Shamrock's Story


The Shamrock Trust - 2009


On the 20th November 2009, many of us awoke to news of the massive flooding in Cockermouth and Workington, and the developing stories and tragic loss of life there.  But as these events were extensively reported, many of us were much less aware of another story that was happening on Windermere.  Following the torrential rain, lake levels rose to an unprecedented level measured at 9’ 7” above the weir at Newby Bridge.  For any boats inside boathouses, this was a potential disaster – and this proved to be the case for one of our beloved steam launches: “Shamrock”.

“Shamrock” has been safely berthed in a boathouse on Windermere for the last 30 years without any damage – but has had a number of close calls in floods.  For those who have not seen inside the boathouse, the building has two levels – the two wet docks downstairs and an upper floor which has had various uses over the years.  The wet dock ceiling (upstairs floor) is of timber construction, and loosely laid so that it can lift with the boats in flood conditions – a feature seen in other old boathouses on the lake.  However, modifications were made to the three main timber support beams a number of years ago by bolting structural steel channels to either side: these, now immovable beams, contributed significantly to the impending disaster.  Under normal conditions there is a good 7’ of headroom above “Shamrock’s” cabin – but the arithmetic of a water level rise of 9’ 7” says it all, and the cabin roof was squashed against the steel beams.

Although "Shamrock" had not sunk, the cabin had been severely damaged by the steel-strengthened beam directly above it. As the flood waters receded, stock was taken of the damage, and it is testament to the original builders that the damage was much less than first thought.

Extensive repair work was undertaken by Roger Mallinson, Colin Henwood who sourced the Burmese teak with a comparable grain structure to match the existing timbers, David Harding for transporting the wood and Kevin Halcrow of Lakeland Wooden Boats who's knowledge was invaluable. "Shamrock" has now been rebuilt as near as possible to its pre-desaster state, with a few hidden modifications allowing for modern materials to be used more effectively.

All of these events have demonstrated the vulnerability of our historic launches. “Shamrock” is not only registered with the National Historic Ships Register, but is also a member of the National Historic Fleet. Roger is not getting any younger, and the potential loss of “Shamrock” has alerted many people to the risks of losing such a vessel permanently. What to do ?  Following discussions with Martyn Heighton (Director of the National Historic Ships Register) it was decided that the best way forward was to set up a Trust to take over the ownership of “Shamrock” and to provide a sound basis for her future preservation and operation. The Directors of The Shamrock Trust – set up as a company limited by guarantee (incorporated in England number 7217476) are pleased to announce that the Trust has also been accepted by the Charities Commission, and we are now a Registered Charity (number 1136535). Martyn Heighton, in particular, has been extremely supportive in achieving both of these outcomes, and continues to support us in our ongoing difficulties.