This Site is intended as a focus of information relating the the sailing ship "General Grant" and those who sailed in her. Their life berfore the ill fated voyage, and for those who survived, their life after.

In 1965 (100 years after the loss of the General Grant) my grandmother passed away in Bideford North Devon. All her possessions passed to my mother, among these was a metal box containing papers and photographs of the family.

At that time I was serving in the Army, and was stationed at The Royal Artillery Guided Weapons Range in the Outer Hebrides. Scotland.

St Kilda

 Part of my duties involved  eight week trips to the island of St Kilda to run the island power station, and it was here that I received a letter from my mother telling me that the box contained a small book which was a hand written letter from Joseph Jewell to his father in Clovelly, Devon, relating the story of the shipwreck and rescue on the Auckland Islands.

What better place could there be to receive such a story, than on a remote island out in the Atlantic, subject to the isolation and fierce winter storms. At that time there was only 22 of us on the island, the civilian population had been evacuated in 1930.

One part of the story which I could directly relate to was the tale of how the castaways launched hand made wooden boats with SOS messages carved on them.

One of my pastimes during the months of isolation on St Kilda was to build - Mail Boats - to send letters home. It was called the "Tin can mail run" The object was to try to beat the standards mail system, and get my mail home before a letter sent via the next supply ship arriving in six to eight weeks, which would convey it to South Uist where it was posted on, via Royal Mail.

I achieved this twice during different tours on the Island. One being picked up on the beach on Pabay Island North Uist. The other being found on the west coast of Scotland near Ullapool. (The mail can having traveled approx 100 miles).

 

 

The idea for this came from the old inhabitants of the island who in the early 1900's used a method similar to the castaways, except that they would tie an inflated sheep's bladder to the ship as added flotation but also to make it easier to see.

These were used in emergencies as there was no regular service to the Island.

 

             The St Kilda boat                         The boat being launched

 

General Grant - Survivors SOS Boat

My ships were slightly more advanced and consisted of a one and a half pound coffee tin, surrounded by a number of peanut tins held around its girth by a giant jubilee clip. Inside the can I poured a few inches of lead to stabilize it. The the mail (containing a puffin post mark, and the longitude and latitude of the Island) was placed in a series of plastic bags to make them watertight. The lid was then sealed with putty, brightly painted, and a flag attached.

The can was then launched, upon the tide from the cliffs or from a dory at the entrance to the bay.

The similarity between the St Kilda mail boat and the Castaways is remarkable and I include photographs of each.

Once we had read the Joseph Jewell letter we were very keen to find out how we were related to him. This was to take many years. Fortunately the book contained a photograph of Joseph and his wife Mary in seal skin clothing and on the back some hand written information, including the address 53 High Street Bideford.

Joseph Jewell was the younger brother of my great, great Grandmother Eliza Jewell (Parkin), She was the oldest daughter of John and Tamazine Jewell of Clovelly. It was to Eliza that the Joseph Jewell Letter was passed and so on down the family. (See later)

 

 

 Me at Seal Bay cave on St Kilda c1965