Captain Eric Pearson

Louie Annie Pearson nee Geater


Part 1: 1908 - 1918


Eric Pearson first arrived in Cape Town, at the age of 25, on Christmas Day 1908 in a 22-ton Dover sailing fishing smack called the "Forget-Me-Not". He and his two younger brothers Arnold and Otto (known in the family as "Pom"), and a friend called John Crompton, were on a voyage which had been intended to take them eventually to Buenos Aires.

 

Left to right: Eric, Otto, John Crompton and Arnold on the deck of Forget-me-Not in Dover Harbour.

Summer 1908

However, after dallying in a voyage of discovery around various remote Atlantic islands, including Tristan da Cunha, a series of storms had driven them back east and they made harbour at the Cape with their provisions on board reduced to "a few pounds of flour, a little tea, and four gallons of tainted water". Eric was the only professional seafarer amongst the four (he had gained his Extra Master's certificate in February of that year, Otto was a mining engineer, Arnold an architect, and John Crompton apparently a secretary) and family folklore has it that the other three decided that South Africa was far enough and as good as South America anyway! The voyage had lasted over six months and 10,000 miles and a contemporary account as reported in the "Cape Argus", and a wonderful description of her and her later life can be found here. Forget-me-Not apparently sank at her moorings a few days after her arrival (presumably while the crew were ashore!) but she was successfully raised and restored and was put up for sale, eventually joining the local fleet of "snoekers" (barracuda fishing boats). STOP PRESS: Another, and much more detailed, contemporary glimpse of life on Forget-me-Not has recently come to light in the form of a book written by the wife of the clergyman on Tristan da Cuhna - please follow this link to find it. (Thanks to Paul Woodhead, grandson of Arnold Pearson for uncovering this)

Although reported as foundering in breakers "not far from Walvis Bay" in the article in the above link, published in 1964, I found a passing reference in a book by Lawrence G. Green called "Almost Forgotten, Never Told" published in 1965 of someone called Sam Petterson in Saldanha Bay restoring the wooden hulk of a ketch called "Forget-me-Not", described as "a little ship with an adventurous record". Although Saldanha Bay is more than 1500 miles south of Walvis Bay I find this intriguing to say the least. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of the vessel or, more particularly her logbooks from 1908, I would dearly love to hear from them.


It seems entirely possible that Eric could have met Louie Geater at this time - she would have been about 18 and living with her family in Camps Bay and the "adventurous quartette" seems to have achieved minor celebrity status to judge from the tone of the Argus article. Arriving at the festive season they might well have been invited to various functions for sheer novelty value and thus become acquainted with many people in Cape Town. One version I recently heard is that she was the daughter of the harbour master, but I can find no evidence to support this and it seems unlikely since her father was thought to be a draper.... However Eric, apparently, had to return to UK for reasons of "urgent family affairs" which I have been unable to discover the nature of. How long he remained away is also unrecorded, but he returned in due course, whether it was for reason of Louie or to rejoin his brothers, and seems to have commenced sailing out of Cape Town as a Ship's Master. It is also possible (though pure conjecture) that in order to return to UK he managed to secure a working passage on a cargo ship and subsequently remained employed with that company.

Louie Annie Geater was born at the Cape of English parents and had grown up in Camps Bay, now a desirable beachside suburb of Cape Town but at that time more of a neighbouring community. Eric began courting her when he was in port. My sister Marian has the impression that after some time Eric finally issued an ultimatum that she either marry him the next time he returned to port or forget the whole thing, and Louie eloped with him aboard ship. I can find no other source to confirm this story but it perhaps given some credence insofar that no wedding photos seem to exist. Whatever the circumstances however, they did marry in May 1913 and received a handsome inscribed crystal and silver plate tantalus (lockable decanter set) from the crew of the SS"Battenhall" of which Eric was Master at the time. ("Battenhall" was a 2174 GRT coal ship owned by South African Collieries Ltd., and had just returned from a voyage to London). Shortly after their marriage Eric's mother, Emma Jane Pearson, joined the family in Camps Bay from England. Arnold eventually went north to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where he found work as a mine surveyor before taking up farming. Otto finally went to South America to seek his fortune as a mining engineer.

In October 1915 Eric and Louie's first child arrived, my mother Louie Constance (how she disliked her middle name!), and her christening photos are the earliest pictures I can find of Eric and Louie. (To avoid confusion hereafter in this account and throughout the site I shall refer to my Grandmother as "Louie", and my mother as "Lou", or "Lulu" as she appears in Louie's diaries). Another daughter, Doris, was born early in 1918.

Eric Louie & Lou


 

Louie & Lou


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