May 7th 1765 saw the launch of one of the most famous ships ever built. HMS Victory from Chatham Dockyard.
Commissioned in 1758 (two years into the Seven Years’ War) by Pitt the Elder, it was to be the leading ship of twelve that had been ordered and the largest ship ever built.
In the early hours of the morning of launch day, the ‘foreman afloat’, Hartley Larkin lay awake in bed worrying about the impending events. A few hours later he would be stood dockside surrounded by gathered dignitaries all celebrating as the product of years of labour, complete with 104 guns, majestically sailed through the dock gates into open water. One thing bothered him though, would the ship fit through the gates?
At first light he dashed down to the now complete Victory to measure up. His hunch was correct, the ship was 9 ½ inches wider than the aperture it needed to fit through.
Panic stricken, he informed his superior, John Allin, who instantly wanted to abandon the launch. The poor guy also suffered from severe bowel disorders, so it is assumed he quite literally shit himself.
Hartley (a carpenter by trade) however convinced his boss that with the assistance of every available man, he could solve the problem. They got to work shaving down the gates.
The tide then came in, lifted the soon to be darling of Nelson’s fleet up from dry dock and she sailed through and onto an illustrious career.
So, here it is, the new One Black Bear website.
There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears gone into preparing it for launch and behind the scenes lots of last minute hewing of the edges. Like there is with any web project. We all see the graceful floating of ideas into the big wide world and often forget about the sleepless nights, problem solving and bowel movements that take place out of sight of the dignitaries.
Unfortunately good old Hartley Larkin wasn’t rewarded for his intervention. He wrote to the Royal Navy asking for a small recompense for his actions. The letter was found years later by a historian with the words “No notice to be taken of this application” scrawled across it.