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"I'll see the ship home"

Sir Jack Hayward OBE (pictured on the left), philanthropist, patriot and saviour of the SS Great Britain, sadly passed away on January 13 2015, aged 91. Without his remarkable generosity the ship may have been lost for good.

Many knew him as “Union Jack”, a handle born out of his unrelenting passion for Great Britain. Indeed it was the name of Brunel’s magnificent steamship which first turned his head when funding was being sought for an improbable rescue mission. For Sir Jack, it was unthinkable that a Bristol-built vessel, which had left such an indelible mark on maritime history, could be left to perish so far from home.

In 1937, having been deemed unsafe, the SS Great Britain was scuttled and left to rust and ruin in the shallow waters of Sparrow Cove in the Falkland Islands; Sir Jack was only 14 years old at the time. Three decades later, on hearing that the ‘Grandmother of modern shipping’ was in danger of disappearing forever, his patriotic heartstrings were pulled.

The SS Great Britain Project was an audacious plan to bring the ship home; across thousands of miles of unforgiving ocean. The strategy, although brave, seemed far-fetched for a long time until Sir Jack’s attention was caught. After a lengthy conversation with Richard Goold-Adams (pictured on the right), chairman of the SS Great Britain Trust, about the potential of financial backing, Sir Jack simply assured him: “It’s all right. I will see the ship home”. And with the shake of a hand, the SS Great Britain was saved.

The homecoming was named Voyage 47, listed in the logbook as the unfinished trip on which the SS Great Britain embarked on 6 February 1886.

And so it was, on the 19 July 1970, exactly 127 years to the day after her launch in 1843, the SS Great Britain was welcomed home by hundreds of thousands of onlookers. But Sir Jack’s support didn’t end there. He was instrumental in the restoration and conservation of the ship; without his generosity none of this would be here today.

Thank you Sir Jack.