This is quite a rare photo on board a working vessel in around 1890. The location is the original Fishguard Harbour at Lower Town – the quay wall can be seen in the background, the height of which indicates that the tide was well out.
This view is looking aft along the deck of what is likely a two masted schooner, given the length of the boom resting on the bulwark at the stern. The ship is sitting on the harbour floor and tilting slightly, resting on the keel and the port bilge strake . It’s evident work has been going on to discharge a cargo of coal (or culm). The cargo hatch (typically small in a wood sailing vessel) is uncovered and on deck is a cargo bucket (made of a large half barrel) with handle fitted for pivoting.
Two members of the gang in the hold would shovel cargo into this container, two others on deck winch it aloft using the manual ‘dolly winch’ (visible between the hatch and mainmast). The iron handle for the winch can be seen on the right hand side of the picture. The bucket (suspended from a pulley attached to a cargo gaff stepped on the mast) would be guided by the fifth hand across to the side of the ship and tipped down a shute into a horse drawn cart waiting below. The spillage either side of the hatch shows this has been carried out on both sides of the ship to speed up operations, discharge only being possible when the harbour is dried out between tides.
The large wheel to the left of the mast is part of the manual bilge pump mechanism and beyond this is the casing of the companionway leading down to the aft cabin. There is no steering wheel visible aft so steering would have been by a large tiller. Normally a ship of this size and rig would require a sailing crew of three (master, mate, able seaman) so perhaps two of the gang have been taken on as ‘casuals’ to help work the cargo.
The photograph forms part of an album recently lent to Ein Hanes Heritage Centre and is believed to be the work of Henry Jackson of Fishguard. He was an accomplished photographer and the survival of his photographs gives a window into the life of the area from around 1870 – 1896.
Each of the men in this photograph can be identified as their names were recorded in the album. It has been possible to find out a little more about some of them.
George Reynolds was born in Milford in 1844- his father was a sawyer but being the youngest of three sons, not all of whom could have been supported by their father’s business, George joined the Royal Navy. In 1861, as a boy 1st class he served aboard the tender Skylark which was part of the Coastguard service in Pembroke Dock. In 1871, the census records that he was serving as an Able Seaman on board HMS Calendonia which had been until 1869, the flagship of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean fleet. In later years he was again part of the coastguard service and for a time lived at the Parrog, Newport before settling in Lower Town. His style of dress in the photograph appears to hark back to his naval career. He and his wife Mary, had twelve children of whom 11 survived to adulthood. At the end of his life he lived in Quay Street and died at the grand old age of 102 years!
John Jones was Fishguard born – he married Mary Lewis, also of Fishguard, in 1874 when he and his wife were in their late 30s and they had just one daughter, Elizabeth. When he was first married, the family lived in Bodmore Cottage. His working life was spent as an ordinary seaman in the merchant marine. His family later lived in Dock/Quay Street, next door to George Reynolds. He too lived a long life – dying in 1931 aged 94 years.
Thomas John was born in Fishguard around 1840 – he married his wife Ann (born Dinas) in 1861 and they had 8 children. In 1881 he was serving as an able seaman on the schooner “Robin Hood” out of Whitby – this vessel was over 500 tons and sailed the foreign trade. He spent his life at sea as a fisherman/able seaman. In later life, he and his wife lived in Ivy Cottages on the Slade.
Benjamin Lewis was born in Lower Town in 1834 and was the son of a mariner. He went into the merchant navy as an apprentice at the age of 15 and whilst on board the Ocean in 1851, had to be admitted as a patient on the hospital ship Dreadnought which was anchored in the Thames – he was there for 40 nights.
He received his Mate’s certificate of competency in 1861 but did not become a Master Mariner. It is probable that he was the Captain of the schooner.
With thank to Rob Willatts of Dinas for sharing his knowledge of the workings of the vessel and what can be seen in the photograph.