Lady of Avenel

A Report of our meeting held on 22nd January 2018

We can always rely on our speaker Bro David Mooney for an informative and entertaining night accompanied by a wealth of photographs. His subject this time was “The Lady of Avenel”. She was a sailing ship often to be seen in Bridlington harbour.

She was a brig of all wooden construction built in Falmouth in 1874. She had two masts with square sails on the foremast and usually just a fore and aft gaff rigged sail on the main mast, but as photographs showed the main mast could also carry top sails. Bro David said her early life was spent mainly carrying granite from Cornwall to various destinations, including her first visit to Bridlington in 1883.

Bro David explained that the name “Lady of Avenel” comes from the legend of the “White Lady”, a ghostly widow who waits in vain for her husband to return from war; a story common to many cultures and found in literature.

Whilst laid up in Belfast she was bought by an Arctic explorer who renamed her “Island”. Bro David explained that by now she had an auxiliary engine driving a crude two bladed propeller.  She was fitted out in Liverpool, complete with steel reinforced bow and sailed towards the North Pole with veteran Antarctic explorer and ship’s captain Frank Worsley.

Bro David told us about the many trials and tribulations of this Arctic expedition. They reached 87.5 degrees north, the nearest approach to the North Pole made by any sailing ship. On the return journey she needed a tow to Norway for repairs to rudder and propeller and limped on the Edinburgh.

In 1934 she was acquired by Yorkshire man Frederick Jackson and given back her original name and based in Bridlington. She was hired (or maybe bought) by film actress Frances Day and sailed to the Mediterranean.  Bro David believes the ship may have been featured in a film but cannot find a reference to this. Movie footage of the Lady of Avenel would be a real find.

The Lady of Avenel reputedly had a ghost. Bro David told how several Bridlington crew members have heard a woman’s voice say “leave my ship”.

Just before the war, new owner Jack Hughes, took her to Poole and partially scuttled her to preserve the timbers whilst he was away serving in the navy. The harbour authorities regarded her as a hazard to shipping however and destroyed her. Bro David said the figurehead is in a museum in Germany and the binnacle in a museum in Poole.

The Prior Bro Garry Sunley asked Bro David Moore to give the vote of thanks.  Bro David thanked Bro David Mooney for a fascinating and detailed talk, in particular the stories and photographs from the Arctic expedition.