Captain William Strike Of Porthleven
By Neil Hawks.ISBN: 978-1844-860-630.
Published by the author, 12, Islington Place, Brighton, BN2 9XH (tel:01273 694126)
£3.00 including post and packing.
This work represents the author's labour of love, which has now been produced as a first class 29 page booklet of octavo size with seven illustrations, all in a card cover. The booklet covers the life and times of Captain William Strike from Porthleven. It starts with Porthleven in the 19th. Century, examining the development of this south-west facing artificial port, which readers may have seen featured on the television with huge waves breaking spectacularly on the pier in times of bad weather. The author traces the development of the harbour from the Act of Parliament in 1811, to its initial completion in 1818, followed by its rebuilding following severe storm damage in 1824, and the eventual construction of a wet dock or inner harbour in 1855 which is essentially as it appears to this day. This latter work was undertaken by Harveys of Hayle, who had purchased the harbour. Whilst Porthleven had its ups and downs, given local economic features, it did became a centre for fishing. Also, a number of prominent merchants were based at the port, such as the Cudlips, Holmans and Soloman Rowe, who all operated trading vessels, with copper being taken to South Wales and coal brought back.
Sections 2 and 3 deal specifically with Captain William Strike and his life, initially in the coastwise trade, but becoming involved in foreign trade from 1841 to Newfoundland and the Iberian Peninsula, before applying for recognition as a 'Master' in 1850 "by experience", which was agreed. This was at about the time examinations for competence became necessary. In 1855 William Strike became master and part-owner of the Jane, built in Garmouth in 1838. In June 1860 he purchased with other partners the new schooner Ready Rhino.
Section 4 looks at William Strike's family, from his fisherman father to his six sea-going sons who all followed in his footsteps. Hannibal, the eldest, commanded the schooner Brothers; William, dying in Naples aboard the Cambria; John owned the Elizabeth Stevens, wrecked in South Africa, and the steamship Marquis of Lorne and the Woolwich Infant. The fifth son, Samson, was lost in the schooner Victory; and Edward ended up as master of the Hain steamship Trevelyan. The final son, Thomas, commanded the Hain steamships Treverbyn and Treloske.
Section 5 examines the Ready Rhino and its trading years, which included the Argentine trade, and trips to to Galatz, in Romania on the Black Sea, from where a regular trade in grain was carried, and later to Rio Grande, Brazil. Captain Strike eventually retired from the sea in 1881. The final section covers the crews who sailed with Captain Strike, their recruitment, discipline and desertion.
Altogether this is a most fascinating account of the development of localised ship ownership and operation during the period to the 1880's when wood construction gradually gave way firstly to iron and later steel, but a period when the local ports and their facilities had a strong part to play. This is an excellent overview and one that should be in every maritime historian's wish list.
Reviewed by David B. Clement
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