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1940 [M.F.H.] Master of Foxhounds
Type:  Humber Keel
Length:  21.64M
Beam:  4.96M
Draft:  1.5M
Displacement:  48.16 tons
Engine:  Kelvin 4 cyl Diesel
Construction:  Steel
Builder:  Richard Dunston Ltd
Year:  1931

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 riveted 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.

Gainsborough Trader has now changed ownership but is still cherished and hopes to join in the 2015 return to Dunkirk.


Supplied by Alan Gardiner in 2010

I thought this information may be of interest to you.
Built by Dunston’s of Thorne for Furley & Co Ltd, ordered 20/06/1931, completed 09/10/1931. She was what was regarded by the old keelmen as a steam keel, although not a keel and diesel powered from the start she had no sails when built. She carried a short mast and derrick on which would be rigged a small sail to assist her in the canals. I have use of a couple of pictures of her working, one at York and the other at Gainsborough with a keel in tow, you may have seen these on the site .
She was however not the first SPV (self propelled vessel) that Dunston’s built, as far as I can tell that was "A Triumph" for J. Barraclough in 1925.
Gainsborough Trader is a very significant part of the maritime history of the Humber region and I wish you well with her. Alan Gardiner.

Supplied by previous owner in 2012

Hi -- my partner and I bought MFH in 1977, she was then moored at Hayling Island, we took her around to London the same year- - in 1979 we motored her around to Cornwall - Penryn - where we rigged and restored her - we sailed her to several of the famous Elephant fairs - in St Germans, the Port Elliot Estate, and onwards to Amsterdam - we ( my partner Stefan Proszynski myself Suki Haughton ( nee Dullea ) and 3 children lived and worked aboard her for for over 10 years - I am sorry to see this part of her story has been missed out - as I gave photographs, and all, and more of this information to the present owners - we loved her dearly - my 3rd child was born aboard. We had some fabulous years and adventures with MFH. The people we sold her to -- eventually abandoned her - and we heard no more of MFH until one day by chance we came across her - beautifully restored by her new and present owners , who welcomed us aboard -- we were watching the Jubilee flotilla down the Thames and spotted her among the barges -- so glad to see you looking so good MFH -- please don't forget we lived, sailed, and loved you too -- and if anyone out there wants more of my story - here is my e I'll be happy to provide photos and stories of adventure on the high seas...

Growing up on MFH

Well, I was that third child, and what a fantastic way it was to spend my younger years !
I have very fond memories of our adventure aboard her, and thank my parents for such an unusual start to life.
Ilka Proszynska.

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