On Tuesday, October 23rd., 1877 the Union Company's Cape Town agent, Mr. Fuller, arranged for an elaborate dinner to be held aboard the R.M.St. "German". Never to allow the opportunity to score points on their bitter rival, Donald Currie's Castle Line to pass by, the reception for Cape Town's leading citizens, was to celebrate a record breaking maiden voyage. Indeed it was an achievement, and one I suspect that was not repeated, the "German" had completed the voyage, Plymouth to Cape Town in under 20 days.
The following day, the worthy citizens of Cape Town returned the hospitality at the Masonic Hotel, for Captain Coxwell and his officers. Both dinners must have been a trial for Captain Coxwell, he says himself that he was not given to speeches, although on this occasion, if he was being sincere, he did himself proud! Just about everybody felt it their duty to say 'more' than a few words as only the Victorians knew how to do.
The dinners were faithfully reported in the Argus of the 25th and 27th October, and we learn something about Captain Coxwell. He tells us himself that he joined the Union Line in 1860. ("it was seventeen years since he first served on this line, and he had been on steamers nearly all his life") Presumably by this his sea career was similar to that of Captain Crutchley, who served his apprenticeship and junior officer years in sail, before 'graduating' to steam. If this was the case then Captain Coxwell went to sea round about 1854, probably at the age of fifteen, giving an approximate year of birth as being 1839.
We also learn from Captain Coxwell that he was chief officer of the "Cambrian". The "Cambrian" was one of the '2nd generation' mail ship's, coming out in 1860. The Union Line having found the first vessels too small and too slow, they needed better ships. With this expansion they would have been looking for new officers, and we know that Charles Coxwell also joined the company in1860. It does not require a huge leap in deduction to surmise that Coxwell joined the company as chief officer of the new ship "Cambrian".
We then learn that Charles Coxwell had married a South African. (the Hon. R. Southey C.M.G., "They were proud of the captain on another account. He had taken one of their sisters for a wife, and they hoped to see him settle in the Cape some day.")
And the third interesting bit of information concerning Captain Coxwell, he had invested in the company, he was a share holder. Probably not alone amongst the masters, up until shipping became dominated by the large shipping lines, when merchant ships tended to be individually owned by business men, it was not unusual, indeed it was commonplace, for the master to own shares in the vessel if not the ship outright. Again referring to Captain Crutchley's book, this was precisely the relationship of ship and master in which he served his indentures. Thus it would have thought of by Union Line masters, as only natural to invest in their company.