Profile from 1897 Capt E R McKinstry

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Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
MAB Note: The following is an excerpt from a two-part article entitled
"Captains of Atlantic Liners," by Alfred T. Story, which appeared in The
Strand Magazine in June and July 1897, as retrieved through Google Books.
This is from the first installment.

The last record I have of McKinstry commanding a White Star ship is for a
December 1903 Liverpool-New York roundtrip on Teutonic, which he commanded
beginning around 1900. Whatever he did after that, he seems to have had an
official shipping-related position during the first World War; his name is
on Ellis Island ship manifests for two wartime New York arrivals, one each
in 1917 and 1918. The first describes him as a 56 year-old "Captain" from
Holyhead whose passage was paid for by the Admiralty; the second describes
him as a "Convoy Commander," indicates that the British government paid for
his passage and gives his U.S. address as "c/o British Ministry of Shipping,
New York." The final trace I have of him at the moment is a letter to the
editor which was printed in The Times on 27 December 1938, in which
McKinstry states "I was 18 years in the Liverpool New York mail and
passenger service of the White Star Line, 13 years of which in command." If
that's accurate and the dates in this article are also accurate, that would
indicate a departure from White Star in 1905.

The Strand Magazine, June 1897

Captains of Atlantic Liners
By Alfred T. Story


There is generally a good deal of similarity in the early training of
commanders of Atlantic ferry-boats. But in the case of Captain E. R.
McKinstry, R.N.R., we have a slight variation. His first experience was
obtained on the training-ship Conway. Here he spent two years. On leaving
the Conway he received an appointment as midshipman in the Royal Naval
Reserve, "which," says Captain McKinstry, "means being twenty-eight days
every year with the mess on the Eagle gunnery-ship."

After leaving the Conway, McKinstry served four years in the service of the
British Shipowners' Company of Liverpool, during which time he enlarged his
general practical knowledge of navigation and of the world. His subsequent
experience is summed up in his own words, as follows:

"After that I passed the Board of Trade examination as second mate. Then I
went as second mate of a ship for fourteen months, and at the end of that
time passed as first mate. After acting as first mate for something over a
year, I passed as master. Having taken that grade, I entered the service of
the Pacific Navigation Steamship Company as fourth officer. I was in that
service for about a year and a half, and then was given an appointment as
fourth officer by the White Star. This was in 1887. Gradually I worked my
way up as vacancies occurred from fourth to third, from third to second, and
from second to chief officer, and so to master. I was in the company's New
Zealand service for nearly four years. I then succeeded to the Teutonic as
chief officer."

Most persons who take an interest in the Navy will recollect the review at
Spithead in the month of August, 1889, in which the Teutonic took part, and
was naturally the observed of all observers, first and foremost amongst whom
were the German Emperor and the Prince of Wales, who paid a visit to the new
"mercantile cruiser," and greatly admired her fine proportions and her
appropriate and very characteristic armament. On the occasion of this visit
an incident took place which showed First-Officer McKinstry to be possessed
of one of the best qualities of a seaman, "gallantry and humanity," as it is
described on the medals of the Board of Trade. The training-ship Exmouth had
put in an appearance at the review; and having approached very near to the
Teutonic on the lee side, she found that the towering sides of the latter
took her wind. This caused her boom to go over, and one of her
quartermasters being in the way he was knocked into the sea. McKinstry,
hearing the cry of "Man overboard," immediately jumped from the deck of the
Teutonic and went to the man's assistance. The moment, it may be imagined,
was one of intense excitement, hundreds of persons, who were waiting for the
arrival of the Kaiser and the Prince of Wales, being witnesses of the
accident and the rescue. Nor is this the only instance of the kind in
Captain McKinstry's career. On another occasion, when returning
from church one Sunday morning while in New York, he heard the cry that
there was a child in the water. In an instant his coat and hat were thrown
off and he was in the water, and quickly brought the little one to land. My
informant---it must not be supposed that the hero of these rescues told me
of them himself---in relating this incident remarked, with a curious
malapropos, "The water was so filthy that neither you nor I would go into it
for any money."

But to proceed with Captain McKinstry's experience. From the Teutonic he
went to the Adriatic as commander in December, 1892. "Since that time," says
the captain, "I have commanded the Runic one voyage; the Britannic two
voyages, and the Adriatic five voyages, while this ship---the Germanic---was
being re-engined. The rest of the time I have been in the Germanic. I now
hold a lieutenant's commission in the Royal Naval Reserve, and I have an
extra-master's certificate. This is above the master's certificate, and the
examination for it is quite voluntary. Since 1887 I have made one voyage to
New Zealand in the Ionic. All the rest of the time I have been running
between Liverpool and New York. We have the very worst weather that is to be
had between here and New York. I never saw a worse sea than the one we
experienced on the South Coast of Ireland the last time we came over."

In all my talks with captains of Atlantic liners, as well as with others, I
have of late taken some pains to obtain their opinion on the British sailor
question, for it is a "question," and bids fair ere long to become a very
burning one. So I asked Captain McKinstry what he thought of the
British seaman and of seafaring generally as a profession. Briefly stated,
his reply was that on the White Star ships British sailors were chiefly

"We may occasionally have a foreigner among the crew, but rarely more than
one or maybe two. For myself, I prefer the Britisher."

I made the remark that in some quarters there was a preference for the
foreigner, because, as some said, he was less troublesome. The reply I got

"It is true an English seaman may be troublesome; but so may a Scandinavian,
and if the Scandinavian is a troublesome one, he is generally very
troublesome indeed. No, I prefer the
Britisher all the time."

As to the general question, Captain McKinstry said:

"If a boy is manly, plucky, and intelligent, the sea offers him a fair
opportunity. There are plenty of chances of promotion. My father there"---he
pointed to the photograph of a handsome military officer that hangs in his
cabin---"thought all his sons ought to go into the Service, and I have two
brothers in it; but I would not exchange positions with either of them."




From a Photo by Falk, New York City
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