Category Archives: Sailing ships

Samuel Feake’s memorial, Henham,


My chum Malcolm Woods happened to visit the Church of St Mary The Virgin in the Essex village of Henham the other day and found this amazing memorial to one Samuel Feake and family. He described the ship carved on the urn as ‘particularly delicious’.

I’ve left the images nice and large so that folks will be able to read the inscriptions.

The Henham website has this to say:

‘Samuel Feake was Governor of Fort Bengal, and Chairman of the East India Company. Of his family, his wife died at sea on her way home, and three children died in India: another son died at a later age in India, which took a great toll of their family. Samuel Feake, two sons, and the last of the family, Mary, are buried in the family vault here. Their hatchments, showing the arms of Feake, Hampton, and Cruse, are in the church: a hatchment, or funeral escutcheon contained the coat of arms of the dead person within a black lozenge-shaped frame, and hung over the principal entrance to the house for about a year after death, when it was often placed in the parish church. The ground of the hatchment is black round the arms of the deceased, and white round the survivor.’

I’m left wondering how this grand and successful chap should have been denied any honours in his lifetime. Did he do something wrong, I wonder, or did his demise simply catch his betters by surprise? That must have happened a lot…

My thanks to Malcolm, of course.

Pamir, one of the last commercial sailing Cape Horners

Published in May, 1948, this photo-story about the Pamir, one of the last few sailing cargo ships to round Cape Horn on a regular basis, was written by Alan Villiers and accompanied by photographs taken by Norman McNeill is a remarkable document that describes what must often have been a miserable existence, made bearable, probably, by the camaraderie of the crew and the promise of a landfall.

It also provides a splendid example of how to write seriously salty copy.

I’m grateful to sailing pal, excellent chap and East Coast Pilot co-author Dick Holness for bringing it to my attention.

We shouldn’t underestimate the power this had over the minds of boys and young men of my father’s generation and before…

‘Alone in a world heading into the atomic age, the sailing ship made use of free winds of God without benefit of artifice; and the satisfactions of those who served were deep and real. Every voyage was a challenge; it’s safe achievement a triumph.

‘Beautiful as these ships were, they bred a tough race of men. Crews manhandling their ships across the face of the seas, lived close to Nature. They learned to fight not only for every inch the sailer (sic) made along the road, but for their own existence.

‘In those days men thought nothing of living in forecastles ankle deep in sea water. Intense cold cracked their hands and made tough callouses open, running sores.

‘Nothing could be done about such wounds save to daub them in Stockholm tar. No wonder old-timers boasted that their blood was Stockholm tar, their every hair a rope yarn, their fingers marlin spikes.’

Messages from the Sea: some the saddest, shortest little sea stories you will ever read

Messages from the Sea


Messages from the Sea publishes some the saddest, shortest little sea stories I have ever come across. There’s something deeply human about spending your last minutes writing a message and casting it afloat in a bottle…