Jacob Storm's Memoirs

Chapter 3 page3

My son Jacob also has many years at sea behind him now, and has his share of tales to tell in retirement. He was master of the SS 'Blue Cross' and one of his apprentices was Alfred Church, my great-nephew. By coincidence, William was a few miles away at sea, making for Coronel for bunkers with Laurence, Alfred's brother aboard, when they were suddenly caught by the enormous wave set in motion by the 'quake' and the look-out was nearly washed overboard. Anyone who knew Bay would also know that, with so many of us at sea, coincidences like this were not infrequent.

William and his SS 'Roma' (16)were well known. He had the reputation of being a first-rate navigator, which he upheld after the Valparaiso incident. When he had bunkered at Coronel, he entered the Penas gulf and took his ship through the hazardous channels of the west coast of Chile to the Magellan Straits, over six hundred miles without once stopping. A small-scale map will help anyone who does not know that coast to understand what a feat that was, especially in a ship drawing over twenty feet.

The morning I took over as master of the 'Tom Pyman', we sailed for Port Said, and, making our way under the Cornish coast near Trevose Head and St. Ives, we dodged a heavy gale, the same that brought the Tay Bridge down. On the 29th, the weather moderated and the rest of the passage to Port Said was good. Alexandria was our next call and we took a cargo of cottonseed from there to Hull. We next went to the North East for coal and when we had delivered that in the Baltic, we went to and from various ports with coal and pig-iron outward and deals and sleepers homeward until the Autumn. During the winter months, we were employed in the ore trade between Bilbao and Huelva and other places until the Baltic was open again, when we reverted to coal-out and timber-back trade. I remained master of the 'Tom Pyman' until the end of 1881 when I left to join the SS 'Solon'.

I had been most happy aboard my first steam command. She was a good ship to navigate, tight, staunch and strong, but I had some strange experiences on her, notably on a voyage to the Vefsen Fjord, 66 degrees north in Norway, in November. I could not find a pilot and had to take her twenty-five unknown miles from the sea. When we left, the pilot wanted to be ashore and so I turned him adrift in his boat and found my way as well as I could the last fifteen miles back to the sea.

She was what was called a weekly boat, the crew having a weekly wage and finding their own provisions, and the master finding the cabin only. After two years drill aboard this vessel in narrow waters, I was quite at home on a steamer's bridge and felt fit to take on anything in the shape of a steamer.

The SS 'Solon' was built at Messrs Turnbull and Sons' Whitehall Yard, Whitby, for Messrs Rowland, Robinson and Company. I have a note from my brother-in-law, RK Smith, who owned 2/64ths of her. His shares cost him 306. 3s. 4d. each and in two years each of them earned him 97. He then sold one for 350 and the remaining one earned 115 in the next two years. It was usual for a master to have a financial interest in his ship, although the vessels involved were no longer truly Bay boats like the old sailing craft.

The sums I mention were not large, but the rates were good enough, and small holdings in several ships brought considerable prosperity to Bay people who were sharp enough to see the future in steam. Several well known steamship companies were founded in Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay money.

The change that was overtaking us was that, while Bay Town still produced mariners, the ownership of the vessels on the trades we knew now lay elsewhere. Ships were getting bigger and Whitby as a harbour was no match for Tyne, Wear and Tees. But masters with shares who lived at Bay still did pretty well, and the Bank Top began to look very different from a hundred years before, when Matthew Storm took the lead and built Prospect House up there. The new village of terraces and villas appeared. I was responsible for 'Aurora' and 'Leeside' myself, after living at Sleights and Whitby. The old place had a strong pull for us, although some people say now it is without opportunities. Some idea of the prosperity that could be achieved is provided by the case of my brother-in-law, a sailor and owner. I kept the cutting from the 'Yorkshire Post' which reported his estate of 35,000 some years ago.

The Turnbulls of Whitby who built the 'Solon' provided berths for many Bay mariners in their own ships. Following trade, they set up in Cardiff as well, exporting Welsh coal. For many years, there was prominent in their counsels Matthew Bedlington, who took over the Secretaryship of the Bay Club from his and my relative, John Estill.

Some Bay men went to Cardiff, following the Turnbull move. One of them was Captain John Storm, my father's cousin, who served in the Turnbull ships for many years. I believe one of his sons went into the butchering business there, but another, Matthew, has become a marine engineer (17).

One who cleared out completely was another cousin, another William, who went out to South Africa. His father, John Harrison Storm, was a much respected figure in Whitby shipping, and once owned several sailing vessels. John Harrison Storm sent his sons away to school but they nonetheless became sailors. James, the youngest, was lost at the age of twenty-one when he was second officer of the SS 'Saxon Monarch', which went down with all hands. William, the eldest went on to become a most enterprising master. His wife was the daughter of a sailmaker from Elsinore. In 1873 at the age of twenty-seven, he made a record voyage in his barque 'Teazer' to Port Natal, and was so impressed with the prospects there that he went back a few years later to take up employment in shipping. A year or two later he set up as a shipping agent on his own account. We kept in touch until his recent death. He prospered there, and from some of our people who have put into Durban from time to time news comes back that his name is held in high regard there (18).

Robin Hood's Bay had begun to change before the Great War, and visitors had begun to rent the fisher cottages, but many people came back looking for family information. We find them looking at the tombstone in the old churchyard. Some are becoming difficult to place despite some of the old stocks. The railway kept some families here for a time, because it was possible to get away to Scarborough and Whitby and thence to the ports to join ships. Those were the days when there were Whitby men earning a living carting the gear of whole ships' companies to the trains.

PHOTO: View south east over the village

After I ceased to be a shipmaster, I became a marine superintendent, husbanding the ships of Messrs Rowland and Marwood of Whitby, and in that work I frequently visited the seaports. This enabled me in my spare time to seek information about Storm and related branches with links in Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Shields, and further afield. I found a lot of useful information in the cemeteries, finding the later Eskdales and Robinsons at North Shields, and I interviewed Jonathan Eskdale when he was mayor of Shields some years ago, he confirming that he was of the Whitby stock (19). On my visits, I often came across the old bay names in the directories in the public libraries, particularly in the lists of trades and professions, like pilots. Names in the business of teaching navigating officers in shields were Nellist and Frazer (20). Capt. Wm. Nellist of Bay married Martha Storm, and Capt. Andrew Frazer married our niece, Isabella Moorsom Pearson.

We seem to have established a maze of connections throughout the North East, but at present, the links with shipping seem to be strong, and the family is stronger than ever. Yet there are notable breaks with the past. Capt. Wm. Storm Jameson, my cousin Hannah's son, tried his son at sea but he did not take to it. At one time we were all moulded to it but Harold Jameson ventured into a new element in the war, joining the Royal Flying Corps and winning the MC, the DCM and the French Medaille Militaire before his death in action. His sister, Margaret Storm Jameson has distinguished herself at university (21), and another young lady who has broken with tradition is a niece, Florence Storm Taylor , who has studied singing in London (22). Isaac Storm, of one of the last fishing families, went away to become a schoolmaster near Lincoln, and his son Ethelbert was ordained recently. I believe his vocation came after seeing the Church Army at work on the Western Front. Richard Knightly Smith, my sister's grandson, served as a Green Howards officer in the war and lost a leg at Paschendale, after which he turned to medicine and qualified at St. Bartholomew's in London. Thomas Louis, the son of Rev. Thomas Philips and his wife Martha (nee Storm) became a solicitor.

In a few generations, much may change and be forgotten. I have seen Sampson Storm recorded simply as an innkeeper in the Whitby of sixty or seventy years ago, but he left Bay about 1832 and I remember him as the master of sailing ships and owner of the brig 'Pet' and the barques 'Mary Ann' and 'Royal Rose'. How much information we have lost because at the time we did not think it important or interesting.

My own family is still very much occupied in seafaring. In my collection of cuttings is a page picture from the Scarborough paper of a little steamer coming alongside. The date is the 8th May, 1924, and the ship is the 'General Havelock', starting up again the London passenger run that the war caused to be interrupted, and her master is my grandson, Raymond, in his first command. His elder brother Wilfred is a master and his younger brother Richard recently passed for second mate at the Nellists' marine school at South Shields. Their sister Isabel's husband is also at sea. I wonder if yet another generation after them will continue in our calling.

On a somewhat unsteady course, I return to the shipping to take up again the thread of the story of my time in steam. It was in 1881, in December, that I joined the 'Solon' relieving Capt Miles Burrows. I had been shipmates with him before and we were related through his daughter's marriage. This was a bad time for him as three months earlier his two sons were lost when the barque 'Essex', carrying timber, and commanded by Capt Sayers of Robin Hood's bay, went down in a storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Stephen Crosby Burrows and Miles junior are among scores in our 'Register of missing Seamen'.

The 'Solon' had a crew of twenty, and I am afraid the chief officer was a wet hand. After discharging, we sailed for Cardiff and traded thence between Black Sea grain ports and home or Continental ports until December, 1883, when I left her for the new 'Fylingdales', in which a share was held by my wife. The certificate says she paid 40 2s. 6d. for 1/64th, and among other details it says the 'Fylingdales' was schooner rigged and unarmed. As far as I know, all had gone well for ship and owners during my command of the 'Solon', but for various reasons I was not too happy and gladly accepted the offer of a new appointment. The pay of a master at that time was 18 a month.

The first crew of the 'Fylingdales' was signed in 1884. For two years, we were pretty busy. In 1886, we had a memorable voyage because we carried 12,604 quarters of barley from Taganrog in the Sea of Azov to Bristol. This was nearly 1200 better than our previous best. By contrast, my old friend the 'Black Prince' was still sailing the seas and for three consecutive years while I stayed with the 'Fylingdales', the little brig made no profit at all.

I have many reasons for remembering the 'Fylingdales'. One is that later in 1887, I took with me for two voyages my son Richard as my steward. My youngest son, Jake, who was out of his 'time' served as an AB after I left her and joined me again later. I kept Richard's two accounts of earnings, showing that at a rate of 5. 10s. a month he earned 27. 17. 4d. Richard went farming but Jacob stuck to the sea and, when I took over the 'Enterprise', a bigger vessel, there was a third mate's berth for him. A few years later, Jake came second mate with me on the 'Golden Cross' to the east as far as Shanghai.

In 1889, I had an interesting time in the 'Germania', which carried a crew of 31. The reason for my being there was that Captain Thomas was taking a voyage on shore, his first in fourteen years. At the end of one voyage, Captain Sanderson, the 'super', was sick, and I had to attend to the ship until she sailed under the guidance of Captain Smith. Under the latter's orders, I sent down all the ship's yards and gear, about seven tons of useless lumber we agreed; Captain Thomas returned and informed me I had spoilt his ship. I could only reply in such a way as to smooth his ruffled feelings, and I tried to, but when he would not be pacified, I told him I thought he would change his mind. The next time we met I was glad to hear him say she really did look better. The removal of yards and rigging from a steamer was for me a step almost as significant as my quitting sail for steam, ten years before.

(16). The SS Roma (see x)
(17). The late Matthew Storm, OBE, Director of the Turnbull Scott Shipping Co.
(18). Storm & Co., Durban, Capetown, Port Elizabeth, East London and Johannesburg.
(19). Although the writer believed the Robinsons of Bay Mill and those of the Stag Line of Steamers, North Shields, are related proof is inconclusive. One of the North Shields Eskdales was George, an "internationally renowned trumpet virtuoso" (Concise Oxford Companion to Music, 1964)
(20). Nellist's Nautical College, South Shields and Newcastle.
(21). Margaret Storm Jameson, Hon. D. Litt., novelist and author of the acclaimed biography 'Journey from the North'.

(22). Florence Storm Taylor married the singing teacher Albert Garcia, Oxford Companion to Music. 1970).

    Another skill of Jacob    
      In his retirement Jacob turned to creative woodworking. This is an inkstand he made probably in his 83rd year. Other items in the family include a table and chair.