Capt John Vivyan Watson Black

Captain Black's family history, a letter in the B&C Review, August 1967:

Dear Editor,

As the days of Clipper ships have made news recently, the connection that both sides of my family had with that era might be of interest.

My grandfather on my father's side was master of the fast passenger sailing ship "Loch Garry" in about 1860-75.

In 1872, while on passage from Australia to U.K., my grandfather, in agreement with the passengers, put into the bay of Islands in North Island, New Zealand, where a son, christened Watson, was born to his wife.   Two years passed before he had an opportunity to call again at the bay of Islands to collect his wife and child.

In 1865, while on passage from Australia to U.K., my grandparents portraits were painted by H.L. Collins, R.A.   My grandfather's portrait is in my possession. So far as the Greenwich Maritime Museum is aware, this is the only painting in existence of the master of a first-class passenger sailing ship of that era.

I have also a painting by J. Murray, done in 1838, of the "Ada", a brig which my great-grandfather commanded.

My uncle, Watson Black, obtained command with Union-Castle Line and died on active service in 1917.

My father served on the Clipper "Sierra Ventana" and my uncle in the "Sierra Cordoba". On one passage the "Sierra Cordoba" was continuously at sea for 256 days and was presumed lost.

My grandfather on my mother's side was owner-master in about 1881 of the full-rigged ship "King Cedric", on passage from U.K. to Bombay.   While off the bay of Cintra, West Africa, my mother was born on May 27.   She was christened May Cenrica Cintra Bass in Bombay Cathedral and subsequently registered at Stepney.

Mrs. Elizabeth Saunders* aged 97 the eldest sister of my deceased mother, is alive and well and residing at Weston-super-Mare.   She is the widow of Captain James Saunders*, whose last command was the full-rigged ship "Colonial Empire", lost on Cape Recife in 1921.

Mrs. Saunders* spent many years at sea with her husband, son and daughter and recollects how many days would pass when hove to rounding Cape Horn, during which time she did not see Captain Saunders* and could hear only the sound of his whistle above the noise of the storm as he blew to the men on the yards.   

Several years ago a society in Bristol, interested in nautical tradition, considered that my aunt had rounded Cape Horn more times than any other woman - probably some twenty or thirty times.

Some of the famous sailing ships commanded by my uncle were "Robert Fearney"**, "Ditton", "Lawhill", and best known of all, "Macrahanish".

"Macrahanish" and "Loch Garry" made passages that Sir Francis Chichester was unable to equal.

Yours faithfully,

A.C.M. Black




* Spelling maybe Sanders.

** Should be "Sir Robert Fernie".

Service Record




2nd Officer




Chief Officer


Cawdor Castle

Temp Master


Carrisbrook Castle

Chief Officer


Gloucester Castle






Western Australia





14 January 1918

Aged 46

Obituary - 1918

No mention of Captain Black in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site.

Entry in Union-Castle at War 1914-1919 reads:     

Black, J.W.    Captain H.M.H.S  "Galeka"   Died

Presumably Captain Black died of natural causes, thus no mention by CWGC.  

Family History from Captain A C M Black OBE

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