John Avery Heritage
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In 1967 the Queen Mary set off on her final voyage to Longbeach, California. This watercolour by Eric Crompton records the farewell.A stone carving on the RSH Hospital Chapel.An afternoon stroll on Plymouth Breakwater
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   Home      Steam Paddle Tug Belmont

A newspaper account described the collision of a Southampton tug with an Aberdeen Line clipper, the Walter Hood. Southampton, Wednesday 30th July 1856 A RUN-AWAY STEAM BOAT.

The steam tug Belmont, [1] one of the boats of the Southampton Steam Towing Company [2], took in tow the ship Walter Hood [3], a passenger vessel, bound to Australia, and after towing her down to the Channel the sails were set on board the Walter Hood, and the Belmont proceeded to cast her off previous to returning to Southampton. In doing so, by some cause unexplained, the ship ran into the steam tug, striking her with a violent crash which knocked over her mast and funnel, and threw her onto her side. The shock also had the effect of increasing the activity of the crew, which one and all, leapt on board the ship, leaving their boat in the charge of a dog and two cats, which happened to be on board the steam tug at the time. The steam of the Belmont was up, and, after a succession of plunges and crashes, she righted herself, and succeeded in getting clear of the Walter Hood, by tearing away her bulwarks, and then, to the great dismay of her captain and crew, she took a sweep round in the direction of the land. Her mast and funnel lay over her side--her bulwarks smashed in-the long tiller of her rudder dashing wildly to and fro, and. the fierce barking of the dog on board rendered the scene at once absurd and terrific. But something must be done to save her. The captain and crew having recovered their composure obtained a boat and started in pursuit. But before this the course of the steam tug had altered, and by some cause or other she came round and made again for the point from whence she had started, having described a complete circle, From this point she again started in a contrary course, making direct for the Calshot light-ship. Here the men on the look-out described her position, and having manned their own boats, also started in pursuit. The race now became truly exciting, the course of the steam-tug becoming uncertain, as her helm shifted to and fro at the sport of the waters of the Channel By this time, however, she had run some distance, and at length her speed gradually diminished, her paddles stopped, and she ultimately gave in from sheer exhaustion. The crew from the Calshot lightship were the first to board her, her own crew coming up about 20 minutes after. She was at length got into working order and brought safely into dock, where she is now undergoing appears that the crew were fully justified in leaving her as they did, the vessel being in imminent peril of going down.

Notes [1] Belmont was built in Sunderland in 1841 and was used on the Tyne and sold to the Southampton owner 7th December 1853. The Liverpool Mercury of 26th April 1856 ran this story: The only serious accident that happened at Southampton on Wednesday was the running down of a tug steamer. One of the Union screw steam colliers, named the Saxon, had been to the review with a large party and was then hired to bring the passengers ashore from La Plata [5]. It was then dark, and in performing the service she ran down one of Southampton Tug Company’s steamers, called the Belmont. The captain’s wife and child were asleep below, and there was only just time to save them before the tug sank.

The Belmont must have been re floated as a few months later she was involved with the Walter Hood incident. Two major incidents in a period of three months show the sometimes dangerous life on board tugs.

Tyne Tugs and Tug Builders web site quotes the 1841 buildBelmont as register no 23744 and a 1853 build Belmont as register no 23741. This seems very odd that two tugs were simultaneously in service both on the Sunderland registry using the same name [confusing to ship owners etc] but the registration number of the 1853 tug is earlier than the 1841 tug. Registration number series were issued to the port’s Custom House. Not all vessels were registered before becoming compulsory to do so and it could be that numbers were re issued when ships went out of service and some vessels were registered later in their careers. The editor of the web site agrees it is possible that the data could be in error.

[2] Southampton Steam Towing Company (later Southampton New Steam Towing Company) (1852 - 1885) The Southampton, Isle of Wight & South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (later to become known as the Red Funnel Line) were already a successful passenger ferry operator when they made their first foray into towage in 1885 with the purchase of the Southampton New Steam Towing Company.

[3] Walter Hood was a clipper ship, of 918 tons register, was built by Hood, of Aberdeen in 1852, for her owners, Messrs George Thompson, jun., and Co., of London and Aberdeen. Under the command of Captain Sproat she accomplished some of the fastest voyages made up to that period, and considerably augmented the celebrity of the Aberdeen clippers. She had always been regularly engaged in the Sydney trade. She was driven ashore on 26th April 1870, at night, near Cape Jarvis lighthouse on the Sydney coast, but was not seen until the following morning. The vessel was then broken amidships. Thirteen men were hanging on to the stern of the vessel, and eleven others were washed away and lost, among them Captain Latto, the captain, but ten passengers reached the land.

[4] Saxon owned by Union Steamship Line was built in 1854 by J. D'A Samunda at Poplar in London She made one voyage, Poplar - Smyrna - Constantinople - Malta - Southampton, before being chartered to the French Government for use in the Crimean War.

[5] Royal Mail Steamship Liner La Plata was purchased from Cunard [as the Arabia] to replace the RMS Amazon which had caught fire on her maiden voyage.

snowfall Southampton Old Cemetery courtesy FoSOCSeamen's strike at Southampton 1966Royal Blues at Bournemouth c 1949 photo by Derek Amey local historians Jim Brown and John Avery deep in thought. Image Ann MacGillivray Veronica Tippetts addressing Court Leet Oct 2nd 2012. Image Will TempleJohn Melody Southampton Town Crier at Court Leet 2012. Image Will Temple