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Penzance registered fishing boats in Whitby Harbour. Note the PZ on sail

Thomas Ellis Vingoe I

celtic knot

Thomas Ellis Vingoe was baptised 7 July 1816 Paul, Cornwall, the son of Henry Vingoe and Grace Mann who were married at Paul in 1797. On the 13th of October 1839 he married Margaret Pollard Gilbert the daughter of Thomas Gilbert & Elizabeth Pollard who were married in 1817 at Paul. On the 16th August 1840, Margaret gave birth to a daughter Grace and  the 1841 census shows the family living next door to Margaret's mother Elizabeth, now a widow, in Back Street off Regent Court, Newlyn. 

On the 16th August 1842 their second child, a boy was born and named Thomas Ellis  after his father. The couple had two more children, William Henry born 29th March 1846 and Elizabeth Gilbert born in 1848, when in September 1851 tragedy struck the family. Margaret died shortly after the  child's birth as did the new born baby girl. The child  was hastily christened Margaret Gilbert Vingoe after her mother and she died 12 September. I believe her mother Margaret died a few days later. Thomas Ellis was left a widower with four young children who ranged in age from ten to two.

Somehow the family coped for the next few years, probably with the help of Margaret's mother Elizabeth, but around 1855 Thomas Ellis Vingoe married a widow Mary Anne Payne who already had two children from her first marriage. Thomas Ellis adopted these two children, Samuel born 1850 and Mary born 1852 and settled down to a new life with Mary Ann and a family of six children. Mary Ann's father was James R. Wills, a shipwright in Newlyn and it is believed that he built his new son-in-law a boat which was called the "Mary Anne" after Thomas Ellis's second wife. 

On October the 19th 1856 there was an addition to the family  when a daughter was born who was named Margaret, after Thomas's first wife and the daughter who had died.  Apparently there was some disagreement between the couple over the naming of their new born daughter. Wife Mary Ann was  understandably upset and registered her daughter's name  as Louisa Jane Goodman VINGOE  but she was baptised Margaret on 19th October 1856, presumably  according to Thomas Ellis' wish. She was always referred to as Margaret in all the censuses, on her marriage and on the birth of her children.

Five more children followed: Sarah Ann  b1859, John  b1861, Francis James  b1864, Martha Louise b 1867 [ known as Cissie], and Alfred b1869. The family of twelve  children ranged in age from Grace age 29 to new born Alfred. Thomas; eldest daughter Grace had married in about 1861 and son  Thomas Ellis about 1865. By 1871  son William Henry was living with his grandmother, Elizabeth Gilbert, and daughter Elizabeth had moved in with her married sister Grace  Harvey  so there was a little more room in the Vingoe household. Nevertheless, Sam & Mary Payne  were still there and also Mary Anne's father, James Wills, making 5 adults and 6 children in a very small cottage on Trewarveneth Street. Thomas Ellis Vingoe was now 54 years old . 

Fishing was a hard life. J. Kelynack whose grandfather was a partner in a fishing boat with Thomas Ellis's brother Henry Vingoe wrote an excellent piece on Newlyn fishing which you can read by clicking here. On the 23 September 1879 tragedy struck the family again. Thomas Ellis Vingoe I was drowned in the North Sea off Whitby Yorkshire after falling over board from the 'Mary Ann'. Below is the report of the Coroners inquest from the Whitby Gazette dated 18 October 1879…................................... 

Coroners Inquest: Held at Union House, Whitby.

On Wednesday afternoon, John Buchanan Esq. coroner, held an inquest at  The Union House, on the body  of Thomas Ellis Vingoe, a Cornish fisherman,  63 years of age, belonging to Newlyn, and late master of the fishing boat, 'Mary Ann', who was drowned on the 23rd of September last. John Vingoe, son of the deceased, identified the body which was much decomposed, and said  deceased was his father. Witness did not sail in the   same boat, but a younger brother was  with his father, and from the  description of the  accident he said his father, the deceased, had been fishing about three-quarters of a mile off the Volunteer Battery on the morning of the 23rd inst, and while making for land for an anchorage, deceased  was about bending a chain on the anchor, when a  breeze came, causing the  vessel  to   lurch and deceased fell backwards overboard. He came up  at the stern of the boat and they threw  an oar to  him, which he got hold of. They next threw him  the mizzen halyards, but this he did not get hold of, but with the oar he was enabled to float for about three-quarters of an hour. Whilst in the water  he told the men what to do with the boat— they  were to stay her and not  run her ashore. They  hauled the sail down and then up again, and got  about seven yards windward of the deceased when  they heard him say,    “Lord have mercy upon me,” and then heard him moan. At this they became bewildered and could  render him no more service. Witness, though he was fishing in a boat half a  mile further off the land, heard nothing of the  accident until he came ashore about one o’clock. He did not think the crew could have done anything more to save the deceased, as they appeared to have become unnerved when they heard  him   appealing  to the Almighty.— John Douglas, pilot, spoke of  finding the body about a quarter of a mile   from the  pier end on Tuesday morning. He know not how the  accident occurred.


'Accidentally drowned  by falling from the fishing boat "Mary Ann"  into the  waters of the North Sea.’—    Immediately after the  accident a   reward of £2 was offered by the  deceased’s friends for the recovery of the body. This was paid to Mr. John Douglas, who has since  returned it to the widow of the deceased.

 Thomas Ellis's death was hardly mentioned in the Cornish press. The "Cornishman" newspaper carried a small piece outlining the above. The "West Briton" did not carry any report. This was probably because two Cornish boats had been run down off Whitby in the same week by steamers with the loss of both crews. These boats were the "Malakoff" of St Ives and the "Providence" of Newlyn. Both boats were carrying Newlyn crews of three men each.

We are grateful to Mary Ann Bell who is also a descended from Thomas Ellis Vingoe I. and who supplied the information regarding Thomas Ellis's death.

Penzance [PZ] registered fishing boats at Whitby


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