The Schooner ‘Deborah’

Written by S. Ablott
First Published
Code flag - HotelCode flag - FoxtrotCode flag - KiloCode flag - Tango


The Deborah was a 61 foot schooner launched at Burton Stather in the December of 1848 for Jonathan Abbott of Beverly. The 56 ton vessel was registered at Hull with the official number 808 and flags HFKT.1

She worked in the UK coastal trade, mostly on the East Coast, between ports such as Leith, Newcastle, Sunderland, Hull, Yarmouth and London. She also sailed in the Channel, visiting South Coast ports and made trips across to the continent, calling in at Le Havre, Dunkirk, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The Deborah would also go some distance inland, up the tidal rivers, visiting Rouen, Woodbridge, The Dart and would have passed The Stather on voyage to Gainsborough to collect timber.2 The schooner carried a variety of general cargoes including iron castings, coal, wheat, oil cake and guano.


The first record we have of any incident on the ship under Captain Abbott was on the 24th of October 1850 when she made an unscheduled call into Hull while on route from Sunderland bound for London, having lost her fore-topmast.3 There was another similar incident on the 16th of February 1864, when making the same voyage in ballast, she was caught in a gale and had to put into Scarborough with the loss of sails, foreyard and top-gallant-mast.4

The Cabin Boy

In November 1867 the Deborah was lying alongside the jetty at Shields discharging cement for the River Commissioners. A passenger on the ship named William Brown, a sail-maker from Monkwearmouth, had left his waistcoat hanging in the cabin. He later found that two gold sovereigns were missing from his pocket. The Captain searched the cabin boy and found one sovereign on him and well as a gold watch key. The boy, Edward Sheriff claimed he found the sovereign on deck last night. The acting sub-inspector of the River Police was called to the ship and the Captain gave the boy into custody. At the Police Court he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two months imprisonment. The other sovereign was not found.5

More Storm Damage

On the following voyage south in early December, the schooner again was caught in gales and lost sails, putting into Harwich this time.6 The ships' boat was found later, on the 9th near Yarmouth.7

A New Owner

The following year the Deborah was under the command of new owner/skipper William Scales of Hull.1 On the 16th of December she grounded on the bar entering Woodbridge Haven. With some assistance she was got off a few days later on the high tide.8

The Fog

On the 26th of December 1871 Captain Scales and the Deborah ran aground again. While on voyage from Mistley to Newcastle with wheat, they went ashore on the south of Flamborough Head in fog at five in the morning.9 With the help of a steam tug, they were got off on the following tide and were able to continue with the voyage.10

The schooner went aground in thick weather again on the 14th of January 1875, this time on the West Rocks off Harwich, bound for Ipswich from London with oil cake. She was assisted into Harwich in a leaky condition by two smacks. There was a salvage agreement of £50, the salvors took the vessel to Ipswich and with attention to the pumps the cargo was saved.11

The Loss of The Deborah

The Deborah's final voyage began in the July of 1875, she left Goole loaded with fire bricks and coal, bound for Pont-Audemer, a commune in Normandy on The Risle, a tributary of The Seine. On Wednesday the 16th the Deborah foundered off Happisburgh. The crew were saved and landed in Yarmouth the following day by the fishing smack Sergeant Ballantine.12

Vessel Details for Deborah

Official Number:808
Code Flags:HFKTCode flag - HotelCode flag - FoxtrotCode flag - KiloCode flag - Tango
Vessel Name:Deborah
  • Jonathan Abbott of Berverly
  • William Scales of Hull 1870
  • Abbott
  • Scales
  • Hull
Incidents:October 1850, loss of top mast, put into Hull 24th. 16th Dec 1868, grounded on the bar, Woodbridge Haven. 26th Dec 1871, went ashore South of Flamborough Head. Went aground on West Rocks off Harwich Jan 1875, in thick weather, towed to Harwich leaky.
Fate:Foundered off Happisburgh 16th June 1875. Crew saved and landed by the smack Sergeant Ballantine.


  1. The Mercantile Navy Lists.
  2. Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury - 14rd December 1850
  3. Hull Packet - 1st November 1850
  4. Shields Daily Gazette - 20th February 1864
  5. Shields Daily Gazette - 22th November 1867
  6. Essex Standard - 6th December 1867
  7. Liverpool Mercury - 14th December 1867
  8. Essex Standard - 18th December 1868
  9. Hull Packet - 29th December 1871
  10. Leeds Mercury - 29th December 1871
  11. The Ipswich Journal - 23rd January 1875
  12. Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - 18th June 1875

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Creative Commons. Background Photograph by Bruno Girin. Used with modifications under license.