Thursday, 31 August 2017

Lucy Emma Kesson

Lucy Emma Kesson was married to Edward Parker .
She was born in Middlesex in 1842 as a daughter of John Kesson and Maria Kesson

Name: Lucy Kesson
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1851
Event Place: Saint Pancras, Middlesex, England
Registration District: Saint Pancras
Residence Note: Hawley Crescent
Gender: Female
Age: 9
Occupation: Scholar

Relationship to Head of Household: Daughter
Birth Year (Estimated): 1842
Birthplace: St Pancras, Middlesex
Household Role Sex Age Birthplace

John Kesson Head M 37 Scotland
Maria Kesson Wife F 42 St Luke'S, Middlesex
Maria Kesson Daughter F 13 Islington, Middlesex
Lucy Kesson Daughter F 9 St Pancras, Middlesex
Henry G Kesson Son M 7 St Pancras, Middlesex
Arnold Kesson Son M 2 St Pancras, Middlesex
Jessie Kesson Daughter F 0 St Pancras, Middlesex
Susan Slattain Sister In Law F 24 St Luke'S, Middlesex
Name: Lucy Emma Kesson
Event Type: Birth Registration
Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-Dec
Registration Year: 1841
Registration District: St. Pancras
County: London
Event Place: St. Pancras, London, England
Mother's Maiden Name (not available before 1911 Q3):
Volume: 1
Page: 260
Line Number: 12

Name: Lucy E Kesson
Titles and Terms:
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1871
Event Place: Lowestoft, Lowestoft, Suffolk, England
Enumeration District: 4
Gender: Female
Age: 29
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Schoolmistress
Relationship to Head of Household: Lodger
Birth Year (Estimated): 1842
Birthplace: London, Middlesex

Household Role Sex Age Birthplace
Ellen Mitcham Head F 30 Chatteris, Cambridgeshire
Lucy E Kesson Lodger F 29 London, Middlesex

Household Role Sex Age Birthplace
Edward Parker Head M 52 Norfolk, England
Lucy E Parker Wife F 49 London, England
Leonard Parker Son M 15 Suffolk, England
Frank Parker Son M 12 Suffolk, England
Harry Parker Son M 11 Suffolk, England
Horace Parker Son M 10 Suffolk, England
Eleanor Mitcham Boarder F 50 Cambridgeshire, England

Lucy Parker  and Eleanor Mitcham
Lucy Emma Kesson (1841-1926) Lowestoft in 1871
Ran a private school at Trinity Villa, 30 Arnold Street, Lowestoft.

Lucy Emma Kesson
BIRTH OCTOBER 1841 St Pancras, Middlesex, England
DEATH 5 AUGUST 1926 King's Lynn, Norfolk, England

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Edward Parker

Edward Parker
Born 1838 Poringland, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom
DEATH Deceased
son of John Parker and Mary Parker

Married Lucy Emma Kesson in Toronto.

Household Role Sex Age Birthplace
Edward Parker Head M 52 Norfolk, England
Lucy E Parker Wife F 49 London, England
Leonard Parker Son M 15 Suffolk, England
Frank Parker Son M 12 Suffolk, England
Harry Parker Son M 11 Suffolk, England
Horace Parker Son M 10 Suffolk, England
Eleanor Mitcham Boarder F 50 Cambridgeshire, England

Monday, 28 August 2017

Mary Vlieland

Mary Vlieland mother in law of Albert E Tomlinson
1871 census: Wellington Villas, Hammersmith shown as Mary G H Flieland annuitant married age 56 with son in law Albert E Tomlinson 33 book-keeper at wool brokers born Leeds daughter Mary Julia (nee Thomas) age 25 born London (Marriages Jun 1864 Islington 1b 362) 2 grandchildren and servant

Mary Thomas maiden name Holman 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Harry Parker

Harry and Frank Parker
Harry and Frank Parker 

Name: Harry Parker
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1891
County: Suffolk
Parish: Lowestoft
Ecclesiastical Parish: LOWESTOFT
Registration District: Mutford
Residence Note: Arnold Street
Gender: Male
Age: 11
Marital Status:
Occupation: Scholar
Relationship to Head of Household: Son
Birth Year (Estimated): 1880
Birthplace: Suffolk, England
Schedule Type:
Page Number: 18
Line Number: 8
Registration Number: RG12
Piece/Folio: 1493/ 91

Household Role Sex Age Birthplace
Edward Parker Head M 52 Norfolk, England
Lucy E Parker Wife F 49 London, England
Leonard Parker Son M 15 Suffolk, England
Frank Parker Son M 12 Suffolk, England
Harry Parker Son M 11 Suffolk, England
Horace Parker Son M 10 Suffolk, England
Eleanor Mitcham Boarder F 50 Cambridgeshire, England

Harry Parker

Name: Harry Parker
Event Type: Death
Event Date: 31 May 1966
Event Place: Saanich, British Columbia, Canada
Residence Place:
Gender: Male
Age: 86
Marital Status: Widowed
Tribe or Clan:
Birth Date: 26 Jul 1879
Birth Year (Estimated): 1880
Birthplace: Suffolk, England
Christening Date:
Father's Name: Edward Parker
Mother's Name: Lucy Emma Kesson
Spouse's Name: Bessie Vint
Spouse's Gender:
Registration Number:
Reference ID: 66 09 007613
Affiliate Film Number: B13277
GS Film Number: 2033853
Digital Folder Number: 004479268
Image Number: 02781

Harry and Bessie
Harry and Bessie 

Frank, Harry and Leonard Parker
Harry and his brothers

Saturday, 26 August 2017

St Michaels at Plea

St Michael at Plea, Norwich - through lavender.jpg


The church is medieval. The church was restored in 1887 when a partition separating the chancel from the nave was removed, and new windows were inserted in the Transepts. The box pews were replaced with chairs and the angels in the roof were gilded.

The church purchased an organ dating from 1887 by Norman and Beard. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.
Present use

At present it is a bookshop and café.

Ray wrote to Find A Grave for pictures of the graveyard and received this answer.

Greetings from Find A Grave,

We are writing to let you know that a Find A Grave volunteer has reported a problem with your photo request for Jerome Vlieland.

The general problem they reported is:
I searched the entire cemetery and could not find the grave

They also reported, specifically:
Saint Michael at Plea is in the centre of Norwich, there are now only a couple of tombs in the churchyard, no other headstones etc.

Your photo request is still active and has not been removed. Hopefully, another contributor can fulfill your request. If you can fix the problems that were reported or have additional information that might help a volunteer photographer, please delete this request and create a new one, adding the additional information you have.

Link to your photo requests:

Link to memorial page for Jerome Vlieland:

Link to contributor reporting error:

Find A Grave

Friday, 25 August 2017

Earle E Parker

Born in Boston  24 December 1894
His father is Leonard Parker his mother Grace Ellen Parker .

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Leonard and Grace Parker

In the Canadian census Ontario

Grace Ellen Parker daughter of John Parker and Maria Heath Vlieland. and Leonard Parker son of  Edward Parker and Lucy Kesson

Leonard and Grace had at least two children

Hereward Parker and Earle E Parker who was born 24 December 1894 in Boston Mass.

Born in Birmingham, England - Barnardo took him into care in 1902, and he was sent to Canada on 20th Mar 1903, on the "Canada", destination Toronto. On arrival he was placed with a Mr Leonard Parker at Newbliss, Ontario. He stayed with that family until about 1908 (15 yrs) and is then supposed to have gone working on the Railroads.Thereafter I do not know what happened to him, the last report from Barnardo was dated 1909 saying he re visited Leonard Parker in the winter of 1908/9 and was working as a "Firer" on the railways. Family lore says he joined the CEF during WW1 and died in France, but this is not proven.

Gilmore, Thomas Barnardo
born 23 Sept 1893
Contact: Ian 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

prof Vlieland

Titel: Livingstons Guide Book to St. John and the St. John River for 1870: With an Account of the Fishing Grounds of New Brunswick
Onderwerp: Rivers, Fishing, Cours d'eau, Peche sportive

Who can this Professor Vlieland be ?

We know now it is George Heath Vlieland .

Jerome Nicholas died 13 June 1865 in England.

This is 1870 St .John New Brunswick Canada .

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Lerwick and the Dutch

Dutch fishermen had their base on the Shetland Isles .

Dogs en peppermint were well known articles for the Dutch herringfishermen.
The dogs from Lerwick were earthenware en was a souvenir in many fishermens house on either side of the clock on the mantelpiece.
as the postman delivered a card from Shetland .He shouted "mother they have gone for doggies"
at the end of the last century the Dutch bomships sailed to Shetland at the end of May.
In the weekends the like to enter Lerwick .They did not liked to be out at sea on a Sunday.
But to do some shopping or maintenance as well .
When anchored, the men went ashore.

First to the postoffice to collect or send telegrams and postcards .

Then for a walk in the long and winding headstreet of Lerwick,Commercial street.

The fishermen bought huge amounts of peppermint.

After buying peppermint often followed an other purchase.The acquisition of two dogs.

Not made in Shetland but made in England.

Although the tobacco ,sold as Dutch hurl by the Scots was available in the shops ,the fishermen brought there own tobacco to trade with the Shetlanders.
The last Saturday of June was known in Shetland as "Dutchmen 's Saturday".
It was the busiest day of the year in Lerwick.
In commercial street the sound of the clogs en the smell of the Dutch sigars was very existing.
After June it was not so busy anymore,because they went to more southern fishinggrounds.

Granny's gate.

Although the fishermen did not want to be out at sea on a Sunday , they were also superstitious
Near Lerwick is the lighthouse of Bressay it stand on a picturesque rock with a natural gate underneath.
The Katwijk fishermen called it Granny's gate .
Everytime they passed this gate they would throw a penny overboard .
Only this way you had a safe arrival.

Friday, 18 August 2017



The Merchant Shipping Act 1894. 

IN the matter of a formal investigation held at Aberdeen Sheriff Court House, on the 29th, 30th, and 31st days of May, 1900, before Sheriff ROBERTSON, assisted by Captains A. WOOD and T. T. EDWARDS, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British steamship "ST. ROGNVALD." 

Report of Court. 

The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the vessel ran ashore in a fog owing to the default of the chief officer in allowing the vessel to go at too great a rate of speed and not taking precautions to ascertain whether the vessel was in a position of safety, she being in point of fact, for some unascertained reason, six or seven miles out of her course on a distance of 36 miles. 

The Court finds the chief officer alone in default, and suspends his certificate as master, No. 00514, for a period of three months, but recommends the Board of Trade to grant him a mate's certificate during the period of his suspension. 

Dated this thirty-first day of May, 1900. 


We concur in the above Report. 







Annex to the Report. 

This Inquiry was held at the Court House Town House, Aberdeen, on the 29th, 30th, and 31st days of May, 1900, when Mr. Henry Peterkin represented the Board of Trade, Mr. Charles Ruxton appeared for the master, Mr. Alexander Duffus for the chief officer, and Mr. Alexander Wilson for the owners of the vessel; while Mr. Alexander Knox, and Mr. Alexander Bain (Lerwick) watched the proceedings on behalf of the insurers and owners of live stock respectively. 

The "St. Rognvald," official No. 84373, was a British steamship, built of iron by Messrs. Hall, Russell and Co., Aberdeen, at Aberdeen, in 1883, and was of the following dimensions:—Length 240.15 ft.; breadth 31.35 ft.; and depth 15.45 ft. Her gross registered tonnage as amended was 979.97 tons, and after deducting 451.52 tons for propelling power and crew space, her registered tonnage was 528.45 tons nett. She was rigged as a schooner with two masts, and propelled by two compound direct acting engines of 250 nominal horse-power combined. She carried six boats, and was supplied with all necessary life-saving appliances according to the statute. She had three compasses, one on the bridge, by which the courses were set and steered, one on the standard abaft the mainmast on the saloon deck, and one on the deck aft. On the voyage in question the vessel was in good condition and well found in every respect. She was owned by Messrs Alexander Webster, advocate; Simpson Shepherd, merchant; and George Jamieson, merchant, Aberdeen; Mr. Charles Merrylees, shipowner, Aberdeen, being designated in the transcript of register as managing owner. The vessel was employed regularly in the passenger trade between Leith and the Orkney and Shetland Islands. On the voyage in question she left Lerwick on the 23rd April last, at 7.45 p.m., with a general cargo and 68 passengers, under the command of Mr. John Masson, who is 76 years of age, and holds a master's certificate, No. 13981. He had been 52 years in the service, 40 years of which he had served as master. The crew consisted of 36 hands all told, and both the first and second officers possessed master's certificates. At the time of leaving the weather was fine and clear, the sea smooth and the wind light from south. The vessel proceeded at full speed, and the master remained on the bridge with the second officer until the vessel was close to Fair Isle, when, according to the usual practice, he went below; this was about 10.30 p.m. At this time the weather was still clear and the lights visible to the full limit of their range. in coming from Bressay Island to Mousa, from Mousa to Sumburgh Head, and from Sumburgh Head to Fair Isle the vessel made her course correctly. When off Fair Isle the master estimated his distance to be from two to three miles from that Island, and the second mate, by a four point bearing of the light on the north end of the Island, found the vessel to be two and a half miles from the light when it was abeam. 

On leaving the bridge at 10.30 the master left orders with the second officer to alter the course from the course then being steered, S.W. by W., to S.W. 1/2 W., when the South light on Fair Isle was abeam, and to tell the chief officer that he was to be called if there was any change in the weather. After leaving the bridge the master remained about the deck until Fair Isle was abeam, when he retired to his berth. At 11.10 South light being abeam, the course was accordingly altered by the second officer to S.W. 1/2 W. by compass, which was correct magnetic. About 11.15 the chief officer came on deck, according to the usual practice, and relieved the second officer on the bridge, and it is said that at this time there was a very slight haze to be observed at the masthead light, but it had no effect in obscuring the shore light, and the ship was continued on her course, S.W. 1/2 W., going full speed, about 12 knots. North Ronaldsay light was abeam at 12.50 am., and appeared to be the usual distance from the vessel. After this time the haze became more dense, and North Ronaldsay light became obscured when about two or two and a half points abaft the beam. This was unusual, and the chief officer stated that he lost it on account of haze, and that this prevented him taking a four point bearing as he intended. Shortly thereafter the vessel was abreast of the Start light, and well within its range, but it was not seen, also on account of haze. About the same time, or very soon after, i.e., about 1.15 or 1.20, the ship was within the range of the Auskerry light, visible 16 miles off in clear weather, the vessel's expected or proper course being, however, five to six miles to the east of the Auskerry light. 

This light also was not seen. The vessel kept full speed on the same course till about 2 a.m., the weather gradually getting thicker, the nature of it being occasional lumps or banks of thick fog or haze, with lighter intervals between. 

There is some variation in the evidence from the different witnesses as to the degree of thickness of the weather, but the evidence is conclusive that the thickness of the atmosphere was considerable. At about 2.0 o'clock the Start light and Auskerry light having, as stated, not been sighted, the chief officer left the bridge and called the master who was asleep in his berth below the bridge. The mate returned to the bridge, but before the master got dressed and on the bridge the vessel was ashore. At this time the carpenter was on the lookout with the chief officer on the bridge, while an able seaman was on the look-out forward. A few minutes after the chief officer returned from the master's berth land was sighted simultaneously by him, the carpenter, and the man on the look-out. The sea birds were first heard screaming, and almost immediately high cliffs were observed ahead through the haze, which was more dense on the land. The mate at once reversed the engines, but, according to the statement of the engineer on duty, within half a minute of his receiving the order to reverse, the vessel stranded. 

It was found that the vessel had struck on Burgh Head, on the Island of Stronsay, being from six to seven miles off her course, and off the course that she should have been on if the courses set had been made good. Nothing whatever had been done with the helm. The passengers and watch below were called on deck, and the boats lowered. Some difficulty was experienced in lowering the boats, owing to the vessel having taken a heavy list to starboard. All the passengers were, however, safely landed in four boats. There was six feet of water in the fore hold of the vessel before the crew and passengers landed; she subsequently became a total wreck. 

With regard to this casualty it has to be remarked that there is nothing in the evidence to show how the vessel in coming some 36 miles from Fair Isle got set out of her course about six miles, but the Admiralty Tide Table, at page 141, in reference to observation there noted on the tides in that locality, states that:—"These "observations will show how little dependence can be "placed upon a direct course among these treacherous "streams," and the Court cannot too strongly condemn the practice—no matter what the experience of the seaman may be—of setting a course in such localities, and trusting to its being made good, without using other means to verify it, or at least to ensure that the vessel is not running into danger. 

In this case all shore lights were invisible, yet a cast of the lead at any time within an hour of the stranding would have informed the mate that the vessel was getting into danger. It is true that the mate was on the bridge at his post, that he had the carpenter on the bridge keeping a look-out with him, and another lookout placed on the forecastle head, yet, when the leading lights were invisible he neglected the easy, but imperative, duty of taking a cast of the lead, which, in the circumstances, ought to have insured the safety of the vessel 

At the conclusion of the evidence Mr. Charles Ruxton addressed the Court on behalf of the master, Mr. Alexander Duffus on behalf of the chief officer, and Mr. Henry Peterkin replied on behalf of the Board of Trade. 

At the conclusion of the evidence the following questions were submitted by the Board of Trade for the opinion of the Court:—

1. What number of compasses had the vessel, were they in good order and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel, and when and by whom were they last adjusted? 

2. Did the master ascertain the deviation of his compasses by observation from time to time, were the errors correctly ascertained and the proper corrections to the courses applied? 

3. Were proper measures taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at or about 9.20 p.m., of the 23rd April? Was a safe and proper course then set and thereafter steered, and was due and proper allowance made for tide and currents? 

4. Were proper measures taken at or about 11 p.m., of the 23rd April, to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel, and before going below, did the master leave proper and sufficient instructions with the second officer? 

5. Was a safe and proper alteration made in the course at or about 11.10, and was due and proper allowance made for tide and currents? Was the course then set thereafter steered? 

6. Did the second officer convey the instructions given him by the master to the chief officer upon being relieved at or about 11.15 p.m. of the 23rd April? 

7. Were proper measures taken by the mate from time to time after 11.15 p.m. to verify the position of the vessel? Did he unduly delay reporting to the master the state of the weather? 

8. Having regard to the state of the weather after 11.15 p.m. of the 23rd April, was the vessel navigated at too great a rate of speed? 

9. Was a good and proper look-out kept 

10. What was the cause of the casualty? 

11. Was the vessel navigated with proper and seamanlike care? 

12. Was the loss of the "St. Rognvald" caused by the wrongful act or default of the master and chief officer, or of either of them? 

The Court replied to the questions as follows:— 

1. The vessel had three compasses: they were in good order, and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel They were last adjusted at Leith on 21st May, 1898, by Mr. D. Stalker, Leith. 

2. Yes, the master did ascertain the deviation of his compasses from time to time, the errors were correctly ascertained, and the proper corrections to the courses applied. 

3. Sufficient measures were taken to verify the position of the vessel at 9.20 p.m. of 23rd April. A safe and proper course was then set and steered, and due and proper allowance was made for tide and currents. 

4. Yes. The second mate took a four point bearing of the north light of Fair Isle, showing the vessel to be fully two and a half miles off the light. The master left sufficient and proper instructions with the second officer. 

5. A safe and proper alteration was made in the course at or about 11.15 p.m. Due and proper allowance was made for tide and currents. The course then set was stated to be steered, but it was not made good. 

6. The second officer did convey the master's instructions to the first officer on being relieved at or about 11.15 p.m. 

7. The mate took no measures to verify the position of the vessel after 11.15 p.m. He did unduly delay reporting to the master the state of the weather. 

8. The vessel was navigated at too great a rate of speed, having regard to the state of the weather, and the locality and circumstances in which the vessel was. The chief officer had lost sight of the North Ronaldsay light, owing to the fog or haze; he had subsequently been unable to see the Start light, though well within its range, for the same reason, and he had approached within three and three-quarter miles of the Auskerry light, which, under ordinary circumstances, is visible 16 miles off, without seeing it; in these circumstances he should have slowed down and taken other precautions, e.g., using the lead, to ascertain with certainty that he was in a position of safety. 

9. A proper look-out seems to have been kept. 

10. The cause of the casualty was (a) that for some unascertained reason the vessel went six or seven miles out of her course to the westward on a distance of about 36 miles, and consequently ran ashore in a fog; (b) the default of the mate, in allowing the vessel in the circumstances to go at too great a rate of speed, and not taking precautions to ascertain whether the vessel was in a position of safety. 

11. The vessel, subsequently to 11.15 p.m., was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care. 

12. The loss of the "St. Rognvald" was not due to the wrongful act or default of the master. 

The Court consider that the chief officer was in default, and that the loss of the vessel was due to his default, and the Court accordingly suspend his certificate, No. 00514, for three months.

The Court recommend that a mate's certificate be granted to him during the term of suspension. 





Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Lerwick Shetland

Because of the Corona and spending more time behind the computer we now continue our plagues with Typhoid.

The fishermen of Noordwijk and Katwijk  and Scheveningen went every year herring fishing near Lerwick.
And on our  our last trip we went to Lerwick Shetland a place that is in our blood, and that we  wanted to visit for many years
Our Grandfather went there as well as a seventeen year old boy.
He told us many a time about his big adventure.
He fell ill with typhoid and could not stay on the vessel.
It is also very contagious  The ship  he sailed on was the Vigilance (Waakzaamheid) The SCH 352. Here in Lerwick harbour.

This happened on the 25th Of June 1898.
It was even in The Shetland Times.Almost 100 hundred years ago.
Shetland Times 25 juni 1898

Shetland Times - Saturday 27 August 1898

The Dutch vicar L van der Valk , who felt sorry for the lad ,took care of him and placed him in the hospital and later took care of him in his own house.
On the 27th of August he was allowed to return home.
The minister was there to take care of the 3000-4000 Dutch fishermen that visited Lerwick.He stated that there was hardley any drunken or misbehaving Dutchmen .

He went then with our grandfather back on the ss  St Rognvald .

SS St Rognvald
SS St Rognvald
The trip back to Holland could not done  by herringship,even then it was selfisolation, but had to be done by ferry and  overland.
So they went from Lerwick to Aberdeen and from there  to London.
And there Grandpa told us this remarkable story.....
I had to go to the toilet and there was not one .
"so I had to do it in some bushes"
However I was spotted by a Bobby .
Who told me "that will cost you a pound".
I replied.... looking at what I produced.....You can take that pound .There is more then enough there...
Grandpa did not go to sea anymore but worked in the bulbfields instead.
The fishermen brought back not only the herring but also Staffordshire flatback dogs and peppermint.So many comforters are still to be found in Dutch houses.
As the men went fishing a Quote was "Ze benne om Hondjes " They are going for dogs 

this poem by T.P Ollason about the Dutch Fishermen and their trips to Shetland

'Goeden avond, fader Clumper,
There's something in your voice,
That exhilarates our fancy
Like unto a good 'ci-har'
Though you sport an air of pickle,
And your clumpers make a noise,
Ever welcome are the winds that
Waft you o'er the harbour bar'.

Titel Hollanders in Shetland
Auteur Adrian J. Beenhakker
Uitgever Shetland County Museum, 1973
Lengte 18 pagina's

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

St Johns Canada

Also during this holiday we visited St Johns Canada.
The place where George Heath Vlieland was buried.

Pall Mall Gazette - Thursday 14 November 1872
Thursday 14 November 1872 Pall Mall Gazette - Deaths: VLIELAND, Mr. G. H., late of H.M. Customs, at St. John's, New Brunswick, aged 40, Oct. 31.
October 6 — The remains of the late Bro. George H. Vlieland were buried with masonic ceremony by the lodge in the Episcopal church yard, near the head of (Jourtenay bay. Bro. Vlieland was initiated in St. John's Lodge, June 4, 1872. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

Halifax and the Atlantic

visiting the Halifax maritime museum the story of Thomas Dunn comes alive.
Here it is once more.

Thomas Dunn on the SS Atlantic - March/April 1873
Atlantic was the second ship built for the newly reborn White Star Line by Harland and Wolff in 1870. She was powered by a steam engine producing 600 horsepower driving a single propeller, along with four masts rigged for sail. It was one of the finest passenger vessels of its time. The notices in the paper confirmed that “a stewardess and a surgeon are on board each voyage”. (They carried three stewardesses). She was also one of the fastest vessels, taking from eight days to cross the Atlantic and with a quick turnaround; having docked at Liverpool only eight days earlier.
Eleven days later, still at sea, the captain decided to steam to Halifax Nova Scotia, the nearest port, perhaps as initially reported because the vessel's coal supply was running low (seemingly because it was poor quality and burning too quickly) - but as suggested later because a storm was brewing. The weather on that American coast had been dreadful for two weeks and other vessels had gained port only with difficulty. On this, its nineteenth voyage, Atlantic seemed to suffer a catalogue of problems and then errors.
For some days the hatches had been battened down, some of the water supplies had been washed away and many passengers were complaining about the standard (and lack of) food. More worryingly, it has been suggested that this was a ramshackle crew, many recruited (or, rather, ‘picked up’) before they left. Captain Williams, formerly a Commodore for the Guion line had joined the ‘new’ White Star almost from its inception two years earlier and on his second ‘Atlantic’ voyage, calls them ‘rougher’ than usual and notes that, since the abolition of apprenticeships, it is not usual to get more than ten competent seamen of the forty required. He, himself, was a relative invalid after an earlier accident at sea, walking haltingly with a cane. Then, near a most dangerous (and, to him, unknown) coastline he left his bridge and retired to sleep in his chartroom leaving others (also not familiar with the coast) on duty.
Those Officers were not experienced with the entry to Halifax Harbour, failed to take soundings, post a masthead lookout, reduce speed or wake the captain as they near the unfamiliar coast. It seems that they somehow did not spot (or note the significance of) the Sambro Lighthouse, the large landfall lighthouse which warns mariners of the rocky shoals to the west of the harbour entrance - with horrific consequences. Incidentally, Thomas with his experience of the Cunard line would (like Quartermaster Robert Thomas) no doubt have known the Halifax coast better than the officers but he was not really in a position to ‘assist’.
At 3:00 a.m. local time on 1 April 1873, the Atlantic struck an underwater rock called Marr's Head 50 metres from Meagher's Island, Nova Scotia. The contemporary newspapers reported that the ships' officers were mainly to blame for the accident. Quartermaster (Mate) Robert Thomas had stated at the inquiries, that he had warned 1st Mate Metcalf against keeping too close to land, but Metcalf ignored his warnings. Robert Thomas had then addressed 4th Officer Brown, and suggested that they should go up to keep lookout since, if not, they would not be able to see land in good time before they struck it. Brown answered that this was not necessary (and suggested, seemingly, that neither was senior enough to make that decision). Quartermaster Thomas was at the rudder when the lookout before the mast shouted "ice ahead". It was not ice in this case but the waves dashing on the rocks. The course was immediately changed and the engine reversed on full power, but almost instantly the ship ran on to the rock, “within a cables length of safe harbour”.
Only one boat was launched and that went down with the loss of all aboard it. Other lifeboats were impossible to launch because the ship had listed, or were washed away or smashed as the ship quickly filled with water and flipped on its side. The struggle to leave the ship and make it to (precarious) Golden Rule Rock claimed the lives of all women aboard, all married men and all the children, except one. Several crew members heroically swam through heavy surf and freezing water to land rescue lines and seek help. One of those, according to the reports was Thomas Dunn. The New York Times of Thursday April 3rd 1873 devotes its whole front page to the disaster and lists Thomas Dunn in its list of crew saved. His obituary many years later confirms that he “was saved by swimming ashore after spending many hours in the rigging of the vessel”. The newspapers of the time confirm that "Parts of the rig remained over the surface after the ship went under, and those who could, climbed up and clung to the rig...Some of those clinging to the rig had died from the cold, among them the ship's cashier." Other articles note
that “many passengers froze to death in the rigging including the purser...some of them benumbed by cold loosed their hold and vanished”.
The loss of life was horrendous — 565 passengers and crew was an early estimate; though this discounted the hundred plus who had purchased tickets at Liverpool or Ireland before the boat sailed and whose records would sink with them and the ship. Many died in their cabins aware of the disaster only as the ship sank. Many of those on deck were swept away to their death “with piteous cries” when the ship sank. The disaster was the world's worst merchant shipwreck known at that time, and was not surpassed until the loss of the RMS Titanic in 1912. Half the ships crew died. Thomas Dunn was one who swam to land. Not only that but Quartermaster Robert Thomas (who was defacto in charge of the rescue attempt) says in his narrative that he was “relieved by Thomas Dunn and others” at nine a.m. when they were trying to get some survivors from the rock to the shore. (The book published that year simply says “a steward and one other”. It was left to the newspapers to report his name. Other ‘crew’ such as the captain’s servant do not merit a ‘name check’ either) Bob Love’s recent book commentary notes that “there were 1070 actual souls, living and recovered bodies. There were many bodies never recovered and some found miles away with others beneath the hull and left inside because the divers got more money for the salvage”.
More than one newspaper notes that early reports of the loss of the steamer with ‘some deaths’ were almost dismissed as an ‘April Fool joke’. One can only speculate upon how the news of the disaster was greeted in Liverpool, particularly since a full list of the people saved and lost was not immediately available (and papers concentrated, anyway, on the passengers and officers) and imagine the joy when the good news finally came through. “When a telegram of safe arrival at New York might have been hourly expected”, as the news put it, the initial news came the following day to Liverpool in a Lloyds telegram that wrote of the vessel being stranded on Magher’s Island and that part of her cargo would be saved.
The telegraph system was nationwide, following the major railways, by 1852. (On September 1 1846 the South Eastern Railway opened every telegraph station on its lines from London to Dover, Folkestone, Ramsgate and Margate to public messages for the first time - and Liverpool was part of the network by July 1947). There were, however, many different companies using different systems and messages had to be hand transcribed and re-sent between systems. The Atlantic cable of 1858 failed at huge cost. Two undersea cables to Dublin failed in 1859. The replacements failed in four years. Though the main British company The Electric Telegraph Company anticipated reaching New York by telegraph overland by way of Siberia, Russian America, Canada and California (and even experimented with wireless telegraphy in 1863), construction of the Russian America line was abandoned in July 1867. A circuit dedicated to Atlantic traffic, between Valentia San Diego and London, via Wexford, was finally leased in late 1867 and it was only on December 21, 1867 that a twenty-two word test message was sent from the Polytechnic in London to the telegraph station at Heart's Content in Newfoundland and messages were short. (In 1864 an 11,000 word speech sent to the Times took 6 hours to be received and produced a 1 mile long tape).
The news in the telegrams got worse but the first that the White Star Line owners heard of the extent of the calamity was in the second edition of the Liverpool papers of that following day. Early, though otherwise extensively detailed, reports in the English press concentrated on the lack of any immediate rescue vessels, the extreme cold, that not a woman or child survived and that had the first officer and two quartermasters not been able, after some hours to swim to the rocks and set up a line to pull some of those on the rigging to safety the list of survivors would have been negligible. The newspapers of the third of April noted that “the list of those saved has not yet been reported”. By the fourth they had reported only the first class passengers and ships officers that had been saved and by the fifth the Lancaster Chronicle was reporting a list of all the crew – but with no notice who had survived.
As we know even many of those who had managed to make it as far as the rigging did not ultimately survive; including the second officer whose piteous cries for help could not convince any of the survivors to attempt to make it back to him. A small percentage, only the strongest (luckiest and resourceful), survived. His years of sailing before the mast would no doubt have helped Thomas. There was not, even, any way of communicating from the fisherman’s cottages where the survivors found themselves with Halifax so someone was despatched on horseback.
Many of those who were rescued then had to walk into the nearest town through more than a foot of snow – not easy for the soaked, freezing and traumatised survivors. A large trench was dug where the bodies “of the unclaimed” were put. Thomas had lost many friends and colleagues and would no doubt have heard the cries of distress and seen the destruction and death in his mind for many years. Indeed, it is dwelt upon in his obituary many years later. No doubt some of Annie’s friends were now widows.
Forty two members of the crew arrived back in Liverpool on the 21st April. They were the ones not needed for the Inquiry. All those interviewed in the press roundly condemned the Captain. Thomas arrived on a different vessel with many of those who gave evidence. The Report of the Investigation into the Cause of the Wreck of the Steamship Atlantic was published in the federal government’s Sessional Papers of 1874 (volume VII, no. 3, pages LVI-LVII and 340-343). The report was part of the annual report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries. It is, however, only a summary of the court’s findings. Witness statements are not included. Unfortunately, the original records of the inquiry no longer exist. All records from before 1892 were destroyed in a fire in one of the Canadian Parliamentary buildings in 1897. It is fortunate that a copy was sent to the UK Board of Trade (and ended up in the National Archives at Kew).
The Times of the nineteenth reports his comments on the disaster and his attempts to get the captain to leave his bed at 2.15am. The time shown may be a typographical error (as is the spelling of his surname). In any event the time would not have been ‘exact’ since the captains own timepiece is ten minutes slower than the engine room clock. He is not ‘the Captains Servant’ whom the Inquiry accepts tries to raise him at 2:40/45 with his drink (as requested) but is stopped by the fourth officer. This is a ‘servant boy’ who, like all the women and children (save a single twelve year old), dies in the disaster and does not even receive the courtesy of a ‘name check’ in the inquiry. Did he go back to ‘the Servant’s quarters and tell the chief bedroom Steward that he had been prevented from doing his duty? Reuters also reports that ‘they’ had tried to raise the captain ten minutes before the crash. The captain, in his evidence, says that he slept until the ship struck and wishes he had been woken at three as he requested. He, perhaps tellingly, says that even if someone had tried to wake him they had not succeeded.
Thomas was a ‘Petty Officer” (as described in the Newspapers). The crew, effectively servants, were supposed to know their place, just as ‘downstairs’ in a country house was a strict hierarchy under the Butler. In the nineteen seventies I heard more than one senior Civil Servant commenting that clerical staff “were not allowed opinions”. A hundred years earlier, I read the statement that a quartermaster was told that he was neither the Captain nor first Officer, that he suggested that they were going so fast that, even were they to post a lookout (also suggested) they may be too late to stop the vessel hitting land. This was simply reported in the inquiry (not commented upon) and did not particularly concern the press or perturb or scandalise anyone. It was a fact of life; as was ‘ignoring’ all the crew (and second class passengers) in the early reports of survivors. Years later in the Titanic nearly all the first and second class women passengers survived. The third class generally died.
Although the officers ‘stuck together’ no fewer than two of the officers also contradict part of the Captains testimony. A captain who confirms that he was in the chartroom on the saloon deck thirty foot from the bridge asleep when the ship struck can, perhaps, not complain when his officers and quartermasters disagree who was where when the ship struck and who was ‘responsible’ for aiding the rescue attempts and who simply tried to save their own lives. Passenger’s statements in newspapers corroborate Quartermaster Robert Thomas’s version but they were not called...
The Inquiry only calls twenty one witnesses - a very limited mix of officers, a few first class passengers and lookouts. On the afternoon of the fifth of April after the first two passengers give evidence the committee suggests that they only need to hear from anyone who has something extra to add. The newspapers syndicated articles make clear that the Petty Officers (Thomas Dunn Chief Bedroom Steward, Samuel May Second Steward - the chief steward perished - and Ralph Smith Chief Saloon Steward) were not called. They and such ‘lowly’ people quoted as well as the witnesses in the many newspaper articles seemingly therefore were only able to tell the papers of their concerns.
The vessel on which Thomas returned to Liverpool docked at Queenstown on the eighteenth and delivered a number of despatches. Perhaps the paper spoke to him then. Either that or (far more unlikely) there is a gap in the list. The Inquiry was far more concerned with how the
accident happened to any thought of what happened after the ship hit the rocks. The subsequent Board of Trade inquiry concentrates on the ship and its cargo. Neither really asked all the questions or got to the bottom of the disaster. A book ‘rushed’ out in 1873 (named after Carrie Clancy the fisherman’s daughter who assisted in the rescue from the shore) notes that the “Lawyers seem more anxious to display their skill at pettifogging than to elicit truths”.
The Canadian inquiry still decides that the Captain’s conduct in the hours leading up to the disaster deserves censure but, in view of the Captain’s later heroism, they only suspended his licence for two years (and the fourth officer who was on duty was suspended for three months). The inquiry had reported before Thomas made his comments. Nearly forty years later in the subsequent White Star line disaster, the Titanic, (which killed a smaller percentage of its passengers) their Captain was questioned by the Inquiry as to why the story of the Atlantic had not acted as a salutary reminder and why its lessons had not prevented the loss of his vessel...
The 10th May 1873 Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald articles said “Mr. Thomas Dunn, grandson of Mr. Thomas Dunn, of this town,and chief bedroom steward on board the Atlantic, is one of the survivors from this ill-fated vessel. His statement of the catastrophe, published the New York papers, is one of great interest” – still in family contact!
Thomas did not leave the sea immediately, indeed, the birth of his next child a year after the disaster shows him as a ‘ships steward’ in 1874 (and suggests that he may have had a bit of time at home after it to recuperate - as all the others seem to have been conceived at the time at the turn of the year when the port was less busy). It seems that he had been home during three Decembers, but seemingly not for an early christening of his third child. Some of the forgoing chapter is necessarily based upon newspaper reports of Thomas’s words – taken at face value – but there is one piece of conjecture. It is possible that Annie had been ‘expecting’ at the time of his shipwreck and that the shock had an effect. Thomas’s first three children are all born a couple of years apart and there is nothing to suppose that she was pregnant. In any event, this is not something upon which I would wish to speculate further.
At the birth of his first and third children Thomas is described as a seaman in the Merchant Service but at the second and fourth as a Ships steward. (This job description is found both for the birth and baptism certificates). As a petty officer (senior bedroom steward), it is likely that he had been a steward for some time and would simply be using his title of ‘seaman’ as a generic or historic description; viz that he no longer had any need to undertake those duties. One presumes however that, if a senior steward’s job was not available Thomas would have required work as a steward/seaman. In any event, he would hardly have been home when he was working. It is always possible that Thomas’s comments in the paper would have made him less able to find work and many modern commentators suggest that all those who gave evidence would have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Quartermaster Thomas tells the papers weeks later that he “had slept but little, he no sooner fell asleep than he awoke with the despairing cry of that dreadful morning sounding in hls ears”. Another of the Petty Officers said that he was “about to sail in another of the White Star Liners on Thursday next, as I know by experience there are no finer boats afloat”. A later obituary of Thomas says that “through being many hours in the rigging, and then having swum ashore, he suffered intensely from the cold: and it is supposed that the neuralgia from which he suffered for some years was thus caused”
In mid 1875, however, Thomas and Annie and family leave Liverpool for Margate. Mother Annie is returning to where she was born and Thomas to his grandfather’s abode. Perhaps now he wanted to spend more time with his family or perhaps the thought of how near he was to being lost at sea tipped the balance. Perhaps it was as well. When they leave Liverpool (and Thomas leaves the sea) his brother in law Walter Perkins is Master of a vessel there. He is still its master some ten years later when it is lost at sea. Lord Winston quotes studies on epigenetics showing that, after wars and disasters, the general population begins to produce more male children. Though we cannot draw any ‘scientific’ conclusions from Thomas’s life after his ‘disaster’, following his move to Margate he would have seven more children. The only further girl born was a twin. He has five more sons and a brand new career...
Saturday 14 January 1899 Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald - The late Mr. T. Dunn.—We regret to announce the death of Mr. Thos. Dunn, of Parade House, which took place in London on Wednesday, after a painful illness of some months' duration. He was for years the collector of Queen's taxes for this district ... and also for sixteen years local agent to the General Steam Navigation Company. Paralysis was the cause of death. The deceased in early life followed the sea, and was wrecked in the White Star line steamer Atlantic, off Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the Ist April. 1872 (sic), and, through being many hours in the rigging, and then having swum ashore, he suffered intensely from the cold: and it is supposed that the neuralgia from which he suffered for some years was thus caused.

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