Salcombe History Society

Discover the history of the Devonshire town of Salcombe …

The Tale of a Salcombe Sailor

A neighbour of Tony Tabb was clearing out her loft recently and came across a sailor’s ditty bag which belonged to Edward Vincent, born in 1847 at Rickham. The bag was full of his discharge papers from the 24 ships he sailed on – mainly Salcombe fruit schooners – as well as other documents relating to the time he commanded the famous Salcombe schooner Queen of the West in the Newfoundland fish trade.

Edward Vincent’s first voyage commenced on 29th March 1864 when, aged 18, he was engaged for the voyage to Messina as cook by B. Bushell. The Salcombe Gazette of 4th February 1865 reports that, having arrived from Messina, the ship put in at Salcombe before continuing for London on 3rd February.
The report includes an account of the ship’s encounter with Wolf Rock:

“This dangerous rock immediately outside ‘Blackstone’ was near causing the loss of schooner on Saturday night. The Jane came into the harbour at about 10 o’clock, and after clearing the bar found the wind light and baffling, as is usual under the shelter of the Bolt; consequently the vessel was not thoroughly under command, and the current drew her onto the ‘Wolf’. Here she remained, resisting all attempts to move her, till about 1 o’clock, and then suddenly slipped off. Fortunately it was just low water at the time, or she might have drifted onto the Blackstone, and nothing could have saved her. As it was, the crew warped her off into deep water, and brought her into the harbour safely. On examining her bottom it was found that, although a little strained, no serious damage had been done, and some caulking has put her to rights. The Harbour Commissioners have some money in hand; and it could hardly be applied to a better purpose then blowing up this rock.”

On 8th February 1865 Edward Vincent, cook on ‘Jane’ from Messina, was discharged at London by Master B. Bushell. On his Certificate of Discharge he was rated Very Good for ability and conduct.


Information about ‘Jane’:

Jane, Schooner, official no. 1517, 77 tons, built by Evans of Salcombe in 1854, fruit schooner.
Masters: George Wills 1853-8, William Sheers Frink 1855-61, Adams Weymouth? 1858-9, Ryder 1863, William Lamble 1865-7, Benjamin Bushell 1865, Thomas Gillard 1868-9 (drowned June 1869).
Fate: 1869 lost off French coast, possibly at Honfleur.

Six months after signing off as cook on his first ship ‘Jane’, the 18 year old Edward went back to sea as an ordinary seaman, signing on at Shields on November 7th for a voyage to Valencia, Spain on the ‘Queen Esther’, under captain William Shears. The fruit schooner ‘Queen Esther’ was built by John Jordain of Dodbrooke in 1843. Whilst on passage for Valencia, with Edward on board, ‘Queen Esther’ put into Salcombe on 3rd December 1865. When she arrived at Valencia on 3 January 1866 she would probably have loaded Valencian raisins and sweet almonds. These were for shipment to Hull, where she arrived on 24th March 1866. Edward signed off at Hull on 26th March, with ability and conduct certified as Very Good.


Information about ‘Queen Esther’:
Official no. 4540, 138 tons, Length 71′ x breadth 19.8′ x depth of hold 12.6′.
Masters: Edward Anthony 1843, 1847 1849/51 1855/57, William Adams Crimp 1852-4, Joseph Appledore 1854,1857, Richard Wakeham 1857, Richard Frink 1860,William Shears 1862-8, William Henry Ball 1870, John Samuel Ball 1870, William Rich 1870 ( Neath Canal 1870).
Fate: 12 November 1870 abandoned 200 miles west of Scilly in a sinking condition, on her way home from Tarragona with a cargo of wine and fruit, bound for Bristol. All hands saved. The Salcombe Club paid out £620 as a result of her loss.


Edward died of heart disease on board ‘Lilian’ on May 10 1896 leaving his widow Susan Smith Stumbles.

We have many more of Edward’s discharge papers so may well be adding to his story in the future.

If you have any information on Edward or the ships then please contact us.

1 Comment

  1. Robert Damerell (Damies)

    What a find after all these years. Thank goodness their worth was recognised.
    Congratulations on putting together Edward’s personal story with more information about these first two ships that he sailed in. It makes for a really interesting read. I do hope you can follow this up in future.
    Plans to blow up Wolf Rock are taking a while to come to fruition.


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