PSS Hibernia – one of the first ‘Railway Ships’

PSS Cambria 1848
PSS Cambria, sister ship to PSS Hibernia

During the eighteenth century and on into the mid-nineteenth century, the port of registration for Anglesey was not, as you’d expect Holyhead, but Beaumaris. The owners of ships were obliged to report to the port authority in Beaumaris every six months an ‘Account of Voyages and Crew of Home Trade Ships’. The two documents relating to the ‘Hibernia’ for January 1st 1862 to June 30th 1862, and July 1st 1862 to December 31st 1862 are still in existence and are to be found at the National Archives in Kew, London (RAIL 113/53). They make for interesting reading.

Built in 1848, the ‘Hibernia’ (official number 27003) appears to have been unexpectedly re-registered at the Port of Chester on October 31st 1854. She had a registered tonnage of 573 tons and her managing owner in 1862 was Charles F. Steward of Euston Station, London. She was a Paddle Steamer and registered to carry “Passengers, Goods and Cattle between the Ports of Dublin and Holyhead”. She was one of four vessels (Hibernia, Cambria, Scotia and Anglia) built for the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company in 1847/8 when it was decided that the mail could be conveyed at a cheaper cost by privately owned ships than on naval vessels. It is believed that she was transferred from the C & H R Co. to the London and North Western Railway Company in 1859 and that she was sold to the Waterford and Limerick Railway Company in 1877.

In 1862, the ‘Hibernia’s captain was Captain George Taylor, who lived at Benburb Lodge, Dublin. The full complement in January 1862 consisted of the following:

Name Age in 1862 Where born Post on Hibernia Other Details
George Taylor 33 Edinburgh Master To stay with ship
John Roberts 43 Holyhead Chief Mate
Michael Archbold 45 Dalkey 2nd Mate
William Morris 38 Holyhead Carpenter
John Cox 40 Hastings Quarter Master
William Beatty 49 Dublin Quarter Master
Owen Pritchard 31 Anglesey Seaman Discharged
William Rowlands 36 Anglesey Seaman To stay with ship
Ishmael Jones 22 Holyhead Seaman
William Rowlands 45 Holyhead Seaman
John Jones 31 Anglesey Seaman
Robert Williams 16 Conway Boy
Samuel Green 37 Norwich Cook
John Paton 38 Clackmannan Chief Engineer
George Greenough 60 Wigan 2nd Engineer “ –

Previous ship ‘Scotia’

William Holmes 42 Suffolk Leading Stoker
Richard Williams 47 Anglesey Stoker
William Owen 58 Holyhead Stoker
Thomas Owen 26 Holyhead Stoker
Thomas Jones 40 Anglesey Stoker
Edward Lewis 43 Holyhead Stoker
Richard Jones 39 Holyhead Stoker
John Williams 35 Holyhead Coal Trimmer
Patrick Hyland 31 Dublin Steward
Thomas Wiliams 14 Conway Cabin Boy
John Lill 40 Lincolnshire Seaman

Previous ship ‘Scotia’

As only one crew member had been discharged by June 30th 1862, it would be expected that the crew list for the second half of the year would be identical but this was not the case because seven of the names listed above had changed, i.e. almost a third of the crew in December 1862 were different to the ones noted six months earlier. Here are the changes:

Name Age in 1862 Where born Post on Hibernia Other Details
George Cook 45 Chatham Chief Mate To stay with ship
William Hodgson 28 Lancaster Seaman
George William Cook 14 London Boy
William Jeffreys 38 Glasgow Chief Engineer
John Hughes 37 Holyhead 2nd Engineer
William Jones 50 Holyhead Coal Trimmer
Patrick Neating 13 Dublin Cabin Boy

In the first six months of 1862 61% of the crew had been born in north Wales but this figure had fallen to 50% by the end of that same year. The others were not, as would be expected perhaps, from Ireland but from places as far afield as Clackmannan in Scotland and Chatham in England. Even at that time, people were aware that Holyhead was a growing port and were willing to travel great distances to take up work.

The other notable fact is the limited number of crew personnel who would have dealt directly with passengers (stewards or catering staff) and this supports the view that the rival City of Dublin Steam Packet Company was far better equipped to deal with people and mail whilst LNWR concentrated on goods and cattle.

This record is just a snapshot but it gives us a flavour of the background of the captain and crew of one of Holyhead’s ‘regular’ ships and one whose name was to continue in use until the mid-twentieth century.


One of the Seamen mentioned above was Ishmael Jones, recorded as aged 22. He was born in Holyhead in 1839 to Robert and Margaret Jones of Mill Street, Holyhead and was baptised in St. Cybi’s Church on 20 June 1839. His father was a Butcher in the town. On 28 October 1862 Ishmael married Catherine Thomas from Pwllheli at St. Cybi’s Church. He could sign his name but his wife could only make a mark. They lived at 12 Thomas Street, Holyhead and went onto have at least 5 Children, including Henry Thomas Jones who became a School Master at the Holyhead Council School. Ishmael Jones died on 28 July 1903 at 12 Thomas Street, Holyhead at the age of 64, still employed as a mariner and leaving £110 to his wife in his will.

Reference: National Archives Records of the Railway Companies, Two half-yearly crew lists for 1862 submitted to Mercantile Marine Office, RAIL 113/53.

Contributed by Dr Gareth Huws with additions by the editor

2 thoughts on “PSS Hibernia – one of the first ‘Railway Ships’

  1. Peter Roberts August 31, 2019 / 4:45 pm

    Another very interesting contribution by Dr Huws

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Edwyn Hughes August 31, 2019 / 10:18 pm

    Excellent research and contribution by Dr Gareth Huws

    Liked by 1 person

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