John Stevenson Collection

Official No:  91652   Port Number and Year:  5th in Granton, 1885 (GN7)

                                                                                -   in Aberdeen, 1896. (A809)

                                                                             2nd in Milford, in 1901

Description: Wooden steam screw coal burner; lining and trawling.  Ketch rigged.

Crew: 6 men (1901)

Registered at Milford: 7 Feb 1901

Built: J. McKenzie Boat Builders, Leith, in 1885

Tonnage: 46.5 grt  18.52 net

Length / breadth / depth (feet): 67.3 / 17.3 / 7.32

Engine: by John Cran & Co Ltd., Leith. 9 hp.



As GN7

2 Nov 1885:  James L. Cuncliffe, Plewlands House, Mercheston, Edinburgh.

By 1891: Managing owner.


As A809

26 Oct 1896: George Cormack, Abbey Rd., Torry, Aberdeen.

Managing owner.


1900: George Phelps Eynon, "Globe Hotel", Victoria Rd., Milford.


As M162

7 Feb 1901:  Edward James Hellings, 5 Hamilton Tce., Milford

James Hellings, 5 Hamilton Tce., Milford

John Brown, 'Berlyn', Wellington Rd., Hakin

Managing owner: E. J. Hellings, Docks, Milford


Landed at Milford:  24 Mar - 8 Jun 1900;  14 Feb 1901 - 1 Apr 1906


1901: Rimmer; Brown; Hancock; Brown.

1902 - 1904: Brown, Kilby.

1905: Brown; Cornish; Sturley; Brown, Pook; Cornish; Nicholas; Cornish.

1906: Cornish; W. Evans.


Merlin was the magician who guided the destiny of King Arthur; he was linked to the Welsh bard Myrddhin.

18 Apr 1906: Caught fire and foundered 40 miles SW of St. Ann's Head. [See below.]

Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 26 Apr 1906.

 Accidents and Incidents 

From The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser of Friday 5th December 1902:

    MILFORD SEAMAN DROWNED AT WATERFORD.— At Waterford, on Thursday, an inquest was held on the body of Arthur Mabbs, engineer of the steam trawler Merlin, of Milford, who, in Waterford harbour on the previous day, fell overboard and was drowned. He was seen struggling in the water, but efforts to rescue him were unsuccessful. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidentally Drowned." Deceased was aged 39 years, and belonged to Milford. He leaves a widow and family. The body was afterward brought in the vessel to Milford which was reached on Saturday. The body was taken to his house in Manchester Square, and the funeral took place on Sunday in the presence ot a large gathering. Deceased leaves a widow and one child. 


From The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser of Friday 9th January 1903:



    James Kilby, skipper of the steam trawler "Merlin" was charged by John George Cayley, agents for the owners, of the "Camrose", with stealing part of a trawl net, value £4, from the deck of the trawler "Camrose," the property of Messrs. Harkness & Son, at Milford Docks on December 20th. Mr H. T. P. Williams was for the prosecution, and Mr W. Davies George for the defence.

    Mr George asked that the defendant might be allowed to sit near him so that he might instruct him during the hearing of the case. The Bench agreed, as they also did to an application that all the witnesses might be ordered out of Court.

    The names of the witnesses were read out, and some laughter was caused in Court by P.S. Brinn ordering each of the witnesses, as their names were called out, 'to go down below.' At the end of the list came P.S. Brinn himself, and Mr George remarked that he did not know what to say about him. (Laughter).

    P.S. Brinn: I suppose I must go too. (Renewed laughter.)

    Mr R. T. P. Williams said defendant was charged with stealing a net of the value of about £4, so that, as their worships knew, it was not a case they could try. All they would be able to do was to say whether there was prima facie case to go before a jury. Mr Williams then went on to describe the evidence which he should lay before the Court. He said the net was seen on the deck of the 'Camrose' at four o'clock on the 11th, and was gone when the night watchman went on duty about 5.30, although it was not actually missed until the vessel got out to sea some five miles. Capt. Pickering, when he found the net was not on board, put back to Milford, and some inquiries were made, as a result of which, a warrant was obtained, and the "Merlin" was searched. Sometime during the afternoon of Friday the "Merlin" had been berthed aside the "Camrose". The search resulted in the discovery of the net in the fore peak, the hatch of which was covered by a tarpaulin battened down. He (Mr. Williams) would be able to show that about 5 o'clock on the 19th the defendant was in the neighbourhood of the vessel, and he would then ask the bench to say a prima facie case had been made out, and commit defendant to the Assizes.

    Capt. Cayley deposed:  I recently ordered a new net of Miss Fee, a net maker. It was to be made in parts. One part, I believe, had been delivered before the 19th. I recollect Friday, the 19th, meeting two of my men coming along the Quay. They were the third hand and the deck hand of the "Camrose." It was somewhere between 12 and 1. They were carrying [a] net, and they put it on board the "Camrose's" deck. They were carrying it by two loops of rope in the form of handles put through some of the meshes. I noticed an eyelet of a tally attached to the thinnest loop. I did not see the net again that day. I saw it next on board the "Merlin" on the Sunday at about 8.30.

    The net was then brought into court, and Mr Ll. Davies asked if it was unusual for handles to be put on nets?

    Witness: I don't know about the handles, but it is unusual for an eyelet to be attached to the string.

    The net was brought closer to the Bench for their inspection, and the Magistrates questioned witness as to what there was about the handles, that was peculiar.

    Witness: One took particular notice of the eyelet.

    Mr LI. Davies: There is nothing unusual about those handles. Anyone could put a piece of string into the net.

    Chairman: You say you recognise the net because of the handles?

    Witness: That is one thing.

    Col. Roberts Is that the only means?

    Witness: And by its bulk.

    Chairman: Would not another be of like bulk?

    Witness: Perhaps not.

    At this point, the Chairman said there must be no feeling shown in the court, and if there were any remarks the court would be cleared. There must be no feeling shown one way or the other.

    In answer to Mr Williams, the witness said he was positive that was the net he saw on the Friday. Continuing witness said the 'Camrose' put to sea on the Saturday, and put back. Capt. Pickering made a statement to him, in consequence of which a search warrant was executed on the steamship "Merlin." Sergeants Brinn and Evans, Capt. Pickering and witness were present. The net was found in the fore peak, which was secured by a hatch, covered with a tarpaulin battened down. The hatchway was the only entrance to the fore-peak. He saw a little old net lying loose in the fore peak. The net was seen from the top by him. He had told Sergts. Evans and Brinn about the handles on the net before they looked into the fore-peak. The hatchway was closed up, and defendant was sent for. P.S. Brinn told him a search warrant had been obtained to search his vessel, and defendant replied that they could go and search without him, as he wanted to go home and have his breakfast. P.S. Brinn told him he had better stop and keep them under observation. They went on board again and took off the hatch again. Defendant shouted out to Pickering and said "What have you lost, Tom?" and Pickering replied "Only a part of a net." When the net was shown him, Pickering said it was his property. The net was then brought up on deck, and witness asked defendant if it was his. Defendant replied. "I don't know one from the other. I had ordered five bellies from the gourock."

    The Chairman: What is a belly?

     Mr Williams: Is this a belly?

    Witness said it was, and that it would sometimes be called a baiting. Pickering said he could indentify that net among all the other nets in Milford. Defendant replied, "Well, if it is yours, take it." Defendant was then taken to the police station. The value of the net was from £3 10s., to £4.

    Examined by Mr George. He did not notice where the 'Merlin' was when the net was put on board. He had been connected with the fishing trade for a great many years, but had never been to sea except as a passenger. He would undertake to identify the net, although it was in an unpacked state, and notwithstanding that old seafaring men said they could not identity an unpacked net. If the net was made to his order there ought to be a certain number of meshes in it, and he was prepared to give the number there ought to be in it, though he did not know if they were there. He took the net because the skipper identified it, and witness told the police what kind of handles were on it before they were there. The handles were the only means of identification he had. It was not his experience that such handles were usually put on when men carried a new net. They generally carried it in a bag or barrow. He knew defendant was a householder, skipper, and part owner of the 'Merlin,' yet he had a search-warrant taken out. He did not have the defendant arrested. Sergt. Brinn could tell them about that part of the affair.

    The Clerk said the search warrant directed that the person responsible was to be arrested.

    Cross-examination continued.— He did not go down into the fore peak, but looked into it. He saw no other new net there, and if there was one it must have been under the pieces of old net. Defendant never asked to see the warrant but told them to go and search. Witness did not think anything about whether that was the conduct of a guilty man. He never heard defendant say "I must have some nets left, and I don't want anything that doesn't belong to me."

    Capt. Thomas Marshall Pickering, skipper of the "Camrose", said I remember Friday, December 19. I had given Miss Fee instructions for the making of a net, and after it was completed it was taken to Mr. Pettit's to be tarred. I sent two men for it on Friday and they brought it about noon. I saw the net about 12.30, after it was put on board. It was on the port bow. I noticed the two handles that had been put on it to carry it. The net in court is the one, and I have no doubt about its identity. I left about one, and it was there then. The 'Merlin' was on the other side of the Dock then. I rejoined the 'Camrose' about 8.30 Saturday morning and went to sea. I missed the net about five miles outside St. Anne's Head, and that was at noon. I put back and gave information to Mr. Cayley and the Dock police. I went next morning to the 'Merlin' when the officers and Mr. Cayley were searching the vessel. I saw the net in the fore peak when the batch was taken up. I only saw some pieces of old net there beside. The hatch was tarpaulined and battened down in the usual way.— Witness then corroborated as to the conversation which took place between P.S. Brinn and defendant.

    This witness, too, was closely cross-examined by Mr Davies-George and by the Bench. He adhered to the opinion that he could identify the net produced as the one that was missing, but added that the additional proof lay in the fact that he had ordered the net to be of a certain mesh. He had not examined it to see whether his instructions were carried out, but it could soon be proved by examining the net. He also described what the instructions were when the net was ordered.

    Henry Mills, mate of the "Camrose," said he saw the net at about 3.45 on board. He admitted that be could not identify the net.

    Dock P.C. Edwards, Benjamin Fry (night watchman on the "Camrose"), Benjamin Fry (his son), P.S. Brinn, Dock P.S. Evans and Miss Fee, net maker, were called and gave evidence. The latter identified the net found on the Merlin as the one she made for Mr Cayley.

    Mr George addressed the court at length for the defence, and the Bench having consulted in private the Chairman announced that they had decided to dismiss the case. The result was received with applause in court which was at once suppressed, and this being all the business the court rose.



From The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser of Friday 14th October 1904:


BOAT SMASHED.—The liner Merlin was ranging along the Quay wall at the end of last week, when one of the boats got between steamer and wall, and was smashed to pieces. 



From the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph of Wednesday 25th April 1906:


    At daybreak on Wednesday last, when forty miles to the westward of St. Ann's Head, and about twenty miles off the Smalls Lighthouse, a fire broke out aboard the steam liner "Merlin" of this port.

    The seat of the conflagration was in the engine room.  The crew, with their captain, W. Evans, worked with unflagging zeal for two hours to extinguish the outbreak, but all in vain, and the crew being in great peril of being overpowered by the fumes, they were compelled to leave the burning vessel and take to the trawler's small boat.  They stood by until the vessel burnt down to the water's edge, and were subsequently picked up by the Yarmouth drifter "Girl Kathleen", and brought into Milford.

    The "Merlin" was owned by Messrs. J. Hellings and Son, fish salesmen.  This makes the third liner to be lost to the port of Milford recently.


From B.T. & R. Larn (2000): Shipwreck Index of the British Isles, Vol 5


MERLIN                                                                                       18/04/1906


Bristol Channel [sic], Saint Ann's Head, offshore, 40M SW         51.12N 05.54W


Foundered after catching fire offshore and burning until she sank.





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