Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Where Go the Boats?

My brother shows off his toy yacht in this 1949 photo in the family’s front garden. It’s a Summer photo and the likelihood is that it was either a birthday present or a holiday souvenir. That year the family went to Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, for their annual holiday. The War had only been over for four years and there was still rationing of many items. My parents were not very well off and would save all year for a week’s holiday in a caravan or chalet. They would have been keen to ensure that my brother had a good time and a toy boat would also have been an investment as he could play with it when he returned home and take it on future holidays as well.

Here’s my brother with our Dad at the Model Boating Lake at Gorleston, Great Yarmouth. There were two model yacht ponds in Yarmouth at this time and the hobby was thriving. The Yarmouth pond is now part of the Yarmouth Pleasure Beach and when you descend the log flume ride you are splashing down into the old Yacht Pond. To see the pond at that time,being enjoyed by children with their model boats, and read people’s memories of the place, click here.

Where Go The Boats? is the title of a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) and appears in his ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’. The book has been printed many times and is always beautifully illustrated, invariably showing a child holding a model boat very similar to my brother’s. I wonder if Stevenson is really talking about the loss of his toys into the hands of another child; I can’t imagine he would be so cavalier as to launch several (he uses the plural) expensive toy boats. I always thought the poem was about paper boats, the kind we all had modelled for us as children, or those made from a piece of bark and a twig, with a paper sail; cheap, disposable and fun. Paper boats would be set to sail, often in a race, in a local stream or river. We never mourned their loss, but like the child in the Stevenson poem we may have wondered where they would end up. The illustration, from the 1928 edition of the book, courtesy of project Gutenberg, shows the boats I had in mind.

Off they go to be caught up in a current and whirl and bob their way amongst the green leaves which had fallen into the river until, perhaps, they come to the seashore and pass the 'castles in the foam'. However you interpret the poem, it’s easy to be lost yourself in its wonderful rhythm and rhyme.

Where Go The Boats?

Dark Brown is the river.
Golden is the sand.
It flows along forever, 
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles in the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating-
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill,

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week featured two model boats of which the family in the picture were so proud that they included them, along with their children and their other treasure, the family dog. Off you go and lose yourself in the stories and pictures of other contributors, which the picture inspired. Who knows where you’ll end up?


  1. As I walked past the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens the other day I thought it a pity that you no longer see people with model boats. Even less are they visible on Whitestone Pond in hampstead, which has now been rather tarted up with rushes and reeds it never had before!

  2. I don't think I have seen a kids toy boat for many years.

  3. I enjoyed your different theme to this week's family photo prompt. Your first photograph reminded me of one of my brother with his toy yacht in a boating pool when we were on holiday. Thank you for introducing me to that lovely poem.

  4. I never had a model boat, but I had a tiny plastic submarine that I ordered from a cereal box. If you filled it with baking soda, it submerged in a sink full of water (or maybe it surfaced?).

  5. There is a place in Central Park in New York that one can launch a model boat. The game we used to play was dropping a stick off a bridge then going to see it come out the other side.

  6. I wondered who might pick up the toy sailboat theme, and you've made it into a super post, especially with the poem. The British Isles certainly encouraged the imagination of boys and the sea, but I've rarely seen similar sailing ponds in American parks. Perhaps it was a civic fad related to toy stores.

  7. Lovely! The poem and the post!

    I remember playing with boats and it was such a thrill when my brother received a remote control boat for Christmas (I think us girls were jealous). The kids of today are missing out on real fun with their computer games!

  8. A great post; a happy boy with a new boat and a shy smile. We made paperboats; I did with my grand children, always popular. Home made toys to play, even if they just last an hour, are still popular. I guess it is like a story at the spur of the moment. I love the poetry of R.L.Stevenson.

  9. I think he was launching little paper boats in the poem.

  10. Our boys used to have a model boat like that. It's a lovely poem. R L Stevenson might just have been referring to the leaves as his boats.

  11. I doubt many children know the joy of crafting a paper and twig boat and watching it float along. Now it's a flashy remote-controlled model, one that Dad will commandeer most of the time!

  12. Nice take on the prompt picture with the boat. Too bad the pond wasn't kept as such - perhaps with a fountain in the middle & benches around. What a lovely place that would have been to sit & relax. The poem reminds me of one of my favorite books as a child - actually into my adulthood. I still have a copy of Little Golden Book's "Scuffy the Tugboat". I even found a little tugboat to hang on my Christmas tree each year as a reminder. :)

  13. Love the poem and perfect for the theme. Oddly I never played with boats as a child but ended up being a real boat owner twice in my adult life. Never quite caught the fever for them and was always keen to sell when the timing was right.

  14. When I was young a did not have a model boat, and there was no nearby lake or pound, but I'm sure I would have very much enjoyed playing with such a boat! And I always love the illustrations in old children's books.


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