Thursday, 28 July 2016

Peggy Expert Panel Summary

8th March 2016
Peggy Conservation Facility, Cooil Road, Douglas, Isle of Man

Digest or conversations recorded at the meeting, between:
CB       Charles Barker, Mary Rose Trust
MH     Martyn Heighton, Chair, National Historic Ships
JK        John Kearon, Maritime Conservator
And, representing Manx National Heritage:
CW      Christopher Weeks, Conservator, Manx National Heritage, Peggy Project Leader
MR      Matthew Richardson, Curator of Social History, Manx National Heritage
ES        Edmund Southworth, Director, Manx National Heritage
TP        Tony Pass, Chair of Trustees, Manx National Heritage

Peggy Expert Panel
This was a panel meeting convened to discuss technical and ethical issues surrounding the conservation of the yacht Peggy (1789). The meeting took place on the 8th of March, 2016, at the Peggy Conservation Facility in Douglas, Isle of Man. The three guests had the opportunity during the previous evening to visit Quayle’s boat house at the Nautical Museum in Castletown and to view the stables and yard adjacent that might serve as a new home for the Peggy in due course.

Composition of the panel
The three experts were chosen for their depth of experience in the conservation, presentation and promotion of heritage ships and boats. There are few comparable recent projects in the UK that have not benefited from their respective inputs.

Structure of the discussion
The conversation was allowed to develop as naturally as possible so as to encourage free comment, positive and negative. Audio of the entire meeting was recorded and forms the basis of the summary below. Topics included:
The design of Peggy and her significance
Options for treatment
Project management and fundraising
Options for display
Sustainability of the Peggy exhibit


On the design of Peggy and her significance
MH firmly stated that, to his knowledge, Peggy is the oldest complete vessel on the UK National registers of historic ships and small boats and may be the oldest such vessel in Europe. Her significance is uncontested. JK saw the structure as the most important feature, followed by the paint. To the fixings (nails) he attached low importance not least because of their parlous condition. In relation to the paint, Mr Kearon drew a distinction in relative significance between the decorated transom and the rest of the boat. All three experts agreed that Peggy is not a particularly well-built boat; the frames and floors are rather irregular and the iron fixings are of poor quality.

On the Options for Treatment
Because of her small size the long-term conservation of Peggy will be more easily achieved than that, for example, of a war ship.
The experts were firmly of the opinion that the fixings - iron nails – need to be excised and discarded. John Kearon thought a lot of the damage they are doing is hidden under the paint. He said the nails are what he would term ‘rose-headed’; they were driven through the hull from the outside and their heads depressed and damaged the timber as they were driven home. They are long and their tails were subsequently bent over inside the boat. John and Charles Barker suggested we remove them by pulling up (or snapping off) the bent tails then use a combination of narrow core drills and tapping from behind to push them back out. The quantity of ‘infected’ timber it would be desirable to drill out could then be decided case-by-case. Charles suggested re-fixing with treenails in suitable timber and estimated the job at two years for two persons. None of the experts were convinced overpaint removal wold be a necessary precursor to this.
The experts were dubious about the technical possibility of removing the overpaint, but relatively relaxed about the possible aesthetic impact of doing so. As with the removal of the nails they considered it important to undertake one job at a time and to re-assess the issues each time. Edmund Southworth added that conservation technology is continually evolving and that we don’t necessarily have to tackle non-urgent problems in the short-term.
We moved on to discuss who might undertake the work. Edmund Southworth and Martyn Heighton had a productive conversation about the potential participation of Manx workers in heritage training networks across, some of which Martyn’s organisation has facilitated. The Engineering Department at the IOM College and the potential for apprenticeships were both mentioned.
Public engagement
None of the panel members thought opening the restoration workshop to the public was a good idea.

On Project Management and Funding
The panel expressed strongly their opinion that the management of the project and the support for decision making should be strengthened. Edmund Southworth and Tony Pass for MNH both agreed to take this issue on as a matter of priority. As Mr Pass pointed out, the Peggy project is set to “grow and grow”.
Charles Barker and Martyn Heighton both felt we should step-up our publishing drive to include at least, and in the first instance, an information brochure on the conservation of Peggy. Edmund Southworth suggested this might integrate well with the current drive to update our site brochures. Charles thought publishing our plans for the conservation on the internet was a necessary step. He also felt a more substantial book would sell well, with Christopher Weeks and Matthew Richardson the most likely authors. Martyn Heighton suggested that the Isle of Man might host a meeting of the United Kingdom Maritime Heritage Forum (possibly 2018). There were fruitful discussions on the role of the Friends of Manx National Heritage and agreement that a proliferation of friends groups is undesirable. Edmund Southworth suggested a small-scale academic seminar for an invited audience to discuss the state of our knowledge might be desirable, sooner rather than later.

On Options for Display
The panel were unanimously of the opinion that Peggy is now a museum object, or as Charles Barker put it “a piece of terrestrial timber architecture”. They were adamant that Peggy should be displayed with her masts up and, if possible, rigged. Whilst this would have a radical impact on the location of the new display, the panel strongly agreed a maritime location in Castletown should be sought. They were very enthusiastic about the positive possibilities for telling strong stories and about the economic opportunities for Castletown the new facility could offer.
Edmund Southworth added “The display rationale will have to be debated and clearly documented – paint or not paint, rig or not rig, etc., perhaps by some form of peer review”.

Sustainability of the new display
In relation to sustainability, Edmund Southworth told us none of the Islands attractions is sustainable in a free-market sense. MNH would adopt the approach of Royal Institute of British Architects to this question and work through the proposals for display methodically. Whilst the IOM Government cannot fund this wholly if at all, the potential for attracting a wealthy benefactor is considerable.
Replica Peggy
The participants each voiced concern over the sustainability of a running replica. Martyn Heighton added that commissioning a replica is a serious undertaking and is usually done with a specific purpose in mind, such as was the case with the Matthew out of Bristol.