Captain E. R. McKinstry, R.N.R., S.S. Germanic, White Star Line
There is generally a good deal of similarity in the early training of commanders of Atlantic ferry-boats. But in the case of Captain E. R. McKinstry, R.N.R., we have a slight variation. His first experience was obtained on the training-ship Conway. Here he spent two years. On leaving the Conway he received an appointment as midshipman in the Royal Naval Reserve, " which," says Captain McKinstry, " means being twenty-eight days every year with the mess on the Eagle gunnery-ship."
After leaving the Conway, McKinstry served four years in the service of the British Shipowners' Company of Liverpool, during which time he enlarged his general practical knowledge of navigation and of the world. His subsequent experience is summed up in his own words, as follows :—
" After that 1 passed the Board of Trade examination as second mate. Then I went as second mate of a ship for fourteen months, and at the end of that time passed as first mate. After acting as first mate for something over a year, I passed as master. Having taken that grade, I entered the service of the Pacific Navigation Steamship Company as fourth officer. "
"I was in that service for about a year and a half, and then was given an appointment as fourth officer by the White Star. This was in 1887. Gradually I worked my way up as vacancies occurred from fourth to third, from third to second, and from second to chief officer, and so to master. I was in the company's New Zealand service for nearly four years. I then succeeded to the Teutonic as chief officer."
Most persons who take an interest in the Navy will recollect the review at Spithead in the month of August, 1889, in which the Teutonic took part, and was naturally the observed of all observers, first and foremost amongst whom were the German Emperor and the Prince of Wales, who paid a visit to the new "mercantile cruiser," and greatly admired her fine proportions and her appropriate and very characteristic armament.
On the occasion of this visit an incident took place which showed First Officer McKinstry to be possessed of one of the best qualities of a seaman, "gallantry and humanity," as it is described on the medals of the Board of Trade. The train. ing-ship Exmouth had put in an appearance at the review, and having approached very near to the Teutonic on the lee side, she found that the towering sides of the latter took her wind. This caused her boom to go over, and one of her quartermasters being in the way he was knocked into the sea.
McKinstry, hearing the cry of " Man overboard," immediately jumped from the deck of the Teutonic and went to the man's assistance. The moment, it may be well imagined, was one of intense excitement, hundreds of persons, who were waiting for the arrival of the Kaiser and the Prince of Wales, being witnesses of the accident and the rescue. Nor is this the only instance of the kind in Captain McKinstry's career.
On another occasion, when returning from church one Sunday morning while in New York, he heard the cry that there was a child in the water. In an instant his coat and hat were thrown off and he was in the water, and quickly brought the little one to land. My informant—for it must not he supposed that the hero of these rescues told me of them himself---in relating this incident remarked, with a curious malapropos, "
The water was so filthy that neither you nor I would go into it for any money."
But to proceed with Captain McKinstry's experience. From the Teutonic he went to the Adriatic as commander in December, 1892. "Since that time," says the captain, " I have commanded the Runic one voyage ; the Britannic two voyages, and the Adriatic five voyages, while this ship —the Germanic- - was being re-engined. The rest of the time I have been in the Germanic. I now hold a lieutenant's commission in the Royal Naval Reserve, and I have an extra-master's certificate.
This is above the master's certificate, and the examination for it is quite voluntary. Since 1887 I have made one voyage to New Zealand in the Ionic. All the rest of the time I have been running between Liverpool and New York. We have the very worst weather that is to be had between here and New York. I never saw a worse sea than the one we experienced on the South Coast of Ireland the last time we came over."
In all my talks with captains of Atlantic liners, as well as with others, I have of late taken some pains to obtain their opinion on the British sailor question, for it is a "question," and bids fair ere long to become a very burning one. So I asked Captain McKinstry what he thought of the British seaman and of seafaring generally as a profession. Briefly stated, his reply was that on the White Star ships British sailors were chiefly employed.
" We may occasionally have a foreigner among the crew, but rarely more than one or maybe two. For myself, I prefer the Britisher."
I made the remark that in some quarters there was a preference for the foreigner, because, as some said, he was less troublesome. The reply I got was :-- " It is true an English seaman may be troublesome ; but so may a Scandinavian, and if the Scandinavian is a troublesome one, he is generally very troublesome indeed. No, I prefer the Britisher all the time."
As to the general question, Captain McKinstry said :-
" If a boy is manly, plucky, and intelligent, the sea offers him a fair opportunity. There are plenty of chances of promotion. My father there "—he pointed to the photograph of a handsome military officer that hangs in his cabin—" thought all his sons ought to go into the Service, and I have two brothers in it ; but I would not exchange positions with either of them."