The clipper Titania. A postcard made from a painting by Jack Spurling (c.1930-1945)
( Source: The State Library of Victoria Australia - Item H81.85/147)
The Titania, was a composite hulled "tea clipper" built by by Robert Steele & Co.in Greenock, Scotland in 1866 that had a long and storied career.
Eventually the partnership dissolved and in 1815, and a new company was formed under the name Robert Steele and Company. The new firm was a partnership between Robert Steele and his two sons, James and Robert (II), and continued to operate from the same site.
By 1840's changes in technology and the advent of steam meant that few shipyards were building sail powered vessels, and the Robert Steele yards were no exception. It produced a series of steamers including the SS Beaver, SS Columbia, paddle steamer Liverpool, paddle wheeler Eagle and culminated with the Sardinian to be the last large steamer to be built by Robert Steele and Co.
As technology and ship building advanced in order to accomodate larger and more powerful steamships, it became increasingly more expensive and complicated to produce these steam powered vessels. Technological change had again overtaken the yard as steel replaced iron in hull construction. Steamship construction in general had become more complex, with innovations such as bilge keels to reduce rolling and the introduction of the compound engine. Gradually the skill of the marine engineer became more important than that of the shipbuilder - and Robert Steele and Company was essentially a shipbuilder.
This drawing published in 1845, shows the side-lever engine designed by Caird & Co.
Used in some of Robert Steele's ships, it illustrates
the engineering complexity of building steam powered vessels.
This engine was capable of producing 460 h.p.
(Source: The Practical Mechanic and Engineer's Magazine, 1 June 1845)
In America, there had been a boom in the building of fast, clipper sailing ships that coincided with the San Francisco gold rush in 1849. In a gold rush the prize is often to the first man on the spot, thus ship speed all at once became the desire of the whole world.
In the United States, every clipper was engaged at enormous premiums and every Down East shipyard began to work overtime. From Maine to Maryland, from Baltimore to St. John, N.B., the hammers began going night and day. Even fishing villages, where the launch of a 300- ton ship had been the sign for a general holiday and the cause of much parochial pride and rejoicing, began to build ships of 1000 tons. In some places vessels were actually built in the woods, and hauled to the water's edge by teams of oxen. Farmers turned wood sawyers, and every petty carpenter called himself a shipwright. The ships were mostly built on the share principle; the captain, the ship chandler, the block maker, sail maker and cooper each taking his proportion of shares.
British ship builders were eager to prove that they were worthy competitors to their American counterparts. Before 1850, in Britain, commerce to the British Isles and her colonies was controlled by strong trade monopolies, and government regulations. There was very little competition or a need for fast large ships in regards to long distance voyages.
In 1850, the arrival of the New York clipper, Oriental, in London, sparked a "wake-up call" for the British Mercantile Marine Fleet. She was the first American ship to load directly in China with a cargo of tea direct for Britain, as a result of new trade laws. She proved herself a capable sailor with admirable performance and garnered the highest freight prices in London as a result. It became quickly apparent that in order to stay competitive, the British merchants and ship owners would need faster and better performing vessels than the large, but slow moving East Indiaman known as "tea wagons" which were currently being used in the tea trade.
By the end of 1850, the China tea trade had become an important commerce where speed and larger ships were a necessity. Furthermore, the discovery of gold in 1852 in Australia meant that Britain, which had been locked out of the California gold rush, had in the mercantile fleet a "need for speed" in order to keep pace with America.
Across the pond, in the United States, a financial panic had created a recession in 1857, which was followed by a civil war that caused a marked turndown in the building of sailing vessels. This created an opportunity and boom for British ship builders.
In the late 1850's through to 1870 there was a "renaissance" of sort in ship building in Britain, with a return to the construction of sailing vessels. This was primarily due to the expansion of the long routes of the Australian and Far East trade where fast sailing vessels could still compete with steam. At the same time, new labor-saving devices and changes in sail rigging allowed substantial reductions in the size of sailing crews. The net result was that the cost of building and operating sailing ships fell significantly, which allowed them on certain routes to quite profitable.
As a result, between the late 1850's to 1869, Steele built forty-five sailing ships but not one steam-powered vessel. It is often considered by some that Robert Steele and Company's finest achievements were about twenty clippers built during this period for the China tea trade. The first of which was the Kate Carne, launched in 1855.
These "tea-clippers" were constructed like racing yachts, and many of these beautiful vessels, such as the Serica, Falcon, Ariel, Taeping and the Sir Lancelot, became famous for consistently winning the China Tea race year after year.
No expense was spared to help land the first tea of the season at London and the superior design and construction of the Steele-built tea clippers saw them become the standard by which others were judged:
Though there was no such thing as an ugly tea clipper, Steele was, without a doubt, the designer of the most beautiful little ships that ever floated. Like his modern confrere, Fife, he could not produce an ugly boat. The lines of his vessels never failed to please the eye; their sweetness and beauty satisfied that artistic sense in a sailor, which, though always present, can hardy be described in words.Suffice it to say that there was not a curve or line or angle in a boat such as the Ariel or Sir Lancelot, which did not carry out the idea of perfect proportion and balance. And it is just this balance in design which gives a ship merit in the eyes of sailors. Steele's gracefully curving cutwaters and neatly rounded sterns fitted each other to perfection. His vessels never gave one the impression, as some boats do, that the bows of a ship had been joined on to the stern of a scow and vice versa. And it was this absolute sweetness to the eye which gave the Steele clippers a look of delicate, almost fragile, beauty, and distinguished them from their rivals.The Clyde clippers, also, were noted for a yacht-like finish : all their woodwork on deck or below was of the finest teak or mahogany, so beautifully fashioned as to bear comparison with the work of a first-class cabinetmaker, whilst bulwark rails, stanchions, skylights, capstans, and binnacles shone with more brass-work than is ever found in a modern yacht.
(Source: The China Clippers, Basil Lubbock, 1914)
The construction details were slightly different between their American counterparts, not only did the British shipyards build smaller clippers, but their vessels were not as heavily sparred. Few British vessels often carried skysails or moonsails, and the result was that they were not often subject to the regular dismasting events that plagued the American clippers.
While the early clippers were made of wood, it was not long before composite construction-wood planking on a iron frame-became standard. Composite construction improved a sailing ship's cargo-capacity, strength and durability; in addition, it was widely-believed that the continued use of timber was essential for the carriage of certain types of cargo, such as tea. Many people connected with sail hoped that these wind-powered vessels might be able to hold their own at least on a few of the long distance trade routes, such as the Australian wool and China tea trade.
As a result of this construction, the British Clippers were vastly lighter and more durable than similarly sized American clippers. The iron frame of the British clippers meant that these clippers could be driven hard and still withstand the pounding of the ocean's waves, and as a result, several of them survived long into the 20th century.
The Titania, was one of these splendid British clippers and was launched on November 26, 1866. At her launchings, she measured in length, 200 feet; breadth, 36 feet; depth, 21 feet; and despite her size only displaced 879 tons. Her framework was iron, but she still had wood planking. Her masts and spars were also made of iron.
The Titania's first commander was the cautious Captain Robert "Bobby" Deas, former master of the ship Ganges. As soon as she was ready for sea she took her departure for China (Shanghai) to compete in the 1867 tea race.
The "Tea Races" as they became known, were very popular in middle of the 19th Century. The clippers carrying cargoes of tea from China to Britain would compete in informal races to be first ship to dock in London with the new crop of each season.
While tea from China had been introduced in the 17th century in Britain, it was generally considered a luxury item, until significant quantities were transported in the 19th century.
In 1834, the British East India's Company monopoly of the tea trade ended, and this opening to competition meant that faster ships were needed, as different merchants tried to be first in the market with each new crop of tea and it became a "free for all" race to port.
The first cargo of tea landed could be very profitable for tea merchants, as they could generally command a higher freight price so they introduced incentives. The first ship to gain a premium was Vision, in 1854, that earned an extra £1 per ton included in her bill of lading, payable if she was the first to dock.
In 1857, the China tea trade made the jump from "shipping intelligence" and commodities section of the business column in local papers to general news, as the public began to take regular interest.
By 1866, newspaper interest in the China "tea races" was at its height, with speculation, updates and detailed reports. Many bets were placed on the outcome of the race, in London, Hong Kong, and the ports of Britain, and by the captains and crews of the vessels involved.
The race was not only a test of sailing, but also of efficient management at the port of departure. Each ship needed to be ready to receive her cargo. The hold was prepared by spreading a layer of clean shingle across the bottom to act as ballast. This was in addition to the iron ballast carried by these extreme clippers. Between 150 and 200 tons of shingle was needed, and it was leveled to follow the curve of the deck above, at a distance precisely measured to be an exact number of tea chests.
The tea arrived in lighters called "chop boats" (taking their name from the identifying marks on each batch of tea they carried). Lower value chests were loaded first as a layer across the ballast, with some shingle being packed between the chests and side of the hold. Then the main cargo was loaded in further layers, being carefully packed in with dunnage by the skilled Chinese dock workers.
To get her correct trim was as important in these sensitive tea clippers as it is in a modern yacht, and half inch one way or the other often made all the difference in a ship's sailing. It was usual to trim about down about 3 feet by the stern, so that when loaded, the ship often drew 4 or 5 inches more water aft than forward.
Sailing a tea clipper presented its own challenges. The nimble, responsive and fleet footed craft could be very fickle, and unforgiving of any mistakes that were made at the helm. The handling of a tea clipper was a ticklish business, and the captain who went into the tea races after being used to slower and less sensitive craft often found himself at sea with a bad mess of it at first.
In the larger slow moving "tea wagon" ships, it was a common practice to put the helm up in a squall, that is to turn tiller to windward to bring the vessel off the wind, running downwind riding out the storm, a technique known as running before the squall
The Naval Text-book and Dictionary for the Use of the Midshipmen of the U.S. Navy in 1862 describes the maneuver as, "... you are stuck with a heavy squall. The first and most important thing to be done, is to get your vessel before the wind, which destroys greatly its force, and becalms many of the sails; and the next is to reduce sail as expeditiously as possible. Put the helm up! Let Fly the main and spanker sheet and outhaul!...you may now run before the squall until it moderates."
But in a clipper ship, this maneuver was considered bad form, although the Board of Trade examiners, and the British Navy still recognized it as acceptable practice.
The danger of putting the helm up in a sensitive and heavily-sparred clipper was this, as the wind freed, the ship gathered more way, and her yards being more fore and aft owing to her long lower masts than those of other ships the sails had a good chance of catching the full weight of the squall abeam. If the ship was the least bit tender, or it was an extra heavy puff, she begin to heel and would put her rail under so far that the helm lost its power over her so it was impossible to bring her before the squall.
Then, in order to gain control of the ship it was necessary to make an attempt to reduce sail and bring her upright. In this case, the halliards would be let fly to drop the sails quickly, but, owing to the angle at which the ship was heeled, the yards would not come down, and stuck like glue onto the masts. This meant that something had to give, and either the ship capsized or more often than not found herself dismasted.
Experienced tea-ship captains invariably gave strict orders to an officer who had just come out of a non-clipper, never to keep away in a squall, but "heave-to" into the wind, luff and shake the squall out of her. However, the officer or helmsman had to be careful not to get his ship aback (back winded), and there was also the danger that the violent luffing could split the sails.
Now, in theory it sounds simple enough to put the helm down (tiller to leeward), and move the ship head on into the wind, into a state known as holding her "in irons".
Yet, anyone who has ever sailed and luffed a yacht or dinghy can appreciate the nerve it takes to bring a 1,000 ton ship into the wind and the let the sails flog about for an indeterminate time. One could only imagine the thundering din and crack of the canvas and it also required the utmost care to keep her from falling off slightly and the yards being taken aback.
Captain Robert "Bobby" Deas, who was the first to take the Titania from the builder's hands was an experienced old sea-dog and a first-class master mariner. He was extremely cautious and a vastly experience commander but definitely not a racing man and had no experience with a tea clipper.
Captain "Bobby" Deas set sail for Shanghai from England on January 12th. He was nearly two weeks out when on January 29th he encountered a fierce gale and storm in latitude 19N off the Cape Verdes Islands.
At around 8 a.m. the Titania was hit by a sudden squall while the man who had been sent up to take in the fore-topgallant stunsail was still aloft. In textbook manner, Deas put the helm up to bring her before the wind.
If Deas had done so in time to get the ship off the wind before the weight of the squall struck her, all would have been well; but he was too late. The squall caught her square on the beam and she went right over until her fairleads were in the water. The topsail yards from the angle of her heel were stuck at the mastheads.
The sailor who had been aloft was fortunate enough to have just scrambled down to the deck before the foremast buckled slightly above the mast coat.
As the mast went over the side it broke again where it smashed in the rail. The Titania's masts were of iron, but for some reason or other the angle irons had been omitted in her case and this was given as the reason why the foremast went. The foremast, maintopmast, mizzen topgallent mast, and all sails spars, rigging, and etc. that were above that had all been carried away. In a just a quick moment the beautiful little vessel was a wreck aloft, but luckily the hull sustained no damage.
All hands were at once called to clear away the wreck and it took the carpenter three whole days cutting through the buckled iron foremast. Saving what he could of the spars, Captain Deas proceeded to rig jury masts and then made the best of his way to Rio de Janeiro for repairs. She was laid up in Rio for several months while a new mast replacement was made of wood. While she was delayed in Rio, her sister ship the Ariel made a record run from Gravesend to Hong Kong in just 79 days. She raised quite a sensation when she arrived in Hong Kong, and when the telegraph was sent home to England of her accomplishment it was hardly believed. Her record still stands today. Captain Keay wrote in his abstracts:
"There were many reports of quicker passages than ours talked of by lovers of the marvelous, but on best authority in Hong Kong there was found to be no foundation for the mythical things said to have been done by some gun-brig or by some clipper. Several naval officers visited us for a look at our chart and track out, also surveyors of long experience in China, and all agreed as to its being the fastest on record by some five or six days in any season, hence very difficult to beat in the N.E. season."
The Titania set sail again for Shanghai in late May, but when she reached the meridian off the Cape of Africa it was discovered that she had fractured her lower main masthead. Sail was at once reduced and the masthead fished, the topgallant mast being sent on deck to relieve the strain upon the cap. She thus had to make the rest of the passage under "easy" canvas and was a long time getting to Shanghai.
On June 29th, in lat. 10° N., long. 110° E., as she was running northward in a storm towards Shanghai the Titania nearly collided with the Ariel who was headed for England with a load of tea from Shanghai. If it had not been for the quick actions of her commander the careers of both the Ariel and the Titania would have been cut short.
Captain Keay of the Ariel notes the incident in his log:
"2 a.m. — Had to keep off for a running ship to avoid collision. Had lost his main-topgallant mast.Had double topsails and asked us, 'What ship is that ?' I reproved his lubberly conduct in not hauling up to go astern of us and did not have time to answer him. Was it the Titania?"
In 1874, about ten clippers were expected in Shanghai that year for the tea crop, including the Thermopylae, Cutty Sark, Sir Lancelot, Norman Court, Forward Ho, Red Riding Hood, Halowe'en and Lammermuir. The damage to the Titania was sufficient to keep her out of the race, and she was held up at Hong Kong for repairs.
The Thermopylae won the day in S.W. Monsoon, completing the voyage in 101 days, and was followed by the Norman Court and Cutty Sark. In the N.E. Monsoon, the Hallowe'en made the run in just 91 days.
The Titania finally left Hong Kong for the return home to London on February 4, 1875 and arrived in May. She then set a course back to Shanghai for tea in June. In 1875, on the run from Shanghai to London, she was beaten by the Hallowe'en in a N.E. Monsoon that had made the trip in just 91 days. The Titania, a fast ship, followed a close second, and completed the voyage in 100 days.
In 1878, the Titania beat the famous Thermopylae in a N.E. Monsoon, completing the trip in 102 days, compared to Thermopylae's 110 days. However, in 1878 tea freights had dropped so much that even the mighty Thermopylae had a hard time filling her holds. The tea trade between England and China that was once so lucrative for the clippers was now over. Instead, the sailing clippers were forced out to longer routes, which were impractical for steamships. By now, most of the clippers were sailing directly between China and Australia, New York or San Francisco.
In 1879 the command of the Titania was succeeded to a young captain, the twenty-seven year old William Townsend from Appledore in Devon, England. He took her again to Australia.
In May, 1879 while the ship was in port in Australia at the Sandridge Pier discharging her cargo, five sailors: William Hallett, Henry Cowen, Tim McNamara, Isane Nyzobin, and Antonio Raynson thought that they could outwit the inexperienced young captain.
The five sailors had in the night, busted through the bulkheads into the coal bunker, and absconded with two cases of brandy. John Wyatt, the chief officer of the Titania, had noticed that all the sailors were all more or less worse for the liquor at about 8 o'clock in the morning, and so he told the captain who reported the incident to the constable on duty at the pier head. Upon investigation, they found in the sailors in their bunks, and fourteen bottles of brandy strewn about the quarters with most of them empty. The value of the cargo was set a £10 and the sailors were sentenced to eight weeks imprisonment and ordered to pay the value of the brandy out of their wages.
However, Captain Townsend's trouble at the Sandridge Pier wasn't just with a bunch of drunken sailors. On May 31, a gale had blown in to the coast, and at Sandridge it reached hurricane force. From the action of the wind and waves, the Titania's hawse pipes were torn out of her and she drifted away from the pier. Fortunately, it was quickly noticed and she was brought back to the dock with little damage, unlike two or three other smaller boats that had met their grief. She then proceeded up the coast to Newcastle, N.S.W. in ballast for coal.
On July 2nd, 1879 the Titania left Newscastle, N.S.W. with 1082 tons of Coal for Manila, and arrived on August 18th, with a passage of 47 days, beating out the Nyassa that made the run in 50 days. Her old rival Oberon made the run from Sydney in just 35 days. In that year, the Norman Court, made for Hong Kong.
The Titania arrived back in England from Manila in mid February.
On April 29th, 1880 while the Titania was in London, Captain William Townsend, the dashing twenty-eight year old sea captain married a young twenty-one year old women from Essex, named Matilda Gertrude Deas, who was a relative of Captain Robert Deas, the first captain of the Titania.
While Captain Townsend was getting married, two other ships of the same name were making headlines that are often confused with the clipper. The first one is a small brig, Titania.
On July 7th, the brig, Titania under the command of Captain Lloyd was outward bound from St. John's, Newfoundland in ballast for Miramichi, when 50 miles southeast of Cape Spear, when at about 12:30 am in a dense fog, she hit an iceberg. On going below it was found that the iceberg had punched a gaping hole in her bow and the water was pouring in fast. The captain gave the command to abandon ship, and the crews were all put into lifeboats with provisions and personal effects. The boats drifted nearby and they watched the Titania slowly sink. One of the crew, John Rees, a part owner and first mate had brought with him to the large sum of money and possessions which it is said he placed in the aft of the boat.
What happens next is a matter of controversy, but the Captain reported in the Evening Telegram (St. Johns N.L. 07-08-1880):
The boats had remained close by while the captain and the crew watched the small brigantine slowly settle down. Just before the water reached the hatches, the mate who was also part owner, John Rees had apparently forgotten something of great significance aboard the Titania and insisted on being taken back to the sinking ship. At the time, no great objection was offered and he was placed on board to retrieve the missing articles. As soon as he reached the deck, however, it was said that he declared with great determination to go down with the ship. Despite the entreaties of the captain, who was backed by the prayers and tears of the crew (his own nephew included) could shake his purpose. There he stood calmly and resolved to sink with his property. He had not long to wait. Soon the water washed over the decks and the Titania plunged forward and disappeared beneath the waves, the mate not making the slightest effort to save himself. Slowly and sadly the shipwrecked men turned their eyes from the spot, and tried to forget the heart-sickening sight they had just witnessed.
It was said that the sea was tranquil and the small brigantine floated for nearly three hours before sinking. When questioned why the Captain had not made an effort to save the mate, he reported that, "...he was a very powerful man, and he feared to board the ship lest he fling him overboard." It was reported that the accounts of the sinking varied from crewman to crewman and no two stories seemed to collaborate the event, leading to some speculation that the mate met with foul play.
Ironically, 32 years later the famous ocean liner Titanic, met a strikingly similar fate.
The second ship making headlines was the S.S. Titania, an iron screw steamship belonging to the Port of Liverpool, of 1,961 tons gross and 1,273 tons net register, and fitted with engines of 170 horse power. She was built and launched at Middlesbrough in the year 1880 with much fanfare and planned to began regular trips to New York for the Red Cross Funnel Line. On her maiden voyage from Durham, the Titania in a dense fog, collided with a small fishing coble. It capsized and four men were tossed into the water. Unfortunately, a young man named Robert Taylor, just nineteen years of age was drowned.
The collision substantially damaged the steamer Titania and she needed to put into Liverpool for repairs for several months before sailing for New York. In November, she fell into a strong S.E. gale which strengthened into a hurricane. A few hours into the hurricane, the spare propeller in the 'tween decks had broken lose from the ringbolts and was violently hurled about, along with much of the cargo. The action cause the propeller to punch holes in both sides of the ship, and she began to take on water. In the morning, the Titania found herself in critical state, some of the deck work was broken, all the stores completely destroyed, and two men were injured while jettisoning the cargo. The holes on the starboard side of the steamer were level with the sea. There were also several smaller holes in the port side, and the cargo, which was in bales, got adrift, had settled in a crushed mass on the starboard side. The Bel Air, coming upon the Titania hove in sight and an attempt was made to lower the boats from the latter vessel, but in the rough seas they were smashed against the side. Seeing that no communication could be established by this means, the mate of the Titania plunged into the sea and boldly struck out for the other steamer, and succeeded in gaining the deck of the Bel Air. After making arrangements for the Bel Air to tow the Titania into port, he again plunged into the ocean and swam back to the Titania. The Titania was towed into Halifax where she was repaired and put back into service. Only two years later, in 1882, the steamship Titania overloaded with cattle was lost in storm five days out from New York. There was only one survivor.
Soon after his marriage Captain Townsend's new bride accompanied him aboard the Titania to the sail to the far east.
At the time, coal from South Wales was regarded as the best steaming coal in the world. It burned brighter and lasted longer, making it the most economical coal for shipping and industry. Welsh coal was sent all around the trade routes of the oceans with hundreds of coal bunkering depots and shipping agents set up in the remotest corners of the globe. In June, 1880 like other notable ships, the Titania loaded her hold with Welsh coal from Cardiff, and was destined for the South East Pacific to unload at Manila and then sail to Foochow for tea and then back to Liverpool.
Only a few days out, the Titania met up with her old rival, the Cutty Sark. A journal kept by Charles Arthur Sankey, on board the Cutty Sark, describes the event:
However, we got a fair start with a leading wind down to Cape Finisterre where we picked up the northeast trades, then squaring away the yards we made a run for the Line. Studding sails and every rag of canvas that could be stuck on was ordered set, for we had a record to keep up and another old antagonist. The clipper Titania in company with us was bound also for Anjer. We were brought very close together and so we sailed for nearly four days when we drew apart with a challenge for a race to Sunda straits.
...We headed down the south Atlantic close hauled, making a southwesterly course to latitude 40 degrees south, where we picked up the west wind that forever blows round the southern seas. There is a legend that these seas are inhabited by a race of small people who delight in taking free rides on ships and can raise a real blow for their special favourites. Certainly they must have known we were coming! It was a grand experience showing what a ship like the Cutty Sark could do when driven by a captain like ours. Yes, it was cracking on sail all the time!
As usual at such times, in spite of all the squabbles between officers and men everyone seemed keen to make the best of the run and enjoy the excitement. My old knowledge of yacht sailing came in handy and I was counted one of the lucky four Captain Wallace allowed to steer. The first mate demurred at my being at the wheel single-handed at such a time, but I was left on the job, much to my great delight and dong my prettiest. It was no small thing either, as one has to have lots of nerve when a great stern sea comes whizzing up with part of the top coming over the rail and lifting you waist high as the ship rose in grand style and stepped out at her best.
Now the wind began to come out of the southwest in heavier and heavier squalls and our top gallant sails and chain sheets got a heavy mauling. The men were sent aloft to bend a new lower fore topsail which they swayed aloft to "Blow! Boys! Blow!"
With a gallant ship and a bully crew:
Blow, boys, blow!
We're just the boys to pull her through,
Blow, boys, blow!
For up aloft this sail must go
Blow, boys, blow!
Up went the topsail in its stops, the men heartened by the chanty, but it was another thing to bend it. For two hours the men fought aloft, sweating and swearing, the foot rope swinging and dipping as they braced against the tilting yard. It seemed an impossible task but set it must be and eventually was as our gallant little ship cleared herself of a green sea which rushed over the stern and swept the length of the deck. During the whole of this strenuous time our little clipper steered beautifully and our entire crew played up most gallantly, wishing only to give the ship the best chance to break the record. It was stand by the whole time, and eat and snooze when we could.
Soon after this event I heard from the second mate that, there was some anxiety on account of a variation between our two chronometers and their rating. They had apparently got apart about five minutes of time or seventy miles in longitude. Unlike the Fantasies, we used to hear all about the navigation from Captain Wallace. He expected two of our berth to take sights for latitude and longitude on Sundays and then he would invite us down for dinner in his cabin with the officers.
...Arriving off the islands of Sumatra and Java the error in chronometers succeeded in fooling us badly. For though it does not matter being a bit out of position when there is lots of sea room, it does not do to run chances of going on the rocks. So we kept well away from the entrance of the straits until we had attained the latitude, then went running due east for Java Head.
Through the portals of these straits the fleets of sailing ships to and from China have made their way for many years. Situated almost on the Line, the southeast trade winds are broken up at its entrance, and dependence has to be put in every favourable slant of breeze or squall. While no high seas are met, it takes the highest class of seamanship to navigate from this point to various destination in the China Seas and eastern Pacific ocean.
We were very unfortunate in making the landfall. The fresh wind that we were carrying and which should have lifted us up the Straits died away just as we made the entrance. Strange to say, our antagonist, Titania, just managed to take advantage of the same wind. The result was, that while we lay becalmed off Krakatoa Island, she was passing through. Had our chronometers been correct we would have either won the race or at least sailed up the Straits together.
On August 18th, Titania departed Manila for Foochow, but only just a day of port she out encountered a violent typhoon that "...according to the estimate of the Director of the Observatory of Manila, the force of wind reached sometimes the velocity of 100 miles per hour, though an exact account cannot be given, owing to the destruction by the wind of the two anemometers possessed by the Observatory. The Lighthouse at St Nicholas has disappeared altogether and 11 lives were lost."
The China Mail reported, "A destructive whirlwind (a tornado or a secondary whirlwind accompanying the Typhoon) was reported to have occurred in the village of Polo, near Bulacan (some 20 miles north of Manila) on the afternoon of the 19th, causing great destruction to a place named Mabolo. Nearly the whole of the houses of light construction were razed to the ground and two of stone suffered a like fate: but no loss of life was reported. This phenomenon was also reported to have crossed the parish of Pineda, where it caused a great noise, it carried away one man, one woman and one bullock; the last named, on being found, had one of his horns knocked off. One house disappeared under the force of the tornado."
There was a great amount of destruction of small craft, Captain Townsend and the Titania found herself tossed up and stranded on the sandy shore of the Malecón, in Manila. Another ship, the Masonic it is said, went ashore in Cavite, where she had been anchored for some time. On shore the destruction was also great, especially to houses of light construction.
The Malecon in Manila, Philippines c.1900, the Titania was forced onto the shore by a hurricane.
After making repairs, the Titania against set out into the Straits of Sunda, and was once again hit with another series of punishing typhoons and gales was reported to be dismasted for the third time while in the Straits of Sunda. Captain Townsend managed to get word to Haiphan and his predicament was reported in the China Mail in Hong Kong, on November 4, 1880. After making repairs she departed Hong Kong on November 22nd, and finally made Foochow at the end of December. She arrived back in Liverpool, England in early March, 1881.
The Titania then began a series of runs to Melbourne carrying general merchandise. On July 29, 1882 she arrived off Cape Moreton, making the run from Liverpool in just eighty-seven days. On Monday, December 11th, in celebration of Separation Day, which commemerated a proclamation made in 1859 in which the land which forms the present-day State of Queensland was removed from the Colony of New South Wales and created as a separate Colony of Queensland. To celebrate, the Monday afterwards was declared and banking holiday and Brisbane held it's annual regatta. On this occasion, Titania became the flagship for the Brisbane Regatta and was moored in the Government Domain across from the Dry Docks. The clipper was opened to the public which were ferried across in boats from the wharves. The price of admission to the Titania was 3s for Gentlemen and 2s for Ladies.
An ad for the Brisbane Regatta,
(Source: Brisbane Courier, Friday 8 December 1882)
At the beginning of 1883, she arrived at Lyttleton, N.Z. in ballast, and waited for her sailing orders. On March 10th, she finally sailed for Falmouth and Cork with 10,364 sacks of flour quick on the heels of two other clippers, the Centurion and the Dallam Tower, each captain boasting that their ship was the quickest of the fleet.
The Titania again made the local newspaper headlines in a race
back to England with with two other clippers.
(Source: Otago Witness, 17 March 1883)
She made the run in 86 days, and arrived in London on June 4th, 1883. She then went to Cardiff, and loaded with coal, and departed again for Manila on July 30th, 1883. The Titania then continued to Hong Kong and then back to London, in a familiar pattern of trade with Java.
Meanwhile, throughout the 1870s and 1880s France expanded a colonial campaign that had started in 1858 with an aim to colonize the coasts of Tonkin. The French government had hoped that through negotiation and peaceful colonization they could secure a profitable trade route with China that could bypass the treaty ports of the Chinese coastal provinces and gain privileges for the Roman Catholic Church.
Things began to escalate in 1881, when French Commandant Henri Rivière was sent with a small military force to Hanoi to investigate Vietnamese complaints against the activities of French merchants. The Vietnamese had complained that they were being exploited and ill treated by the French Colonialists.
In defiance of the instructions of his superiors, Rivière stormed the citadel of Hanoi on 25 April 1882. Although Rivière subsequently returned the citadel to Vietnamese control, his recourse to force provoked alarm both in Vietnam and in China. The Vietnamese government, unable to confront Rivière with its own ramshackle army, enlisted the help of Liu Yongfu, a chinese soldier of fortune, a commander of a large mercenary army whose well-trained and seasoned Black Flag soldiers would prove a thorn in the side of the French. The Vietnamese also bid for Chinese support. Vietnam had long been a vassal state of China, and China agreed to arm and support the Black Flags, and to covertly oppose French operations in Tonkin
In May, the Black Flags challenged the French to an all out confrontation, which became known as the Battle of Paper Bridge. Rivière and the French troops were defeated. Rivière himself was killed, which sparked outrage in France, and the government vowed to avenge his death.
In August 1883, negotiations between France and China began to break down over the region, when France attacked a series of forts along the Tonkin coast, in an attempt to control North Vietnam from the Chinese. As a result, the Chinese helped bolster the ranks In a series of back and forth battles with the Vietnamese, the French asked China to remove their military support of the Vietnamese. It became an uneasy time for the all colonists in China, as anti-foreign sentiment spread throughout Southeast Asia.
European residents walk warily in the streets of Guangzhou, autumn 1883.
The tensions eventually culminated in a large naval battle between the French and the Chinese Navy at Foochow August 22, 1884. The battle, a two-hour engagement was watched with professional interest by neutral British and American vessels (the battle was one of the first occasions on which the spar torpedo was successfully deployed), Courbet's Far East Squadron annihilated China's outclassed Fujian fleet and severely damaged the Foochow Navy Yard (which, ironically, had been built under the direction of the French administrator Prosper Giquel).
Nine Chinese ships were sunk in less than an hour, including the corvette Yangwu, the flagship of the Fujian fleet. Chinese losses may have amounted to 3,000 dead, while French losses were minimal. Courbet then successfully withdrew down the Min River to the open sea, destroying several Chinese shore batteries from behind as he took the French squadron through the Min'an and Jinpai passes.
Battle of Foochow (Fuzhou) occurred on August 22nd, 1884
The Chinese flagship Yangwu and the gunboat Fuxing at anchor off the
Foochow Navy Yard on the eve of the battle.
The French attack at Foochow (Fuzhou) effectively ended diplomatic contacts between France and China. Although neither country declared war, the dispute would now be settled on the battlefield. The news of the destruction of the Fujian fleet was greeted by an outbreak of patriotic fervour in China, marred by attacks on foreigners and foreign property. There was considerable sympathy for China in Europe, and the Chinese were able to hire a number of British, German and American army and navy officers as advisers.
Patriotic indignation spread to the British colony of Hong Kong. In September 1884 dock workers in Hong Kong refused to repair the French ironclad La Galissonnière, which had suffered shell damage in the August naval engagements. The strike collapsed at the end of September, but the dock workers were prevented from resuming their business by other groups of Chinese workers, including longshoremen, sedan chair carriers and rickshawmen. An attempt by the British authorities to protect the dock workers against harassment resulted in serious rioting on 3 October, during which at least one rioter was shot dead and several Sikh constables were injured. The British suspected, with good reason, that the disturbances had been fomented by the Chinese authorities in Guangdong province.
The strike and unrest in the ports of Hong Kong, and Foochow, made it unprofitable and risky for the Titania on her Java routes. By now, most of the profitable Australian routes were being serviced by faster screw-driven steamships, or larger Down-east built clippers with much larger cargo capacity, and the trade in the Orient for the moment was at a standstill.
In December, 1885 John Henry Busby of Shaw, Bushby & Co. sold the Titania to the Hudson Bay Company in favour of building and purchasing more steamships.
The command of Titania was placed into the hands of Captain James Lawrence Dunn, who at age 54 was an experienced captain that had previously commanded a series of clippers owned by Shaw, Maxton & Co., the original owners and builders of the Falcon, Oberon, Ariel, and Titania.
James L. Dunn, a respected crack clipper captain was very familiar with Robert Steele's Greenock built clippers. He first took over command of the Falcon from Captain Keay in 1865 and was in charge of her until 1874. The Falcon, a sister ship to the Titania, was one the earliest and certainly a fast tea clipper. Captain Keay, who commanded both the Ariel and Falcon in turn, was of the opinion that Ariel was always one knot faster all round than the Falcon.
During his career, Captain James Dunn commanded the Falcon from 1865-1874
(Source: Clippers in the China Trade... the Falcon.... and other clippers on the China Coast
Item -PAF7712 National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)
In 1875, Dunn was entrusted with the command of the Oberon from Keay formerly from the Ariel who had now been transferred from the Oberon to take command of a large steamship, the Glenartney. The Oberon was also a sister ship to the Titania, but with one major difference, she had originally been equipped with a steam powered screw engine. Her engines proved to be more of a liability than an asset, as without them she was a better sailor. By the time Dunn took command, the engine had been removed in favour of her sailing abilities. In 1880 he took command of another well-known clipper Norman Court for her tenth and eleventh voyages.
Dunn was very proud of the workmanship and beauty that the British tea clippers offered. In every port he visited, he often opened his ship to the public viewing and was willing to give anyone who asked a tour. When he sailed the Oberon into San Francisco for the first time in 1876, he invited members of the press aboard the ship. The press reported the cabins were neat and tidy, and they sailors were afforded good treatment, and after viewing the ship they remarked, "Taken all In all she may be called a model ship, and with fair play should last for centuries. With 'success to Captain Dunn and his noble vessel,' we bid him adieu on his voyage to Liverpool with our 'golden grain'."
The Titania's sister ship Oberon under the command
of Captain James Dunn arrives in San Francisco
(Source: Daily Alta California, 8 October 1876)
Captain Dunn was a neat and tidy commander whose signature trademark was taking an immense amount of pride in keeping clippers under his command in bristol condition. In one instance, Captain Stainton Clarke, whilst serving as an officer on board the Edinburgh Castle, was sent aboard the Titania one evening with a message for Captain Dunn.
As soon as Clarke had delivered himself of his message, Captain Dunn asked, "Is this the first time you have been aboard the Titania ?"
"Yes, sir," replied young Clarke.
Upon which Capt. Dunn called out impressively to his first officer, " Mister, take a lamp and show Mr. Clarke over the ship."
Not to be neglected, his men were treated with respect and dignity. Captain Dunn was known for his lavender coloured gloves and his penchant for frock coats. His crisp attire and fashion sense earned him the nickname, "Dandy" and he was often referred by his crew and those that knew him along the waterfront as "Dandy Dunn".
Captain James Dunn was married to Susan Inglis who came from a long line of ship owners and captains. Her uncle was captain William Inglis who was part owner and commander of the Black Prince.
While Dunn was commanding clipper ships out of England, on the west coast of the Dominion of Canada, Port Moody, a small town in Burrard Inlet had been selected as the western terminus for the railroad. The town of Port Moody instantly boomed when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) announced they had selected the town as the western terminus in the late 1800s. Lumber was in demand for wharves, round houses, bunkhouses, storehouses as well as millions of railway ties, bridges, and trestles. The Hudson's Bay Company planned on capitalizing on the growth of Port Moody and the Vancouver area, and the fast Titania was a good candidate for bringing merchandise and supplies. In 1885, A British company, Head, Wrightson and Company had been contracted by the government to produce the pilings for the railway wharf and they needed to be transported to Port Moody in a hurry.
On January 11th 1886, Captain Dunn sailed the Titania from Liverpool to Victoria under the ownership of the Hudson's Bay Company. She was carrying general cargo, supplies, and the pilings for the western terminus of the C.P.R. Railroad at Port Moody.
The Titania was sighted off Start Point, off Devon on January 23, 1886 and arrived in Victoria, B.C. on May 1st, a total run of 109 days.
The lighthouse at Start Point, Devon. The Titania began
her first trip for the H.B.C. company to Victoria on Jan 11th, 1886.
She arrived in Victoria on May 1st, 1886, a run of 109 days.
"Clippers off Start Point at Sundown"
Painting by Roger Charles Desoutter (b.1923)
The run set a new record, and the Titania made local headlines in the May 07, 1886 Daily Colonist in an article entitled,"The Ship That Lowered The Sailing Record From London To Vancouver Island".
...When the captain was congratulated, he remarked, "The truth is we never had a fair day's run during the whole trip, though sometimes for a few hours we were able to make 14 or 14 1/2 knots an hour. If we had had the southwest trades we should have made the run out in ninety-five days." Rate of Speed, "Well, Captain, we notice that the ship Ragna lays claim to a faster pair of heels than your tight little craft; and explains that if she hadn't been light and made more leeway than you did, she would have left you in her wake!"
"Look here," said Capt. Dunn, "I can answer that in a few words: If they're so fast why don't they do the work? We came from London -- loaded -- and everything we saw gradually kept going further astern -- got small by degrees and beautifully less. Here's an example," he continued, turning to the log and reading an extract: 'Wind light, from the north-west, --sea calm-- saw lots of turtle -- caught three of them -- sighted a bark in ballast to windward,' the next day 'sighted bark to leeward, long way off." and next day 'sighted bark a very long way off.' and so on with all of them we met, "it's very certain that if we didn't creep ahead the vessels we passed must have drifted astern; and I say again, if they're are so fast why don't they do the work! Let them get cargoes like the vessel on whose deck we are standing; a neater and smarter little clipper than she is I am proud to say none could wish to command." The spick and span appearance of the vessel's holy stoned decks, shining brasswork, cleanly scuppers, spotless paint work, her taut standing rigging, and the trim appearance of her running gear, evinced the good grounds for the remark.
Under the command of Captain Dunn, the Titania had gained a reputation as, "the smartest ship in the Pacific", which caused some jealousy and heart burning among rival ships. Indeed, although the great tea races were over, each captain was still vying to be known as the smartest and fastest ship to a port. The Titania on that run, had been challenged by the Ragna, whose pilot claimed that she was beaten by the Titania only ten miles into Race rocks by the famous clipper.
Captain Dunn addressed the "Pilot" in a letter to the editor in the May 08, 1886 Daily Colonist:
In your valuable issue I read this morning a letter signed "Pilot," which from the errors contained therein calls for an answer. On the 13th April my position was 8 deg. north. 118 deg. west, so Ragna could hardly have seen me 8 degree distant. I past Race light at 3 a.m. May 1st. Ragna had not arrived in Royal Roads at sunset the same day. As the name "smartest sailer on the Pacific " seems to cause much heartburning let me assure "Pilot" and others that it was not applied by me to the Titania. I simply did my best to bring the fine ship to which I was appointed safely and as quickly as possible to her destination.
In conclusion, I would ask "Pilot" to apply his powerful mind for the benefit of strangers like myself who after bringing their ships from a long and arduous passage and arriving off the dangerous Race rocks look for local experience to assist them on the last and not least dangerous part of their voyage. At good and broad daylight on the 1st May the Race rocks aleam, having the jack flying, I looked anxiously, but in vain, for the wished for pilot. I passed about three miles out and stood for Albert Head to best of my ability, but the wind failing I had to make sail to hold my own, and as a matter of fact did not get a pilot till near Albert Head at 7 a.m., who then took me in safely to Esquimalt harbor.
Trusting this subject may now die out, I am, sir, your obedient servant,
James L. Dunn
Indeed, the Titania's cargo not only contained general merchandise bound for Victoria, but it also was transporting time sensitive and politically charged material for a new railroad pier. After discharging general merchandise and cargo in Victoria, the Titania was towed by the tug Pilot to Port Moody to deliver iron pilings for the new railroad terminus, on May 23, 1886.
(Source: Daily Colonist, 05-22-1866)
The steam tug Pilot off the Victoria waterfront; Marine Hospital in the background. c.1895
(Courtesy: BC Archives Item - A-00108). The tug Pilot towed the Titania to Port Moody in 1886.
The British Tea Clipper Titania off Victoria Harbor circa 1890.
This pictures shows a great comparison of her sleek and rakish lines
compared to the Downeast Clipper anchored beside her.
(Courtesy: BC Archives item - D-01298)
Port Moody had been chosen as the original Western terminus for the C.P.R. in 1879, and construction of a station had been complete in 1882.
Port Moody was chosen as the original site for the Western Terminus for
the CPR railroad (C.1885)
The new station at Port Moody built in 1882.
Iron pilings were shipped to Port Moody in 1886 by the Titania.
(Source: Port Moody Station Museum - Glenbow Archives # na-4140-85)
However, although Port Moody had been designated in the charter by the federal Government as the nearest port on a navigatible waterway, it had some drawbacks: it was nearly 12 nautical miles (22KMS) from the entrance of the First Narrows on English Bay, and a steep hill ran up from the edge of the water that left little room for townsite development. In addition, the tide in the area varied as much as 4.2 meters, and due to the terrain the port was enveloped in fog most of the time.
Consequently, in 1884, the CPR sent a high ranking official to determine if Port Moody would actually be suitable for a western terminus. He reported back to high ranking officials with a glum secret: the eastern end of Burrard Inlet was too shallow for the ocean-going ships that were part of the railway's global shipping plans. In August, 1884 the dynamic and forceful William Van Horne, general manager of the CPR railway, visited the Granville townsite. A little more than a month later, he asked CPR directors to choose it as the line's western terminus, instead of Port Moody. They agreed, and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) secretly negotiated with the provincial government for valuable land on Coal Harbour between the old Bricklayers claim and the townsite of Granville.
In order to seal the CPR terminus deal at Vancouver, the provincial government granted the CPR a total of 6,280 acres, which included the original downtown (Government Reserve) area and a vast area south of False Creek, thereby laying the foundation for a real city. It also meant that Vancouver would become a CPR-dominated town that looked both into the interior and out to sea.
Despite the negotiations, the CPR and the Government went ahead with the building of the wharf and terminus at Port Moody, and it was completed in June of 1886, and the first train arrived there at high noon from Montreal on July 4th, 1886. This train consisted of Engine #371 two baggage cars, a mail car, one second-class coach, two immigrant sleepers, two first-class coaches, two sleeping cars, and a diner.
The first C.P.R. train arrived from Montreal, on July 4th, 1886.
Port Moody was short-lived as the western terminus.
The first train #371 arrives at the Port Moody seaboard in 1886.
While the wharf and terminus was under construction in Port Moody, to achieve legal status as a city, on January 8, 1886 the villagers at the Granville Townsite appointed a committee to draft and circulate a petition that was then moved through the legislation stages and became a private member’s bill in the British Columbia legislature. At Van Horne's suggestion, the townsite of Granville was renamed, "Vancouver" and the City of Vancouver was created under the Vancouver Incorporation Act of April 6, 1886. One month after the incorporation, 499 voters elected a mayor and 10 aldermen. The infant city included the old Bricklayers’ Claim, the downtown CPR land grant, the townsite of Granville, and CPR land across False Creek up to 16th Avenue.
Indeed, the arrival of the pilings at Port Moody and where the final terminus should be built became quite a contention in the Federal parliament, in a meeting Ottawa on May 31st, 1886 the matter of the pilings was debated, and it was questioned why the material was brought all the way from England on the Titania, when it could have been produced locally. In some circles the building of the railway and the debacle surrounding the final terminus is referred to as "The Pacific Scandal". In order to facilitate the quick building of the wharf, it was built using wood pilings instead of the iron ones that had been brought from England which remained in a heap and were actually not used in Port Moody. In 1887, they were later moved to Vancouver for construction of the wharf there.
An old time pioneer, Dr. H.E. Langis in January, 1932 recalls seeing the pilings lying at the Moody wharf:
"The government built the C.P.R., and they sent iron piles to build the wharf all the way from England, around the horn. The piles were lying on the Port Moody wharf in heaps; some may be there yet. The hotel in Fort William and the Port Moody wharf were items in the Pacific scandal; enormous waste of money; cost Sir John A. Macdonald defeat; McKenzie beat him.." (Source: Early Vancouver Volume One By: Major J.S. Matthews, V.D. Pub. 1932)
The contract was made between Head, Wrightson and Company in Stockton on Tees, England and the Government for the pilings in 1885.
OTTAWA, 10th March, 1885.
ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT entered into this day of seventeenth of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five, and made in duplicate between Messrs. Head, Wrightson and Company, on Stockton-on-Tees, London, England, owners of the Teesdale Iron Works (hereinafter called the contractors), of the first part, and Her Majesty Queen Victoria, represented herein by the Honorable the Minister of Railways and Canals for the Dominion of Canada (herein after called the Minister), of the second part, WITNESSETH, that the contractors, for and in consideration of the conditions and agreements hereinafter mentioned, doth hereby agree to and with Her Majesty, her successors and assign, to manufacture, supply and deliver to the satisfaction of the said Minister, in full and perfect accord ance with the terms and agreeably to the true intent and meaning of the specifica tion hereunto annexed, marked "A" (which is hereby agreed and declared to be part and parcel of this agreement and to be taken and read as incorporated here with), and which is hereinafter called the specification, two hundred and twelve iron piles, with caps and points; the said delivery of the same to be made by the con tractors on the Canadian Pacific Railway wharf at Port Moody, Burrard Inlet, in the Province of British Columbia, in bond and free of all charges except customs duty, on or before the twentieth day of September, A. D. one thousand eight hundred and eighty- five; the said piles, caps and points being required for the said Port Moody wharf.
In consideration whereof Her Majesty's Minister doth hereby agree to pay the contractors the sum of twelve pounds nine shillings sterling for each ton of the said iron piles, caps and points hereinbefore mentioned (the ton weight for the purposes hereof being fixed at two thousand two hundred and forty pounds) the whole being payable as follows, that is to say : — the price of each shipment to be paid to the contractors on account of the same through the financial agent of the Government of Canada, or other duly authorized agent or banking house in British Columbia, on delivery thereof on the wharf at Port Moody as aforesaid, free of all charges except customs duty and upon production of the certificates of inspection by the inspector appointed by the Minister for such purpose. And it is hereby agreed that the inspector who may be appointed in England by the Minister for such purpose shall have full power to reject any of the iron piles, caps or points which in his opinion are not fully (and in all respects conformable to and in accordance with the specification and the agreement.)
And it is further agreed that if, from strikes or extraordinary occurrences beyond their control the contractors shall be unable to complete the said deliveries or either of them within the time specified, a further period not exceeding three months shall be allowed for such incomplete delivery, and thereafter only such further time as the Minister may by writing allow for such purpose. In witness whereof the contractors have hereunto set their hands and seals, and the Acting Minister of Railways and Canals hath hereunto set his hand and caused these presents to be sealed and to be countersigned by the Secretary of the Department of Railways and Canals for Canada, on the day and year first above written.Signed, sealed and delivered by the contractors, in presence of GEO. W. WILCOX, Stockton on Tees, Accountant and JOHN T. ROBINSON, 60 Gilmour st, Stockton on Tees, Ledger Clerk.:HEAD, Wrightson and Co.Signed, sealed and delivered by the Minister and by the Secretary of Railway- and Canals, of Canada, in presence of H.A. Fissault:J. H. POPE, Acting Minister of Railways and Canals.A. P. BRADLEY, Secretary.
(Source: Sessional Papers of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada: Volume 19, Issue 12, 1866)
To the Editor of the Alta—Dear Sir: It gave me the greatest pleasure to-day — on this the anniversary of your national holiday— to see the flags of the two great and mighty people of America and Great Britain floating side by side, and thus proclaiming to the world how harmonious was the touch that exists between us, and this I sincerely and earnestly hope may last to the end of time!It is on occasions like this that the true feeling of the great Anglo-Saxon-speaking race proclaims itself, and shows that the only rivalry now existing between us is the generous strife of maritime trade and commerce, that commends itself to the best instincts of those engaged in the struggle, however intense it may be.As one who has received much kindness and courtesy at the hands of Americans at various times and respecting your many institutions, that are framed to meet the aspirations of a great and progressive people, and only fail when they are misinterpreted by those who mistake true liberty for unbridled license, I trust to see many similar demonstrations of mutual respect and amity, to strengthen and cement the happy bond that binds us together, and to soften any mutual austerities that may exist, but which I firmly believe are due to individual more than to national causes.I am, dear sir, yours very truly,James L. Dunn, San Francisco, July 5, 1886. Ship Titania.
(Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 41, Number 13462, 6 July 1886)
Alexander Ewen, was a native born Scotsman. who at an early age joined his father in the salmon fishery, eventually becoming foreman of a chain of fishing stations along the east coast of Scotland. He came to colonial British Columbia in 1864 after having answered an advertisement in Scottish newspapers for a superintendent of a salmon-curing venture on the Fraser River. The business, started by a former Cariboo miner, Alexander Annandale, failed after one season, reportedly because the mainstream of the Fraser was unsuitable for the fixed Scotch trap-nets used. Ewen stayed on as one of a group of fishermen, centred in New Westminster, who supplied the local fresh-fish market and salted salmon for export. By 1870 he had formed a partnership called Ewen and Company with another fisherman, William “Dutch Bill” Vianen. Ewan eventually went into the canning business and a separate entity with several other partners, who he eventually bought out.
Thomas was involved in the building and operation of one of the first canneries on the lower Fraser River, the Delta Canning Company, at Ladner's Landing in 1878. Ladner, R.P. Rithet and associates later formed the Victoria Canning Company Ltd., the operations of which fell on Ladner as general manager. The company eventually controlled nine canneries, of which five were on the Fraser River: the Delta, Holly, Laidlaw, Harlock, and Wellington canneries. Ladner also served as the President of the British Columbia Salmon Canners Association, traveling to Ottawa to lobby on behalf of the canning industry. In 1902, suffering from ill health, Ladner retired from the Victoria Canning Co., and the business was sold to the British Columbia Packers' Association. After retiring from the cannery business, Ladner's health improved, and he concentrated on the development of his farming operation and real estate business.
Delta Canning Co. Label - "Maple Leaf Brand" (Source: Courtesy of BC Archives - I-61084)
Ladner Landing - As it appears today was the former site of the Delta Canning Co. in 1887.
Fish at the Delta Cannery at Ladner Landing circa 1880-1889. (Source:Delta Museum and Archives Society)
On September 10th, 1887, the Hudson's Bay Steamer, Princess Louise chugged up the Fraser under the command of Captain Meyer with the crew of the screw steamer Sardonyx. She was slightly delayed coming down from New Westminister owing to the wind, and the extremely low tides, but returned to Victoria on September 12th loaded "to the guards" with salmon from Ewen and Delta canneries.