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George Rix Seawitchartist






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The Hallowe'en Tea Chest

The Halloween Tea Chest

 The Halloween tea chests under lid painting depicts the ship arriving in the English channel in 1873 after being the only ship to match the Sir Lancelot's 89 day record of 1869.

The Hallowe'en  was, to my mind, the ship the Cutty Sark was supposed to be, the fastest tea racer of all. Built alongside her sister ship Blackadder  by  Maudsley, Sons & Field of London. She was launched on June 4th 1870 , but not delivered to John Willis for 18 months because he had a legal dispute with the builders and under writers in respect of the aforementioned Blackadder,  a truly awful ship that may have been unseaworthy from the start. Both ships, like the Cutty Sark, had their hulls taken from the lines of John Willis's favorite ship the Tweed, except these were iron hulled ships, not composite. However, at 971 gross tons she was of similar size to the Cutty Sark that ship being 963 gross tons. On her first voyage , Sydney bound ,the pilot quickly demanded the ship be turned back to port, it seemed she was leaking badly, however after the cargo had be taken back out it was discovered that rainwater had collected in the hold during her long wait for delivery, dirt that had also collected had stopped this flowing into the ships well until she got to sea  and her rolling had this water free itself and fill the well suddenly having the ship behave like a substantial leak. She finally sailed for Australia on July 1st 1872, under Captain Watt and got there in just 69 days. It became clear she was very fast in light winds, owing to her unique mast arrangement, foremast and mizzenmast raked forwards and aft of an upright mainmast, Chinese junk style,  this prevented sails interfering with each other. While she never did match the superb 24 hour runs of Cutty Sark, she could obviously maintain a  much better average, very telling on inter ocean voyages. During her maiden voyage Cutty Sark had began her ill fated race with Thermopylae.

Sister ship: The Black adder  * was built alongside Hallowe'en  but launched  a little sooner, she shared her sisters hull design but none of her luck. She was wrecked carrying a coal cargo from Barry in south Wales to Bahia in Brazil on 5th November 1905, by now a barque under Norwegian flag.

Blackadder  is named after a river in Berwickshire. Confusingly even some  otherwise very reliable sources like Basil Lubbock in The China Clippers' has her as Black Adder.





The Hallowe'en docked at Pitt street , Sydney in the 1870's.



The Hallowe'en docked at Pitt street , Sydney in the 1870's. Note the huge house flag, typical of tea clippers.



Record Tea Passages

In 1873 Cutty Sark and Thermopylae left the port of Shanghai on July 9th and 11th respectively to race home, Cutty Sark took 117 days and Thermopylae 101 days. Importantly, Sir Lancelot, the record holder having made the passage in 89 days in 1869, left Shanghai on June 29th, she would take 127 days this time. It was not until November 19th that the Halloween would leave Shanghai under Captain Watt and show the everyone interested that the decision makers might have done better if the Hallowe'en had been given loading priority instead, but at this point she was still an outsider it seems, with no reputation to make her a favorite. She arrived home in 89 days, Sir Lancelot's  record had been matched. But in the two years that followed, Halloween did something the other didn't, and was damn nearly do it al again two more times. In 1874 she got home in just 91 days and in 1875 she did it in 92 days!  Such sequels ruled out flukes, and even her late leavings which helped her get better Monsoon winds won't change the view, that if I'm to be asked she was the fastest tea racer in the British trade with China. Her 92 day passage in 1875 might have been something better, extraordinary even, if she hadn't been delayed for two days by a tragic event. Captain Watt became so ill he had to be beached at St. Helena, he died there almost as soon as the ship had left again, now under command of the chief mate , a man called Fowler.  He became her Captain proper for the next few years, his first voyage as Captain in 1876 had her home in the very respectable time of 102 days. That was a week faster than Cutty Sark and twelve days faster than Thermopylae.



 Wreck of the Hallowe'en

The Hallowe'en ran aground at Saw Mill Cove in Devon on January 17th 1887 on her way back from Foochow in China loaded with tea. Divers can still see parts of her wreck today.




The Fate of the Hallowe'en

On her final voyage she had sailed from Foochow with a tea cargo bound for London .

From the outset bad weather slowed the Hallowe'en, it would take over five months before her exhausted crew  saw the Eddystone lighthouse on her starboard side. A fresh course was set to safely take the ship some eight miles off Start Point.

Running in terrible weather, with the  wind beating relentlessly on her , the Hallowe'en had deviated from her set course, when in the darkness unsuspectingly drove in towards the shore. At 7.30pm  on January 17th the Halloween ran  inside the west end of the Hamstone and crashed onto the rocks at the edge of Soar Mill Cove. She was lost. In the heavy seas it was not possible for her to escape. The waves smashed the forecastle and deck house forcing the crew to take to the rigging until that too parted and they had to return to the deck. Flares were sent up, and a fire lit on the afterdeck, but nobody on shore took any notice.

Early in the morning three crewmen  volunteered to take a line ashore. It was a futile attempt and sadly one of these brave fellows was drowned in that attempt, but the other two managed to get ashore and make it up the cliffs until they came upon  a farmhouse. Exhausted they explained their story to the farmer who soon sent a message to Hope Cove, and the lifeboat was launched at about  8.30pm

After  almost an hour and a half the lifeboat managed to come alongside the Hallowe'en and with some considerable difficulty extricated all nineteen crew who by this time were freezing from their  exposure to the elements. Within three days the ship was broken up by repeated storms and her cargo of tea washed out of her broken hull and swept into Soar Mill Cove were it formed a huge wall on the beach.


The Hallowe'en

A wonderful painting of the Hallowe'en by New Zealand based Danish artist R.Jenson in 1972. It was kindly submitted by it's owner Ross Dubois.




All text and images and linked images are 2003-2015 George Rix. If you require any further information on permitted use, or a licence to republish any material, email me at