Timmy the Tug

Jim Downer, Ted Hughes


Timmy was a paddle-boat, sound as a gong,
Not a worm in his timbers, fresh paint all over.
He was hale as a whale and twice as strong,
And he sailed on the peaceful river.

So begins the tale of Timmy the Tug and his subsequent adventures as he escapes his moorings and explores the high seas. Timmy struggles to be helpful but doesn’t always succeed despite his best efforts. However, by trying and trying and trying again, he at last saves a beautiful ship in distress and so rediscovers his sense of pride.

Originally written in the mid-1950s and only recently rediscovered, this lyrical poem by Ted Hughes, created to accompany a story that was conceived and delightfully illustrated in watercolor by his friend Jim Downer, is presented here as a facsimile of the original manuscript.


Vigorous, witty, and, as in all [Hughes’s] subsequent poetry for children, free from the temptation of talking down to his readers.

— The Times [London]

Hughes fans especially will value this rough-hewn gem

— Publishers Weekly


Jim Downer


Jim Downer created Timmy the Tug as a young man fresh from art college in Leeds. He has always had a great love of the sea and now lives on the Isle of Wight.

Ted Hughes


Ted Hughes was the Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998. He published many children’s books, including My Brother Bert, How the Whale Became, and Collected Poems for Children.