Determination, persistence and skill – words that describe Long Wittenham resident Michael Byard’s commitment to a labour of love. The former Royal Australian mariner is nearing completion of a fifty-one year project to build a model of Lord Nelson’s famous ship HMS Victory.
Mike, who is eighty, lives with his wife Anne in Fieldside. Anne was the former editor of the now defunct publication Wittenham Ways. Mike is putting the finishing touches to the five foot long model of Nelson’s flagship which he began in 1969 when he was working for a shipping company in Australia.
Two years later however to had to stop work on the model to concentrate on his career and raising a family. Mike met his wife who worked as a secretary in the company. The family returned to England in 1973 and settled in Long Wittenham four years later. The model ship faded from memory in a corner of his garage for almost forty years until he was moved to pick up his modelling tools again six years ago.
He said: “I have used tweezers to fit together the most intricate parts of the vessel. I must have spent 600 hours on the project. It’s been a fiddly project and I’ve been learning along the way. There were times when the work was frustrating but I’ve enjoyed the task and now an end goal is in sight”.
Mike is nearing completion of the replica which comprises more than 3,000 pieces, most of which he crafted himself. Now he’s waiting to receive a 3D printed replica of HMS Victory’s figurehead which he says is “too fiddly” to make from scratch. The model of the famous vessel is painted in the original colours of yellow ochre and black.