☰ BRITISH PRINCESS
Above is the only image I have of the British Princess. There is an intriguing reference to "photos" in Dum's Journal entry for 31 Aug 1898: Under topsails again. Sea coming on the quarter now, decks under water. Hailing, raining and snowing, to say nothing of blowing a gale. Very cold! A tremendous sea came over the boats and filled our half-deck half full. My bunk is ringing, and all the photos that were hanging there are spoiled. Of course this is winter down here, and this weather is to be expected, but all the same it is curios weather for August. Several times last night the men wished the second mate to come on deck and fight. I expect the weather put him off. ‘Here’ in the quotation above was somewhere between 37° 34´ S 66° 27´ E on Saturday the 27th August 1898 and 36° 22´ S 93° 22´ E on the 5th September 1898 i.e. approximately mid-way between South Africa and Western Australia. Whether the photos mentioned were hanging on the wall or photos hanging to dry having been processed I am not sure. Fortunately whatever fate befell the photos did not befall the journal. Many such photos were taken by photographers based ashore and sold at exhorbitant prices to the sailors aboard, but there were intrepid photographers afloat. One such, Richard Woodget, captain of the Cutty Sark from about 1884-94 took up photography - in those days an almost impossible art to practise afloat. One pioneering technique Woodget employed was to launch two life-boats lashed together with a plank across to support the tripod for his camera, while he egged them on and somehow achieved the apparently impossible feat of getting a ‘shot’ of the ship under sail while the camera was properly held steady, a thousand miles and more from the nearest land. [‘The Cutty Sark’ by Alan Villiers] He also bred collies on board and conducted roller-skating and bicycle races round the ‘tween decks. For as Lubbock observed; At sea, if [the captain] was wise, he occupied his mind and body with various hobbies; if he was unwise, he drank. Revenons à nôtre Princesse...
The British Princess was built in 1864 for The British Shipowners Co., Ltd. of Liverpool by Clover of Birkenhead. The British Shipowners Co. had one of the largest fleets of East India traders prior to the opening of the Suez canal. They had 16 iron ships of which British Princess along with British Prince were considered ‘pioneering’ vessels. She had an iron hull and, when first built, weighed 1230 tons with a length of 212.7 feet, breadth of 36.1 feet and depth of 23 feet.
Year on year the trend was for ships to get bigger and bigger. It was therefore quite normal for owners to lengthen their ships which is what The British Shipowners Co. did in 1875 to British Princess, converting her in the process to a barque and increasing her length by 34 feet to 246.7 feet. Her tonnage was thereby increased to 1480 tons. As Basil Lubbock wrote of lengthening ships in general; “It is very doubtful if the experiment could be called a success.” The criterion for ‘success’ was speed. Fast ships commanded the highest fees and were the sine qua non for mail ships and for carrying passengers. Some cargos, such as tea and even wool, also required fast ships. Once a ship lost her competetive edge in speed it made sense to lengthen her to enable greater quantities of less urgent cargo such as coal, nitrates, hides etc to be carried. In 1883 British Princess was sold to Gracie, Beazley and Co. in whose ownership she was when Dum joined her in 1895. The above dimensions and tonnage are from Lubbock; elsewhere on the internet [e.g. here] her tonnage is given as 1,543 tons.
The Gracie, Beazley company was established in 1882 by the partners William Gracie and Edwin Beazley, the latter with a background in ship insurance brokerage and second son of James Beazley who was managing director of The British Shipowners Co., at the time of the original building of British Princess. Gracie, Beazley & Coy. started by acquiring Joseph Heap's celebrated fleet consisting of the Antiope, Marpesia, Theophane, Cassiope, Parthenope, and Melanope and formed the Australian Shipping Company. Heap had his clippers built to make regular trips out to Melbourne with emigrants and return home via Rangoon with rice, but under Gracie Beazley they no longer carried passengers and loaded all over the world. The following year, 1883, as well as the British Princess, they took on the management of a converted steamer, the Accrington, two other small iron barques the Aethelstan and the Aethelbert and added a new Stockton built ship, the M.E.Watson. In 1885 Evans built the 1800 ton Westgate which was added to their fleet.
As mentioned, the British Princess was a barque as opposed to a ship. To landlubbers, things that float on water tend to be ‘boats’ if small and ‘ships’ if big. To those afloat in the 1890s, a ‘ship’ by definition meant a three masted, square rigged, vessel. A square rigged vessel is one where the sails are suspended from ‘spars’ from the mast and set roughly at right angles across the body of the vessel. Barques had three or more masts which were all square-rigged with the exception of the mizzen [rearmost] which was fore-and-aft. Fore-and-aft sails are those set in line with the vessel. The main sail on the mizzen, the ‘spanker’, would be suspended from a gaff with a boom at the bottom. Until the nineteenth century barques were relatively small ships but then increased in size up to about 3000 tons, although there were barques of as much as 5000 tons. They were deemed especially suitable for the grain and nitrate trade with South America and thus specifically built to go round Cape horn.
There is a crew-list for the British Princess dated 27th January 1897 compiled after her arrival in Sydney from San Francisco. Presumably the names struck through were on board when British Princess left San Francisco but jumped ship, deserted, or went to the gold fields after arrifving in Sydney. Had they fallen overboard, been eaten by sharks or other members of the crew one might hope Dum had seen fit to mention it in his journal, but their passing went unremarked.
|Surname||Given name||Station||Age||Of what Nation||Status|
|MCMAYNE||A.||A. B.||37||Nova Scotia||Crew|
|VAN SCHORNBACK||L.||O. S.||18||Belgium||Crew|
|BOOTH||W. S.||3RD Mate||21||England||Crew|
* Captain Robert Crawford Scott. In 1897 he was aged ca. 45.
Circa 1905 British Princess was sold to German owners who renamed her Louise. She was apparently scrapped c. 1907. The image below is from the A.D. Edwardes Collection of about 8,000 photographs, mostly of sailing ships from around the world, taken between about 1865 and 1920 and now in the State Library of South Australia.