In August, 1872, my father left Swansea in command of the barque Cereal, owned jointly by the late Mr. Wilfrid Hine, and my father (the late Captain James Ritchie), both Maryport men. The vessel had a cargo of coal for Santos and all went well till after she crossed the Line, when, one day, the strange antics of the ship’s cat attracted attention. As a hatch was left open in the daytime for ventilation the cat was in the habit of going down the hold, but, this day, on coming up again raced about the deck scraping her paws.
Soon afterwards a faint curl of smoke was seen and it was found that the ship was on fire. Matters looked hopeless, but everything possible was done to save the ship, boats were made ready and towed astern in preparation for leaving the vessel quickly if necessity demanded. However, the crew were spared the horrors of a long boat trip, for a vessel hove in sight. To the surprise of all -for many of the crew belonged to Maryport- the vessel proved to be the John Ritson, of Maryport, commanded by Captain George Curwen, a Maryport man.
By this time the fumes were very bad, so the Cereal’s crew transferred to the John Ritson before nightfall. The two masters decided to take both ships’ crews to the burning ship next morning and endeavour to save her. However, just as they were preparing to set forth the Cereal’s hatches blew . off and the vessel was quickly enveloped in flames. This was on 28th September, 1872, in I,at. 4.30 S., and Long. 27.45 W.
The John Ritson was outward bound, so my father (and mother, who was with him at the time), his officers and part of the crew were transferred to the first homeward-bound vessel sighted, and she bore the Cumbrian name of Portinscale. Surely a chain of ” Cumbrian coincidences.”
(Mrs.) J. COCKELL.
p31-32 1927 Notes from Everywhere and Everybody
This issue of See Breezes is a special one devoted to the harbour of Maryport. and to ships built, owned, or haying some direct connection with that noted port. Therefore, though the number possesses the usual attractions for all interested in ships and the sea, it will have a special appeal for those in any way connected with Maryport and district.
In course of time it is hoped to introduce other special numbers dealing with ports around our coasts and the ships which sailed from them, and the co-operation of readers possessed of civic pride is earnestly desired. The appearance of this, the first “Port” issue, is due to the enthusiasm of a prominent citizen of Maryport, who has succeeded in inducing a number of his friends to contribute. and thanks are due to all who have co-operated to make it a success
I notice in your April issue a paragraph on Jackass barques. I was Second Mate and Mate in two vessels with that rig. Square rigged on the fore, topsails, t’gallantsail aIld royal on the main. They had long main lower mast, with large fore and aft mainsail. A very handy rig indeed. These vessels, Eboe and Calabar, were engaged in the West African trade, and very pretty vessels they were, painted sky-blue outside and white inboard and aloft.
Another peculiarity about these vessels were the t’gallant masts which stepped abaft all, passing through two cap bands, one at the topmast head and one at the trestle trees, and the heel fitted or stepped in a cup on the lower mast cap.
I believe it was the owner’s (Mr. Rogerson) idea, in case of the t’gallant mast parting aloft, the lower part could be run up and fidded at the lower cap, thus making a new mast without sending on deck. The Jackass barque rig was another idea for beating out of the Bight of Biafra against the S.W. monsoon under fore and aft canvas. But although I was several years in the trade, I never saw it tried.
In your issue for February you print a photo of the Lucknow, sent you by Captain Stewart Watters, which revives several interesting memories.
The Lucknow had the rather unusual experience of loading here, Port Victoria, S.A., twice in the one season. Early in the year she lifted a cargo of wheat and took it to South Africa, and after discharging returned here direct and again loaded wheat, this time for the U.K. This must be about 12 years ago, I should think.
The only other sailing ship to load here twice in the same year, as far as my memory goes, was the Thessalus, in charge of Captain Neilsson.
Whilst the Lucknow was here on the second occasion, Captain Watters took part in an adventure which gained for him the Royal Humane Society’s Medal for saving life. On a very wild night a ketch, the White Albatross, got into trouble and started to fill, the crew burning distress flares to attract attention ashore. Notwithstanding that it was blowing a hurricane and a terrific sea running, Captain Watters and three local men put out in a small motor boat, and after many risks and difficulties brought Captain Anderses and his crew ashore. The ketch disappeared just a few minutes after the men were taken off. For this exploit Captain Watters and the three local men were each awarded medals.
N. E. A. EDWARDES.
” Jerry” shipped with us as able seaman on a passage from Rangoon to Falmouth. He was a quiet chap, very inoffensive, was considered to be a bit daft, and was imposed upon as a matter of course.
We had passed the Cape and were heading up for St. Helena and the South East Trades, when, on mustering at eight bells one evening, Jerry was missing, a subsequent search failing to locate him on board. His effects were listed in the Official Log Book as customary, and were auctioned off from the main hatch by the second mate -the writer- and within a very few days he was practically forgotten, as is usual at sea, or was usual in the days of long passages.
On the eighth day after his disappearance, the second mate was walking the poop keeping the second dog watch; the crowd were playing cards in the forecastle -topgallant forecastle; there was a coloured seaman laid up with rheumatism -he was really bad- in one of the bunks. The second mate was pacing the poop, counting up his pay day and thinking of the girl he had left behind him, but was soon to meet again, when he heard a great uproar forward.
Out went the light, followed by a stampede aft, some tripping over the ring bolts in the greenheart plank, the rheumatic negro leading the van, yelling “Jerry’s ghost.” They all arrived at the break of the poop almost breathless, and ‘most scared to death, the nigger falling to the deck groaning with pain; we had to carry him forward again as he was unable to walk back.
Out came the skipper and the mate, wondering what all the racket was about. In the meantime the second mate noticed that a light had reappeared in the forecastle, and concluding that no ghostly hand was responsible for it, led a trembling crowd forward only to discover Jerry sitting on a chest with the bread barge before him, calmly munching hard tack. He was called all sorts of names, but we soon saw the humour of the thing, and the skipper remarked, “Well, Jerry, you have given us all a lot of trouble, but you have given your tormentors the best scare they ever had.”
Jerry’s reason for hiding was that he was tired of the hazing his shipmates afflicted him with, so he decided to take a rest: he stowed himself in the fore ‘tween decks, behind some bags of rice; our search of the forehold was merely cursory, as nobody ever thought he would act as he did. The next thing to do was to recover his clothes, “Dublin” having purchased his pants, “Scotty” his sea boots, “Liverpool” his underwear, and so on. The nigger never really got over his fright, but Jerry was left in peace by the rest of the crowd, and we all had a good laugh at the way Jerry had fooled us