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King's Lynn boat builder and museum trustee who helped restore historic Baden Powell dies

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Tributes have been paid to a "master" boat builder and museum trustee who has sadly passed away at the age of 88.

Vic Pratt started work as a boat builder in Lynn when he was 14-years-old in 1945.

He was involved with the restoration of the Baden Powell, the fishing smack dating back to 1990 which now takes passengers on summer cruises in the River Great Ouse and The Wash.

Vic Pratt has sadly passed away at the age of 88. Picture: Chris Ward/ Baden Powell
Vic Pratt has sadly passed away at the age of 88. Picture: Chris Ward/ Baden Powell

Mr Pratt was also a trustee of True's Yard Museum for 20 years and has been described as a "valued" member of the team by local historian Dr Paul Richards, chairman of the Friends of True's Yard.

Dr Richards said: "Vic was a proud family man, a great character and friend, a famous boat builder and will be greatly missed by many.

"His passing is a sad loss, most of all for his family of course, but also to the town he treasured."

Mr Pratt delighted in telling the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh about how he restored the fishing boat 'Activity' in the museum's yard when the royals opened the St Ann Street extension to True's Yard in 2010.

Dr Richards also recalled how Mr Pratt visited True's Yard on Saturday afternoons for tea with his late wife Betty, where they would converse about Lynn's past and present times.

"He used his impressive knowledge and skill as a traditional boat builder to help both the North End Trust and King’s Lynn Worfolk Boat Trust," Dr Richards added. "We were fortunate to have his expertise."

Both Dr Richards and fellow True’s Yard trustee Brian Chase visited Mr Pratt at Lower Farm Care Home before his passing.

Mr Chase said: “He was a very likeable fella. We used to sit together at the trustee meetings and it was a very lively debate. He was very interesting.”

The Worfolk Boat Trust posted a tribute to Vic on its Facebook page which described Mr Pratt as having a "vast depth of skill and knowledge" which was gratefully received when restoring the Baden Powell.

The post said: "It was with great sadness that we learnt Vic Pratt, master boat builder trained by the Worfolks, had sailed off into the giant boat builder's shed in the sky.

"His tales of being trained under the watchful eyes of the Worfolk brothers were always a humorous treat for us during our tea breaks. He will be sadly missed by us all. On behalf of the King’s Lynn Worfolk Boat Trust, Bon Voyage Vic."

An interview was conducted by the Rescue Wooden Boats website in February 2016 in which Mr Pratt recalled being born in the town's old North End and beginning a seven year apprenticeship in the boat building industry with the Worfolk brothers, Bill and Gerald.

In the video, he explained how he first became interested in boats: "My father was a fisherman. He offered me a choice of being an electrician or a boat builder. He owned three boats, one called a Stag's Head, the Mayflower and the Brenda Dawn but the Stag's Head was a big boat.

"When he was going away, an Amy Johnson plane landed on the sand so he ran towards it and towed it up to the Boal Quay. He had to use three boats because it was too much for the Stag's Head to tow on its own. They shared the money from it and I think they all got about £8 each."

Mr Pratt continued: "My father said 'you don't want to go fishing do you?'. I said 'the only reason I don't want to go fishing Dad, [is because] you can't swim and my brother can't swim'.

"And my father said to me 'if you ever see me go in the water, throw one of them 16ft ash oars. He said 'I'll show you what you do' and it went in the water then he laid his arms along the oar, and that kept him afloat."

Dr Richards said Mr Pratt dictated the story of his working life to his wife Betty, who subsequently passed on the script to True's Yard at the end of 2019.

The historian said he is hoping to complete the project of publishing the work this year if the family consents.

A small funeral with close family members will take place next week, although the family intend to hold a commemoration service for friends and family later in the year when the coronavirus has passed.

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