Here I am getting excited about the America's Cup taking place in Plymouth........and I discover I have a sort of sideways family connection with the America's Cup of the early 1900's!!! Sort of!
According to the official America's Cup website, in the beginning.....................
"In 1851 a radical looking schooner ghosted out of the afternoon mist and swiftly sailed past the Royal Yacht stationed in the Solent, between the Isle of Wight and the south coast of England, on an afternoon when Queen Victoria was watching a sailing race.
As the schooner, named America, passed the Royal Yacht in first position, and saluted by dipping its ensign three times, Queen Victoria asked one of her attendants to tell her who was in second place. "Your Majesty, there is no second," came the reply. That phrase, just four words, is still the best description of the America's Cup, and how it represents the singular pursuit of excellence.
That day in August, 1851, the yacht America, representing the young New York Yacht Club, would go on to beat the best the British could offer and win the Royal Yacht Squadron's 100 Guinea Cup. This was more than a simple boat race however, as it symbolised a great victory for the new world over the old, a triumph that unseated Great Britain as the world's undisputed maritime power.
The trophy would go to the young democracy of the United States and it would be well over 100 years before it was taken away from New York.
Shortly after America won the 100 Guinea Cup in 1851, New York Yacht Club Commodore John Cox Stevens and the rest of his ownership syndicate sold the celebrated schooner and returned home to New York as heroes. They donated the trophy to the New York Yacht Club under a Deed of Gift, which stated that the trophy was to be "a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations."
Thus was born the America's Cup, named after the winning schooner America, as opposed to the country.
And so it says on the America’s Cup website.
It goes on to claim that ‘The America's Cup is without a doubt the most difficult trophy in sport to win. In the more than 150 years since that first race off England, only four nations have won what is often called the “oldest trophy in international sport.”
Cool! However, I’m not particularly interested in the history of the America’s Cup, as interesting as it genuinely is. It's the slightly obscure sideways 'family' connection with the Cup which has been fascinating me.
My Mum and Dad have been visiting us the last few days in Plymouth and Dad bought with him details of our family tree. During our discussions and explorations (which lasted long into the night - sorry Dad!!!), it emerged that my great grandfather was actually a steward on Sir Thomas Lipton’s steam yacht 'Erin' during the early America’s Cup races, according to his log book. During this time he would have come into contact with very many famous people, ranging from Royalty, to multi-millionaire captains of industry on both sides of the Atlantic. Not only that but he would have met and interacted with the various crews of the Shamrock boats built and sailed by Lipton himself because 'Erin' was the actual tender to the 'Shamrock'. Wow!
The Steam yacht 'Erin'
Copyright Mclean Museum and Gallery
“THE LIPTON ERA
There were a further six challenges before the turn of the Century, including the first of what came to be called the Lipton era of the America's Cup. Sir Thomas Lipton, the Irish/Scottish tea baron challenged five times between 1899 and 1930. He became the loveable loser; a man whose good-natured approach to the obstacles stacked against him turned him into a folk hero and promoted his business interests in America as well.
While Lipton didn't win the America's Cup, he became one of the first to introduce the idea of sports sponsorship, and he realized a financial windfall from it. Lipton's final challenge in 1930 was the first in the new J-Class boats. This was a period of magnificent beauty afloat, as the towering masts carrying an improbable amount of sail powered through the chop off Newport, Rhode Island. Harold Vanderbilt was selected to defend for the New York Yacht Club that year and did so with ease.”and you can read more about him at these links here......
Sir Thomas Lipton aboard 'SY Erin'
Copyright: Mclean museum and gallery
You can read about 'Shamrock' here as well
We (well Dad) has some artefact's from this period of time in our family history, one of which seems to be either a subway, tram or ferry ticket from Hawthorne in New York dated July 1892. It has been punched over 60 times suggesting that my great Granddad lived for a period of time in this district. It ties in with some of his time on board the 'Erin'. There are some messages on embossed notepaper with beautiful and ornate enameled emblems ....flags etc that was clearly the official notepaper of the SY Erin (including some enameled bunting which I suspect spells out the name 'Erin'); we have some photos of my Great Granddad taken on board at Genoa we think.
I did a little searching about the 'SY Erin' today, so Dad this is for you!
Some of the crew of 'SY Erin' playing with the ship's mascot........which was a monkey
copyright: Mclean museum and gallery
Originally she was the AEGUSA built by Scotts in Greenock, Scotland in 1896. She weighed 1242 tonnes, was 257 feet in length and 32 feet in breadth. She had a top speed of 15 kts. She was purchased by Sir Thomas in 1898 and renamed ‘Erin’. She was to act as a tender for his racing yachts (shamrocks).
The actual crew of 'Shamrock' working on her rigging, on board 'SY Erin'
copyright Mclean museum and gallery
When war was declared she was used by the Red Cross to ferry doctors to France and Salonika. I’m slightly hazy after that but I think she was them named HMS AEGUSA, used as a patrol vessel in the Med and had some guns mounted on her decks. There seem to be two contrasting stories about her demise or I may have got my wires crossed...either she was sank in April 1916 by a mine just off Malta, or she was sank by a torpedo whilst going to the rescue of another hospital ship which was sinking, having also been torpedoed. I’ll try and do some further research and get this bit of the story cleared up.
copyright Mclean museum and gallery
Amazing co-incidence really isn't it....here I am raving about the America's Cup......when my Dad delivers a family connection (albeit slightly tenuous) this same weekend!
Postscript: for those interested in where the boats will be racing.......here is a map!!
and here are some views of the various 'Shamrocks' - all copyright Mclean museum and gallery or J.S. Johnson
'Shamrock III' and 'Enterprise'
'Shamrock IV' going up the Solent on her first sea trials
copyright J.S. Johnson
and here are today's modern racing greyhounds.....what a difference 100 years can make!
The America's Cup
copyright Skipper's TV