I never knew my grandfather Percy Mitchell, he died several years before I was born, leaving behind an amazing legacy of wooden boatbuilding and a paperback book called 'A Boatbuilder's Story'. It was published in 1968 as a small print run and has since become quite a sought after book. It tells of his life as a traditional wooden boatbuilder in Portmellon and Mevagissey on the south Cornish coast. Born in Mevagissey in 1901, he was something of a rugged character who endured set backs and overcame obstacles to design and build an incredible array of fishing boats, yachts, tugs and passenger launches. He has been described as "One of the finest traditional boatbuilders in the world" by Commander W. B Luard and as an "artist in wood" by the eminent yacht designer, Dr Claud Worth.
Fast forward to April 2011 and my brother Mike Hayes began to sort through boxes of photographs from the old boat yard in Portmellon. He painstakingly scanned and restored these old photos with a view to getting 'A Boatbuilder's Story' back into print one day.
Ever since then it's been a work in progress and a labour of love recreating the old book. I began setting the text and creating the new book design and layouts in January 2014 and worked on it over weekends and evenings. I will confess it was a larger task than I had first imagined and it often felt like an uphill struggle to get it finished. However, when I stood with my Dad in the loading bay of TJ International book printers on a chilly November afternoon and opened a box full of beautifully produced hardback editions, it was an incredible sense of achievment and suddenly felt like it had all been worth it. It's been a true family effort to bring it back to life.
Through working on this book, I feel like I've got to know a grandfather I never knew through his words and a whole heap of photos of his life. Not many people get the opportunity to do something like this so I do feel priviliged in many ways. I guess it's been a bit like being on an episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' minus the emotive soundtrack and fake tears : )
A Boatbuilder's Story is out now and available via www.boatbuildersstory.bigcartel.com