Former Rustington man sets sail on boat in memory of his mother

Moments after the boat's inaugural launch, in the River Arun.
Moments after the boat's inaugural launch, in the River Arun.

IT WAS an emotional end to a touching tribute by a former Rustington man as he launched his hand-made boat, dedicated to his late mother.

Grandfather-of-eight Brian Rockall breathed a sigh of relief as the culmination of almost six years of determined work came together, when he launched his 45ft gaff rigged cutter from Fisherman’s Quay, Littlehampton, into the River Arun.

The boat was named after his late mother, Mary Winifred Rockall, whom Brian described as a “devoted, caring mother” and an “inspiration to the entire family”.

Mary, who died in 1995, at the age of 93, raised her five children, with husband Joe, at their home in Seafield Road, Rustington.

“Throughout the war, my mother really was on her own, raising the five of us, she couldn’t rely on benefits,” said Brian.

“She was truly inspirational and totally devoted to her children.

“She taught us all the essential values that we’ve grown up with. So I felt that this would be a fitting tribute to help immortalise her.”

Brian, who lives in Flansham with his wife Hilary, started working on the boat in 2006.

It was far from the relaxing break he had envisaged when he retired from his carpentry business, with 12-hour days, five days a week, to complete the monumental task.

“It’s been a long, hard piece of work and a project which probably should have been a lifetime one,” he said.

“But it’s something that I have always wanted to do. Some days I did think, ‘Why am I doing this?’. It wasn’t an easy task.”

However, he added that the hard work had helped to strengthen the bonds between his already-close family. During his youth, he would regularly go out fishing with his older brothers, David and Alan, who, along with his sisters Jose and Cynthia, had supported him during the project.

“The bonds between us have been strengthened so much. Apart from my sister Cynthia – who lives in Australia – they were all there to see the launch.”

More work remains to finish the boat, which is moored at the Littlehampton Shipyard. However, Brian hopes to complete it before his 71st birthday, in September.

He thanked Bernard Chattock for all his help designing the Mary Winifred.