For sale, a very rare oak cased presentation aneroid barometer by Dollond of London from the Shipwrecked Fishermen & Mariner’s Royal Benevolent Society to Captain JH Browne of the Steam Trawler, Saturn.
The barometer has a five inch ceramic dial with brass bezel and turned and polished oak case. The painted scale measures 28 to 31 inches of barometric pressure with weather indications below. Painted lettering to the centre of the scale arc states, “Marine Aneroid Barometer Made by Dollond, London” with the serial no: 832 either side of the central spindle holding the blue steel pointer and set knob and brass pointer.
The lower section of the scale is reserverved for, “The Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariner’s Royal Benevolent Society” name with the centre depicting a coloured representation of the Society’s flag. The address is stated either side as, “26 Suffolk Street, Pall Mall, East S.W”
The golden oak hinged presentation case is designed with marine style rope handles and opens to reveal a circular routed section in the base into the barometer is placed. It can then be quarter turned clockwise to secure it in cleverly provided grooves into which the top and bottom barometer wall fixings are inserted. To release, the barometer is turned anti-clockwise until the barometer fixings return to the openings at the bottom right and top left points in the case (see images).
The lid also contains a brass plaque stating the following, “Presented to Captain JH Brown – S.T Saturn. For gallant services in rescuing the crew of Swedish Barque Trio. October 7th 1905.”
The Teesdale Mercury newspaper of the 11th of October 1905 provides the details of the daring act by the crew of Saturn during North Sea gales:
“The trawler Saturn brought into Grimsby seven men and a dog belonging to the Swedish barque Trio. The vessel was struck by a great wave, which caused a leakage, and her boats were smashed during attempts made to launch them. Three of the Saturn’s crew then volunteered to go to the rescue, although as one of them afterwards stated, it seemed like courting certain death. The adventure was successful, and the barque went down a few minutes after the rescue was made”.
The Evening Express & Evening Mail of the 9th October 1905 also provided similar detail:
“The Saturn had on board the crew of seven and a dog belonging to the Swedish barque, Trio of Monsteros. They had been rescued under the most praiseworthy conditions. The Trio was bound from Blythe to The Baltic, laden with coal, and sprang a leak in a gale, all the boats, except one, being washed overboard.
The Saturn came to her assistance. The remaining boat was smashed against the vessel’s side and one of the crew was badly injured.
Three of the trawler’s men, who could swim, volunteered to attempt to launch a boat. It seemed like courting death, but the little boat got back with the crew safe in a wonderful manner. They had not got aboard when the Trio disappeared.”
Little more is known of the receipient, Captain JH Brown and his valiant crew but it is clear from the news of the period that October of 1905 was a testing month for North Sea mariners. The Teesdale Mercury states that, “during the course of a week Grimsby trawlers have saved five crews. Their sobriquet of “lifeboats of the North Sea” is justly earned.”
The Shipwrecked Fishermen & Mariner’s Royal Benevolent Society (SFMS) were founded by John Rye in February of 1839 as a response to the tragic loss of a fleet of eleven fishing boats off the North Devon coast the previous year with 21 out of 26 lives lost. It was almost immediately given Royal Patronage by Queen Victoria, an honour which it maintains to the present day.
During the 1850’s it relinquished its lifeboats to the RNLI in order to centralise sea rescue efforts in one place, whilst The SFMS focused on assisting survivors and bereaved families, however it also began its practice for awarding medals for saving life at sea.
Carrying on this tradition, in 1882, Dollond of London gifted one hundred aneroid barometers (with additional donations from The Worshipful Company of Salters) to be presented as rewards or given on loan to fishermen and fishing stations. It should also be remembered that both Dollond and Negretti & Zambra were involved in providing “Fisherman’s Aneroid Barometers” to The RNLI during this period as a result of Admiral Fitzroy’s efforts to provide practical weather instruments to the UK’s fishing fleets.
Due to the greater rarity of these SFMS examples, it should be presumed that the Society stopped awarding barometers after the initial 1882 donation was exhausted but the organisation continues to the present day and provides much needed support to ex-fishermen and merchant seamen. Its efforts are currently patronised by HRH The Princess Royal who presided over their one hundred and seventy fifth Anniversary in 2014.
As earlier stated, these barometers are very infrequently encountered and have almost always lost any of their historic provenance in relation to the recipient and the reason for the award. This example with its award case retained is an even rarer survivor and allows us a glimpse into the selfless bravery of civilian mariners.
A beautifully designed aneroid barometer with great provenance.
Dated 1905 but probably produced and donated to The SFMS at an earlier date.