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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Dear all,

I am currently the Researcher & Archivist for Sunderland Maritime Heritage and am undertaking a project to put to paper a proper detailed history about our Motor Fife or Zulu; Willdora (a topic was made about her in 2006 by grahamtowa). I am pleased to announce I have found a lot more info regarding her recent history and possibly can place her area of build as Banffshire in Scotland.

Thanks to the help of friends, a former crew member, members of other historical societies (particularly Dartmouth/Kingswear) and the director of Williams Shipping I have more info to share and hopefully members here can help me further. The former crew member was able to trace Willdora as being part of Williams Shipping fleet in Southampton. They provided SMH with two photos dating to the 50s:
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Note the star on Wildora's bow, I am interested to know why she has that next to her name when the other vessels don't.

Williams tells me also that her prior owner was a G. E. Stoner who I believe was based in Portsmouth (according to TNA at Kew: 1135084 STONER G E 02/05/1910 PORTSMOUTH | The National Archives and is listed as a merchant seaman). During her ownership with Stoner, her name was Planet according to the purchasing books at Williams. I have found a Planet built by William McKenzie at Ianstown for a George Lett of Findochty in 1901. Both locations are close to MacDuff, but a copy of Registry Of A British Ship is listed as built by Stephens of MacDuff. Here is a site featuring more info about Banffshire fishing boats, Planet is listed on this website: McIntosh boat & shipbuilder's complete boat list - page 1

Williams then sold Wildora (at the time with one L) to Payne's Marine Transport in Sheerness. Willdora's official number when registered at Southampton was 186455. After the Payne family emigrated to New Zealand in 1970, I have placed Willdora as being owned by a Dennis Alfred Hopker of Kingswear/Dartmouth in the 70s. Dennis was a former councillor there as well as a retired Royal Marine during the war and at the time The Onedin Line was being filmed in the area, Dennis hired Willdora to the BBC crew. Dennis' military medals and photo albums went for sale at an auction house in 2017, the catalogue of which is available online: Lockdales Auction 143 18-19 March 2017 the description states as such that he hired his vessel out and I can confirm that was Willdora, as the former crew member I spoke to was part of the crew and he provided me a photo from a sea shoot involving a replica of The Golden Hind:
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Wildora at sea with the Golden Hind replica. There is something else written next to her name but I cannot make it out


Towards the end of the 70s, Wildora was seized by the port authorities (or Bailiffs) as her berthing fees had fallen behind. In 1980, she was purchased by a Sunderland-based teacher for training students and this is how she ended up in the North East where she is now. I am hoping members here can use the new info I've given to step further back in Willdora's history through Olsen's Almanacs, purchase records for Portsmouth, Sheerness, etc, photos (as I am compiling an image gallery) and anything for that matter!

I am also keen to learn about key figures such as Stoner, Hopker (I would so love to see his photo albums and the auction house forwarded a message from us to the winner but they never got in touch). Also a person who was in the Irish Guards circa 1969/1970 on board their 57ft Bermuda Ketch: Gladeye, as their story goes that while on Gladeye moored in Cherbourg, the owner of Wildora at the time after a good night out fell onto the Gladeye as she was moored next to Wildora. The crew of Gladeye sailed the injured owner back to England while some sailed Wildora back to England as well. I believe the owner may have been Hopker or Payne at this time.

The Willdora's history, according to a copy of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle dated 1990 says Ken Renforth of Swan Hunter, Wallsend on Tyne was the one who pieced the boat's history together, but I am sad to hear that I believe he passed away in 2018. The Willdora was restored at Ouseburn in 1989-1990 when she sank on the Tyne not long after sinking on the Wear!

Anyone with more info who can help in this regard I plead you to please do get in touch. My hope is to one day produce a little book about the boat to forever ensure her history does not get lost to the ages again.

Thanks in advance, Nick.
 

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New update, I found this image of the Charlotte Rhodes in Dartmouth, August 1972, she was the flagship of the Onedin company for the BBC series of the same name. Wildora is behind her between the fore and mainmasts.

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