Kathleen and May

Keep the home fires burning
Kathleen and May

Carrying the coals

KATHLEEN AND MAY illustrates the efforts made to maintain the essential trade in basic materials during the First World War. She called into Welsh ports to collect coal, and carried oats or pit props on the return passages. Her original crew of eight was soon reduced to five. 

 KATHLEEN AND MAY was registered in Cork in 1908, with a gross tonnage of 135 tons. Her master was Joseph Aherne of Catherine Street, Youghal (near Cork, Ireland). Her multiple round trip voyages typically lasted around six months. They followed a similar pattern. Her log books illustrate the routine she followed, and highlight the attention that was paid to boat drill and safety at sea during the First World War.    

 Her first wartime voyage commenced on 25 January 1915. The vessel left Youghal with a crew of eight. These were the Master (J. Aherne, 40); the Mate (P. Aherne, 52); four able bodied seamen (G. Thurney, 54; Michael O’Keeffe, 30 and two others); a cook (Patrick Cadogan, 20); and an assistant cook, aged 16). The ports of call were Cardiff, Bristol, Youghal and Lydney.                                                     

 KATHLEEN AND MAY was then laid up in Youghal until 29 June 1915. The Master, Joseph Aherne, reported that ‘Ships boats in constant use in every port; have also examined life-saving appliances and found same in good condition.’

 The next voyage commenced on 11 July 1915. This time the crew was reduced to five. It consisted of the previous crew with the exception of two of the able bodied seamen and the assistant cook. The voyage involved sailing to Newport, Monmouthshire, after which KATHLEEN AND MAY returned to Youghal, arrived on August 14. She set off again across the Irish Sea, arriving at Bristol on August 23. She sailed further up the Severn, arriving at Lydney on August 25.

 By September 14 she was back at Youghal in Ireland. She set sail again, arriving back at Newport on October 25. She arrived back at Youghal again on December 10, and by December 18 she had returned to Bristol. In his log for the period July to December 1915 the Master, Joseph Aherne, reports that: ‘Boat drill has been performed at each port and all life-saving appliances examined and all found satisfactory’.


Where is she now?

KATHLEEN AND MAY is currently at the Canning Dock, Liverpool.



 THE STORY OF THE KATHLEEN AND MAY (1972), published by Ships Monthly, in association with the Maritime Trust, Endlebury Publishing Co. Ltd.

Masters certificate of Joseph Aherne at search.ancestry.co.uk  

The log books for KATHLEEN AND MAYare held by the trustees at a private residence in Bideford. They will transfer to Merseyside Maritime Museum in late 2014.

Crew records for KATHLEEN AND MAY are held at the Caird Library, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.