Nautical Museum – THE SAILMAKERS LOFT
Leaving the Cabin room by the other door, a narrow passage way leads on to a landing from which a steep flight of steps gives access to a loft or attic room. This room was once used by George Quayle to work on his ideas for inventions. His lathe and his astronomical telescope are still to be seen at one end of the loft.
This top floor room has been fitted out as sailmaker’s loft. Ship and boat building was a busy trade in the Isle of Man in the days of sail, and many fine vessels were built in the ports of the Island. The skill of the sailmaker was then much in demand, and first rate craftsmen flourished. One such was William Clucas of Port St. Mary, the last of a long line of sailmakers, who presented the whole of his tools and gear to the Museum.
This now unfamiliar equipment, the serving mallets and serving boards, the grease horn and palms, the tar trough, the winding blades and the sailmaker’s form or bench; all are in place. The wooden bull’s eyes, used to lead running rigging, and the metal thimbles, incorporated in cringes, with the fine range of large fids and the smaller marlin spikes employed in splicing rope; all are displayed to give a picture of an authentic and typical workshop, characteristic of the latter days of sail.
While the sailmaker would complete his large commissions in his workshop, he would also take his form, to which the basic tools would be attached, on board ship for repair work. The Clucas account books are now in the Manx Museum Library. They give a fascinating insight into the sailmaker’ activities and show the magnitude of work sometimes undertaken. In 1889, for example, a new mainsail was made for the Kate, a typical locally built topsail schooner, and required 207.5 yards of canvas. The cost, including making, was £17.73p.