A search of the British Library catalogue of 19thC British newspapers produced an interesting set of results, all but two of them from The Belfast News-Letter:
Dundee Courier & Argus, Thursday July 12th 1866 – Arrivals – July 11 – ‘Planet’, Kerr, Stornoway, Herring
Thursday, August 31st, 1876 – The Jessie, Kerr, from Stornoway, with fish
Monday, December 17th, 1877 – The Lobelia, Kerr, from Stornoway
(Glasgow Herald) Wednesday, August 25th, 1880 – Lady L. Kerr, Stornoway
Monday, August 15th, 1881 – The Jessie, Kerr, from Stornoway, with dry fish
(Glasgow Herald) Tuesday, March 12th, 1889 – Daisy(s), 85, Kerr, Stornoway, Coal
Tuesday, February 16th 1897 – The Crest, Kerr, from Stornoway, with dried fish
Wednesday, January 25th 1899 – The Crest, Kerr, from Stornoway, with dried fish
This extract from the Stornoway Gazette’s obituary of Alexander John Kerr is extremely helpful:
There was no one better known than Mr Kerr in the different places of call between the Mersey and Cape Wrath, and no craft more readily recognised than the “Jessie,” the “Crest”, and the “Lady Louisa Kerr”; which he owned and sailed in succession.
If, in 1876, the Jessie was indeed his ship, then he owned her at the tender age of 22! It could be that his father, Malcolm Kerr, was in fact the owner at that time and later passed the vessel on to his son.
I know that the Crest was bought by Alexander John in 1896 so, unless the obituary neglects to mention a period of non-ownership between the Jessie and the Crest, then he may have had the Jessie from at least 1876 until 1896, a considerable period of time.
The Lady Louisa Kerr apparently appears in Glasgow in 1880 but annoyingly her Master’s name is not recorded.
The Lobelia and the Daisy could be red herrings, their Masters just happening to have the same name, or they could be ships that Malcolm owned or that either he or Alexander John sailed in the capacity of Master.
As is usual, these latest discoveries produce more new questions than they answer but their value to me is in corroborating the obituary and by giving me my first tantalising glimpses of the Jessie.
Ref: British Newspapers – http://newspapers.bl.uk/blcs
Official Ship Numbers – ordered by sequence of ownership
3393 Jessie Stornoway 30 Net Registered Tonnage (NRT)
44427 Crest Ramsey 47 NRT
1357 Lady Louisa Kerr Belfast 40 NRT
12163 Lady Louisa Kerr Belfast 49 NRT
I know that this is the correct Crest and the Jessie (first registered in Stornoway and therefore presumably built there) looks to be a good match. Unfortunately none of these vessels have the year that they were built but I am leaning towards the second Lady Louisa Kerr as No 1357 implies a very old ship!
(This index is arranged numerically but it is worth doing a Google search for a ship first, although this can be rather variable – if at first you don’t find it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t lurking there!)
Update: I have taken my researches a little further forward by identifying for which year ‘Crew Agreements’ for these vessels are held at the Maritime history Archive in Newfoundland.
3393 Jessie Stornoway 30NRT 1864, 1867-1897, some missing
44427 Crest Ramsey 47NRT Crew Agreements1867, 1886-1903 (1896-1899 already purchased)
1357 Lady Louisa Kerr Belfast 40NRT 1870-1874, (1863-1869 @ PRO of NI)
12163 Lady Louisa Kerr Belfast 49NRT 1864-1914, only 7 years, (1863, 1868/9 @ PRO NI)
Ref: http://www.mun.ca/mha/ (The link to On-line Crew Lists is at the Top-Right)
By combining the evidence in the sources I am able to produce the following outline of Alexander John Kerr’s ownership of these three vessels:
Jessie (built 1864) – 1876?-1897?
Crest (built 1867) – 1896-1903 (Sunk, see –http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/02/end-of-crest.html )
Lady Louisa Kerr (built 1863) – 1903?-1914?
Therefore all 3ships were built between 1863 and 1867, in Stornoway, Ramsey and Belfast respectively.
The Jessie, at 30NRT, was considerably smaller than the Crest (47NRT) and Lady Louisa Kerr (49NRT).
It is hard to convert these figures into ‘images’ of the actual vessels, but they were probably all ketches, ie. two-masted, and between 60 and 80 feet in length.
The Crest appears to have been capable of being handled by a crew of three but four or five appear to have been her complement when carrying cargo.
I make no apologies for the somewhat non-linear development of this entry because this is how I find such research to develop, via a piecing together of elements from disparate sources that gradually assemble into a (more or less!) coherent whole.
Update: The reason why the Lady Louisa Kerr, Official No 1357, only has records up to 1874 may be seen here: http://www.irishwrecksonline.net/Lists/DownNorthListA.htm for in 1875 she was wrecked off Carrickfergus. A third vessel of the same name was lost on the 9th April 1898 http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/search_item/index.php?service=RCAHMS&id=124152 – I say a third as the previous two had in one case already been wrecked and the other was to give at least another 16 years service.