Restoration work to begin on Maggie Helen at historic Hay's Dock

This week Shetland Museum and Archives will welcome traditional sail vessel the Swallow to Hay's Dock with its crew of shipwrights from Brittany and England to begin the long-anticipated work to complete the hull of the Maggie Helen.

Traditional sail vessel the Swallow arriving in Lerwick

The Museum and Archives’ boatshed and Hay’s Dock will be alive with noise and activity over the coming months as the expert team bring with them the materials, equipment and experienced skillset which will ultimately see the vessel back in active use.

Curator, Dr Ian Tait said: “We are delighted to see this team of skilled shipwrights arrive in Shetland to embark on the next restoration phase of the Maggie Helen. After many years as a working fishing boat, then later as a yacht, the vessel had fallen into disuse. She came into the boatshed at the Shetland Museum & Archives in 2007, where the first stage of restoration work was done, stripping the boat back to the hull, and replacing defective planking. Since then the vessel has been in indoors storage.

Maggie Helen

“We knew that once the craft is launched, it entails constant funding to cover maintenance. The Trust realised that it could not operate such a vessel, nor was it likely that any other organisation or individual in Shetland could. We approached various boating experts and enthusiasts locally and beyond, and whilst some expressions of interest were received, these dropped out once the challenges were evaluated.

“We’re pleased to have secured a commitment from the Swallow crew to take on the considerable cost and work required to bring the Maggie Helen back to her former glory. Once work is done, the vessel will leave Shetland for completion further afield, to take up a working life especially along the west coast of Britain and in France. Having been built in the same shed she’s in, 120 years ago, Maggie Helen will leave there for a second time in her life, ready to start her new chapter back where she belongs. Whilst we are reluctant to see her go, it will provide us with the space to showcase the restored open boats from our collection, repaired in the same shed, and where they will accessible for all to enjoy.”

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