Extract from The Shetland News, May 16, 1896

SHETLAND CAPTAINS.

PART VI.

CAPTAIN JAMES BOLT (continued).

A few more notes regarding the part Capt.Bolt takes in the public affairs of Tynemouth, especially in connection with shipping matters, will be of interest. It may be noted that Captain Bolt's great experience in nautical matters has made his services of considerable value to Tynemouth; and he has never been slow to do what he could in the public interest. He has been frequently examined before Parliamentary Committees on subjects connected with the Tyne. A man of foresight, he had strong views as to the possibilities of the Tyne as a shipbuilding and shipping centre at the time when it had not risen to its present day pre-eminence; and without claiming too much, it may be said that he has borne a prominent part in the vast work that has been accomplished.

In September, 1894, Captain Bolt was selected as one of the delegates to represent North Shields and Tynemouth at the autumnal meeting of the Association of Chambers of Commerce of the United Kingdom. He holds decisive views on the question of foreign seamen in the British Mercantile Marine, and he delivered a speech on the subject before the Association. We take the following extract of the speech from the "Chamber of Commerce Journal":--

Captain J. Bolt (North Shields and Tynemouth) thought we were committing a great error in carrying so many foreigners in our own ships and so few apprentices; and this he believed was a very fruitful source of many of the disasters at sea. In his opinion an Act should be passed compelling shipowners to carry British apprentices on all vessels of 200 tons register; say for vessels of 200 to 600 tons one apprentice, of 600 to 1200 tons two apprentices, 1200 to 1400 tons three apprentices, and above that tonnage four apprentices. That would employ a large number of our young men and lads who were going about idle, and in a large measure strengthen the bulwarks of our nation, and very soon reduced the number of aliens in our ships. Referring to the number sea apprentices, he quoted statistics showing that in 1845 there were 15,700, in 1855, 7061; in 1865, 5638; in 1875, 4307; in 1885, 2504; and in 1892 the number had been reduced to 2196. The decrease was something appalling, and called for a remedy. (Hear, hear) They must not forget that the mercantile marine was the nursery of the men who defended the wooden walls of Old England, and fought in many a glorious victory on the sea (applause) when sailors only went to sea. Such men might be needed again, and that very shortly, but he feared that we should not find them among the aliens we employed. (Hear, hear.) British ships should be manned by Britons as far as possible. (Hear, hear.) From personal experience as a seaman he knew that in many cases of great danger one British seaman was any day worth two foreigners (laughter and applause), and when disasters occurred, there was one great feature prominently present, and that was the pluck and bravery of British seamen (applause) who, if need be, in the face of terrors of fire or water, nobly perished doing their duty. (Renewed applause.) The supremacy of this great maritime nation, and the very existence of its population, depended upon the mercantile marine, and it would be suicidal for our legislators to neglect any longer such a great interest. (Applause.)

THE GREENWICH HOSPITAL FUND.

This is another matter in which Captain Bolt takes a deep interest. He brought it up at a meeting of the North Shields and Tynemouth Chamber of Commerce, and the following report appeared in "Commerce," which at the same time published an excellent portrait of the captain.:-

Captain Bolt then proceeded to read a paper on this subject, in the course of which he said:- The question I wish to speak upon is one long neglected, but one of vital importance to our aged seamen. I refer to the Greenwich Hospital Fund, better
known as the "Greenwich Sixpence." I now claim your indulgence for a few minutes. For 140 years, ending with December 1834, every British seaman was compelled by Act of Parliament to contribute to this fund-captains 2s per month, officers 1s 6d per month, and seamen 6d per month, out of their small wages, earned frequently under very trying conditions. In return for such payment, our seamen were led to believe that when they become aged, infirm, or otherwise rendered unable to follow their avocation, they would be provided with a home in Greenwich Hospital, or receive a suitable pension outdoors; but alas! for poor Jack, this promises was never fulfilled. In my opinion this is a blot on the history of this great nation. The income of the Greenwich Hospital in 1834 was £191,573 11s 11d, and a very large proportion of this sum of money was paid by our merchant seamen. In the above year the payments were discontinued, and the hospital and all the funds, amounting to £8,700,000, were in the hands of the Government. The merchant seamen, who contributed to the funds, received nothing whatever, until, in 1869, £4,000 per annum was granted to some of such seamen who had paid into it for the period of five years. This £4,000 allows only 1,226 men to receive relief at the trifling rate of from £1 1s to £3 18s per annum; but there were 4,150 applicants, all of whom could show that they had paid into the fund for a longer or shorter period. It is estimated that if the money paid by our seamen into this fund had been invested at 4 per cent. interest, and compound interest up to 1880, it would amount to the stupendous sum of £15,172,687 12s, and at 3 per cent. to £11, 570, 514 4s. I feel sure if you bring this important matter before the associated Chambers at the next autumnal meeting, they would in turn bring it before Parliarment in such a way as to ensure the just claims of our seamen receiving due attention. I feel sure if this can be do done, this Chamber will immortalise its name; and it will be handed down to posterity as the greatest benefactor of the seafaring community. (Applause.)

Captain Bolt frequently presides at meetings and functions of the North Shields Ship Master's Association, and the other Associations of a like nature. At one time he took a leading part in the meetings of a local Parliament, contributing papers, and taking part in discussions. He is, in short, a leading citizen of Tynemouth, known and respected as a man of considerable ability, great energy of character, and much business acumen: and he takes rank as one of the most successful shipmasters Shetland has ever produced. It is pleasing to record that Captain Bolt retains a lively interest in all matters pertaining to the Old Rock. It will be remembered that for many years he presented medals to be competed for by pupils at the Anderson Institute, and which were known as the Bolt Medals. These were prizes that were keenly competed for. It might be suggested that others of our successful shipmasters might taken advantage of the same excellent plan of helping on the younger generation; and thus letting Captain Bolt see that his good example had been productive of good fruits.

Last week we stated that Capt. Bolt acted as Marine Superintendent for two years. This should have been ten years.

Newspaper extract, n.d. or provenance.
The estate of Captain James Bolt, of North Shields,who died September 1916 aged 91 years, is returned at £30,424-00s-00d