The Hard Life and Times of Henry Moffat, Seaman

By Conrad Dixon, published May 1973


In 1910, Henry Moffat published his memoirs, From Ship’s Boy to Skipper – With Variations. This article presents the highlights from that account of Moffat’s tough life at sea and his later success. Moffat was only 12 ½ years old when lying about his age, he signed on in 1856 with the Royal Navy as a second-class boy. Thus began four decades at sea – first in the R.N. (from which he was dismissed because of his age), then in the coal trade and eventually on longer voyages to the Mediterranean, Australia and South America. He had many adventures and misadventures including some with confederate gun-runners and in the gold fields of Australia. Despite much mistreatment and a number of drunken captains, he survived and learned to be a mariner, rising to bos’n, second mate, mate and master of both the City of Cambridge and the City of Venice of the City Line. After completing his life at sea this sturdy, energetic man became the City Line’s dock superintendent at the Victoria Dock. He died in the 1920’s.

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Filed under: Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (location)
Subjects include: Biography | Manpower & Life at Sea | Merchant Marines

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