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Tracing Our Origins Back To 1921

Reardon Smith Nautical Trust

Whilst the Reardon Smith Nautical Trust dates only from 2004, it can trace its origins back a century to 1921, when the Cardiff shipowner Sir William Reardon Smith established the Sir William Reardon Smith Junior Nautical School within Cardiff Technical College, with the aim of providing an education in navigation and seamanship.

Reardon Smith Nautical Trust Timeline

1921 to 1945

Opening on 6th October 1921 it was later renamed the Reardon Smith Nautical School and by 1923 there were some sixty boys on the school's register. The facilities available to students at the school were enhanced vastly when Sir William purchased the steel racing schooner 'Margherita', built by Camper & Nicholson of Gosport in 1913.

This vessel was refitted to serve both as a training vessel and as the Reardon Smith family yacht. Its annual summer cruise down the West coast of the UK gave some twenty students a chance to experience seafaring under sail.

According to Sir William "the knowledge of seamanship gained on a sailing vessel cannot be acquired as thoroughly as any other way". Unfortunately the profound economic depression that followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929 forced the sale of this notable vessel in 1932.

Between 1939 and 1945, numerous former students from the school faced the hazards of sailing on merchant vessels in wartime, some making the ultimate sacrifice during those difficult years.

1946 to 1965

After the war, the school continued to operate within the Cardiff Technical College, but in 1954 the opportunity arose to acquire suitable premises in Fairwater, which became known as the Reardon Smith Nautical College. It was a fortunate coincidence that the former Union Castle liner 'Llangibby Castle' was being broken up by Cashmores of Newport, thus enabling the college authorities to acquire good quality bunks, lockers and items of navigational equipment from the ship at a very reasonable sum!

The new college was governed by a sub-committee of Cardiff Education Authority, comprising six city councillors and representatives of four local maritime organisations. Three successive members iof the Reardon Smith family also served on the commitee, which was chaired by former ship's officer, Alderman Hugh Ferguson-Jones.

Having been without any form of training vessel since 1932, this situation was gradually rectified from 1956 onwards. Two 'Yachting World cadet dinghies' were acquired in March that year for use on Roath Park Lake and the Ford family of boat-builders from Appledore (Sir William's birthplace) were also commissioned to build two larger sailing gigs which were used to teach boat handling on the then little used Bute West Dock. 


1965 to date

More significant was the donation by a family member of the forty-three gross ton ketch Nocturne, built in 1937 by Philips & Son or Dartmouth. Re-named 'Margherita' she soon saw extensive summer use, sailing as far away as Milford Haven and competing in regattas and races throughout the Bristol Channel in the late 1950s and early 60s. Unfortunately she was squeezed by a coaster berthing at Barry Dock in early 1965 and was later declared a constructive total loss.

At a critical meeting of the college's governing body held on 28th October 1969, it was decided in view of the falling numbers of students enrolling at the college, to close Fairwater campus as a nautical college, but to continue to teach the syllabus at Llandaff Technical College campus. This continued until 1991 when reflecting the sever decline in the UK's merchant fleet, the courses were withdrawn.

The third 'Margherita' was sold in 1993 whilst the Fairwater campus was eventually sold for re-development in 2004, when the proceeds were divided between Cardiff City Council and a newly established charitable body, the Reardon Smith Nautical Trust. The original trustees of the new body were John Reardon Smith (Sir William's great grandson) and Dr Ernest Brent, principal of the college, later joined by John's brother, Richard and cousin Simon Davies. 


The Trust Today

Reardon Smith Nautical Trust

The Trust was set up in 2004 with the overall aim of providing opportunities to foster the education of young people in the marine environment. It is appropriate therefore that one hundred years after the establishment of the Smith Junior Nautical School that it's direct descendant, the Trust, should continue to provide maritime realted opportunities for the youth of today.