Loss of the topsail schooner the ‘Janet Storm’ in 1892.

The loss of the Janet Storm in 1892 had a terrible effect on one Seaboard family, the mate on the Janet Storm was Kenneth Campbell aged 45, although born in Sheildaig on the west coast he was married to Isabella [nee Sutherland] of Hilton. The family lived at 8 Shore Street, Hilton, and on his disappearance at sea  he left Isabella a widow with three small children to bring up, John, seven, Elsie, six, Maggie, four.

The following article is taken from The P.S.N.C. Magazine, Sea Breezes, No. 186, Vol. x1x, May 1935. The magazine is aimed at seafarers and an article about ‘ Past Moray Firth Sailing Vessels’ by Mr. W. Docker brought back memories to Captain A. Halcrow of Lerwick, Shetland Isles.

Captain Halcrow in 1892 was a young boy sailing on a large handsome topsail schooner of about 160 tons called the Gebrudder, the Gebrudder boasted a trunk cabin and a three-step poop flush with the rail running around it. All hands lived aft, the fore half of the trunk cabin serving the forcastle. The Gebrudder had been built in Danzig Germany [now Gdansk, Poland], and continued to bear her German name, but her good looks were the best thing about her. Constucted of softwood, and imperfectly fastened, she worked and leaked abominably in a seaway, and, altogether, the vessel herself was a most uncomfortable packet to be in. The one saving grace of the Gebrubber was a fine set of fly wheel pumps.

In contrast the Janet Storm, a 99 ton topsail schooner had been built to a high standard by Geddie’s of Kingston-on-Spey in 1890, the last vessel to be built on Speyside and like the Gebrudder was registered in Inverness. The Storm’s were a well known Findhorn family, John Storm, at this time residing in Glasgow, had the Janet Storm built for his youngest brother Alexander.

Captain Halcrow takes up the story.

We first met the the Janet Storm in Sunderland, then loading her second cargo, and afterwards lay moored together in the tiers waiting for a fair wind. Pumping the Gebrudder in port was a matter of course, and many were the good-natured jibes from the Janet’s crew when we all stopped sailorising to take a spell on the pumps. “Get that basket on the beach and try clay,” or ‘Send us a bucketful to sweeten our bilges. “We sailed together, the Janet for Tain, and the Gebrudder for Dingwall, and met again some seven weeks later in West Hartlepool, to where both vessels had brought pit props from the North. The banter was resumed the first night we fraternised together. One member of the Janet’s crew facetiously wondered why we had ventured so far from home, and then suddenly remembered that we had come there on the top of a cargo of pitprops. on our part we pointed to our double topsails and t’gallant sail, our quarters in the poop, our elaborate fife-rails, and pumps capable of dealing with the North Sea. I remember seeing a lot of Captain Storm on this occasion. He was quite young, about five or six and twenty, I should say, and evidently proud of his fine new schooner, of which he was manager as well as master.

Easterly winds had held up sailing craft in the Hartlepools for over a week, and quite a number of coasters put to sea on that evening of the 19th October 1892, and the finest unit in that little fleet had taken her departure, bound for the “Port of Missing Ships”

The Gebudder was bound to Stornoway, the Janet, I think, to Fraserburgh. I was only a youngster, and the sequence of events are somewhat blurred by now, but I remember we kept close company, and had fine light weather for a day or two after leaving Hartlepool, and I fancy we were as far as the Bell Rock, but a considerable distance seaword, when the gale struck us. It came from the North. Both vessels were hove to, heading eastwards. This was in the early afternoon, and by 8pm it was blowing a hurricane and a heavy sea-such as a northerly gale only could raise-was running.

We carried six hands all told, but there was no watch and watch that night. The most we could hope for was two hands taking a spell in the galley keeping the fire in and hot coffee going, and four constantly pumping. A full moon was shining, and between the squalls the scene was terrific. Sometime after midnight I clambered on to the cabin top for the purpose of emptying my sea-boots. Having done this , I slipped down aft, and taking the binoculars out of the box, I rove my arm through the lashed wheel and looked to leeward for the Janet Storm. After a minute she swung into my field of vision, but it was just a glimpse, as if the tip of a knifeblade glinting on the top of a billow, and then gone.

I suppose mine were the last mortal eyes that ever saw the Janet Storm. In the small hours someone else looked, but could see nothing. The gale broke the next day. Nothing could be seen of our fellow-voyager, but no one thought anything of that. South-westerly gales followed, and a goodly portion of salt water passed through the Gebrudder’s hull, ere, by way north around the Orkneys, we fetched Stornoway. And when we got there, we heard that the Janet Storm had not turned up, and she never did.

 

Note. Portmahomack was also in mourning after the lose of the Janet Storm as two members of the crew were from the village, James Campbell aged 43 who left a widow and four children and Donald Mitchell aged 19 were lost.

The Gebruder [different spelling from Captain Halcrow], but the same ship, owed by Mr. A. Ross and registered in Inverness, was wrecked on the Long Craig Rocks off  Kirkcaldy on the 14th of February 1893 while on route from Invergordon to Sunderland with timber.