47.PZ Elsie Kerr

Elsie Ker ~ 47.PZ : pre 1869-1888.

We know little enough about the Newlyn lugger Elsie Ker, beyond the fact that she existed, and fished the waters of Mount’s Bay and the adjacent seas for over twenty years. Her constructionpre-dated the 1868 Sea Fisheries Act, so we have no record of when she was actually built. Under this act of Parliament all British sea fishing boats were required to be registered as such, in a recognised Custom’s port of registry, and for Mount’s Bay that port was Penzance.

Accordingly, we find the Elsie Ker was registered in the Penzance Custom House, on February 26th, 1869, amongst the first tranche of boats to be registered under the new scheme.

Having a 39-foot length of keel, when measured by the Custom House Surveyor, the Elsie Ker was deemed to be of less than 15 tons carrying capacity, and thus under the new regulations fell into the 2nd Class of fishing boats. As such she was allocated the distinctive port fishing number of 47.PZ; with the number in front of the port letters. Registered in the sole ownerships of Thomas Kelynack, she was simply described as a ‘Lug Rigged Boat ~ Foresail & Mizen;’ ordinary mode of fishing, ‘Drift Nets;’ No. of Crew usually employed, Men ‘6’, Boys, ‘1;’ and Thomas’s son Henry was endorsed as her master.

A mackerel-driver of slightly smaller size than the biggest of the Mount’s Bay boats, we have no image of her during her earlier years, though she would have appeared very much like her contemporaries pictured below in the Old Quay, Newlyn.

12.PZ ~ General Havelock, 367.PZ ~ Emu, and 48.PZ ~ Letter B; in the Old Quay, Newlyn, c.1870.
(Photographer unknown, Author’s collection)

Regularly employed in the daily fresh-fish trade she did not draw attention to herself and passed unnoticed by the local press down through the years.

Henry Kelynack was replaced as master for the 1870 mackerel season by Charles Wallis, on February 26th; and the following year, on February 28th, he was replaced by Richard Nicholls. However, Thomas Kelynack’s ownership of the Elsie Ker was cancelled in February 12th, 1872, when Silas Bath was endorsed as her owner-master. Silas held her for about six years, until December 18th, 1878, when she became the joint property of John James, and Henry McGuiness, with John as her master.

It was during their ownership of the Elsie Ker that we find an image of her, fitting out with other mackerel drivers on the open beach at the foot of the Norr’ard Slip, Newlyn. This exposure was made shortly before work began on the new harbour, which commenced with the building of the South Pier during 1885-87.

Mackerel drivers fitting out on the beach between the slips, Newlyn, c. 1884. (Photographer unknown, Author’s collection)

The Elsie Ker ~ 47.PZ, lies in the middle of this group of luggers, with a full crew on board, as can be clearly seen in the enlarged section below.

Elsie Ker ~ 47.PZ, fitting out, c. 1884. (Photographer unknown, Author’s collection)

In the autumn of 1883, she was acquired by Thomas Reynolds, who was endorsed as her owner-master on October 26th, and began her last phase of life. With the new harbour partially completed, including half of the North Pier, the improved accommodation for fishing boats gave impetus to the building of new, larger, boats.

Newlyn Harbour, c.1888. (Photographer unknown, Author’s collection)

Thomas Reynolds was one of those so encouraged by the new development, that during 1887-88, he had a new boat built on Tolcarne Green, by Richard Warren & Sons – the Edith & Ethel. With the new boat nearing completion, on July 7th, 1888 Thomas Reynolds cancelled the registration of the aging Elsie Ker, as ‘No longer used in fishing.’

Tony Pawlyn

Work in progress; Created 27th July 2022