WATCHET’s seafaring past and its legendary characters will be among highlights of a Watchet Maritime History Day which will explore the town’s nautical heritage on Saturday (May 18) from 10 am to 4 pm.

Organised by the South West Maritime History Society, and based at the Methodist Schoolroom, Harbour Road, the event will include visits to the Market House Museum, Watchet Boat Museum (including a demonstration of rope-making), and the Radio Museum, which has displays of historic ship-to shore radio equipment.

Also available will be visits to the restored Liverpool class lifeboat Elliott Gill, now based in Watchet Marina and owned by local yachtsman and vintage boat enthusiast Jonathan Pearman. Built in 1953, the Elliott Gill was based in Yorkshire for 16 years and saved 24 lives. Watchet’s lifeboat station closed in 1942.

The programme will also include a talk by author and historian Paul Upton on the celebrated local maritime painter Captain Thomas Chidgey, who died in 1926 leaving hundreds of paintings of the last days of sail which are now prized by collectors. Paul Upton is the author of a recent book on the painter.

Watchet’s legendary shanty singer John Short, known as Yankee Jack, will be remembered in a performance by musician and singer Martin Hazell. A collaboration with the celebrated Victorian folksong collector Cecil Sharp resulted in 42 of Yankee Jack’s shanties becoming today’s standard folksong versions.

Local journalist and writer Tony James will recall building of the first Bristol Channel flatner fishing boat in Watchet for 100 years and will share some adventures and misadventures from 50 years of sailing.

Founded in 1984, the SWMHS promotes research into local maritime heritage and organises days out at interesting venues throughout the region.

Tickets for the day are £12.50 (£10 for SWMHS members). For details and tickets, visit