AN unexpected new career for a Fleetwood fishing trawler as a Cumbrian holiday base was announced in The Mail on May 5 in 1983.

It noted: “A 90-year-old Fleetwood trawler beached near the old pier at Millom yesterday became a holiday centre for the disabled.

“The 62ft oak and pine Harriet, launched in 1893,is now the centrepiece of a holiday and nature observation base to be used by disabled youngsters from all over the country.

“And there to witness the opening, by Millom Town Council chairman Cllr Bessie Schiff with three raps on the ship’s bell was 75-year-old George Fletcher, the man who skippered the vessel out of Fleetwood for 32 years.

“Mr Fletcher, who last sailed the Harriet in 1973, said: ‘She did good service for me and now she’s going to give good service to these youngsters’.

“The centre was the brainchild of Little Langdale resident Josephine Banner, a sculptress and composer better known under her Brazilian maiden-name of Josefina de Vasconcellos.

“She formed the Harriet Trust charity to convert the vessel after it was brought to Millom five years ago.”

Most of the conversion work was carried out by unemployed youngsters from Millom and Whitehaven under the Youth Training Scheme, helped by a Cumbria Tourist Board grant of £30,000.

Mrs Banner said at the opening: “It’s like a dream. I feel so grateful to everybody.”

The president of the Harriet Trust was Lord Denning, former Master of the Rolls.

The trawler site later gained a second boat extension from a team led by Anneka Rice as part of an episode of the TV show Challenge Anneka in September 1994.

The challenge involved bringing the 70ft trawler Sulwath from Holyhead and equipping it as an activity base.

In 1998 the Harriet went to Fleetwood Museum at Queen’s Terrace to exhibit as the last survivor of the fishing smacks which sailed from the town.

A sculpture, Escape to Light, by Mrs Banner stands on the dunes at Haverigg overlooking the Duddon Estuary.

It is dedicated to the bravery of the United Kingdom’s inshore rescue teams.

Her best known work is Reconciliation and versions of it stand at Coventry Cathedral, in the Hiroshima Peace Park, at the site of the Berlin Wall and at Stormont Castle, Belfast.

Among Mrs Banner’s other works is a Perspex and oak cross made in 1957 for the east window of St Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square, London.

She exhibited a bronze statue of Mercury, messenger of the gods, at the Royal Academy in May 1953.

In 1959 her sculpture group of the holy family stood in the crib at the foot of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, London.

The MBE for services to the Cumbrian community was awarded in December 1984, in tribute to her work with Outpost Emmaus, an outward bound centre in the Duddon Valley for disadvantaged boys.

She was a former president of the Guild of Lakeland Craftsmen.

Mrs Banner lived at The Bield, at the foot of Lingmoor in Little Langdale with painter husband Delmar.

She died in July 2005 at the age of 100.