A Patent or Two from 1862

I’ve been attempting to discover who the shipbuilder might have been who built the CREST 44427 in Ramsey(?) on the Isle of Man in 1862. (The (?) is there because I’ve not had a lot of success in discovering reference to ship-building facilities in Ramsey at that time.)

However, and as an aside, I came upon the volume ‘Chronological Index for Patents Applied For and Patents Granted in 1862’ published by The Patents Office, and a couple of interesting references therein:

p135 – Gibson 9th July 1862 – Thomas Cummings Gibson, of Ramsey, Isle of Man, Ship Builder, for an invention for – ‘Improvements in the construction of ships and vessels for the purpose of carrying and wharehousing petroleum, palm oil, and other oils or inflammable fluids.’ Provisional protection only

p221 – Defl. Gibson 4th December 1862 – Frederick Daniel Delf, of Liverpool, in the County of Lancaster, Chemist, and Thomas Cummings Gibson, of Ramsey, in the Isle of Man, Gentleman, for an invention for – ‘Improved means and apparatus whereby petroleum and other oils and hydro-carbons can be safely carried and stored.’ Provisional protection only.

Apparently petroleum was needed for its paraffin content but unscrupulous dealers adulterated it with the more volatile (and, at that time, worthless!) components resulting in many domestic fires. The Petroleum Act 1862 was designed to reduce these events, describing any liquid with a flash-point below 100 degrees Celsius as flammable. The timing of this Act with the granting of these Patents cannot be entirely coincidental?

I have been unable to discover any more information regarding the Ship Builder/Gentleman, the Chemist nor the details of their inventions…

Note: Gibson MacDonald & Co., North Ramsey  appear as the only Ramsey Ship Builders in Thwaite’s 1863 Directory so, if the CREST was indeed built in Ramsey, she would appear to have been one of their vessels. The first-ever oil-tanker, ‘The Jane’, was built there in 1865.

Update: The 1861 census shows 60 year-old Thomas C Gibson from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne living in Bride on the Isle of Man. His occupation is ‘Manufacturer of cement and artificial manures(?) and Ship (something!)’. A wonderful description of Ramsey in the 1860s that I have just found can be read here and one of the vessels here . I am still not convinced that the 47 ton Crest was one of theirs, but you never know!

Ports Visited by the CREST 1896-1899

Here, in alphabetical order, are the ports listed in the Crew Agreements for the 1862-built Crest during the first four years sailing under her new owner & Master, Alexander John Kerr:

Ayr, Mainland
Belfast, Ireland
Carloway, Lewis
Carrickfergus, Ireland
Castlebay, Barra
Gairloch, Mainland
Larne, Ireland
Loch Eishort, Skye
Lochmaddy, North Uist
Oban, Mainland
Stornoway, Lewis
Tarbert, Harris
Tobermory, Mull
Troon, Mainland
Ullapool, Mainland

Not a huge list, but one that displays the variety of places served by the island men who plied the coastal trade of the West Coast of Scotland at this time.

View CREST 1896-1899 in a larger map

CREST Voyages of 1899

I left my account of the previous year’s voyages with the arrival of the Crest in Belfast on the 23rd of January 1899 .

Aboard were her Master, Alexander John Kerr, and his crewmen Donald Macmillan, Malcolm Munro and John Macleod who had joined the ship at Oban following the death of Alexander’s father, Malcolm Kerr.

On Feb 1st she sets sail for Larne which she reaches on the 4th. The figures for her draught and freeboard suggest that she was unladen. Having loaded their cargo, the men leave Larne on the 1st of March and arrive in their home port of Stornoway on the 10th. As usual, Alexander John doesn’t specify his cargo but lime would be a reasonably likely commodity at this time. The men spend a fortnight at home before the unladen Crest sails for Larne on the 24th of March. She doesn’t arrive until the 10th of April but whether this was because of the weather or, perhaps, ‘other reasons’ is open to conjecture!

Once loaded, they leave Larne on Mayday and reach Gairloch on the West Coast of the Scottish mainland on the 7th of May. They return to Stornoway on the 19th, crossing the Minch on the same day. In Stornoway John Macleod is discharged, Alexander John rating his conduct and ability as ‘Vg’. Oddly, the date of John’s discharge is shown a week earlier on the 12th of May but I am pretty sure that this is just another instance of the retrospective nature of the form-filling. On the 22nd of May John’s replacement appears in the shape of Donald Macdonald, a 43 year-old from Lochs who is a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer’s.

The Crest is loaded, perhaps with Herring, and on the 25th she departs Stornoway and arrives in Castlebay on Barra on the 26th of May. Cargo safely delivered, the empty vessel leaves on the 5th of June and makes Larne on the 10th. Loaded, she leaves Larne on the 26th of June and reaches Stornoway on the 29th, suggesting that this 47 ton ketch was no slouch even when loaded to the gunwhales. On the 7th of July Donald Macdonald is discharged with Alexander’s inevitable ‘Vg’s.

I do not know precisely for how many years Alexander John and his father had worked the coastal trade together but these voyages were the first such set that he undertook on a vessel that he owned without his father’s presence and it must have been a poignant moment when he completed the Crew Agreements without putting ‘Malcolm Kerr’ in the first space beneath his own name.

Significantly, none of the seamen of 1899 are given the status of Mate or Bosun that Malcolm held.

On the 12th of July 43 year-old Alexander John and 55 year-old Malcolm Munro are joined by 60 year-old John McRae from Habost in Lochs who joins fron the ‘Mary Ann’ of Stornoway. The crew is completed by an 18 year-old ‘Boy’ called Alexander John Maciver from Stornoway. He is the Master’s nephew and my own grandfather’s Half-Brother. He bears his Uncle’s name and would serve in and survive WWI .

The 17th of July see the laden Crest setting sail for Carloway which she makes on the 1st of August. It was whilst making this same journey in January 1890 that Alexander John Kerr had lost the ‘Spanker’ in the Sound of Harris in the vicinity of An-t-Ob.

There are four more voyages for 1899, in each case the Crest appears unladen, and they were from Carloway to Stornoway on from the 12th to the 13th of August, Stornoway to Portree on the 12th to the 13th of September, from Portree back to Stornoway from the 7th to 8th of October and finally on the 2nd of November from Stornoway to Loch Eshart, reaching there on the 18th of November.
Whilst in Stornoway, John McRae left on the 11th of October but wasn’t replaced until the 1st of November when John McDonald, a 48 year-old from Harris, joined the crew. He, together with both the Alexander Johns, stayed with the ship in Loch Exhart but on the 22nd of December Malcolm Munro left them. It is unfortunate that, whilst new crewmen had to give the name of their previous vessel, those departing do not record the next ship (if they had one) so we cannot tell how Malcolm Munro returned to his home in Stornoway.

The Crest ‘Remains in Loch Eshart’ and, until I purchase the Crew Agreements for 1900-1903 when she was wrecked on the 18th of April 1903 , that is where we shall have to leave her…

Crewmen of the CREST in the Censuses

I have found good matches to six of the ten men. In all but one case, that of John Macrae, Crofter of Habost, the records indicate that they were seamen. The four missing men do return several matches in terms of names, ages and locations but without the corroboration of occupation it is impossible to identify them.

John Macleod b. 1855 Stornoway RNVC No 9730
1901 (47) Seaman (Merchant Service) 20 Sandwick North Street, Stornoway

Malcolm Munro b. 1844-49 Stornoway
1891 (41) Sea Man 35 South Beach, Stornoway

John Macpherson b. 1852 Stornoway
1881 (26) Seaman and Crofter New Valley, Stornoway
1901 (48) Seaman (Merchant Service) 17 Newvalley, Stornoway

Alexander John Maciver b. 1881 Stornoway
1891 (9) 37 Bayhead Street, Stornoway
1901 (19) Ness House, Stornoway

These first four men I am very confident in having identified accurately but the next two are ‘best fits’. The first, aboard ship in Gairloch, actually has two possibilities for there were two men from Lochs with the same name and age who were Master of a vessel in Gairloch at the time. The second, John Macrae, is included somewhat tentatively but because he specified Habost in the Crew Agreement (rather than just Lochs), I felt drawn to including him here. It is surprising how often such feelings are later proved correct, perhaps reminding us that genealogy is a rather intimate human activity rather than a purely ‘scientific’ exercise?

Donald Macdonald b. 1856 Lochs RNVC No 244
1901 (45) Master Vessels, Gairloch

John Macrae b. 1839 Habost, Lochs
1901 (60) Crofter Habost, Lochs

These men either returned no matches or too many to have any chance of identification. The nature of the life of a seafarer meant that many are not recorded in every census and the lives of many of these men, who were hired and fired at the start and end of voyages, included many occupations in addition to their seafaring role. They could well be in the censuses but hidden behind the words ‘Crofter’, ‘Fisherman’, or some other occupation. More likely, they were out at sea, risking their lives in the wild waters around Scotland’s coasts…

John Macdonald b. 1851 Harris
Murdo Macelod b. 1881 Lochs
Donald Macleod b. 1882 Stornoway
Donald Macmillan b. 1880 Stornoway

Crewmen of the CREST 1896-1899

Here are the men recorded as sailing with Alexander John Kerr aboard his ketch in 1896-1899, excluding his father Malcolm Kerr who was his Mate/Bosun until his death in December 1898. The gaps within each year reflect the fact that the Master of a vessel had to complete the Crew Agreements twice a year. I have highlighted those whom I believe to be the same person despite the variations displayed in the year of birth.

RNVC = Royal Naval Volunteer’s Certificate

John Macleod b. 1856 Stornoway RNVC No 9738

John Macleod b. 1838 Stornoway RNVC No 9730 (Clearly the same man, but with confusion between his year of birth and his age, perhaps?)

Malcolm Munro b. 1849 Stornoway
Murdo Macelod b. 1881 Lochs

John Macpherson b. 1850 Stornoway
Donald Macleod b. 1882 Stornoway
Malcolm Munro b. 1844 Stornoway

John Macpherson b. 1854 Stornoway
Donald Macmillan b. 1880 Stornoway
Malcolm Munro b. 1849 Stornoway
John Macleod b. 1854 Stornoway

Malcolm Munro b. 1845 Stornoway
John Macleod b. 1854 Stornoway RNVC No 9730
Donald Macdonald b. 1856 Lochs RNVC No 244

Malcolm Munro b. 1844 Stornoway
John Macrae b. 1839 Habost, Lochs
Alexander John Maciver b. 1881 Stornoway
 (Alexander John Kerr’s Nephew and my Grandfather’s Half-Brother)
John Macdonald b. 1851 Harris

I intend to discover more about each of these 9 men. It was only when compiling this piece that the penny-dropped regarding Alexander John Maciver, whom I can be pretty sure was named after the Uncle who we find him sailing with here!

If, by any chance, someone reading this recognises a Name/DOB combination as that of a seafaring relative then I’d love to hear from you.

Net Register Tonnage (NRT) & Why Size Matters…

I am attempting to get a ‘feel’ for how a single measure of a vessel might relate to a living, breathing ship in order that I can better-picture of the Jessie, Crest & Lazy Louis Kerr.

All I have to go on for each vessel is a single number, the rather cumbersome ‘Net Register Tonnage’ (NRT) which is really a figure for how much cargo-space a ship has.

My starting point are two ships that have been seen in Stornoway recently. My main reason for this is that I saw the Westward Ho last year and hence have a reasonably good appreciation of her proportions.
Please see: http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/03/westward-ho-at-stornoway.html
Unfortunately I missed the Reaper on her tour of the Western Isles.

Westward Ho 1894
34.7 NRT
Length 77ft
Beam 22.8 ft
Draught 10.6 ft
LxBxD/NRT = 77×22.8×10.6/34.7 = 536
L/B = 77/22.8 = 3.37

Reaper 1901
29.04 NRT
Length 70′ 4”
Beam 20′ 4”
Draught 8′ 8”
LBD/NRT = 70.33×20.33×8.67/29.04 = 427
L/B = 3.46

I had been hoping for a simple relationship between the dimensions of each ship and her cargo space but this wasn’t to be. I repeated this for a few earlier ships but the results merely proved the case.

Undaunted, and bolstered somewhat by noting that the Length to Beam ratios of most vessels are in the range of 3.3-3.4:1, I decided to create a couple of hypothetical ships:

30 NRT
L 60
B 18
D 9
LBD = 60x18x9 = 9720
L/B = 3.33

Hypothetical One and a Sixth
47.6 NRT
L 70
B 21
D 10.5
LBD = 70x21x10.5 = 15435
L/B = 3.33
15435/9720 = 1.59

As you can see, I spent a considerable period of time and creative energy in naming these vessels!

The point is that if we take the good ship ‘Hypothetical’ and expand her by merely one-sixth in all three dimensions we create a similar sister-ship with a massively increased volume.

In fact, we move from the capacity of the ‘Jessie’ to that of the ‘Crest’ and Lady Louisa Kerr’.

Although these calculations are wholly imaginary and utilise a plethora of simplifying assumptions, they demonstrate that all three ships were very likely to have been of a similar order of magnitude as Westward Ho and Reaper.

NB The manner in which NRT is calculated varies across space and time and I have good reason to believe that the 1894 Westward Ho’s 34.7NRT is actually much closer to the 1863 Crest’s 47NRT than those two figures appear to suggest.

Owners & Masters of the Crest

J Adams & Co. Liverpool 1863
Joseph Qualtroph (Shipbuilder) Port St Mary, Isle of Man 1864-1873
Alexander McDonald Tobermory 1896 (Registered Greenock)
Alexander John Kerr 1896-1903

R Madg Bideford 1863
Thomas Chtistiansen, Port St Mary, IOM, 1866
John Sansbury, Rushen 1866
John Wood Port St Mary 1866 and1868
William Raisbeck Port St Mary 1868
John Woods Port St Mary 1869-1872
John Cubbin Port St Mary 1872
James Kermode Port St Mary 1873
John Cubbin Port St Mary 1873
(John Kelly, Castletown 1881 – see below)
John McDonald (b. Isle of Mull) Tobermory 1896 (Registered Greenock)
Alexander John Kerr 1896-1903

I believe that I have found the Crest in the 1871 Census:

John Wood, 58, Master, Crest (Vessels, Cromarty, Ross and Cromarty), b. Port St Mary, Isle of Man
John Kewin, 24, Mate, Crest, (V, C, R and C), b. Port St Mary, Isle of Man
John Sweetman, 23, Ordinary Seaman, Crest (V, C, R and C), b. Castletown, Isle of Man
James Wood, 18, Ordinary Seaman, Crest (V, C, R and C), b. Port St Mary, Isle of Man

This is very likely to be her in the 1881 Census:

John Kelly, 38, Master, Crest, (St Thomas, Liverpool), b. Castletown, Isle of Man
Joseph Hudson, 30, Mate, Crest (St T, L), b. Castletown, Isle of Man
Edward Fawn, 23, Able Seaman, Crest (st T, L), b. Ramsey, Isle of Man

The 1891 Census has 8 men aboard a Crest in a Canal near Gloucester, but this is unlikely to be her.

In 1901, when she was Alexander John’s, he was here:
Alexander John Kerr, 44, Seaman, Mackay’s buildings, Plantation St, Stornoway, b. Stornoway
Margaret, 40, Wife, b. Stornoway
Donald, 17, Scholar, b. Stornoway
Mary, 8, Scholar
Alexander John, 4

The discovery of the Crest’s crews in the 1871 and 1881 censuses pleases me greatly.
Firstly, because it was only by cross-referencing the list of Masters that I could be sure that this 1871 entry referred to the correct vessel and, secondly, because it is fairly unusual to have this many records for a small coasting ship of the time.

My next task is to investigate J Adams & Co of Liverpool and, if possible, discover precisely where the Crest was built and for what purpose.

Map showing 4 Isle of Man locations
View Isle of Man CREST in a larger map