Mary Ashburner


The Mary Ashburner was built by William Ashburner & Son at their Hindpool shipyard in Barrow. She was launched on the 6th November 1877, and was named after the wife and daughter of Thomas Ashburner, her managing owner. She was a well-built ship, constructed under the rules of Lloyd's Special Survey and classed 11A1. Her surveyor stated that "in scantlings and in fastenings she is considerably in excess of the requirements of the Rules...and the material and workmanship is of superior quality".

The Mary Ashburner was commanded for her first voyage by Capt. Edmondson Charnley, and then for several months by Capt. Robert Latham. Within a year of her launch her command was given to an Anglesey seaman, Capt. John Hughes, who had previously commanded the "Twin Brothers" for the Ashburners. Capt. Hughes was to keep charge of her for the rest of her career. The Mary Ashburner operated in the coasting trade, occasionally travelling to French and Belgian ports, but primarily operating around Britain and Ireland.

For the 1881 Census the Mary Ashburner was berthed at Ilfracombe, Devon, and her crew were recorded as : John Hughes, master, age 32, widower from Pensarow, Anglesey; Hugh Thomas, mate, age 38, unmarried,  Hud Wharf, Anglesey; Thomas Hand, AB, age 29, married from West Port, Ireland; Hugh Thomas, seaman, age 17,  unmarried,  from  Nebo, Anglesey. 

In 1908/9 the Ashburner fleet was sold off at a series of auctions at Connah's Quay, and the Mary Ashburner was sold for £550 to William and John Thomas, shipbuilders and shipowners at Amlwch, North Wales. The new owners spent £638 on a refit and thereafter she continued in the coasting trade, and in particular in the china clay trade between Cornwall and Runcorn.
The Mary Ashburner left Charlestown, Cornwall, at 5.30 pm on the 25th November, 1913, bound for Runcorn with 164 tons of china clay. Her master was Capt. Hughes and she had four crewmen aboard. The schooner never reached her destination, and two weeks later her small boat was found floating near Lundy Island.
A Board of Trade Inquiry investigated her loss, and concluded that the Mary Ashburner must have been the unidentified schooner that had been struck by the steamship Castilian. This ship had reported that she had collided with a schooner in thick fog on the night of 27th November, about 60 miles W of Lundy. They had thought the schooner had sunk, but despite searching for several hours had been unable to locate any survivors.

The crew who died with the Mary Ashburner were:

Capt. John Hughes, age 65, born Amlwch
William Hughes, mate, born Amlwch (unrelated to the master), age 22
Owen Hughes, cook, age 16 (brother of the mate), born Amlwch
William John Edwards, able seaman, born Holyhead, age 20
Another able seaman, name unknown,  from Plymouth, only taken on for the final voyage.

Name Year Built Gross Tons Length (feet) Breadth (feet) Depth (feet) Masts Figurehead Stern Lloyd's Classn.
Mary Ashburner 1877 106 88.2 21.8  10.0 2 Scroll  Elliptic  11A1 

Sources :

  1. Launch reported in the Barrow Times, 10th November 1877
  2. Construction details in Surv.Rep (Mary Ashburner) WHN 3202 Box 1035, National Maritime Museum
  3. Board of Trade Official Inquiries 1914 to 1917, Inquiry No. 7638 in Lloyds' Library at the Guildhall Library, London
  4. "The History of the Topsail Schooner Mary Ashburner" in Maritime Wales (1990) pp35-43.
  5. The Ashburner Schooners, ISBN 0-95-16792-0-1
  6. Plans of the hull of the Mary Ashburner are included in "Deepwater Sail" by Harold Underhill, published by Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd.
  7. 1881 Census details from Bob Sanders, Ships in Port 1881 website
  8.  Information provided by Tim Latham (Through Mighty Seas)