Probably the Dutch-originated schooner grew up in America before being reintroduced to Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. In Britain three trades in particular helped perfect the type — the East Coast packet business, the China opium trade and, above all, the soft fruit trade in West Indian pineapples, Spanish melons, Greek currants, and oranges and lemons from the Azores. What these trades needed were small, fast, weatheriy ships. The schooner was the answer.

By the time steam began taking over the fruit trade, schooners were well known in all Britain's smaller ports (off-season they worked the home trade) and they really came into their own between 1870 and 1914 as coasting vessels. By the turn of the century they reached the height of their development. Hence the importance of Kathleen and May, built in 1900 at Connah's Quay in Clwyd.

Kathleen and May began as the Lizzie May. The change of name came with a change of ownership in 1908 when the 98-foot schooner began carrying coal between the Severn ports and Ireland. By then she had already sailed over 40,000 miles with 25,000 tons of cargo: salt, stone, firebricks, iron and gunpowder. Her last commercial voyage in 1960 was also with coal.

This Maritime Trust vessel is currently located in Plymouth.


Sullivan, Dick. Old Ships, Boats & Maritime Museums. London: Coracle Books, 1978. Pp. 40-41.

Last modified 12 April 2006