latest news

28th November 2008

Web site live.

10th December 2008

Links to old newspapers added

14th December 2008

More information about the cargoes added

February 2010

Information about Turnbull's shipyard added. Follow THE VESSEL above, then the link on the right.

August 2010

Started to amend the links to Gary Danvers' site. If you follow the link at the top of a page and it fails, change GEocities to REocities and try again

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Acknowledgements

We are indebted to Peter Barton, a maritime historian who specialised in 18th and 19th Century Teesside and Hartlepool shipping and ship-building, who has done an enormous amount of research on the Countess and has been kind enough to share it all with us

introduction

In about 1986 my wife, Lynne, and I were given an old document which had been handed down through the generations. Its title page announces it to be

“The Log Book of the Countefs of Seafield, Stockton on Tees on a voyage from London to Sydney, From Sydney to Shanghae and from Shanghae to London commanded by Capt Joseph Hamshaw commencing June 19th 1854 and ending August 8th 1855 kept by John E Harrison, Lofthouse.

John Eden Harrison was my great, great grandfather.

The log is written in an official-looking, bound log book but we now know it to be a journal rather than the official ship’s log book. Following some mundane details of life on board an 1850’s sailing ship, John Harrison gets into his stride and gets into fascinating detail, including a description of scenes in Shanghai at the end of the T’ai P’ing revolt.

We had previously had no interest in family history but this journal provoked us to action. Lynne painstakingly transcribed it and my mum typed it up; we investigated family history, the tea trade and other aspects. With the help of Peter Barton, a maritime historian who specialised in 18th and 19th Century Teesside and Hartlepool shipping and ship-building, and to whom we are indebted, we have built up what we believe to be an accurate history of the ship and of John Harrison’s life. But even after all that we had some questions which will probably never be possible to answer:

Why did John Harrison, a labourer for most of his life, go to sea for a single voyage to Australia, China and back at the age of 34 ?
How did a labourer learn to write so well ? On their marriage certificate, his wife Mary was only able to make her mark !
Why did an able-seaman keep a journal ?

These pages include all of our research and a transcription of the log.

Peter Barton also wrote an article for The Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society. It was published in Bulletin 54, Spring 1988. A transcript of the article can be accessed by following the link on the right ( please note that my transcription includes a small correction which Peter made but which did not make it into the version published in the Bulletin )
The article is reproduced here by kind permission of Peter Barton and the Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society.

Malcolm Watson
November 2008

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