The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, which provides financial support and advice to retired seafarers in need, launched its inaugural Seafaring Limerick Competition, which was judged by the Bard of Barnsley, the renowned English poet Ian McMillan.

The winner of a national competition to find the best maritime limerick in celebration of life at sea has been announced by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society today ahead of World Poetry Day on 21 March.

Ian, 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.

The competition, which received 120 entries, was won by Maggie Ballinger from Sheffield, who penned this offering:

The swell, and the towering wave,Cover many a seafarer’s grave.So to land Britain’s dish,(What are chips, without fish?),A man must be strong, skilled and brave.

Maggie entered the competition after watching a programme about a mariner’s experience of 30-metre waves which scientists claimed impossible until proven credible, resulting in shipping lane changes.  All her life, Maggie’s greatest fear has been drowning and as a result she has the greatest admiration for anyone who willingly goes to sea.

The competition was promoted across the charity’s social media platforms and website  Participants were 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.

Ian said of the poem: “Maggie’s limerick actually covers a number of emotions which is hard to do in five lines:  it rhymes, it’s got rhythm, it’s a proper limerick.”

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.

Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society Chief Executive, Malcolm Williams, said: “We were delighted with the response we got to this competition, and the creativity of people given just a five line format.  We really like the winner’s limerick, which is light-hearted, but a serious message on the dangers of the sea and the reliance we have on the sea as an island nation.

“Having someone with the talent and reputation of Ian McMillan judge our competition was a great honour for the Society and is especially fitting given his own maritime connections. Every year we see cases of people who have dedicated so much of their lives to our seas and the Society aims to support them in times of difficulty.”

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.

The winner received a recording of her poem being read by Ian in his distinctive Northern style as well as an engraved barometer from the society.