Nostalgia: Boat-load of happy memories

LAUNCH: The Ariadne, the 14th SD14 Liberty ship replacement to  be launched from a Wear shipyard in 16 months, pictured after the ceremony at Austin and Pickersgill's on April 17, 1969.

LAUNCH: The Ariadne, the 14th SD14 Liberty ship replacement to be launched from a Wear shipyard in 16 months, pictured after the ceremony at Austin and Pickersgill's on April 17, 1969.

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WEARSIDE ship enthusiasts set sail for a boat-load of happy memories.

A 15ft working model of a Sunderland-built SD14 cargo vessel – thought to be the largest replica of its kind in the world – paid a visit to its “spiritual home” on Sunday.

The craft, named after SD14 San George – built at Austin and Pickersgill in 1971 – was put through its paces on the boating pond at Roker Park by owner Peter Fitzpatrick.

“This was the first time the ship has ‘returned home.’

“Sunderland was where the first real SD14s were built, which made it a special event to bring this model to the city,” he said.

Peter, a member of Ellesmere Port Model Boat Club in Cheshire, paid £2,500 to have the 1:32 scale model professionally built by his pal, and master modeller, Norman Hill.

The vessel was launched at Ashton Park, on the Wirral Peninsular, in 2008, and Peter has since raised hundreds of pounds for a children’s charity by showing it around the country.

“SD14s were special,” said Peter. “Built as a replacement for the famous Liberty ships, they are among the last British ships still going strong. Some are still working to this day.

“I used to do CCTV work in Sunderland, but this was the first time I have taken the ship up there. It brought back happy memories for a great many people.”

Members of Southwick History and Preservation Society joined forces with Sunderland Maritime Heritage group to organise the event.

Spokeswoman Pam Tate said: “Not only did the SD14 model take to the water, but there were also model tugson show at the same time.

“Peter was really keen to bring the ship ‘back home.’ I’m sure it was a very moving visit for many people - just as it was for me,” said Pam.

“Our family has close ties to the shipyard. My great-granddad was a watchman for Mr Pickersgill. He got the job when he came back from the Boar War, moving into a cottage with his wife.

“She used to do the catering for the launches – using her four daughters as waitresses!”