‘Ethel May’ – a great grand-daughter remembers

The following arrived during the week:

“I was thrilled to find, by chance in your collection, a photo of my Great Grandfather’s boat. The Ethel May was built at Rhyl, North Wales, in 1878 (65 tons) owned by John Kearney of Co. Down.  I am assuming it was a schooner?  My Great Grandfather, Richard Coppack was her captain.  My Aunt was named after the boat, although she always felt it should have been the other way around. 

 Both of my mother’s grandparents were mariners, one a river pilot on the Dee.  The Coppacks were mariners of Connah’s Quay on the North Wales coast.  During a hurricane (!) in November 1890 (The Times 12th November 1890) my Great Grandfather drowned, having been washed overboard whilst his boat was being rescued.

 I have a pair of binoculars which belong either to Richard or my other Great Grandfather, Stephen.  Sadly, my mother cannot remember which (she is 101). I found your website as I am trying to track Richard Coppack down. He is on the census of 1881 on the ‘George Evans’ in Cardigan and prior to that in Whitehaven on a “vessel”.  I would love to know more about what he was doing there, his cargo etc.

 From the photo, it looks like it could have been taken in Liverpool, on the Mersey.  I hope you’ve found this interesting? It was amazing to find the photo, out of the blue. Sadly, I have no photographs of my great grandparents.”

'Ethel May' of Chester, built 1878 by Jones, Rhyl In March 2015, shortly after publishing this photograph, I received the following: I was thrilled to find, by chance in your collection, a photo of my Great Grandfather's boat. The Ethel May was built at Rhyl, North Wales, in 1878 (65 tons) owned by John Kearney of Co.Down.  I am assuming it was a schooner?  My Great Grandfather, Richard Coppack was her captain.  My Aunt was named after the boat, although she always felt it should have been the other way around.  Both of my mother's grandparents were mariners, one a river pilot on the Dee.  The Coppacks were mariners of Connah's Quay on the North Wales coast.  During a hurricane(!) in November 1890 (The Times 12th November 1890) my Great Grandfather drowned, having been washed overboard whilst his boat was being rescued. I have a pair of binoculars which belong either to Richard or my other Great Grandfather, Stephen.  Sadly, my mother cannot remember which(she is 101 ). I found your website as I am trying to track Richard Coppack down. He is on the census of 1881 on the George Evans in Cardigan and prior to that in Whitehaven on a "vessel".  I would love to know more about what he was doing there, his cargo etc. From the photo, it looks like it could have been taken in Liverpool, on the Mersey.

‘Ethel May’ of Chester, built 1878 by Jones, Rhyl

In my reply I included the following:

“Hearing from those who have connections with the various vessels I have published was one of the very reasons for doing so. The vessels do have an inherent beauty but it is the people who are associated with them that seem to me as important – not just the captain and crew, but their families – and what we, their descendants, have learnt from them.  The collective memories not only come from inherited objects, like your binoculars, but in the knowledge, skills and attitudes they passed down through their families. (Their genes too – it certainly sounds as if your mother inherited a definite toughness!)”

 I am not alone in thinking this. These photographs are now online, but, paradoxically, they are becoming rarer. The personal notes written on the back of the actual photographs are sketchy. Those who wrote them, whether they sailed in or merely observed the vessels in question, are no longer with us. But their descendants are and the slim, half-remembered, threads that run through the generations still speak to us.

If these photographs bring back memories or even create new ones, then they will have served their purpose. If you want to take it further, feel free – “from many threads . . .”

In the meantime, if you know about Richard Coppack, ‘George Evans’ in Cardigan or the “vessel” in Whitehaven, let me know.

This and other photographs of merchant sailing vessels can be found here.

Brush strokes – good enough – sometimes

Blue Mistress is slowly coming together.

Because we won’t be back in the water before Easter, I have had time to tackle the planned jobs and some unplanned ones as well – like painting the floors of the quarter berths.

I now know why I avoided this for so long. It meant forcing my 42 inch chest five feet down two 38 inch holes – cleaning, sanding and then one, two, three coats – shoulders hunched, arms outstretched, pushing an open paint-pot before me, having to work out how to use my right hand accurately and then how to worm my way backwards without touching the fresh paint.

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Vanuatu – Cyclone Pam

The New Zealand Herald has a report from one of their reporters in Vanuatu this morning – here. The video clip shows the destruction in Port Vila. Sadly, there has been loss of life. I understand wind speeds were in the 300km/h mark.

Yesterday, Webb Chiles carried a photograph of the damage in the harbour and a first hand description of the harbour itself – here

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Speak up for the horses

You carefully pilot your ship into harbour at the top of the tide. You wait until the tide goes out and there is clear ground around the ship. Then you bring the horse and a cart to offload into. The cargo is heavy – coal, or slag, so you harness two horses in tandem to haul the load across the beach and up to the stores.

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Same walk, different view

We walked down to the Prince of Wales Pier in Falmouth and took the ferry to Flushing. From there we walked to Mylor Bridge, then along the water’s edge to Restronguet. My companions saw the daffodils, the camellia, the fading snowdrops and the unfolding daffodils, the Cornish violets and the yellow gorse. I saw . . .

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