On that April morning before setting off to photograph five lifeboat stations along the Thames, Neena was just about packed and ready to go.
As I cast my eyes around the studio to make sure I had everything, I remembered at the last moment to dig out a treasured item — an old photo album from the Seventies that my late Mum put together when I was a baby.
I was so pleased that I’d managed to remember it.
Well, shortly after I was born, the three of us decamped from Scotland to live on the family boat, Amazon.
Amazon (no longer in our family) was — and still is — a 100ft Victorian schooner built in 1885 by Tankerville Chamberlayne. My grandfather found her as a derelict hulk on the banks of the Thames and made it his labour of love to restore Amazon to her former glory.
Therefore, in essence, she’d become a houseboat and this is where we’d now live for the foreseeable future.
At the time, she was still moored close to where she’d been discovered on the Thames — at Teddington.
The last lifeboat station I’d be visiting on the Thames journey would, of course, be Teddington and the treasured album contained photographs of our lives from exactly that time.
Having never returned since, I wondered if I could use the photo album to pinpoint exactly where we’d lived…
On the morning of Saturday 2nd May, we pulled up outside the lifeboat station.
I could see it was all abuzz. Indeed, I was all abuzz!
You see, there’s another connection: My grandfather, Arthur (who bought and renovated Amazon), also happened to be President of the Twickenham and District RNLI Branch in the Seventies, a branch that has now matured into Teddington RNLI Lifeboat Station.
Arthur was a huge RNLI supporter and I’d already been taken aback at Cromer when the station’s historian, Paul Russell, managed to unearth a newspaper clipping of a visit he’d made in 1973.
With Sheerness, Gravesend, Tower and Chiswick under my belt, I could now turn my attentions to a visit that I knew would be both special and emotional but little did I know how much.
A WARM WELCOME
I wound down the window of Neena to be greeted by a friendly face, the DLA (Deputy Launching Authority), Charlie Molloy:
“Good morning, Jack! Welcome to Teddington!”
A fine welcome it was too, full of warmth and high spirits that continued for the rest of the day.
Unbeknown to me, the staff had unearthed a whole catalogue of photographs from Arthur’s era. Not only that but they’d made a display of them for me to admire and enjoy…
We were so relaxed chatting in the crew room but, of course, we had some photographs to make.
The crew started sweeping the launch ramp, making it spick and span for the plates I’d make of the view. Even the children grabbed a broom and mucked in.
While they were doing that, it was a chance to collect my thoughts; I set up the camera and settled my emotions a little.
As the ramp-tidying neared completion, the photo album popped into my head — I’d nearly forgotten all about it!
I stepped into Neena to retrieve it, opened it up and turned the pages. If my emotions had had any time to settle at all, imagine how I felt on seeing this:
My family have always been really good at labelling photographs, so I slipped the print out of its sleeve to see if there was any information on the back.
Another surprise was lurking: The date was written in my Mum’s handwriting — 9th May 1976 — 39 years ago, almost to the day!
With regard to making the day’s photographs, time was rapidly slipping away. We snapped back into Project mode and, by the time the day was over, I’d made a set of five photographs of which I’m very proud.
Remember, you can view the full collection on the dedicated Thames page…
LIMITED EDITION PRINTS
Just 50 limited edition prints from each of the Teddington plates are now available to buy.
Many of the limited edition crew prints have been sold; there are still some remaining but there’s also an opportunity to purchase the new Teddington River Collection at a special price.
The three plates I made of the river views from Teddington Lifeboat Station — the spot on the Thames that proved to be so nostalgic for me — combine to make a particularly personal and poignant collection:
SUPPORT THE PROJECT
I’d like to thank all those who’ve supported the Project to this point — it’s truly moving to see so many of you recognising the value in the photographs I’m making.
The support and enthusiasm shown by Teddington was simply fantastic and proved to be a momentous day for the Project.
Remember, although the RNLI are supporting me logistically, I’m currently raising the funding under my own steam — in essence, my own form of crowdfunding.
Find out how you can support The Lifeboat Station Project and help to keep it on the road:
My sincere thanks to all the crew and staff at Teddington for making Saturday 2nd May 2015 such a special occasion that will live long in the memory.
Thank you also to volunteer crew member, James Kavanagh, for putting together the video and RNLI press release which you can view here.
A final mention of thanks to my friend, Chris Freudenberg, who dutifully helped me on the day.