BRITISH SEAGULLS!!

 

 

Made in Dorset, England for over 70 years. Production of new engines stopped in 1996. Love them or.....hmmmm. So simple and well built, they tend to last forever- if some maintenance is given them according to the service manual and the owners read the owners handbook!. Legends in the boating world! One of the few motors that are actually becoming collectibles! Easy to fit spares with simple tools. A technologically simple motor made in a time when craftsmanship and quality were affordable. A true marine engine and one of the few motors that will last in a saltwater environment. Elegant engineering that solves a lot of problems for the owner.   In a few words, that describes British Seagull outboards.

 

A TINY BIT OF HISTORY

The first seagulls were built by the Sunbeam Motor Company and John Marston Ltd and were sold as the Marston Seagull starting in 1931.They were designed as a marine engine not as an engine converted for marine use. This engine was remarkably similar to later seagulls although there were several refinements such as reverse gears, water-cooled exhausts and even twin cylinders. 

Entrepreneur John Way-Hope and Engineer Bill Pinniger purchased the patents and set up the Bristol Motor Company in Poole Dorset. In 1938 the name BRITISH SEAGULL was chosen and "Marston" was dropped. They produced just one engine a 3 1/2-4 hp with fixed or clutch drive.  This engine was built in large quantities (over 10,000 engines) in WW2 for the British Admiralty and that enabled the company to establish it's manufacturing capacity. The model 102 engine was produced basically unchanged for nearly 35 years. There was a huge emphasis on simplicity and quality of materials even while other manufactures were producing increasingly more complicated motors out of pot metal and plastic. The model 102 had a one piece rounded cylinder and new models were introduced in the late 1940's and 50's with a square cylinder and separate aluminum head.

By the mid 1960's Seagull was going full bore at the Fleets Bridge site in Poole, Dorset with over 200 employees. Nearly all work was done on site other than the carbs and gears.  

And then several factors occurred which worked against British Seagull. John Way-Hope died in the early 1970's. The Late 1970's saw the market being flooded with cheap Japanese outboards. Seagull introduced new models including the ill fated 7hp model 170 -the first seagull with an engine cowl. Bypassing its dealers, the company attempted to sell directly to the public. By 1982 staff were being cut, the company moved to an industrial park and by 1984 the company was in receivership. At the risk of toilet jokes it was purchased by Blakes the makers of ...marine toilets. There followed a revival of sorts and the launch of the QB seagull a radical new design from Professor Blair and his team at Queens University in Belfast in 1987.  Ownership of the company was taken on by Chillington Marine but by 1996 engine production had stopped. The well established dealership organization dependent on new motor sales was shut down. British Seagull Dealers around the world had provided face to face legendary customer service and a local parts and engine source. If the 1960's represented the zenith for British Seagull this now represented the bottom as good times were replaced by not so good ( ie bad) times!.

But British Seagull was not finished. Not quite. There were so many of these well built engines in the world and such a well established base of loyal owners that it was financially possible to maintain a continuing spares service. Ownership of the company was then transferred to Sheridan Marine a small family owned UK business in 1999  where an extensive spare parts inventory including newly manufactured items continues to this day. Its somewhat ironic that British Seagull can continue to provide spares to owners for engines built decades previously while other outboard manufacturers still in production are unable to do the same! Owners may purchase spares from British Seagull UK or from a very few  British Seagull Stockists - independent business's which maintain an inventory of seagull parts. In addition there are seagull enthusiasts around the world that maintain interesting and informative websites that help to support seagull owners worldwide.  

The company in its various forms has left a huge footprint on our marine history specifically in the area of outboard motors for small vessels. "Everlasting simplicity" lives on!

British Seagull  has provided excellent products to hundreds of thousands of mariners.  And thanks to Sheridan Marine the present owners of British Seagull you can still find parts for them!  All around the world there are British Seagull fans and loyal owners and owning a British Seagull is your ticket to this very friendly community!. There are excellent websites supporting the motor including my favorite by John Williams - Saving Old Seagulls. There is now an excellent book on repairing and maintaining these engines written by Canadian author and blue water sailor Don Meyer called The Classic British Seagull.   I suspect that these dependable little work horses will be with us for many many years in the future!

SEAGULL HATERS

(Yes it's true some people don't like Seagulls - egad!)

We have found that the other group - the one that hates seagulls- tends not to understand them and are often unaware of even the basic starting procedures or simple maintenance that would solve all their problems. Seagull haters come in all shapes and sizes from the professional mechanic who should know better but is discouraged when his expensive tool crib doesn't contain any of the necessary Whitworth tools (British Standard Fine actually) or his parts bin any replacement parts to the do it your selfer who is convinced he can fix the "simple motor" without the service manual and promptly ruins it. 

Your seagull should start by the third pull or there is something wrong. No need to be cranking on a seagull for an hour to get it started like some other older motors. There is nothing mysterious or complicated about a Seagull. We have had many cases of Seagulls coming out of storage sometimes from many years  and then starting on the first or second pull!!

Seagull owners are great people - they are extremely pleasant to deal with, enjoy life and enjoy seagulling!  The seagull handbook suggests there are two kinds of seagull owners:

"...the vast majority are those who never run into trouble and get heaps of pleasure both for themselves, their families and friends day in and day out ...whilst the second class is a very small minority always in trouble causing misery and constantly drawing on the kindness and good fellowship of other people for aid and assistance..."

..."curiously enough, this minority is always by far the most vociferous, and has no hesitation in blaming the equipment fated for use, verbally and in print..." 

One of the joys of Seagulling is reading the very compact Seagull Handbook. Here you find the distilled knowledge of seagull operation and many gems on vessel operation that only a nation with hundreds of years of maritime history could produce. Example:

....Lastly remember that  any motor boat, however quiet your voice can be heard much more clearly by surrounding craft than by your own companions...a supposedly confidential and innocent comment about people or their boats may well become unknowingly a public broadcast...there's probably enough trouble awaiting you when you get ashore without adding to it!..."

 
From here, a good place to go is our SEAGULL FAQ page where we answer questions about seagulls that owners often have. Its chock full of free information and will save you time and money. Or,  visit our homepage  where you can access the entire webpage. 

 

 

Copyright 2000,2001,2002,2003,2004,2005  Ron Battiston. All rights reserved.

1997,1998,1999,2000,2001,2002,2003,2004,2005 Ron Battiston

   
Revised 27/05/2008 12:44:40 AM