SEAGULL M4 - first Icelandic trawler

BarryJ
17th November 2007, 14:49
I've been in correspondence with Birgir Thorisson of Iceland about a Milford trawler, the SEAGULL (or SEA GULL!). Bob Kettle sent me a photo of her, which I uploaded to the Milford trawlers website, and which Birgir found very interesting, as she played an important part in the history of the Icelandic fishery, though no photo of her exists in in that country.

Here's Birgir's story:

"In 1904, optimism was high in Iceland, which had just been granted home rule. Four men in Reykjavik, two shopkeepers (Benedikt Stefansson and Eyjolfur Ofeigsson), a blacksmith (Bjarnhedinn Jonsson), and a mason (Gudmundur Einarsson), decided to buy a trawler, despite their limited means. They contracted with a fisherman named Jon Bach, who had four years' experience as a deckhand on Hull trawlers, to go to Britain and buy a ship. She arrived in Reykjavik in June 1905 and was delivered to the owners, at the cost of 32.000 kronur (1750 pounds). Jon Bach managed to get his friend and compatriot Arni Eyjolfsson (Byron) who had become a skipper in England - there is information about him on the Ships Nostalgia website - to become her skipper. The ship was named SEAGULL RE 100, but its fishing career was disastrous, (One comment in the press from 1906 was; "It was lying in the harbour with a machine breakdown as usual"). Arni Byron quickly returned to England.
The owners were short of capital, and brought in a wealthy farmer, Thorvaldur Björnsson, who had made money mainly in selling live animals to Britain, (horses for coalmines, and sheep for food). He had in old age sold his farm and moved to Reykjavik and intended to make money in fishing. Thorvaldur soon took over the ship, although G. Einarsson remained in official registers as owners for decades. The ship was painted red, and thus soon was nicknamed (and derided) as Fjósa-rauður (cowshed-red) because of its farmer owner. Both the original buyers and Thorvaldur Bjornsson went bankrupt in 1907. The ship was sold at auction twice in 1907, and in December that year, it was sent on transport mission to the fishing station Vestmannaeyjar. While in harbour, the ship dragged the anchor, and went aground. It was refloated and towed to Hafnarfjordur and broken up there. However the ship wasn´t removed from the register for decades.
The problem with the ship was the engine. For some reason, it was old, obsolete, and presumably reused. I see in my notes that the double-expansion engine was made in 1874."

I'm really pleased the Birgir has established this link between Milford and Reykjavik, especially as the SEA GULL was built at the port, in the Castle Pill Yard of Samuel Lake. On the other hand, the builders don't seem to have made a very good job of her!

You can see a photo of her on the Milford Trawlers website - go to "Steam Trawlers 1881 - 1914", scroll down to SEA GULL, and click on her name. I hope to have her full technical and historical details uploaded to that page by Sunday 25th November.

Barry

birgir
17th November 2007, 16:52
Hi Barry.

Unfortunately, the title is misleading. Seagull was the first REYKJAVIK trawler, but Iceland is more than just Reykjavik. It was beaten by three months by another, the Coot GK 310, which was registered and operated out of Hafnarfjordur. The Coot was built by William H. Hamilton & Co. in Port Glasgow in 1892, and bought in Aberdeen. Unlike Seagull, it was a commercial success, and proved the viability of trawling in Iceland. There is only one bad photo, and a drawing known of that ship in Iceland. I wonder if anybody here at shipnostalgia has a good photo of her, (or her 5 sisters, the Ibis, Eider, Brent, Grebe, or Cashmere?)
There had been previous experiments with trawling in Iceland, by foreign owned companies, which although far better capitalized, all failed, primarily because they tried to operate a fleeting system. There was however one important exception, by a Mr. Pike Ward, fishmerchant from Devon, who registered a trawler, Utopia (Mackie & Thomsson 1891) in Hafnarfjordur in 1899, but that experiment failed because of a human capital problem, the engineers fondness of alchohol. (There were no icelandic replacements obtainable, because there were no steam engines in use in Iceland then.!)

I would be interested in photos of Utopia, or her sister Umbria, which was bought by icelanders in 1908, of which there is only one known phote, the ship wrecked on the shore at Reykjavik in 1913.

Birgir Thorisson

BarryJ
18th November 2007, 11:28
Thanks for putting me right, Birgir. I should have known better!

Are you sure that her engine was made in 1874? She was built in 1894, and her engine was by Ross & Duncan, Glasgow. At least the Milford builders weren't completely to blame for her later bad reputation.

Regards,
Barry

birgir
18th November 2007, 19:50
Hi Barry.

As I wrote, I have in my notes that the engine was made in 1874. I did not write down the source, but since they were originally written up when I checked the registration records in Reykjavik, it must be taken there. Also, does anyone know of another trawler with double-expansion engines?

Birgir Thorisson

gil mayes
18th November 2007, 22:54
A steam reciprocating engine of this era, in this case a compound with cylinders 14 3/8" & 34"with a 22" stroke - 45NHP, is double expansion in that the piston is propelled both up and down by the force of steam. I doubt that this particular engine by Ross & Duncan was any different.
Gil.