News from 1906/1929: Retirement/Death of Capt Kidley

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The New York Times, 31 January 1929

Several English Notables Die
LONDON, Jan. 30 (AP)---Among the deaths of important persons recorded here
today were those of *** Captain William Kidley veteran White Star Steamship
commander ***.


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
MAB note: The "Upload Image" function seems not to be working at the moment, so I can't include in this message a photo of Capt. Kidley that appeared with this article. There is, however, a copy available in the Files section of the White Star History Mailing list that the first url in my signature leads to.

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District], 1897

Captain William Henry Kidley, R.N.R., Commander of the s.s. "Gothic," was
born at Clifton, near Bristol, England, on the 31st of January, 1845. At
eleven years of age he ran away from home and went to New York, but on
arrival he was promptly placed on board another ship and sent home to his
parents. He was then apprenticed on board the ship "Venus," owned by Mr.
Thomas Daniels, which traded to the West Indies. After completing his time,
Captain Kidley was engaged in various ships, trading to many parts of the
globe. In 1870 he joined the White Star line, and has sailed on such vessels
as the "Gaelic," "Coptic," "Ionic," "Adriatic," and the "Gothic," the latter
being the flagship of the fleet. Captain Kidley opened the trade to New
Zealand for the Company in the "Coptic" in 1884, and has been trading to and
fro ever since. He is married, and has two sons and two daughters.


Used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike
license found at

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The Times, 2 February 1929

The death at the age of 84 of Captain William H. Kidley, R.N.R., severs
another link with old sailing days. Captain Kidley, who served his
apprenticeship with Messrs. T. Daniels and Sons, joined the White Star Line
in 1871 as fourth officer, attaining the rank of captain four years later.
For 29 years he held command in the White Star fleet, but his name will
chiefly be associated with the Gothic, a ship he commanded for a number of
years. On his retirement 23 years ago Captain Kidley was the senior captain
in the White Star Line's New Zealand trade.


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
MAB note: This article appears today because of its dateline. I had never heard of Capt. Kidley until about a week ago, and now I'm finding all sorts of stuff about him. BTW, either the dateline is wrong or the author was confused; Gothic actually sailed on 8 February 1906, not 3 February as stated here.

The Star, Lyttleton, New Zealand, 10 March 1906
Retrieved from the National Library of New Zealand web site


LONDON, February 3
When the R.M.S. Gothic sails for New Zealand to-day a very familiar figure
will be missing from the bridge. Captain W. H. Kidley, R.N.R., who brought
the Gothic to port the other day from her twenty-ninth voyage under his
command, has retired from the service, being already a year over the
company's age limit for commanders. He is hale and hearty still, but Time's
relentless finger points the hour of departure, and so the veteran skipper
parts company with the service with which he has been identified for so many

Fifty years at sea, thirty-six years in the service of the White Star
Company, and twenty-two years in the passenger trade between London and New
Zealand --- such in brief is Captain Kidley's long record. Naturally he
feels the parting with his colonial friends and associations very keenly. In
conversation with your correspondent yesterday, the captain expressed his
deep regret at the severance of his long connection with New Zealand.

"I am sorry--- more sorry than I can say --- to quit the service and sever
my connection with the colony," he said, with evident emotion. "I made so
many friends there, and experienced such abounding kindness and hospitality.
I feel it all the more because I have had no opportunity of saying good-bye
to any of my New Zealand friends. I had no idea when I left Wellington last
December that that would be my last voyage and that New Zealand and all my
associations with the colony would henceforth be things of the past.

"I must be content," he added, "to say good-bye to my friends there through
the medium of your columns, and I would like you to thank them one and all
on my behalf for all their kindness to me. I don't suppose anybody ever
received kinder treatment in New Zealand than I have. It is twenty-two years
since I first started running between New Zealand and London. Many of the
people I took out as children have children of their own now. I have carried
two generations of travellers to and from the colony, and have made hosts of
friends. Yes, I feel the parting very much."

Captain Kidley has been "going down to the sea in ships" for half a
century, and his career has been interesting and varied. He made his first
voyage in 1856 --- on a sailing ship --- and his last in 1906, as commander
of an ocean liner. For the first four years of his sea life he was in the
West Indian trade. In 1860 he sailed, to the East Indies. Coming back to
England in 1862 he went out to the West Coast of South Africa, and was in
Dahomey at the time of the massacres, when, as he says, the blood spilt was
"enough to float a war-canoe." From Africa he went to America, visiting
Maine and Massachusetts. The American Civil War was in progress at the time,
and his skill as a sailmaker brought him plenty of work in the making of
tents for the campaign. Thence he went to South America, and was in Buenos
Ayres during the Paraguayan War. Returning to the United States, he went
thence to Mauritius and Java, and from there to Singapore.. His next voyage
was as chief officer in the Arab ship Fathool Carrim, carrying pilgrims to
Mecca. This was the largest ship that had been seen at Suez in those day,
when the Suez Canal had not yet been opened. In the same ship he went to
China, and thence to Bombay, where he left her and joined the ship British
Nation as chief officer. In this vessel he was engaged in the transport of
stores from England during the Abyssinian War in 1868. At the close of the
war he sailed to Calcutta and thence to England, where --- in 1870 --- he
joined the White Star sailing ship Francis Thorpe as chief officer, and made
voyages to Calcutta and to New York. Returning to Liverpool, he joined the
s.s. Oceanic --- his first steamer --- and has been in the employ of the
White Star Company ever since.

It may not be generally known that Captain Kidley was master of the first
Shaw, Savill passenger steamer that ran from New Zealand to London. He was
in charge of the Coptic when that vessel was ordered to New Zealand to
inaugurate the passenger service to London. That was in 1884 --- twenty-two
years ago --- and Captain Kidley has been to and fro along the same route
ever since. Prior to 1884 the Shaw, Savill Company only ran cargo boats to
the colony; they took emigrants, but were not classed as passenger steamers.
Subsequently Captain Kidley was transferred to the Ionic --- the old Ionic,
not the present one ---and then to the Gothic, in which he has made no fewer
than twenty-nine voyages. When he first started running to New Zealand he
used to take out assisted emigrants in large numbers --- as many as 400 at a
time. After a long interval organised emigration has been re-introduced
within the past two or three years, but under a new and improved system of
State assistance. The conditions under which third-class passengers travel
have improved vastly since the "eighties," says Captain Kidley. So, for that
matter, has everything connected with the passenger trade.

"Think how the New Zealand ports have gone ahead," remarked the captain."
When I first started running to Wellington we used to land our passengers at
a little bridge up by the Post Office. Now they have as fine wharves there
as any in the world. Wellington has improved faster than any other New
Zealand port in the matter of harbour accommodation, and facilities, and
next to Wellington Timaru."

"You have been all over the colony, of course?"

"Yes, indeed. I know New Zealand from Van Diemen to the Snares."

"No," said the captain, in answer to a question, "I was never in a
shipwreck. In all my time at sea I have never had an accident --- a serious
accident, that is. On two occasions the machinery broke down at sea, once in
the Ionic, when we had to be towed into Cape Town, and the other time in the
Gothic, when we sailed back to Lyttelton."

"What was your most exciting experience, Captain?"

"It's hard to say, but I shall never forget the time when we sailed out from
Wellington in the old Coptic under sealed orders. That was during the
Russian War scare of 1885 --- many of your New Zealand readers will remember
the incident. The Coptic was converted into an armoured cruiser, and carried
guns and a crew of 164 men. She was accompanied by the Britannia, which was
also armed, and we sailed to Chili and joined Admiral Baird's fleet, which
was cruising on the American coast. It was Admiral Tryon who gave me my
orders --- he who was drowned in the Victoria years afterwards. I had
previously served under him when on transport duty in the Abyssinian War.
The threatened war with Russia never took place, but the excitement was
intense at the time."

"Don't forget," said Captain Kidley, in conclusion, "to express my thanks to
my New Zealand friends for their long and many kindnesses, and the great
hospitality I have received in every part of the colony. I only wish I could
go back and say good-bye in person."


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
Hmmm...seems that this picture, like many (all?) others, disappeared when the message board switched servers. So here again is Capt. Kidley:

In addition, Jason Tiller has alerted me to the fact that Capt. Kidley's burial site has a web page of its own, at Toxteth Park Municipal Cemetery Inscriptions, indicating that Kidley's date of death (left uncertain in the obituaries which appear earlier in this thread) was 26 January 1929.


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