Thomas Ames

Thomas Ames

Born in Strood, Kent, on 11 January 1872, Thomas Ames was the elder brother of my grandfather Herbert. He signed up with the Merchant Navy on his 18th birthday and initially worked aboard ships based at the local Chatham docks.

However, his principal – and tragic – seafaring experience took place in 1891 when he joined the crew of the ship, ‘Closeburn’ (pictured), which transported food and goods between the UK and Australia.

According to the record shown below, he attempted to secure a hatch during a storm on 13 September 1891 off the coast of Africa and it was believed he was washed overboard as his body was never found. He was 19.

His father and mother, Thomas and Sarah, had very sadly already lost their daughters as Laura Ames died on 17 November 1878 aged 3 years and 4 months, and Sarah Ann Ames died on 13 August 1874 aged 13 months. This left Herbert as their only issue following their marriage in 1871.

RIP Thomas.

The Closeburn had been launched in Glasgow in 1881 and registered to Guthrie, Macdonald, Hood & Co. In May 1884, it sailed from Lyttleton, New Zealand, for Queenstown with a crew of 20 and 1406 bags of wheat. However, whilst off Cape Horn on 25 June and running before a WSW gale, the vessel lurched and shipped heavy seas, washing overboard the Second Officer, an Able Seaman and an Apprentice. It was found necessary to jettison some cargo and the ship put into Bahia for repairs. She eventually reached Plymouth on 30 October. Renamed “Virgo” and now under Scandinavian ownership – hence the flag in the picture – the ship was fatally wrecked on 5 December 1928 following a collision with the SS Marie Ferdinand when approaching Mariehamn. She was wrecked on the rocks at the Skvatthallen near Stockholm.


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