Marcus Curtius


The schooner Eilian

I have been tracing the history of the schooner Eilian, which once belonged to my grandfather, Jack Newcombe. Eilian underwent several name changes under her various owners, becoming consecutively Hoan, Kamina, Fjordbo and finally IDA S. The information discovered comes from a wide number of sources but very few internet references. I hope that this web page will garner further information. Please email me with any comments or information.

  • Internet website mentioning Eilian and other Amlwch ships
    • The Copper Kingdom Web site for Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust on the Island of Anglesey in North Wales. My grandfathers schooner Eilian was built in Amlwch in 1908.

One of the most pleasing results of my book about Eilian is the gathering of so much information, when so little was thought to exist. By the time I became interested in family history and hence the story of my grandfather’s schooner Eilian, my grandfather Jack Newcombe was dead, his wife Susie had not kept any documents relating to the schooner or the family, as she did not wish to burden her children with clearing out her ‘old rubbish’, coupled with the fact that none of her children were particularly interested in giving a home to piles of letters and other documents; a familiar tragic tale to many family historians I am sure. Fortunately I became interested in the family history in my latter teens and before those other people concerned had died I was able to (with a great deal of effort) accumulate knowledge, documents and photographs. I particularly remember and will always be thankful to have met my first cousin once removed Tom Hernaman in the late 1970’s, who was a great source of seafaring information, particularly concerning local boats, skippers and crew. 
The Eilian was a fine three pole-masted schooner of 140 tons. She was built of steel in 1908 at Amlwch in Anglesey, being the last sailing (auxiliary) vessel launched from the yard of William Thomas and in that ancient port. William Thomas built many wooden schooners in the 1870's and 80's, but it was the iron and steel ships produced by this firm that were best remembered. Though most of the few iron and steel schooners generally built throughout the country seem to have been of a very high standard of design and construction, William Thomas's vessels were considered in their time to be among the finest.

Description of Eilian:

Official number:
127943 from 1909
LR515184 in 1965
LR number 5151842 in 1970
Official number 702424 from 1983
Official number 356721 from 1986
1908 Amlwch, Anglesey
William Thomas
Signal letters:
M.C.W.Q. in 1956
O.W.S.W. in 1962
International code signal:
H.N.J.R. in 1928
Port of Registry:
1909, Liverpool
17 October 1923, Barnstaple
Closed 13 September 1957 on her sale to a Danish subject, Holger P. Asmussen, Egernsund
Net Reg Tons:
77.15 (78.38 tonnes)
Gross Tons:
139.70 (141.94 tonnes)
102.6 ft x 21.9 ft x 9.4 ft
(31.27 m x 6.68 m x 2.87 m)
10.6 ft (3.23 m)
Fore hatch length:
19 ft
Aft hatch length:
18 ft 10 in
13 ft 1 in
Length of hold:
51 ft


The early years of the Motor Vessel Eilian.
Originally Eilian was laid down as a topsail schooner, but the sail plan was altered from topsail schooner rig to that of three pole masts with interchangeable sails, gaff topsails, three head sails, and instead of the usual staysail on a bowline, she had a squaresail set from a yard halfway up the foremast. 
The plans were also changed for a single cylinder 50 h.p. Kromhout paraffin engine to be fitted. She became the first schooner launched in this country with an auxiliary engine already installed, a development which elsewhere resulted in the high-powered Swedish auxiliary schooners and in the fully-powered motor coasters from the Groningen district of the Netherlands. In Britain, however, the use of auxiliary engines was never exploited to the same degree, and although many sailing coasters were fitted with them, few new auxiliary coasters were constructed.
Her maiden voyage in December 1908 was from Amlwch to Canning Dock, Liverpool and her cargo was probably a consignment of oats. There is then an unfortunate gap in the papers and the next reference to the vessel is in February 1911, when a letter was sent by William Thomas and Sons to a prospective purchaser informing him that the Eilian had recently been sold.
It is not until 5 July 1911 that further information as to her ownership comes to light in the form of a letter written by William Thomas and Sons to C.W. Marshall, of Faversham. This is the first of many letters, which are still available and published by the William Thomas family archives and which enable us to follow the Eilian, although there are still gaps in the history.
It appears that C.W. Marshall had become the owner of the vessel although William Thomas and Sons still retained an interest by managing her. The vessel was originally managed by her builders for David Richardson of Rock Ferry, Birkenhead, on the River Mersey.
 There is another frustrating break in the information available until the 25 September 1913, when C.W. Marshall is informed that the Eilian had left Guernsey that morning for Bridport with a cargo of gravel.
It is in May 1914 that negotiations commence to purchase a new motor from Penman and Company, of London and during the following weeks negotiations take place with this company through the manager. Mention is made that trade is declining due to the prospect of war and that the company should take into account that they might not be able to sell the motor if they insist on too high a price. The matter is finally concluded with the purchase of the motor at a price of £440.
 The Eilian was still a busy vessel and from Penryn she proceeded to Par and returned to Runcorn with a clay cargo. She then proceeded from Runcorn to Truro with a cargo of coal. 
A cargo of clay was loaded at Charlestown for the Mersey and she then proceeded from Garston with coal for Penryn on the 11 June 1914. Her return voyage was again for Runcorn with a consignment of clay from Par on the 22 June 1914. On her way back to Runcorn she called at her home port, Amlwch and the owner is informed that the sails are being unbent and scrubbing and cleaning the bottom was also undertaken. Concern is expressed over the difficulty in fixing freights through Runcorn and Liverpool in that it is only through "Cornish friends" that work is obtained.
 She proceeded from Runcorn to Falmouth, North Quay, where she arrived on the 5 July 1914 and was then fixed to load at Par for Runcorn.
On the 1 December 1914, she left Par for Runcorn and then proceeded to Valley to load a cargo of oats for Poole. The cargo book entries commence on  Christmas Eve the 24 December 1914, with this voyage from Valley, Holyhead, to Poole with the 160 tons of oats in bulk. Her master was Hugh Hughes who commanded her until 8 September 1917, when she sailed light from Par to Devonport (for service in the Great War).
The next entry records a voyage, light from Amlwch to Garston, on 15 December 1919. In the intervening years she was employed by the navy as a ‘mystery ship’, which were given the ‘Q’ number by the navy. The choice of this particular letter of the alphabet was almost certainly dictated by the fact so many of the Q-ships sailed from Queenstown. The Q-ships in question were also called decoys, a word that continued to be used throughout the First World War and there were upwards of 221 of these. A photograph at the time reportedly shows Eilian with three guns along each side, concealed behind small sliding wooden screens although naval records show she was armed with two 12 pounder guns and a Lewis gun. She was commanded by Lieut. C.G. Bonner, V.C., D.S.C., R.N.R. Her navigating officer was named Campbell, also D.S.C., and her gunnery officer First Lieut. J.C. Munro. Eilian’s bow was strengthened with five tons of concrete in her forefoot, to serve as a ram against U-boats.
Prior to his command of the Eilian, Lieut. Chas. G. Bonner D.S.C., R.N.R., served under the command of Captain Gordon Campbell aboard the Dunraven when he was involved in an encounter with the U-boat UC.71 on the 8 August 1917. During which action a shell went through the poop, exploding a depth charge and blowing Lieutenant Bonner out of his control.
On 4 July 1918 the local press reporter at Holyhead wrote “Motor Schooner Eilian brought 5 survivors of enemy submarine into Holyhead. Submarine sunk by decoy schooner in Caernarvon Bay during the day”. One of the most recent lists of U-boats sunk in 1918, compiled from both German and British sources, does not include any U-boats sunk on this date, the nearest (as far as date and position are concerned) being the U-B.119, commanded by Kobel, which had sailed from Germany on 27 April for the Irish Sea area, and sank after a depth charge attack in 52° 42' North, 05° 03' West on 19 May.
Able Seaman Frank Hunt remembers a voyage up the Clyde in 1938, they always picked up a Pilot at Greenock on the way up river, Frank was steering the Eilian and he noticed the Pilot keep walking about the deck looking at the wheel and staring around. About an hour later he said to Jack Newcombe, "I know this bloody vessel, this was ‘Q’ ....(quoting the number?), I recognise that wheel and steering gear (although there was a wheel house built on her since she was a ‘Q’-ship) that great big engine room skylight which was all in mahogany and the companionway, the masts, I'm sure of it. I was in this one when she was a ‘Q’-ship during the 1914 / 18 war, as a matter of fact I have some photos of her at home with the guns and everything on her."  Captain Newcombe said how interested he would be to see them, so the Pilot said he would get them taken off (copied) and post them on to him, which he did do about a month after; Tom Hernaman XE and Frank Hunt also had them copied. It is not known what Q number Eilian used (if any), but during her secondment to the Royal Navy from 24 September 1917 to 1 February 1919 she was known as Chromium, with a gross tonnage of 140 tons and having two 12 pounder guns and a Lewis gun. She was in the fleet of Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, commanding on the coast of Ireland, who from February 1917 was in command of ten Q-ships operating from Queenstown, Berehaven, Milford Haven, Devonport and Bermuda. From the 1 May 1917 there was a discontinuance of the use of ‘Q’ numbers, henceforth the decoys have names, which are continually changing. Which is probably why the Eilian is not known to have a number. By the 8 February 1918 Bayly’s fleet is reduced to three: Eilian, Stock Force and Wexford Coast.
 When she resumed trading in December 1919 her skipper was William Hughes, probably the son or brother of Hugh Hughes the first skipper of Eilian. In 1921 she spent the spring and summer running between the south coast and the Channel Islands, carrying out general cargo and empty baskets and bringing home potatoes and tomatoes.

The Newcombe era of the Motor Vessel Eilian. 
On the 24 December 1922 Eilian carried a cargo of 211 tons of china stones from Par to Weston Point, Runcorn in Cheshire, where she arrived on the 17 January 1923 and remained there until 11 October 1923, when taken over by the new owners from Braunton in North Devon. There were the usual sixty four shares divided between the four owners: Capt. Sidney J. Incledon the managing owner, Capt. George P. Hartnoll, Capt. Willie Drake and the smallest share to my grampy (grandfather) Jack Newcombe, who eventually bought all the shares as they became available, thus owning Eilian outright.
Capt. George Perryman Hartnoll's previous vessel was Rosie, with Jack Newcombe as mate. Once the two were almost lost in Rosie. The little ketch shipped such a big sea that she was practically hull under. They shook hands in farewell, but Rosie's 25 h.p. engine, driving the vessel upward at an angle, brought her clear like a submarine. As she had high bulwarks, it was difficult to free her decks of water quickly. Eilian’s decks were more easily cleared, for her low bulwarks did not trap so much water and the large scuppers could discharge it without trouble.
Captain George who was the skipper and his mate Jack Newcombe, took the Eilian to Runcorn to load 206 tons of coal for Youghal in Ireland and from there brought back 146 tons of oats to Barnstaple, her new port of registry. She was then taken up Braunton Pill for a general survey at Vellator Quay, Braunton, North Devon, at that time said to be the largest village in England, and described as having ‘one foot in the sea and the other on the farm’. Old Braunton was a ‘family’ village; many residents were related, albeit distantly and of course this included the seamen. She then sailed to Bideford where she loaded 215 tons of clay, leaving on the 28 January 1924 for Antwerp, where she arrived on the 2 February 1924 and there loaded 218 tons of cement and glass for Exeter. The most exciting photograph of the Eilian was taken between the 28 and 29 March 1924, whilst in full sail on route from Nieuwpoort to Poole loaded with 220 tons of bricks. Apparently a Dutch sea captain who knew Capt. George and his Mate Jack was also on route to Poole in his steamship, he left harbour before the Eilian and determined to reach Poole first, however the wind was kind to Eilian and with the superb seamanship of her crew she caught the Dutchman up and passed her. As she did so, the Dutch skipper took the finest photograph we have of the Eilian and later on posted it to George Hartnoll. One of the crew called Frank Hunt, had a copy taken off one of the originals and many years ago gave it to the landlord of the ‘Mariners Arms’ in South Street, Braunton, where the crew of the Eilian and other Braunton vessels used to meet for a drink; it still hangs inside on the bar room wall alongside photos of many other Braunton vessels.
Crewman Monty Carder remembers working on Eilian during the time she was laid-up at Vellator Big Quay in Braunton from 5 September 1940 for 5 months until the 31 January 1941, when she started her coal contract between Ilfracombe and the mines in South Wales or the Forest of Dean. During this time she was refurbished and Monty was told to paint the engine, which he did in a couple of days. Eilian would use her motor to get up to Vellator Big Quay. In order to leave Big Quay and go back down the River Caen she would wait for high tide, then cast off her bow line and with the stern line get pulled back into the gully which was a recess at the end of the quay, so she could then swing her bow out into the river where it was wider; the drop in the tidal water and the flow of the river water would assist in turning her bow to downstream.
The Eilian was sailed all round the coast of the British Isles and regularly to ports across the English Channel, often calling at Antwerp usually laden with clay from Teignmouth and occasionally visiting other ports such as Dieppe, Le Havre and Boulogne in France, Terneuzen in Holland, Brussels, Nieuwpoort, Niel and Rumst in Belgium; Eilian sailed from Antwerp the cargoes included cement, zinc, matches, glass, putty, bricks, nails, carbide (for gas making) and whale meat. A photograph taken in February 1929 showed her frozen in at Willebroecke on the Brussels canal, where she was icebound for a month, having arrived at Willebroecke from Antwerp light on the 9 February 1929 and leaving with 204.5 tons of putty, plaster and asbestos goods for Topsham on the 8 March 1929. The cargo book entries do not mention any continental voyages after December 1934, but do mention practically every port in Devon and Cornwall; Little known ports like Topsham, Mevagissey and Polperro being regularly visited before the war.
In 1925 the crew agreement and log of Eilian show that she was doing reasonably well. Her master and crew all came from villages in North Devon and were paid on percentage of profits. Her voyages appear to have been co-operative and friendly affairs and for a short time included two stewardesses, George Hartnoll's wife May (née Newcombe) and Susie (née Hernaman), the wife of Jack Newcombe. Seventeen coastal and continental voyages were completed in six months and Eilian always carried cargoes, apart from four short ballast passages to Teignmouth.
Belgian ports are also listed regularly, and from Antwerp the cargoes included cement, zinc, matches, glass, putty, bricks, nails, carbide (for gas making) and whale meat. A photograph taken in February 1929 showed her frozen in at Willebroecke on the Brussels canal, where she was icebound for a month, having arrived at Willebroecke from Antwerp light on the 9 February 1929 and leaving with 204.5 tons of putty, plaster and asbestos goods for Topsham on the 8 March 1929.
By 1931 things were very different. The master was still G.P. Hartnoll and he was engaged ‘on shares’, but all the crew were paid monthly wages, which varied from £7 for the mate (Jack Newcombe) to £3 10s for the cook, the complement had been reduced by one. Only the master, mate and cook came from North Devon, the others joined Eilian in Teignmouth. The Eilian was driven hard, completing twenty two voyages in six months and was at sea over Christmas, but the very difficult trading conditions were shown by the fact that eight voyages were in ballast and on three other trips Eilian carried less than a full cargo: Antwerp to London, Antwerp to Exeter and Runcorn to Padstow.
In 1933 Eilian was drawn by J.C. Burnie, along with Irish Minstrel and Jane Banks, all in a harbour, possibly at Padstow or Runcorn; If the date of 1933 is accurate then it likely to be her loading 202 tons coal at Runcorn on the 26 June 1933 for a voyage to Gweek in Cornwall, this was her only time at Runcorn in 1933 and she did not visit Padstow in that year. All these ships were involved in the English China Clay trade, but at this period of time the Eilian cargo books show that her reason for visiting Padstow was to generally deliver coal and sometimes bricks between 1932 and 1939; She only carried one cargo from Padstow and that was chippings bound for Bridgwater on the 25 November 1936. Up to the outbreak of war in 1939 Eilian usually carried china clay to Glasgow, returning south with coal from Ayr. With Eilian’s mixture of cargoes, scrupulous cleaning was required between voyages of different types of cargo. In the China Clay ports, officials inspected the holds closely for traces of coal dust. They passed their fingers over the flat surfaces, and tapped the stringers to see if any coal dust fell from behind them. China clay was used in various chemical preparations, so the shippers could not let it be contaminated with coal dust.
Capt. George Hartnoll retired in March 1934, when he settled in Teignmouth and eventually became the Trinity House Senior Pilot. He was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Jack Newcombe, with Jack Chichester as mate. His first voyage as captain was on the 8 March 1934 with 205 tons of clay from Teignmouth to Glasgow. He kept the vessel working regularly in the coasting and continental trades for 23 years, a fine achievement for an auxiliary schooner in face of strong opposition from the modern coaster.
Eilian was well known from London to Glasgow and during one voyage to the Clyde, in 1937 she was driven back 60 miles in a heavy gale. This was one of those cases where the experience and dead reckoning navigation of the coasting masters would bring a ship through without the help of radio or radar, and it is said that some of these skippers could smell their way round the coast; Capt.. Jack Newcombe was one of these mariners.
In this instance Eilian had rounded Longships off Land's End, and a course was set for the Smalls, off the Pembroke coast. The wind gradually increased with visibility almost nil, due to driving snow, until, when almost up to the Smalls, she could no longer weather the gale. It was found impossible to heave to as the seas running with the wind from the N.N.E. prevented the foresail being carried, so she was kept under main and mizzen and drove steadily astern with her bow heading 3 1/2 points off the wind. Every six hours the Kromhout engine was started up and when a slight lull allowed it she was brought carefully round on to the other tack, so that her drift should be kept in a S.S.W. direction. It was not until the third day that the gale eased enough to allow the vessel to go ahead again and by this time Capt. Newcombe estimated that she had been driven 60 miles astern to a position a few miles north of the Longships again. Of course, during all this time nothing could be seen but driving spray and snow, and it was not until she came up to the Smalls once more that her actual position could be determined. At other times she was more favoured by the weather on the run to the Clyde and her best time was when she sailed from Teignmouth, South Devon, to Kingston Dock, Glasgow, in 68 hours.
I can remember my gran Susie, nee Hernaman, saying that she heard it said that her late husband was known as ‘Mad Jack’. This was not in malice, but in recognition of the fact that he would never turn down a cargo, and set sail without any undue delay, scant regard being paid to weather forecasts. This attitude is reflected in how long Eilian was working whilst other ships were long since laid up. Frank Hunt thought that he was a ‘hard man’, as he was a very demanding skipper and wouldn't hang about when there was a cargo available and often put to sea in rotten weather. He was a thick set powerful man who was a big eater, but he suffered a stroke, saying to Frank that the first stroke he had was like an iron band bolted on his chest and screwed up tight. But Frank thought that George Hartnoll was harder still, being very precise and a hard task master, although he never swore nor raised his voice, but he meant every word he said.
On one fog bound voyage Captain Jack sailed from Poole around the Land's End to Runcorn, without sighting land nor the heavens above but trusting in his seamanship with the aid of his compass and log.
For protection during the Second World War, Eilian was given .303 Royal Enfield rifles and a Lewis gun with 28 rounds of ammunition in each magazine, though none of the crew quite knew what they would use it for. However, on one occasion they spotted a mine floating in the Bristol Channel that gave them the opportunity to use the gun. They got it out of the wheelhouse where it was stored and fired round after round at the mine, hitting it many times unfortunately with no effect. To blow the mine up, you had to hit one of the glass horns. 
On another occasion, when Eilian was leaving Ely Harbour and moving down the channel, the crew heard a loud explosion behind them. They had passed clear over a mine in the channel but the ship following with deeper draught had detonated it. 
However, her most romantic cargo must surely have been the one loaded at Cardiff on the 29 October 1942 when she took on 78 tons of tea for Gloucester, which undoubtedly gives her a strong claim to the title of ‘the last British tea clipper’.
Eilian usually had a complement of four - captain, mate, able seaman and ordinary seaman, plus a spaniel dog for security.
In September 1936, a fifth member signed aboard. He was the captain's nephew, Tom Hernaman, newly out of the Board School in Braunton. He was of small stature and not physically strong, so service was trying at first. Of course he was cook, but a thoroughly bad one, for he disliked cooking; in addition, he had the usual deckhand duties, besides cleaning the brassware and the quarters. Many years later by an extraordinary coincidence, Eilian’s old galley was his next door neighbour's coal shed at 14 Barton Lane, Braunton.
Tom also found Captain Jack a hard case, a man of immense personal strength and strength of character. It was told of him that as an AB in the merchant navy he was walking across some tarpaulin and it gave way through not being securely fastened over a hatch coaming and he fell thirty feet in the vessel's hold. At that point he caught a timber brace between decks and swung by his hands over the remainder of the drop. On another occasion, when his vessel was lying next to the Braunton schooner Result, Captain Jack saw three of the latter's crew of Braunton brothers, and all very strong, doing a two handed weightlifting routine with a kedge on the quay. When he himself went ashore he picked up the kedge with one hand, put it over his head, lowered it again and walked on.
Captain Jack had one narrow escape when he was mate in Eilian. She was lying alongside a steamboat, whose deck he had to cross with a mooring line. When he had gone some time Captain Hartnoll and others called him, without reply. When the captain ran along Eilian’s deck, he saw just the top of Jack's head in the water between the vessels. Quick thinking followed; Captain Hartnoll dropped over the side to hang by his hands and tapped the top of Jack's head with his foot. Jack grasped the foot with a last effort for survival. Jack, like many other mariners, could not swim, nor did he have the inclination to learn, perhaps it was regarded better to drown quickly than to bob about in the water in agony and uncertainty.
Meanwhile, Tom had his first insight into seamen's superstition. The mishap was attributed to his presence, as being a fifth crewmember where there had always been four. Later he was to find out other examples -  “No rabbits must be on board”, “it was not the done thing to put a bucket into a boat”, and “one must not whistle for fear of bringing too much wind”. 
Tom thought that it was rare to become windbound on the northerly run, but it happened on this, his first voyage, and another circumstance that made his shipmates consider him a Jonah. Eilian ran into a 100-mph westerly gale; Tom said that the waves were as high as West Hill in Braunton. Captain Jack hove to, with the staysail backed, all sails reefed, and the outer jib taken in. Her helm was lashed counter to the wind, so that if she moved she would come up into the wind. Eventually the captain was able to run into Bardsey Island, between Cardigan Bay and Caernarfon Bay. 
Eilian’s destination was Kingston Docks in Glasgow, the nearest docks to the city. Tom found that at low water the quay towered forty feet above the vessel's deck. Crewmen wishing to go ashore had to rig a line between a bollard and the gaff and swing ashore ‘like Tarzan’.  
Clay had been taken into Eilian’s hold in 28 lb. balls, but in transit the whole cargo had sunk into a solid mass, which it was exhausting labour to dig out. Though Tom had been taken on as an extra hand to deal with the clay, he was not fit for that heavy work. From the very outset he was in a difficult position. Captain Jack, though essentially a fair-minded man, bore rather heavily on Tom lest he might seem to be favouring his nephew. Similarly, the Irish mate, Paddy, did the same because the boy was the captain's relative. 
During that eventful voyage, Tom was relieved of his post as cook for the AB, an excellent seaman with the drawback of poor sight, became so tired of Tom's meals that he volunteered to be cook. It was ironical that Captain Jack should be a perfectionist. His doctrine was “No hurrying required - just do the job well, otherwise there are plenty of others”. Yet he had with him the hapless Tom, inadequate both as cook and discharging hand. It is true that he could clean the brassware and the quarters, but this hardly justified being on the pay roll. 
After a clay cargo the vessel had to be thoroughly washed out or the following coal cargo would stick to the clay, and it was the same thing after a coal cargo, to avoid fouling the following clay. It was a “hell of a job” to wash out after either cargo, hoisting buckets of seawater around, throwing the water around and pumping it out again. Another burden was the slyness of the Irish Dockers, who would pretend that the hold was full before it was so, and they would dump the last load of coal on the deck. Prior to sailing her crew had to shovel madly to cram the loose coal into the hold in case the vessel met heavy weather. 
Though Tom did his best with the work, the captain was uneasy about the boy. He asked him at length: "Can'ee work the steam winch?". "Yes," replied Tom stoutly, although he had never seen one before. Providentially, the boy had a latent mechanical bent of which he had not known before. He soon familiarised himself with the winch, which was being used to discharge upon five-ton horse-drays. Soon after his debut, when he was just over fifteen, he was working the winch when he noticed a man on the quay observing him very keenly. At length the man came up. He was a Board of Trade official, and Tom's small stature evidently caused him to inquire the boy's age. On learning it, he declared that the boy should not be on a winch before he was sixteen and enquired whether Tom had been given a medical. He had not, so the agent informed him that he should not be in the ship at all! However, a medical was arranged, and Tom remarked with a grin that the doctor pronounced him sound in wind and limb, as if he were a horse!
Crewman Bill Mitchell from Braunton, remembers leaving Ely Harbour in Cardiff Bay, loaded with coal to find that the weather was blowing a strong wind in the Bristol Channel, the Eilian could head for shelter at Barry Mud where there was a big harbour; but instead, the heavily coal laden Eilian was sheltering in Barry Roads with two anchors down and riding out the rough weather. Bill remembers how she rolled in the storm and her bow going under the waves. He and other crewmen thought at the time “look at that stupid fool (Jack Newcombe), why the hell doesn’t he get back into Cardiff Roads, up around Lavernock Point where it was more sheltered”; but Jack Newcombe wouldn’t.
Crewman, Monty Carder remembers being stuck on the Eilian in Barry Roads for 3 days and nights where she remained at anchor, as it was too rough to venture down the (Bristol) Channel and it was also too rough to get the work boat out to go and get grub (food) or anything else on shore. Monty also remembers a voyage on the 23 April 1947 from Ilfracombe to Ely to collect coal, where she reached on the 24 April 1947 after 22 hours, when she could expect to do the journey in under 10 to 12 hours; but dependant on variables such as tide, wind, use of the motor. Capt. Jack generally liked to sail in order to save fuel, especially against a strong tide. On occassions when Eilian left Ilfracombe they went up the Channel by “rock ranging”, whereby Eilian would hug the coast and sail close under the cliffs at Rillage Point, in around Watermouth and into Combe Martin Bay, then out of the bay against the tide and into the eddy by Sherrycombe and Elwill Bay, then out again against the strong tide at Highveer Point near Heddons Mouth. This was done when trying to get up the Channel against a tide of perhaps 3 or 4 knots. By keeping in close to shore you could ride the eddy currents running up the Channel and catch the offshore breezes funnelled out through the deep combes. There were strong offshore winds from Combe Martin but once Eilian was out of the bay and under the great cliff on Little Hangman, the winds would be blowing above her sails and cause the them to flap. Near Sherrycombe the ‘old man’ (Jack Newcombe) would say to the crew “stand by, you may have to reef her down” and you could almost see the wind howling out through the combe and Eilian would go over onto her beam. Sailing on under the cliff to Heddons Mouth where the wind could come out of the combe at gale force, giving Eilian the momentum to get around Highveer Point. This “rock ranging” continued up to about Foreland Point lighthouse and then Eilian would head for South Wales; this was called “cheating the tide”, but a risky business, as was the case with the Dido C that was grounded upon the Morte Stone at Morthoe.
Both Bill Mitchell and Monty Carder admired Jack Newcombe as a self taught mariner and a good skipper, but he could get agitated on some occasions, such as when he might have to operate the engine; equally, he was sometimes heard singing comical songs in the wheelhouse.
My father, Ray Newcombe remembers many trips with his father on Eilian. On one occasion during the school summer holidays Eilian arrived in the river Taw estuary at Crow Point, Braunton, at 5 p.m. on the 28 July 1943 and beached herself on the gravel bank. Extra men were brought in to help the crew load gravel; They worked frantically to load her before the tide came in. She was well laden with wet gravel by the time the tide returned and my father, grandfather and crew were all aboard watching the sea rise up her sides. Several years earlier Jack Newcombe had raised the coamings on the hold; it was needed this time for the weight of the watery gravel and suction of the hull held down Eilian to the riverbed. The sea came in over the deck and up the sides of the coaming, when eventually to everyone’s relief she lifted off the bottom. She was then motored up the Pill to Vellator Quay, Braunton, where Ray Newcombe and a friend spent hour after laborious hour pumping out the water with the hand pump. This was one of the heaviest loads carried and the heaviest load she carried under the command of Jack Newcombe, being 220 tons. At 8 a.m. on the 2 August 1943 she slipped her moorings and sailed to Minehead in Somerset, where she arrived at 8 p.m. the same day.
Unlike the Result, which sacrificed her mainmast to expedite cargo handling, the Eilian was kept three masted until Capt. Newcombe retired and sold the vessel. Her final crew were: Jack Newcombe as skipper, Joe Bennett of Ilfracombe who had been mate for twelve years, Frank (Bunny) Hunt of Barnstaple and Frank Hartnoll. She was seen as late as the summer of 1957 off Lynmouth with her fore, main, mizzen, and headsails set making the most of the wind. Now she has gone, having unloaded her last cargo of coal at Ilfracombe from Ely Harbour on 30 August 1957 having been sold in 1955 to Danish buyers for about £9000; This had been a trend for many years where the conditions around Danish islands still favoured their use. A small group of the Newcombe family, friends and interested people watched on the quayside as she left Ilfracombe on Wednesday 25 September 1957 for Par to load china clay for Porsgrunn on the Skienfjord, Norway.

The post Newcombe era of the Motor Vessel Eilian.
The Danish owner Holger P. Asmussen of Alnor near Graasten renamed Eilian in 1958 as Hoan and re-registered at Egernsund a Danish Baltic port in Flensborg Fjord opposite Schleswig in Germany. The Danes having converted her into a ketch rig, allowed my grandfather, who lived at 61 South Street, to have her mainmast sawn into planks and made into sliding doors for his garage.
On the 1 June 1959 Hoan lost her propeller in the Skagerrak (north of Jutland) and put into a port of refuge. Then on the 15 July 1959 Hoan ran aground in Roskilde Fjord, which is located on the north coast of the island of Zealand just west of Copenhagen. Then on the 18 April 1963 Hoan ran aground in Lillebælt, the channel on the west side of the island of Fyn near Assens. 
Hoan was eventually sold by her Danish owners, H.P. Asmussen to another Danish shipping company, Aage Poulsen Partrederi who re-registered her at Ålborg on the Limfjorden in Jutland and re-named her in 1970 as Kamina. It is interesting to note that she was still using the Widdop 200bhp motor that was installed by Jack Newcombe. Hoan and Kamina are artificial names, which in the case of Hoan this was put together from the initials of the owner and his wife’s first names, in the same way Kamina is made up from the wives names of the owner and his partner. Kamina's business was voyaging to the Norwegian coast and all ports in the Baltic, Holland and Belgium with foodstuffs, ammunition, aggregates and machinery. On the 27 May 1970 Kamina of Ålborg was involved in a collision near Herøya, which is located on the island of Gurskøy in district of Summøre half way between Bergen and Trondheim in Norway. Then on the10 April 1973 Kamina ran aground in Øresund which is the strait between Denmark and Sweden.
On the 28 October 1976 whilst carrying a cargo of cut up logs to Kolberg in Poland, the Kamina capsized and sank. Aage Poulsen had insurance and managed to sell the wreck to Roar B.H. Nielsen of Ålborg in 1976. He restored the hull and renamed the ship Fjordbo which means ‘a person / ship which lives by the fjord’. But his business did not prosper very well and so he sold her to Paul Jensen of Copenhagen who had a business selling ships to the Caribbean in the West Indies and in August 1978 Fjordbo was in Barbados where she was bought by Earl Byron Clarke.
Mr. Clarke was a local mariner in Barbados who sailed Fjordbo throughout the north islands of the Caribbean, such as Puerto Rico, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Jamaica etc. Earl was the captain and his crew consisted of an engineer, cook and four sailers. He shipped general cargo, food stuff, animal feed, canned food and he remembers loading up empty rum bottles in the Virgin Islands. Earl could take 300 tonnes of cargo, but he admitted to Peter Newcombe that this was a bit overloaded and sometimes cargo was stacked on the deck. Earl’s impression of Fjordbo was that she was a good boat and remembered that she had a 205 Alpha engine, although sometimes he sailed with just her jib and could get 2 knots out of her. Fjordbo was a working vessel trying to provide a living for her new owner and his crew, although she visited some exotic locations in the Caribbean she was not involved in any incidents worthy of note and any records of Fjordbo’s voyages or cargos have long since disappeared. Eventually Earl sold Fjordbo to a St. Lucian man called John Arthur St. Clair in 1982, as Earl wanted to buy a larger ship and so bought a 600 tonne vessel to trade in the islands of the West Indies. Earl had heard that Fjordbo (renamed as IDA S) had sank but did not know the circumstances.
No contact has been established with John Arthur St. Clair. IDA S was a tramp carrier, trading within the Caribbean islands as far south as Venezuela and to the north as far as Puerto Rico.
The ‘Sea Data’ casualty overview states that she was registered in the name of IDA S of Castries, St. Lucia, Windward Islands from 1983 and finally lost on a voyage about the 9 January 1984. The report of her loss gives very little details, but does indicate that she took on water about 110 km north east of the Venezuelan island of La Orchila and instead of making for this landfall, voyaged to the north west a further 183 km before foundering. Perhaps on route to Kingston, Jamaica which lay about a further 1200 km to the north west and same heading from where she sank in about 5000 metres of water.
Lloyd’s of London received one report from the US Coastguard New York, on 19th January 1984:
On 6th January the Venezuelan Navy Armada frigate ALMIRANTE BRION (F22) was reported standing by the auxiliary motor schooner IDA S in latitude 12 21N longitude 65 15W. Crew of four had abandoned ship as she had been taking on water rapidly and had a thirty degree list. The crew was rescued by another vessel which proceeded to Puerto Rico.  
23.00 GMT 9th January – Vessel observed at 13 09N 66 43W. Searches by the Venezuelans on the 10th and 11th January had no results.
We have reached the end of the era of the merchant schooner, when countless small ports round our western coasts of Britain could boast fine vessels like Eilian and fine masters like John Newcombe.



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