Memories of lost ship spark huge response

Pictures of a missing coal steamer that turned up in the Barnstaple Rotary Shop prompt relatives to get in touch.

BARNSTAPLE Rotary Club has been “inundated” with calls after memories of a maritime tragedy were unearthed in its charity shop.

Last week the Gazette reported how 90-year-old photographs of the coal steamer Stevenstone, lost with all hands in 1921, had been anonymously donated to the Boutport Street shop.

The vessel vanished without trace enroute to Denmark and claimed the lives of 16 men, five of whom were from Appledore.

An appeal by Rotarian Tony Freeman for information has seen a huge response from those descended from the lost mariners.

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These have included great granddaughters of the captain, FE Prout, plus others whose grand father was on board. A marriage certificate found with the photographs has revealed the son of the couple, who is still living in Barnstaple.

Mr Freeman has also been contacted by the North Devon Maritime Museum in Appledore and the original pictures could be donated to that, although he is willing to provide copies to the relatives.

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Investigations are now underway to piece together the many stories.

One of those was John Whitlock, whose grandfather John was an able seaman on board the Stevenstone during her ill-fated final voyage in December 1921.

Mr Whitlock, 57, lives in Essex but was contacted by his cousin Josie Sims, who lives in Appledore, when she saw the Gazette article.

“John Henry Whitlock was born at Silver Street in Appledore in 1901 and hadn’t been married very long, to Eva Annie Evans, before the ship was lost,” his grandson told us.

The 20-year-old never saw his son, also named John and in time his widow remarried.

Mr Whitlock has done some research into the mysterious loss of the Hansen Shipping Company vessel just six months after it was launched.

“My grandfather’s cousin, who was also a sailor, said ‘she just turned over’ after being hit by a huge sea. The only thing they ever found was a lifebelt washed up on the Danish coast,” he said.

“She should not have gone to sea and the harbourmaster at Blythe advised them not to sail. The story I was told is that they were hoping the weather would clear, but it just got worse.”

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