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CENTURIES-OLD TRADITION ON THE MERSEY.

MOORING gangs are as much a part of Mersey heritage as the Liver Birds and the Albert Dock.

Historians are unable to say exactly when they first appeared on the banks of the river but it is known that their purpose was always to guide boats up the estuary before berthing them until they are ready to leave.

The men who sailed in the tiny vessels are traditionally known as ``boatmen'' and when the Port of Liverpool was in its prime at the turn of the twentieth century,gigs were a regular feature of the river scene.

These open two-masted rowing and sailing boats would sail far out into Liverpool Bay seeking work from incoming vessels.

Boatmen ferried passengers and luggage to and from anchored ships,carrying mooring lines to assist with docking, and sometimes worked as boarding house runners.

In 1861 gig boats were licensed under the regulation of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board.

Motor boats were first introduced for these tasks in 1908, but many sailing gigs continued to operate until up to 1947.

The gigs played a key role during World War Two when they offered strategic support to Allied boats. The boatmen were well known for their rivalry.

Independent families, such as A Johnson and Sons of Birkenhead,provided the range of boat services until 1978 when some of these firms were grouped within the Liverpool Boatmen Association.

CAPTION(S):

GIG: Merseyside Maritime Museum has a model of the gig boat Elizabeth on display as part of The Spirit of the Blitz exhibition which runs until June 2004.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2003
Words:263
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