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Where were you in 82?

Lifting the Mary Rose

John Gray operated Tog Mor, the crane that lifted the Mary Rose.

I was Marine Manager of Howard Doris when I heard at a chance meeting with Wendel Lewis, about April 1981, that the Mary Rose Trust was seeking a crane to lift the wreck from the seabed in the Solent. This started my involvement with an incredibly interesting project

In about April 1981 I was flying to Inverness with Mike Banning-Lover, our Chief Projects Engineer who worked with me at Howard Doris when Mike was seated by chance with Wendel Lewis who was procuring some equipment for the Mary Rose project.  Mike told him we had a crane and I kept in touch.  I told Albert Granville, Chairman of Howard Doris who authorised me to offer our crane barge Tog Mor for the lift and so we became involved.

Tog Mor, big lifter in Gaelic, was conceived when we needed a large crane to lift 500 tonnes at 55 metres radius for installing modules on the deck of the Maureen Platform in Loch Kishorn.  We could not have a crane so large built to meet our schedule and I had the idea of a large ships derrick of the Stuekelmast design which has two masts and two topping lifts which avoids the need for guy ropes.  We contacted Blohm and Voss in Hamburg designers of Stuekelmast derricks and they could build and instal such a crane in time for our schedule.  A contract was made, the rig was constructed and it suited the task in Kishorn.

After the lifts in Loch Kishorn, we added accommodation and a helideck in preparation for a contract in Cameroon for Pecton Oil Company.  We completed a short job in Norway and had some time to spare before leaving for Cameroon in September 1982.

I attended planning meetings in Portsmouth with Margaret Rule from March 1982 after each of which I was shown some of the recently recovered artefacts.

In Mid-September 1982 Tog Mor was moved to the Solent and anchored alongside the Mary Rose ready for the lift. The lifting frame was delivered and the cradle put on the seabed near the ship.  The upper frame was lowered over the ship and divers attached cables.  The frame and ship were then lifted over the cradle  Unfortunately, the frame distorted and only three of the guide spuds could be placed in their sockets. To solve this problem the leg was cut off underwater and that corner was supported by a wire sling.

When all was ready the lift commenced. In everyone’s memory is the pin sheering at the opposite corner to the wire and the lift shuddering. All was well in the end and the hull of the Mary Rose was so watertight that the divers had to pump it out as we lifted. The crane lifted up to 1050 tonnes and waited for the pumping.  After several pumping stops the ship was lifted clear and the lift was 860 tonnes.

The ship in its cradle was placed on a pontoon and towed into Portsmouth. Tog Mor prepared for tow and sailed for Cameroon. Subsequently it moved to Singapore and was later converted to a pipelay barge in 1997 by its new owners Allseas. Sadly its Stuekelmast has now been removed and replaced by a lower capacity revolving crane.

We were given a note on a sheet of Mary Rose Trust notepaper addressed to the now most famous crane barge in the world signed by HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, Sir Eric Drake (Chairman), Richard Harrison (Executive Director) and Ian Dark (PR Manager) thanking us.
At a dinner afterwards in London hosted by Babcock I was given a plaque depicting the Mary Rose which had been made by Babcock apprentices.
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