Naval Chief Bosun Thomas Rowe Tremethick 1858 – 1924: Smart, energetic and generally temperate

Thomas was the fourth of ten children of fisherman Thomas Tremethick and his wife Patience Daniel Rowe born 1858 and baptised in January 1859 at the local Paul Parish Church. He grew up in the fishing town of Newlyn, Cornwall, where they lived in the area called Street-an-Nowan.

Thomas must have preferred the idea of being a sailor to being a fisherman so he signed up for the Royal Navy.  By 1887 he was working as a seaman.

St Mary's Church, Penzance

St Mary’s Church, Penzance

Thomas met Newlyn fisherman’s daughter Mary Badcock, a domestic servant, and they married on Monday 16 May 1887.  For some reason he and Mary, both Newlyn folk, married in St Mary’s Church Penzance. It was quite unusual for my family not to marry in Paul Church or the new [1866] St Peter’s Church in Newlyn so I wonder why that was? His father had died before Thomas married and his younger sister Albania acted as a witness so at least one of his family members knew! Demands of the Navy, maybe or Mary’s day off from service.

By April 1891 he and Mary had moved to Devonport [now Plymouth, Devon] and they were living just round along Herbert Street from his married sister Grace and her husband James Richards.

In June and December 1892 Captains Brook and Chichester both recommended him as being “the stamp of man for Warrant Officer” and in July 1893 he was posted at Act Bos’n to the Himalaya under Captain Chichester, although was lent to the Conqueror for manoeuvres in his first month there. Captain Chichester noted after his time on the 3-mast Himalaya that he was  “VG [at] freehand drawing. A smart and energetic officer.”  Thomas was there until September 1894. The gospel according to Wikipedia tells me for HMS Himalaya that she was a former cruise ship purchased by the Navy:

The SS Himalaya was a 3,438 gross register ton iron steam screw passenger ship. When launched she was the largest ship in the P & O fleet and was not exceeded in size until the SS Australia of 1870

Photo of Malta

Malta, by Neil Howard on Flickr

And this World Naval Ships naval online forum post tells me that Thomas would have travelled extensively during those those months, round the Mediterranean, including Gibraltar, Malta and  and Capetown in 1893 and to Singapore in 1894,  So I’m very glad that back home in Devonport Mary would have had her sister-in-law handy just a few doors down!

Thomas served on various ships over the years, with a mostly good record, various captains noting him as diligent, smart, energetic, of excellent physique, hard working, could use a sextant and was a good officer. It was noted in 1901 by Comm. Hutchinson of the Lion that he was suspended from instructing as he didn’t have “that gift”, although “would no doubt perform his duties satisfactorily in a seagoing ship”.  At one point a captain did note he was “somewhat wanting in tact”!

The 1903 Naval lists indicates with an (S) that this ‘In the Seniority List denotes an officer who has passed in both Visual Signalling and Wireless Telegraphy.  In a ship, an officer qualified as above who is performing either or both of these duties.’

Photo of rum label

Photo of Rum label, Mary K Baird on MorgueFiles

In 1908 on the Suffolk Thomas obviously didn’t have his finest posting, getting an usual bad report from Captain Eyre.  The next year he again blotted his copybook when he was discovered drunk on board the Mars, was court-marshalled off the ship and lost a year’s seniority. So that’s what you do with a drunken sailor! But he seems to have recovered form and his conduct was entirely to the satisfaction of Captain Besson of the Hull in September 1909.

Again in December 1911 Thomas’ drinking was commented on, by Cpt Halsay of the Donegal:  “Zealous and hard working. Although generally temperate, I am of opinion that he has on one or two occasions drunk more alcohol than is good for him and I have warned him accordingly. Physically VG. Rec’d for advancement.

Thomas was pensioned as a Chief Boatswain in 1912, he lived on until September 1924 when he died in Durban Road, Plymouth, aged 66. The April 1911 census records them as having no children born alive,

Mary lived on for another 15+ years until spring 1940, also dying in Plymouth.  In her will she left her effects to Seth Lemmon, the widower of Thomas’ sister Albania; Albania who had witnessed her wedding to Thomas in Penzance over 50 years before.

© Lynne Black, 6 December 2015
First published:

10 thoughts on “Naval Chief Bosun Thomas Rowe Tremethick 1858 – 1924: Smart, energetic and generally temperate

  1. Pingback: Joe and Bessie Tremethick, working their way round England with GWR | starryblackness

  2. nancyhvest

    Enjoyed your story. Thomas reminds me of my aunt’s husband, George Brown. He was a merchant marine and sometimes drank more alcohol than was good for him.

  3. pastsmith

    What an enjoyable story with some interesting twists. Love the comment from his captain, “somewhat wanting in tact”! Gotta hand it to anyone who works on a ship, tough job, plus being gone away from family.

    1. starryblackness Post author

      I liked that one too! It comes up again and again, my uncles in the navy back then didn’t have many children, if any – would perhaps have been quite a lonely life for the women at home. Or maybe it became normal, as long as the pay went in…

      1. pastsmith

        Hard to have kids when you’re not home much! I imagine the women’s lives might have been lonely, unless the uncles were all ‘somewhat wanting in tact.’ Then the women were probably relieved when they went back to sea.

  4. Pingback: Grace Daniel Tremethick later Richards 19th Century Navy wife | starryblackness

  5. Pingback: Albania Tremethick, the grocer’s assistant who married a Lemmon | starryblackness

  6. Pingback: Patience Daniel Rowe later Tremethick, 1830-1908 | starryblackness

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