January 4th 1828. Launched at St Ives, the Levant Packet – a “fine-built brig of 190 tons burden”, built and registered at St Ives.
“Finally” launched at St Ives, one might say. For this is not the first attempt.
As soon as the New Year comes in, and a very long time before public holidays will be thought of, the men are there struggling to launch the new vessel. Dismiss all those images of a slipway, cheering crowds, champagne smashing and foaming against the side of a smoothly descending iron hull – this will have been smaller stuff: two masts; square sails; a crew of perhaps a dozen needed to man the rigging.
The launch, such as it is, almost succeeds – she is “four fifths off” – but the job cannot be finished then. Nor the next day. Nor on the 3rd January, when the cradles give way. So not third, but fourth time lucky - on that January 4th - for the Levant Packet.
The port is busy with a mix of coastal traffic from near and far. This very week, the Margaret has arrived from Waterford; the Providence, Fame, Sarah Ann and Calstock from Swansea; the Pendarves and Vivien from Bristol; Friends and the Phoenix from Neath; the Diligence from London; the Sisters from Bude; the Joseph from Liverpool.
In less than three weeks – to be precise, on January 23rd - the Levant Packet will be heading out into the Channel with 314 hogsheads of pilchards, bound for Naples, with Captain John Percival its master. The going rate for a hogshead of pilchards? Three pounds, fifteen shillings. That would be about £300 in today’s money. You do the Maths.
St Ives in the 1800s – R P Laity, 1973 p 49
Royal Cornwall Gazette; 12th January 1828 p 3, 26th January 1828 p 3
Diary of John Tregerthan Short of St Ives