The Cellardyke Echo – 17/6/2021 – Issue 291

1870

We understand that Messrs Sharp and Murray, the well-known general merchants of Cellardyke, have just purchased the extensive and eligible fishcuring premises in the East Green of Anstruther, erected and occupied for some years by Mr Walter Ireland of Buckhaven. These premises may be regarded a model of their kind, and in the present unprecedentedly low state of the trade they realise a rental of £50, but the purchase price is understood to be only about £600, which is fully £200 less than the outlay in erecting the premises some fourteen years ago. A few weeks since, Mr David Murray, of the same firm, bought Mr Ireland’s villa for about £520, which was less by about £350 than the cost of the property only eight or nine years before.

The Late Mr Robert Pratt.- Early on Monday morning, before the rest of the town had awaked from their slumbers, an old man passed calmly and almost imperceptibly to his long rest, who deserves more than the usual brief obituary notice. We refer to Mr Robert Pratt, sailmaker, whose death will call up many old remembrances to his numerous friends and acquaintances in all the towns along the coast. Mr Pratt’s early life was a more than usually adventurous one, and the following particulars, for which we are indebted to the kindness of his brother, Mr John Pratt, himself an old whaler, will perhaps not be unacceptable to our readers. He was born in 1789, and at the early age of eleven years he went to serve in the “Prince of Wales” excise cutter, commanded by Captain Henderson, whose tombstone may be seen on the east side of Anstruther Church. At that time the duties of the cutter, which cruised about the Firth, were more arduous than fall to their lot now, smuggling going on at every suitable place with great activity. After being four years on board the cutter, Mr Pratt went to Dundee, from which port he sailed on board the “Mary Ann,” to Greenland to the whale fishing. On returning to Dundee, and thinking to escape the numerous press-gangs which then infested the country, he went to Leith, where he got in as mate of the smack “Hope,” a trader between Leith and London. His efforts to escape being impressed, however, proved unsuccessful, for he was seized and had to join the “Ardent” guardship, lying in Leith. He was taken on a Friday, and on the Monday his brother Alex. , who had been on his second voyage, singularly enough was brought face to face with him, having been taken out of his ship by the press-gang at the Hynds near Arbroath, and conveyed to the guard-ship. While on board the “Ardent,” Robert was rated boatswain’s mate, and also managed to get married to a woman belonging to St Andrews. Three week after being impressed, he succeeded in making his escape from the ship, by jumping on to the rigging of the ferry boat crossing to Burntisland. On getting to the shore, he made his way inland as quickly as possible, and travelling round by Kellie Law, arrived in Cellardyke on a Sunday night. After this he went to St Andrews, from which port he sailed to London, where he was again pressed while going up the river, and taken on board the Thetis. He did not remain long, however, for five weeks after being impressed, along with a companion also belonging to Cellardyke, named Thomas Watson, the frigate being about a mile and a half off Greenwich, he dropped into the sea through the hawse-hole, and attempted to swim ashore. Pratt managed to get near enough the shore to touch the ground with his feet, but he had just succeeded in getting a foothold when he heard his companion, who was some distance behind him, exclaim, “Oh, Lord God, have mercy on me!” and turning round, saw him sink. To have attempted to rescue Watson in his exhausted state would have been madness, and therefore he wended his sorrowful way to the land, where he fell in with a company of sweeps. Gathering a large quantity of sticks, they quickly lighted a fire, at which he got his clothes dried, he having tied them round his neck before leaving the ship. At Greenwich, he got into a whaler, and made another voyage to Greenland. After coming home, he joined the transport service, and was in the “True Love,” carrying troops from Flushen, for about five years. Leaving this, he went to Shields, and got into a brig going to Falmouth with coals. On the voyage, they were captured by a French vessel, and taken to France, where they were confined in a prison. Mr Pratt often related this portion of his history to his friends, graphically describing the sufferings and hardships which he, along with his companions, underwent while confined there. After being five or six weeks in prison, they managed to punch out the iron bolts in the windows by means of a small marlinspike which had escaped the vigilant search of their captors, and Mr Pratt and 18 others got out by the window, by tying their blankets together, and dropping to the ground. Their prison, however, was situated far from the shore, and before they could get out of the country they had to travel a long distance without food or the means to procure it with. Travelling all night, Mr Pratt lay all day, covering himself with snow to prevent discovery. To procure food, he took the mother of pearl buttons which were on his coat, and sold them to the villagers for food. After these were all gone, he cut off his hair, which at that time was worn very long, and with the money obtained from this, and any food which he could obtain on the way, he supported himself till he arrived at the sea coast. He was not long there before he was fortunate enough to gut away in an English vessel. Shortly after arriving in Britain, he went away to the whale fishing, and made no less than 37 voyages in succession to the Greenland whale fishing. On his last voyage he was struck by a whale, and so much hurt that every bone in his body seemed broken. He was brought home, and during all the next winter was laid up by the injuries he had received. After this he settled down in Cellardyke, and having been learnt by his father, along with the rest of his brothers, to sew a very necessary accomplishment to a sailor he began sailmaking, and continued up till last year at that work. About the New Year, his strength began to fail him, and he had to take to his bed, from which time he was gradually sunk, till on Monday morning, as stated above, he breathed his last, at the age of 81. Mr Pratt was a quiet, sober man, and was much respected by all who knew him. He was well known along the coast, and also in Dundee and Aberdeen, from having sailed so often from these ports.

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