Skylark IX: Recovery Through Recovery: in Partnership with the Scottish Maritime Museum


The Skylark IX Recovery Trust cares for a ‘Dunkirk Little Ship’ that saved lives during Operation Dynamo in 1940 and was herself later saved from a watery grave at Loch Lomond in 2012. Today, as a symbol of recovery and resilience, Skylark IX sits at the heart of our projects inspiring people to make positive changes to their lives and communities.

Boatbuilding is an important part of our Project and our Boatbuilding Workshop, which we run in partnership with our boatbuilding friends at Archipelago Folk School, is housed in the Scottish Maritime Museum (Denny Tank) in Dumbarton.

The project

This inspirational project supports people with addiction issues, using heritage and skills development to build confidence, resilience and self-worth. The Skylark IX is a Dunkirk Little Ship that ended her working life as a pleasure craft on Loch Lomond before ultimately sinking. Her recovery from the bottom of the river inspired Alternatives, a local boat club and a veterans’ charity to form the Skylark IX Recovery Trust, which aims to help people on their journey from personal chaos towards wholeness and citizenship.

Volunteer Trainees from Alternatives Community-based Recovery and Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA) gain boatbuilding and joinery skills, confidence and purpose as part of their journey of recovery from addictions alongside other volunteers from the local community. After completing ‘Happy Days’, our first 22ft St Ayles Rowing Skiff, we are now underway building two Canadian canoes, a ‘Prospector’ and a ‘Peterborough’.

‘Being involved with the project gives me a sense of purpose and routine. I know I can be at the workshop on Mondays, and Tuesdays and I’ll have people around me I can talk to. I can look back see how far I’ve come as last year I wouldn’t have believed in myself or had the confidence, and I wouldn’t have had these opportunities or been able to do all of these things and the other wee projects within the project. I’d encourage others to get involved, definitely’ James, client and volunteer.

Challenges and successes

Running a project during a worldwide pandemic posed inevitable challenges as we did not have access to the Museum workshop, and of course had very little contact with each other. However, we are very proud of what we achieved. We provided people locked in together in recovery residential accommodation with creative and social activities, facilitating their learning and encouraging cooperation and team working.

We work alongside people who are socially excluded and stigmatised, building trust, treating all with respect. Everyone becomes a “crew member” when they join our team and they proudly wear the t-shirt. Our Dunkirk Little Ship’s story and her part in rescuing soldiers from the beaches resonates strongly with our participants.

Our social capital locally is very high because of our consistent communication with our partners and stakeholders and via social media and the local press. We have worked very hard to ensure people know and understand our purpose throughout with communication and consultation.

The impact it has made.

The feedback from regular participants is powerful. People report the project is therapeutic and gives them structure, a sense of purpose and routine.

The project has also impacted on the Scottish Maritime Museum who are planning to include the Spirit of Skylark Centre at Dumbarton in their future sustainability plans.

Lessons learned.

Sustainability of our work is vitally important. Short term project activity can be very damaging to fragile people who need to be supported on an ongoing basis. We are working with our partners to fundraise for the long term.

Skylark is a heritage project delivered by a grassroots community drugs recovery charity with an embedded heritage professional working full time alongside key workers. There are no barriers to connecting with the community because we are in the community.

We encourage others to seek new partnerships, consider new models for jointly operating your sites. Consult and share your plans and progress with local people, supporters and advocates and don’t underestimate grassroots charities.

If you would like more information about this project please contact Claire McDade, Project Manager, the Skylark IX Recovery Project, email: Visit our new website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.