Celebrating 262 years of the Marine Society

Posted on 25 June 2018 by Kayleigh Lewis

It’s hard to believe, but the Marine Society has been helping seafarers to realise their full potential for 262 years. Here’s a look at our history and what we are doing today.

Portsmouth born Jonas Hanway, a traveller and philanthropist, was well-known for many unusual things, including being the first Londoner to carry an umbrella -  the cause of much ridicule at the time.

In 1756, he called together twenty-two gentlemen to meet at the King’s Arms Tavern in Change Alley, London, to propose a new idea.

Together they formed the Marine Society, encouraging young men and boys of good character to join the Royal Navy, ahead of what would become known as the Seven Years’ War.

The Society commissioned the first ever pre-sea training ship in 1786, a 300-ton vessel called Sloop Beatty. Remarkably, the ship provided training until the Second World War with an estimated 110,000 men and boys trained and equipped during this time.

Over the years the organisation changed and developed, but always with the well-being and education of seafarers at its heart.

Following the First World War, the Marine Society began to provide libraries to crews, with as many as 14 libraries being supplied to vessels every month.

Then, as now, the Marine Society understood the importance of seafarers having access to books. As well as providing a popular leisure activity, books can improve knowledge and develop language skills, as well as playing a vital role in the education of seafarers.

We continue to provide books and education to seafarers around the world, and last year alone we supplied nearly 150 ship libraries, distributed nearly 20,000 books and helped more than 5,000 seafarers gain qualifications.

We also sold over 4,000 books, with proceeds going back into the Marine Society, allowing us to continue our crucial work – which last year included awarding 117 scholarships to seafarers.

If that’s not something to celebrate we don’t know what is. Here’s to 262 years of the Marine Society, and to the many seafarers we will continue to support in the years to come.