The Ketch ‘Romantic’

Written by S. Ablott
First Published


The Romantic was a fishing ketch or smack, built in 1879, originally owned by James Edwards of Hull. She was Hull registered with the fishing number H1218, 75 feet long and 79 tons.

She fished the North Sea, a tough dangerous trade where collisions, injuries and drowning were an all too common occupational hazard in the busy fishing grounds. In February 1882 the crew witnessed the collision between two smacks with the loss of one with al hands.

On Tuesday, the 21st inst. when in charge of the fishing smack Romantic, of Hull belonging to Mr Wood, Spurn then bearing south-west by west and distant about 230 miles, we were lying to and getting ready for fishing.

About 1 p.m. we saw another a fishing smack astern of us, also lying to, and about three miles distant. Both vessels were on the starboard tack, and a Dutch fishing vessel was on the port tack. The latter vessel came towards the other fishing smack and collided with her, sinking her in about six or seven minutes. I at once proceeded towards the place where she had foundered, with the view of giving assistance in saving the crew if possible.

When I reached the spot the smack had disappeared, and no one was to be seen floating about. I then gave chase to the Dutchman, thinking that he had the crew on board, and in two hours and a half I reached her.

I asked the captain where the crew of the sunken smack were, but he gave me no satisfactory reply, and I then accused him of running the smack down. He gave me no answer.

The name on the Dutch smack was the Dogger Bank. The smack which sank was apparently a Hull or Grimsby vessel, from 70 to 80 tons.

Master of the Romantic
Hull Packet 3rd March 1882

A Catalogue of Disasters

The Romantic her self had her fair share of scrapes during her time fishing. On the 1st of October 1884, The Romantic had a slight collision with The King Fisher of Hull, another smack built by Wray, belonging to the Hellyer fleet. They could not keep clear due to the calmness of the weather not allowing full control of the vessel.

On the 28th of September 1885 at 8am, an unknown vessel ran across their bows while they had gear down, breaking the bowsprit. On the 29th of April 1886 they collided with The Standard of Hull, which broke the mizen boom. 12th of September 1886 9pm, they had their gear cut away by another vessel. There was another collision on the 26th of July 1887 with The Bassanio, as reported by the skipper.

On this day we were sailing on the port tack of the smack Bassanio. We did not alter for him as we expected he would bear off for us till we saw there was no one on the lookout and after we had shouted several times. We saw a hand run from the capstan and put the helm hard to starboard instead of hard to port till we told him to alter when he was into us. Damage small, his bowsprit broken and our bow deck.

Richard Winterflood
Master of The Romantic

16th of February 1888, collision with Serenley. 23rd of November the smack May Flower of Hull ran across their bows breaking the bow sprit. Another collision on the 29th of October 1889 when their gear had become fast on some obstruction and another vessel towed into them.

On the 9th of January 1890, 2pm a crew man, 22 year old P H Jones, the fourth hand was lost when a heavy sea washed over the deck, carrying him away and damaging the vessel. The bowsprit was broken again on the 11th of March 1892 when The Romantic collided with the smack George Herbert, this was put down the neglect by the fourth hand, Thomas Witherwick who was on watch at the time. There was an injury to the third hand, William Morley on the 3rd of January 1894, while jibing the trawl through, it slipped, striking him on the left knee cap and broke his leg.

The Recent Gale

LOSS OF GEAR. A number of smacks and trawlers reached the St. Andrew's Dock Lock-pit, by noon today. The only accident to report was from the smack Romantic, which had lost her gear. It is expected that great many vessels will be berthed by this afternoon's tide.

Hull Daily Mail
16th February 1894

On the 13th of March 1894, the main sail was blown away by a gale of wind. On the 17th of June the same year, they were waiting for their boat which was boarding fish to the cutter Eastward. The Romantic was lying just astern of the cutter, when the smack Starbo collided with them, breaking the trawl beam and damaging the port quarter.

Weather charts for December 1894

The Loss of The Romantic

The end came on Saturday the 22nd of December 1894, in a great storm which shook the British shipping fleet. A large depression passed over the British Isles from the Atlantic, across to the Baltic creating terrible conditions in the Irish and North Seas and numerous shipping casualties around the nation. The Hull fishing fleet alone lost 9 smacks and 6 steam cutters that day, with 108 fishermen drowned, making 55 widows and 128 fatherless children. The Romantic of Hull was one such vessel, lost with all hands in the North Sea. Another Hull smack, The Vigilant, and Barrow registered ship Doctor, both built at Burton Stather, were lost to the storm that day.

The Lost Crew of The Romantic

Alfred George BarhamSkipper4320, Selby St. HullLeaves a widow
Walter Giles2nd Hand-5, Walter Ter. Scarboro' St. HullLeaves a widow and 8 children
H Ashmore3rd Hand--Single
Walter ClarkDeckhand--Single
Joseph CapplemanCook18-Single

Vessel Details for Romantic

Official Number:79475
Fishing Number:H1218
Vessel Name:Romantic
  • James Edwards of Hull 1879
  • James Woods of hull 1880
  • Peter Bates for the executors of the late James Wood 1884
  • Robert Hodgson 1888
  • William C Edwards 1894
  • Robert Clark 1881
  • Walter Hornes 1884
  • John Henry Morriss 1885
  • Francis Augustus Syer 1886
  • Richard Winterflood 1888
  • Alfred George Barham 1894
  • Hull
Notes:Register closed 1895.
Trade:North Sea Fishing.
Incidents:9th January 1890. P H Jones 4th hand Sea struck the vessel he was washed overboard drowned. 3rd Jan 1894 12pm. William Morley 3rd hand. Leg broken whilst jibing the trawl through, the warp slipped striking him on the left knee cap.
Fate:Foundered on 22nd Dec 1894. Lost with all hands. Walter Giles Second Hand, Joseph Cappleman Cook, Walter Clark Deckhand, H Ashmore Third Hand, Alfred George Barham Skipper. Lost the same day as Brig Doctor and Ketch Vigilant.


  1. The Mercantile Navy Lists.
  2. Hull History Centre.
  3. Hull Packet.
  6. Hull Daily Mail.

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© 2017 Burton upon Stather Heritage Group

© Background Photograph by Steve Smith.