Maybird Classic Sailing

Jim Smith & the Berthon connection

Tracing the origins of Maybird
Jim Smith

Jim Smith (right)

Jim Smith is pictured with the Russell family in the two Beken photographs taken of Maya in 1950. He is sitting on the aft cabin coachroof. John Russell’s daughter, Georgina, had explained to me that Jim was a shipwright at Berthon and that there was an unwritten understanding that any work required on Maya was done by Jim. Luckily, Jean Chitty, who wrote ‘The River Is Within Us – A Maritime History of Lymington’ met Jim in November, 1982 which allows us to piece together more of Maybird’s story.

‘i love the sea; i always did’

Jim Smith 1981
  • Brought up in Shanklin, Isle of Wight
  • Left School at 14 and joined his father at a shipyard at Wootton Creek, Isle of Wight
  • Shipwright at Berthon for 42 years initially under Mr H G May
  • 1929 part of the Berthon team that built the yawl Elaine
  • 1939 – 1945 building Admiralty craft at Berthon – “a minesweeper a month!”
  • Fitted out all of Major Tilman’s boats – Mischief, Sea Breeze, Baroque
  • Built craft for and raced in Channel and RORC races
  • Skipper for the actor Kenneth Moore on Jenny Spinner and Red Gauntlet
  • Skipper for industrialist the Hon Henry Guest of Guest, Keen and Nettlefold
  • Regularly worked on Clare Francis’ yacht at Berthon
  • Retired and concentrated on photography and canal cruising

Jim on Maybird

“I brought her down from the East Coast [in 1950], there was snow and ice that Christmas and worked her up to a really good condition. She was a lovely boat built in Ireland.”
“When I worked at Berthon I would still go out with the Russells for pleasure in their boat Maya [Maybird].
“[Maybird] was sold... to four New Zealanders with a baby of about four months old... but they got out there and had no trouble whatsoever.”
Jim omitted to mention that as well as the four month old baby boy, there were another five children all under the age of eleven!

Jim on the Russell family

“[I was] the skipper of a yacht called Joyce, which belonged to George Dearie Russell (John Russell’s father). She was a 70-ton vessel of World War 1 vintage and was built in Bayonne in 1917. I was her skipper for many years. Mr Russell had a smaller yacht built in the yard at Berthon, Lentune, which is another name for Lymington, and he gave her as a wedding present to his son.”
“They sailed off in her on their honeymoon and I went with them as skipper. Later when the two children [Georgina and Christopher] went out with them, I used to sleep in a hammock under the boom. We used to cross to the other side and go up the Seine and all down the estuary.”
“Mr Russell was second-in-command of Ark Royal during the war. He was the smartest chap you ever saw.”

The Berthon Connection

Founded in Romsey by the Reverand E.L.Berthon and three solicitors “to build boats and other floating machines”.

? Jim Smith joins Berthon

Mr H G May buys Berthon Boat Company

Berthon maintain Joyce for the Russell family Lentune built by Berthon for the Russell family

Fred Parker “Senior” appointed yard foreman

Fred Parker “Junior” starts his apprenticeship

Fred Shepherd designs Lexia, built at Berthon 1931 and she finished that years’s Fastnet race as first British yacht on time allowance

Fred Parker “Junior” completes apprenticeship and transfers to the design office before joining Fred Shepherd’s London design office in 1934

Maybird maintained by Jim Smith at Berthon for next 22 years

Maybird slips her lines at Lymington bound for New Zealand after fitting out at Berthon’s yard

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