the boat and restore it to its former glory as befits one of the Dunkirk fleet of small ships.

Skylark IX

Skylark XI was put on E-Bay for £1 and has been sold to someone in Fort William. Hopefully this person will give her the treatment that she deserves.
Hopefully we will yet have a happy ending to this tale.

Ian Middleton
Lt Col
Army Cadet Force

Skylark IX

So has Skylark IX made it to Fort William? Any news?

Skylark 1X

Seems the boat was actually bought by Leven Cruising Club, but plans to remove it from the water are on hold (according to an article in the County Reporter) due to the cost. A large crane is required to lift it as it is a few meters from the embankment.
Things are not looking good for Skylark unless the money can be found. It has now been under water since June 6 2010.
The Dunkirk Veterans Parade and Service of Remembrance will be held in Balloch on Sunday 20 May at 11am in Jamestown Parish Church and the Service is open to anyone. There are now only three Dunkirk Veterans still living in this area and I wish we had better news to give them about Skylark.

Ian Middleton
Lt Colonel
Army Cadet Force

Skylark 1X

The Royal Navy from HM Naval Base (Clyde) have spent two days (17/18 October 2012) with a diving team and airbags, and have lifted her from the bottom of the River Leven, where she has been lying for over two years, to the riverbank.

I have no idea what the next step is or who is going to take responsibility for her now, but as soon as I find out anything I will post the news.

Ian Middleton
Lt Colonel
Army Cadet Force
Tel: 07899740807

Skylark ix

i have been trying to save Skylark ix since march, i have finally got her raised, with the Help of the Royal Navy, Northern Diving Group and the help and advice of Seaflex,from the Isle of white. i am working as hard as i can to now find Skylark a home, trying to keep her in the area,so as young kids can learn boat building skills, but am open to all offers of advice,help or a home
Dougie McCann
vice commodore
Leven Cruising Club