Dan Bran

Daniel Pratt Bran was born at Waterford, Lymington in 1868. His father George Bran was an experienced sailor and had been a crew member for several famous yachts including the Inman-built boats Alarm (1830), Australia (1875) and Fortuna (1876).

In 1882, at the age of 14, Dan was apprenticed as a boat builder at Inman’s Yard for seven years, but when Edwin Inman died in 1886, the apprenticeship ended. He worked for a while in Poole as a spar maker but returned to Lymington to set up his own business.

Dan had an inherent understanding of boat design and how to match this to local conditions. He began building small boats behind the seawater baths and earned a reputation as a highly skilled, natural boat builder. He never worked from plans, building all his boats by eye. The closest he came to making drawings was scratching marks in the earth floor of his shed.

Capt Nicholson on a shopping trip to Lymington in his 14ft pram, built by Dan Bran.

Buffy Springer, who worked with Dan, recalled making a dinghy with him and when it was completed they turned it over and laid it on the marks to find that it matched exactly!

Bran is credited as the originator of the Lymington Pram, creating the first 11-foot Pram for Captain Nicholson in 1912 and a 14-foot design for the same owner in 1925. Dan had became a close associate of Nicholson, an experienced sailor and founding father of the Lymington River Sailing Club.

Dan Bran building the Lymington Pram Kingfish for Vivien Beesly in about 1933

To avoid confusion between the two types of Pram the 11-foot version was renamed a Scow. They both became very popular with the Lymington Yacht clubs. The design lasted for nearly 50 years in its original form, and to the present day in fibreglass, and was the basis for the Yarmouth, Cowes, Ryde and Bembridge Scows still raced today. 

Dan Bran lived at Rope Walk Cottage in King’s Saltern Road. A familiar figure on the Lymington River, either at work in his shed or out on the water at all hours of the day and night.

Dan Bran with Lila Hooper

While he did not suffer fools gladly, he is remembered as a friendly and helpful man who was always happy to give advice to sailors and boat builders alike. His understanding of the Solent tides and currents was second to none and he thought nothing of rowing to Yarmouth.

He was undoubtedly one of the great Lymington characters: virtually illiterate, something of a stranger to personal hygiene, known to enjoy a drink and famous for firing his shotgun across the bow of the Isle of Wight ferry when its wake tipped his punt.

He died aged 82 on 23 December 1950, and was shortly followed by Florence, his wife of 57 years. The funeral at All Saints Church, Woodside drew a crowd of family, friends and sailors who remembered him fondly.

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