By Colin Holden

Picture 1:  The Sheerlegs "dressed" for the day of the christening of the lifeboat Kathleen Mary by my father Bob. He was the only member of staff willing to climb up the back leg to oil the top pivot while he was employed as a Ship Wright at the marine workshops.  For this task he used to be paid an extra 10/- (50 pence). Also note the steam crane.

Picture 2:  The Sheerlegs working on the A A Raymond? with the steam crane again.  Did this crane get preserved, I do hope so?  The Sheerlegs also were a land mark for our town, I think it was such a pity to knock them down.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'SHEERLEGS' page

Colin Holden.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'SHEERLEGS' page

Colin Holden.

This page was added by Colin Holden on 14/03/2008.
Comments about this page

It is indeed the AA Raymond, so early 1960's. Nice to see the sheerlegs in their 'working' position rather than upright.

By Andy Gilbert
On 15/03/2008

Interesting fact about the Sheerlegs is that when the AA Raymond arrived at Newhaven, in 1962/63 for conversion from Diesel electric to high speed diesels, the owners of the vessel, two Americans, approached the harbour authorities at the time (BR) and asked if they could use the Sheerlegs.

They were informed that they were unusable due to the fact that the steam boiler that operated the Sheerlegs was inoperable, and there was no steam to work the engine.

The Americans were so insistant on borrowing the legs that the port eventualy gave up and said if you can make them go without the steam they are all yours. They did indeed get them going, as can be seen from the pictures here, but to get them going they brought in a huge Caterpillar air compressor, (that engine was started by a smaller donkey engine).

The point is that they worked ok under compressed air. The only problem then was that the pulley block at the top of the legs had become rusted in the upright position and no end of release or penetrating oil would shift them (even under the weight of a Mirlees high spees diesel). My brother George Still was paid £5 a trip to climb up the legs to shower oil onto the block. Two of these diesel's were lowered and fitted to AA Raymond, they came from an ex Royal Navy Minesweeper.

I think that this was the last time the Sheerleg's were used, and eventually they were scrapped. Quite a crowd formed on the opposite side of the river to see them fall into the river. There was much speculation as to whether they would reach the far bank of the river, so people either stood up near the old Swing Bridge or grabbed a table at the best vantage point Harry Waller's Ark Inn to watch the big splash.

My father, older brother, younger brother, and myself all worked on the AA Raymond during her conversion, and my father and older brother (George) sailed with her for a time when she was dredging somewhere off the Thames Estuary. Happy days indeed.

By Jim Still
On 19/03/2008

So, if that is the AA Raymond then my dad got £5 for his oiling that time from the ship's owner, but what pleased dad the most was that he was also given the two bronze and two cast iron makers plaques.

Dad mounted the two bronze plaques onto teak, I have one and our Maritime Museum has the other, the two cast iron plaques dad donated, to the Bluebell Railway.

By colin holden
On 19/03/2008

I have great memories of the "demise" of the Sheerlegs.

I think it was on a February evening 1964/5 when myself and Charlie Hutchings (later to be the engineer on the Meeching in the 80's) conned our way onto Mike Smiths support vessel. Mike Smith was contracted to dismantle the Sheerlegs and had a yard next to Cantell's in Robinson Road. The Tidworth tug was also moored there. The support vessel's task was to take soundings of the riverbed and locate the final resting place of the collapsed legs.

I remember later, that after the legs fell people were talking of a terrific bang and how the ground shook as the legs hit the water. On the boat we felt nothing.

As a fourteen year old, I found it fascinating to watch the Chief engineer control the vessel from instructions received via the Telegragh.

We got home at about 10pm. I personally got a dressing down from Mum for being late home and was grounded for a week. It was worth it!

Where is Charlie now?

The remains of the Sheerlegs could be seen in Wheatleys scrap yard for years after.

By Ian Bishop
On 18/07/2008

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