Obituary: Martin Heard

Posted on: 
30 Aug 2009 - 1:01am

News of Martin Heard’s sudden death at his home at Mylor Bridge has been met with great sorrow by all members of Gala, both past and present. Many members will have known Martin personally – particularly if they had acquired their boat directly from his yard at Tregatreath , whilst others who purchased their boat on the open market will probably feel that, merely by spending time aboard their boat, they have been able to sense something of the man who created it.

Apart from being a time-served boat-builder, Martin had spent much time harvesting the oyster-beds of the Carrick Roads and it was from that experience that he gained his intimate knowledge of handling Cornwall's quintessential Falmouth Working Boats. It was but a short step from that to joining his father's business where the likes of Meloris was built, one of the first working boats built by his father for the local oyster industry.

In 1985 Martin's world was knocked asunder by the sudden death of his father. As a consequence, at the age of 25 years, Martin unexpectedly found himself at the head of a thriving boat-building business; it was, as Martin described it, a wake-up call. Martin foresaw the commercial value of building a range of traditional working boats in glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) which, he correctly predicted, would appeal to many a busy customer who would enjoy a bit of varnishing, but who would have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in the rather more demanding levels of maintenance required by wooden hulls. In order to reflect the honesty of his new line, he chose original working vessels for his plugs and introduced a clever, perceptive strap-line to his advertising: “Sailing with a sense of the past”.

By this means, Martin fulfilled the dreams of well-over 600 customers. His boats have been seen sailing not only on the coasts of Britain, but also in the wider waters of Europe, Australia, USA, Canada and the Caribbean: a fitting memorial if ever there was one. For all that, Martin did not lose his concern for Cornwall's fishermen. In fact a significant proportion of his business was in the annual repair and maintenance of their vessels. By these means Martin has undoubtedly carved himself an indelible niche in the history of both Cornish boatbuilding, and of Classic-boat sailing in particular.

Apart from his boats, to all who knew Martin it will also be the scorch-marks left by his highly acerbic wit which will remind them of him. Any customer who hadn't been so branded would be a rare person indeed and, furthermore, he or she will have missed a startling treat! But it is chiefly upon Martin's vision that we Gala members owe so much of our pleasure: he is, indeed, a man who will certainly be remembered for many years to come.

All members of Gala offer their heartfelt condolences to Martin's family. He leaves a son, Sam, and a daughter, Caseley.

Gala has agreed to fund the cost of a teak seat which, once furnished with a suitable memorial notice, will be sited upon a portion of land adjacent to the present boatyard and which will be safely in Sam's ownership. To this, all Gala members will be expected to conduct an appropriate pilgrimage “Dreckly”!

Roger Stephens. August 2009

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