Profile from 1897 Capt Thomas P Thompson

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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 mention of Capt. McKinstry in the opening paragraph refers to the
excerpt which appeared here yesterday and which immediately preceded this
one in the original article.

The Strand Magazine, June 1897

Captains of Atlantic Liners
By Alfred T. Story


Captain Thompson of the Georgic, another of the White Star boats, but one
that is chiefly engaged in the cattle trade, is in very general agreement
with Captain McKinstry on one point. He believes in the much-maligned
British sailor. The Georgic is the largest cargo vessel in the world, being
of 10,000 tons burden, and carrying live-stock and cargo. She is the latest
new vessel of the White Star Line, and makes a voyage to New York and back
every month, doing twelve trips to and from every year. Like the passenger
boats, the Georgic is fitted up as perfectly as can be for her special work,
and Captain Thompson speaks with pardonable pride when he says:

"During ten voyages we have carried on an average 850 bullocks per voyage,
and in the the ten voyages we have lost but one, or it may be two, but
certainly not more than two. They are landed in perfect condition. They are
stilled up, well attended to, have plenty to eat and drink, and are
carefully protected from the weather, so that they suffer no discomfort save
in bad weather."

Captain Thompson lays claim to an experience which, one would fancy, is
somewhat unique in a seafaring career. Though he has been twenty-seven years
in the employ of the White Star Company, he has neither lost a vessel nor a
life. He adds:

"I never saw a real accident---that is, anything serious; and in the last
twenty-five years I have not seen a man die at sea, although I have been in
all countries and all climates."

It is enough to make one think with Jack of old that the sea is the real
place of safety.

The last sailing vessel Captain Thompson commanded was the Garfield, the
largest ship that had been built up to that time as a sailer.
Notwithstanding his wide experience in both sailing vessels and steamers,
Captain Thompson is in full agreement, as intimated above, with the
commander of the Germanic as to the qualities of the British seaman. "We are
all British sailors"---in the White Star ships--"and we do not want anything
else," he says.

"And as to the foreigner, whose praises are being sung so much?"

"I want none of him," replied Captain Thompson. "He is, in some respects,
more easily managed than the Englishman; but I like him none the more for
that. I want the best sailor for all weathers, and in that respect the
Englishman has not his equal anywhere. Of course, I do not exclude the
Scotchman. There is nothing to choose between him and the Englishman. I'll
tell you when it is you are apt to have a bit of bother with an
Englishman---it is in fine weather. Then, you know, in a sailing ship there
is not much to, do except wipe paint and that sort of thing, and Jack
doesn't like it; nor can I say that I blame him. At such times he is hard to
manage. But let there be had weather or danger of any kind, and the
Englishman is all there. Your foreigner, on the contrary, is likely enough
to have to be sought for. In bad weather you have never any trouble with an
English sailor; and to have him as a stand by at such times, I am willing to
put up with a little difficulty now and then. Besides, half the trouble that
is experienced with Jack comes from a lack of fair play in treating him. He
has a keen sense of what is fair, and while he will stand a lot if he gets
that, he is apt to resent ill-treatment or anything that savours of
injustice." A little light on this point was recently afforded me by a
Swedish skipper. We were talking about British and foreign sailors. Said
the Swede: "I want to have nothing to do with English sailors. They cause
you too much trouble. A foreign sailor, if he misbehaves himself, you may
put him in irons till you get to the next port; but you can't do that with
an English sailor." Why?" "Because your Government protects him." Another
foreign captain complained that our Government coddles and spoils Jack so
much that there is no end of trouble with him. "If you treat him a bit
roughly, he is likely enough to bring you before a justice of the peace and
get you fined."




From a Photo. by Robinson & Roe, New York
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