Leon Marsh
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Account of Mr. A. Leon Marsh dated June 1952, in a letter written to the father of Mr. John S. Porter (Peter Iredale's great-grandson)

Mr. Peter Iredale, a Cumberland man had at one time acted as Agent (in those days called a Factor) on the West Coast of Africa for the very old established firm of Stuart & Douglas of Liverpool which has long ago ceased to exist, and it was on his retirement that he commenced the formation of the fleet he built up, having the support of a large number of Cumberland people in exactly the same way that so many world famous shipowning firms were established in Liverpool, for instance Ismay, Imrie & Co., (White Star Line). He was a pioneer of the Oregon grain trade, but the firm’s trade extended over every Continent.

Mr. Iredale’s daughter, Martha Lizzie married John, the son of Mr. William Porter of Greenisland, Belfast and he entered into partnership with his father-in-law forming the firm of P. Iredale & Porter in Liverpool, taking over with him some of the vessels hitherto managed from Belfast. The flag a blue cross with P. I. & P. in the four quarters also in blue. It became known amongst the large number of bound sea-apprentices as the Pens, Ink and Paper Line, a play upon those initials.

In 1893 the Fleet consisted of 24 vessels

Ainsdale                  Dovenby              Lorton

Allonby                   Drumalis              Lonsdale

Archer                    Embleton              Martha Fisher

Astoria                   Hawksdale           Mowhan

Bessfield                Iredale                  Peter Iredale

Birkdale                 Kinkora                 Ravenhill

Cockermouth          Lizzie Bell             Ulidia

Cumbrian               Lodore                   Ullock

Foyledale was later taken over from Mr. William Mitchell of Londonderry, the Shareholders deciding she could be more efficient1y managed from Liverpool, the centre of world-wide trade.

The Fleet diminished by sea losses and sales, Mr. Iredale died about the end of the Nineteenth Century and Mr. Porter subsequently retired back to Greenisland, building a fine house there, Ravenhill on Belfast Lough. The firm was continued on a limited scale by Mr. Andrew Hannay but soon after Mr. Porter’s retirement ceased as shipowners and continued as Insurance and Ship Brokers but about 1920, Mr. Hannay took up a position with a Marine Insurance Company and the name ceased to exist.

Mr. Iredale had been brought up in a hard school for seafaring life in his early days was a very different matter from nowadays. He was a great individualist with a wide knowledge of humanity. Apparently rigid in control and stern against wrongdoing he had an underlying very human understanding and tolerance and a sense of humour known perhaps only to those in intimate day to day contact with him. His memory was astonishing. Almost up to his death he dealt with the ship’s provisioning and stores and I used to have to be at the office at 8 oclock on those mornings when we went through them. From one voyage to another he could recollect exactly what that ship had received before-and some vessels would be away from home port for over a year and years in cases-and many a time till I got very wary, he slyly tripped me up on the details.

His Spartan nature can be illustrated by the fact that I have seen him, because he had made an appointment in London he would not break, having to be driven to the train in Liverpool crippled with gout his leg swathed up in bandages propped up on the seat and in like manner into the train for London. I like to remember I never had but one cross word from him, which in fact was not justified but was quite understandable and excusable in the particular circumstances which I am precluded from describing for the sake of others.

Mr. John Porter too was an individualist but of course he had not experienced the times and conditions through which Mr., Iredale must have passed, Mr., Porter had a natural flair and sense of values, whether it was men, ships, horses, cows, houses, furniture or other things He loved a bargain" and could huckster with the with the Irish cattle dealers as to the manner born. I remember once staying at "Ravenhill" he took me by train to stay the night at Lord Templemore’s Home Farm at Templepatrick. Mr. Porter rented the Home Farm for several years-and in the carriage were several cattle dealers, With politics, cattle farming and one thing and another Mr. Porter worked them up into passion and calmed them down again, time after time, just like a virtuoso playing on a violin - a revelation to a more stolid Englishman.

Mr. Porter and I had a great affection for one another and he was like a Father to me, I lost a very dear friend on his death.

About the end of the last Century the barque "Embleton" sailed from Liverpool with a general cargo for Auckland, New Zealand, and fog coming on she was cut in two by the Cunarder "Campania" inward bound from New York, off Point Lynas. Unfortunately there was some loss of life. The Cunard Co. was sued for damages for negligence and judgement was given against them in the Admiralty Court, They appealed the defence being that the "Campania" was proceeding at the very lowest speed at which she could maintain steerage way. The Court of Appeal confirmed the Lower Court’s judgement. It was laid down that sailing ships had used and had the right of the Seas from time immemorial and if people built vessels which could not navigate in safety without endangering other vessels in fog they must stop or take the consequences. The damages were referred to the Registrar for assessment and were settled on figures which I prepared and maintained against Counsel for the Cunard Co. Mr. Leslie Scott (later Sir Leslie—the famous KC.) who ultimately became renowned for his mastery in cases entailing intricate and involved accounts.

The barque Lodore met with such an unusual accident that it is worth recording After unloading general cargo at Sydney, N.S.W, she was riding light near Newcastle waiting turn to lead coals for Chile. A tremendous gale sprang up. The high wind was blowing in a contrary direction to the strong current of the water, in which the vessel was anchored. In the storm, the barque veered and she went broadside on to the wind and water currents, her anchor chain caught over the forefoot of the vessel; as she veered, the leverage of the chain, the high wind on the exposed side and top hamper and the pull of the water on the hull, all acting together in combination, capsized the barque. The underwriters paid a total loss. Mr. Porter bought the underwriters rights in the hull, went out to Australia and salved the barque, which when refitted and trigged up he sold.

I joined the firm on the 26th September 1893 as an officer apprentice. The business training in such a firm for those willing to work and learn was invaluable and embraced insurance, merchanting, customs, foreign exchanges and accounts, goods and commodities of all kinds to say nothing of the wide human contacts. I left to take up an offer of an appointment I had received in 1904 with Mr. Porter’s approval and endorsement. So far as it was possible, I was in touch with him up to his death.

I am now in my seventy-fifth year.

A. Leon Marsh, Balholm, Meols, Cheshire

(Archives: John S. Porter)