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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Henry M. Ash and CS Faraday (1)

Ships' Crew Agreements are a useful source of information on voyages and crew members of British merchant ships for the periods 1863-1938 and 1951-1976. The Maritime History Archive at Memorial University, St John's, Newfoundland, has a substantial archive of these and other ships' documents, and offers research services at reasonable fees. Information is filed by the ship's Official Number (O.N.).

A search of the Archive for Henry Ash's service on CS Faraday (O.N. 68535) showed that he is not recorded in the crew agreements for every year in which he sailed. It's likely that on some of the cable expeditions he was not part of the crew, but rather one of the cable engineering group, whose members would not have been listed on the crew agreements. Ash's name does appear on the crew agreement for 1884, when the Faraday was laying the Mackay-Bennett cable for the Commercial Cable Company. The cable route on that project was Dover Bay, Nova Scotia - New York; Dover Bay - Waterville, Ireland (2 cables); Waterville - Weston Super Mare, England; Waterville - Le Havre, France.

The details of the 1884 agreement give an interesting insight into the conditions of service on a cable ship in the late 19th century. Much of the text is boilerplate, as may be seen from the scan below, but other conditions and terms are specific to the cable industry.

"The several Persons whose names are hereto subscribed, and whose descriptions are contained on the other side or sides, and of whom Forty-seven are engaged as Sailors, hereby agree to serve on board the said Ship, in the several capacities expressed against their respective Names, on a Voyage from London to Dover Bay, N.S., and any ports and places on the East Coasts of North, Central, & South America between Labrador and the River Plate inclusive, North & South Atlantic Oceans, West Indies, and Continent of Europe and islands adjacent including the Mediterranean Sea to and fro for any period not exceeding Twelve Months and back to the port of final discharge in the United Kingdom".

"And it is also agreed that: The Seamen, Cablemen & Firemen shall render mutual assistance in the general duties of the Vessel when required & the entire crew without any exception shall work at all times Sundays & holidays included in any work connected with the Telegraph Cable & they shall serve in any other vessel or boat engaged in the expedition and on shore. All machinery whether below or on deck shall be under the management of the Chief Engineer. The crew shall attend muster & wear the uniform of the company which will be supplied on board at cost price."

Henry Ash's record in the 1884 Faraday crew agreement lists his previous ship as also being the Faraday, in 1883. The agreement shows a number of other cable personnel, including Assistant Engineers, Assistant Electricians, Cable Foreman, Cable Jointer, and Assistant Jointer, many of whom had also previously served on the Faraday the previous year.

CS Faraday Crew Agreement cover page, dated 25 January 1884

Henry Ash's signature on the crew agreement (see below)

Detail of crew agreement, showing Henry Ash's
record on the second line numbered "3"

Images reproduced by permission of, and copyright © 2006,
Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland.

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Last revised: 24 December, 2023

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