Where is everybody – The Fermi Paradox, Self replicating spacecraft and computer system reliability

In 1950 the physicist Enrico Fermi asked the question “Where is everybody ?“, by which he meant – given the size of the universe, the diversity of life on earth, occupying every ecological niche, and the fact that the Solar System is a fairly average star system; why do we not see signs of extra terrestrial life ?

The size of the universe

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Scientists have to resort to analogies to describe the size of the universe – the article linked above says that if the sun was the size of an orange then the next nearest star, Alpha Centauri, would be 2,300 kilometres away – about the same as the distance from London to Odessa in Ukraine. All the space in between is effectively empty. As stellar distances go, this is quite tiny ! Thus the huge number of stars in the universe –  about 30 billion trillion, is balanced by the huge spaces between them. Surely, with so many worlds, there has to be other life out there ?

Quantifying E.T. – the Drake equation

In 1961 Frank Drake formalised the question of the number of intelligent life forms in the universe into the Drake Equation (spelt out in full in the Wikipedia article).
As a brief summary it multiplies the number of stars by the chances of a star having habitable planets, and then considers how many of those go on to develop life, and from those what chance that life will develop intelligence. Finally it considers the chances of us detecting that intelligent life. Since 1961 we have better data for some of the parts of the equation – for example we now have direct(ish) observation of planets in other solar systems.
I am not going to go into all the factors in detail, but I have had personal interest in some of them.

Millers experiment

When I did Sixth Year Studies biology, you had to perform and write up an experiment, and I re-created – as best I could in a school biology lab, Millers experiment.  This was an experiment which showed that the more complex chemicals needed for life (amino acids) can arise spontaneously from the chemicals expected to be in the atmosphere of an early earth (or earth-. This involved explosive chemicals, sparks, Bunsen burners and other potentially exciting items, so in those days I was allowed a free hand to set this up, and it did produce some result – although in a school environment it is difficult to be sure this was not the result of contamination. Also not as dramatic as I had hoped !

Frankenstein’s monster

Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

If you use some reasonable assumptions into the Drake Equation (there are a number of calculators on the internet where you can try out different factors, such as one provided by the BBC) you find there could be quite a lot of civilisations in our galaxy, let alone the whole universe. The great distances alluded to earlier might explain why they have not dropped in on us, but might we be able to detect their presence in the sky ?
This process of using (mostly) our radio telescopes to listen for signs of intelligent life is known as SETI, and has been undertaken since at least the 1960’s, but so far has (mostly) not found anything.
This lack of demonstrable contact with other beings, in the context of the numbers of civilisations there could be out there is known as the Fermi Paradox. The Wikipedia article gives several possible explanations, one of which being that Civilizations broadcast detectable radio signals only for a brief period of time.

Listening to the radio

When I was at school we made what was essentially a crystal radio, by dropping a long piece of wire out of the physics laboratory window (which was on the second floor), and using a diode to demodulate the signal – that is to extract the sound signal from the Amplitude Modulated  (AM) radio waves, and an earpiece to listen to Radio One.  There was no amplification, and the tuning came mostly from the length of the aerial being around a quarter of the Radio One wavelength.
I also build a Sinclair matchbox radio, which was not a lot more complicated than that crude crystal radio.

Frequency Modulated (FM) radio is more complex to decode, but can be built from general purpose components by an electronics enthusiast, and if we on earth detected FM signals from some alien source we would recognise them as containing information, even if we were unable to decode the language.
Even a television receiver, in the days before Digital Television, could be built by a hobbyist and the signal was quite recognisable .
With digital radio and digital television the signal is much more complex, and used Data Compression to carry many channels in the space which used to just carry one. The flip side of this is that all the regularities in the signal, which might give a clue to its contents, are eliminated. Unless you know where to start then decoding a digital TV signal is very hard.
In addition any signals, of any kind, which are sent out into space are – from the point of view of the broadcaster, a waste of energy.
Many of the signals are now travelling through wires, or optical fibres, rather than being broadcast, thus increasing proportions of TV are watched over the Internet rather than over the airwaves.
This drive towards communication efficiency is likely to mean that the radio (or electromagnetic) output from an advanced civilisation may not be detectable even with our sensitive instruments.

Space Probes

An alternative route to contacting other civilisations, would be to send a small robotic space ship. This would be take a long time to arrive, given the distances involved, and even at the speed of light, and there are many hazards which will deplete the number which can be expected to arrive.
This can be looked at from two directions – if we sent a number of space probes from earth, what are the chances of them returning information about an alien civilisation, and – if an alien civilisation had send a space probe to us and it arrived, what are the chances we would know it was there ?
A calculation, similar to the Drake Equation, may give us an idea of whether the answer to the lack of known probes from space is due to this being harder than it may appear.

Computer Systems Reliability

In the early days of my career at Harwell I was working on Computer system Reliability. This gave me some insights into the many and varied ways that computers can go wrong. Colleagues were investigating the effects on silicon chips of being bombarded with nuclear particles, as would be required for space hardening, as we had access to nuclear reactors.
The on board computers for any form of interstellar probe will have to function for centuries, in an environment which is much harsher than on earth, where the atmosphere shields us from cosmic rays.

Mean Time Between Failures

When we calculate the percentage of failure of our space probes due to equipment malfunction we will be using concept of Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), i.e. how long, average are they expected to operate. For example a Cisco PIX firewall has an MTBF of over 11 years. While there is some pressure to develop and market devices with an MTBF of, say 20 years, this is mostly so that the expected failure rate within, say 5 years, will be very low. Manufacturers have no interest in developing equipment which will last significantly beyond the time that it becomes obsolete. We have little real experience of items in use for over 100 years, the Centennial Light being a rare exception, and even its story provides a useful lesson in how tricky reliability can be, as in 2013 it appeared to have burnt out, but it turned out that the Uninterruptible Power Supply which powered it had failed.

Modulated Launch Laser

If the laser system used to push the probes was modulated to carry a signal, it would not reduce its efficiency greatly, but would be an additional signalling method, which would help with the Fermi Paradox issue that everyone could be listening, but nobody is sending.
(what to send – thought experiment  – show message to ant colony, dolphin, chimpanzee, octopus, primitive tribesman …)

Explorers and colonists

Another possibility for reaching the stars is to go there ourselves (or for another civilisation from another star to come here). Much as I would like there to be Faster Than Light travel of some form, as is the staple of much science fiction, I take the lack of any evidence of alien visits to be a sign that this is impossible.
That leaves the slow route. There are many proposed solutions for this, but they are all huge projects, which will require the explorers and colonists to spend many lifetimes in space, in a Generation ship, before reaching their destination. Our rate of progress into space seems to have slowed – I was very disappointed when by the year 2001 there was not an almost routine, airline like, space flight.
Unlike the expectations of science fiction we do not have colonies on the moon, miners in the asteroid belt, and although there is talk of a manned expedition to Mars, I would say that a permanent population somewhere else in the solar system was a prerequisite to an attempt to reach another star.
Many of our ideas of the colonisation of space are influenced by the colonisation of America, however, as I described in Amazing Love, Demographics and Mass migrations, one of the reasons the people of Europe were willing to go to such risk and expense to undertake such a hazardous journey was that they were being pushed by population pressure at home. The parts of the world which have the capacity for a mass migration into the Solar system, let alone the stars, have already undergone a demographic transition, and a stable, mature populations lacks the incentive to emigrate to a less comfortable life.

Micro Colonists

Brian Cox, in his book Human Universe, suggests that the reason we do not see other civilisations due to the improbability of two of the steps on the route to complex lifeforms required for intelligent life in the Drake Equation. The two steps are the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis, which created the oxygen levels we have in our atmosphere today, and the evolution of eukaryotes (cells with nuclei and other complex cell structures).
If this is the case then the universe may be awash with planets which are stuck at the single celled life stage, and seeding them with the right organisms could bootstrap their Cambrian Explosion, and possibly leading to civilisations  to converse with.

William John Webster – Anthem for a Doomed Youth

I was in the Weston Library last week, where they had on display, as part of their exhibition of “Treasures of the Bodlian“, the original draft of Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est“.
It was another of his great war poems which came to mind when I thought about William John Webster – his “Anthem for Doomed Youth“.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.

My Great, Great Grandmother, Ada Webster, who married John Robert Box, had  a brother, Percival John Webster, born in 1865.  Percival was an Apprentice Confectioner in 1881, living at   Brockfield House in St Pancras, Pancras, London, with his parents, elder brother Arthur, elder sisters Edith, Ada and Janet, and 2 servants.
In the 1891 Census Percival is living on his own at 332, Harrow Road, Paddington, and he is a Stationer.
Around August 1894 Percival married Edith Amy Day, and they had a daughter, Kathleen Edith Webster – born about 1895 – and a son William John Webster – born about May 1897.

In the 1901 Census he is living at 7, Kestrel Avenue, Lambeth, London, England, with Edith, Kathleen E (aged 5), William J (aged 3), and a boarder and 2 servants. He is a Commercial Traveller (Stationary).

7, Kestrel Avenue

In 1904 Percival died, leaving Edith to bring up the children, who would have been 9 and 7, on her own.
By the 1911 Census Edith and Kathleen, have moved to 93, Walm Lane, Cricklewood N W, Willesden, Middlesex, England, where they live with two boarders.  William John Webster does not seem to be in the 1911 Census, but the 93, Walm Lane address is the one he uses on his sign-up papers.
(Unfortunately I can not post the sign-up papers as there is a fee of £48 to post TNA documents on a public web site)

On 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. At the time William John Webster would have been 17,  but on the 3rd September 1914 he declares his age to be 18 years and 3 months, and signs up.
This was some time before “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, and he would have been thinking more of “Your King and Country Want You” and other popular songs of the time

Oh! we don’t want to lose you but we think you ought to go
For your King and Country both need you so;
We shall want you and miss you but with all our might and main
We shall cheer you, thank you, kiss you When you come back again.

William John Webster was one of the many who did not return. He died on 2nd March 1916, and is buried at Loos, in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.
He has a rather sparse record at the Lives of the First World War website.

Reprieved (temporarily)

It appears that reports of his death were exagerated. One of the family trees I inherited had a note saying ‘Died WW1’.  Another, however has a nickname of Jack associated with him. My sister has a Memorial Card for him, showing that he died on 30th July 1922.
The Deceased Online website shows that he was buried on 2nd August 1922.
A comparison of his Army Number 761788, from his Statement as to Disability, with the William John Websters at Lives of the First World War shows that our William John Webster was in fact this one, who ended the war as a Sergeant Instructor – an important role.  This also explains his jump in age on his Statement as to Disability. Although the only date on the form is when he joined, this was signed when he was released, to show that he was not going to claim for any injuries created during the war – which lasted 4 years, during which he aged 3 years !
I have not been able to track down what Jack Webster did between 1918 and 1922, but his death at the age of 25 is still tragically early, and I am leaving the William Owen references in honour of the 92 William John Websters who died during World War One and are commemorated at the Commonwealth War Graves site.

Amazing Love, Demographics and Mass migrations

Amazing Love

On the 18th and 19th of February 2017 I will be taking part in the world premiere of Amazing Love, a musical based on the lives of John and Charles Wesley.  The musical is written by Jack Godfrey, who also wrote “The Pharaoh’s High Magicians” for the musical Moses, (in which I took part and wrote some lyrics).
The musical will be performed at Wesley Memorial Church, in Oxford, and is part of a tradition of locally written musicals. I will be part of the ensemble, so will be a neighbour during a fire, a boozy pub goer, a sailor on a voyage to Georgia, a colonist and a Londoner.  I would like to be able to say that this shows the talent and flexibility of the ensemble, however the principals have more words and songs to learn, and still join us in chorus rehearsals to help us learn our songs. Amazing to be surrounded by such talented people !
The musical has now been performed, and Oxford Phab went to see Amazing Love on the 18th February 2017.


Although Amazing Love focusses on John and Charles Wesley, and their parents, Samuel and Susanna, the Wesleys were quite a large family. John was the fifteenth child, and Charles the eighteenth child of the family. In all they had 19 children, nine of whom died in infancy. Three boys and seven girls survived.
Susanna, who educated all of the children, taught sons and daughters alike a range of subjects including Latin and Greek, was herself the 25th of 25 children.
Although I can not trace my own family back as far as 1622, when Samuel Wesley was born, some of the earlier families were larger than is usual today.
William Braund (1766-1840) had ten children, born between 1793 and 1815, and at least six of the children married and had children.
Joseph May (1828-?) had ten children, and his son Samuel (1867-?) had seven, however his daughter, Elizabeth (1865-?) only had two children.
Abel Lines (1807-1877) had eight children, one of them being Joseph Lines, who also had eight children. Abel’s occupations had been Fur Skin Dresser, Smith, Steel Worker, Porter – reflecting the need to keep adapting to the rapid changes in employment needs of the time.
William Cansdale (1814-1891) had ten children, and was an agricultural labourer, and in 1851 a railway labourer.  One of his children, William, was a Rook Scarer, aged 9 in the 1851 Census.
Although these families were large, though not as large as the Wesleys, a little over a century earlier, there is a big difference in the Infant Mortality rate, probably caused by improved standards of hygiene, better sanitation, cleaner water and a generally healthier population. The same thing would have applied in the time of the Wesleys, leading to an expanding population, with a lower age profile than we are used to today.
At the same time improvements in agricultural efficiency  were allowing more food to be grown with fewer workers. James Harden Champion (1821-1895) was farming 165 acres of Somerset in 1861, with 7 labourers and 2 boys. In 1881 he was farming 190 acres with 4 men, 1 woman and 1 boy.

Mass migrations

In 1735 John and Charles Wesley sailed to Savannah, Georgia, at the request of James Oglethorpe, to minister to the new colony. This voyage features in Amazing Love – but with singing and dancing.
By 1790 the population of Georgia was 82, 548 – which would have been largely driven by the demographic changes in Britain. By 1980 over 1.5 million Georgians claimed English ancestry.
My family tree shows mostly internal migration, mostly from the country to living in towns. George Cansdale moved from Copford in Essex to Bethnal Green. William Braund Box (1815-1891) moved from Cornwall to Edmonton in London. It is even possible that his ancestors came from Germany to Cornwall, and may have been Büchs originally. It is interesting to note how much of the housing in London, and other British cities, was being built in this period of migration, so that Northampton Square, where William Braund Box moved to, was built in 1814, so it would have still been quite new when he moved in.
Although in Britain the movement of people from country to town has slowed, lack of opportunities and cost of housing are still causing younger people in villages to move to cities. In other parts of the world this rural to urban migration is still happening, so cities in China, for example, are expanding rapidly, even though the Chinese population growth rate is now only 0.47%
In Syria the movement off the land is exacerbated by their water crisis, which, even without a war (or possibly one of the causes of the war), is reducing the arable productivity. It is ironic that a contributing factor in the water crisis is climate change, causing a shift in rainfall patterns (widening Hadley Cell), and that there is (probably) a scientific consensus that CO2 emissions contribute to climate change – although this is disputed by Donald Trump, who wishes simultaneously to remove the brakes on CO2 emissions and to make life as hard as possible for the migrants it causes.

Postcard from Roger – 9th April 1934

My father, Roger Lines, would have been 7 when he wrote this postcard, postmarked Sutton, on the 9th April 1934 (which was a Monday).

We are just sitting on the loggia. The rooks are cawing loudly, I wish you could see them.
I think we are having the rail way out this afternoon  Tudy is just washing and we are just going to have 11’s rather late we’ve just had dinner must catch the post love from Roger.

My Grandparents seem to have both been at Cheam, but Tudy (my Grandmother’s sister) seems to have been with my father. The address is written in my Grandmother’s handwriting, so my father was probably given this card to send home some while he was away. I suspect it was written in stages, covering the highlights (elevenses and dinner) and missing out any activities in between.
Tudy was living at Chipstead in 1934, according to my aunt, and would have been married for a year by then.
Easter Sunday in 1934 was April 1st, so my father could have been staying with Tudy and Tom Keeley for the Easter Holidays, and if he failed to catch the post then the card could have ended up being posted (or collected from a postbox) in Sutton on Monday 9th.

Michael, Roger and Tim write to Anne Boleyn's Walk.

In this letter my Uncle Michael, my father, Roger and my Uncle Tim (who must have been quite young at the time, write to their mother (my Grandmother) at Anne Boleyn’s Walk. My Uncle Jeremy was with my Grandmother. They could have been writing to, or from Anne Boleyn’s Walk.

The letters are on a single sheet of paper, with Michael writing on one side, and Roger and Tim sharing the other side.

The Cottage

55, Anne Boleyn’s Walk

Cheam, Surrey

Tel: Sutton 3081

Dear Mummy,

What have you been doing ?

Did you go the the zoo like you said you might in your letter ?

You wouldn’t say the weather was too nice if you were here ! Always raining when we’re outside !

Daddy has had my bike mended and the brakes are so good that I’m sure I shall go over the handlebars by putting them on too fast “

It has been quite good at school and very easy.

Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of love for Jeremy and you

From Michael xxx


and from Roger

Dear mummy I liked the first day at school I have easy homework the only had 1 difficult word and that was active love from Roger.

From Tim

LOVE and

Auntie Frankie and the Coastguard's Cottage at Birling Gap.

Auntie Frankie was an honorary auntie, who met my Grandmother, Doris Stevens at the time, at boarding school at Port Eynon in about 1914. I have not yet been able to track down the name of the school.
She was born Frances Mildred Young, in 1898, in Highgate. Her Father was Thomas Young, born in 1861 in Londesborough, Yorkshire. He married Alice Wimbush in May 1894 in Barnet, Middlesex.
In the 1901 Census he was  living at 2, Blenheim Road, Barnet, South Mimms-Urban (OSM), with wife Alice, and daughter, Doris (born 1896), son Ernest (born 1897), Frankie, a younger son, Malcolm (born 1899) and newborn daughter Evelyn (born 1901). They also had Letita, a cook aged 27, Katherine, a housemaid aged 19, Flora, a nurse aged 23, and Gertrude, a nursmaid aged 15. They were also being visited by Clare Carruthers, aged 23 and living on her own means.

By the 1911 Census the family had moved to Rockfield House Woolacombe, Mortehoe, Devon (OSM). Frankie’s elder siblings, Doris and Ernest were no longer in the household, but as they would have been 15 and 14 they could have be away at boarding school. Frankie was now 13, and presumably about to be sent off to school too.  Malcolm, who would have been 12, was also not there, and Frankie had two new younger sisters, Winifred and Mary, born in 1904 and 1907, both in Woolacombe. They were reduced to three servants, Maud, a nurse aged 29, Lizzie, a cook aged 32 and Louisa, a cook aged 36.

Frankies father was very religious. Granny and Frankie used to giggle at the sight of the housemaids, during morning prayers, kneeling down with their bottoms in the air.  Granny and Frankie may have known each other before going to the boarding school, possibly through the Freemans, and Granny may have gone there because Frankie was going.

Essex Convalescent Home, Clacton-on-Sea

My father, Roger, and uncle Michael stayed with her at Clacton-on-Sea when they were young, and they wrote this letter home.

Essex Convalescent Home


Dear Mummy and Daddy,

We are having a lovely time here. I hope everyone at home is quite well. Yesterday we went out with Nurse and enjoyed it very much. We played about and afterwards had tea out in little café.

To-day we had breakfast in bed, and when we had finished Auntie Frankie asked us if we would like to go on a charabanc trip, with people mostly from the home.

Of course we replied that we should, and were soon on our way. The driver was very funny, and made a lot of jokes, in one of which he pointed out a letter-box which he said was cleared every Good Friday.

After a while we came to Weeley woods.

Weeley is a little village quite in the country. There were a lot of primroses there, so the driver let us out to pick some. (That is how we got these.) While we were picking them, a grass snake glided by a few feet away.  Then we went through some very pretty country, until we stopped at an inn, where we ate our refreshments that Frankie had given us, and a kind lady gave us some lemonade. We then went back to Clacton (on-Sea) an that’s where we are now.

A few days ago Frankie took us on a pony a little one called Susan, who is very good-tempered. It was jolly good fun.

With love from

Michael and Roger.

From the primroses this was presumably spring, and may be related to the time, when they were about 7 or 8 when Michael and Roger had (possibly Scarlett Fever) and went to Champneys to convalesce. They could have gone on from there to Clacton-on-Sea, or they could have been staying there for a Easter holiday.  Speaking to my Aunt, she thinks it was probably an Easter Holiday.
The address on the page with the picture of a head (probably written by my Grandmother) is “Josephine Avenue, Lower Kingwood” (OSM), which is the road where Ann Minnion and her family used to live. Ann later married my Uncle Tim, but there there was no connection between the families at the time, and I do not know who Mrs Yarley was. It is a small world !
Essex Convalescent Home was build in 1884, on what would become Coppins Road, to the design of the architect Fred Chancellor . Essex Record Office has 10,000 plans from his office, which they are in the process of cleaning up. Some of his other buildings can be found at Archiseek. It was a Hospital during WW1 (this link to the GreatWarHomeHospitals site has a huge amount of information about that period)
There is a good history of the building at Archseek, which says that

Accommodation had increased to 30 beds for each sex by 1937. Annual patient numbers rose steadily in the earlier 20th century, from 475 in 1907 to 569 in 1913, reaching a peak of 884 in 1938. There were 365 patients in 1955.

This would presumably be the period when Frankie was running the home.

Essex Convalescent Home, Clacton on Sea, Essex, c.1930's - click here to see the image
Essex Convalescent Home, Clacton on Sea, Essex, c.1930’s

This is a picture of the home in the 1930’s at http://www.history-in-pictures.co.uk/store/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=5227.
Essex - Clacton On Sea, Essex Convalescent Home
Essex – Clacton On Sea, Essex Convalescent Home

Clacton-on-Sea, Essex Convalescent Home
Clacton-on-Sea, Essex Convalescent Home


In 1937 my Auntie Jennifer went with –  at least – my father, Roger and uncle Tim (and I assume Michael and Jeremy, – not sure about my Grandparents) on holiday with Auntie Frankie to Happisburgh in Norfolk. Like Birling Gap, this is an area subject to coastal erosion, despite various attempts at sea defences.
There is a cine film of my father, Roger at the top of a wooden pole, like a look-out point  with toothed steps. Various siblings, but not uncle Tim, are lower down. It was quite high and probably long since barred on health and safety grounds.
There was a lovely pool at high tide under the cliffs where Auntie Jennifer leant to swim.

Godstone, Surrey

From my Mothers address book Frankie lived at (OSM)

Miss F Young  (Mrs F Snell)
Church Lane

Godstone is quite close to Warlingham, and so this could be the place where Auntie Frankie ran a Nursing Home. She took in Hungarian refugees after the 1956 revolt was quashed.
She was probably living there when, in 1962, she attended the funeral of John Keeley (the son of my Aunt Tudy, sister of her school-friend – my Grandmother). She told Claire, who is now my aunt, that life in digs was not good for my Uncle Jeremy (who was off work, sick, at the time). Some time after they they did indeed get married.

The Coastguard Cottage at Birling Gap

Coastguard Cottages at Birling Gap
Coastguard Cottages at Birling Gap

She owned one of the Coastguard Cottages at Birling Gap, No. 3 or 4, which was very comfortably furnished, and generously lent out to various friends, including my Uncle Tim. and Michael and Fanny, who stayed in it for Easter 1956, and came back for my parent’s wedding.
The National Trust bought cottages 5,6 & 7 in 1982. The others are privately owned. The cottages are well know as examples of the effects of coastal erosion.
No. 3 has now gone, but No. 4 is still there (just) in 2016.
Auntie Jennifer remembers staying there in September with Jean Brinley (who went to college with Jennifer and my Mother), and the cliffs being full of mushrooms.
I was at the cottage at Birling Gap with by brother, Chris, and my Aunts Jennifer and Fanny, and my mother and possibly others, in June 1959.
John Lines on the beach at Birling Gap

Chris on the beach at Birling Gap with Jane (our mother)

Aunt Fanny holding Chris outside the Coastguard Cottage at Birling Gap

Later notable occupants of the coastguard cottages

Number 3 was occupied in 1994 by Joyce Betts, the widow of Jimmy Betts, the brother of Barbara Castle. Her mother-in-law, Annie Betts, known as Muvey, so several other cottages were occupied, for holidays, by people with Labour Party connections.
In 1994 number 4 was owned by Jean Fawbert. She still owned and occupied it in 2000, having inherited it in 1990 from her mother, who knew Muvey’s family and friends in Pontefract. Her mother bought it in 1970, so could have bought it from Frankie,who would have been 72 – if this one was Frankies cottage. Jean was the last of the owner occupiers – the other 2 privately owned are by 2000, rented
In 1994 number 5 was owned by Lord Howie of Troon, another Labour Peer.

Retirement and Marriage

My sisters went to visit her in  a Nursing Home near Lyme Regis (where the French Lieutenant’s Woman was filmed). There are two nursing homes in Axminster – a couple of miles from Lyme Regis, in my mother’s address book.

Tudor Cottage
South Street


Silver Street

She married Jack (John W) Snell when she was in one of these Nursing Homes, in the 4th quarter of 1980. Apparently they got together over games of chess.  Jeremy and Claire visited her a few times in Axminster when returning from holidays with Peggy Lines in Instow. They remember her infectious laugh and when she told them that once married to Jack they would have a sitting room and a bedroom in the home. Jack had beautiful hands.
Frankie was in Honiton Hospital, Honiton, Devon, when she died on19th March 1985. Probate Bristol 29 April  – left £56,770

George Lines – new digs in Switzerland

I have an incomplete letter written by my Grandfather, George Lines, probably in late 1913 or early 1914, as he is just about to start work, presumably at the Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik. The house is probably near Winterthur.
Chronologically it must come before the letter from Bellagio, and after the letter from Cologne.
The piece I have appears to start at page 5, but none of the other pages are numbered. They are written on both sides of a single A4 sheet of paper, folded in half.


he consulted his Frau, as to the possibility of taking me into their place, and so offered to take me if the place would suit me so I straightway went & inspected the rooms & being favourably impressed decided to take them. I have a bedroom, rather small, but I shall do my exercises in the corridor (its not as large as Mouse’s bedroom) and for meals & etc I use their rooms.

They have no family, but have a piano which doesn’t appear to be used much so I must ?sub up any 5 finger exercise. It is very pleasantly (not the piano, – the house) situated in the middle of

continued on the next page…

a garden with fruit trees & plants all round, so it does not jar on my aesthetic sense. In fact all the houses here are sweetly pretty & the surrounding country is also very beautiful, natürlich.
Have been for some walks with Herr Rhienhold in the neighbouring forests, and today through a vineyard & stole some grapes – but were rather sour. He speaks fair English, but his Frau does not so you can imagine our conversations are rather comic. However I try and speak always German.
You would scream to see the sort of stuff Chief the vegetarian is putting down

The Swiss grape season is about October, so this could be September 1913, i.e. too early for the grapes to be ripe, or they could be after the grape season, when only the grapes which did not ripen were left.
It is interesting to see Grandpa being a vegetarian at this stage, as he ate turkey at Christmas dinner with most of the rest of the family – apart from my Uncle Michael and his wife, who were vegetarians back when this was unusual. I remember he was also fond of mustard on his roast beef, and my parents had bought him a large jar of it the year that he announced that he was a vegetarian. He would tell us “If you want to be fit and active in your 90’s – become a vegetarian”. My grandmother would point out that the secret was to be fit and active into your late 80’s, and then become a vegetarian !
I think there is a jump here

am sure I shall be sick at meals soon, as they will press you to eat some more when you are quite full.
I think you would love the country round here.
Tomorrow, Wednesday I start work & expect it will be rather comic at first. I think we start work in the winter at 8.0 am – 12.  12 – 2 Dinner  2 – 6.15 work then come home & have a meal abt. 7 o’c & then read, walk or autre chose.
Here they speak a German Dialect which is rather difficult to understand.

The reference to winter suggests that this is late 1913, or early 1914.
Here is the last page

I think I shall be pretty comfortable here. Herr and Frau Rhienhold are quite unconventional, and it is rather decent having someone to talk to at meal times.
They have a proper bath, but it is situated in the kitchen so one must arrange matters accordingly.
I will write again when I have got into harness if I haven’t forgotten all my English by then !
Bite a little piece out of Pudding’s neck & send it to me and tell Pete I’ll write him a letter in German soon as he seemed very interested in that mysterious language, at Stope.

Love to all


Once again we have a reference to Stope, also mentioned in his letter from Bellagio, and his letter about Spring Cleaning and Mountain Climbing.


Letter from George Lines – Spring Cleaning and Mountain Climbing

This was written by my Grandfather, George Lines, probably shortly after 21st May 1914, probably from Winterthur to his future Mother-in-Law. I have left out some padding.

… must write small as I have a suspicion that 3 sheets of this stuff takes more than 2 ½ d stamp. Tell me if this is so. I was going to write some days since, but as I was going on a mountain climb on the Thursday, thought I’d wait & tell you about it instead of having nothing but my usual padding. Of course the latter will predominate here, so don’t expect anything in the nature of a letter.

That brings me to my next point, namely Spring Cleaning or the “Root of all Evil”, which you mention in your letter as hoving in view. I always had a fondness for your show because the place looked as the place looked as though it was used and lived in, instead of being in competition with all the other 999 people in Keynsham & elsewhere, who systematically spend 50% of their waking hours in tidying up and shaking dusters out of windows (for their neighbours benefit) and I always admired the way you could slip off for a ramble without worrying because a few papers or books weren’t exactly tidy at home, and you can’t imagine the delight it gave me, always to be able to find some dust on your mantleshelf. A mantleshelf without dust gives me a chill. I always suffered from chills in Fishponds, and I do here – the shame of dust haunts me like a curse. Here is a person in 10,000,000 – I said to myself, – who has a soul above dusting or scanning every little corner in order to be able to find a speck of dust, and so have one up against the poor skivvy. Well to cut my story short, you are the aforesaid 1 in 10,000,000 of of course well aware of the fallacy of Spring Cleaning, which is this. Everything in this world tends towards a normal state of affairs, – water finds its own level, people find their own level (I of course being the exception which proves this latter rule, insofar as my level being of the coal mine order should never have brought me into touch with your level which must very nearly approach the spiritual realms) – and, what is more to my point, house cleanliness tends to a normal state of affairs. A week or so after the manual annual tomfoolery turn out, everything is the same as if Spring Cleaning had never been invented. I speak of course from bitter experience. I am sure Daddy would agree with me on this point. Having now conclusively proved my proposition you will of course this year forego the silly business, and have all the time that would thereby be wasted, to really enjoy the Spring on the bosom of your family. People are so illogical; Spring perhaps the loveliest season, they set apart for befouling the atmosphere with dust, reek of paint and etc, instead of doing this disgusting work when the fogs are about, and it wouldn’t be noticed, or subtract anything from the enjoyment of life. When the world is wiser people will see that fogs were sent for this very purpose.
My lesson & the moral are plain. If you can now do your Spring Cleaning ? without sm??t???ps from your conscience you must be a hardened character. We have a Spring Clean here one a week due to the pride the Swiss have in being able to call the Italians dirty. They clean up fiendish neptune. Where I happen to keep a few books & papers in the sitting room, Frau G ? calls a “Schweinerei” I.e. a pigsty. She has no idea of what a place ought to look like. Well enough of this topical little kettle.

Thursday being Ascension Day (Himmelfahrt) we had a holiday and I made my first mtn. climb. With two men in the office and two Fräulein we set out on the Wednesday evening for the Vienwaldstaffersee in the Luzern neighbourhood where our mountain the Rophaien (7000 feet) is situated. Arrived in Sisikon about 11:30 at night we started on our climb with candle lanterns. The object of starting at night is so that the climb is finished before the heat of the day. It was of course very weird going in the dark but the night was perfectly clear – no moon but twice as many stars as one sees in lower altitudes. You must really try the experience, I’m sure you’d like it. At any rate when I come back we’ll have such an excursion, – just think how fine Black Down would be at night! Of course before the really tricky parts of the climb came the day had broken & we could see without the lanterns. Of course we took grub and other articles in our knapsacks. The latter are splendid institutions. You ought to have them for your rambles. We come into the snow about 1000 feet from the top and in places it was so deep that some mountain huts were completely covered up to the roof, and we found some toads crawling over the snow in an almost lifeless condition, – after their winter sleep I suppose. After one or two exciting stretches we reached the top, and proceeded to rest, which, having walked all night without sleep was jolly welcome. Perhaps more so to me as I was totally inexperienced in mtn. climbing and had got the cramp from the strenuous exertion and big steps that one has to take when going up a steep snow slope.

Hobble skirts would be quite out of the question, and the ladies wear bloomers for climbing. The day was absolutely cloudless and you can imagine the view was beautiful & the air glorious. After grubbing and sunbathing we began the return journey in a slightly different direction. Snow slopes which had taken us perhaps ¾ of an hour to climb we slid down in a few seconds. You simply sit down on the snow & let yourself go, braking with the ice-axe. It is perfectly safe providing there isn’t a precipice at the bottom. Oh! we also saw chamoix springing over the snow on the next mountain with the utmost sangfroid. They seem to have no fear at all. It was altogether a pretty strenuous but enjoyable experience. The sensation of height are rather weird, I think one gets used to it. The great thing is not to imagine anything that might happen. Doubtless after a few such climbs I shall be quite cold-blooded. It is at any rate jolly healthy, – one perspires like a sponge. Do you remember our famous daily climb up the cliffs at Stope. The flowers are awfully interesting in the different zones. I have an idea I should like to make a collection of pressed flowers from my different climbs. Do you happen to have any tips on the subject ?

Wish I were coming with you to Gower – no caves, no shrimps, no paddle for me this year. Hope you have a lovely blazing hot time. Had a letter from Win y’day. Walter has a little car & is teaching her to drive. She also went to a dance & had 43 dances. I can’t imagine how she did it. Am expecting to learn in your next that Pete & Sue have been sucked into the vacuum cleaner.

Well, I must to bed. I’m as stiff as a rock after yesterday, & shall have to manage well.

Best love from Chief.

Fishponds – I believe my Grandfather had digs in Fishponds when he was in Bristol – possibly before he met the Stevens family.
Cliffs at Stope – I am trying to track down where these are, as they are, as Stope, or Stoke, is also mentioned in the letter from Bellagio.
Win is Grandpa’s sister – Winifred Lines
Walter is Grandpa’s brother, Walter Lines, of Lines Bros. fame.
Pete and Sue are my future Grandmother’s siblings. Although known in the family as Peter, he was baptised Cedric Champion Stevens, and she was baptised Brenda Stevens, called Susie, in the family – until the arrival of my Uncle Michael, who – when very young – pronounced Susie and Tudy, and the name stuck,

George Lines Letter – Rats and Shells

Here is another letter, written by my Grandfather, George Lines, from the trenches during World War One.

Dear Mummie/
How like you to write me that jolly letter from Bath station after seeing Mouse off. Not a moment wasted ! Wish I could say the same of my miserable existence.
It arrived too on my birthday and helped to soften the sting of advancing years ! I celebrated the occasion in the old dugout, where we have been doing another spell, but are shortly going back for a good rest, or rather change.
My batman Jenning is apparently an artist on the melodeon having dug one up from somewhere & is now making our cave resound with all the latest. It sounds quite cheery after the trench chillness, disturbed only by the gnawing and squealing of rats, some of which must be huge, judging from the crunching of their teeth on the wooden frames.
Wouldn't old Taff be in his element ? I'm re-reading the "Blue Bird" which dear old Mouse sent me from Bournemouth and think the portrayal of Tylo the dog is delightful. If Taff could only speak, I'm sure he'd like that.
I gave one of Mouse's pairs of mittens away to a Tommy the other day & like a silly ass chose to do so at a corner (known as Dead Male Corner) which has an evil reputation for being shelled. I thought the recipient might as well write & thank Mouse for them so took out my note-book to write down the address and had scarcely started when bang, bang, bang, bang - 4 shells (what we call whizz-bangs because of their high velocity) burst about 30 yards behind. You may guess we hared off pretty quickly. That's what I call luck, but of course it happens so often that I've no longer any doubt that I owe it all to your lucky heather and my other treasures and your kind thoughts. Anyhow I hope the chap writes to Mouse to thank her. I haven't given Graces?? pair yet, but will give her address as well.
I'll now stamp about to restore the circulation in my feet.
	Heaps of love & heaps and heaps to Mouse when you write

This was probably written shortly in late January, or early February 1918,  as my Grandfathers birthday was January 28th, and as he has a batman he was presumably an acting Captain, which I don’t think he was in 1917. I have not been able to find all his promotion dates for his official war record.
I am not sure who Grace was, except that she too was knitting mittens for soldiers at the front.

The Bell of the Kishon

My brother inherited, from our Grandmother on the Box side, a ship’s bell, inscribed “Kishon” 1872 Amble. It used to sit on a window ledge in the hall at Little Cucknells, looking out over the drive.
He has done some research into the ship, which I have supplemented.

Inscription on Kishon Bell
Kishon was presumably named after the river in Israel, where the prophets of Baal were executed, and the Canaanite army was washed away. Fortunately this is a rare name for a ship, which has made it easier to find references in the internet.

The Kishon, built in Amble in 1872

Amble, a small town on the coast of Northumberland, did have a small shipbuilders – the Amble Shipbuilding Company, but according to the information I can find on them they were taken over by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Limited of Jarrow during WW1 and, according to another source, were incorporated in 1918, and dissolved in 1948. Alternatively it may be that the ship was built in Sunderland, for an owner in Amble.
According to http://www.fusilier.co.uk/amble_and_district_mcandrews/amble_northumberland_history.htm


    Shipbuilding in a small way was at one time carried on at Amble, and a small fleet of useful merchant ships was built and owned by people in Amble and district in the early ‘Fifties. The rapid progress of steamships in the middle of the last century, however, nipped in the bud this infant industry.
The first ship recorded to have been built at Amble dates back to the end of the eighteenth century. About this time enormous quantities of oak trees were cut down in Chevington Wood, with the evident intention of replanting, which was never done, and from this timber a vessel was constructed on the Coquet banks near the old ” granary ” on the Warkworth road, and was named the Chevington Oak.
After the passing of the Harbour Act, 1837, shipbuilding was commenced on the Braid by a Mr Douglas of Sunderland. The first vessels built were the Breeze, Aid and Landscape.
With Mr Douglas came the late respected postmaster, Mr Thomas Leighton, and, in 1851, Messrs Leighton & Sanderson commenced shipbuilding on the river-bank, now occupied by the brickworks. In all this firm built seven ships, i.e. the Perseverence, Providence, Isabella and Mary, Sunrise, Amble, Glorianna and the Agenora, the last named being built in 1861. In 1868, another ship was built on the north side of the Coquet. A floating dock, which was of no practical use, was also built, and it ultimately went to pieces on the Braid.
The following is a list of ships which were owned by residents, some of which were regular traders to Amble till about twenty-five years ago….MESSRS RICHARDSON BROS.—
   Cedar, Green Olive, Galilee, Kishon, Kedron, Radiant, Landscape, Star of Peace, Jane Brown, Chatteranga, Savannah-le-mer, Serepta.

According to “The Sunderland Site“, page 125, for ships built in Sunderland in 1872,   Kishon is number 65 on his list and this reference now contains plenty of information and is well worth a read.

# Name



Built for

Official No.

65 Kishon


J. Gardner

A. Richardson & Co.


However there were a limited number of Surveying Ports, although it may also be that the above site has a Sunderland focus, as according to the website of the Mariners mailing list

Off. No. Name Current Date Adopted Port of Registry GRT NRT
65446 KISHON 1872 North Shields   473

Kishon was Registered at North Shields.
For comparison, the Cutty Sark, was probably 971 NRT, about double the capacity, but a visit to her gives a good impression of life aboard a sailing vessel of about this era.

The owner – A. Richardson & Co.

The owner was possibly Andrew Richardson – merchant and shipowner of Amble, who – together with  Robert and George Richardson, also shipowners of Amble, and some others – founded Warkworth Baptist Church on 21st September 1866. (It only lasted until 1888 !). The company still owned the Kishon until it was wrecked in 1890, although it looks as if he may have sold a part share to T.S. Howett of Reading shortly before the wreck. This was probably T.S. Howitt – the captain of the ship for most of its history.
Andrew Richardson’s address, on the Crew List of 1881, is given as Castle Crescent, Reading (OSM), so he nay have lived there, but still retained an Amble connection.

The builder – James Gardner.

There is not very much information about him on the internet. The best reference I have found is the Sunderland Site. From Sunderland Ships it appears that he built the similar barque, the Helen S. at North Hylton in 1872, as well as other ships. The South Hylton Local History Society, which also covers North Hylton has a page about shipbuilding in the area.

Voyages of the Kishon

A voyage from Britain to Australia could take four months, and sailors must have been hardy. Presumably recipients would know the ship was on her way as the Electric Telegraph connected Australia in October 1877, but there would be no way to communicate from the ship.

October 1873 – From Liverpool to Brisbane

 This map shows the first known major voyage of the Kishon.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/169482822 (The Telegraph, Brisbane 19th November 1873)

Kishon, from Liverpool, for Brisbane, to sail
first week in October. Bright Brothers and
Co. Agents

This is the first mention I can find of Kishon on the Trove website. There are then several other references which add no extra information, although one has the destination as Maryborough. Another has the departure date as September 4th.
On 7th January 1874 as the Brisbane Courier has an advertisement for

Per Kishon -
   6 Hogsheads Holloware

There is a more complete list of the cargo from Friday 23rd January 1874

Kishon, barque, 472 tons, cleared at Liver-
pool, for Brisbane, November 1, with blankets
and flannels, £72 j cotton goods, £126; gene-
ral drapery, £93; haberdashery and hosiery,
£20; canvas, £450; sacks, No. 5100; paints
and varnish, £170 ; brushware, £30 ; hardware
and ironmongery, £610; machinery, £100;
oilman's stores and provisions, £70; corks,
2910 lbs ; salt, 480 tons ; chemicals,* £200 ;
beer, in bulk, 71 barrels ; beer, in glass, 342
barrels ; brandy, 34 gallons ; British spirits, 309
gallons; red and white wine, 241 gallons;
galvanised iron, 11 tons ; steel, 2 tons,

Apparently, despite being due to depart in the first week in October, and being cleared on November 1st, she actually sailed on November 3rd. About January 29th reports start being printed that the Kishon has been spoken to 51 days out, and that all is well. Presumably she encountered a ship bound for England around December 24th, and when that ship docked, a month later, a telegram was sent.
Finally, at midnight on February 14th 1874 she arrives at Cape Moreton and on February 15th is anchored at the bar at Lytton. On the 16th she is towed by the Francis Cadell to the wharf of Messrs. Bright Brothers.
The Francis Cadell was a tug boat, commanded by Captain Davies, and owned by Bright Brothers. (Possibly named after the Scottish Colourist)
The Brisbane Telegraph of 17th February has a more complete list of the cargo.

Kishon, barque, from Liverpool: 1 cask, P.
Barnett; 15 bales canvas, 16 bales corks, 150
cases beer, 10 hogsheads stout, 18 casks paint,
2 cases copper tubes, 1 keg rivets, 8 sheets
copper, .5 sheets brass, 200 cases beer, Order ; '
100 cases bottled ale, 100 cases stout, XL; 20
drums caustic soda, 125 drums oil, -8 barrels
paint, 20 barrels resin, 20 bales sacks, 8 boxes,
30 cases, 20 half-barrels fish, HW&Co B ; 12
drums caustic, 1,089 cases, PCB ; 3 cases 3
casks hardware, 5 cases, 3 bundles steel, Warde
Brothers; 100 cases 5 quarter-casks whisky,
50 boxes bath bricks, 50 boxes salt, 20 cases
galvanised iron; 19 barrels ink , 10 cases
blacking, 1 case haberdashery, 1 case tools,
4 cuses safes, 2,200 bags salt, Z 20 barrels
whiting, Bright Brothers and Co.- ; 2 dogs,
1 kennel, 20 tons rock salt, Order ; 1 ease,
Berkley and Taylor; 1 p. sugar machinery,
RNS&Co. ; 150 cases beer, M&GoL ; .550 sacks
flour, BC; 200 sacks flour, BT; 4 quarter
casks wine, 20 cases brandy, 550 sacks salt,- 5
quarter-casks wine, W. and A. B. Webster and
Co. ; 6 casks holloware, G. Love an d Co. ;
6 casks holloware, Perry Brothers; 350
barrels 150 cases beer, 4 boxes, 5 bales blankets,
2 boxes D. L. Brown and Co. ; 2 cases, R. R.
Smellie and Co. ; - 50 barrels stout, 'G. H.
Wilson and Co. ; 1 p. 1 case machinery, .Birley
Brothers; 250 cases beer, J. and G. Harris; 1
case cloth, Cribb and Foote ; 30 hogsheads bulk
ale, ,G. Raff and Co. ; 750 bags salt, 20 tons
rock salt, Barker and Co. ; 141 barrels 35 cases
ale, 59 cases stout, Clarke, Hodgson, and. Co.;
1,089 .sacks salt, 20 eases ling fish, 30 casks
herrings, 10 bales sacks, 10 bales woolpacks,
20 drums caustic soda, 100 drums oil, 25
drums turpentine, 4 tons white lead, 8 casks
varnish, 20 barrels resin, Hutching, Weedon,
and Co.

On 18th February 1874 Bright Brothers advertise their cargo in the Brisbane Courier.

     From Liverpool
This Vessel having REPORTED
at the Customs, Consignees are re-
quested to Pass Entries, Present Bills of Lading,
and Pay Freight to the undersigned.
1930 _ Agents.

The Queenland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser carries an account if the voyage on 19th February

Captain Howitt reports that the barque Kishon left
Liverpool on the 3rd November, and had variable
winds and weather, often calm and southerly, until
reaching 18 degrees N. latitude, when light trades
were met with, lasting to the Equator, which was
crossed in 26 degrees W., on the 6th December; light
S.E. trades and variables succeeded to 80 degrees E.,
48 degrees S. The easting was run down chiefly in
47 degrees S., with moderate N.W. winds; on reach-
ing 140 degrees east met with a heavy gale from
W.N.W., veering to the southward ; rounded Tas
mania on January 29, and from thence to Cape More
ton encountered N.N.E. winds and chopping sea;
rounded Cape Moretonn at 10 p.m. on the 13th instant,
and came to anchor at the bar the following day at 9
p.m. On February 13,at 2 p.m., Moreton light-house
bearing N.W. thirty miles, Benjamin Spencer, appren
tice, aged nineteen years, fell overboard while drawing
water, but was not missed until 4.30 p.m., when he
could not to found, but two pieces of a bucket at
tached to a line-end were towing overboard. It is
supposed he had slipped over the side-ship going
nine knots at the time.

Note that Captain Howitt appears to still be the captain in 1886.
On the 24th February an advertisement was placed in the Telegraph (Brisbane)

The undersigned will Dispatch
the following Vessels for
Cooktown as Under : —
The Clipper Brig MINORA, 450 .'
tons, on or about March 2. .
The A1 New Clipper Barque KISHON, 800- '
tons, on or about March 10,
The Favourite Clipper Schooner LUCY and
ADELAIDE, 150 tons, on or about March 10.
Intending Passengers are requested to IN-
SPECT the above Vessels.
Substantial Stalls will be fitted up, and every
attention paid to ensure the safety of Passen
gers' horses. -
Passengers will go in order of booking.
For Freight or Passage apply to - ,
... . Agents.

Notice that the Kishon is now 800 tons ! In some advertisements it is 700, and sometimes 500 tons.
This explains why the next trip was to Cooktown – and why 150 people wanted to join the Palmer River Gold Rush. By the 13th March it was due to sail on the 20th March, and had room for passengers without horses, and space for Cargo.

March 1874 – From Brisbane to Cooktown

From http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/169518985 (The Telegraph, Brisbane March 20th)

March 20.— Kishon, barque, 472 tons, for
Cooktown. Passengers: Mrs. Ishman, Messrs.
McKinley, Loewe, and 130 in the steerage, also
90 horses.

It must have been extremely crowded in steerage, especially sharing with 90 horses. Cooktown is about 2000 kilometres north of Brisbane. She also took the piles for the wharves about to be erected at Cooktown. Note that the African and the Boomerang also sailed on March 20th, with a total of 350 passengers and 150 horses – a real gold rush !

May 1875 – From Glasgow to Brisbane

From http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1398900 (Brisbane Courier May 18th)

Ex Kishon, barque, from Glasgow : 13 bales
flannel, 1 bale scarlet flannel, 1 bale navy can-
vas, 1. bale hessian, 9 cases towels, 1 case glass
cloth, 3 cases cotton ticks, 1 case linen ticks, 1
Case loom huckaback, 1 case toilet covers, 2
cases quilts, 1 case colored wool damask, 1 case
Victoria table covers, 1 case velvet pile table
covers, 1 case damask tabling, 1 ease damask
tablecloths and napkins, 1 case linen diapers, 2
cases fronting linens, 4 bales bordered brush
mats, 1 bale hearthrugs, 1 bale colored sheep-
skin mats, 2 cases shirtings and domestics,
4 cases white sheetings, 1 case white and
buff window holland, 1 case plain green
and venetian window holland, 1 bale printed
felt squares, 5 bales paper, 1 bale twine, 1
case regatta and Oxford shirting, 2 cases wove
Crimean shirting, 8 cases white shirts, 2 cases
regatta shirts, 13 cases wove Crimean shirts, 3
cases white ground printed shirts;? 10 cases
Oxford, zephyr, Madras, and Cambridge shirts,
2 cases twist regatta shirts, 1 bale blue serge
trousers, 5 cases West of England and Scotch
tweeds, 3 cases coatings, 16 cases winceys, 1
case Derry, 1 case fancy dress stuff, 1 case cos-
tume tweeds, 1 case Cheviot tweeds, 1 case
wincey skirting, 2 cases wool plaids, 1 case
madder handkerchiefs, 1 case cambric handker-
chiefs, 8 cases hosiery, 2 cases children's striped
socks, 1 case portmanteaus, 1 case shawls and
longs, 2 cases underclothing-, 2 cases stays
total 154 packages, Scott, Dawson, and Stewart.
Ex Kishon, barque, from Glasgow : 409
packages gunpowder, 1 box samples, 2 boxes
galvanised nails, 10 casks limejuice, 25 cases
limejuice, 40 cases preserved juice, 1 case
strychnine, 1 box cutlery, 1 cask shot, Messrs.
B. D. Morehead and Co.
Ex Kishon, barque, from Glasgow : 286 boxes
tobacco pipes ; W. S. Mackie.

Huckaback is “a strong linen or cotton fabric with a rough surface, used for towelling and glass cloths.”
Winceys are “A strong, lightweight twilled fabric, typically made of a mixture of wool with cotton or linen.
From http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1399032 (Brisbane Courier May 22nd)

Ex Kishon, barque, from Glasgow 286 boxes tobacco pipes (clay) ), W. S Mackie
Ex Kishon barque, from Glasgow 50 boxes clay pipes, S Hoffnung and Co

September 1875 – from Samarang to Sydney

From http://marinersandships.com.au/1875/09/043kis.htm


Surname Given name Station Age Of what Nation Status Comments

October 1875 – from Sydney to Newcastle

From http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/13365331 (Sydney Morning Herald October 7th)

Departures - October 6th
Kishon, for Newcastle

October 1877 – From Mauritius to Hobart

The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) of  7th November 1877 carries the information that the Kishon, described as a very smart looking barque, having departed Mauritius on October 1st arrived in Hobart on 6th November.  The cargo being imported included 6,148 bags sugar and 5,000 gunny bags. The two passengers were Mr and Mrs Kesh. Captain McDonald gave the following particulars of the voyage

The Kishon left Mauritius on October 1, at 4 p.m., and had light variable winds to 35º S, then the usual westerly winds till November 1, when, in lat. 43.51S, long. 133.37E, the barometer fell to 28.52, and in increasing breeze from the N.W. set in, terminating in a terrific gale; at 4 p.m. rounded to and prepared for the worst, and until 2 o’clock on the morning of the 2nd inst. it blew a perfect hurricane from the W.S.W. during which the ship lay with her lee rail under water, and scarcely moving otherwise; at 6 a.m. on the following day the gale abated, and the ship was wore round and sail made. Up to November 5 it was a continuation of hard gales with snow and sleet. Sighted South Cape N.N.E. five miles on the 5th inst. at noon and took the pilot on board at 8 p.m. the same night, arriving in the Cove at 11 o’clock on the 6th inst. The barque has come into port in excellent order, and looking none the worse for the very stormy weather which she has encountered.

The Mercury article continues

The passengers speak in the highest terms of the captain, and desire us to express their thanks for his kindness towards them during the voyage.

December 1877 to January 1878Newcastle, NSW to Adelaide

The captain was James McDonald, departing from Newcastle on December 20th, and arriving on January 2nd.

July 1879 – Mauritius to Freemantle

From the Western Australian Times, of 8th July 1879

July 3 KISHON, barque, McDonald, from Mauritius. Passengers – Louis Asa and Louis Danton


1879 – Carrying horses from Freemantle to Mauritius

From https://walers.blogspot.co.uk/2016_07_01_archive.html

1879 20 on the Kishon + 64 on Bessie + 20 on Iris all from Fremantle.

i.e. carrying 20 horses.

February 1879 –Mauritius and Bourbon to Australia

From http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/papers/govpub/VPARL1880No2.pdf (Health Officer : report for the year ending 31st December 1879)

Return of vessels from Mauritius and Bourbon
Name of vessel  Class  Tonnage   Duration of Voyage    Number of Crew
  Kishon        Barque   472         31 Days               13

It also shows that there were no passengers on this voyage and no deaths amongst passengers or crew.

December 1879 – Stabbing in Lyttelton

The Kishon arrived in Lyttelton, probably on 5th December 1879.
From https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP18791206.2.3.1 (The Press, 6th December 1879)

Per Kishon - 9720 bags sugar. Consignees -
Dalgetty and Co.

From https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TS18791212.2.16.2 (The Press, 12th December 1879)

STABBING - Peter B. Hanson, a sailor on
board the barque Kishon, was summoned for
stabbing John Soder, another seaman on
board the vessel. The summons was served
on the previous day, but accused had deserted
from the vessel since. A warrant was issued
for his apprehension.

From https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP18791215.2.23 (The Press, 15th December 1879)

Friday, December 12,
STABBING - Peter Bernard Hansen, for
stabbing Thomas Soder, on board the barque
Kishon, was called. Mr Nalder appeared for
prosecutor. The accused did not appear, and
a warrant was issued.

From https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP18791218.2.3.1 (The Press, 18th December 1879)

The Kishon was towed into the stream yesterday.
Her destination is Adelaide.

From https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP18791219.2.3.1 (The press, 19th December 1879)

  CLEARED - December 18
Kishon, barque 473 tons, McDonald, for Adelaide.
Royse, Stead and Co. agents.

So the Kishon left for Adelaide, presumably without Peter Hansen on board.
From https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP18800401.2.9 (The Press, 1st April 1890)

There was also in the Lyttelton lock-up last
night a man named Peter Bernard Hansen,
charged with stabbing his mate on board the
barque Kishon. The prisoner failed to appear
when the vessel was in port, and the prose -
cutor having left he will probably be charged
with disobeying a summons.

It looks as if justice finally caught up with him – presumably he had been hiding in Lyttelton all this time
It is interesting to note that the newspapers reported the routine arrival and departure of the Kishon, and that this appears to have been the first, and last, visit of the Kishon to New Zealand.
The Adelaide Evening Journal records the arrival of the Kishon, with Master J. McDonald on Friday January 16th 1890, with  departure from Lyttleton on December 24th.
This journey also shows up on the Passsengers in History web site run by the South Australia Maritime Museum.

September 1881 – New York to Dublin

From Dublin Daily Express of 23rd September 1881

SAMUEL BOYD is now landing ex Barque Kishon,
from New York, 2,750 Barrels Royal Daylight Petroleum.
Also a quantity of Deodorised Naptha or Benzonline,
which he offers to the trade on reasonable terms.
      Dublin: 46 Mary Street.

In those days petroleum was used as lamp oil. The Anglo-American Oil Company later became Esso.
The Maritime History Archive has a crew list for the Kishon, but only the lists for 1881 are available. They show an amazing amount of detail about each crew member, such as where they embarked, how much they were paid and a report of their character !  From these lists it looks as if the voyage was probably from New York to Cardiff, or Penarth, and then on to Dublin.

April 1882 – Melbourne to Sydney

From http://marinersandships.com.au/1882/04/126kis.htm
This gives the crew – as of  30th April 1882.

Surname Given name Station Age Of what Nation Status Comments

April 1886 – Port of New York to Sydney

From http://marinersandships.com.au/1886/04/119kis.htm
This gives the crew as of 25th April 1886

Surname Given name Station Age Of what Nation Status Comments

February 1889 – Mauritius to Sydney, New South Wales

From http://marinersandships.com.au/1889/02/103kis.htm
This gives the crew as of 19th February 1889

Surname Given name Station Age Of what Nation Status Comments

Note that the captain is now John May, but he is unlike to be part of the May family I am related to.

July 1889 – Mauritius to New York – Storm damaged

From the Shields Daily Gazette, Tyne and Wear, 28th July 1889

The British barque Kishon, Mauritius for New
York, has put into Port Elizabeth with loss of
some sails and boats, and damage to bulwarks.


Wrecked in Cornwall in November 1890


On 6th-7th November 1890:

 The barque parted her tow off Trevose Head from the steam tug Australia, and was driven ashore near Bude breakwater. Her crew of eight was saved by the rocket lifesaving crew.

According to the Bideford Gazette of 11th November 1890 (from http://www.northam-devon.co.uk/DETAILS%20OF%20SHIPWRECKS.doc)


card details



The smack “KISHON” on its way from London to Appledore for repairs came adrift. It was wrecked at BUDE – the crew were saved.


Note that although they refer to it as a smack, all other references would suggest it was a barque.

Wreck of the Kisson from Cornishmemory.com, clearly showing it as a barque.


photo of Kishon of North Shields, 7.11.1890 - Bude Breakwater. Note windmill on deck - fitted according to Scandanavian law to pump water out of holds when carrying loose timber.
photo of Kishon of North Shields, 7.11.1890 – Bude Breakwater. Note windmill on deck – fitted according to Scandanavian law to pump water out of holds when carrying loose timber. “Onker” barque after “onk” of windmill


Kishon at Middle Beach in 1890
Kishon at Middle Beach in 1890 – from http://bude-past-and-present.org.uk/kishon/

Appledore would be a sensible destination as it was “For centuries an important shipbuilding centre“, even before the setup of Appledore Shipbuilders in 1855.
One of the most dramatic, and complete descriptions of the wreck comes from the Otago Daily Times of 3rd January 1891.
The overall article is about the gale of 6th November 1880.

The barque Kishon, bound
from London to Appledore, became parted from
her tug through the breaking of a hawser off
Lundy, and was driven share at Bude Break-
water at 7 in the morning. All hands were
saved by the rocket apparatus. The cap-
tains dog jumped overboard and was saved
by one of the men. The vessel became a
total wreck in a few hours. A sailor named
John Harris, of Brixham, in a freak attempted
to reach the wreck, not withstanding the endea-
vour made by a few bystanders to restrain him.
He succeeded in breaking away from them, ran
down the slopes of the breakwater, and perished
in the sea. He was one of those actively
engaged in the early morning in helping to  save
the crew of the Kishon.

The article then continues to describe other wrecks of that storm.
From North Devon Gazette of 11th November 1890

For the last fortnight we have had a contua-
tioh of gales and scarce a single vessel has dared
cross the Bar.On Thursday evening, after a lull,
the wind freshened and at ten o'clock it was blow
-ing a perfect hurricane. During the day several
of the little vessels, tempted by a fair wind and a
brighter appearance of the weather, got under
weigh, with the result that they were out in the whole
gale, and a fearful night the poor fellows must
have experienced. Grave fears were entertained
of their safety, and the place was in a state of
utmost excitement and suspense. As soon as
telegraphic communication was opened on Friday
morning the excitement became more intense.
The first news was that of the barque Kishon, of
Amble, from London bound to Appledore for
repairs at Mr Robert Cock's Richmond Dry Dock,
Appledore.Men had been sent from London by Mr
Cock to bring the vessel round to Appledore,
therefore the whole crew, except the captain, con-
sisted of Appledore men. Although experiencing
bad weather all went with the Kishon until she
rounded Land's End, whe she had to stand the
full fury of the hurricane. She was in tow of a
powerful tug boat, but nothing could keep her
from drifting towards a lee-shore. When off Bude
the tow rope parted, and the Kishon was left to
battle with the hurricane as best she could, her
crew know only too well nothing could save her
from going on shore. Fortunately being on a
neighbouring, but rock-bound coast, they knew
the best place to let the vessel drift, in order to
get a better chance of saving their lives. This
they succeeded in doing, and all were saved by the
life-saving apparatus. This was indeed good news
for many a poor anxious wife and mother, but up
to one o'clock nothing had been heard of our own
little vessels.

From the Historic England website

Vessel was first sighted labouring in the bay off Bude, but such was
the force of the wind that it was impossible for any craft to remain
offshore, and she drove ashore on the ridge of rocks reaching out
from the end of Bude breakwater. Distress rockets were fired and
after the rocket lifesaving crew had mustered and collected their
equipment, the apparatus was used to save all the crew. Her captain
advised those onshore that they had been in tow of the steam tug
AUSTRALIA, but that off Trevose Head the hawser had parted leaving
the KISHON to the mercy of the NW gale. ‘Never was there a more
complete wreck which has gone all to pieces, her timbers and spars
being all mixed up in inextricable confusion from one end of the
breakwater to the other. The masts went overboard soon after noon on
Friday, and complete destruction followed. On Monday the wreckage was
sold and realised about 100.’

(2) gives owners as T S Howett of Reading and the master as Duthie.
Year Built: 1862
Builder: J Gardner
Where Built: Sunderland
Owner: A Richardson and Son
Master: J Duthrie
Crew: 8
Date of Loss Qualifier: A

I assume the 100′ was 100 pounds, which would be £11,200 in today’s money.

Sale of the Wreck

There was a sale by auction, by Mr Crutchett, on Monday 17th November, of about 100 lots of broken firewood, as well as the beams, spars etc listed below.
There was an auction, by Mr Crutchett, on Thursday 18th December 1890 of the wreck. Consisting of pitchpine masts and bowsprits, oak, pitchpine and elm beans and plankings of great length, oak floors, fitted for shed and gate posts, various other useful building material, iron pillars, several tons of knees, and various old iron, large quantity of metal bolts and sheathing, wire rigging, coils of new wire, sails, bolts of new canvas, ropes, blocks, paints in airtight tins, junk lumber &c. Also the ships anchor and chains, which are nearly new.
It looks as if there were some items left, and probably some extra salvaging, as there was another auction, on Monday May 18th (presumably 1891), of wreckage material recovered from the DEEP BLUE SEA, consisting of 1,000 feet runs of Oak, Pitch Pine, and Elm planking 9 to 12 inches broad by 4 inches thick; 30 squared Oak Posts; long new Hemp Rope; Wire Rigging; Chains; Blocks; Bolts of New Canvas; Wrought and Cast Iron; Junk, &c.

Another Box auction

The same auctioneer sold Meadow Farm, which had been owned by Mr John Box, in 1901, about ten years after the Kishon auction.

This is from the Cornish and Devon Post, 28th September 1901. This John Box was born in 1823 in South Petherwin.

Who bought the bell ?

It seems likely that the connection between the Box family and the bell is that it was bought after the wreck was salvaged, by some member of the family who was living in the area in 1890. It is unlikely to be William Braund Box, as he was living in Clerkenwell, and died in 1891, however his son, Arthur Williams Box – my Great Great Uncle, had returned from London to run the Iron Foundry at Marhamchurch around 1886. His wife, Elwina (nee Joyce) predeceased him and they did not have children of their own. His nephew, Leonard Arthur Box (my Grandfather), was one of his inheritors, which is probably how the bell ended up at Little Cucknells.



From Glasgow and Liverpool the Kishon cargo included bales of raw cloth of all sorts, as well as sacks and haberdashery and finished dresses.


Passengers from Britain to Australia would have travelled in the larger vessels which were being built around this time, although the journey, would not have been pleasant, particularly in steerage.


The Kishon took 90 horses from Brisbane to Cooktown, as the gold mines were some distance from the town and potential gold seekers were advised not to join in the gold rush without a horse.


While the Captain seems to have stayed the same over many voyages the crew were probably paid per voyage, and might sign on again, or join another ship if they had a better offer. Where lists of the crew members exist they seem to have come from many nations.

Thomas Howitt, Captain from 1873

He would also appear to have become, at least a part, owner by 1890.

James McDonald, Captain from 1876 to 1880

James McDonald was born in Orkney, about 1850 and the Kishon was his first command,having been Mate in 1875 under Thomas Howitt. He later settled in Melbourne, Australia and had his own shipping company. He returned to Orkney to live with his family in the 1890’s
One of his sons, George, born in Orkney after the family returned, also went to sea and gained his masters ticket in the Australian and African coastal shipping industry.

John May, Captain in 1889


John Duthie, Captain in 1890