The Comet Star collides with another boat

This blog post is about my paternal great, great-grandfather who was born in Morayshire in the north-east of Scotland but who lived his whole life in Banffshire in the north-east of Scotland.

My great, great-grandfather George Cowie was born in lodgings in Lossiemouth in 1866, baptised in St Sylvester’s Church in Elgin in 1866 5 days after his birth (perhaps his parents were on their way home to Buckie, I find the different place for his baptism curious), married Mary Cowie (my great, great-grandmother) in 1890 at the Free Church of Scotland in Buckie, died in 1932 at Titness Street, Buckie and is buried in the New Cemetery in Buckpool. The censuses have George living in Cluny Street, Buckie in 1871 and Gordon Street, Buckie from 1881 to 1911.

As with most of my paternal grandmother’s family, George was a fisherman and most of his ancestors were fishermen.

This is George:

George Cowie

A useful tip for fellow family history researchers is to search databases such as digitised newspapers with your ancestor’s address and surname and this is how I discovered the story of George crashing his fishing boat the Comet Star into another stationary fishing boat.

About four o’clock in the afternoon of 3rd August 1908, in clear, good weather, a fishing boat named the Pearl from Lerwick, Shetland was sailing along at a speed of between 2 and 3 knots an hour, when my great, great-grandfather’s boat, the Comet Star, was spotted approaching, under both steam and sail power, at a speed of about 10 knots an hour, ie travelling much faster than the Pearl.

The crew of the Pearl shouted at the crew of the Comet Star to warn them of the danger but regardless the Comet Star crashed into the Pearl and caused such damage that the Pearl sank within 5 minutes.

The joint owners of the stream drifter Comet Star, which was registered in Banff, were George Cowie of 46 Gordon Street, Buckie, my great, great-grandfather, and Alexander Cowie of 68 Seatown, Buckie, with George being master of the boat and Alexander mate. (Cowie is a very common surname in the Buckie area and I have lots of people with the surname Cowie people in my family tree so I’ve yet to work out if George and Alexander were related). The owners of the Pearl were Robert Inkster and Francis Garrioch, both merchants in Scalloway, Shetland. and the Pearl had a crew of seven.

The owners of the Pearl sued for £589 7s 6d each and the crew of the Pearl sued in total for £270 1s 3d to cover their share of the loss of profits, the long time they spent in the water, the shock they suffered from and the value of the loss of their clothing and effects.

George Cowie and Alexander Cowie said that they had a qualified and competent seaman at the wheel, that it wasn’t customary or necessary to have a look-out on drifters and that it wasn’t necessary for the master or mate to be constantly on deck. They denied that the collision was caused by any fault of theirs (I do wonder if this implies they were blaming whoever they had on look-out) and that they lost no time in sending their boat to rescue the crew of the Pearl. They admitted liability for the collision but claimed that the amount they were being sued for was excessive and that legally their liability was limited to £8 per ton ie a total of £477 7s 6d.

George Cowie and Alexander Cowie were sued for a total of £1448 16s 3d, equivalent to approximately £113,250 nowadays.

George Cowie and Alexander Cowie eventually agreed to pay £900 (equivalent to approximately £70,350 nowadays) plus expenses and the case was taken out of court.

There were reports in the newspapers in both January and March of 1909 reflecting 2 sections of the court case brought by the owners of the boat that George Cowie and Alexander Cowie crashed into.

Sources: personal and family knowledge, the Scotland’s People website (birth, marriage and death certificates and censuses), the Find My Past website (George Cowie’s baptism), the British Newspaper Archive website, Aberdeen Press & Journal 14 January 1909, Banffshire Advertiser 18 March 1909, Aberdeen Press & Journal 18 March 1909 The Orkney Herald (which also covered Shetland) 24 March 1909 and the currency converter on The National Archives website.

(For the benefit of anyone else researching families in the fishing communities of the north-east of Scotland, the tee-names or by-names, ie the local nicknames, of my great, great-grandparents were Cowie Pum and Cowie Dosie).

The sinking of the Craigmin

This blog post is about my paternal great-grandfather who was from Banffshire in the north-east of Scotland.

My great-grandfather James Murray was born in Seaview Road, Buckpool in 1890, married Williamina Geddes in 1917 in the Church of Christ, West Church Street, Buckie, married Margaret Thomson Cowie (my great-grandmother) in 1920 in the United Free Church, West Church Street, Buckie, died in 1985 in Seafield Hospital, Buckpool and is buried beside the hospital in the New Cemetery. All of the censuses from 1891 to 1911 have my great-grandfather living at Seaview Road, Buckpool.

My great-grandfather was a fisherman all his life (he came from a fishing family in a fishing community) and this blog post is about the sinking of one of his fishing boats, the Craigmin.

Craigmin fishing boat

On Saturday 6th November 1926 there were severe gales with many casualties and one of those was the Craigmin.

The Craigmin was around 28 miles from Great Yarmouth with a load of nine crans ( a single cran is around 370 gallons) which was 2 days’ worth of catches, when it suddenly sprung a leak at 3am owing to the strain caused by the rough seas during a severe gale. The leak happened after they had finished hauling their nets. An hour and a half after the leak sprang, the boat sank.

Water rushed in at a rate which overwhelmed the boat’s pumps and the water simply kept rising under it reached the boiler furnace. The crew did try pumping out the water for an hour but to no avail.

When there was no hope of saving the boat, the crew of ten abandoned the drifter and after the crew including the skipper, my great-grandfather, boarded the Great Yarmouth drifter the Chestnut, the crew watched as the Craigmin sank.

The crew of ten consisted of seven Buckie men, one Porsoy man and two Stornoway men.

The crew lost all of their belongings and the weather was so rough none of the boat’s gear or nets could be salvaged. There were eight or ninety nets onboard at the time.

On landing at Great Yarmouth the crew of the Craigmin were cared for at the Yarmouth Sailors’ Home and the crew arrived home to Buckie on Monday 8th November.

The Craigmin was a wooden steam drifter weighing 33 tons, used primarily to catch herring and was owned by my great-grandfather and others.

The sinking of my great-grandfather’s boat was reported in the Aberdeen Press & Journal, the Dundee Evening Telegraph, the Northern Whig, the Southern Reporter, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, the Shepton Mallet Journal, the Yarmouth Independent and the Western Daily Press with most details in the Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Dundee Evening Telegraph. The other papers just carried minimal detail.

As an indication of how bad the weather was that day, the Belfast News-Letter and the Western Daily Press published information on several disasters that happened that day: an elderly woman in County Derry who died when her house was blown down, ten families in Dublin made homeless when a tenement building collapsed, flying slates and debris and uprooted trees in Belfast, the west wing of Linlithgow parish Church demolished, a teacher and two boys went missing in the storm in Ballymena, flooding on the west coast of Scotland, flooding in the Galashiels district, flooding in the Lake District, a railway viaduct on the Lancashire-Cumberland border sank by two or three feet, St Michael’s Church in Bristol was damaged and trees came down in Wotton-under-Edge.

The Aberdeen Press & Journal, the Gloucester Citizen and the Daily Herald all reported in December that Ernest Lilly, the skipper of the Chestnut, was rewarded for his bravery in rescuing my great-grandfather and his crew. The Board of Trade gave Mr Lilly a piece of plate.

There will be another blog post on the Craigmin in the coming months – in 1928 my great-grandfather and his father along with one other man, the registered owners of the Craigmin, were sued in Banff Court by George Smith, a Buckie ship bullder in respect of repars to the Craigmin between 1919 and 1925 which George Smith indicated had not been paid for.

Sources: personal family knowledge, Scotland’s People website (birth, marriage and death certificates and censuses), Aberdeen Press & Journal 6 November 1926, Dundee Evening Telegraph 8 November 1926, Belfast News-Letter 6 November 1926, Western Daily Press 6 November 1926, Aberdeen Press & Journal 16 December 1926, Gloucester Citizen 17 December 1926 and Daily Herald 16 December 1926.

(For the benefit of anyone else researching families in the fishing communities of the north-east of Scotland, the tee-names or by-names, ie the local nicknames, of my great-grandparents were Murray Farmer and Cowie Pum).