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St Mawes ferryman becomes TV star

13 August — 30 December 2007

Topper filmed for Country Lives

Topper, a ferryman who has worked nearly all his life taking passengers to St Mawes from Falmouth, will soon be hitting our television screens.

The 44-year-old, whose real name is John Brown, has just been filmed for the next series of the well-known Westcountry documentary called Country Lives, due to be screened this Autumn.

Cameramen and producers from Denham Productions, based in Plymouth and at Tremough Campus near Falmouth, spent a day with Topper, asking him about his 30 years on the boats and how the building of a bespoke new wooden St Mawes Ferry will enhance his job.

“It was an interesting day, but it’s not one I’d like to repeat,” Topper said. “I’m one of those people who doesn’t even like having my picture taken, so to stand and talk into a microphone and have a camera right in front of me was a bit of an ordeal.

“I didn’t mind talking too much about my job though because it’s my childhood dream. Right from an early age, all I wanted to do was skipper the St Mawes Ferry. As a child, I used to hop on board and when I left school it just seemed like a natural progression to start crewing on board.,” he explained.

“The industry hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years, but each day is different for me and that’s what I love about it. I get to see seals,  dolphins, many different birds with the change in seasons and even the occasional basking shark.”

Country Lives producer Neil Cole said the documentary about Topper will provide viewers with heart warming story. “The fact that Topper grew up in St Mawes, watched the ferries to-ing and fro-ing as a child and now as skipper tends to the fleet over and above the call of duty, shows a great love of his job and makes a very nice story for the programme,” he said.

“Topper will appear in the sixth series of Country Lives which highlights traditional jobs and lives of people in the South West.  As the series is an amalgamation of Meridian, ITV West and ITV Westcountry, we take people from all corners of the South West – but all with quirky stories to tell.

“We were particularly interested in the new St Mawes Ferry which is being built at Cockwells Classic Boatbuilders in Ponsharden and Topper was filmed talking about how he feels saying goodbye to the Queen of Falmouth when the new ferry goes into service next May,” Neil explained.

Tim Light, managing director of St Mawes Ferry Company, said as soon as he was approached by Denham Productions, he immediately thought of Topper. "He always dreamt of working on the St Mawes Ferry. Everyone knows him, the tourists love him and the ferry wou;dn't be the same without him. He is an institution in his own right and I can't think of a better man to represent the company on television."

Watch the video here ...

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