Frederick Ashby, Coastguard

Naturally my wife and family also my numerous friends were delighted some sending me telegrams of congratulation especially Hennessy himself being also a Chief Officer some 15 months and stationed at Padstow. At first I was puzzled to know who had been so kind as to push me ahead so suddenly because there were so many men in the Holyhead district extending from St Bees Head in Cumberland to Portreath in Cornwall who were my seniors some having passed a long time, but it suddenly dawned on me that as herebefore mentioned [in an earlier section of the memoir not included here] Jock Baird, the old Captain of the “Swiftsure” with whom my old captain in “Monarch” together used to take us for long shooting picnics on the Islands near the Dardanelles, was now Admiral of the Naval Reserves, and a few months previously had inspected our Station and although not mentioning any subjects connected with the shooting expeditions, after commending me for the smartness of the crew at all drills etc, asked if I had passed for a Chief Officer, but receiving a reply that I was about to try at the next embarkation for drill he on leaving remarked that I was to be sure and pass, so that I am of opinion on my passing Certificate reaching his Office and seeing it and a vacancy he caused my promotion at once.

We were very pleased to return to our old Stn. and received hearty greetings from them on joining, and my thoughts then were that we should settle there to complete my time for my wife enjoyed better health at this high elevated Stn. than at Croyde where unfortunately she had for 9 months suffered acutely from sciatica thro living close to the sea and it was only thro residence for more than 3 months in Kent at her native place Canterbury that she obtained relief.
At Clovelly I was the Secty for the Lifeboat, the Chairman being the Revd Harrison, Canon Kingsley’s curate, his wife (also a writer Lucas Mallet) [Note 5] being the Canons daughter, and as they had no family she was interested in our little daughter Carrie.

Amongst the following were some subjects of interest during my all too brief stay of 2½ years.
1st The Marriage of the “Lady of the Manor” Miss Christine Fane to Mr Hamlyn at which the crew of the Station took a large part in the festive celebrations.
2nd The rescue under great difficulties of 2 of the crew of a small trading steamer the “Itchen” belonging to Southampton with the Life Saving Apparatus under the Cliffs at Hartland Point.
3rd My first and only cruise in the summer of 1889 afloat as an Officer was in the “Neptune” also at the Royal Review at Spithead being the whole period flag Officer to Capt Grant (see testimonial)
4th Our boys Fred and Reg were born here during the stay.

In the summer of 1888 a circular call thro the whole Coast Guard Districts for Chief Officers as Volunteers for training in Gunnery and Torpedo to have charge of Naval Reserve batteries found old friend Hennessy and myself the 2 selected from our Holyhead District and in the late autumn of the same year found us with 6 others, from various districts, on board H.M.S “Cambridge” at Plymouth whilst 10 others were transferred to HMS “Excellent” at Portsmouth, and remained there and H.M.S. “Defiance” until March 1889 when we came out with 1st Class Certificates.
During our stay on board a large Black Bear given to the ship by the Officers of the “Triumph” on paying off caused amusement and sometimes provoked unpleasantness to those concerned by giving them a good mauling, and this was I always considered thro its being given grog out of the allowance after dinner making it spiteful, but eventually it had to be sent to the Zoo where it lost its rum ration. We (the Officers) were not sorry to see its departure because it usually when old friend and I were doing our walk about the deck and rehearsing our days drills caused us to cease and remove to some safer place.

During my career at this Stn. it was inspected by Sir George Tryon then Admiral Supt. of Naval Reserves and subsequently as Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet and lost in the collision between his flagship the “Victoria” and the “Collingwood” June 1893 [Note 6]. At the inspection and whilst going thro one of the mens quarters, the larder door flew open and on his looking in and seeing some bacon enquired of the tenant what part of the country he came from, and receiving a reply from County Cork he remarked in a jocular strain, I thought so by the look of your larder.
June 16th 1890 I received an appointment as a Battery Officer for charge of the Royal Naval Reserve Battery at Rosslare Co. Wexford, Ireland, but owing to the convalescence of my wife following the birth of our 2nd son Reginald, it was not until near the end of July that we were able [to] make a move which we did once more, to the great regret of our local friends as well as the Royal National Life Boat Institution from whom I received a letter of thanks for my work as Hony Secty of the local Branch.
On the 25th July embarking in the old Cutter “Margaret” quite a novelty but later a very unpleasant one to the elder children for after putting out to sea and part way across the Channel (Bristol) we ran into a gale of wind and had to return to shelter under Lundy Island until it abated. My wife and Gran her mother were very ill but happily the children stood the tossing about well and being taken care of by the sailors seemed more to enjoy it as a pleasure trip. As soon as the weather moderated we again weighed anchor and on the second day out although running into a fog near the Irish Coast managed to hear the Tuskar lighthouse syren and in a few hours found us anchored off Ballygeary pier [Note 7] with its derelict railway lines and which ran past our Stn. into Wexford.

After landing with just sufficient food and bedding for the night we obtained our first trip in Irish Jaunting Cars to get to our Stn. 2½ miles away [Note 8], and which we were all glad to reach after our cramped and uncomfortable positions in the small Cutter [Note 9]. We were welcomed by the crew who did all in their power to make us comfortable until our goods arrived the next day in the Stns flat bottomed Boats, a description of vessel used on this coast owing to the shallow sands, they use a deep centre board for sailing but this is secured up when rowing. They were I found very useful for seining which during the summer months we were able to do with variable results in catches of good fish.

6 Comments · 25929 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Elisabeth on October 06 2009


#1 | crimea1854 on 07/10/2009 08:09:59
Thanks for posting this article, a superb insight into the life and work of a Coastguard.

#2 | Tony on 08/10/2009 15:08:30
Thank you for the superb photos.Genealogical Sources can build a framework of a past ancestor but the memoirs of Frederick Ashby fill the framework so well that one can now imagine the whole man and his loving family. Thank you for sharing him with us.
#3 | Elisabeth on 08/10/2009 18:02:18
Thankyou Martin and Tony for your appreciation. My mother (now nearly 90) wrote down some childhood recollections of her grandfather for me - it is good to capture the live memories while we can! In his 80s he still had a trim naval beard and thick steel-grey hair, and used to mend his own striped flannel shirts and darn his own socks, as sailors did. She was also amazed at his habit of spitting resoundingly into the fire! Elisabeth
#4 | John Gough on 02/02/2010 18:58:39
Dear Elizabeth. I believe that my Great Grandfather, John HENNESSY, (Bn 1846, Faversham d1932 Ash, Kent) is the 'Hennessy' referred to in the excerpt of the diary above. HE served at Ilfracombe in the late 1870s and got married in 1880. Thanks for putting this on - it gives me some 'life colour' one doesn't normally get. My only request is whether he is referred to elsewhere in the memoirs please? Many thanks. twelfthravenathotmaildotcom
#5 | rjmontgomery on 16/02/2010 18:05:20
What a splendid Victorian family photograph! Everyone should write an acount of his life's activities to inform his grandchildren and posterity. My grandfather John James Montgomery may have served with Frederick at the Great Yarmouth Devonshire Road coastguard station, but I can find mention of him in grandfather's papers.
Robert Montgomery
#6 | Elisabeth on 21/02/2010 12:25:21
Dear John Gough, its good to hear from a descendant of "Hennessy", Fred Ashby refers to him affectionately and they were clearly close friends. All the references to him are in the excerpt from the memoir which I have put on this site, there is no reference to him in the earlier part, that deals with Fred's service in the RN. But the implication in the text is that they transferred from RN to HM Coastguard together. The ships Fred Ashby served on (according to the memoir which was written some decades later, in early 1900s I think) are:
1865 Excellent
1867 Chanticleer
1872 Excellent
1873 Audacious, Newcastle, Endymion
1875 Excellent, Monarch
July 1877 transferred from Monarch to Cg service .
If you have any info on yr great grandfather's ships you maysee a link!

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