Seeking Merchant Schooner Memories

Posted on: 19th September 2016 8 Comments

Storylines are excited to be embarking on a new venture and we are now on the hunt for stories of merchant topsail schooners from Cornwall and beyond. We are delighted to be delivering the project in partnership with the Rhoda Mary Project and are beginning with an informal gathering at Devoran Village Hall on Sunday 16 October, 2-5pm. We are inviting anyone with memories, associations, photographs, or stories passed down through the years to come along and share these with us over a cup of tea and cake. A selection of archive photographs will also be on display.

Do you have any family or community stories about any of the following?msmphoto2

  • Ship-building, particularly merchant schooners,in local boatyards.
  • The location of boatyards or individual boats.
  • Family members who went to sea or commanded a vessel.
  • Anyone who owned shares in one of the boats.

During the 19th century, coastal communities throughout the West Country financed, built and operated a great fleet of merchant schooners, creating a golden age of sail-driven transport with far-flung links to North Africa, the Baltic and the Americas. This was a period of booming world trade and brought great prosperity, as well as drama and risk to the local communities involved.




Although the times of merchant schooners are not within living memory, there will be a legacy of stories that have been passed down through the generations. We really hope that people come and share these with us so that we can preserve the memory of these iconic vessels and the people who were associated with them.

 We’ve shared it before, but it’s so good and certainly relevant, that we thought we’d share it again… here’s a wonderful bit of archive footage by Humphrey Jennings…

(1937) Humphrey Jennings- Farewell Topsails

8 Responses

  1. Juan Campos says:

    My name is Juan Campos Calvo-Sotelo. I am a Spanish psychotherapist and also author of a book on XIXth century shipwrecks in the Galician “Costa de la Muerte”, NW.Spain. One of the chapters of my book deals with the loss of the barque Adelaide from Bristol, and the death of all the crew and the captain´s wife (Francesca Dovell) and their only son. The only survivor was Captain Dovell, from Parracombe.
    If you are interested here is a link to my book (written in Spanish). Its fourth chapter is devoted to the loss of the Adelaide in Laje (Laxe) in 1850.

  2. Marcus lewis says:

    Hi. Really keen to do a similar event in Fowey? Sadly am on holiday for devoran event and can’t get there. Member of Fowey museum committee and Fowey Harbour Heritage committee .

    • Sarah Storylines says:

      Hi Marcus, Thanks for getting in touch. We will keep you posted about future plans as the project progresses. Very Best Wishes, The Storylines team

  3. Tara O'Callagan says:

    I live in Ilfracombe which had a big ship building community. Our local museum is sure to lots of information on the subject

  4. Dawn Ferris McColl says:

    I am sad to have missed this – I regularly check the Rhoda Mary website and didn’t see this advertised. Next time you do something similar (re River Fal) could you email me.

    Dawn Feris McColl

    • Sarah Storylines says:

      Hi Dawn, Sorry that you missed this. We will add you to the mailing list for anything project related. Very Best Wishes, Sarah

  5. Dee Latham says:

    I have a drawing of the topsail schooner “Lanie”, built 1895, by P. Broad, Capt. H. F. Hines. Contact me if interested in more information. Thank you.

  6. Jonathan Russell says:

    I have come across your excellent website whilst researching and writing up about my ancestors who are from North England. In the 19th century they owned a coastal schooner and i would like to show an image in the booklet which will be limited to 20 free copies (which I am funding) for the family members only. There will no re-print and no sales.
    Please could I have your permission to use the image of a schooner in full sail in the article of September 2016 on Seeking Merchant Schooler Memories.
    Many thanks, Jonathan Russell

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