Hearts of Oak

Isles of Scilly



The Penzance / Isles of Scilly Mail Packets



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 Renfrew 
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 of 
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.


Info from

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 ]



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.



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.

Tons 483

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






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
and Plymouth.

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 Middlesbrough -
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 

Power 850 



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


Raymond Forward