Hearts of Oak
Isles of Scilly
The Penzance / Isles of Scilly Mail Packets
The Mail has been carried between the Isles of Scilly and the Mainland since 1548, when Henry VIII began his fortifications. Pilot boats have carried mail and passengers.
Falmouth. 1st August 1666.
Thomas Holden, in a letter to Joseph Williamson,
Editor of the Gazette, later Secretary of State,
states “a French man-of-war chased
two Falmouth vessels, which escaped
but took the Scilly packet boat and a collier”.
Records begin in 1779.
Vessels in service and their dates of commencement,
as well as history and fate, where known.
Built: 1779, Sloop, 43 tons, Length. 46ft., Breadth. 15ft.
Master: James Gibson,
Original Owners John Medbury and John Wellcock ( merchants, of Scilly )
Owners: James Gibson and John Medway.
1779 PORK AND GREENS
Built: 1779, Sloop, 10 tons
Owners John Wellcock and Mrs Badcock ( butcher, of Paul, Mainland ).
It should be noted here, that at that time,
Paul was of greater importance than Penzance
( Penzance did not begin to grow until around 1820 ).
Built: 1786, 27 tons,
Builder: James John, Cowes IOW,
Owner William Wellcock
Master: James Tregarthen,
Built: 1797, Sloop, 46 tons, Scilly,
Master: James John,
Owners: William JOHN, William Willcock, James John.
Penzance to Scilly Packet from 1803.
Owners Tregarthen, Banfield and Edwards
Built: 1813, Sloop, Scilly.
In 1803 The General Post Office Established Royal Mail Packets,
and in 1804 the tender was acquired by HOPE ( built 1786 ),
The first contract was awarded to James Tregarthen at the
suggestion of the Garrison Commander.
The Mail Service was charged at 2 pence per letter.
1810 LORD HOWE smack built IOW
owned by local traders
Master : James Tregarthen,
Sunk off Runnelstone 1819.
1813 LORD WELLINGTON 25t Cutter,
Built 1813 Cowes, IOW
Owner : William Wetherall.
( In 1834, she first brought Augustus Smith to the Islands. )
Broken up 1842
1819 PRINCE REGENT 32 tons smack
Built: 1819, Scilly,
Master : Paul Hicks
Owner : Alex Banfield
Trading Vessels listed in Pigott’s directory of 1823
To and from Penzance and London.
AMITY, John Heath.
FAME, Thomas Barns.
GRACE, James Rosewall.
HAPPY RETURN, William Woolcock.
To and from Penzance and Bristol.
BRISTOL PACKET, William Richards
ONE AND ALL, James Read.
A Packet to the Scilly Islands every Fri. and returns the following Tuesday.
N. B. All Parcels for this conveyance to be left at the Dolphin.
POST OFFICE, Chapel-street. Nicholas Phillips, Post Master.
The mail to London, through Falmouth, every morning at eight,
and arrives every afternoon at half past two.
1825 CHERUB 45 tons Cutter rigged.
Built 1825 Dartmouth
Owned by Scilly Packet Company
Lengthened at Scilly 1831 - 57 tons converted to Schooner.
Wrecked October 1837
The Mails were carried for the fee of £300 per year
Royal Cornwall Gazette November 1825
"The New Scilly Post Office Packet, the Cherub, William Tregarthen, master.
THE PUBLIC are respectfully informed that the NEW PACKET will sail from Penzance for Scilly every Friday morning, and will leave Scilly for Penzance every Tuesday. This packet has lately been fitted up with very superior accommodation for ladies and gentlemen, and from the size of the vessel is better calculated for the comfort of the Passengers, than any that has yet sailed to and from the Isles of Scilly.
Goods taken to and from Scilly at a moderate freight.
Any further information can be obtained by applying to
the Master at the Dolphin Tavern, on the Quay.
Penzance, October 22nd, 1825."
Royal Cornwall Gazette June 1831
"The Public are respectfully informed that, in compliance with the wishes of a great number of Ladies and Gentlemen of Falmouth, Penzance, etc. the Steam Packet Sir Francis Drake, James Mill, commander, will leave Falmouth (weather permitting) on the 25th inst., immediately after her arrival from Plymouth, for Penzance, from which place she will proceed early on the following Morning, for the Scilly Islands; returning to Penzance in the Afternoon, and to Falmouth on Sunday Night. Fares: Falmouth to Penzance, and back 5 shillings, Falmouth to Penzance, Scilly, and back 10 shillings-., Penzance to Scilly and back 5 shillings. Refreshments may be had on board."
West Briton Newspaper report : Friday 1st April, 1836
“The Scilly Packet, “Lord Wellington,” sailed on Sunday,
but finding the gale coming on put back.”
West Briton Newspaper Friday October 28th, 1836
“The excessive violence of the late gales,
detained the Scilly Packet at Penzance
above a week beyond her usual time,
to the great inconvenience of many.
A larger and more commodious packet is much wanted.”
For the period 1843-45, Naval cutters carried the mails [ by Act of Parliament ].
1843-1844 SNIPE Sail Cutter
Launched 28 June 1828 : Wooden Hull
Displacement 122 tons; Guns 6
9 March 1839 Under Lt Commander Thomas Baldock, coast of Ireland
31 May 1843 Under Lt Commander George Raymond, particular service
1844-1845 SPEEDY Sail Cutter
Launched 28 June 1828 : Wooden Hull
Displacement 123 tons ; Guns 4
25 July 1838 Under Lt Commander John Allan Wright, Sheerness
9 August 1841 Under Lt Commander George Beaufoy, Sheerness
8 March 1845 Under Lt Commander George Spong, particular service
1853 became a mooring lighter
Winter of 1845: Houses of Parliament
The Scilly Isles : Captain Pechell moved for "all communications addressed to the Treasury respecting the Post Office arrangements at the Islands of Scilly, with the answers returned thereto, etc, since the 1st August 1844, up to the present time; copies of all communications addressed to the Post Office on the same subject, with all answers returned, from the same date; copies of all correspondence that has taken place with the admiralty in the course of the year 1844, respecting conveyance of the mail to the Islands of Scilly; return of the expenses incurred for the SPEEDY and SNIPE cutters during the period the same were employed in conveying the mails to and from the Islands of Scilly, during the past year; also any copies of special reports that were made by the commanders of the said cutters relative to the said service; return of all places in the United Kingdom having the benefit of money order post-offices and distinguishing whether the said places are established as post-offices, sub-post, or branch offices". The arrangements of the Post Office, the honourable and gallant member said, were very unsatisfactory with respect to these islands. For six months at a time they were left without any regular mail whatsoever. At that moment there were no regular mail to those islands. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he looked into the matter, would see that the interests of those islands had been grievously neglected by the Post Office. To enable the inhabitants to proceed by memorial to the Government or otherwise, it would be necessary to have this correspondence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had no objection to produce the correspondence, if the honourable and gallant gentleman thought it necessary, but it struck him the subject was hardly worth the production to the house of so much correspondence. After a few words from Sir C Lemon, the papers were ordered; the last return, on the suggestion of Mr Hume, being ordered to be made as a separate and substantive return.
1842 LYONESSE 49 tons Cutter
Built Scilly 1841.
Mail Service 1842 – 1851
Captain Frank Tregarthen
Wrecked March 1867.
1851 ARIADNE 53 tons Cutter
Built 1841 Sandgate,
Bought by Tregarthen and Banfield.
Last of the Sail Packets.
Captain Frank Tregarthen
Mail Service 1851-1858
Wrecked : October 1859.
1858 – 1872
Scilly Isles Steam Navigation Company
Thomas Johns Buxton : Ship Agent
James Phillips : Ship Owner
Francis Banfield : Ship Agent
James Bluett : Merchant
Richard Edwards : Ship Owner
During the 1840 to 1889 period, Francis Banfield & Sons owned a lot of vessels sailing all round the world including the biggest built in Scilly which was
the "John Banfield" at 528 tons. They also owned a larger vessel,
the "Anne Laity Banfield", built in Glasgow and of 743 tons.
These Scillonian ships were trading all round the world, Chile, Argentina, New York, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and the Mediterranean.
1857 SCOTIA Steamship
F McFarland reports that SCOTIA was the “First with Steam”
She was chartered until the LITTLE WESTERN was delivered.
Built 1847 for the Chester & Holyhead Railway
In 1848 the Chester & Holyhead Railway Company
commenced operating a passenger service between
Holyhead and Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) / Howth.
The fleet was transferred in 1859 to the
London & North Western Railway Company.
Iron paddle steamer 400 horse power.
480 ton gross; 263 tons net; ( originally built as 202 tons net )
194 feet length; 27 feet 1 inch breadth; 13 feet 2 inches depth;
powered by a 2 cylinder engine by Maudslay of Blackwall;
Built at Blackwall ( London ) by Money and Wigrams in 1847;
( one of a four-ship fleet ) taking mails between Holyhead and Kingstown.
She was purchased by the City of Dublin Co., in July 1851,
1858 Chartered to run the mails between the Isles of Scilly and Penzance
until 1859 when she was sold to the London and North Western Railway Co.
December 1861, at Liverpool, she was sold as a Blockade runner.
She made four runs ( two each, in and return ) and on the fifth ( inwards, attempting to reach Charleston ) run she was captured ( as well as the British steamer ANGLIA ) by the Federals 24th October 1862 at Bull's Bay, South Carolina.
By the 23rd January 1863, she had been sold by
the Prize Court and registered at New York as the GENERAL BANKS.
During the year 1863 she had again been sold a number of times,
ending up registered at Nassau; as the FANNY AND JENNY ,
now 508 tons gross 297 tons net; Captain Coxetter ;
later in the year, making two more runs against the Blockade,
but driven ashore by the USS FLORIDA Wrightsville Beach,
Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina; off New Inlet 8th February 1864 ( inward bound ).
The ship was reported salvaged by the owner and the ship
continued in the ownership of Augustus John Adderley until 1914.
There were a number of vessels at this time named
“GENERAL BANKS” and “FANNY AND JENNY”;
It is therefore unclear as to whether or not
the entries and references actually are relating to one and the same ship,
let alone the authenticity of the legend of the Jewelled Sword and its Fate.
There are many other references in Civil War Records,
but here are a selection.
Civil War Naval Chronology 1861-1865.
ORN Vol. 13 & Vol. 9 and
Stephen Wise’s "Lifeline of the Confederacy"
Delaware Prisoners of War
"SCOTIA" 24th Nov 1862. Hi Seas. Bulls Bay. Steamer. ("FANNY & JENNY")
William A. Beeson - Seaman
The largest number of prisoners is made up of blockade-runner crews. The crew was likely to be foreign sailors sailing under the British flag. As long as they did not return fire they were usually released (sometimes to crew the same ship for the Union.). The Captain, Pilot and Supercargo (owners' agents, etc.) along with any Confederate military personnel were forwarded to Union prisons. The civilian captains and mates were held as witnesses for the Prize Courts while military personnel were held as regular POWs.
March 1st 1864 U.S.S. CONNECTICUT, Commander Almy, took blockade running British steamer SCOTIA with cargo of cotton at sea off Cape Fear, North Carolina.
Then from a diary entry
28th July 1864 “Hot and dry. Made a call in the morning on Mrs. Kelly, a cousin. At eleven o'clock took Steamer SCOTIA (a captured blockade runner which now runs from Portland to Augusta) to Gardiner. Arrived there at 3 o'clock.”
Feb 10th 1864 U.S.S. FLORIDA, Commander Peirce Crosby, forced blockade runner FANNY AND JENNY aground near Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina. Immediately thereafter, Crosby sighted blockade runner EMILY aground nearby. Unable to get either steamer afloat and under fire from a Confederate Whitworth battery, Crosby burned them. The Florida managed to capture several of the FANNY AND JENNY’s crew, and while a few did escape, the Captain and the purser drowned before Confederate shore batteries drove the Florida away. FANNY AND JENNY carried an assorted cargo including a quantity of coal, she sank in only twelve feet of water. EMILY carried a cargo of salt. On FANNY AND JENNY was also found a solid gold jewel-studded sword scabbard inscribed: "To General Robert E. Lee, from his British sympathizers." Crosby reported that information given him by the captured crew members of FANNY AND JENNY indicated that ten blockade runners had sailed from Nassau for Wilmington ". . . during this dark of the moon. Three have been destroyed, and one put back, broken down, leaving six others to be heard from."
The sword is reportedly lost.
1858 - 1872 LITTLE WESTERN - ON 19050
Steam Schooner 2 cylinder Iron Screw.
Built 1858 Renfrew; James Henderson & Sons
115 ( 148 ) tons gross; 67 tons net;
115ft 9ins length; 18ft 5 ins breadth; 9ft 4ins depth
Owner : Captain F B Tregarthen
Wrecked on Southward Wells Reef, 6th Oct 1872,
attempting to give assistance to a disabled brigantine.
Captain Tregarthen opened the first hotel on Scilly in 1848.
My grandfather Francis ( Frank ) Thompson used to say his father ( Archibald Thompson ) told him that the Little Western sometimes only ran when supplies were to be brought from the mainland, so some visitors had a longer stay on the islands than they had planned.
1861 Census (Little Western) Isles of Scilly
William Woodcock,Crew,M,47,Seaman,Tresco Scilly
( 66 Ton Screw Steamer. Master: F.B. Tregarthen )
Robert Jenkin,Crew,M,43,Seaman,Tresco Scilly
Richard Copenhoun,Crew,M,36,Engineer,Glasgow Scotland,
Richard Frances,Crew,M,26,Stoker,Newlyn Paul Cornwall
1871 Census Isles of Scilly
Little Western - Screw Steamer Passenger : 66ton No. 19050
Francis T Hicks,Master (Ashore), Scilly
Benjamin Bryant,M,35,Engineer,Rotherhithe Surrey
Richard Francis,M,35,Stoker,Newlyn West Cornwall
Alfred Williams,M,30,Steward,Tregony Cornwall
Daniel Richards,M,36,A B Seaman,Mousehole Cornwall
John Edwards,M,28,A B Seaman,Penzance Cornwall
The Little Western was the Isles of Scilly’s
First Steam Packet boat and made about three voyages
from Scilly to Penzance and back each week;
each voyage took four hours.
1871 – 1872 EARL OF ARRAN Steamship; Relief vessel.
Former Clyde excursion vessel.
Builders: Blackwood & Gordon, Paisley, Scotland 1860
Propulsion type: Paddle, double steeple 2 cyl engines
Owners: 1860 Ardrossan Steamboat Co,
Owners: 1871 West Cornwall Steamship Co
Service dates: 1871 - 1872
Tonnage: Gross 144 tons; Net 77 tons
143 ft 5 ins long, 18 ft 5ins wide; 8ft 5 ins depth
This little steamer was built for use between Brodick and Lamlash.
In 1871 she was sold for use between Penzance and St Mary's in the Scilly Isles but had only a short career.
Wrecked 16th July 1872. One of the passengers on the trip, a Mr Stephen Woodcock, advised the Captain that he was a sailor on one of the pilot boats and could show the Captain a short cut. Unfortunately this short cut between St Martin's Island and the Eastern Rocks was unsuccessful and the ship foundered on Nornour Rock. Whilst there was no loss of life or cargo the ship was proclaimed a total loss.
West Cornwall Steamship Company from 1872.
1872-1875 GUIDE - ON.60110 Chartered vessel
Wooden paddle steam tug.
Built 1869 Henry John Warren for Harvey & Co, Hayle
L 97 .7ft; B 19.8ft; Depth 9ft".
Single cylinder engine by Harvey of Hayle.
Built for the Dartmouth Steam Packet Co.
Between 1872-1875 chartered for service Penzance-Scilly
to replace the wrecked LITTLE WESTERN;
Sold 1877 to Jackson and Ford of London and Milford.
Sold 1883 to Joseph Lawson of South Shields, tug owner.
1888 resold to John & David Morris, Pelaw Main (Registered Newcastle)
Reconstructed and converted to screw by Abbot & Co of Gateshead.
111grt 61nrt, re-engined
using a 1868 compound engine of 30nhp by Kincaid Donald & Co, Greenock
and renamed JUBILANT
27 Nov 1897 sailed from Maldon for the Tyne and not subsequently heard of.
In the early parts of the season, mackerel were caught near enough for landings to be made every day or two; but later, when the fish were farther off, nearer the Irish and French coasts, the takings were borne to St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, there sold by salesmen from Newlyn, and purchased by buyers also from the home port, the salesmen and buyers spending the week from Monday to Friday at St. Mary’s. In succession three ships, the Queen of the Bay, the Lady of the Isles, and Lyonesse conveyed all the fish to Penzance for despatch to London by rail.
1874 – 1885 QUEEN OF THE BAY
Built 1867 by Henderson, Colbourn and Company at
for William Alcock of Morecambe as an excursion paddle steamer.
Passenger capacity :195
Transferred to William Allsup of Preston for use at Blackpool in 1872.
Purchased by West Cornwall Steamship Co. in 1874.
Re-boilered by Harveys in 1875.
Sold to John Dutton of Cardiff in 1885.
Between 1883 and 1885 she was engaged on a number
charters in the Bristol Channel during the summer season.
Propulsion type: Paddle, single diagonal
Owner: W Alcock, Blackpool Lytham & Southport Steam Packet Co Ltd,
1867 ( Morcambe ); 1872 ( Blackpool )
Owner: West Cornwall Steamship Co, 1874 - 1885
Owner: John Dutton, 1885 ( Bristol )
Owner: John T Hutchins, 1885 ( Cardiff )
Owner: Jessie Laurie, 1886 ( Ilfracombe )
Owner: Newport & Bristol Channel Excursion Co Ltd. 1889 ( Cardiff )
Tonnage: Gross 138
Fate : severely damaged by fire on 22 May 1894 on the River Usk; sold for scrap.
1875 – 1904 LADY OF THE ISLES 152 ton steam schooner
Built 1875 by Harvey & Co of Hayle; she had a life of 65 years.
74 tons net; 130 ft 5 ins long; 18ft 5ins wide; 8ft 3 ins depth
Powered by Gardiner 2 cyl engine.
She assisted in potato and mackerel seasons until 1917
This ship was the first of the Royal Mail steamers serving the Isles of Scilly,
commencing service shortly after being built in 1875, and served until 1904.
She went to the aid of many vessels in distress,
including the SS Schiller ( position 49-52N 006-25W )
In 1875, the celebrated steamship 'Schiller', was on passage from New York to Plymouth when she struck the Retarrier Ledges in dense fog and sank. More than 300 crewmembers and passengers lost their lives. During the First World War, the Kaiser was so grateful for the courageous rescue attempts made by the islanders and their care for survivors of the Schiller disaster, that he forbade any German U-boat to attack the steamers that sailed between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly.
1st September 1904, she was being taken around the bay, but struck the Heaver Rock; her skipper took her into Lamorna Cove, and beached her to stop her from sinking. She was re-floated and repaired and with new boilers. From 1905 Acted as a cable ship for the Navy, then as the salvage vessel for the Western Marine Salvage Co of Penzance, until requisitioned by the Admiralty as an Auxiliary vessel.
Fate : She was under tow of a tug when she hit a mine off Falmouth & sunk on the 3/10/1940. on October 3, 1940 when she struck a mine off Killigerran Head. She sank about two miles offshore at a charted position of Lat 50.09.00N Long 04.56.00W in 50-58m of water.
1875 AQUILA paddle steamer ( assisted in mackerel season )
1875 GAEL paddle steamer ( assisted in mackerel season )
AQUILA 264 g.t., iron hull, paddle steamer
180.4ft x 21.4ft x 9.7ft
built 1854 by James Henderson & Sons, Renfrew
for the North of Europe Steam Nav. Co.
17th Apr.1854 first voyage Weymouth - Jersey.
1857 joined her sister ship CYGNUS on the Weymouth & Channel Islands S.P. Co service.
1860 withdrawn for overhaul and modernisation.
1873 re-boilered and further modernised.
1st July 1889 company taken over by G.W.R and ship sold to Alfred Tolhurst, Southampton and then passed to Onesimus Dorey and
operated by his Plymouth, Channel Islands and Brittany S.S. Co.
1895 sold to James Jones & Co, Swansea renamed ALEXANDRA.
1896 sold to Hastings & St. Leonards SS Co renamed RUBY.
Used on Hastings - Boulogne excursions.
1897 purchased by W. T. Simonds, Boston, Lincs.
1899 scrapped. [Merchant Fleets, vol.24 by Duncan Haws]
The Aquila was designed by John Dudgeon for the North of Europe Steam Navigation Company for a service from Harwich to Antwerp in 1854. The service started late in the year (September) and was intermittent due to poor passenger receipts and lack of cargo, closing down some six weeks later. AQUILA was laid up in the Victoria Dock during 1855-1856 although occasional voyages were made to Denmark in connection with the building of the railways. AQUILA was chartered ( originally offered for sale at £9000 each but the Weymouth and Channel Islands Co. decided to charter them for 18 months at £50 pm.) to the Weymouth and Channel Islands Company in 1857 and subsequently purchased by them. After refitting at Lowestoft AQUILA was handed over on 13th April, going to Jersey. AQUILA and CYGNUS were purchased 21 Nov 1857 for the total agreed price of £14000.
The Great Western at Weymouth, J H Lucking.
From ‘The Illustrated London News’, September 30th, 1854
The North of Europe Steam Navigation Company, encouraged by the success which has attended their efforts to establish a regular system of communication with the countries north of the Scheldt, via Hull and Lowestoft, and further stimulated by the recent extension of the Eastern Counties branch railway to Harwich, determined on making an attempt to provide equal facilities at that port for the traffic between London on the one hand, and Antwerp on the other. At present the greater portion of this traffic is conveyed by steamers, which traverse the Thames and the Scheldt; the entire journey being performed by water, and usually occupying from eighteen to twenty hours. By adopting the Harwich route, the North of Europe Steam Navigation Company proposed to realise the following results: First, the avoidance of the long and tedious passage up and down the Thames; second, the increase and development of the local traffic between the Eastern Counties and Belgium; third, the accomplishment of the journey in twelve hours, thus effecting a saving in the distance, measured by time, of some eight or twelve hours and, lastly, the establishment of the new service as essentially a “day” service.
The first trip on this service was taken, in the nature of an experiment, on Saturday week last, the ship selected being the Company’s new steamer the Aquila, from the building-yard of Henderson, Glasgow and fitted with engines of 120-horse power, constructed upon the oscillating principle, by McNab, of Greenock. Her length is 200 feet, breadth of beam one-tenth of her length, or 20 feet, and her burden about 300 tons. Her engines, for new ones, work with much ease, whilst the unpleasant vibration we so often experience, even in crack steamers, is scarcely perceptible. Both out and home she gave the greatest satisfaction to all on board, and averaged a speed of thirteen knots; in returning, on the following Tuesday, she passed the buoy at the mouth of the Scheldt at eight o’clock in the evening, steamed gallantly through a tremendous sea, and arrived safely at Harwich at half-past two the next morning, accomplishing the distance from the Scheldt hither in exactly six hours and a half. In this part of the voyage the sea-going qualities of the Aquila, under the severest stress of weather, were capitally brought out.
The conclusions, to which this experimental trip lead us, are these: — For the purpose of the traffic between London and Antwerp, and certainly all the local traffic, the Harwich route has no real competitor in any of the other existing routes; that during the summer months the day service may be conducted with punctuality both ways, provided the railway arrangements are made compatible with the demands of the service, and, above all, that the Belgian Government can be induced to maintain additional lights, and erect a few more landmarks, in the Scheldt; that, in the existing state of the navigation of that river it presents insuperable obstacles to the project of ascending it at high water in the evenings of the short winter days; and that until these difficulties are removed, the steam-packet company have acted wisely in determining to dispatch their boat from Harwich, on the arrival of the night mail from London, so as to reach Antwerp early on the following morning.
Type: Iron Paddle Steamer
Launch Date: 1867 Breaking Date: 1924
Builder: Robertson & Co. Engineer: Rankin & Blackmore
Owner: Campbeltown & Glasgow Steam Packet Joint Stock Co. (1867-1883)
Size: 211.0' x 23.2' x 10.6'
Boiler: 2 Haystack 35 lb: New boiler (1872): New boiler (1879)
Engine: Oscillating 2 cylinder 45" x 63"
Speed: 16 knots
Description: Two funnels. Flush decked (after deck saloon added later).
The Gael was built to beat the Herald, which had appeared on the Glasgow to Campbeltown service. She set a record of 3 hours on her first voyage and the Herald was withdrawn soon afterwards. The arrival of the Kintyre led to the Gael being employed on excursions to Campbeltown with waggonette trips to Machrihanish. She was completely refitted at this time with a saloon built aft. The old saloon being converted into a dining room. 1884 she was sold to the Great Western Railway Co. and based at Milford in Wales.
1888 and 1889 the Great Western Railway's PS GAEL was chartered "for the seasons" by the West Cornwall SSC which ran the packet service Penzance - Scilly.
She returned to Scotland in 1891, based at Oban under the ownership of MacBrayne. There she served Gairloch via Mull, Eigg, Mallaig and Skye until she was broken up in 1924.
References to the GAEL and the AQUILA in
"The Victorian Summer of the Clyde Steamers 1864 - 1888
by Alan J. S. Paterson ISBN 0-85976-550-4
1889 LYONESSE Steel Screw Steamer
Built 1889 by Harvey & Co., Hayle
3 cylinder turbine engine by Harveys
329 tons Gross, 52 Net; 170 feet Long; 25 ft 1 ins breadth; 10 ft 4 ins depth
In service until 1889 - 1918.
1918 Sold Queenstown
1928 Broken up.
Lyonesse. Scilly packet. Involved in attempted salvage of ship Horsa, 1893.
HORSA. Iron ship, 1163 tons. Built 1882. Lbd 220 x 34.2 x 21.7 ft.
Left Bluff, New Zealand on 19 December 1892, for London;
ashore, abandoned, in the Scilly Islands 4 April 1893.
Towed clear by the Scilly packet Lyonesse next day and
then set out for St. Mary's.
When about twenty kilometres off the islands
the HORSA rolled over and sank.
Kelly’s Directory of Cornwall 1893 - Water Conveyance.
Scilly Isles—West Cornwall Steam Ship Co. John Banfield, manager; office, 6 North parade; steamers leave Scilly in January, February, March & April on Tues. Thurs. & Sat.; returning from Penzance, Mon. Wed. & Fri; May, June daily; July, August & September, leave Scilly, Mon. Tues. Thurs. & Fri.; returning from Penzance, Tues. Wed. Fri. & Sat.; October, November & December, from Scilly, Mon. & Thurs.; returning, Wed. & Sat
Boskenna Bay, Mounts Bay & Carbis Bay Steam Ships, Francis Banfield & Sons, managers, 6 North parade
In July, August & September marine excursions from Penzance to places of interest on the north
& south coast of Cornwall
Little Western Steamship Co. George Bazely & Sons, agents; steamers leave Penzance for Bristol every Wed. & for Plymouth, Torquay & London every Mon
1908 - 1910 MELMORE O.N.99833.
Owned by Earl of Leitrim
412 g.t., 156.2ft x 25.8ft,
Passenger / Cargo ship
Built 1892 by D. J. Dunlop & Co, Port Glasgow
for the Trustees of the late Earl of Leitrim, Glasgow.
An advertisement of 1892/3 described her thus
"The MELMORE takes her name from Melmore Head which is at
the head of Melmore Bay. She is a great advance on the ROSSGULL
with her yacht like lines , electricity in all parts of the vessel
and two large dormitory like saloons providing
sleeping accommodation for twenty five passengers each."
Used initially on the Glasgow - Northern Ireland service.
( Clyde to Mulroy and excursions to Londonderry, Portrush and Melmore ).
4th May 1905 acquired by Great Western Railway to replace the perishables ships,
mainly those of James Fisher & Co, Barrow-in-Furness.
13th May Weymouth - Channel Islands cargo service.
Her deck crane was never used and was later removed.
1909 served two routes per week; Channel Islands - Plymouth or Weymouth - Nantes.
1911 reverted to Weymouth - Channel Islands route but put up for disposal.
10th Jun 1912 sold to Charles Forbes for use as an abortive
treasure seeking expedition to Caribbean, Cocos Islands and then
26th Jun 1912 sold to H. Whitworth, Glasgow.
The Melmore arrived on the British Columbia Coast in 1913,
and was converted for excursion service the next summer,
running day and moonlight excursions ( to the accompaniment
of a string band ). Her last run was Labour Day 1914.
1914 –1916 MELMORE ( oddly, recorded as being ex WOLFHOUND ?? )
owned by Union Steamships of British Columbia, Vancouver.
1916 sold to Melmore SS Co, Vancouver; part of the Union SS Co of British Columbia
1917 sold to German E. Leith, Callao, Peru and renamed SANTA ELENA.
1936 owned by Peruvian Government - Minister of Marine, Callao and used as
lighthouse tender, renamed CONDESTABLE CELENDON.
Deleted from Lloyds Register in 1947.
Duncan Haws Merchant Fleets, vol.24,
Britain's Railway Steamers
Register of Merchant Ships built in 1892 by Starke / Schell.
Echoes of the Whistle. ISBN 0-88894-286-9 (pages 43 & 69)
Douglas & McIntyre, Quebec Street, Vancouver, BC Canada V5T 4S7
[ 1910 Railway Tenders from Plymouth ]
1910 SIR WALTER RALEIGH
Great Western Railway Co Uk Passenger Tender 1908
Built April 1908 by Cammell Laird & Co, Birkenhead. Vessel Nr V0680
478 tons gross. 169 tons nett.
Steel twin-screw vessel.
Twin sets of triple expansion 3-cylinder engines.
Spent a year at Fishguard first.
151ft 6ins long; 38ft 6ins beam; 14ft 6ins depth; draught 9ft.
Smoking saloon with refreshment bar,general saloon & a ladies saloon at the rear.
Licensed for 590 smooth water, 400 outside.
Official trials at Liverpool on 19/5/1908 and reached 14 knots.
Was involved in a mail fire while in the Sound on December 20th 1920.
Became a Naval examination vessel from August 25th 1939.
Became experimental minelayer towards end of Second War, based at Portsmouth.
Sold January 1947 to Leigh's Albert Yard & Motor Packet Services of Southampton;
resold April 1947 to Overseas Towage & Salvage Co
and then to French owners at Cherbourg who renamed her INGENIEUR REIBELL.
1910 SIR RICHARD GRENVILLE
Passenger Tender 1891 Great Western Railway Co Uk
Built 1891 by Cammell Laird Brothers of Birkenhead. Vessel Nr V0580
420 tons gross. 103 tons nett.
Iron twin-screw vessel.
Compound 2-cylinder engine.
Length 132ft. Breadth 30.1ft. Depth 12.6ft.
Used to transport King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra
& party from the Royal Yacht to Millbay Pier
on Monday March 10th 1902.
Captain was Joseph Collins,
who had joined the Great Western Railway in 1874 as
mate on the Sir Francis Drake, been made master of
the "Smeaton" in 1883, and master of the Sir Richard Grenville in 1891.
Renamed PENLEE in 1931 on arrival of SIR RICHARD GRENVILLE (2).
Sold October 1931 to Dover Harbour Board and renamed LADY SAVILE
1910 DEERHOUND 15knots, purchased 1910; but costs rose
and was sold to Canada, and renamed LADY EVELYN as mail packet
Built 1901 Tranmere, Great Britain.
The Howe Sound Navigation Co. brought the screw
steamer Lady Evelyn a former Canadian mail packet on
the St. Lawrence, to Vancouver in 1921 for operation with Brittania.
LADY EVELYN of 582 tons, 189 x 26.1 x 9.5
Served out of Vancouver 1923 -1936 and scrapped.
Gordon Newell, Maritime Events of 1921-1922,
H.W. McCurdy Maritime History of the Pacific Northwest. p. 323.
She was also involved in rescue of survivors of the
Empress of Ireland in 1914.
1913 GOLDEN LIGHT 120 tons gross
Built WS Martyn, Truro 1864
3 masted schooner; owner Capt Thomas Donald, Feock
1866 Owner William Calf, Penzance altered to two masts.
Purchased by the West Cornwall steamship Company to bring coals from
South Wales, also to carry Packet Mails
1917 Sold to Cardiff owners
7th Feb 1918 sank in Bristol Channel
1917 PRINCESS LOUISE ON 95050
974 GRT Steel screw steamer
226.0ft L, 32.1ft B, 14,1ft D.
Built 1888 by D & W Henderson, Meadowside, Glasgow.
Launched 15th March 1888 , as Yard No 333, Delivered 25th April 1888.
Port of Registry : Glasgow.
Triple expansion steam engine and one single ended boiler operating at
160lbs/sqin pressure supplied by the builders.
One deck, five bulkheads, well deck
Owners : M.Langlands & Sons, 5 Rumford Place , Liverpool and 123 Hope Street,
Glasgow. They operated a "Round Britain" coastal service, including Bristol Channel
1888 Employed on Glasgow/Bristol service
1901 Transferred to Glasgow/Liverpool service
1904 New engines, boiler and donkey boiler supplied and fitted by Clyde
Shipbuilding & Engineering Co.Ltd., Port Glasgow. Electricity installed.
1917 Assisted in mackerel season Isles of Scilly
1919 renamed CLYDE COAST . Company taken over by Coast Lines Ltd.
Retained on Glasgow /Liverpool service.
1923 renamed SETTER Burns Laird & Co.
1925 renamed CLYDE COAST. Coast Lines Ltd.
1925 renamed MACROOM City of Cork Steam Ship Co., Ltd
1929 Sold for breakup
1917 RAMBLING ROSE Naval Drifter
Nancy Haig - Trawler 299 Tons - built 1911 Smith's Dock
owned by New Docks ST Co Fleetwood. 1 x 6 pdr - hired by RN 1916-19 as
minesweeper. Admiralty No. 1360 - Port Reg FD.133. Returned to owner and
again requisitioned by RN april 1940 and employed as a Boom Defence Vessel.
Purchased November 1943. Port No. Z.166. Laid up June 1946 and later sold.
1917 NANCY HAIG Naval Drifter
Rambling Rose - Hired Drifter 59 Tons - built 1909 -
hired by RN 1915-19.
Admiralty No.1142 - Port Reg. YH.553. Under armament Dittmar & Colledge have
noted "Net", It is assumed that this refers to the use of nets to entangle submarines.
Auxiliary Patrol in Area XIV out of Falmouth. The parent ship was
the Dreel Castle, a drifter of 97 Tons built in 1908; Admiralty No.2251 - Port Reg. KY.71.
Sources: Royal Navy Trawlers Part 2 Requisitioned Trawlers (Toghill)
British Warships 1914-1919 (Dittmar & Colledge)
Ships of the Royal Navy An Historical Index Volume 2: Navy Built Trawlers,
Drifters, Tugs and Requisitioned Ships (Colledge)
During the Great War, there were also ….
SS VICTOR, from Falmouth, date unknown.
Steam tug built by Pool, Skinner & Williams of
Falmouth, engines by Cox and
Co. Owned by the Thomas family. A regular summer excursion vessel.
1917-1919 Admiralty service as ICTOR.
1926 sold away to Swansea
1934 Jennet Dewsbury, Swansea
1939 George Dewsbury, Swansea
1946 William & Ira Guy and Frederick Thomas, Cardiff
1949 J Davies Towage & Salvage Ltd, Cardiff
Broken up c1954/5.
SS TRITON, from Falmouth, details and date unknown.
Tug HERCULES, details and date unknown.
The ARTIFICER Coastal ship, details and date unknown.
The RATAPIKO, FY 1878, date unknown.
Royal Navy HMS Ratapiko MS Trawler
Built in 1912.
Displacement: 247 tons.
Length 164 feet
Max speed 12 knots
Engines Reciprocating engine, 1 shaft
[ 26th March 1920 Isles of Scilly Steamship Company formed ]
1917- 1920 LAPWING ON 115771 ( Captain Neil McAlister )
A Chartered vessel, with a gun mounted aft..
Penzance was a WWI temporary Naval base, for repairs, etc.,.
Steel screw steamer.
Built 1903 by Scott & Sons, Bowling
135.2ft L, 21.2ft B, 9.4ft D.
Compound ( two cyl) steam engine and one single ended boiler supplied by Hutson & Sons , Glasgow
Owners : MacBrayne & Co
Port of Registration : Glasgow.
Glasgow Herald, newspaper writes
" ..........This year ( 1903) ornithological names were
revived when the new screw steamer LAPWING entered service .
She is utilitarian without any of the gilt apparent in the
older vessels and reputed to be economical but hardy"
1903 She took over from STAFFA on the islands run from Oban.
1917. January. Ran aground at Oban. Insurance was paid out in full and she became the property of the Underwriters. Sold to Clyde Cargo Steamers Ltd she was reconditioned and converted into a cargo only vessel. One mast was removed and independent cranes were fitted fore and aft in place of the original derrick on the forward mast. After approximately six weeks service for her new owners she was requisitioned by the Government and placed on the mail run Penzance/Scilly Isles.
( 5th February 1920 - PENINNIS came into service on the Isles of Scilly ).
1920 February Moved to Plymouth/Channel Islands for nine months.
1920 December LAPWING Returned to tramp cargo work from the Clyde.
She is reported to have had a severe accident, arriving at Strachur Pier ( Loch Fynne ) and damaging both herself and the pier, gaining herself the title “Accursed ship”, whilst en route from Inverary to Glasgow.
1926 Renamed COWAL Same owners.
1932. Broken up at Troon
( Lloyds Register, Lloyds List, "Royal Road to the Isles" Ian McRorie,
"Clyde River and Other Steamers", and thanks to John D Stevenson )
1920 PENINNIS steamer built Paisley, formerly ARGUS
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Co.; Ltd's first ship, was originally the "ARGUS", a Fishery Protection Vessel and was purchased from the Admiralty Disposals for £8,000. Following the necessary alterations at a cost of £5,000 she was renamed "PENINNIS" and came into service when the Company received its Certificate of Incorporation, giving the right to commence business (dated 27th March, 1920)
ARGUS Steel screw steamer,
Built by Bow McLachlan Co Ltd., Paisley.
Launched as Yard No 173; 6th December 1904 for Coast Guard Service .
Handed over March 1905.
224 GRT. 130.0ft L, 23.2ft B, 11.5ft D.
Triple expansion steam engine and one single ended boiler operating at
180lbs/sqin pressure supplied by the shipbuilders.
65RHP (650IHP), Design speed 12.5K.
Bunkers 55 tons
Owners : Royal Navy. C 75
Shipbuilders Archive lists her as a "store ship" ,
"Janes" of 1914 has her as a "Coastguard
1917 ARGON January Royal Navy.
1914/18. Examination vessel Borehaven
1920 PENINNIS ON 144466. 5th February. Isles of Scilly S.S. Co., Ltd.
( E.N.V Moyle, managers)
The official registered owner of PENINNIS in 1921 Mercantile Navy List (ie
at 31/12/1920) was William H Ward of Woodford, Essex.
Port of Reg Scilly. Cost to buy £8000 plus £6000 to refit.
Sold 5 February 1920 and renamed Peninnis (British Warships 1914-19 - Dittmar & Colledge).
Vessel now 380 tons, 130 x 23 x 9ft
fitted with triple expansion producing 600 ihp giving
12 knots and armed with 2 x 6pdr's.
This information corresponds with that given in Ships of the Royal Navy An Historical Index Volume 1: Major Ships (Colledge).
Commenced service 25th March 1920.
1926. February 1926 PENINNIS was sold to Alderney Steam Packet Co and renamed RIDUNA.
1931 Sold for Break-up at Plymouth.
From Loyds Register of Shipping, "Janes"
1912/14/19 , Ditmar & Colledge, Shipyard Archive, Glasgow newspapers
There was an earlier SCILLONIAN on the far side of the world
SCILLONIAN Schooner New Zealand
37 tons built at Williamstown Victoria in 1863, lost
after sailing from Napier on June 25th 1867 bound for
Christchurch. Captain Thorburn in command.
First purpose built ship for the route;
Read F McFarland’s poem
“Her First Voyage”
“Her Arrival at Scilly”
Was to be named Queen of the Isles, but that name was already in registered use.
The much more appropriate and succinct name of SCILLONIAN was chosen.
Built 1926 Ailsa Shipbuilding Co Ltd in Troon Nr 396
Steel Screw Propulsion
429 gross ton 179 ton net
170 ft 7 ins length
28 ft 7 in breadth
10 ft 8 in depth
triple expansion 3 cylinders
400 day passengers
15000 cu ft cargo 215 ton dead weight
She was lively on the water, Captain McAlister soon got the feel of her capabilities.
She could carry a maximum of three hundred and ninety passengers
and served the Islands for 30 years.
170ft 325t ( Captained by Neil McAlister and Joe Reseigh ).
Grounded twice in fog.
R.M.S "Scillonian" also served as troop carrier WWII;
40,000 troop movements being recorded
1956 Renamed Peninnis; sold off and broken up at Ghent June 1957
During 1924 the Directors began considering the purchase of a larger ship and at an Extraordinary General Meeting of Shareholders on the 16th June, 1925, the Directors were empowered to place the order with Ailsa Shipbuilding Co; Ltd. In order to keep their yard open during the slump this work was undertaken at cost, the contract price was £24,500. She was launched and named "SCILLONIAN" by Mrs. A.A. Dorrien-Smith on 17th November, 1925 and made her first trip to Scilly on the 25th January, 1926, sheltering on the way ( at Belfast and Kingstown ) due to bad weather. At 429 gross tons she was considered, by some, as too big and unsuitable for our seas, however she proved to be a wonderful sea boat and a tremendous improvement.
11th January 1950 The Times
Known to many holiday-makers, the Royal Mail ship Scillonian of 435 tons, which for the last 24 years has been employed in a regular service between Penzance and the Scilly Isles is to be replaced by a bigger and faster vessel. Her captain, Captain J. Reseigh holds the M.B.E. for his long command of the ship,
which is the islands’ chief link with the mainland.
26th April 1954 The Times
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company have ordered from John I Thorneycroft & Co., Ltd. of Southampton, a passenger and cargo vessel to operate between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly. The new ship which will replace the Scillonian, in service since 1926, will be about 900 tons gross.
1956 SCILLONIAN II steamer built Southampton Thorneycroft 1956; 920t 15knots.
QUEEN OF THE ISLES, O N 6501783
Built 1964 Albion Boatyard, Bristol by Charles Hill & Son's Ltd.
Could take 300 passengers and 60 ton's load,
Launched by HRH Duchess of Gloucester 16th November 1964
Handed over after her trials in April 1965.
Length 156 ft 3 ins. 30 ft W x 9ft 6ins draught ; 515 tons gross; 214 t net
Two 6 cyl. Ruston Hornsby diesels 1.146 shp., twin screws, speed 13 knots.
Planned to operate as a support ship for the SCILLONIAN ( II ).
The seas between the mainland and the Islands proved to be too much for her and it soon became apparent that she was not a viable solution to their needs.
1966 Laid up.
1967 On charter to the Mersey Docks Board,
1968 Chartered to P&A Campbell which had acquired the L&NWSSCo.
1970 Operated for Norwest Hovercraft between Douglas IOM and Fleetwood.
1970 Sold to the British Government, and subsequently given to Tonga.
1971 She sailed via Panama Canal to Tonga where she was
renamed OLOVAHA for the Tonga Shipping Agency, Nuku’alofa.
She operated within the Tongan group with the occasional voyage to Fiji.
1977 She sailed from Tongatapu ( largest of the Tonga Islands ) heading for the Ha’pai group, a distance of 100 km, an 8 hour voyage. Leaving port, she was listing alarmingly. After a few hours, the engines stopped, she was taking in water, baling operations were undertaken, as she was taking in water badly, and the bilge pump was not working. One of the engines was re-started and the voyage continued to Vava’u. Reaching Tofua, the engine shuddered to a halt and the ship drifted. The radio was not working, there were only two lifeboats. The ship listed even more, the wind and waves were rising. The Tongan Navy at Pangai had recorded her as missing and so had sent a ship to find the OLOVAHA, but with no radio communication this would have been difficult to say the least. A Tongan freighter came upon them by chance, and the 300 passengers were rescued in very high seas, several metres high. The OLOVAHA sank in shallow waters and was later salvaged.
1980 Sold to G.L.Wright at Tonga. The same year sold by G.L.Wright, Tonga, to Trans Tours Gray Line - Morgan Shipping Corporation, New Zealand. Arrived at Whangarei on 27 December 1980 as OLOVAHA, towed by the tug PACIFIC SALVOR.
1982 She underwent an overhaul, refit and a long lay-up at Whangarei.
Renamed GULF EXPLORER.
Tonnage now given: 529 gross; Length 47.78; Width 9.17; Depth 2.89 metres.
Hired by Trans Tours, New Zealand, for 84 passengers, for short cruises around the Hauraki Gulf, but this was unsuccessful.
1985 Operated gambling cruises out of Whangarei, until 2nd/3rd August 1986. She was arrested with several large debts and was sold to an Australian company.
1987 Renamed QUEEN OF THE ISLES, she entered service on 4 October 1987, reported Queensland for Barrier reef work; Operating 7 day cruises out of Cairns.
1994 Renamed ISLAND PRINCESS by unspecified owners in Australia.
1996 Sold by unspecified Australian owners to Western Development Corp., Solomon Islands and renamed WESTERN QUEEN.
1997 Stranded on the beach at Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Owners : Malaita Shipping Company.
Marine News 1983/317. 1996/676.
Merchant Ships World Built Vol. XIV 1966.
New Zealand Ships Illustrated 1988-1989.
Navicula. Marine News 2004/566
Thanks to Auke Palmhof ( Ships on Stamps Database )
for further information 1987, 1994 & 1996
R.M.V. SCILLONIAN III – Our Current Vessel.
Built Appledore Shipbuilders Ltd. in 1977
Named by H.R.H. Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall 17th May, 1977.
68 metres Length; 11.25m Width; 2.98m Depth
Weight 1255.25 tonnes
Cargo 100 tonnes
Engines : 2 x Mirrlees Blackstone ESL 8 Diesels : 1200 BHP each.
Electrical Generators giving 375kW
Speed 15.5 knots
1.8m Bronze propellers : 1,000 revs per mile.
Bow propeller / thruster : In a tube for manoeuvring and docking.
The purchase of Scillonian III in 1977 left the Company with financial burdens
which were resolved when the Government agreed to make a substantial loan.
In 1998, faced with the immense cost of building a new ship,
the Company formed a contract with Devonport Dockyard
which gave Scillonian III a major refit at a cost £1,700,000.
On Saturday 27 March, the refitted RMV SCILLONIAN III re-entered service. The SCILLONIAN III regained its buff funnel carried until 1992 when it was replaced by a blue/white funnel with house flag logo and for 1992, the hull was also painted blue. SCILLONIAN III's deck life raft and gangway cranes were buff again. The open deck plastic seats were replaced with wooden seating. The galley was moved to the lower passenger deck, which was considered to offer less roll in rough seas. The old galley kiosk was replaced by a full shop. The bar was refurbished with new seating and tables and wooden bar with brass trim. New bow thrusters and generators were fitted.
Plans are still on the table for a new ship, at 20 knots this would bring the voyage down to less than 2 hours, allowing more than the one trip per day. These plans are, of necessity, dependant upon the facilities at Penzance harbour being greatly enhanced. These enhancements are dependant upon European Funding being made available.
Mention should be made, to close this page, of the
Purchased in 1989
She was a Norwegian coastal ship ( pronounced “Gree Mareeta” ).
This is a highly manoeuvrable ship
37.6 m long, breadth 9.82 m and depth 3.63 m,
Cargo on two decks, with a fuel bunker, and cold stores.
As well as a limited capacity for passengers.
List mainly compiled from one made
by my great grandfather Archibald Thompson
and continued ( up to the first Scillonian )
by my grandfather Francis Orlando Thompson
of St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly
My Thanks for
The kind help of the Captain and Crew of the ship, Mariners-L;
Thanks too for material and help from
Chris Marrow ( of the Syllingar )
and Mike Tedstone
for his kind permission to use his article
“The Ship with Five Lives”
as well as The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company,
Roger Banfield and the Isles of Scilly Museum
Other material from
West Country Passenger Steamers by Grahame Farr