On the waterfront: Wear barque’s lengthy career

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The barque Alastor stands out in Wear shipbuilding history due to her great longevity and that she was one of the last Sunderland-built ships trading under sail.

Launched in 1875, the 874 gross-tons vessel was one of three iron barques built that year for Robert Horne Penney of Shoreham at Mounsey and Forster’s South Dock yard, the others being Antares and Alpheta.

Penney held strong ties with John Mounsey, both of who were leading Quakers.

Working in partnership with Richard Iliff and later Robert Foster, Mounsey regularly benefited from orders placed by Penney.

Alastor’s maiden voyage was from Sunderland to Burma’s Irrawaddy River.

Afterwards, chartered by Shaw, Savill and Co, she was engaged in the emigrant trade between London and Auckland, New Zealand.

She would return to the UK with cargo loaded en route, such as wheat and antimony ore.

She had a lucky escape in 1888, when she lost her masts during a typhoon in the Indian Ocean but managed to reach Mauritius for repairs.

Sold into Norwegian ownership in 1895, the 196 feet six inch-long ship saw further service under the Finnish flag from 1928, usually carrying splitwood to the UK.

The veteran barque was almost wrecked in a storm at the mouth of the River Tay in December, 1938 but was rescued through the timely intervention of Broughty Ferry lifeboat and a harbour pilot.

In September 1939, Alastor arrived off Essex but owing to the outbreak of war, was placed under arrest and her crew repatriated to Finland.

Requisitioned by the Admiralty, she was renamed St Mathew and laid up as a hulk in the River Blackwater.

With records suggesting she was also named Beaver at some stage, the ship was assigned military duties, including those of accommodation ship, landing craft depot at Burnham-on-Crouch and Army river patrol base.

In 1946, Alastor found a new lease of life when new owner Captain William Lankester won approval to berth her in Ramsgate Harbour as a floating café and marine training facility for youngsters.

After a rough passage, she arrived at Ramsgate harbour under tow on June 2, 1946 and was berthed in the Inner Basin, being renamed “The Bounty.”

After some refurbishment and looking much as she did in 1875, she became a major waterfront attraction, resplendent in fresh black and white paint, wearing bunting and signal flags.

In 1951, The Bounty was towed to the River Thames, where it was planned to berth her alongside Festival Gardens, Battersea as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations.

The project failed for financial reasons, with the historic ship being laid up in the Thames before being broken up at Grays by Thomas Ward (Shipbreakers) Ltd in 1952.