John Stevenson Collection

Official No:  132190    Port Number and Year:  3rd in Buckie,1921 (BCK ? )

                                                                               2nd in Fraserburgh,1928 (FR299)

                                                                               2nd in Milford, 1956

Description: Steel side drifter trawler; steam screw, coal burning.  Ketch rigged: mizzen and jib.

Crew:  8 men

Registered in Milford: 2 May 1956

Built: 1919, by Scott & Sons (Bowling) Ltd.

Tonnage: 96.08 grt 41.89 net.

Length / breadth / depth (feet):  86.2 / 18.6 / 9.3

Engine: T 3-Cyl. 42 nhp. 9 kts. Engine by William Beardmore, Coatbridge NB; boiler by Lobnitz & Co., Renfrew




1921?: J. Murray, Buckie



1928: J. D. Buchan and others, Aberdeen


Mar 1948: Adam Steam Fishing Co., Docks, Milford

Manager: Arthur C. Mitchell Bros.



2 May 1956: Merchants (Milford Haven), Docks, Milford

Manager: Frederick Walter Goffin, 93 Observatory Ave., Hakin


Landed at Milford: 15 Mar 1948 - 17 Apr 1956


Notes: 11 Sep 1919: Completed as Admiralty steel drifter WAFT ( 4191).

9 Jan 1920: Sold to Fishery Board of Scotland

Oct 1939: Requisitioned as GENIUS and converted to a minesweeper (P.No. FY 748)

Nov 1945: Returned to owners.

Jun 1956: Stranded and abandoned at the mouth of Waterford harbour. Total constructive loss.

Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 2 Jan 1957

Accidents and Incidents

From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 16th January 1953:


    We understand that there was a very good attendance and a long discussion at a special meeting on Thursday night of Merchants (Milford) Ltd., an organisation set up by local fish merchants to purchase trawlers to supplement landings.  Of the authorised share capital of 50,000, only 20,000 had been subscribed, but Merchants Ltd. have three drifter trawlers, and one boat of a pair which is now tied up. 

    It was pointed out at the meeting that if the increased capital required is forthcoming, the Company will purchase a pair, use the Agnes Nutten as a crabber, and bring the three drifters Twinkling Star, Genius and Burnhaven back to the port for as long a period as possible.  It is hoped that the small shareholders will increase their holdings and that further investment will be made by businessmen on the Docks and in the town.




From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 6th January 1956:


    Within the next three weeks two more tied-up trawlers will be at sea again.  They are the Merchants Ltd. vessels Genius and Twinkling Star, and both are now undergoing a refit by the Dry Dock Company.  Through the good offices of the Milford Docks Company, capital has been found to revive the company, and it is hoped that these two sailings will be a milestone on the way to more important development.


Back to Other Registrations A-H




From The Irish Times of Monday 18th June 1956, p.1:


Trawler driven on rocks


    The gale which swept Ireland early on Saturday took toll of shipping along the east coast, but no lives were lost.  The Dunmore East lifeboat rescued the crew of nine from the Milford Haven 42-ton trawler, Merchant Vanguard, after it was driven on the rocks at Hook Head, and the lifeboat from nearby Rosslare battled through dangerous seas to bring the battered 10-ton yacht, Julia, to port after her two-man crew had been taken off by a Dutch coaster.


    The skipper and eight-man crew of the trawler Merchant Vanguard had a harrowing experience before being rescued by the Dunmore East lifeboat, and some of the men were suffering from fatigue and exposure when picked up.  The trawler had been fishing of the south-east coast, and had on board a 1,000 cargo of fish.  She was running to Dunmore East for shelter when she grounded on the rocks near Hook Head at 1.30 a.m. on Saturday.

    Distress flares, which were fired immediately, were seen in Dunmore, and by the keepers of the Hook lighthouse, who telephoned the mechanic of the lifeboat.  The lifeboat put to sea almost immediately.  Meanwhile, the trawler crew got their lifeboat launched.  Before abandoning ship the skipper, Mr. C. A. Wilson, learned by radiotelephone from another vessel, the Hosanna, that the Dunmore East lifeboat was on its way.  After battling against the heavy seas, torrential rain and thick fog, the trawler crew found their lifeboat in danger of being swamped.



    Some of the crew were dressed only in their night-clothes, and they baled desperately to keep their dinghy afloat.  When the Dunmore East lifeboat located the men at 3.30 a.m. the boat was down to its gunwales.  The Merchant Vanguard crew - skipper, Mr. C. A. Wilson; mate, L.S. Gale; boatswain, F.C. Osbourne; chief engineer, T.D. Jones; deckhand, G. Setterfield; second engineer, W. Kelly; deckhand, Leslie Curtis; cook, G.A. Taylor; and deck trimer, T. Walsh - were taken to the Ocean View, where they were given warm clothes and refreshments.

    Later on Saturday, attempts were made to refloat the trawler, with the help of two sister ships, the Merchant Venturer and the De Luxe [sic], but after the hawsers repeatedly broke the attempt was abandoned. By the evening, when Mr. Wilson and his crew left Waterford for home in the Great Western, the vessel had swung broadside on to the rocks and had a damaged cabin, fish hold and steering post and was badly holed aft.




From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 22nd June, 1956:



Nine Milford Haven fishermen drifting helplessly in in a small open boat were rescued by a lifeboat off Dunmore, County Waterford, early on Saturday morning after a three-hour search in fog, darkness and heavy seas.

They were the Skipper and crew of the drifter-trawler Merchant Vanguard, which went on the rocks at The Hook, Dunmore, while seeking shelter in a sudden severe storm.  After taking to the small boats [sic] the men endured a harrowing three hours trying to keep afloat in seas which threatened to swamp their dinghy and wind and rain which soaked and chilled them.

The Dunmore lifeboat found them with the water up to the seats in the small boat and the men in an exhausted condition.

A lifeboatman said: "They are lucky to be alive.  They could not have lasted much longer in that tiny boat.  It was pure chance that we came across them after searching so long."


The men saved were:- Skipper Charles A. Wilson, 71, Marble Hall Road; Mate, Leonard S. Gale, 31, Cromwell Road; Bosun, F. Osbourne, 32, Murray Road; Chief Engineer, T. Jones, 72, Gellyswick Road; Second Engineer, W. Kelly, Sunny View, Pill; Cook, G.A. Taylor, 18, St. Lawrence Avenue; Deckhands, L. Curtis, 62, Waterloo Road,; G. Setterfield, 12, Observatory Avenue, and Deckhand Trimmer T. Walsh, Robert Street.


Their calm co-operation as a crew undoubtedly played a large part in their escape.  Skipper Wilson told our reporter: "Every member of the crew behaved magnificently and I am very proud of them. There was not a single grumbler."

Engineers Jones and Kelly added: "There was no panic at all.  We worked as a team," and Cook Alfred taylor commented, "Skipper Wilson never lost his head for one  moment.  He was a real hero."


Skipper Wilson described what happened.  "On Friday night the wind had reached gale force and visibility was poor.  I decided to make for the nearest shelter, the back of The Hook, near Dunmore.  Visibility was down to nil.  The wind and rain were terrific and an immense swell was running.  Suddenly I sighted breaking water on the bow. I immediately ordered hard to port but the ship grounded."

"The trawler was  listing very badly to port and I ordered the lifeboat to be launched.  Our port rail was then under water.  We pulled away but we began to ship water badly.  Soon we were having difficulty in keeping afloat.  The the searchlight of the Dunmore lifeboat picked us out . It was not a moment too soon.  The water was up to the seats and we had been trying to keep float [sic] for two and a half hours."


Chief Engineer Jones and his colleague, Second Engineer Kelly, were still showing signs of their ordeal when seen by a 'Guardian' reporter at Milford on Monday.  Mr. Kelly said he was on watch in the engineroom at about 1.30 a.m. when the ship hit the rocks and listed over.  "We tried to get her off," he said.  "We thought she might lift on one of the huge waves which were coming in with the surf.  But she was fast aground and the Skipper gave the order to launch the small boat.  He was sending out messages on the wireless transmitter until the last minute.  We pulled away from the ship which seemed to be toppling over us. There was a heavy surf and we found the water was pouring in over the gunwales.  The boat was going out to sea in a thick, foggy drizzle which closed in on us and we knew that if we drifted far out they would never find us.  We pulled back towards the trawler trying to keep the small boat head to wind and stop her filling up.  The water was up to the seats and we were all chilled to the bone when the searchlight from the lifeboat picked us up.  Usually the first light begins to break about three or four o'clock but it was so thick that morning that it was still pretty dark when it was nearly six o'clock.  The lifeboat crew took us aboard and gave us a tot of rum to warm us up.  They took the small boat in tow and in about half an hour we were landed in Dunmore.  We were taken to the Queen's Hotel and offered anything we wanted.  All we did want was a hot cup of tea, the trawlerman's usual standby."

This was Mr. Kelly's second shipwreck.  He was a member of the crew of the Edgar Victor which went on the rocks before the war and were rescued by the late Skipper Bobby Limbrick in another ship.


On Saturday Skipper Wilson and some of his crew went out on the Vanguard's sister ship, the Merchant Venturer, whose efforts to get their trawler off the rocks were unsuccessful.  The Venturer (Skipper Ernie Smith), the Hosanna (Skipper A. Wiseman) and the Deelux (Skipper Hubert Griffiths) all gave valuable assistance in rescue and salvage operations and Skipper Wilson expressed his gratitude to their crews.

The Merchant Vanguard was formerly the trawler Genius (built 1907) [sic], and was re-fitted and re-named by her new owners to return to sea only four trips ago.  It is expected that she will become a total wreck and Mr. J.C. Ward, General Manager of the Milford Docks Company and a director of Merchants, Ltd., is now in Ireland supervising arrangements.

 Skipper Wilson and his crew returned home via Waterford on Saturday night and although bruised and sore after a gruelling ordeal, they realised that they were lucky to be alive.


From The Irish Times of Saturday 23rd June 1956, p.5:


Stores taken from grounded trawler


    In order to lighten the vessel, coal, stores and other equipment are being removed from the Milford Haven steam trawler Merchant Vanguard, which lies on the rocks near Hook Head lighthouse on the south Wexford coast.  The vessel is in no immediate danger, and an attempt to refloat her will be made during the coming weekend spring tides.



From  the West Wales Guardian of Friday 3rd August 1956:


    A telegram received on Thursday afternoon contained hopeful news of the attempts to salvage the drifter trawler Merchant Vanguard, owned by Merchants Milford Haven. 

    The ship went ashore in bad weather at Dunmore, Ireland.  The insurance company salvagers have since had considerable success in getting her off the rocks.  Thursday's telegram states that the ship was now upright, that port side damage was of a minor nature and that the company was awaiting favourable weather and suitable tides to refloat.

    The Merchant Vanguard had been refitted and overhauled by her new owners and had made a promising start on her fishing operations when ill luck overtook her.




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