Testing the original Barry Bucknell prototype and the 1963 Boat Show

My memories of the birth of the Mirror Dinghy

In 1962 I had a boatyard at Lower Upnor, Rochester ,Kent. One of the yachts that I looked after was owned by a Mr David Cole. One day he phoned me saying that he had a new dinghy that he wanted me to try-out/test for him.He explained that It was a new method of construction. Designed and built by Barry Bucknell the TV DIY Man, to go on the roof of a Mini, to take  a family of 2 adults and 2 small children and can be rowed sailed or us an outboard motor.

The following weekend he bought the dinghy down to my boatyard which was beside the Medway Yacht Club (it was probably May or Early June) A few days later the weather was good and the tide was in so we rigged the new dinghy and took it out for a test sail. After about an hour I came ashore ,up to my office and rang Mr Cole and told him the dinghy was ‘no good’. I explained the instability and poor handling which was a pity because the method of construction seemed to be very good.

Now I made one of the many mistakes that I have made in my life    ----- Mr Cole said ‘That is very disappointing news, Nick would you like to design a dinghy for us---I said that I would love to but I would recommend that he go to an established designer like Jack Holt!.  Oh do you know him said Mr Cole—ask him to ring me.

6 weeks later I tested another dinghy from Jack Holt which was excellent. I initiated  just 2 modifications .one was to fit a wider gunwale and also to have an inner bulkhead in the forward buoyancy tank, so that the rear section could be a stowage area. And this was the dinghy that the Bell Woodworking  company would develop a DIY home building kit

2 months later I left the boatyard because of growing frustration with my aged partner (who ceased trading 3 months later). Not long after Mr David Cole, who I eventually discovered was the head of the Publicity/Promotion department, offered me a position in the Sales and Marketing Department of the Daily Mirror but I had to wait for 6 weeks because they had to advertise the position within the trade Union NATSOPA. Apparently nobody in the Union had my precise qualifications and experience so I was invited to join the Union and then the Daily Mirror.

Daily commuting from Rochester to Holborn Circus  was not as bad as I had feared and I was the only boating person in the sales and marketing Department. My boss was Victor Shaw. Now the emphasis was launching the Daily Mirror Dinghy at the 1963 London Boat Show at Earl’s Court.

Fortunately we had a stand just inside the main entrance but there where big objections from the Boat Show sponsors----The Daily Express newspaper. The compromise was that it was no longer the Daily Mirror Dinghy but simply The Mirror Dinghy. IPC ( the parent company) had funded 250 kits to be ready for despatch from Bell Woodworking in Leicester and life was hectic throughout the show.

The exhibition staff had a few days holiday before we were back in the office at New Fetter lane. The gloom was that we had only sold 20 kits during the show and it appeared that the Dinghy Project would not be viable. Fortunately orders flooded in in the post and within the month all the kits had been sold and more kits where ordered  - the rest is history.

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