A Telling-Off in Tobermory

John McDonald Master of the “Crest”
ONo 44,427, hereby declare, that the
vessel having been laid up, owing
to the death of the owner; the circumstance
escaped my memory until my attention
was called to it, by the Principal Court
Officer here.
                                 John Macdonald Master
signed and declared in
my presence at Tobermory
this 6th day of August 1896
                   John Hitchin Magistrate
                   for the Burgh of Tobermory

The above is a transcript, presented as closely as possible to the original, of a covering letter for the Crew Agreement of the ‘Crest’ for the first six months of 1896. She had been laid up at Tobermory for the whole of that period due to the death of her owner, Alexander McDonald of Tobermory. Other information appearing on the pages include that she was Registered at Greenock and that John McDonald was born on the Isle of Rum in 1838, making him 58 years-old at the time.
The letter appears to have been prepared beforehand and then signed and dated by the two men for the two inks are quite different and appear on the page as differentiated as they do in this transcript.

One thing that puzzles me is that I have been unable to find the Magistrate in any census records (despite looking at variations from Hitchin to Melchin, for the name is somewhat tricky to decipher!) but I have found John Macdonald in 1901when the ‘Ship Master Retired’ was living at 1 Argyll Terrace in Tobermory with his older sister, Mary. Twenty years earlier the pair were in Shore Street with their elderly mother, Ann, and John was unemployed at that point in time. In 1871 he appears to have been a ‘Ship Joiner’ living in Greenock but I am not absolutely certain that that was the same person.

Nevertheless, I quite like this little window on a past world, when a Ship Master clearly had his knuckles rapped by the authorities for failing to produce the required documentation on time. I believe that the Burgh of Tobermory were the Harbour Authorities at this time, thus explaining their involvement in this matter?

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