Maritime Scotland 3: A Blockade Runner from Fife in the American Civil War

August 2021

This the third episode in our special series on the maritime history of Scotland. Dr Sam Willis explores the remarkable career of Joannes Wyllie, a Fife man who made a fortune running guns from Glasgow to the confederate south during the American Civil War (1861-5) – revealing Scotland’s hidden history of supporting slavery. He talks with John Messner a curator for transport and technology at Glasgow Museums. John was part of the project team for the Riverside Museum-Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel, winner of the European Museum of the Year 2013. In 2015 he co-curated a display about Glasgow’s role in the American Civil War which led to his work on the life of Joannes Wyllie.

To pay for the supplies it needed in the war, the Confederacy discovered a new use for its slave-grown and harvested cotton. Once seen as an instrument of foreign policy, it was now employed as a medium of exchange: cotton in exchange for military supplies. Union forces blockaded Confederate ports to prevent the export of cotton and the smuggling of war materiel into the Confederacy. The porous blockade successfully restricted Confederate access to weapons that the industrialized North could produce for itself though weapons, and other materiel were regularly smuggled into Confederate ports from transfer points in Mexico, the Bahamas, and Cuba – it was into this world that Joannes Wyllie sailed…

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    Sam Willis

    From the Society for Nautical Research, in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation, I’m Sam Willis and this is the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history.

    Welcome, everybody to the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast and the third of our maritime Scotland specials. Today I’m exploring the remarkable career of Joannes Wyllie, a Fife man who made a fortune running guns from Glasgow to the Confederate South during the American Civil War, a little bit of Scotland’s hidden history of supporting slavery. And I’m talking today with John Messner, a curator for transport and technology at Glasgow Museums. He was part of the project team for the Riverside Museum-Scotland Museum of Transport and Travel, winner of the European Museum of the Year 2013. In 2015, he co-curated a display about Glasgow’s role in the American Civil War, which led to his work on the life of Joannes Wyllie. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, he is a graduate of Butler University, Indianapolis and received his MA in museum studies from Leicester University in England, he now lives with his family in Ayrshire in Scotland. He’s the author of a ‘Scottish Blockade Runner during the American Civil War’ published by Whittles Publishing. And he’s here today to explain those remarkable links between the southern states of America fighting in the Civil War to continue with the slave driven economy and mariners of Scotland.

    John, thank you so much for talking to me today.

    John Messner

    Oh, thank you, Sam. Thank you for having me on.

    Sam Willis

    Tell me about this wonderful project. I’m always interested in the kind of the moment of genesis when you suddenly go, “do you know what I’m going to write a book about this”. What happened with you?

    John Messner

    This is one of those projects that had just one of those kinds of moments. I was working on a display about Glasgow’s role in the American Civil War, specifically the blockade runners that were built in Glasgow. And I must admit, I throw my hands up right now, I’m not a maritime historian. I was working with our maritime historian on the display, she knows everything about Glasgow shipbuilding, but I knew about the American Civil War. So, we’re working on the display, and we have a lovely painting, an oil painting by the famous English artist, Samuel Walters of the Ad-Vance, which is one of the most famous of the blockade runners, it was launched in 1862 as the Lord Clyde. And we were looking into the painting, and we want to know a little bit more about its history, not just the ship’s history. And it turns out it was owned by, and there’s little plaque on it and always read the plaques, I would say, Joannes Wyllie, who was its commander. And once I started looking into some of the histories of the ship in the war, he didn’t really get much of a mention. And I thought to myself, how could he have owned such a fantastic painting if he wasn’t the commander of the vessel? And from that little instant kind of spark, which was seven years ago now. Well, there was a break for COVID, it must be said! But came this, you know, exploration and deep delve into quite an amazing story about Joannes Wyllie, who commanded the Ad-Vance, of course, during the war, but also had a really fascinating maritime career before the war, and later came back to Scotland himself (at the time, we didn’t even know he was Scottish), but came back to Scotland. And we’re going to speak about his time in the war quite frequently around his home in Fife.

    Sam Willis

    Great stuff. Okay, let’s, let’s rewind the clock a bit, and just give everyone a sense of what’s going on here. So first up the American Civil War. When did it happen? What was going on?

    John Messner

    The American Civil War starts in April of 1861. It was after the election of Abraham Lincoln the previous year, and several southern states decided to secede from the union. So, what happened was one of the first things that Lincoln did as president was to set up a blockade of the southern states. The southern states were agrarian and didn’t have much of an industry at all, but what they did have was a big cash crop, which was their cotton. It was key to manufacturing in the north but also key to manufacturing here in Britain. So, the war started in 1861. The idea was that to set up a blockade, a naval blockade, was to squeeze the southern states into submission – to not allow them to get vital supplies in, to send their cash crops out. The war continued for four years.

    At the start, the blockade was very much almost a paper blockade. The North didn’t have many warships that it could bring back and man these ports in the south, and the southern states didn’t have many vessels to actually move their cargo in and out. But as the war progressed into 1862 – 1863 more and more vessels, either through purchase from the states themselves or through private companies and individuals, were running this blockade, taking in the needed military material: weapons, clothing, boots, and so on, but also food, fancy goods, all the kind of fancy things from Europe. And the North, the Union, were slowly building up more of a fleet outside of these ports, to try to stop them. And where Glasgow comes in, and where Liverpool and the British connection is, is that the best ships to run this blockade turned out to be paddle steamers. So, Clyde built mersey ville paddle steamers that were fast, at a shallow draft, could navigate quite challenging narrow rivers or curvy rivers, but could also carry a good amount of cargo. Now, these vessels weren’t built for transatlantic voyages, you know, they were built to go up and down to Dublin or to Gourock, or something like that. So, there was a challenge in the first place to get them across the Atlantic. And once they were there, they were based at the neutral ports of Nassau in the Bahamas, St. George’s in Bermuda, Havana in Cuba. And from there, they can make the shorter distance runs into the ports in the south, that could then feed and supply the Confederate regiments, its peoples, and its cities.

    Sam Willis

    So, I mean, the paddle aspect of it is interesting. Is it just because screw propellers, there weren’t enough of them – or the technology wasn’t sufficiently advanced at the time for them to work?

    John Messner

    Well, I think, when it came to what was needed, is the fact that the ports that these blocking orders were going into primarily Charleston, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, although there were some others along the coasts, weren’t big ports of the time; didn’t have your kind of larger harbour facilities. They needed vessels that were, like I said, a shallow draft and can make good speed. And they didn’t have the ability to you know, build up these ports during the war, they needed the resources quite quickly. So New Orleans would have been the perfect place for supplying the Confederacy, but it was captured quite early in the war because the Union knew that was the main port of the South.

    Sam Willis

    There can’t have been very many of these paddle steamer-like exactly the right type of shape around.

    John Messner

    No. When it started, and you’re looking kind of mid to late 1862, when suddenly the Union Navy was getting a bit bigger, the fleets were getting a bit bigger, you couldn’t just go into some of these ports with kind of a merchantman, even a screw propeller ship like you said. So, suddenly, these paddle steamers that were you know, on the Clyde trade, the Mersey trade, became highly valuable. And you started seeing loads of these being bought up. So, one day, you might have a steamer that was usually on the Dublin trade or the Belfast trade, and suddenly it’s off to, and they use lots of euphemisms at the time to try to cover up where they were going to, so it could have been the celestial Emperor, or the Emperor of China. And everyone at the time, this was well covered in newspapers, all throughout Britain, everyone knew at the time that they were actually going to supply the Confederacy with the materials they needed to fight the war. And all throughout to the end of 1862, and this is where Joannes Wyllie’s story starts to come into play – the Glasgow Herald and the newspapers in the area, where every day there’ll be some kind of story about either a paddle steamer being sold, a new one being launched for the trade, or the stories and reports of them over in the Americas and what’s happening to them.

    Sam Willis

    Here’s a problem for you, though: to get a paddle ship across the Atlantic, so paddles, they’re only sufficiently effective and efficient if the depth is exactly right, but if you load that ship up with coal, then the paddles are too deep, which makes it inefficient and a bad seagoing vessel. So how did they deal with that?

    John Messner

    One of the most dangerous aspects of this in terms of the crew and the vessels – and we can get into the kind of aspect of being chased and caught in a moment – but one of the most dangerous was getting them across the Atlantic. Like you said, you needed a big load of coal to make it all the way there even with your sails, and with a good wind, you still need full holds of coal. And several of the vessels never made it across the way. If you encountered heavy seas and chop and so on, these ships were not built for that. These steamers were not built for that. So, getting it across the Atlantic was the first major obstacle for any of these and a lot of them – I know when Joannes Wyllie captained the Lord Clyde, as it was called at the time, they stopped at Cardiff first to resupply with the best coal, they stopped at Madeira, and some of the other Portuguese islands to resupply with as much coal as possible. And hopefully, they can make it over without causing much damage to the ship and several of them did make it over, but they were bashed and battered by the waves that they needed repairs or and never even could try to run the blockade.

    Sam Willis

    That’s fascinating, isn’t it? That must mean that there were huge coal cargo ships running from places like Wales out to Madeira, and you know, the Portuguese islands, creating coaling stations all around the world. It opens up an entirely separate history.

    John Messner

    Not just that Nassau and Bermuda, you know, the Bahamas, Bermuda, there’s no natural coal deposits there. So, before the war, they were pretty much a backwater port, you know, not much transatlantic trade really made it to them. But suddenly, almost overnight, they became this huge hub of mercantile activity. And one of those things that needed to be provided was huge stacks of coal. So, by the quaysides in these ports, there would be these huge stacks of coal. And there are reports of some of those catching fire or some of the big stacks of cotton bales next to them catching fire. So, it was kind of a wild west kind of situation in these ports, as well as some of the ports that they were serving in the Confederacy, which before the war, were once again not major ports for even, you know, internal US trade, much less transatlantic trade.

    Sam Willis

    Okay, here we are, we’re all set up, we understand why the Scottish are interested, why there is a link between the south – along comes Joannes Wyllie, and he decides to have a pop. I’m assuming he did so because he could make an enormous amount of money, is that right?

    John Messner

    Yes. He wasn’t alone, there were thousands of British and European sailors who saw the opportunity to make a quick buck, make a quick pound if you will. Running guns, running supplies for the military turns out to be quite lucrative if you can make it work for you. So, making one successful trip, that is back to say Wilmington, North Carolina and back out to a neutral port, making one successful voyage could earn a captain up to $5,000. Now that’s a lot of money. And that was on a privateer. So, some of these vessels like the Ad-Vance were owned by states. But still, one successful trip which might only be a week, maybe two weeks, depending on when the moon is – you want to be nice and hidden on the open sea – could make you more than a year’s wages for everyone from a boilermaker to seaman, to the captain and so on. So, there’s was a huge amount of money on offer. And this lured humble seamen, able seaman, all the way up to Royal Naval officers on furlough, to either make a fortune or make him have a bit of adventure. And Joannes Wyllie was one of these men.

    In the summer of 1862, he was awarded his master’s certificate, he sat his examination, and that was after 10 years of being at sea. He started as an apprentice, at the lowest rung as you can start at, worked his way up from sailing ships, clipper ships, all the way up to steamers. And 1862, he was based in Liverpool, and that was one of the hubs for these kind of connections with the Confederacy at the time. In September that year, he was made master – his first-ever command – of a ship called the Binita, a screw propeller, with the intention of running blockade. The Binita, built in 1860, by Denny’s here in Glasgow or I should say, Dumbarton, made it over to Nassau. But by that time, by the autumn of 1862, a big screw propelled vessel couldn’t chance its luck. They’d intended to go into Wilmington. It had made one run earlier in the year without Wyllie on board. So, unsuccessful he came back to Liverpool as master but as fate would have it that vessel, the Binita, was carrying three agents for the state of North Carolina. The recently elected Governor, Zebulon Vance, had thought he needed to get into the blockade-running trade to supply his state, supply his regiments. So, he sent these three agents to Britain to sell cotton, to purchase supplies, and to purchase a vessel and they sailed on the Binita with Wyllie back to Britain. There’re no recollections or any kind of diaries of their voyage, but what I have been able to find out is Wyllie’s next command, his next vessel, turns out to be the Lord Clyde, which would become the Ad-Vance when it became a blockade runner. And interesting enough, one of those gentlemen, John White, although he lived in North Carolina his adult life was actually from Kirkcaldy in Fife and that’s where Wyllie was from as well. So, you can only imagine maybe in the evenings when they’re having dinner with the captain talking about the ongoing conflicts, needing the proper ships, the proper captains, but also meeting may be making some kind of family old country connection that then led Wyllie to become a trusted acquaintance of these men and then led him to being captain of the ship as it left Greenock bound for the blockade.

    Sam Willis

    And then, I mean, how did his blockade-running career go? What adventures did he get up to?

    John Messner

    Well, in May of 1863, the Lord Clyde leaves Glasgow, and this is one of the things I was able to discover through the research. The Lord Clyde, the Ad-Vance, which we’ll call from now, had three captains over its career as a blockade runner. Two of which were American Confederate officers, former US Navy officers. And it was always assumed that one of those was in command when it left Greenock in May of 1863. But all the contemporary reports, all the crew list, the newspaper reports, have Joannes Wyllie being in command. That could be part of the subterfuge of the whole kind of well, it’s not going to run the blockade, it’s just a merchant vessel going out to Nassau kind of thing. So, you can kind of cover your tracks. If you’re approached by Union vessel, if you’re bored by Union vessel, you can just throw up your hands and say, “no mate, we’re, you know, British flag, British crew” and so on. But he leaves in May of 1863, and over the next 15-16 months, he’s on board the vessel the whole time. And the Ad-Vance is one of the most famous and one of the most successful of these blockade runners. He makes fifteen successful runs through blockade

    Sam Willis

    That’s a lot.

    John Messner

    That’s a lot. Not the most, but it is kind of top 10 of these vessels. Now, sometimes they might make one, they might make, after two or three runs, you know, all your kind of outlay is paid off, the owners are paid off, they don’t need to make any more really. But as a state-run ship, it continued. During that time, he was chased by Union vessels, the natural environment chased them, you know, storms on the open sea, they grounded several times in the mouths of the Cape Fear River, out of Wilmington, there’s two inlets that you can go into, both very shallow, even with experienced pilots on board. The vessel grounded several times going in and out. Ultimately, the luck ran out and on September 10, of 1864, so over a year’s time, the Ad-Vance left the Cape Fear bound for Halifax this time. But because of some poor coal, once again we’ll mention the coal – the good coal had been taken over for Confederate warships and the coal they were burning was quite dirty stuff, you know, sending up big plumes of black smoke, and a US vessel, the USS Santiago de Cuba, saw her, ran her down over a long chase and captured the vessel. Now at this point, I should just mention something about being captured. Running the blockade is illegal, but as long as you don’t fire back, you don’t fight back, if you just run and capture, then as a non-enemy combatant, as a non-American, British sailors or European sailors, didn’t have much to fear. They could have been held for a little bit, but usually, the protocol, the law at the time, was that they would be released. Now they would only have the personal items on them. So, all their cargo and their ship, you know that run, that would have been lost – no money from that go. But hopefully as long as, like I said you didn’t fight back as long as you didn’t struggle, it was an easy job, really. And on the other side, just to finish up, the people that caught the ship, the Union sailors and officers, they were entitled to a piece of the prize money if that ship was, if the steamer, was deemed a lawful prize in one of the prize courts in New York or Boston. So, there was big money to be made from both sides of running the blockade.

    Sam Willis

    So Joannes Wyllie is a Scotsman from Fife. Is the crew full of Scots as well?

    John Messner

    There’re three known crew listings. The first one is when it left Glasgow and it’s a fully British crew: Irish, English, Scottish. There’re two other crew lists, the most complete was from February of 1864. It’s just before Wyllie took over official command of the vessel. I told you there are two other Confederate commanders. And there were fifty-six crew members at the time: twenty-one American and thirty-five foreign, and of those fourteen Irish, nine English, and four Scottish. So, 48% of that crew, at that time, were British with a couple French and other ones thrown in. So, it’s interesting, one that not only did the South not have a lot of ships, they didn’t have a lot of mariners to man those ships. So, it was a supply and demand issue as well. And Eric Graham, in his fantastic book ‘Clyde Built’, which looks at the kind of Glasgow and the Scottish connection to the whole trade, he reckons up to 3,000 Scots alone, were involved in running the blockade. And there’s also the kind of connection of sending all the material to Nassau and Bermuda that would then be unloaded there, shipped into the South and the cotton bales then taken over to Liverpool from those ports. So, from those four years of the American Civil War, there’s a huge amount of British sailors, European sailors involved in this trade.

    Sam Willis

    And do we know what was being brought across on Wyllie’s ships? What was his cargo? Where was he getting it from? Was it guns?

    John Messner

    Everything coming out of the South is almost always cotton, sometimes turpentine, that’s quite easy to say. And they usually list those in newspaper reports. Going into the South is a bit more hard, because a lot of the cargo manifests, even the official ones from the customs in Bermuda and St. George’s, of course, sometimes just say merchandise or packets. But we do know some of the biggest things were firearms, blankets, clothing, cloth, shoes, even food, tinned meats, and things like that. But also, a lot of these other vessels, not necessarily Wyllie’s, were bringing in, like I said, fancy goods, liquors, fashion, clothing, people. If you think that the Confederacy was a nascent state, and it needed all the trappings or wanted all the trappings of a nation, it needed things like, for example, money, or stamps, and it needed engravers and printers. And most of those were to be found in northern cities. So, there are stories of Scottish and British engravers and printers going over. And they would be going through the blockade on one of these blockade running ships.

    Sam Willis

    That’s fascinating. I particularly – I can see how a lot of the cloth and the food, you know that – did that come from the Midlands, and then up to Glasgow, and then out on the ships? Or how are they doing it? And, sorry, two questions. And the other one is, where were the guns being made?

    John Messner

    It’s an interesting one. So, these things are coming from all over Britain. So, you see, cotton, clothing, shoes, and so on. It’s an interesting connection, because, you know, Britain outlawed slavery in the 1830s, but still its connection with the slave-grown cotton in the United States continued in the 1860s. And this new input of capital, of money to buy ships to buy munitions, kind of continued that relationship. But you said also, where are the weapons coming from? Well, for example, Enfield Rifles were supplied, but they were supplied to both sides. So, there wasn’t a blockade of New York, Boston, or Baltimore. So, the ships could go over there, no problem, from Liverpool, like you said, or London or Bristol or wherever. But the other ones would have to be transported to the neutral ports, and then run in on the blockade. Britain was making money out of it. There was, in Glasgow, in Liverpool, there were big meetings held in support of the Confederacy, but also anti-confederacy and anti-slavery at the time. The Confederacy would have direly loved Britain to come in, to support them during the war. And early on one of their kind of policies was to stop the supply of cotton to basically make, and you might have heard of the ‘Lancashire Cotton Famine’, that’s when the supply of Southern grown cotton basically dried up, and a lot of the mills had to stop producing. And the Confederacy had hoped that Britain might come in, maybe just use the Royal Navy to help them supply the south, but possibly even to declare war on the rest of the United States and open up a northern front on the Canadian border. And, you know, there were people in the British government and in the French government as well, kind of arguing both sides of that. It never came across, of course. But lots of people in the north still felt that you know, Britain was not being neutral. They were supplying these things to the south and they were letting their ports being used to supply these things.

    Sam Willis

    You start the book by talking about Joannes Wyllie giving a talk and how he’s a very popular man and he’s got all of these stories. But you know, the bottom line here is that he was helping the southern states who were campaigning for the continuation of slavery, to win.

    John Messner

    Yes.

    Sam Willis

    How do you think Scotland should feel about this link? I mean, it’s a very clear link between Scotland and the people trying to continue slavery in the 1860s.

    John Messner

    Yes, there’s no doubt that you know, running the blockade and supplying or supporting the Confederacy, the southern states, had a connection to a continuation of slavery there. And it’s an interesting one. I tried to look to find any kind of referenced to Wyllie, or to some of the other blockade running captains, and very few of them told their stories, either contemporarily or even later in their own lives. There’s, you know, a handful of kind of recorded diaries. And the political aspect doesn’t come to the fore, it usually is the monetary aspect, and you do have to then kind of question their motives towards it. In the 19th century, the blockade runner was seen as kind of one of these kinds of hi adventures kind of character.

    Sam Willis

    He’s a bit like a highwayman in 17th century England.

    John Messner

    A bit. And just – Wyllie came back and he gave these lectures only near his hometown at Kirkcaldy in Fife. But they’re always well received. It sounds like they always have the same title, and probably the same content. But the people always came out and gave him a warm welcome. Because I think there was that kind of aspect of 19th-century adventurer, highwayman, you know, evading the Union fleet. There probably would have been no chat about the actual enslaved peoples who were, you know, toiling to grow this cotton and were not only freed by the end of the war. But it’s interesting one because one of the best sources of information I found on Joannes Wyllie wasn’t a crew list or a maritime record, it was an article from the 1889 July edition of the ‘People’s Friend’. Now, I’m not sure many of your listeners know what the ‘People’s Friend’ is, it’s still going around today, it’s published by DC Thompson. It was and is primarily a women’s magazine. And was and is full of things like recipes, how to do things around your home, but also stories of adventure of love and romance. And I discovered that Joannes Wyllie had an article written by one of his friends, in the ‘People’s Friend’ in 1889. And that’s where a lot of the interesting kind of adventurous stories, during the war, and before the war, I was able to discover. And that came out at a time when there were also serialised stories, fictionalised serial stories about blockade runners. So, this is twenty-five years after the end of the war. But by that time, this idea of a Scottish British blockade runner, going off and running the blockade, but also with some romance thrown in, is still in the forefront of people’s minds, of readers minds of newspapers and magazines.

    Sam Willis

    It’s fascinating stuff, isn’t it? A fascinating chapter in this hidden history of Scotland supporting the Confederacy. John, thank you so much for speaking with me today.

    John Messner

    Thank you, Sam. Very much appreciate it.

    Sam Willis

    A fascinating interview there. Now do please catch up on our other Scottish maritime histories. We began this miniseries with an episode on the wrecks of World War Two midget submarines at Aberlady Bay in East Lothian. The second episode was with the brilliant Ron Neish, a loftsman by trade who learned his skills at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith and has gone on to write a series of wonderful books on shipbuilding in Leith.

    Time, however, for a quick catch up on articles posted on our free forum, which you can find @snr.org.uk. I would urge you all to get involved. It’s becoming a fascinating and very large, permanent and searchable online miscellany of maritime queries and answers. A week or so ago, just after we published an episode on the USS Constitution, I wrote: ‘In the latest episode of the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast, ‘Iconic Ships 6: USS Constitution’, it’s made clear that the Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat – and that the ship is in fact the oldest vessel of any type still afloat. She was launched in 1797…that makes her 224 years old. Can anyone help me create a chronological list of the oldest ships afloat?’

    We’ve had a reply from Malcolm Lewis, a regular correspondence. Hello, Malcolm, thank you very much as always. And he has got his teeth stuck into this question. I thought I’d read all of these suggestions out. Do please get in touch if you are involved on any of these ships somehow and would like to feature on the podcast.

    So, Malcolm writes: ‘We have HMS Trincomalee a Frigate launched in 1817, she’s in wet dock in Hartlepool. HMS Unicorn another Frigate, 1824, in wet dock in Dundee. HMS Warrior, steam-powered sailing frigate, 1860, afloat in Portsmouth. The SV James Craig, a Barque, from 1874, at the Sydney Maritime Museum, afloat in Sydney Harbour. The SV Falls of Clyde, 1878, a sail-driven tanker, afloat in Honolulu, Hawaii. I’ve never heard of that one, that’s a cracker. HMS Gannet Screw frigate, 1878, in the wet dock in Chatham. The USS Olympia, a protected cruiser, 1892, afloat in Philadelphia. The SV Glenlee Barque, 1896, that’s at the Port of Glasgow Museum. The RRS Discovery (that’s Capt. Scott’s ship, a wonderful ship there), afloat in Dundee, from 1901. 1912 we have the USS Texas Battleship, in Texas. The HMS Caroline in 1914 a cruiser, that’s in Belfast. 1918 HMS President, that’s a Flower Class Q ship, and that’s at Chatham. A few more suggestions here as well; 1934 HQS Wellington. I’ve been on there many times. It’s the headquarters of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. And that’s moored just off the embankment in London. 1934, the Queen Mary, a liner and troopship in World War Two that’s in California. 1938, HMS Belfast, she of course, is featured in one of our iconic ships. The USS Intrepid, 1942, that’s a carrier afloat in New York. 1942 another carrier in San Francisco, that’s the USS Hornet, a destroyer. 1943 the HMS Cavalier, that’s at Chatham. 1943 again, the Jeremiah O’Brian Liberty ship in San Francisco. I’ve been to see that, its fantastic. ML1387, Medusa, a motor launch – I’m about to go and film on her in the next couple of weeks – and that’s at Gosport. So do check out the Facebook page and the YouTube page to see some footage of the wonderful Medusa in action. Royal Yacht Britannia 1953 afloat in Leith, Edinburgh.  HMS Vampire, destroyer, 1958, afloat in Sydney Harbour. And the HMAS Onslow submarine, 1968, afloat in Sydney Harbour. Some fantastic vessels there. Thank you so much, Malcolm.

    We also had a reply, a very thoughtful point, made by the excellent Frank Scott. He’s another of our most regular correspondence. So, hello, Frank.

    Frank writes: ‘In this context, the term ‘afloat’, can cover a multitude of sins. Perhaps more useful terms would be ‘fully seagoing’, ‘limited seagoing’, ‘harbour’ service only, ‘afloat alongside’, and ‘afloat in dock’. For vessels that are ‘fully seagoing’, custom-built steel sail training ships have a phenomenal safety record, and many are still running after over a century of service. My own alma mater, Sørlandet, comes up for its centenary in 2027, and 53 years after I was a cadet in 1968 can be said to be wearing its years rather better than I am.’ Well done, Frank. He also writes: ‘One of the oldest vessels to have limited seagoing status is the whaler Charles Morgan built in 1841, restored to sea-going status by Mystic Seaport Museum between 2008 and 2013, after having been a static exhibit for some ninety years. This restoration was an astonishing achievement, albeit a very expensive one. Although Charles W. Morgan was licensed to conduct a three-month voyage along the US East Coast in 2014. It was a one-off and the vessel has reverted to a static exhibit since then’, which of course is a shame but wonderful that that voyage in 2014 happened. So, thank you very much, Malcolm and Frank, for your replies to that. Do please get in touch if you have any other ideas.

    I think I will post something soon also on the largest ships because we’ve just been filming a model of the Great Eastern and will be filming soon a model of the Royal George – both of which claimed to be the largest ships of their time. And I’ve been having a hunt around the internet, and I can’t find a list of the largest ships – either merchant or naval or a mixture of both. I think that’d be a great thing for everyone to get involved in.

    So that’s it for this week. Do please follow us wherever you engage on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, wherever it might be. Do please particularly check out the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast YouTube page where we’ve got some truly fantastic and innovative ways of presenting the maritime past. Best of all, though, guys, please, please join the Society for Nautical Research @snr.org.uk. It doesn’t cost much, but it supports this podcast. You get four journals a year, you can sign up to come to our annual dinner on board HMS Victory, yes, that’s true, and of course, the money supports all of the worthwhile goodness that the society does to publish the world’s most important maritime history and to preserving our maritime past.