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Peggy flying the flag of the National Historic Fleet 6 October 2011

Peggy in her original boathouseOf all the treasures cared for by Manx National Heritage, there are few so important and unusual as Peggy, the world’s oldest yacht, still to this day to be found in her original boathouse in The Nautical Museum, Castletown. Now, with the international significance of Peggy recognised by the National Register of Historic Vessels, efforts continue to conserve and record this magnificent discovery and its story.

The exploits of Peggy and her eccentric owner, George Quayle, have excited the imagination of many since her re-discovery in 1935. She is mentioned for example in C. Northcote Parkinson’s fictional biography of Horatio Hornblower. Almost uniquely, the Quayle family archive also survives, documenting the construction of the vessel, and its boathouse, and offering fascinating insights into the life of her builder, who was at various times MHK, banker, soldier and it is alleged – a smuggler.

George’s handwritten account of his perilous voyage across the Irish Sea from Cumberland to Castletown in 1796, during which his comrade Captain Bacon was reduced to bailing out his own boat with his wig box, has often appeared in print. The marvellous and eccentric boat house in which Peggy resides is a unique counterpart to the vessel herself, and still poses many questions to architectural historians regarding Quayle’s methods and intentions.

In the last decade the international importance of Peggy has been recognised in her exceptional inclusion, alongside vessels such as HMS Victory, within the National Historic Fleet, the maritime equivalent of Grade One listing maintained by National Historic Ships, UK. This singular honour reflects the intense interest in Peggy, and in her continued preservation, in Britain and abroad.

The flag of the National Historic FleetDuring the past two years, Manx National Heritage has been studying Peggy and the environment in which she sits with the help of Cardiff University and conservation consultants Eura Conservation ltd. of Telford, leading to a greater understanding of the construction methods and materials which were used over two hundred years ago in Manx shipbuilding.

Matthew Richardson, Curator of Social History says;

“We aim to ensure that Peggy is handed on to succeeding generations without further deterioration. To celebrate Peggy and our efforts to preserve her, we shall from now on be flying the flag of the National Historic Fleet at the Nautical Museum, a privilege reserved for owners of the most significant craft on the National Register of Historic Vessels.”

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