A Waterford Boy Sailor

I read recently that some children do not leave home until 27 years of age.  Although this has less to do with protection and more to do with finances, spare a thought for the child sailors of the 18th & 19th C. It will comes as no surprise of course to anyone who read the stories of Horatio Hornblower or watched that fine movie Master and Commander.

Boys as young as 12 were recruited, often as a means of escaping poverty, others as a means of punishment/reform, to fill various positions aboard ship. These roles included servant boys, cabin boys, carpenters mates, and, what I have read was the worst job in the navy, a Loblolly boy – surgeons mate. The navy was also a career of course and the families of the middle classes also sent their boys to become midshipmen who through study, experience and not to mention luck, might enhance their opportunities.  A phrase used to capture the lot was Younkers.

Philip Richard Morris – Two Young Midshipmen in Sight of Home
http://19thcenturybritpaint.blogspot.ie/2013/02/

The life of the younkers was a mixed one no doubt, and probably very much depended on their posting and those given charge of them. But there were opportunities for advancement and the greatest Master and Commander of the era, Admiral Nelson started life as a twelve year old midshipman. We also had midshipman from the Waterford area including Faithlegg’s Henry Bolton. I’m not sure if we can say his career was typical, but it is certainly interesting.

Henry was the youngest son of Cornelius Bolton. The Boltons were the owners of Faithlegg House, now hotel of the same name, and Henry was born there in July 1796. Unfortunately not being first born put the young lad at a disadvantage and on the 19th March 1809 he joined the Royal Navy, signing on as a First Class Volunteer aboard the 74 gun ship of the line HMS Victorius.  He was a few months short of his 13th Birthday

He first saw action during the Napoleonic wars, when the Royal Navy in alliance with the Austrians tried to cut off the French fleet at Flushing and invade the low countries. The so called Walcheren Campaign was a disaster from start to finish and saw the deaths of 4000+ British troops, the vast majority from illness.  Henry survived however.
example of a fifth rate frigate such as HMS Thetis
He next saw action in the Mediterranean, and finished off his stint with the ship when during the war of 1812 declared by America against the British. His ship limped back to home following a grounding incident while trying to blockade American ships in the Elisabeth River and he was transferred to the HMS Tiber.  He served on the Tiber from 1814-1815.
He joined the HMS Opossum in April 1815, a Cherokee class Brig which saw service in the Channel and the North America Station.  He served under Commander John Hay, a man who would later to rise to a position of Rear Admiral.
His next ship was the Sloop, HMS Blossom, on which he served between 1818 -1827. The Blossom was involved in extensive surveying of the pacific Islands and extending the British dominion wherever she sailed.  Bolton would have had a front row seat to the colonial exploits, and he must have had many adventures and stories to tell.
“HMS Blossom (1806)” by William Smyth (1800-1877) – Transferred from en.wikipedia
to Commons. (15 August 2009 (original upload date)) Original uploader was Shem1805
at en.wikipedia(Original text: National Maritime Museum online collections). Licensed under
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HMS_Blossom_
(1806).jpg#/media/File:HMS_Blossom_(1806).jpg
His last ship was the HMS Thetis, a 46 gun 5th rate Frigate. He joined the ship in 1827 in a senior position and served aboard her until August 1830 at which point he got an appointment ashore at Waterford.  He was fortunate. 4 months later on the 4th of December the Thetis was wrecked at Cape Frio on the South American Coast. The wreck was a major embarrassment to the Navy and both the captain and master faced a naval tribunal due to miscalculating the ships position. The ship was only a day out of Rio when she drifted ashore. She was later lost with 25 souls, (although 275 men and boys survived) but it was the cargo that was the biggest talking point. She was carrying gold bullion and coinage estimated at the then value of $810,000, collected from taxes and trade.
Meanwhile Captain Bolton was most probably looking forward to a Christmas ashore, in his new position of Inspecting Commander of the Coastguard at Waterford. He served two terms and following his marriage in 1839 to Ann, only child of William Kearney of Waterford they settled into civilian life, and the couple moved to what to this day is called Bolton Cottage, at Ballinlaw Co Kilkenny, on the River Barrow.
He died on May 30th 1852, having seen most of the world, despite the fact that he didn’t have a TV or the Internet. He was buried in old Faithlegg Church with his father.

I took all of the information about his Naval career from the following naval biography and a further piece here. For more on Henry Bolton see Julian Walton’s On This Day, Vol II.  published in 2014 pp152-53.

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Chasing the Smugglers – Waterford harbour Coastguards 1822

The HM Coastguard service was created in 1822 when the Revenue Cruisers, Riding officers, and the Preventative Waterguard were amalgamated into a single force to try tackle incidents of smuggling and to enforce the collection of taxes. Waterford was in the top three ports of the country and required a significant force to patrol the coast and the harbour entrance. The administrative base for the port of Waterford and New Ross was the city, but the operations were at their busiest at Passage East and Ballyhack.
Passage East and Ballyhack on the opposite bank
via Paul O’Farrell

We saw in my cousin James Doherty’s guest blog a few weeks back, that smuggling was a constant issue for the crown in the waters around Waterford, and indeed Ireland. It was seen as a legitimate way to do business and it could be argued by local merchants as a legitimate way of engaging in trade when seen against the harsh taxes and controls placed on irish merchants by the crown. The smugglers used a variety of methods; hiding contraband in legitimate cargo, running ship loads of illicit cargo, transferring cargo to others such as fishing boats or calling to out of the way drop off points along the coast and harbour to off load part of their cargo. The enforcement of tax collection and the prevention of smuggling then, required a vast force.

A government paper1 of the time gives a list of the roles, the numbers employed and the costs associated with maintaining the Coastguard service at Waterford and New Ross.  In total, 92 men were employed.
A well armed preventative man!  Accessed from
http://hastingschronicle.net/features/hastings-coastguards-and-smugglers/

The top was shared by two positions the Collector and the Comptroller, their chief duty seems to have more to do with keeping each other in check, than overseeing the collection of tax (a seemingly regular enough practice within the structure of the organisation). Under them were several clerks, storekeepers and surveyors to ensure the smooth administration of a vast network of river related roles.  The Office of Waterford was housed in the customs house, based on the quays but we can see from the document a sub office in New Ross, and a presence at Dunmore, Cheekpoint but principally at Passage East, and I presume Ballyhack.

Passage and Ballyhack are an obvious site, due to their strategic location. Ships could reach the villages under sail without too much difficulty and there anchor to await unloading by the lighter boats, sailing when tide and wind allowed and/or towing to ports by the hobblers.  First aboard was the Tide Surveyor (earlier called tyde) to check the manifest and cargo and ensure all was in order. The particulars of the ships cargo and journey was taken for record. A Tide Waiter (wayter) was left aboard the ship to ensure that nothing was removed from the vessel and he would stay with the ship day and night. The Waiters would leave if the cargo was moved to a lighter, or remain aboard and travel upriver if the ship headed to Waterford or Ross. Once arriving in port, the waiter presented himself to the custom house to account for the cargo, the unloading being carried out by porters, supervised by landing waiters, and these under the supervision of Land Surveyors.
A fleet of boatmen and craft serviced the coastguard, ensuring ease of transport to and from vessels and between the lower harbour and the ports.  Meanwhile along the coastline further watchers were stationed.  These included coast officers and walking officers and also men on horseback known as riding officers. Between them they would keep a watch on approaching ships and would effectively follow them along the coast to Passage or Ballyhack, handing over responsibility and providing any observations to the Surveyor on duty.

The total cost of the operation at the time was £8,005 which I presume was for the year. The most numerous employees were working as tide waiters and supernumerary tide waiters which numbered 42 men alone.

An advert to twart the smugglers
Accessed from: http://jennywattstreasure.com/
history-of-smuggling-in-ireland-bootlegging/

I was interested to note that there was a also a Tidy Surveyor in position at Dunmore East.  It must be presumed this role was the oversee the Mail packet station as it operated from here at the time. Contemporary and historical works suggest the Packet service in general was a regular method of smuggling, either in the ships manifest or by individual crew.

Try as the coastguard might, the numbers of vessels and the ingenuity of sailors and merchants, created a constant supply of smuggled goods. It would take a fundamental shift in government policy towards free trade and fairer taxes later in the century before the problem started to be effectively addressed.2

  

For more on this subject The Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society’s next lecture is on 28th April at 8 p.m. in St Patricks Gateway, Patrick St, Waterford,  The lecture is “The Forgotten Force.” by Mr James Doherty and will look at H.M. Coastguard in pre-independence Ireland. Regulations, Roles and Responsibilities.  €5 for non-members, free for members

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can connect with me to receive the blog every week.  Simply email me to request to be added to my email list at russianside@gmail.com.

1. Detailed Account of Establishment for Collection of Customs and Ports of Ireland 1821-22.  Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland

2. King’s Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855, by E. Keble Chatterton

Here’s some very interesting information on smuggling and the Coast Guard service from West Waterford via the county museum:  
http://www.waterfordmuseum.ie/exhibit/web/Display/article/369/6/Ardmore_Memory_and_Story__The_Sea_The_Coastguard_Service.html

For more on the operations at Waterford and specifically Passage, see Decies #31 by Francis Murphy
http://snap.waterfordcoco.ie/collections/ejournals/100748/100748-1.pdf

the life of a Waterford boy sailor

I read recently that some children do not leave home until 27 years of age.  Although this has less to do with protection and more to do with finances, spare a thought for the child sailors of the 18th & 19th C. It will comes as no surprise of course to anyone who read the stories of Horatio Hornblower or watched that fine movie Master and Commander.  But the Royal Navy had very marked shortages in crew, particularly at time of war.

Boys as young as 12 were recruited, often as a means of escaping poverty, others as a means of punishment or reform, to fill various roles aboard ship. These roles included servant boys, cabin boys, carpenters mates, and, what I have read was the worst job in the navy, a Loblolly boy – surgeons mate. The navy was also a career of course and the families of the middle classes also sent their boys to become midshipmen who through study and experience might enhance their opportunities.  A phrase used to capture the lot was Younkers.

Philip Richard Morris – Two Young Midshipmen in Sight of Home
http://19thcenturybritpaint.blogspot.ie/2013/02/

The life of the younkers was a mixed one no doubt, and probably very much depended on their posting and those given charge of them. But there were opportunities for advancement and the greatest Master and Commander of the era, Admiral Nelson started life as a twelve year old midshipman. We also had a midshipman from our locality, Henry Bolton. I’m not sure if we can say his career was typical, but it is certainly interesting.

Henry was the youngest son of Cornelius Bolton. The Boltons were the owners of Faithlegg House, now hotel of the same name, and Henry was born there in July 1796. Unfortunately not being first born put the young lad at a disadvantage and on the 19th March 1809 he joined the Royal Navy, signing on as a First Class Volunteer aboard the 74 gun ship of the line HMS Victorius.  He was a few months short of his 13th Birthday

He first saw action during the Napoleonic wars, when the Royal Navy in alliance with the Austrians tried to cut off the French fleet at Flushing and invade the low countries. The so called Walcheren Campaign was a disaster from start to finish and saw the deaths of 4000+ British troops, the vast majority from illness.  Henry survived however.

example of a fifth rate frigate such as HMS Thetis 
He next saw action in the Mediterranean, and finished off his stint with the ship when during the war of 1812 declared by America against the British. His ship limped back to home following a grounding incident while trying to blockade American ships in the Elisabeth River and he was transferred to the HMS Tiber.  He served on the Tiber from 1814-1815.
He joined the HMS Opossum in Arpil 1815, a Cherokee class Brig which saw service in the Channel and the North America Station.  He served under Commander John Hay, who would later to rise to a position of rear Admiral.
His next ship was the Sloop, HMS Blossom, on which he served between 1818 -1827. The Blossom was involved in extensive surveying of the pacific Islands and extending the British dominion wherever she sailed.  Bolton must have had many adventures and stories to tell.

“HMS Blossom (1806)” by William Smyth (1800-1877) – Transferred from en.wikipedia
to Commons. (15 August 2009 (original upload date)) Original uploader was Shem1805 
at en.wikipedia(Original text: National Maritime Museum online collections). Licensed under
 Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HMS_Blossom_
(1806).jpg#/media/File:HMS_Blossom_(1806).jpg
His last ship was the HMS Thetis, a 46 gun 5th rate Frigate. He joined the ship in 1827 in a senior position and served aboard her until August 1930 at which point he got an appointment ashore at Waterford.  He was fortunate. 4 months later on the 4th of December the Thetis was wrecked at Cape Frio on the South American Coast. The wreck was a major embarrassment to the Navy and both the captain and master faced a naval tribunal due to miscalculating the ships position. The ship was only a day out of Rio when she drifted ashore. She was later lost with 25 souls, (although 275 men and boys survived) but it was the cargo that was the biggest talking point. She was carrying gold bullion and coinage estimated at the then value of $810,000, collected from taxes and trade.
Meanwhile Captain Bolton was most probably looking forward to a Christmas ashore, in his new position of Inspecting Commander of the Coast guard at Waterford. He served two terms and following his marriage in 1839 to Ann, only child of William Kearney of Waterford they settled into civilian life, spending some of it at least at Ballinlaw, above Cheekpoint on the River Barrow.
He died on May 30th 1852, having seen most of the world, despite the fact that he didn’t have a TV or the Internet. He was buried in old Faithlegg Church with his father.

I took all of the information about his Naval career from the following naval biography and a further piece here. For more on Henry Bolton see Julian Walton’s On This Day, Vol II.  published in 2014 pp152-53.


I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can connect with me to receive the blog every week.  Simply email me to request to be added to my email list at russianside@gmail.com.