Fàilte! (Welcome!)

Fàilte! (Welcome!)
This blog is the result of my ongoing research into the people, places and events that have shaped the Western Isles of Scotland and, in particular, the 'Siamese-twins' of Harris and Lewis.
My interest stems from the fact that my Grandfather was a Stornowegian and, until about four years ago, that was the sum total of my knowledge, both of him and of the land of his birth.
I cannot guarantee the accuracy of everything that I have written (not least because parts are, perhaps, pioneering) but I have done my best to check for any errors.
My family mainly lived along the shore of the Sound of Harris, from An-t-Ob and Srannda to Roghadal, but one family 'moved' to Direcleit in the Baighs...

©Copyright 2011 Peter Kerr All rights reserved

Thursday, 18 March 2010

CREST - Final voyages 1898

My previous account of the voyages of the CREST left her at the end of June 1898 in her home port of Stornoway.

14th July sees her owner and Master, 44 year-old Alexander John Kerr, and his 76 year-old father, the 'Bosun' Malcolm Kerr, joined by John Macpherson, 44, from the 'William Smith' of Stornoway.

On the 18th, they left, unladen, from Stornoway for Ayr where they arrived on the 24th. Having taken on a cargo, they sailed from Ayr on the 28th July but only reached Stornoway on the 16th August. However, I think that date is incorrect for on the 15th August Don Macmillan, 18, returns to the ship in Stornoway having not sailed since leaving her in June. The unladen CREST then sets sail for Larne on the 16th August so clearly the date of arriving in Stornoway was an afterthought!

She arrives in Larne on the 23rd August but doesn't depart, laden, until 6th September and reaches Stornoway on the 19th. A couple of days later on the 21st September John Macpherson leaves her.

The final entry that gives details of her draught and freeboard, those measures of how laden she is, is on 21st October when she departs Stornoway only slightly laden. No entry is made for her destination.

The next piece of information in this timeline is for the 21st November when Malcolm Munro, 49, joins in Stornoway from the steam ship 'SS Staghound' of Belfast.

I think that the reason for these apparent gaps in the record of the voyages are indications that Alexander John didn't make the entries in 'real time'.

Then, on the 15th December 1898, in the space at the bottom of the form reserved for 'Particulars of Deaths', Alexander John Kerr writes:

Date: 15.12.98
Place: Horseshoe Sound Kerrera, By Oban
Name: Malcolm Kerr,
Sex: Male
Age: 75
Crew or Passenger: Crew
Rank: Bosun
Nationality: Tarbert, Harris
Last Place of Abode: Bayhead Street, Stornoway
Cause of Death: Heart-disease
Port at which Reported: Stornoway

So the life that began in dire straits in Direcleit, ended in another strait, the Sound of Kerrera, aboard his son's ship which he was Bosun upon having been a Ship Master in his own right.

When I first learnt of Malcolm's death at sea in the middle of December and in his middle seventies, I wondered what on Earth he was doing. It was only when I obtained these Crew Agreements from the Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland that I knew the answer: He was supporting his son and doing the thing that, I suspect, he loved more than anything other than his family, sailing the West Coast of Scotland.

Malcolm's death appears to have been later countersigned in red ink by a W. Goff but no indication is given as to where and when this was done.

The story is not quite finished for on the 19th December John Macleod, 44, joins at Kerrera from the 'Jane' of Stornoway. What intrigues me is that it is Kerrera and not nearby Oban. Is this a clue to one of the mysteries that remains, namely where was Malcolm laid to rest?

There is no record of Malcolm having been buried in Oban, burial 'at sea' would not have been an option in the narrow Sound of Kerrera and John Macleod joined the CREST at Kerrera. All things considered, I now think that Malcolm was laid to rest on that tiny island, a place I visited briefly last year as part of what was, for me a very personal pilgrimage.

The final two entries that Alexander John makes for the voyages of 1898 are:

On Passage to Belfast 31st December 1898
Arrived at Belfast 23rd January 1899

A series of letters between the Superintendents of the Mercantile Marine Offices in Stornoway and Belfast accompanies the documents and reveal that there had been a judicial enquiry held in Oban, presumably to eliminate any suspicions surrounding Malcolm's death aboard his son's vessel.

Although it is possible that Malcolm's body remained on board all this time and was indeed buried on the way to Belfast, I doubt it...


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