Maritime charity launches national poetry competition –

Maritime charity launches national poetry competition Published:  17 February, 2012

With sailors well renowned for waxing lyrical about their experiences at sea, one of the UKs oldest seafaring charities is hoping to embrace this inherent love of linguistic creativity by launching a national limerick competition to find the best seafaring poem in celebration of life at sea.

The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, which provides financial support and advice to retired seafarers in need, is launching its inaugural Seafaring Limerick Competition, set to be judged by the Bard of Barnsley and renowned English poet Ian McMillan, ahead of World Poetry Day on 21 March.

McMillan, who is poet-in-residence for English National Opera and a regular on Have I Got News For You? has strong maritime connections, with his father having served in the Royal Navy.

Being run in limerick form across social media platforms and via the charity’s website, participants are being encouraged to pen a five line poem about the ocean and the men and women who dedicate their lives to working at sea, and all the challenges this entails.

Britain’s continuing reliance on the sea is often overlooked, but 95 percent of all imports and 75 percent of exports are still transported by sea, with the £56 billion UK maritime sector – more than aerospace and agriculture combined – directly employing over 410,000 people.

Between 2010 and 2011 the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society made regular and one-off grants in 2,644 cases to retired sailors and their families, amounting to over £1.5 million nationally. The number of requests it receives for support are anticipated to increase further in 2012.

Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society Chief Executive, Malcolm Williams, said: “We are delighted to be launching this new competition which in a fun way is designed to celebrate both life at sea and those who work day in day out with the ocean, whether, fishing its depths, protecting our shores or transporting the products we take for granted in our daily lives.

“Having someone with the talent and reputation of Ian McMillan to judge our winner is a great honour for the Society and is especially fitting given his own maritime connections. Every year we see cases of people that have dedicated so much of their lives to our seas and the society aims to support them in times of difficulty.  Their exciting lives should provide inspiration enough but should our budding poets need further help to get the creative juices flowing we also sell a volume of poems on our website entitled ‘Sunset and Evening Star’.”

The following limerick may provide budding bards with inspiration for their entry.

I caught a big crab on my line,

They said: “Hold it up,” I said: “Fine”

But then I yelled “Ow!”

And look at me now:

If you count my fingers – there’s nine!

World Poetry Day was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1999 to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world.

To enter the competition and for more information visit or the Society’s Facebook page at

The competition is to write an original poem on a maritime subject in limerick form consisting of no more than five lines and with the first, second and fifth usually rhyming.  The deadline for entry is 5pm on Friday 9 March and the charity is offering an engraved barometer and video recording of the winning poem read by Ian McMillan as a prize.