TIME stood still in Burwash this week when a member of the Kipling family helped launch a replica of the poet’s beloved paddle boat.
The original boat was built in 1929 for Rudyard Kipling’s children and their friends.
And on Thursday an authentic recreation was launched on the pond at his family home, Bateman’s.
Guest of honour at the ceremony and first passenger in the paddle boat was Mile Huntington-Whiteley, a great nephew of Kipling who was a regular passenger in the original paddle boat which disappeared after his uncle’s death in 1936.
Fundraising for the new boat was the brainchild of Gary Enstone, acting property manager at Bateman’s.
Inspired by the family friendship between Kipling and Jerome K Jerome – author of the famous comic boating adventure,
Three Men in a Boat – Gary and companions, his brother David Enstone and friend Keith Holland, raised £1,800 by recreating the book’s boating journey.
Setting out from Richmond-upon-Thames last July (and with plenty of ‘close shaves’ along the way) they sailed 97 miles aboard an 1870s Thames rowing skiff, finishing in Oxford seven days later. Their intrepid adventures were documented with images on a daily blog: http://rowyards4kipling.blogspot.com/
With the money raised, volunteer carpenters based at nearby National Trust estate Scotney Castle, built a six foot boat complete with two paddle wheels.
The new boat was christened with the same name as the original – ‘534’ – after the vessel built by Cunard at the time, which later became RMS Queen Mary.
Jerome K Jerome’s novel Three Men in a Boat also featured a small dog called Montmorency. Helping to launch the boat was a local terrier called Bert, playing the part of Montmorency. Kipling paid for the pond and paddle boat at Bateman’s with the money he received for winning the Nobel Prize for Literature – the first Englishman to win the prize.
The boat was built for the enjoyment of his children and young family friends.
This act of generosity was typical of Kipling, for whom family life was very important.
The boat was a great joy to Kipling, who referred to it in several letters, including one written to friend Sir John Chancellor in September 1929: “Tell Robin [Chancellor’s son] that four children turned up here the other day. The dogs went nearly wild with joy and I put them all into a little paddle boat that you work with your hands, and they banged around the pond ……”.
By re-creating Kipling’s original paddle boat, Bateman’s hopes to tell more fully the story of Kipling and his family, and to give children visiting the property today the same pleasure and excitement they would have experienced if they had visited 80 years ago.