The Ketch ‘Harvest Moon’

Written by S. Ablott
First Published


The Harvest Moon was launched on the 20th of February 1886 at Burton Stather.1a She was a ketch rigged fishing smack, belonging to Mr Matthew Roiall of 132, Weelsby Street, New Clee, who would also be skipper.2 87 tons and 78 feet long, she was registered at Grimsby as GY1080.3 She was classed A1 at Lloyds for 13 years. The smack was fitted with two twin cylinder steam engines, supplied by Dodman & Co of Kings Lynn. One engine would drive the capstan and the other, on deck to drive the dandy winch. Both were fed by a main boiler.1a She arrived in Grimsby from Burton on the 18th of March in ballast.1b

Absconding Apprentice

Many of the boy apprentices on the smacks found life at see too tough and in some cases would do anything to get away. Being signed into a term of indenture, they could face prison if they absconded. In November 1888 Matthew Roiall took on 14 year old John McHale, from Kirkdale Industrial School, Liverpool.4 Many boy apprentices came from the workhouses, the industrial schools were built near workhouses to educate the inmates. The Kirkdale school was opened in May 1845 for the Liverpool Workhouse. At the time it was said: the young children thrown upon the parish should be located apart from the adult paupers, and instructed, not only in the elements of a plain education - reading, writing, and arithmetic - and in their religious duties, but in the most common and useful trades.5

John was described as 5'3" with red hair and brown eyes. On the 3rd of March 1889 he jumped overboard from the Harvest Moon in an attempt to swim to another smack. He was picked up again by his crew, but promised he would make a similar attemp in the future. This was not his first, or last time to abscond from the vessel. After being sentenced to 14 days in gaol later that March, the last time he absconded was on the 18th of September, he was never seen again.4

Change of Ownership

Also in 1889, the Harvest Moon changed hands, from Matthew Roiall, back to Joseph Garside, now owner on the Burton Stather shipyard, who had built the smack and was mortgagee.1c This came with some legal dispute between Garside and Roiall. The hull was bought at auction by James Plastow, agent to Garside for £750.1d


On the 12th of November 1891, while lying to during gales under skipper Philip Whincop, the Harvest Moon was run into by an unknown ship. The collision on the starboard side, carried away both masts and all the rigging. She was towed back into Grimsby by the smack Alice Louise of Hull.6

Leaving Grimsby

By 1895 the Harvest Moon had been bought by Hewitt & Co of London and registered with their Yarmouth fleet. The UK register was closed in 1900, in 1901 she was sold to foreign owners.2

Vessel Details for Harvest Moon

Official Number:92812
Fishing Number:GY1080
Vessel Name:Harvest Moon
  • Matthew Roiall of New Clee 1886
  • Joseph A Garside of Worksop 1889
  • Hewitt and Co Ltd 1894
  • John Edward Chapney of London 1900
  • Matthew Roiall 1886
  • G Thompson 1889
  • George Amos 1890
  • Richard Douglas 1890
  • John Gregory 1891
  • Philip Whincop 1891
  • George Tester 1893
  • Thomas Harris 1893
  • Grimsby 1886-94
  • Yarmouth 1900
Notes:Register closed 1900. Sold abroad 1901.
Trade:North Sea fishing.
Incidents:12th Nov 1891 in collision with unknown ship, demasted.


  1. Hull Daily Mail
    1. 23rd February 1886
    2. 19th March 1886
    3. 4th September 1889
    4. 13th December 1889
  2. The Mercantile Navy Lists.
  3. Deep Sea Trawlers of Grimsby
  4. Registers of Sea Going Apprentices of Grimsby 1879 - 1937
  5. The Workhouse, Liverpool
  6. Daily Gazette for Middlesbough 16th November 1891

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© Background Photograph by Steve Smith.