Great, Great, Great Grandfather Thomas Hustwick was born in Hull in 1751 where he served his apprenticeship as a shipwright, probably with his father (Shipwright Thomas Hustwick Senior, 1720-1797). As a major seaport Hull offered plenty work for shipwrights, but by 1784, aged thirty-three, young Thomas was in Dover, with his common law wife Jane Rapely, daughter Frances and son Robert, building large ships for the Navy and the East India Company.
Meanwhile, back in Scotland Hull timber merchants, Ralph Dodsworth and William Osbourne purchased the Glenmore Forest from the Duke of Gordon. The quality of the wood was excellent and as landowners had been cutting the timber and transporting it down the Spey for over 150 years, there would be no problem finding men experienced in this task.
Timber was available from Norway and the Baltic, but voyages lasted six weeks to three months depending on distance and weather and transportation involved foreign exchange with supply limited during winter months. Therefore, timber from the North of Scotland was an attractive venture. So, a contract was signed between the Duke and the merchants in May 1784 to extract timber over a 26 year period.
The task of setting up the timber operation was left to William Osbourne when Ralph Dodsworth returned to Hull to oversee his other business interests. For Osbourne, abstraction of the felled timber was only one aspect of the enterprise. The Duke gave the Glenmore Company, as they called themselves, land close to the mouth of the Spey to erect sheds, houses for servants, a shipyard, sawmills and whatever was needed for the building of ships. Also, he gave the lease of the Red Corff House (Dunfermline House), a single storey stone building to use as an office and dwelling. Built around the 14th Century, as a leper hospital by the monks of Dunfermline Abbey. Such buildings were found around the country to segregate those suffering the dread disease, brought to these shores by the returning Crusaders from the Holy Land.
Close to the house Osbourne built a wind powered sawmill, a timber yard and workers houses. He added a second storey to Dunfermline House, using the building as a planning office and dwelling.
So, facilities were established and timber brought down by the Spey Floaters was amassed in the yard. Next, a deep 30 foot wide channel was dug lined with stone to provide a base along which ships could be winched to the river mouth.
The channel led from the Spey’s mouth (much further West than today) to the land fronting Dunfermline House and a workforce of blacksmiths, riggers, block makers, sail makers and sack makers was gathered.
Within possibly eighteen months Osbourne organised the Glenmore timber felling in the winter when tree growth had ceased, the damming of the lochs and rivers and a foreman to organise the floats formed into 12ft sq rafts and the floaters to bring them and their timber cargo down river in Spring spate. He over saw the setting out of the shipyard in the frontage of the house, but what he needed now was a man who knew how to build large ships.
On his return to Hull Osbourne would have sought the advice of his cousin, shipwright Thomas Hustwick Senior. Thomas knew just the man and wrote to his son in Dover. What a temptation to a young man, the chance to design and build ships in his own yard for a company that had a twenty year lease on timber and a good site.
It is possible young Thomas was not made aware of the conditions on the Moray Firth or did not take them into account. He was 34 years old and building ships was his life. Osbourne’s offer was promptly accepted.
Though ships had been built in Speymouth prior to Thomas’s arrival in 1786, they were of smaller tonnage. So, though there would be smiths and carpenters here, he no doubt brought a skilled team of his own from Hull hoping to train others as he needed them to his requirements. No doubt he had an able depute and foreman to assist him, for over the next five years the yard built 13 ships, five of which were in the 300 ton range. By 1792 employment increased to 28 carpenters and block makers. 16-18 sawyers and 8 sawmillers.
Did Thomas and Jane Rapely wonder at the wisdom of coming from Kent to the Moray Firth when the ship carrying them, their two children and their belongings arrived at the Spey’s mouth. The new yard sat on a windswept expanse of grass and shingle, surrounded by small dwellings not much larger than timber hovels, wood yards and sheds. Dunfermline House with its second floor was the only substantial building in the area and large enough to house Thomas and his family.
In September the following year, 1787, their second son William was born, the first child born in the new settlement. The couple spent the next thirty years at the Moray Firth and had five more children. Their children attended the Garmouth School and church, either the Red Kirk or more likely Gordon Chapel or its predecessor, being Episcopal.
By 1790 there was a busy community which employed some 75 men at the shipyard and sawmill. According to the records, seven large vessels were constructed between 1787 and 1790 and the order book was full. Thomas and Osbourne decided the thriving community needed a name and as both were from Kingston on Hull, so the village was named Kingston on Spey. A christening ceremony was held and according to family history a Baltic punch bowl was used. This bowl is now in the possession of Mr David Logan of Elgin. It is cracked due to Thomas giving it a kick when dancing a hornpipe on his dining table after a launching. By this time Thomas and his family had moved into a newly built home on the other side of the road from the shipyard.
Thomas and Jane produced a family of 5 daughters, though only one appears to have survived childhood and 3 sons. Robert, their firstborn died in 1815 aged thirty. William survived to 81 living in Garmouth all his life when not at sea. The youngest son George died aged 49.
In 1806 the Glenmore Company ceased timber and shipbuilding operations having produced and launched approx. 47 sailing ships over a period of 20 years. When the time the yard closed seven or eight other shipbuilders and yards crowded the shore line between the villages. But the Glenmore Company upheld their reputation of producing fine sturdy vessels, some of the largest launched at Kingston.
They enforced the adage that Kingston-built vessels were some of the finest to sail the seas.
Thomas was 64 when he and Jane and their youngest daughter, also Jane aged 20, returned to Hull in 1815– shortly after the death that year of their eldest child Robert aged 30 and later that year twenty year old Jane also died. Not easy in those times.
When Thomas left, his sons William and George presented him with a walking stick made from wood obtained by George in the West Indies. On his father’s death in 1844, William retrieved the stick and mounted it with a silver plate inscribed, “This is the stick of Thomas Hustwick, shipbuilder of Kingston Port, Morayshire, Scotland, who died at Hull 28th January 1844, aged 94 years, buried at Sculcoates Church yard, Hull. This stick was cut in the East Indies by his fourth son George and now mounted by his second son William, ship owner and ship Master, Garmouth 1848.” The walking stick is now in the care of Elgin Museum. This inscription suggests a third son, born prior to George, possibly around 1788/89, but no record of him exists. William went on to marry Barbara Marshall, daughter of shipbuilder Charles Marshall of Garmouth and have 8 children of his own. Like his father Willie was quite a character as the paintings I have of him display. Master and ship owner he had many tales to tell – least of all, being press-ganged on his wedding day! But, that’s a story for next time.
Acknowledgements go to my cousin Ian Hustwick, Aberdeen and the late Mrs Barbara Geddes, Elgin for details of family history.
From Garmouth & Kingston Newsletter Dec 2005