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Wednesday, April 3, 1850
I now return to the consideration of the condition of the
Merchant Seamen of the Port of London. The present Letter I shall devote to an
exposition of the state of the men engaged in the Coasting Trade. First,
however, let me repeat as briefly as possible the results arrived at in my
previous Letters as to the Mercantile Marine employed in the Foreign Trade.
The present number of British seamen is about 270,000, of whom 200,000 belong to the mercantile marine, and 25,000 to the navy - the remainder being in foreign service. The total number of vessels belonging to the merchant service of the British empire was in 1848 no less than 33,672, having an aggregate tonnage of 4,052,160, and carrying collectively 230,069 men. The average rate of increase in the merchant vessels for the last ten years has been 600 per annum, while the annual increase of burden amounts, within a fraction, to 100,000 tons. By this means employment is found for 5,000 fresh hands every year. The British empire possesses one- third more vessels than France; while the aggregate tonnage of the British ships is upwards of four times as great as the French, and one-third more than the collective burden of the American vessels. Some idea of the extent of the foreign trade carried on by this country may be formed from the number of British and foreign vessels that annually enter the several ports of the United Kingdom. Those in the year 1848 amounted to nearly 35,000 vessels (13,000 of which were foreign), having a gross burden of 6½ million tons, and giving employment to nearly 350,000 men. The total value of the exports and imports effected by such means amounts to upwards of seventy-five millions sterling per annum. According to the estimate of Mr. G. F. Young, the ships engaged in the mercantile marine are worth £38,000,000. The sum annually expended in building, repairing, and outfitting new and old ships amounts to £10,500,000 - and the cost of the wages and provisions for the seamen engaged in navigating the merchant vessels to £9,500,000; while the amount annually received for freight by the shipowners is said to come to £28,500,000. The foreign trade, in connection with the port of London, is very nearly one-fourth of the entire maritime commerce of the United Kingdom. The number of vessels that entered the port of London in 1847 was upwards of 9,000, and the gross tonnage nearly 2,000,000; the rate of increase being about half a million tons and 2,500 vessels in five years, or 100,000 tons and 500 vessels per annum. The principal foreign trades among the merchant vessels sailing from the port of London are - the East India and China, the Australian, the West India, Honduras, the Baltic and Russian, the North American, the South American, the United States, the Brazilian, the Hudson's Bay, the African, the Cape of Good Hope, the South Sea and Greenland, the Mediterranean, and the Portuguese and Spanish.
Descriptions of the condition and earnings of the men serving on board the vessels trading to the above-named places, from the port of London, have already been given. At the conclusion of my forty-second Letter I began an account of the steam vessels belonging to the British empire, and I then showed, by official returns, that whereas in 1814 our entire steam maritime power consisted of two vessels of 456 tons joint burden, so rapidly had it increased since that period, that in 1849 the number was 1,110- their gross tonnage 255,371 - and their united force equal to 92,862 horse power. In connection with these returns, I gave a table showing the steam maritime power of other countries and proving that the progress made by this country, in the application of steam to the purposes of navigation, is equal to what has been accomplished by all other countries in the aggregate - America (which has the largest steam marine next to ourselves) possessing only 261 steam vessels - and France, which comes next, but 119. To give the reader a more definite idea of the steam maritime power of this country, I have drawn up the following: -
STEAM-VESSELS BELONGING TO THE BRITISH EMPIRE.
TABLE SHOWING THE NUMBER, AGGREGATE DIMENSIONS, AND TONNAGE OF THE REGISTERED STEAM-VESSELS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, ON THE 1ST DAY OF JANUARY, 1849.
|Number of Vessels.||Aggregate Length.||Aggregate Breadth.||Aggregate Gross Tonnage.||Aggregate No. of Horse Power.|
|1,110||125,283ft. 4in.||19,748ft. 8 in.||255,371||92,862|
The above table shows the aggregate length of the
steam-vessels belonging to the British empire, in feet. It may be added, that
they are collectively of such dimensions that, by placing them stem to stern one
after the other, they would reach to a distance of 23½ miles, or form one
continuous line across the Channel from Dover to Calais; while, by placing them
abreast or alongside each other, they would occupy a space of upwards of 3½
The 1,100 steamers of 255,000 tons burden in the aggregate, belonging to the different ports of the United Kingdom, were shown in Letter XLII. to be thus disthbuted: - London had (in round numbers) 300 vessels of 99,000 tons gross burden; Liverpool, 75 vessels of 15,000 tons burden collectively; Glasgow, 80 vessels, whose united burden was 30,000 tons; Dublin, 50 vessels of 19,000 tons in the aggregate - while the minor ports had altogether 600 vessels of 90,000 tons; so that more than one-fourth of the entire number, and one-third of the aggregate tonnage, of the steam vessels belonging to the United Kingdom, appertain to the port of London.
In the present Letter, I purpose completing my account of the condition of the merchant seamen afloat, by giving the statements of men employed in steam vessels and the coasting trade. Before doing so, however, it may be as well to subjoin a synopsis of the foreign trade of the United Kingdom, as carried on by steamers: -
FOREIGN TRADE OF UNITED KINGDOM (STEAM-VESSELS).
AN ACCOUNT OF THE NUMBER AND TONNAGE OF STEAM-VESSELS EMPLOYED IN THE FOREIGN TRADE (INCLUDING THEIR REPEATED VOYAGES) WHICH ENTERED THE PORTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM AND CLEARED FROM THE SAME EACH YEAR, FROM 1822 TO 1848; SEPARATING FOREIGN FROM BRITISH VESSELS.
Year. British. Foreign. British. Foreign.
This account does not include vessels arriving and departing in ballast, or
with passengers only - they not being required to enter the Custom-house.
Steam-vessels were not employed in foreign trade earlier than 1822, except for
We find, by referring to the preceding table, that there has been a gradual increase, both in the number and the tonnage of our steam-vessels since their first introduction. Their increase, since they were first employed in the conveyance of goods in 1822, has been - In vessels, inwards, 3,930 - outwards, 3,761; in tonnage, inwards, 789,262 - outwards, 763,710.
After this, in due order, comes the steam foreign trade of the port of London, as compared with that of the other ports of the United Kingdom, of which the following table will give us a sufficiently accurate idea:-
FOREIGN TRADE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM- (STEAM VESSELS).
TABLE SHOWING THE NUMBER AND TONNAGE OF STEAM VESSELS THAT ENTERED AND CLEARED FROM AND TO FOREIGN PORTS, AT EACH OF THE PORTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, DISTINGUISHING BRITISH FROM FOREIGN VESSELS, IN THE YEAR 1848.
I now give the statements of two long-experienced men on
board steamers belonging to the foreign trade of the Port of London - one
in the engineroom, the other on deck as a general seaman. The fire-man was very
well- informed, and produced his papers, when necessary, to vouch for the truth
of what he stated. His appearance was not that of a strong man, and his
narrative accounts for it: -
"I have been 20 years fireman in steam-vessels, he said, "and have acted as engineer. When I first knew steam-vessels the boilers were larger than they are made now, as the cargo was less an object then than the conveyance of passengers. As to the berths, and the accommodation generally, it's worse now than it was 20 years ago. They care nothing where we are crammed - in any hole. If you complain, there's plenty of men out of employ will jump at it. I have been employed in steamers in all parts of the Mediterranean (in Government and merchant service), from Gibraltar to Odessa; in the West Indies; on the French, Belgian, and Dutch coasts; to hamburg, too; also the Baltic, and to Spain and Portugal. I was in Don Pedro's expedition, and didn't make so badly out of it either - I served in the Royal Tar, Captain M'Dougal (Admiral Sartorius commanded the squadrOn) - and in the coasting trade of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Channel Islands. Twenty years ago I served in a steamer which plied between London and Boulogne. I had 30s. a week, finding my own provisionS. Now, if I were in the same trade, with twenty years' experience at my back, I should have 24s.,instead of 30s. The engineer twenty years ago had £3 a week in that trade, finding his own provisions; now he has from 38s. to 44s.; the last is the very highest. My last voyage was to Marseilles, and I had then at the rate of 20s. a week, as fireman, for taking the vessel out, but provisions were found to us. The first engineer had, I believe, £20 a month, and the second £16. I greatly prefer finding my own provisions (but that can only be done in short voyages) - for those found us by the masters are often very bad and very salt, and eating that stuff with constant fire and steam about one is terribly trying. In a hot climate we work at 190 degrees at least, in the engine-room of a steamer. Now look at this; in all this heat I have had to chop my meat; it was like a salt board, and with proper tools I could have carved and cut it into baccy boxes; that I'm sure I could. My health of course suffered from this. There is another grievance - no merchant steamer, that ever I knew or heard of, carried lime-juice; and that's the very thing wanted by men in my capacity; its better than all the grog in the world. I don't know why the law don't make merchant steamers carry lime-juice. Grog, you see, revives one only for the time, but lime-juice tools you without inflaming you. I have told you the berths are not what they were on board steamers. The iron boats are the worst for accommodation. The iron is always wet and cold, and the cold is always in the berths, and into them such as me have to go from the heat of the engine-room. A man to stand it should have the constitution of a negro by day, and an Esquimaux by night, especially in bad weather. The water keeps always working its way between the iron plates of the vessel, and so into the forecastle. I have been drenched so in bad weather that it has brought on four weeks' rheumatics. In our berths there is (as a general rule) no ventilation, except by the very hatch that you come into the place by. A lamp is generally there night and day, however, or there would be no light. I can't complain of having been so much cramped for sleeping-room in steamers; the berths are mostly 6ft. 2in. by 2ft. Some of the engine-men, in some steamers, have to sleep in the engine-room, and there we cannot sleep from the heat, and from the damp caused by the steam. There are mostly swarms of bugs too, helping the heat and the damp to keep one awake. I hardly knew what bugs were, in comparison, on shore, but their head-quarters are in the engine-rooms of steamers (I don't say of all steamers). There is another thing I must tell you of. When new machinery is put into a steam-boat, the engineer of the factory puts his own man on board the steamer as engineer, to manage the machinery, which the makers generally warrant for twelve months. The captain of the vessel has nothing to do with the appointment of the men in the engine-room (except in the Oriental and Peninsular Company), and the engineer selects his own men. The engineer from the factory, ten to one, has never been to sea before, and is very often sea-sick when we get out to sea - not able to take care of himself, let alone of a pair of engines. And the other men selected by the engineer are no more seamen than he is, and they are sea-sick too, and laid up, and the vessel may make taker her chance. I have known the seamen sent down from the deck to do the work of the engineer's people below. A bad system prevails as regards boys. An engineer, or a captain, will employ boys in the place of men, who must stand idle while boys are underselling them, and the boy is registered as a fireman, and the registrar can't help it if the captain applies. The way the work on board a steamer is carried on by us in the engine-room is this: The engineer has the charge of the engines, and is to attend to the commands of the captain and the pilot, as to 'stop her,' and any such order; he is looked upon as the responsible man. The business of a fireman, or stoker, is to keep up the supply of steam, by regulating the water pumped into the boilers, and by keeping the fires up to the required height. A great deal of responsibility as to the safety of a ship depends upon the fireman. In voyages of more than twenty-four hours' duration, there are two engineers generally, and firemen according to the length of the voyage and the power of the boat. I have worked in a West India boat with twenty-eight firemen, seven coal- trimmers, and five engineers. The engineers relieve each other every four hours; only the head engineer in a West India boat keeps no regular watch, and the others may relieve each other oftener if they choose; the firemen keep their regular four hours the same. The work is very exhausting. We must have something to drink, and ought really to have lime-juice, for it gives an appetite. In the Gravesend and Richmond boats there is no relief; one engineer and one stoker does the work; but they are not considered in our class at all. In the above-bridge boats there is generally nothing but a parcel of boys, had cheap. The stokers are not at all satisfied. I have served on board an American steamer, and know what good reason we have to be dissatisfied. None of us, I believe, if a war broke out, would fight against America. In the American steamer I was in we were all Englishmen, captain and all, but three. We were 136, or near that, in crew. I wish I was in the American service again. Better pay, and better provisions, and better accommodation. They know how to behave to a man, in America, and I would never have left them but for family matters. As to the quantity of coal consumed in steamers, I can only give it, as near as I can, according to horsepower. A vessel of 300-horse-power will, on the average, burn 120 bushels of coal an hour. Steamers may average that consumption at sea eight months in every year - 120 bushels an hour, day and night." (Considering, then, the horse-power of the whole of the steam-vessels of the United Kingdom to be estimated at 92,862, we shall find that they will consume 216,628,473 bushels, or 6,017,456 chaldrons of coals per annum.) "I have known great carelessness on board of steamers," continued the fireman, "and wonder that there are not more accidents and explosions. There is often great carelessness from drunkenness by the engine-men - ten minutes' neglect might blow a vessel out of the water. I have often known short weights given in steamers. The way we are provisioned, both the seamen and the engine-men, in some long voyages, is this: the provador (steward) of the steam-vessel has perhaps to provision thirty or forty passengers, and what's left out of the cabin dinner is sold by him to the crew at 9s. a week generally, we paying him that for our board out of our wages. The steward hands over what's spared out of the cabin dinner to the cook, who serves it out to the crew. If there's not enough, we ask the cook for more; and he will say 'I have none to give,' and so there's a sort of a row; and as of course we pay for full provisions, and come short oft enough (a general thing, indeed), it's the same as cheating us by giving short weight. If you complain you are called 'mutinous.' The provador has the greater profit that short-feeding way, and can pay a larger sum to the owners for his situation, for he buys his place. I have known a provador pay £300 for his place for the summer season. In the Mediterranean trade the fireman has £3 a month, and salt, very salt, provisions found him. On board a man of war a fireman has £2 6s. a month, with lime-juice after forty-eight hours at sea. In an American merchant seaman there's lime-juice always at your command, as well as sugar. I had at the rate of from 36s. to 40s. a week, on board the Yankees, and capital provisions found. A good engineer will have, I believe, from £18 to £20 a month in the Yankee steamers, and is treated like a gentleman there. In the Dutch and Belgian trades, and in all short foreign voyages, the fireman has 24s. a week, and the engineer 44s., all finding their own provisions. The same in English and Scotch coasting, except that one company gives firemen only from 15s. to 20s. a week, but allows them beer. In the Irish trade 20s. a week is paid a fireman, and 44s. or 46s. an engineer. Can you tell me, sir, why it is that we stokers have to pay Is. a month to the Merchant Seamen's Fund, and have never had any benefit from it? I never heard of a stoker ever getting anything from it. A fireman cannot be admitted into the Sailors' Home, either, in Wells-street - and why not, for we are more liable to accidents than seamen?"
A Seaman on board a steamer gave me the following account:
"I have been 17 years employed in steam navigation, as mate and master. I was 15 years master, and two years mate, in steamers in connection with the Continental trade. I had £160 a year as master, and £91 a year as mate. I was all the time upon Continental stations - at Hamburg, Rotterdam Antwerp, Ostend, Calais, and Boulogne. I have been in, I may say, ten different steam-vessels - quite that. Their tonnage was from 200 to 300 tons, exclusive of the engine-room. I never was in a steam-vessel under 150 tons. A steamer of 300 tons will carry twenty-two hands, with the exception of stewards. There will be eight able seamen, two apprentices, two engineers, six stokers, two mates, boatswain, and master or captain. A steamer of 150 tons will carry only six able seamen, two apprentices, two engineers, four stokers or firemen, two mates, and the master - in all seventeen hands. The steamers in the Continental trade are well manned, and have good men. The wages of the able seamen are £1 per week, of the firemen 24s.; the first engineer gets £2 4s., and the second £1 l5s. per week, the first mate has £1 15s., the second £1 6s., and the captain has generally £2 13s. a week, or £140 a year. The apprentices are bound for five years, and have about £120 for the whole of their servitude. The foreign and continental steam trade with this country is now very considerable. There is the West India steam trade. The steamers belong to that run from Southampton, and are a very fine class of vessels. Then there's the Peninsular Company's vessels running from the same port to the Mediterranean. The Oriental steam vessels also run from the same port, and are very fine vessels. The American steamers run from Liverpool, and are the largest steamers running. They usually carry about 120 hands. The wages are nearly the same as those I have mentioned. Besides these steamers, there are vessels running from the port of London to Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Ostend, Boulogne, and Calais. This we call the Continental steam trade. Then there are steamers in connection with the coasting trade. These run from London to Yarmouth, Ipswich, Hull, Newcastle, Leith, Edinburgh, Cork, and Dublin. The steamers running to the Channel Islands used to run only from Southampton, but recently vessels have been put on from London to those parts. All these steamers I have spoken of take both passengers and cargo. They are generally built for passengers, but take a good deal of cargo. The Margate, Ramsgate, Herne Bay, Southend, Sheerness and Chatham, Gravesend and Greenwich steamers, are especially for passengers. Besides these there are the steamers above bridge - but those we consider to belong quite to a different class. Any vessel running to a place this side of Yantlet Creek, near Sheerness, comes under the Watermen's Act, and a master like me is not privileged to take command of such a boat. I have been to sea altogether thirty-six years. I served my time in the fishing trade. When I first went to the steam service there were not half the number of steamers that there are now. I don't remember the first steamer out of the port of London, but I recollect very well coming up the Pool, in a fog, in 1814, in a fishing smack, and hearing the noise of the first steam-vessel lever saw. We were all of us plaguy frightened on board. The noise of the steam blowing off, and the beat of the paddles, produced a very terrible effect in the darkness. The first steamer I saw after the one that I heard, I thought a very comical affair, and for years after that I used to swear I'd never got to sea in one. Now I think they are the safest and best vessels of all. The accommodation for the seamen on board steamers is very small and very bad. Every usable part of the vessel is sacrificed for passengers and for cargo. I have often represented to the managing director of the steam company that I belong to, that the men had not fit places to live and sleep in. The answer was that they would see that it was remedied, but no alteration ever took place. In the men's berths there is little or no ventilation, and scarcely any room. The men always find themselves in provisions in the Continental trade, and they are glad to do so. I think the men have nothing to complain of, with the exception of their accommodation. The wages are fair, and the treatment good. I was in one vessel nine years, and several of the hands had been longer than I had; so I leave you to judge we are not very discontented in the steam service. The men are not allowed any grog. I think the owners of the steam vessels should be compelled to give better accommodation to the seamen - the men should be thought of a little. I think a drop of weak grog is necessary for the firemen when coming off the fires in the violent perspirations that they do. I fancy nothing could supply the place of weak grog to such men - it's the same as medicine to such men; and any other drink I should think would be dangerous.''
This completes my account of the condition of the men engaged in sailing and steam vessels in connection with the foreign trade.
The Coasting Trade may be classified in the following manner. The most important of all is the coal trade. The coal ships from the northern ports, Sunderland, Newcastle, the Shields's, Stockton, &c., carry from five to twenty-four keels of coals a keel being twenty-one tons. The tonnage of the colliers is from 80 to 300; they usually carry from four to fourteen hands, but the seamen complain that they very frequently go out very shorthanded. The coasting trade from the Scotch ports to London is carried on in vessels of from 100 to 190 tons - schooners generally - they carry from seven to ten hands. There are hardly any smacks now. The schooners take general cargoes. The majority are from the east coast. The Irish coasting trade is carried on in vessels of from 97 tons to 190 tons - schooners and brigantines carrying from five to nine hands. They bring corn, butter, bacon, cattle and pigs. The Welsh coasting trade is carried on in vessels of from 25 to 300 tons, manned by from four to eleven hands. They bring coals, lead, iron, tin, slates, and some timber (such as white oak for the navy). Between London and the English ports, as Hull, Liverpool, Portsmouth, &c., small vessels - generally schooners (called billy-boys on the east coast), ply continually with general cargoes. They call at several ports frequently. A vessel, for instance, bound from London to Bristol, may touch at Portsmouth, Plymouth, Falmouth, before reaching Bristol. The regular traders, however, such as those to Ipswich, Scarborough, Hartlepool, Boston, &c., ply merely from those places to London and back, direct. Others take intermediate voyages, taking up cargoes in one place if not obtained in others.
The following table exhibits the importance of the coasting trade of the United Kingdom: -
COASTING TRADE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM (STEAM AND SAILING VESSELS).
STATEMENT OF THE NUMBER AND TONNAGE OF VESSELS WHICH ENTERED INWARDS AND CLEARED OUTWARDS WITH CARGOES AT THE SEVERAL PORTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, DURING THE UNDERMENTIONED YEARS, COMPARED WITH THE ENTRIES AND CLEARANCES OF EACH YEAR, DISTINGUISHING THE VESSELS EMPLOYED IN THE INTERCOURSE BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND FROM OTHER COASTERS.
|Years||Employed in the intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland.||Other Coasting Vessels.||Total|
|Entered Inwards||Cleared Outwards||Entered Inwards||Cleared Outwards||Entered Inwards||Cleared Outwards|
By referring to the above return, we shall find that there
has been a slight decrease since 1840 in the total number of vessels entered
inwards; but at the same time there has been a considerable increase in the
amount of their tonnage. With regard to the vessels entered outwards, there has
been an increase both in number and burden.
Of the steam vessels trading to different parts of the coast of Great Britain and Ireland, from the several ports of the United Kingdom, the following will give us a concise account: -
COASTING TRADE OF THE PORTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM (STEAM-VESSELS).
TABLE SHOWING THE NUMBER AND TONNAGE OF STEAM VESSELS THAT ENTERED AND CLEARED COASTWISE AT EACH OF THE PRINCIPAL PORTS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, ISLE OF MAN, AND CHANNEL ISLANDS (INCLUDING THEIR THEIR REPEATED VOYAGES) FOR THE YEARS 1847 AND 1848.
Of the number of sailing vessels in connection with the same trade, and proceeding from the different ports, the subjoined table will enable us to compare not only the traffic of 1847 with that of 1848, but that of the different ports of the kingdom with each other: -
COASTING TRADE OF THE PORTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM (SAILING VESSELS).
TABLE SHOWING THE NUMBER AND TONNAGE OF SAILING VESSELS THAT ENTERED AND CLEARED COASTWISE AT EACH OF THE PRINCIPAL PORTS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, ISLE OF MAN, AND CHANNEL ISLANDS (INCLUDING THEIR REPEATED VOYAGES), FOR THE YEARS 1847 AND 1848.
The foregoing tables show us that London has four times the number of sail-impelled coasting vessels, and ten times the amount of tonnage, over and above any other port in the kingdom; while, of steam-impelled coasting vessels, it has but a little more than a third the number belonging to Liverpool. The coasting trade of the port of London is exhibited, however, more particularly below: -
COASTING TRADE OF THE PORT OF LONDON (COLLIERS AND OTHER COASTERS).
TABLE SHOWING THE NUMBER OF COLLIERS AND OTHER COASTING VESSELS THAT ENTERED THE PORT OF LONDON IN EACH OF THE FOLLOWING YEARS.
|Colliers||Other Coasters||Fishing Vessels|
|1820||5921||No record||11096||No Record||4949|
* The accounts for these years were destroyed in the fire at the Custom-house in 1814.
No record kept of the tonnage of vessels entering the port with fish.
Fishing vessels are not not required to enter and clear at
the Customhouse; and there are no returns furnished of them since 1835.
The above table is made up from the Custom-house returns. But by referring to the returns of the Chamber of London, we find that the quantity of coals brought into that port is much greater than stated in this table. In 1844 the Custom-house returns give 1,783,683 tons, whilst the returns from the Chamber of London show in the same year 2,507,709 tons. In 1845, 2,695 ships were employed in carrying 11,987 cargoes, containing 3,403,320 tons; and during the year 1848, there were 2,717 ships, making 12,267 voyages, and containing 3,418,340 tons of coal.
I shall now proceed to give instances of the condition of the men on board the vessels employed in each of these different kinds of coasting trade - beginning with the "Colliers":-
A man, as clean as if he had never seen coal-dust, gave me the following intelligence: -
"I have been nearly twenty years at sea, and was brought up in the coal trade. I'm a native of Sunderland. I have been in the coal trade all the time, except three voyages to North America. Since I knew the service there have been many changes in it. When I first went to sea the coals were put on board in the Wear out of keels; they're a sort of lighters. You've heard of "Weel may the keel row" - that's it. The coal was shovelled out of the keels at that time through the port-holes in to the hold - or rather out of the keel on to a stage, and so into the hold - just as they put in ballast now. In Sunderland, now-a-days, the coal is mainly lifted out of the keels in tubs; a keel contains 21 tons, or eight tubs. A steam-engine, fixed on shore, on the Wear, lifts a tub out of the keel, heaving it up like a crane, and the bottom is let go, by being unclasped, and so the coals are shot into the hold. Twenty years ago I was bound apprentice for seven years. I can't read or write. I was never taught navigation, and don't understand it now. I had £45 apprentice wages for the seven years, with 8s. a week for board when the ship was at home, and 12s. a year for washing money. I found my own clothes. Those are the payments to apprentices in the coal trade still. I think all seamen ought to be taught navigation. I have a brother now master of a London ship in the coal trade, who knows no more of reading, writing, arithmetic, or navigation than I do. When I was first at sea, an able seaman had £3 a voyage from Sunderland to London in summer, and £4 to £4 10s. in winter. Twelve voyages in a year is an average, though more are made sometimes. Take the average wages, twenty years ago, at £3 15s. a voyage, and calculate that, you'll find it comes to £45 a year. Now the wages of an able seaman are (from Sunderland to London) £3 a voyage in summer, and £3 7s. 6d. to £4 in winter, but £4 very seldom. Reckon twelve voyages a year at £3 5s. a voyage, and it comes to only £39. We generally have the best of provisions in colliers - always fresh meat - boiled beef mainly. We are not allowanced. There is no grog; only small beer. In a gale of wind the captain may give us perhaps a glass of grog. We are often very short-handed in a crew - more often than not - and then certainly it is slavery. We pay to the Merchant Seamen's Fund is. a month, but I never met a man who knew what became of it. To be sure I have known widows at Sunderland have 2s. a month, but that's only when their husbands had paid twenty years to the fund. The seamen in colliers don't complain of their treatment nor of their food - they can't reasonably; but they do complain of bad wages. I can't say whether they would fight for the country or not in a war. Education would be good for seamen; I wish I had education, and I might be a captain. I have been mate often enough. Drunkenness is not common among the seamen in colliers. It's a very hard trade. Off Yarmouth is about the worst place between the North and London; there are so many sands. We have often had to heave the coal overboard to lighten the ship."
Another person, a very smart and intelligent man, in the same trade, gave me the following further information: -
"The coal trade has made excellent seamen. It was called a nursery for the navy, and it bears that character still the men in colliers are so numerous, and they must know every branch. The boys are continually heaving the lead, which is a most important part of seamanship, and doing handreefing and steering besides, in all coasting. In a dark night, in the narrow channels, they have little beyond the lead to trust to. A seaman brought up in the coasting trade is the best man at a push; though he may not be so good at dandy work in the rigging, such as grafting, splicing, and knotting. The appentices are always at sea, and receive no education through the care of the masters or owners, while in the coasting coal trade. In a foreign voyage with coals, from the north country ports, the boys are taught navigation, and reading and writing, if they look for it, not without. But boys and captains in the coal trade are generally ignorant. One half are captains one voyage, cooks the next, then mates - then before the mast - and then, may be, round to be captains again. They are no navigators, but capital coasters; blind as they are as regards education, they know every set of the tides and channels from Newcastle to London. If they lose sight of land, they are regularly at sea, as the saying goes, and always steer west. That's sure to bring them in sight of land, and then they know where they are in a minute. Or else they hail any ship they meet, and ask where the lands bears. They never ask about latitude or longitude; that's no use to them. Boys are more used in manning coal vessels than ever, if you can call it manning. It's done for cheapness. A boy may have £20 or £24 for four years. I had £34 when apprentice, but that's sixteen years ago. I know a collier manned entirely with prentice boys - captain, mate, cook, and all - every one of them - boys; the oldest apprentice is the captain. When the heavy North American ships lay up at home for the winter, the owners take the boys out of them, and put them on board colliers from the north to London. The cost of all bands on a voyage in a collier of eight keels may be £29 or £30. When boys only are employed, the saving to the owner will be above £20 the voyage, at the very least. Boys' labour is fast displacing men's. That's one reason there are so many idle seamen about. The way in which the colliers are disposed when they reach the port of London, is this: - The master goes ashore at Gravesend to the harbour-office with his papers. The office instructs him where to lie; whether to go to the Pool or not. I have known colliers three and four weeks in the river before their turn came for the Pool. Only a certain number of vessels are admitted into the Pool at one time; and while out of the Pool they can't unload or sell the cargo. Why that's allowed, I don't understand. It's nothing but a monopoly to keep up the price for the rich merchants. At the north-country ports, too, there is the limitation of the wend' - I think they call it. Each ship there must wait for its turn; that's the general practice. That's another way to lessen the supply for the London market - all to serve the owners and merchants, I can tell you. Look what happens. Freights go down, in consequence of the supply being limited, because so many vessels are lying idle; and our wages go down with freights; so the men are thrown adrift. Now, suppose there was no limit to the supply of London, why, coal would soon be half the price that it is, and then there would be double and treble the quantity consumed. Compare a public- house fire in Newcastle with one in London; why, they burn four tons there to one here. I can't tell how people put up with dear coals. Without the limit there would be twice and thrice the quantity of coals to bring, and twice or thrice as much employment for seamen and for ships, and then up would go freights and wages. There would be also a great increase in the coal trade for foreign ports. There wants a little stir about it."
Concerning the Scotch Coasting Trade, I obtained the following statement: -
"I belong to the Scotch coasting trade. I served my time in the coal trade. I know navigation and have been mate eight years in the foreign and coasting trade. The Scotch vessel I belonged to was 163 tons burden. We had eight men on board. The able seamen had £2 10s. - the cook had 2s. 6d extra - the mate got £3 10s., and the captain about £6 - I don't know exactly. I am a single man, but for my part I don't know how the married men do with their money. I was mate in the Scotch trade. We came from Leith. The vessel was a schooner. There are no smacks now. We carried passengers when we could get them, but seldom enough we could get them - what with the steamers and the rail, there are very few left for the schooners. In the days of the smacks, the passengers were plentiful. I have been in sailing vessels with as many as thirty passengers, and twenty of those cabin ones. The vessels of the present day are quite as fine, and even faster than the smacks. They are of the "clipper build," and can sail thirteen knots in an hour. I have seen them beat the steamers. The Scotch coasters have always been the best and fastest of all. A Scotch coasting vessel is, and as long as I can recollect ever has been, the crack thing of the day. The passage from London to Leith is reckoned at three days - over that time it's reckoned long. I have known it made in thirty-six hours. The distance from port to port is 416 miles, and that makes the rate of sailing to have been 11½ knots an hour all the way. The Scotch clippers, as they are called, were first built by Mr. Hall, of Aberdeen. He built one upon trial out of the wreck of an old vessel, and, immediately she was found to answer, the build was generally adopted throughout Scotland, and now they are getting very common in the English ports. The bows are as sharp as a wedge; they have a flatter bottom, or 'floor,' as we call it, and their length is greater than the usual kind of sailing vessels. They are not only fast, but safe, and now they are building iron "clippers" upon the same model. The accommodation for the men is pretty fair. The berths are airy and dry, and better than they were in the smacks. The provisions are liberal and good - always fresh meat, just the same as in the coal trade; and the same hard work - or even harder, for in the coal trade the men have not to stow and unstow the cargo, but in the Scotch trade we have to do both. In coasting vessels, with the exception of those in the coal trade, it is usual for the men to load and unload the ship, but in the foreign trade labourers are employed either at the wharfs or the docks, as the case may be. The masters in the Scotch trade are generally better educated than those in the coal trade. They almost all are acquainted with navigation. The crews and the masters mostly stick together; so much so that it's difficult to get a berth on board a Scotch clipper. The clippers carry a general cargo. They bring a good deal of whisky, ale, paper, gunpowder, and pig-iron. They take back porter, leather, sugar, and anything else they can get hold of. The wages of the men have remained the same for the last sixteen years. The coal trade fluctuates in summer and winter, on account of the number of vessels lying idle at the other end. It's that what brings the wages down in that trade; but in the Scotch coasting trade the wages are the same all the year round. The men on board the clippers are not allowed grog nor beer, except in London. They are never teetotalers, and seldom drunkards: they are generally contented with their wages and employment. In case of war, I think they would fight for the country to a man. The men in coasting vessels are generally married."
A strong, sturdy man gave me the following account of the Irish coasting trade:
"I have been a seaman nearly sixteen years, and was last in the Irish coasting trade, in a Cork schooner. She is 133 tons register, carrying five hands, all told; we ought to have had two more. As able seaman, I had £2 5s. a month; it's not enough. I make £27 a year in a regular-going Irish coaster, and am kept the greater part of the time. The provisions are not very good in the Irish vessels. They are too salt generally - poor lean stuff, the beef especially; the best of the pork is sold for Queen's ships. You see the captains of the Irish coasters victual the ships themselves, with so much a month from the owners (I believe 20d. a day for each hand), and the captain generally gives bad meat, to make a profit out of the bargain. I have often known men complain, and even leave the ship in Newport (Monmouthshire) on account of the bad provisions, but that was before the register tickets came up. If we do so now, we may be put into prison, or have to pay 10s. Us poor fellows are compelled to put up with everything. There's no grog in the Irish coasters that I have been in for five years, but plenty of good water. The bread is very dark, and often weevily. No wonder sailors are all dissatisfied. I shouldn't like to fight against this country while my father and mother are living, but I wouldn't fight against America if I could help it. I have been four years in the American service, and was treated there, in wages, food, usage, and accommodation, as a seaman should be treated. In the Irish coasters the berths and accommodation are not so very bad; we don't complain of that. The masters who come to London from the Irish ports are generally fair seamen; but those who go along coasting on the Irish coasts, or go to Wales, are often very ignorant, and their ignorance loses many a ship. Never a chronometer on board any of them - just a quadrant, an almanac, and an epitome. All that ought to be remedied."
I had the following statement concerning the Welsh Coasters from a Welshman. He was strong built, and very brown, and spoke with great deliberation:
"I have been 16 or 17 years at sea, and was at first a good while in the coasting trade; then I had a turn at foreign, and then a turn with the Americans, as we all like to have, and now for some time I have been coasting again. lam a native of Aberystwith, in Wales. Did my master teach me navigation, do you say, when I first went to sea? He did not, sir, for he didn't know it himself. The coasting trade is the most difficult of any. Suppose now you had a ship coming from China or the East Indies, when the master reaches the Irish or English Channel, he's not half so good a seaman as we are, because he doesn't know how to make allowances for his tides. I knew the master of a foreign ship, meaning to make Holyhead, go bump on a reef of rocks near Cardigan Bay. When I first went to sea the wages for an able seaman from Aberystwith, to London and back, was £2 10s. a month. Now it's £2 5s. generally, but some give as low as £2. I do not consider £2 5s. at all fair pay for an able seaman. We come to London from Aberystwith, and our cargo is generally lead ore, or, if that be not got, ballast with empty casks returned, or such like. In London we may stay six or seven weeks to take in cargo, having our wages go on as if we were at sea, and living on board. It comes expensive staying long in port. There's one's bits of enjoyment on shore. I'm noways backwards in going to the play; it's a precious sight better than a public-house. Indeed, it does a man good. I have seen T. P. Cooke, and think he's a regular good Un; just what a sailor was, not as what he is. We don't hitch our trowsers so much now, nor shiver our timbers, nor d-n our eyes and gallant eyebrows' as we used to do. The sailor's hornpipe is much the same as in T. P. Cooke's day. But we don't fling about money and grog as he does on the stage, because we haven't it to fling. From Aberystwith to London a man may make three voyages in a year, on an average (I have lain in London, at Pickle Herring-wharf, nearly three months), so we receive £27 a year. It ought to be £3 a month, for we work night and day. Why can't England pay like America! For a man to keep himself respectable, it will cost him for clothes and for washing when he's in port, £12a year; and so that leaves £15 to keep a wife and family on, if a man has them, reckoning nothing for a drop of beer, or a shilling to help a friend. If a man spends only 2d. a day in drink, reckon the year through - and that's very moderate - it's £3 0s. 8d. out of his £15. In the American service I had fifteen dollars a month - that's better than £3 - and better food, and better accommodation. The usage is much the same, good and bad as it happens. If a war broke out between America and this country, I'd never fight against America - I never would. I would fight against any other flag for this country. We are losing our best seamen out of this country. I have met a gunner's mate, who had deserted from a Queen's ship, and is now a gunner in an American ship, and a gentleman too. Seamen are taught in England for the American service like. I have been in other parts of the coasting trade, and generally had £2 5s. a month. In coasters, generally, our provisions are pretty good, and we are not allowanced in meat, bread, or water. Some allow 1 lb. of butter and 1 lb. of sugar a week, and some don't. I have met with the greatest ignorance of seamanship that could be shown in masters of coasting vessels, though not often. I have met with it, too, in the foreign trade. I have known great risk of our lives from the drunkenness of officers. One captain (who was intoxicated, and so was the second mate) brought a gun on deck to shoot me because I was laughing with a shipmate, but the gun was taken from him and hid. After that he never left his cabin to look after the ship, as long as the grog lasted (and his officers were not qualified for their business). It was a good thing for us when his grog was out, as he came out then a good man, and took the ship home. Coasters are middling as to hands, generally; some are very light-handed, and none carry too many. One hand for every twenty tons (except a very small vessel) is the custom. The berths are not the best generally; some are very wet; some have a bit of fire in the forecastle - chiefly in colliers. Seamen, coasting and foreign, are not treated as they ought to be. In a foreign-going ship, if a captain uses a man badly, and is afraid of a complaint, he buys him over with grog."