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Just a start on a page of interesting stories about folks from Sunderland, stories that interest the webmaster & hopefully may also interest you. Of limited content today, as the page commences. More content soon, I am sure!

So far just .... William Shotton, Clarkson Stanfield, & Sir Joseph Wilson Swan.



An eBay item in Aug. 2012 was a 1930s copy of a 251 page book entitled 'Boy Skipper', originally written by William Charles Metcalfe back in 1895 & many times republished, often referred to as 'The Boy Skipper or I Have Only Done My Duty'.
The subject matter of the book, as extensively advised (thanks!) by eBay vendor 'robins49', was most interesting - an 18 year old apprentice from Sunderland, who in some very dire circumstances took charge of Trafalgar, a 1765 ton barque, & safely navigated it from near Batavia (i.e. Jakata, Indonesia) to Melbourne, Australia, a distance of almost 3,400 nautical miles.

A promotional page re the volume, when first published back in 1895, can be seen here. With a modest image of William Shotton.

I was discouraged however from bidding on the volume when I saw a number of WWW references that described the book as being a work of fiction. But ... the story is most certainly not a work of fiction. The story is for real! Here are the eBay listing's descriptive words:-

'A real sailing adventure written for juveniles, the true story of William Shotton, a young 'Geordie' lad from Sunderland, who joined the 271 ft, 1700 tonnage, four-masted iron sailing ship 'Trafalgar' as an apprentice. The ship was converted into a four-masted barque whilst in port at Cardiff in 1892 to save labour. In 1893, when he was only 18-years-old, he had just finished his apprenticeship and, with all the other apprentices having just been transferred to other ships at New York, was made 'third mate' on the 'Trafalgar'. They sailed on to Batavia, where they were delayed with fever on board, at this point the Captain died, the 'first mate' was promoted to take his place and a new 'first mate' was taken on, the 'second mate' was discharged for bullying before the crew could murder him, and a seaman from the foc'sle was promoted to 'second mate'. They set sail for Melbourne, and within a short space of time, the cook, the ship's carpenter, the new captain and 'first mate', all succumbed to the fever and died, leaving only the 18-year-old William Shotton, and a lazy 'second mate' who knew nothing about navigation, to run the ship. The crew, encouraged by the lazy 'second mate' refused to do any work apart from the minimum required for sailing the ship, with the 'second mate' resigning when he was found out. This just left William Shotton to navigate their course, but with help to run the ship from the Irish sailmaker Hugh O'Brien who urged the crew to turn out, and assistance from the steward John Lane, they finally made it safely all the way to Melbourne, where Shotton was awarded a gold watch and chain by the Government, and O'Brien a silver one. Shotton also being awarded a Medal for Meritorious Services by Lloyds of London, along with a 'subscription' of £290.'

I learn that Trafalgar was not a Sunderland built ship - in fact it was built in 1877 at the Scotstoun, Glasgow, yard of Charles Connell & Co. Ltd. - 271.5 ft. long overall, a 4-masted ship of 1765 gross tons. As you can read next, ex Lloyd's Register of 1880/81. ON 76811. The vessel was re-rigged as a barque in 1892. It was owned by W. & A. (Alfred) Brown & Co., of Glasgow until 1893 & then became owned by Andrew Weir & Co., of Glasgow. Data about the ship can be read here.

The whole subject was well covered in the Australian newspapers of the time. And first, an image of Trafalgar & of the young William Shotton (1875/1958), as published in 'Australian Town & Country Journal' of Jan. 6, 1894 (the related text is below).

A few of the contemporary references to the story, ex 'Trove' Australia, particularly a) ex 'Australian Town & Country Journal' of Jan. 6, 1894, b) ex the 'Advertiser', of Adelaide, of Dec. 25, 1893, & c) ex the 'Barrier Miner', of Broken Hill, of Jan. 19, 1894. There are errors or omissions in the articles - the sail-maker who was awarded a silver watch & chain for his valiant services by the Government of Victoria, was Hugh O'Brien rather than Hugh Kennedy. While John Lane, the steward, who also assisted & was supportive throughout, received no mention. I have seen the 'fever' many times described as 'Java fever'.

It would appear that the vessel was in ballast when it left Batavia.

A fine early image of Trafalgar, thanks to the State Library of Victoria, Australia, available via 'Trove', Australia. I have tried to provide a link to the image at such site but am unable to get the link to be reliable.

Captain M. Bower assumed command of Trafalgar at Melbourne & William Shotton was promoted to 2nd mate for the vessel's return voyage to London. Lloyd's of London awarded him a Medal for Meritorious Services & later on awarded him £290, payable in large part when he became a master. At that presentation, Shotton, simply said in response - 'I am very grateful to you, gentlemen, but I only did my duty'.

Shotton in 1897 became a captain & in Aug. 1902, he returned to Australia - to Sydney, New South Wales, on this occasion - when in command of Jeseric which command made him 'commodore skipper' of a fleet of 35 vessels, both steam and sail. The book, in text presumably written at first publication, refers to his being the 'youthful commander of the steamship Duneric, owned by Messrs. A. Weir & Co, the well-known firm of shipowners in Glasgow, and in whose employ the Boy Skipper served his time.' Duneric was built in 1896. The fleet would seem to have been Bank Line.

It would be good to be able to advise, perhaps in due course, greater detail about the circumstances that resulted in the loss of Trafalgar, which was wrecked on Nov. 11, 1904, 50 nautical miles S. of Recife, Brazil, while en route from Sydney, Australia, to Falmouth, Cornwall, with a cargo of wheat.

The Shotton family? Snippets of WWW data advise me that the father was Stephen Shotton & in 1881 at least the family resided on Laura Street in Sunderland. A large family, the husband away at sea all the time, wife, 8 brothers (all of whom went to sea), & sisters also. The family is noted for service in the Merchant Navy out of the north east & out of the ports of Bristol & Cardiff also. One of the brothers, first name not available, was the captain of Norwich City, which arrived at Brisbane, Australia, ex New York, in Jun. 1924. Data:- 1, 2 & 3.

We can now provide a little more detail as to what later happened to the heroic William Shotton.

Under circumstances not at present known to the webmaster, William Shotton died at the relatively young age of 36 - in India in 1912. As you can read at left, thanks to the Singapore Times of Feb. 2, 1913. He was then in command of Wearbeck, a 3796 ton cargo ship built in 1906 by Joseph L. Thompson & Sons Limited & owned by Thornbeck Steam Shipping Co. Ltd., both of Sunderland. 

It would seem that he was buried in a graveyard located on Telecom House (earlier known as Old Kent Road) in the heart of Mangalore, a port city on the SW coast of India, in Karnataka State. As you can read about 1/2 way down this page. Can anybody advise the name of the cemetery/graveyard - I cannot spot its name on that page. It is apparently the resting place of many British nationals.

I think that a reader might agree, seeing that 1913 newspaper cutting above, that this story is complete. But I now think it is far from complete & the reference to his death in India in 1912 must be quite incorrect. It may have been one of the many Shotton brothers who died there. Why do I say that? An article published in the Daily News, of Perth, Western Australia, on Mar. 30, 1915 indicates most clearly that the William Shotton of Trafalgar fame was at that time representing the Salvage Association of Lloyd's respecting the German prize ship Birkenfels. It is far from the only article on the subject, but is the most expansive of those I have spotted at Trove, Australia. In a quite lengthy article, Shotton states that he volunteered for service with the Royal Navy on a number of occasions, presumably for WW1 service, but was rejected by them because, at age 38, he was considered to be too old. 'Join the Army' he was told. The article can be read at Trove here - but you can read the article, with its columns rearranged for your easier reading, next below.

Likely related matters -

i) a Captain Shotton was in command of Lucerna, a tanker of 6568 (or 6556) tons, in Aug. 1931. 
ii) a Captain H. R. Shotton was in command of a vessel which was sunk by gunfire in Mar. 1941, by German battleship 'Gneisenau'. He was taken aboard 'Gneisenau' or perhaps aboard 'Scharnhorst', & interned in the infamous Marlag and Milag prison camp at Westertimke, Germany. As you can read in the 4th paragraph here. I have not yet established with certainty the name of the ship in which Captain Shotton so served, but I believe it was San Casimiro, an 8046 ton tanker.

We thank Ross Shotton, of Crete, for his most helpful WWW research into the total story.

In a guestbook message here, Joan Johnson of Cornwall, U.K., advises that William Shotton was her second cousin twice removed. Joan's research indicates that he died in 1958, at age 82, in the district of Chatham, Kent. He married Margaret Blackie, a Scot, in 1903, & they had five boys, all born in the south of England. William left Sunderland when his father Stephen took the whole family to live in Hewelsfield, Gloucestershire, sometime during the 1880s. Joan additionally advises that Stephen, William Shotton's father, was married three times & fathered fifteen children, William being the third eldest. Stephen must have been a prosperous man because on the 1911 census he & his family were living in an eighteen roomed house. Thank you Joan for your most interesting information.

Angie Gledhill, advises us here (thanks Angie!) that William Shotton died on Jan. 13, 1958 at the home of Angie's uncle in Gillingham, near Chatham, Kent. Angie tells us that she is in possession of nautical instruments presented to William by Lloyd's of London in gratitude for his fine action re Trafalgar.

Re which 'William Shotton' that was buried at Mangalore, India, Joan Johnson, in a second guestbook message, advises (thanks!) that it is was the first cousin of the 'boy skipper' William Shotton. They were born just a year apart. Such William was married to Jane Dalton Cook of Sunderland in 1903 but Joan has not been able to ascertain if they had any children. Joan has been unable to ascertain the name of that graveyard in Mangalore.

You now know what I do about the whole matter.

So we still do not know much of William Shotton's later career. Can you help in that regard?


I offer you 2 pages with extensive data about Clarkson Stanfield R.A. (or apparently correctly Clarkson Frederick Stanfield). A Wikipedia page is here & a fine Ken Watson page is here (Stanfield was Ken's g-g-g-grandfather).

A brilliant landscape & marine artist who was born in Sunderland on Dec. 3, 1793.

An image of the artist at age 35. He is shown, much later in life, at right.

Stanfield's interest in painting may well have come from his mother, an artist, who died in 1801 when Clarkson was just 8 years old. He was briefly apprenticed to a coach decorator, left that job & went to sea as a sailor. He was press ganged into service in the Royal Navy, but they discharged him in 1814 for medical reasons. He made a voyage to China in 1815 on the East Indiaman Warley, presumably as a crew member, & made sketches there. From Aug. 1816, Stanfield was engaged as a decorator & scene-painter at various theatres in Edinburgh & in London - at the Old Royalty theatre, in Wellclose Square, London, & then at the Coburg Theatre, in Lambeth. He became a resident scene-painter at the Drury Lane theatre in 1823, 'where he rose rapidly to fame through the huge quantity of spectacular scenery which he produced for that house until 1834'.

As a scenery painter he would have painted canvases of an enormous size suitable for the stage. He became noted in fact for the size of his works. Next is a modest image of a portion only of one of his works - 'The Battle of Trafalgar', painted in 1836 - a small version of the very large digital image which you can access via this Wikepedia Commons page. Do see the image in its giant, 5,317 pixel width size. It is truly spectacular. An 1800 pixel version of the image can be seen here. He usually signed his artworks 'C. Stanfield R. A.'

Another of his famous works was 'Mount Saint Michael' painted in 1830. The island, crowned with its castle, is located on the south coast of England almost as far as you can go west in Cornwall. At Mount's Bay. Not to be confused with the also spectacular Mont St. Michel, in France. The original giant work is in the Sunderland Museum & Art Gallery & is, I am advised, magnificent to behold. A small image of the Stanfield work follows, a larger version can be seen here, while a giant version, 5,234 pixels wide, can be viewed via this Wikipedia Commons page.

A third most famous work by Clarkson Stanfield was his 1831 or 1832 painting 'The Opening of New London Bridge', a work commissioned by King William IV. There are images of the work, in colour, available via Google images, but most of them are of modest size and/or adorned with commercial logos. One colour image can be viewed here. I show you, instead, a black & white 1868 print of the work, a print which is available for purchase, via e-Bay, as this section is commenced. We thank eBay vendor lineart for 'borrowing' his fine listing image. Do drop by lineart's store!

Clarkson married Mary Hutchinson in 1818 - the couple having two children. Mary very soon died however, in 1821, & the artist remarried - to Rebecca Adcock - in 1824 or early 1825. There were 10 children from that second marriage. Stanfield first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1829. In Dec. 1834 he left the theatre & spent the rest of his life as a painter, particularly but not exclusively specialising in marine subjects. Charles Dickers was a close friend I read, indeed he dedicated 'Little Dorrit' to the artist. Stanfield suffered from poor health in the last ten years of his life & died in Hampstead in north London, on May 18, 1867. He also lived, for a time, in a house in which Samuel Pepys had resided - was that the same house in Hampstead, I wonder?

'Encyclopedia Brittanica', in its 1911 edition, said this about the artist. Images of 105 works by the artist can be viewed here. His watercolour depicting Sunderland hero Jack Crawford can be see here. It would be good to locate the Charles Dickens memorial notice regarding his old friend in 'All the Year Round'. And his obituary. In 1979, Tyne and Wear County Council Museums published a book about the artist - 'The Spectacular Career of Clarkson Stanfield 1793-1867'. A fine image of the book's cover image, of 'On the Dogger Bank', can be seen & a print acquired here.

It is hoped that this section will, in the future, contain more details about the artist & his life & works. And the above text probably needs correction. The data WWW available seems often to be in conflict.



There is, on this site page, a modest reference to Joseph Edison Swan, the inventor of the electric incandescent light bulb ... 'and in 1900 they (Shorts) extended to the south - a move which involved the demolition of Pallion Hall, where Joseph Edison Swan, the inventor of the electric incandescent light bulb was born.'

The reference to Joseph 'Edison' Swan is a bit of a puzzle. Why? Because his name was correctly Joseph Wilson Swan. An image of the chemist/inventor is at left. A Wikipedia article here indicates that he began working, in 1850, on a light bulb using carbonized paper filaments in an evacuated glass bulb. By 1860 he was able to demonstrate a working device, & obtained a British patent covering a partial vacuum, carbon filament incandescent lamp.

In 1875, Swan improved his invention with the aid of a better vacuum & a carbonized thread as a filament. And he was granted a British patent for his device in 1878, about a year before Thomas Edison 'who obtained patents in America for a fairly direct copy of the Swan light, and started an advertising campaign which claimed that he was the real inventor. Swan, who was less interested in making money from the invention, agreed that Edison could sell the lights in America while he retained the rights in Britain.'

Hence, clearly, the 'Edison' name.

Swan's commenced manufacturing his bulbs in 1881 & also in that year incandescent light bulbs were used at the Savoy Theatre in London - the first theatre, & the first public building in the world, to be lit entirely by electricity. France awarded him in 1881 the 'Légion d'honneur', & in 1904 he was knighted by King Edward VII.

The full 'Swan' story is really beyond the scope of these Sunderland pages. He was however born at Pallion Hall, Monkwearmouth, hence his inclusion here. He is, in fact, more associated with Gateshead, where he lived & conducted his many experiments.

The image that follows is of a first day cover featuring Sir Joseph Wilson Swan. I did not bother the vendor with correspondence re the inclusion of his 'so appropriate for this page' eBay item, long gone now. But we do thank 'emartenet' that eBay vendor.

There is a plaque in memory of Sir Joseph on the street wall of Carliol House (formerly the Electricity Board building), on Pilgrim Street in Newcastle. An image of the plaque follows, thanks to Wikipedia.

There was a vessel called Sir Joseph Swan. It was not, however, built at Sunderland, rather built at Aberdeen, by long established Hall, Russell & Co. Ltd. Of 1554 tons, built in 1945. A collier clearly (but you must register to see that page). Built for London Power Co. Ltd., & later owned by British Electricity Authority, which became Central Electricity Authority & later became Central Electricity Generating Board.

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Thomas M. M. Hemy Data Pages 01, 02 and 03 are now on site. Plus all of the other image pages, accessible though the index on page 05.

To MV Danmark Slider Puzzle page & to the Special Pages Index.

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