Harry Turley’s Gleam boats

Motor yacht Silver Gleam.
Motor yacht Silver Gleam.
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Established in 1929 at North Shore, Monkwearmouth, Wearside Boatbuilding Company became a leading wooden boat maker.

Managing director Harry Turley had a special interest in yachting and motor boating, working tirelessly to promote the interests of yachtsmen and boat owners on Wearside. He had previously been involved in the meat and tripe preparation trades and once worked in the railway offices of the Manchester Ship Canal.

At times, he held various positions including membership of the Grand Council of the Motor Boat Association of Great Britain and as Commodore of Sunderland Yacht Club and President of the Wear Boating Association.

He owned a 19 gross-ton motor vessel named Silver Gleam, although little is known of her other than the 50-foot craft was registered at Sunderland in 1930.

Curiously, shipping registers state that the vessel was built in 1916 while other records suggest she was newly constructed in 1931. Whether this was a new boat, a conversion or some anomaly in record keeping, is open to debate.

In any event, Silver Gleam went on to achieve major successes in competition. These included winning the cup for the longest cruise to the first motor boat rally at Rochester in 1932 and a clutch of trophies for racing events in Scottish and southern English waters.

Unfortunately, the vessel met an unlucky fate in 1936. After taking part in the Royal Scottish Motor Yacht Club’s handicap race around the Isle of Bute and achieving the best time of three hours 34 minutes, she caught fire in the island’s Port Bannatyne Bay; the outbreak thought to have originated in the engine room.

Attempts to smother the flames with fire extinguishers failed, resulting in the party of six on board abandoning ship and reaching shore in a punt. Although a number of small boats went to help, nothing could be done to save Silver Gleam which burned fiercely for several hours. Eventually, the hulk was taken in tow but sank 200 yards from the beach.

In 1938, Mr Turley replaced the loss by constructing a larger motor yacht at his Wearside Boatbuilding yard. Named Golden Gleam, she was 65 feet long with a gross tonnage of 52. Equipped with Atlantic twin-screw diesel engines each capable of 11 knots, she was one of the largest motor yachts built on the North East Coast.

Construction was of pitch pine planking on oak framing with a modern streamlined wheelhouse.

On May 15, 1938, Golden Gleam sailed on her maiden voyage to the Clyde. One of her first engagements was to participate in a 156-mile endurance test organised by the Royal Scottish Motor Yacht Club.

Harry Turley died on November 23, 1941, aged 63, leaving a lasting legacies of boatbuilding and seamanship for Wearsiders.