Maritime History

Adelaide, Advance and Aeolus: Biographies of Sailing Merchant Vessels

Adelaide, Advance and Aeolus:

Biographies of Sailing Merchant Vessels

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

In 1900 the waters around Britain and Ireland were full of sailing merchant vessels carrying coal, timber, grain, iron, china clay and all kinds of other bulk cargoes between the great and small ports. These vessels were of varied size and shape with different rigging such as ketch, barquentine and schooner. They were built in purpose designed ship yards around Britain and Ireland and some were built in North America and a few parts of Europe. Yet some of these vessels were built on the seashore or river banks between high and low tide in yards that have vanished just like their creations.

Yet by 1960 only a handful of these vast numbers of vessels continued to ply their trade commercially. A few of these vessels remain today as museum items or stuck in limbo waiting for a source of money to keep them afloat. Some professional schoonermen, such as Hugh Shaw, Richard England and William Slade, wrote about their lives aboard these sailing vessels and give us a feel of what it was like. Yet the vast majority of masters and sailors left little written accounts of those days. Many of these sailors have now (2021) passed on, their once proud vessels broken up or buried beneath the waves and commercial maritime trade is now done by motor vessels, great and small. Biographies of some of the vast number of sailing merchant vessels that once existed are given below to give some idea of the characters of these vessels and their sailors.

The Le Yaudet in the absense of any photo of the named vessels


The Adelaide was a wooden two-masted schooner in the 1930s that began life as a brigantine in 1869 in the shipyard of Tredwen in Padstow.[1] In the mid-nineteenth century Padstow, with its great but shallow Camel River, its creeks, stretching into the broad floor valley, and its Doom Bar, was the site of five shipyards, those of Cowl, Stribley, Rawle, Willmett and Tredwen. Of these Tredwen alone built at least twenty-nine vessels between the Fawn of 1858 and the Flower of the Fal of 1870.[2] The Adelaide measured 106 feet long by 24.3 feet wide and 12.7 feet in height. She was 180 tons gross and 138 tons net. Her official number was 58295 and her signal hoist in 1935 was MDLX.[3] In 1870 the Adelaide was registered at Fowey, Cornwall with William Warren Dingle of Fowey as her owner. The Adelaide had a signal hoist of HSGQ and her registered tonnage was then 165 tons.[4] In the 1870s and 1880s she was rigged as a brigantine.[5]

By 1878 the Adelaide had acquired a new owner in the person of Richard P. Toms of Fowey.[6] In 1884 John Merrifield of Gascoyne Place in Plymouth was the new owner of the Adelaide while the vessel was still registered at Fowey.[7] In 1890/1 Charles Morris of Gascoyne House, Plymouth became the owner and master of the Adelaide.[8] In 1895/6 the registered tonnage of the Adelaide was reduced from 165 tons to 136 tons while still retaining her brigantine rigging.[9] In 1896/7 Inkerman Tregaskes of Par in Cornwall became the new owner/master with Fowey as her port of registration.[10] In 1915 the crew of the Adelaide were: William Trembeth, master, aged 68 from Par; John Stephens, mate, aged 50, from Devoran; H. Williams, able seaman, aged 37 from Southampton and A. Murphy. Later in 1915 Thomas Twyford replaced H. Williams as able seaman. Twyford was aged 48 and was born in Cork, Ireland.[11]

In 1916/7 Albert E. Benney of 12 Frobisher Terrace in Falmouth became in the new owner/master of the Adelaide.[12] In 1918 Albert Benney changed her rigging to that of a schooner while retaining her registered tonnage of 136 tons.[13] The National Archives at Kew have ship logs books relating to the Adelaide covering the years 1914 to 1917.[14] In 1924 the Adelaide’s port of registration was changed from Fowey to Falmouth.[15] In 1927 Albert Benney appears to have moved next door to number 13 Frobisher Terrace.[16] In 1934 the Adelaide acquired the new signal hoist of MDLX.[17] But the changed appears to have signalled the end of the Adelaide rather than a new beginning as her registration was closed in 1934/5.


The Advance was a steel hulled vessel that was built in 1898 by T. Turnbull & Son of Whitby. The firm of Thomas Turnball was originally founded in Whitby in 1817 and built and owned a large fleet of sailing ships. Their first steamship was built in 1871 and traded with coal to the Black Sea, returning with grain. Trade later expanded to cover coal from the Tyne, Wear and Tees to Scandinavia, Spain, Portugal and the Black Sea and homewards with timber, cork, wine and grain. By 1902 the River Plate had been added to the routes, but by 1914 the fleet consisted of only six ships, of which three were lost to enemy action. The rest of the fleet had been sold by 1918 and the company liquidated in 1920.[18]

The dimensions of the Advance were 125 feet long by 25 feet wide and 9.7 feet in height. She measured 278 tons gross and 232 tons net. Her official number was 108364.[19] In 1899 the Advance was registered at London with a lugger rigging and 232 net tons. Harry Keep of 90 Lower Thames Street in the City of London was her owner/master.[20] In 1906 the Advance was owned by Alfred H. Keep of 40 Trinity Square, London while Harry Keep remained as her master with the same Trinity Square address.[21] In 1909 the new master of the Advance was George H. From of 40 Trinity Square, with Alfred Keep as owner.[22] In 1912/3 the Advance was sold to R. & W. Paul of Ipswich with Peter Reed of 47 Key Street in Ipswich as her new master. She still retained her London registration for a number of years afterward.[23]

In 1917/8 the Advance was sold to the Advance Lighterage Company of 3 Nelson Street in Hull. William Miller of 3 Nelson Street and Robert Williams of The Willows, Holderness acted at various times as her master.[24] In 1925 the Advance was laid up and not on the register.[25] In 1926 her new owner and master was Robert Gray of 2 Frithside Street in Fraserburgh.[26] In 1930/1 the Advance was sold to Duncan MacIver of the Fish Market in Stornaway, Ross-shire with Norman MacIver as her new master. Duncan changed her port of registration from London to Stornaway.[27] The Advance was on the Lloyd’s Register of shipping in 1935 and in 1945 registered at Stornaway. Douglas Bennett described the Advance in the 1930s as having a schooner rig but the official records always give her a lugger rigging.[28] In 1953 the life of the Advance ended and her registration was closed.[29]


The Aeolus was a wooden two-masted schooner that was built in 1896 at Brixham. The chief ship builders at Brixham were Mr. Furneaux, S. Dewdney and Sons and J.W.A. Upham.[30] She measured 66 tons gross. Her official number was 108001.[31] Dartmouth and Brixham were essentially ports of the earlier days of the merchant schooners involved with fruit schooners and the early general deep water traders. By the 1870s the ports of deep sea schooners had moved west but Brixham remained a home for many vessels until the twentieth century. The small ships that launched at Brixham were to remain well known to the last days of sail.[32]

In 1898 the Aeolus was owned by John Cranefield Scholey of 85 Fenchurch Street, London while the vessel was registered at Portsmouth.[33] In 1899 John Cranefield Scholey of 24 St. James Street, London was both owner and master of the Aeolus while he also continued to use the Fenchurch Street address in other documents. The Aeolus measured 66 gross tons and 43 net tons. The crew in 1899 were Richard Peacock, mate, aged 41; Charles Smart, able seaman, aged 23; Albert Andrews, able seaman, aged 23; John Hills, able seaman, aged 24; Ted Sharman, boy, aged 23 and Fred Bowles, boy, aged 19. All the crew except the captain had come from different vessels.[34] In 1904 the crew of the Aeolus were a mixture of British and Swedish sailors. J.C. Scholey of 7 Albemarle Street, London was still the owner/master. G. Jeffrey, mate, aged 30 and H. Moore, cook, aged 26 were both from Southwick while P. Soderfrome, carpenter, aged 33, John Anderson, able seaman, aged 24, Otto Petterson, able seaman, aged 29 and Throdar Olsin, able seaman, aged 33 were all from Sweden.[35]

In 1909/10 the Aeolus was transferred to Joshua W.C. Scholey of 85 Fenchurch Street, London.[36] In 1918/9 the Aeolus was sold to William H. Webber of 25a Greatham Street, Portsmouth who also became her new master.[37] By 1930 William Webber had moved to 9 Mayhall Road in the district of Copnor in Portsmouth.[38] In 1935 the Aeolus was on the Lloyd’s Register of shipping as registered at Portsmouth.[39] But by 1937 the Aeolus had disappeared from the records.[40]


End of post


[1] Douglas Bennett (edited by David Clement), Schooner Sunset (Rochester, 2001), p. 171

[2] Basil Greenhill, The Merchant Schooners (2 vols. Percival Marshall, London, 1951), Vol. 1, p. 151

[3] Douglas Bennett (edited by David Clement), Schooner Sunset (Rochester, 2001), p. 171

[4] Mercantile Navy List, 1870, p. 4

[5] Mercantile Navy List, 1872, p. 93; Mercantile Navy List, 1890, p. 273

[6] Mercantile Navy List, 1878, p. 129

[7] Mercantile Navy List, 1884, p. 183

[8] Mercantile Navy List, 1891, p. 291

[9] Mercantile Navy List, 1896, p. 354

[10] Mercantile Navy List, 1897, p. 370

[11] Royal Museum Greenwich, RSS/CL/1915/3368

[12] Mercantile Navy List, 1917, p. 663

[13] Mercantile Navy List, 1918, p. 635

[14] National Archives, UK, Kew, BT 165/615

[15] Mercantile Navy List, 1925, p. 756

[16] Mercantile Navy List, 1927, p. 784

[17] Mercantile Navy List, 1934, p. 816

[18] web site [accessed 14th July 2018]

[19] Douglas Bennett (edited by David Clement), Schooner Sunset (Rochester, 2001), p. 171

[20] Mercantile Navy List, 1899, p. 401

[21] Mercantile Navy List, 1906, p. 493

[22] Mercantile Navy List, 1909, p. 553

[23] Mercantile Navy List, 1913, p. 616

[24] Mercantile Navy List, 1918, p. 636

[25] Mercantile Navy List, 1925, p. 756

[26] Mercantile Navy List, 1926, p. 769

[27] Mercantile Navy List, 1931, p. 912

[28] Douglas Bennett (edited by David Clement), Schooner Sunset (Rochester, 2001), p. 171

[29] National Archives, UK, Kew, BT 110/1307/20

[30] Basil Greenhill, The Merchant Schooners (2 vols. Percival Marshall, London, 1951), Vol. 1, p. 144

[31] Douglas Bennett (edited by David Clement), Schooner Sunset (Rochester, 2001), p. 171

[32] Basil Greenhill, The Merchant Schooners (2 vols. Percival Marshall, London, 1951), Vol. 1, p. 143

[33] Mercantile Navy List, 1898, p. 385

[34] Portsmouth History Centre, Aeolus, 1899

[35] Portsmouth History Centre, Aeolus, 1904

[36] Mercantile Navy List, 1910, p. 568

[37] Mercantile Navy List, 1919, p. 642

[38] Mercantile Navy List, 1930, p. 872

[39] Douglas Bennett (edited by David Clement), Schooner Sunset (Rochester, 2001), p. 171

[40] Mercantile Navy List, 1937, p. 849