IT may lie far from the sea, but Radcliffe has been home to more than one boat building yard in its time.

Most well known was the lifeboat builders at Allens Green, which was bombed on Christmas Eve, 1944.

But less famous was another yard where yachts and racing dinghies were built. It existed some years later at Bealey's Bleachworks in Dumers Lane.

The business belonged to Mr Robert Sinclair, who contacted us to share some of his photos and memories.

Radcliffe resident Mr Sinclair (80) was born in Ulundi Street and attended Radcliffe Parish School and Radcliffe Central Secondary School.

When he left he became an apprentice joiner and during the Second World War served on convoy escort vessels in the Royal Navy. Soon after returning to Radcliffe, Robert combined his previous careers by building a boat with a friend.

Robert said: "Me and one of the lads I knew in Dumers Lane built a racing dinghy and so it all started from there."

By the early 1950s Robert had started his own joinery business and was renting premises opposite Bealey's Bleachworks.

Although much of the work was everyday domestic joinery, Robert and an employee were asked to make racing dinghies on more than one occasion.

As the business grew in size and reputation, it attracted a more prosperous clientele, who asked for small yachts to be built.

Robert said: "It was just a progression. People saw the dinghies and just asked if we could do something bigger.

"We built the boats for people, but designing them was a job in its own right. We would get in touch with the designer to get a set of plans that fitted what people had asked for."

Good woodworking skills were needed. Timber would have to be cut and planed and the planking would be steamed to create the curvature needed for a hull.

The yachts were around 30ft in length and had four berths, a galley and a toilet compartment. Robert and his colleagues were also skilled enough to install engines and other operational components.

Due to the time demands of house joinery, work on the boats would sometimes need to be abandoned and could often take five months.

Sea-ready yachts would attract a great deal of attention as they were loaded onto lorries in the middle of Dumers Lane.

Picture 1 shows the boat perched on its hired transport waggon bound for the Albert Dock at Liverpool with a small audience gathered on the grass outside Robert's workshop.

He said: "We would get a lot of people coming out to have a look. Children used to cross the field from the secondary school and on to Top o'th' Cross.

"There were a few anxious moments when the boat was lifted up on the crane and on to the waggon."

Picture 2 gives a closer look at the boat and a glimpse of the motorised transport of the time.

Once at the dockside, work was still in store for the Radcliffe men.

Robert said: "They would be launched by a crane into the water and we used to have to go aboard to rig them. That was the best part of the whole thing."

Disaster struck when a fire nearly destroyed the yard in 1960.

"Our bedroom was facing in the direction of the workshop and we got woken up. Flames were shooting over the top of the roof.

"We rushed down there and the fire brigade had arrived but it wasn't enough to save the rear part of the workshop.

"We had one of the boats nearly ready but that all had to be scrapped."

Much of the workshop remained intact after the fire, and glass fibre vessels became the order of the day. It was a material that Robert quickly adapted to using.

He said: "You have to keep painting a wooden boat and people liked glass fibre boats because they were lower maintenance."

A mould, known as a plug was made out of wood, which could be filled with the fibre glass and reused.

"Once you had the plug it was a piece of cake," said Robert.

One of his 23-foot glass fibre hull sailing yachts was exhibited at the 1967 London Boat Show.

When Robert left in 1970, the firm changed its name and concentrated on home joinery. By this time it had around seven employees.

After living in France, Robert returned with his family to live in the Fylde town of Freckleton.

There he opened a boatyard and worked on 35ft vessels, before he retired and returned to Radcliffe two years ago.

Said Robert: "Boat building was very different from ordinary joinery. It all depended on how interested you were, and I was very interested."