Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak





Steamship India

Transcribed from the Penzance Shipping Registers

and the Loss of the Barque



ON 67820

Nr 4 in 1899 at Port of Penzance

Date of Entry 19th September 1899

One deck; Two Masts; Schooner Rig; Elliptical stern

Clinched Build; Iron Framework

Owner : James Henry Bennetts ( Ship Owner ), Penzance, Cornwall

325.39 tons under tonnage Deck

5.88 tons closed in spaces above Tonnage Deck

13.29 tons Forecastle

8.75 tons Bridge House

7.27 tons Side Houses

10.23 tons Excess of hatchways, machines, light air,

          under Section 2 MS Act 1889

Gross Tonnage 363.81 tons

Deductions as per contra 177.77 tons

Register Tonnage 186.04 tons


Transferred from Goole Nr 4, 1876

Steam Screw Ship

Built South Shields, Co Durham

Built 1876  John Redhead & Co, South Shields


Length from the forepart of the stem under the bowsprit

to the aft side of the head of the stern post 160 feet

Main breadth to outside of Plank 23.8 feet

Depth in hold from Tonnage Deck to ceiling at midships 12.55 feet


Crew space 22.26 tons

Length of Engine Room 29.8 feet

Two Engines; Combined Power 70 horse power

Compound Surface Condensing DA Inverter

Built 1876 John Redhead

Cylinders 20 inch 58 inches; 26 inch stroke



30th Sep 1899

4 shares sold to Richard Foster Bolitho of Penzance Cornwall Bank


8 shares sold to Eugene Chivers (Master Mariner) and Mary Chivers and

of Tolver Road, Penzance; 13th February 1912, 1 share sold back.


4 shares sold to Richard Humphrys (Schoolmaster) of Tandii, Glamorganshire;

23rd October 1912, upon death of Richard Humphrys,

4 shares passed to Mary Humphrys, of Morrab Road, Penzance


Registry Closed 13th November 1913

Vessel Sold to foreigners ( German subjects )

Advice received from Owners

Certificate of Registry not delivered up

Certificate of Registry delivered up and cancelled 15th November 1913.






The Times 5th April 1910

Shipping Disaster off Land's End

Many Lives Lost

There was landed at Falmouth yesterday by the Belgian tug JOHN BULL the only survivor of a shipping disaster which occurred off the Longships early yesterday morning. The four masted barque KATE THOMAS, owned by Kate Thomas Sailing Ship Company ( Messrs W Thomas Sons & Co Ltd ) of Liverpool, was being towed from Antwerp to Port Talbot in ballast, when she was run into by a steamer, and she sank in about a quarter of an hour. A young apprentice named Jack Nelson, of Birkenhead, was the only survivor. He swam to the tug and was rescued, but the remainder of the crew, numbering 18 or 19 persons, including the wives of the captain and the chief officer, were drowned.


Survivor's Narrative

Nelson gave the following account of the collision.

We left Antwerp on Friday morning for Port Talbot, in ballast. There were 18 or 19 crew on board, half the crew having been shipped at Antwerp. It was intended to ship the other half at Port Talbot. Captain Williams was accompanied by his wife, who lived in Anglesey, and Mrs Roberts, the chief officer's wife, was also on board. She belonged to Pwllheli. We were in tow of the tug JOHN BULL, and all went well until about 4 o'clock this morning. We were off Pendeen, and I was wakened from my sleep by something banging into us.


I knew something had happened, and I rushed on deck. There I saw the lights of a steamer backing out. I rushed back to get some clothes, and then I went out on the poop, where I saw the captain and his wife, the chief officer and his wife and the third officer. The captain's wife shouted to the tug for help; the chief officer's wife was very calm. She was quite young. the KATE THOMAS gradually heeled over. We were all hanging on for about eight minutes, but she gave one final plunge. I got a lifebuoy and sprang clear to try and save myself from being sucked down by the waves. Two or three huge seas enveloped me, and when I looked around there was nothing but a mass of foam, and the KATE THOMAS had gone. Then I swam for the tug, and in a few minutes I saw the third officer in the water. I asked him if I could help him, and he replied "No". I then discovered he had his sea boots on, and I tried to take them off, but I could not manage it. He soon disappeared and I did not say anything when he went down. I then got to the tug and just managed to grasp a rope, by which I was hauled on board. I did not know what I was doing.


It is impossible for me to tell how the accident happened, but the captain of the tug told me the steamer steamed away and did not stop. I was in the water about 20 minutes. The tug cruised around for two hours, but we did not see any bodies. the crew was a mixed one. The captain's wife had made the round voyage, and after being home for a little holiday had returned to make another voyage. We all had our lights burning. It was a quarter of an hour before the KATE THOMAS sank, but whether any efforts were made to launch the boats I do not know.



The name of the steamer which was in collision with the KATE THOMAS was not known to Nelson or those on board the tug, but the steamship INDIA put into Penzance yesterday and reported having been in collision off the Land's End. Lloyd's Agent at Penzance telegraphed yesterday:- Steamer INDIA, of Penzance, from Jersey for Weston Point, cargo china stone, has arrived here and reports having been in collision at about 4 am today with a ship, light, in tow, name unknown. INDIA has considerable damage to bows.


According to another message, those on board the INDIA were very reticent, but the captain said his ship came into collision with a sailing ship when about 25 miles North of Land's End between 3 and 4 am. Those on board INDIA said they did not know the identity of the sailing ship, nor were they aware of its fate. The INDIA's bow bulwarks were stove in for 5 feet clean to the deck, but only one or two plates below were started, and these were above the water line. The INDIA is only of 150 net tonnage. Her captain said he did not see any distress signal.


Tug Captain's Statement

The captain of the tug JOHN BULL made a statement yesterday as to the disaster. He said that the steamer which came into collision with the barque first approached on the starboard within a quarter of a mile of the KATE THOMAS. Then she came up on the port side and looked as if she would hit the tug. Whether she was attempting to go between the tug and the KATE THOMAS he could not tell. There was a heavy sea running at the time, and he brought the tug around as quickly as possible. he thought the steamer would have rendered some assistance before the tug got around, but she steamed away.


The KATE THOMAS, which had a net tonnage of 1,597, was built in 1885 by Messrs W Doxford & Sons, at Sunderland. She traded between English and Continental ports and South America with general cargo. She sailed mostly from Cardiff, not having been at Liverpool since 1907. It is considered doubtful whether any crew belonged to Liverpool, as only recently, when the vessel arrived at Antwerp, the crew were discharged at the end of the voyage, and new men were signed on. The third mate, named Spraymann, was an Antwerp man. The owners last evening received the following telegram from Falmouth:-

KATE THOMAS sunk this morning by unknown steamer whilst towing by tug. Suppose all excepting self lost.- Nelson, apprentice.


Picture of the KATE THOMAS can be found at


The Loss of the KATE THOMAS

Judgement was delivered in the Liverpool Police Buildings in the Board of trade inquiry concerning th eloss of the Liverpool barque KATE THOMAS and 19 lives - the only survivor being an apprentice named John Joseph Nelson - after a collision off the Cornish coast with the steamer INDIA.

The Court held that at the time of the collision the KATE THOMAS and the tug JOHN BULL, which was towing her, exhibited all the lights required by the regulations for preventing collisions at sea; and that the KATE THOMAS kept her course and the speed required by the articles for preventing collisions at sea, but that proper measures were not taken by the INDIA as required by the articles to keep out of the way of the KATE THOMAS. The cause of the collision was the absence of an efficient look out on the INDIA and the improper use of the port helm of that vessel. The loss of life was caused by the KATE THOMAS almost immediately heeling over to starboard, rapidly filling; and sinking within the space of ten minutes. Every possible effort was made by those on board the JOHN BULL to render assistance, but no attempt to help was made by those on board the INDIA, the reason alleged by them being that the latter vessel was herself seriously damaged. A good and proper look-out was not kept on the INDIA. The Court found that the loss of the KATE THOMAS was caused by the default of Thomas Frederick Mitchell, master of the INDIA, in going below and leaving an able seaman named William John Stephens in charge of the deck, by the default of Stephens in not keeping a good and proper look out, and by Stephens ignorantly making improper use of the port helm of the INDIA, thus bringing about a collision.

Neither the master nor the mate of the INDIA held certificates of competency, and the Court was strogly of the opinion that for safe navigation those in charge of steam vessels of this description should be so certified.


Raymond Forward