TAMH: Source Material
Dundee: Articles about DP&L (Dundee, Perth and London Shipping Company)

Captain William Speedy

Graeme Somner, A History of the Dundee, Perth & London Shipping Company Ltd and Associated Shipping Companies

World Ship Society, Kendal 1995

By kind permission of DP&L

One of the many colourful and loyal servants of the Company was Captain William Speedy who served at sea from 1840 until 1900.Born at Brechin, Forfarshire on 16th July 1842 he moved with his family to Aberdeen where he found employment in a mill at an early age.

Shortly afterwards the family moved to Dundee where his parents died, leaving him an orphan with the shaping of his career in his own hands.

His ambition was to be a sailor and at the age of 16, with a fresh complexion, brown hair, grey eyes and nearly 5' 7'' in height, he secured a berth as a boy on the Company's paddle steamer Dundee (II) on 5th June 1840. This vessel was commanded by Captain James Kidd who took a fatherly interest in him. After nearly four years service on Dundee, William Speedy, now promoted to able seaman, was advised by Captain Kidd that a deep-sea voyage would widen his experience, so he joined the Dundee-owned brig Vera (186/42). As an able seaman he sailed on her from Liverpool on 19th July 1844 bound for Valparaiso. He signed off at Liverpool on 28th April 1845.He joined the Dundee-owned snow Gratitude (155/17) as an able seaman in May 1845 sailing on her to the Baltic, before returning to the Company's ervice in October 1845 when he joined the sloop Tay (II), remaining with her for five months, when he transferred to the sloop Roe as mate. Having served as mate for a year, he then left the Company for four months and between August and December 1848 became master if the local sailing vessel Mary & Ann.

However, in December 1848 he returned to the Company as mate of the recently completed schooner Zenobia and remained with her until April 1851. He had passed as master (Home trade) at Dundee on 8th March 1851 and on his merits was promoted to 2nd mate of the paddle steamer Perth (III) in May 1851 (later becoming mate). A year later he returned to his first ship Dundee (II) as mate and stayed with her until July 1856 when he transferred to the newly built screw steamer London (IV) in a similar capacity, becoming relief master of her for a few months at the end of 1857.In January 1858 he took command of the steamer Queen (II) on the Hull sailings, but subsequently in May 1858 transferred to the Hamburg. As he had passed for master (Foreign-going) in February 1858 he now regularly took his ship to such ports as Hamburg and Bordeaux but, when Hamburg was sold in January 1863, he found himself for a short time back as master of the sloop Tay (II) until another steamer command became vacant.

His next steamship was Scotia (III) in September 1863 which was employed on the London sailings, as was Anglia to which he transferred in April 1865. As well as trading to London, Anglia made voyages to the Mediterranean calling at such ports as Valencia and Corfu to load fruit. In November 1869 Captain Speedy arrived at Port Said just a month after the Suez Canal had been opened, carrying a party of French passengers to view the Canal. He returned to Scotia (II) in January 1870, this time sailing top the Russian ports of Cronstadt and Archangel. It was while on a voyage from Newcastle to Cronstadt in August 1870 that he had the misfortune to have his ship run-down in fog by the steamer Magna Charta (964/65) off Sweden. Scotia (II) was struck amidships in the engine room and sank in 15 minutes. This was the one and only time that Captain Speedy lost his ship.He then found himself without a command until May 1874 when he returned to Anglia and he stayed with her until July 1874 and then transferred to the re-engined Cambria. When the newer and larger Britannia came into service in May 1877, Captain Speedy took command of her and in turn moved to Dundee (III) in July 1883 when she was handed over by the builders. Unfortunately this latter vessel proved to be rather 'tender' so was subsequently sold in April 1885. Captain Speedy then joined London (IV), the Company's first screw steamer, before transferring once again to Cambria. On the commissioning of the new Dundee (IV) in January 1886, Captain Speedy, by now Commodore of the fleet, took command of her and in turn moved to Perth (IV) on 17th July 1890 and then to London (V) on 5th May 1892.

In 1890, after 50 years at sea and at the age of 66, a presentation was made to him. Most would have thought of retirement after half a century of arduous service, but not Captain Speedy. With the full consent of the Board he continued to sail as Commodore until the end of the summer season of 1900 when he left London (V) and finally 'swallowed the anchor'. In his 60 years of service he had served six years as a seaman, some 11 years as a mate, and as a master for a remarkable 43 years. During the period 1857 to 1900 he had commanded all but one of the 11 ships usually employed on the Thames service (the exception being the Hibernia) from London (IV) built in 1856 to the fifth vessel of the same name built in 1892. He had served under six managers - two years under Mr Thomas Matthews, one under Mr Thomas Mearns, two under Mr George Mills, seven under Mr Robert Marshall, 27 under Mr Thomas Couper and 21 years under Mr James W Kidd, son of the master of his first ship.

He died at his home in Madeira Street, Dundee after a short illness on 21st June 1901 just before his 77th birthday.