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THE ROYAL NAVY OF AN TIR

The late Master Evan Graham of Montrose, Colonel, Graham's Greys

I suspect that any Kingdom in the Knowne Worlde with a body of water in it big enough that an arrow won't carry across it has chartered a Royal Navy of one kind or another, at one time or another. Some of them actually had boats in them, none of sufficient size to be called a ship.

An Tir had had the odd privateer back in Principality days, such as the legendary AYESHIA, of which little is now known. It's true Royal Navy began in the mid-1970's with the work of Don Bettger of Everett, an arts graduate who had built a miniature replica of a Viking knarr as a pilot project and wanted to find a reason to build more. Don had years of experience with the Sea Scouts, and had risen to the rank of Commodore. Don's nickname was "Stormcrow," and he was well-read on Norse religion, dress, and customs; after impatient negotiation with the College of Arms his name became "Eric the Kentmand" -- which no one ever called him -- "called Stormcrow", which everyone did.

Don met the Society at about the same time I did, during the reign of Steingrim and Rhiannon as King and Queen of the West in AS XIII [late 1979], and at Twelfth Night AS XIV [1981] he received his first charter from Their Majesties of the West in the reign of King Frederick of Holland. I was one of his first officers, his administrative assistant as "Yeoman of the Fleet," which later carried the rank of Commander with it. The badge of the Royal Navy of An Tir was a Viking ship with sail displayed, and was on commissions and service medals. After that he was often simply known as "the Admiral", although he preferred "Commodore."

His first ship was a 20-foot replica of a "knarr", a trading vessel, some of which were no larger than that. The hull was fiberglass, cast and painted so cunningly that it appeared to be wood. The strength the mast was steel, but the yardarm, oars, steerboard, and trim were wood, varnished and polished, and brass. She was named SIEANNE, after his sister. The sail was the typical trapezoid, with vertical red and white stripes; there were locks for four oars to row the ship upwind and away from docks when the wind opposed.

He built several boats of 11 - 13 feet on the same lines that did not carry sail, and his next big project was a second knarr, named the QUEEN OSA, which was later lengthened to 30 feet -- giving her lines more like a longship than a knarr. [Osa was the Queen of Norway buried in the Gokstad ship, today preserved at Oslo, I believe.] QUEEN OSA was fitted for six oars, although getting that many long oars together was always a problem.

Both boats had a steel bracket aft to take an outboard motor -- we joked about the "mechanical oars set". Each of these boats also had a trailer; structure was a fluid thing to Stormcrow, and he made considerable changes in trailers and boats every year.

Every reign the Admiral tried to arrange a Royal Cruise. There were other cruises for Fleet members and guests. (My first visit to Dragonslaire was on such a cruise in May 1983 at the time of Viking Fest, of which I have told the tale elsewhere. *Shudder!*) Most months there were meetings, and in the good weather, work parties in spring to get the boats working and in the fall to get them ready for winter.

Every Coronation featured a Commissioning of all the Officers of the Royal Navy of An Tir -- this following period naval tradition, and a necessary business while the charter was in force, but criticized by many for the length of time it took. Amongst the chaos in which my family lives I still have at least ten of these, nicely calligraphed and headed by the Viking Ship badge of the Royal Navy of An Tir.

Stormcrow was elevated to the Order of the Laurel in 1983. In addition to his many hours of work and copious volume of money poured into maintaining and operating the ships, he also made jewelry. The work of the An Tir Sword of State is partly his -- the blade is from Sir Blackhand, but the brass castings of pommel-weight and quillions, and the pommel work and the finely decorated scabbard, were the Admiral's. (The pommel weight is, in fact, the badge of the Royal Navy of An Tir.)

I had some sailing experience and now learned the care and feeding of the square rigged knarr; I was relieved as Yeoman by Margarethe Wessel of Oslo and spent 1983 - 1986 assigned to the SIEANNE and had considerable underway time handling her. The current Grand Puntiff, Master Donn an Bronach, was also a Yeoman of the Fleet, as was the recent Minister of Arts and Sciences, Mistress Godytha of Whiteraven.

In 1986 - 87, the Admiral tired of the politics and withdrew his ships from Royal Service. He did a few cruises after that, but apart from the Salty Sea Days parade over in Everett, few have seen him since 1990. Today he is 51, married and a father, living in rural Snohomish County.

The ships are still there, in their sheds, serviced by Stormcrow and his family, waiting for the next time the sea should call him ...


Obviously this was written before the relief of Master Donn as Puntifex Maximus by m'lady Arwen! -grin- Also, I believe Margarethe Wesselof Oslo was Lady Margarethe.

Master Evan Graham of Montrose, Colonel, Graham's Greys
(mka:John J. J. Attwood)


Postscript:

Stormcrow was at last Twelfth Night [AS XXX]. He still sails the ships regularly (they are up in Everett). Bet you could bribe him for a ride, but remember that trailering these things is expensive. He also probably needs help with winter maintainence (once the job of the An Tir Navy).

Calote


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