The Ruskin Museum and the Campbell family have made a final appeal to get Donald Campbell’s record-breaking boat K7 back to the Lake District in one piece, to its legal owners.
Solicitors for the Museum, where a special wing was constructed to display the record breaker, have sent a letter to Bill Smith who has restored Bluebird K7 asking him to return the boat to the museum as promised, and not go ahead with the threat of taking it apart. He is claiming that the parts used to restore the record breaker are his.
Jeff Carroll Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Ruskin Museum said: “Bill Smith offered to restore Bluebird K7, which was gifted to the museum by the Campbell family so that it could be put on permanent display in the special wing, that was built for it.
“Bill Smith and his team of volunteers approached British companies for donations and parts for the boat on this basis, as well as gaining public donations and raising money through sales of merchandise.
“The Bluebird project has run Bluebird K7 on Loch Fad on the Isle of Bute. The Museum had little or no input in that event, it was billed as ‘Crew Training’ to ensure that the Team could launch, recover, and run the boat pending arranging the final set of Proving Trials approved by Trustees on Coniston Water. K7 was effectively proved to be of operable condition, as per the 2006 Deed of Gift, by running at speeds up to and in excess of 150mph.”
Jeff Carroll said:” We recognise the work Bill Smith and his team of volunteers have done, but he has broken the agreement we had with him, both legally and morally.
“For him and his colleagues to threaten to take apart this British icon and remove ‘his parts’ is reprehensible and cannot be allowed to happen as it would destroy the original fabric of this historic record breaker.”
He added: “We want K7 to return to Coniston and ideally for her to run on occasion. That has been our stated ideal for some time, but at every turn, Bill Smith has tried to retain control over the Museum’s property and thwart our aims and that of thousands of enthusiasts, who just want to see the boat in Coniston and on the lake where Donald carried out his famous speed runs and record breaking.
“Bill Smith has been judicious with his reporting of the facts, especially when it concerns our plans. When Mr Smith offered to restore the boat to operable condition at no cost to the Museum in 2006, there was never any mention or implication that title to any of the restored boat would be with Mr Smith, or the Bluebird project Ltd., which incidentally was only formed in 2012.
“The Museum has decided to issue this statement and provide the media with a timeline of events for transparency.”
He added: “We hope that common sense will prevail and that Bluebird K7 will be housed in the wing of the Museum especially constructed for her, and in one piece. However, if this doesn’t happen, then court proceedings will be issued, and it will then mean that Bluebird K7 will be taken apart and Mr Smith and the Bluebird Project will retain the parts they claim as their own property. We reiterate this is the very last resort, but we need to bring this situation to a close.
“If Bluebird K7 is disassembled then we will re-build her so she can be displayed and run again. Plans are in place if we have to take this course of action.”
Gina Campbell, Donald Campbell’s daughter speaking on behalf of the Campbell family said: “I am appalled at the way that Bill Smith has behaved. The family and the Museum trusted him to restore the boat so that it could be displayed in the museum but at every turn he has prevented this from happening.
“He has not kept to his side of the agreement and has misrepresented the wishes of the Campbell family, and the Museum.”
She added: “Enough is enough, I want my father’s boat in the wing that was designed to house it without further delay. Both I and the rest of the family gave Bluebird K7 to the Museum and we back them wholeheartedly in their efforts.
“Bill Smith has put a small Museum into a situation where they have had to obtain costly legal advice and consider potential legal action, simply because he cannot come to terms with the fact that it is not his boat.”