This week's shipping theme prompted two stories from my family history.
A MARINER'S LIFE
To me "snow" was the white stuff falling in winter and a "smack" was a slap to a recalcitrant child. But that all changed as I began researching my husband's maritime ancestors and learnt about the different names for ships in the 19th century - barque or bark or barc, brig, sloop. smack and snow - an illustration of the diverse routes that family history can take you.
I traced the Donaldson family back through census returns and Scottish Old Parish Records to the marriage of Samuel Donaldson, merchant in South Leith (near Edinburgh). His grandson Robert went from South Leith to the port of South Shields on the River Tyne and his son Robert moved to Porstmouth on the English south coast - the linking factor the sea with family occupations for the Donaldson's and their extended family ranging from merchant, master mariner, seaman, caulker, roper, ship's carpenter and river policeman.
|Master mariner, John Moffet - my husband's great great grandfather in a Napoleonic pose.|
|River Tyne at South Shields, with the Norwegian ferries across the river at North Shields.|
Tyne and Wear Archives provided information on the life of Robert Donaldson (1801-1876), master mariner of South Shields, and the ships he sailed on, listed in "“A Dictionary of Tyne Sailing Ships: a record of merchant sailing ships owned, registered and built at the Port of Tyne 1830-1930”, compiled by Richard Keys. This is a complete A-Z of Ships, master mariners and owners, detailing ships, voyages, disasters and share-ownerships, and much more - a must for anyone with maritime ancestors in this region.
The entries make fascinating reading, with all six ships on which Robert Donaldson sailed, having an eventful history and coming to a sad end (though not under his charge).
The Thetis became a wreck after sinking off the Yorkshire coast in 1869.
The John was stranded in 1861 and became a wreck during a severe easterly gale. Twenty-eight other Tyne ships went ashore in the same area during the same gale.
The Emerald, in December 1855, when on passage from the Tyne to London, foundered in five fathoms on the Dough Sand (Long Sand) Thames estuary. Three survivors were brought ashore by two Bridlington smacks. Eleven others were unaccounted for, including some of the crew of the rescuing smack who were in a small boat, which disappeared.
The Hebe was wrecked in Robin Hood’s Bay, along with other vessels on 27 January 1861. The Ann & Elizabeth disappeared after leaving the Tyne in November 1863, with her captain leaving a wife and six children.
The William Mecalfe was Robert Donaldson's largest ship On her maiden voyage, it transported 240 male convicts from Portsmouth to Hobart, on a passage that took 102 days. In January 1855 eight of her crew were sent to goal for three months each by the North Shields magistrates for refusing duty. In October 1858 her master and one man were washed overboard. Nine days later, the ship was abandoned, with the crew taken off.
These incidents were by no means unusual and bring home the hazards our mariner ancestors faced in their daily lives.
A MIGRANT'S TALE
I often wished I had emigrants in my family history to add some colourful stories. but my research had led me to assume that all my mother's Rawcliffe family,were very firmly based in the Fylde area of Lancashire, England.
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