Maurice Griffiths

Maurice Griffiths Maurice’s family had moved from South London to Ipswich in 1903 when his father became the East of England representative for a glove manufacturer[1] . In London they had lived opposite a railwayline and Maurice’s early love was trains. His first job was with an estate agent but in his spare time he wrote articles about trains for the East Anglian Times and it was train travel that soon led him to Ipswich docks where he discovered boating.

He started a small yacht brokerage and in the course of this work he learnt a lot about sailing and boat building. In 1925 he published a little book called Yachting on a Small Income which, ironically, sold well on railwaystation platforms.

His father died suddenly leaving the family in considerable debt and the family home had to be sold. His mother Lena, and older brother Leslie, moved to the Midlands to stay with relatives. Maurice’s brokerage business folded so he decided to try his luck selling yachting articles freelance in London. It was a struggle and he virtually starved. His health was to never fully recover from this experience.

He was rescued by George Bittles, the publisher of Yachting Monthly. Bittles had bought Griffiths’ book at his local railway station and believed he would be the right person to edit a new magazine called Yacht Sales and Charters. This was basically a yacht brokerage with its own magazine. Griffiths made such a success of this that other brokers threatened to stop advertising in Yachting Monthly if the Yacht Sales magazine continued. The magazine was stopped but Griffiths had proved himself and was given the position of Editor of Yachting Monthly.

Around this time in 1927 he married Dulcie Kennard whom he had met while visiting the offices of yachting magazines trying to sell his articles. She also wrote for the yachting press under the name Peter Gerard. They were divorced in 1934. After the war Maurice returned to Yachting Monthly.

The invention of marine plywood and fibreglass now enabled his boat designs to be mass-produced. The two most successful were the Eventide 24, soon followed by the 26, and the Waterwitch 30. These, along with his other designs, proved to be good sea-worthy craft but he was under no illusions about their aesthetic appeal, once saying: “If you ever see a barrel or box with rudder and sails, it’ll be one of my designs.”

Nevertheless they earned a strong following of enthusiasts who would disagree with that description. Griffiths single-handedly gave yachting to working people with his DIY designs and tips on sailing and converting former ship’s lifeboats but his greatest contribution to giving the sport wide appeal was undoubtedly his book The Magic of the Swatchways with its accounts of simple cruises around the east coast and across the North Sea to The Netherlands and Belgium. It was first published in 1932, has been translated into Dutch and Polish and gone through many editions.

Maurice also wrote several other books and later Sixty Years a Yacht Designer in which Idle Duck features as well as his most well known designs.