Frederick Ashby, Coastguard

The added duties of a Battery Officer gave me a great increase in clerical work as well as superintending the drills of the Royal Naval Reserve, also being a receiving station for all supplies of Stores for the Division but in these I found good support from Mr. Cardew my Chief Instructor as well as the crew of the Stn. The Wexford Division extending from Morriscastle to Bar Lough near the Waterford river being under an Inspecting Commander who having to reside at Wexford 10½ miles away, I had to visit there by Car every Friday in order to obtain money to pay the Reserve on Satdy. Also every 1st of the month (Sundays excepted) on this pay day the whole of the Officers of the Division also assembled for the pay of the crews, as well as an interchange of any corrections of duties, or light stores required etc.

Owing to the light Railway which came from Ballygeary Pier past our Stn. at the back for Wexford having become bankrupt and discontinued use, I had in order to obtain education for my girls of school age to send them to Mrs. Gladwin’s boarding school at Wexford [Note 10], Birdie and Carrie being the first to attend and Marjorie joining later, thus I had the opportunity weekly and their Mother monthly or oftener of seeing them.

During my period of service here, occasion was necessary to use the Life Saving Apparatus several times in saving life, the most notable being that of the Stranding of the Wexford schooner “Maria Reid” coal laden [Note 11], on the sands near Ballygeary during a heavy snow blizzard on the 10th March 1891 (my birthday) when with difficulty (owing to the blinding sand storms and surf fouling our gear) we brought ashore the crew of 5. For this service the crew were highly commended by the I.C. CGd Cptn and Admiral Supt. of Naval Reserves (Admiral Tryon who was 2 years after lost in H.M.S. “Victoria”.)
My brother living at Cork we spent some holidays from here with him and his family.
We had a great loss here by the death of our dear boy Reg in Jany 1891 thro consumption of the bowels [Note 12]. He was buried in Kilscoran churchyard where we attended the usual service held on Sundays at noon for Protestants. Our evening services being held in the drawing room of a retired Surgeon Major called Gibbons about 2 miles from the Stn. every alternate Sunday eve, service being Church of Ireland or Nonconformist with Moody and Sankey hymns for which the crew of Stn. not on duty used to practise during the week. These services were very much appreciated by the few Protestants living in the village [Note 13].

I remained here until May 1894 when I received notice to remove to the Stn. and Battery at Great Yarmouth, also a 2nd notice to join H.M.S. “Cambridge” to requalify in gunnery. Having sent off our effects I proceeded with my wife and family by rail and boat to England but parted with them at Crewe for Plymouth, they joined up with the new Stn. 3 months prior to my arriving there which took place on the 4th Aug. 1894, our son Eric being born 2 days after I got back and Bank Holiday when the whole town was crowded with visitors [Note 14].
This being my first Station and Battery in a large Town I naturally felt with my wife and family the preference and enjoyment of the many benefits derived thereby and in particular the educating of my children so near home. The Battery with which the greatest part of my time was occupied was 2 miles from the Stn. amongst the sandhills of the North Dunes and not far from Caister, very open and unsheltered, the R.N.R. who drilled there being drawn from Lowestoft as well as the local town and seaside villages. My greatest help was from my Chief Instructor Mr. J. Collins an old “Cambridge” G.I., one of the greatest innovations was the firing of our guns for practice into a large built sandhill 800 yards from the gunshed, but the range was parallel and in close proximity to the railway, but firing was discontinued when trains were approaching. The shot (round) after each practice were recovered and the hill rebuilt.

The C.G. Stn. on the front - ¾ square – was a good one and a good view seaward and the Inspecting Commander of the Division Capt. Prickett living near and having offices at the Stn. and his own clerical staff the duties other than the Life Saving Apparatus were not so onerous as at Wexford. Twice we had occasion to a call out to save life, one near the Britannia Pier of a large steamer broadside on to the beach, and another near Caister, each time rescuing some or all of those on board. The greatest lifesaving work was at our Gorleston Detachment the mouth of the river Yare and entrance to the harbour there being a large sand bar there and which in heavy weather was always silting up. This Detchmt was in charge of a Chief Btm. named Peggs a very able man subsequently Chief Officer at Gravesend.

My duties also also called me to visit this place once a month and which I always found, especially the L.S.A. [Life Saving Apparatus], ready for service. A great treat to the numerous visitors here was “Peggottys Hut”, an old Boat created into the name and one of the subjects in Dickens David Copperfield. During our residence at Yarmouth we were able to receive visits from our relatives periodically as being by rail cheap excursions were able to take advantage, the chief one my dear old Father whom we had not seen for years, also my uncle Foreman and cousins from Landwade, Exning nr Newmarket, whom I had not seen since losing my mother in Decbr 1860 and the latter for the first time. These holidays were a great treat to them from inland places the sea being a good attraction, whilst we were able as duties permitted and the drills slack in the summer to enjoy the various excursions up the rivers Yare and Bure also the Lakes and Broads with their interesting secrecy.

In May 1895 an episode of Mumps broke out at the Stn. my children and finally myself being infected, which was the cause of much fun for the reason that the little ones who at the time were convalescent could not realize the Drs. remarks and laughter that Father had got it.
At the beginning of 1895 I joined the No. 100 Lodge Friendship of Freemasons and having passed the Degrees in April of that year became a Master Mason. Amongst the brethren on Lodge and Banquet nights also those evenings at Lodge of Instruction many happy times were spent always being carried out with such harmony and good feeling. In the autumn of 1895 we with all the Provincial Lodges travelled to Norwich, where the then Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) presided at the Annual meeting. It was a beautiful spectacle with all members of the numerous Orders and Degrees of masonry in their various uniforms, the ceremonies also very interesting especially to those of us lately initiated. The Prince especially as Grand Master of the Order, the Agricultural Hall being well filled.

In the spring of 1896 I regret that my dear wife became in a bad state of health and although the best medical experience locally was called in she was thro the kindness of Capt and Mrs. Prickett compelled to go into the Royal Samaritan Hospital in London for an operation, remaining there 3 months. She came back better but not completely cured her condition being too weak for a surgical case but medically effective. For the remainder of our stay in this place (except the death of her Mother in Feby. 1897) she regained much of her old strength and great spirit. Mother had for years resided with us off and on at all the places where stationed but she died at her own home in Canterbury.

Decbr. 1897 again saw us under orders for removal to Stonehouse my old classmate Mr Beedle having obtained the plum of the R.N.R. Batteries at Stornaway. I was selected to relieve him at the Devils Point Battery but it was not until Boxing Day that we were able to shift by train via London and Bristol, arriving late at Plymouth. After the long journey we had to put up for the night so did not join the Stn. until the next day. I here remark that we had to leave my daughter Carrie behind at Yarmouth until May 1898 owing to having to complete part training as a school teacher in the St James school under Miss Norman, staying with her friends the Myhills.

6 Comments · 26248 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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