Esther The last Grimsby Sail Trawler


Large numbers of sail trawlers found their way to these Northern waters and Esther, then as the G.I.C. was among them. Finding out where she was and who owned her was mostly been the work of Thorbergur Kjartansson from Iceland who I met in the late 1990's.

Thorbergur tells me that on the 5 th of June 1900 G.I.C. was acquired by Gardar, a company based in Seydisfjodur on the East Coast of Iceland. The firm "Gardar" was founded in Seydisfjordur on May 31 st 1898 by people from England and Holland and there was a Norwegian called Jens Hansen who appears to have run the company from Seydisfjordur. The company Gardar had at that time three trawlers and eight sail ships like G.I.C.

By the middle of 1901 the company was in trouble because of personal and business problems. The Dutch owner, a Mr. C.B. Hermann, saw what was coming and decided to make off with what he considered his share of the company by way of a trawler belonging to the firm in which he set sail for Australia. The company was quickly wound up and the remaining assets sold to pay off the creditors. These assets including the G.I.C. which were sold at auction that same year, 1901.

When Esther first arrived back in Grimsby there was no documented evidence that Esther and G.I.C were in fact the same boat. Recently I found a newspaper cutting on an archive from Iceland that finally confirms this link. The cutting is in Icelandic and says that two vessels called G.I.C and Vesper were bought at auction by Sig. Johansen on the 2nd of November 1902. Sigurd Johansen would later rename both these vessels Esther and Ruth after his two daughters.

Thorbergur tells me that the church records record the name of the little girl who gave her name to G.I.C. as Ester where the "H" was dropped, however it is believed that a either the church records had misspelled the name or the change of name from G.I.C. to Esther was wrongly recorded. Either way the G.I.C. was now called Esther spelt with an "H" and has remained so since that time.

Sigurd Johansen only kept Esther for a short time and by May the following year he put her up for sale where she sold in the December that same year to a man called Thorsteinsson.

Thorbergur then says that on November 28th 1903 Esther was sold on to a firm called Engey in Reykjavik. This company was run by Brynjolfur Bjarnason, Bjarni Brynjofsson, Kristjan Brynjolfsson, Engeand Thosteinn Thorsteinsson, and Esther was given the port number RE 81 for Reykjavik.

There is a connection between Esther and the firm Engey from this cutting but Esther is mostly associated with the name of Peter J Thorsteinsson for the next 20 years.

Through out her time in Iceland Esther appears in fish catch reports as you would expect but she didn't limited herself to only fishing. This next cutting from April 19th 1904 states that she had done a trip to England with a hold of fish in ice and returned with 60 tons of coal. The coal would have been both for sale and to act as ballast. Interestingly she is described as a MotorKutter which implies that she had been fitted with most likely her first engine.

In 1906 her skipper was noted as being Kristjan Brynjolfsson and her owner as Thorst. Thorsteinsson. These are people from that company Engey. Engey is also an island on the West coast of Iceland.

In March 1916 came Esther's moment of glory when she was used to rescue 38 men who would have almost certainly perished had she not stumbled across them on a trip back to her home port of Reykjavik. That story can be found here.

The picture above is of a painting of Esther bearing her Icelandic the port number RE 81 by a local artist called Arreboe Clausen.

I did hope that some where in Iceland there might be a picture of the little girl who gave her name to Esther.

To attempt to find her meant digging into the Sigurd Johansen family history.

In the book "History of the houses" in Seydisfjordur written by author Thora Gudmundsdottir in 1995 Sigurd Johansen is often mentioned. It says that Sigurd Johansen, his wife Cecilie Johansen (born Bergesen) and children moved to Vopnafjordur after 17 years of resident in Seydisfjordur. Later he left Seydisfjordur and moved to Vopnafjordur where he had a merchant business for 2-3 years, then he then moved to Copenhagen in Denmark taking his family with him. His brother Rolf remained in Iceland and has many descendants there.

Although two of his children, Dagmar his oldest daughter and another whose name I do not know, had died and were buried in Seydisfjordur, none of the direct family members remained in Iceland and all had gone with him to Denmark, including his daughter Esther.

Sigurd Johansen, Father of Esther Johansen from a book called "The History of Seydisfjordur" by Reverend Kristjan Robertsson published in 1995.

Sigurd's brother Rolf though remained in Iceland and it is believed he was a founding member of the firm Rolf Johansen HF.

A contact was made with Aagot Vilhjalmsdottir the grand daughter of Rolf Johansen who had a little information about Esther because her mother and her niece Ruth Johansen were pen friends for many years. They stopped writing to each other sometime around 1940 but she recalls that Esther did work as a nurse in Copenhagen. She said that Esther had not married and had no children.

For now the hunt for Esther has run cold. There will be a picture of Esther out there somewhere. Hopefully someone will find it but I think the search would have to be made in Denmark. If the reports are true that she worked as a nurse during the War there might be a lead there as records would have been kept and might survive.

This next newspaper cutting highlights how the need to be versatile to earn a living can make the difference. First Esther is advertising for a crew on the 23rd of May 1919 for a fishing trip up the East Coast and then on 21st of June 1919 she is advertising empty space on board for paying passengers or cargo. This is the kind of work that kept her afloat and paid for her keep.

The next cutting is the last one from Iceland. It is a small article that simply states that Esther was sold to the Faroes. It gives no details as to who bought her or for how much was paid but with that ended over 20 years in Iceland.

Follow the Esther story to the Faroes

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