Harry Spencer RIP


It was back in 1971, or thereabouts, that I first met Harry Spencer. I had a job helping rig out the topsail schooner Captain Scott with Peter Lucas, whose sail-making business is now based in Dartmouth.

Captain Scott was launched at Herd & McKenzie’s shipyard (pictured) Buckie, Scotland and we were all aboard for the sailing trials. I remember Harry, who was then built like a mini-Mike Tyson, telling the filthiest joke I had ever heard. There were some well-connected ex-Admiralty types aboard as well as ordinary sailors. But everyone laughed their heads off.

Only Harry could have got away with it. I think it was because – even though he’d obviously heard the joke before – he laughed louder than anybody.

Later on ashore we were being entertained by some very rough fishermen. They thought we were a bunch of pansy yachtties and growled at us until Harry started singing sea shanties with which we all joined in. The transformation was astonishing. The macho trawlermen insisted on buying all of us drinks all night as they fought back tears of sentimentality. The only time there was any trouble was when I tried to buy a round back: ‘Just you keep singing, Jimmy, just you keep singing.’ I did as I was told.