A sailor on colliers, who sailed with Captain Cook


John Farndale
May 1709 to March 1790 

The Whitby 1 Line 

The Whitby 2 Line













Home Page

The Farndale Directory

Farndale Themes

Farndale History

Particular branches of the family tree

Other Information

General Sir Martin Farndale KCB





He was another son of Thomas Farndale (FAR00118), a carpenter of Whitby at about the right time. John’s first son is called Thomas, which suggests this might be right. It is also quite likely that Giles Farndale (FAR00137) , who also served in the navy from Whitby, may have been his brother.


Could he have been the eldest?


This now seems to be right as I have found:


John, son of Thomas Farndale, baptised at St Mary the Virgin, Whitby on 22 May 1709.


John Farndale, married Hannah Christian both of Whitby at Whitby Parish Church by Banns on 30 May 1736. (If John was 25 at his wedding then he was born about 1711. This is confirmed by his age at death).

(Whitby PR, Boyds Marriage Index 1538 to 1850)


Sarah Farndale, daughter of John Farndale of Whitby, sailor, baptised Whitby 19 Mar 1737 (FAR00150).

Thomas Farndale, son of John Farndale, sailor baptised Whitby 30 Sep 1739 (FAR00153).

John Farndale, son of John Farndale, sailor baptised Whitby 16 Oct 1743 (FAR00159).

Hannah Farndale, daughter of John Farndale, sailor, baptised Whitby 27 Dec 1747 (FAR00162).

Robert Farndale, son of John Farndale, sailor, baptised Whitby 17 Nov 1752 (FAR00169).

(Whitby PR)






John Farndale was a seaman named in a list of 42 of the crew of ‘The Friendship of Whitby’ on 10 Nov 1753 when James Cook was Mate (later the famous Captain Cook). John would be about 42 years old in 1753.


(Whitby Seaman's Records)

John Farndale sailed with Captain Cook. The following information appears in the ledgers of the library of Whitby museum:

Ship: "Friendship" of Whitby, owned by John Walker, Grape Lane, Whitby. Richard Allerton, Master, James Cook, Mate. John Farndill, Seaman, 45 years old, Whitby, served seven months 12 days, 30 March 1752 to 12 May 1753. Paid 8/4d muster dues. Prior to this he sailed with Robert Easton of London, but the name of ship is not given. No ship of James Peacock appears in Whitby records, but the name Peacock appears often as crew member in the muster rolls. In fact there was a Captain Peacock still living in Whitby in 1984.


There also a record that John Farndill sailed on the Three Brothers between 21 November 1751 to 7 January 1752:



He was aged 45, so this is consistent with birth about 1707 (or 1709, with some discrepancy of age). This voyage was probably to Norway. On this voyage his captain was Richard Ellerton, with James Cook as mate. The Three Brothers was engaged as a transport conveying British troops from the Netherlands at the end of the War of Austrian Succession. Later she was used for trade in the Baltic. In 1750 her captain was John Walker.

Cook served in the Freelove, the Three Brothers and the Mary before sailing in the Friendship. All the ships were owned by the Walker Brothers who were engaged in the coal trade. About the type of vessel Beaglehole says: ' the broad bottomed blunt bowed Whitby Collier was no sprite of the sea: she was a 'cat built' vessel or simply a 'cat'. The 'cat' was defined by the Dictionary of the Marine (William Faulkner, 1789) as "a ship employed in the coal trade, formed from the Norwegian model. It is distinguished by a narrow stern, projecting quarters, a deep waist, and by having no ornamental figure on the prow ... generally built remarkably strong , and carrying from four to six hundred tons".'



Hampshire Chronicle, 22 April 1776

Ship News

Sailed from Portsmouth … Friendship, Farndale, for Whitehaven

(This record appears to show Farndale registering the out-sailing from Portsmouth, bound for Whitehaven in Cumbria)



Whitby (1746-1755)



By Sophie Forgan, Trustee Chairperson Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby


Cook spent nine years in Whitby, three as apprentice and six working his way up Captain Walker’s shipping service. These years had a profound influence on his later life and career.


What was the town like in the mid-18th century, what were the ships on which he learned to sail, and what training did he receive?


Whitby in the mid-18th century was much more important than might be imagined today – it was a centre of shipbuilding, highly prosperous, and the nexus of the coal-carrying trade between Newcastle and London. It was in fact the sixth biggest ship-building port in the country outside London. There were many shipyards, mostly on the banks of the river Esk, several dry-docks, three ropewalks for manufacturing the cordage needed for ships, sail-making lofts, and even sailcloth manufactories (from 1756). It was a place teeming with highly skilled craftsmen. These were not just little fishing boats being built, but tough, capacious collier barks, sometimes called cat-built barks, or simply ‘cats’, though the term was not in contemporary use in the town itself.


Collier barks were square-rigged, three-masted ships. They were designed to transport coal on its journey from the coalfields of northern England south to London. They also traded across the Baltic, bringing back timber, tar, hemp and other naval supplies. They were not elegant or particularly fast, but very capacious in order to carry low-value, bulky goods such as coal, and very reliable and durable. As they were virtually flat-bottomed, they could be beached anywhere. No quay or dock was needed. There were between 250-300 ships owned by Whitby men sailing out of the port – far too many to fit in to the harbour altogether at once. Many over-wintered to the north in Newcastle or Sunderland. The ships were well known to the Royal Navy, and frequently hired as troop transports or supply ships in times of war. For example, a large number of collier barks were used during the Seven Years War in North America.

So Whitby was a bustling port with lots of opportunity for work. It also had a strong Quaker community which was very influential in the town. The Society of Friends, or Quakers, believed in moderation in all things, in not bearing arms and abstaining from violence. The latter was sometimes tested in encounters with pirates who knew that Quaker owners almost always ransomed crews who were captured! But their belief in hard work, lack of ostentation, self-improvement and professional education contributed to an ethos which characterised dealings in a shipping community where most people knew each other.

So it was not perhaps surprising that Whitby was a place which had gained a reputation for training young men for the sea. Boys came not only from the surrounding countryside, but also from places much further away, even as far as the Orkneys. The town must have been awash with boys and young men.  From 1747-48 (the same year that Cook was an apprentice) there were over 1200 apprentices listed in Whitby’s ship muster rolls, and this in a town of some 5000 inhabitants. What an impact that must have had!


There were reasons why training in Whitby was highly regarded, and the first is perhaps a rather surprising one. There was no publicly endowed or grammar school in Whitby. In many places after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, some of the proceeds went into endowing a grammar school. Not so in Whitby. In consequence there was no accepted model of a standard classical education for the sons of prosperous burgesses – boys did not have to learn Latin or study Roman models of behaviour. By contrast, there were commercially-oriented schools and the teaching of mathematics was encouraged because of its practical use at sea. It was here that Cook acquired the mathematical knowledge which enabled him to develop navigational, cartographic and astronomical skills of a high order.




Hannah Farndale, wife of John Farndale, mariner aged 75 buried Whitby 26 Mar 1782 (therefore born in 1707).

John Farndale, sailor, age 79 buried St Mary, Whitby 28 Mar 1790. (Therefore born in about 1711).

(Whitby PR)


The story of Captain Cook, Whitby and the Friendship


Captain Cook, Mate on the Friendship (a Collier), from 2.2.1753. 4.2.1754


2 Feb 1753 (Fri) - Sails from Whitby as Mate in “Friendship” (collier).

4 Feb 1754 (Mon) - Returns to Whitby

In 1746 James became apprentice to John Walker, a Whitby ship owner whose collier cats or barks transported coal between Newcastle and London, a round trip of about four weeks. Cook sailed on various vessels, including “Freelove”; “Three Brothers”, which saw Cook released from his apprenticeship (1749); “The Mary of Whitby”; and “Friendship”, of which he became Mate (1752).

During winter months outside of the sailing season ships were overwintered at Whitby. Repairs were carried out to vessels and Cook, like the other apprentices, lodged at Mr. Walker’s house in Grape Lane. During these periods Cook appears to have studied hard and by 1755 he had the chance to become Master of the “Friendship”, deciding instead to join the Royal Navy




William Falconer's Dictionary of the Marine, 1769, as corrected by Thomas Cadell in 1780, defines cat as "(chatte, Fr.) a ship employed in the coal trade, formed from the Norwegian model. It is distinguished by a narrow stern, projecting quarters, a deep waist, and by having no ornamental figure on the prow."

David Ash, Bondi Beach.


Whitby cats were wide-beamed, shallow-draught, lightly rigged vessels built in Whitby designed for the coastal trade. They were used mainly to carry coal from Whitby to the Thames and backloaded with timber. Cat is an acronym of "coal and timber ship" 




The 'Earl of Pembroke', a cat built (with a bluff bow and broad stern) bark used in the coal trade. Known as colliers, these vessels were used in the North Sea coal trade and were robustly built to withstand the handling of their cargo as well as the harsh weather conditions. Measuring 98 feet in length by 29 feet in the beam and with a tonnage of 369 burden, the ‘Earl of Pembroke’ was built by Fishburne of Whitby, launched in 1768 and renamed the ‘Endeavour’ after its purchase (see SLR0353). Following the return from Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery of 1768-71, the vessel made several voyages to the Falkland Islands before being sold in 1775. It was eventually returned to the North Sea coal trade and later passed to French ownership, before finally ending up at Newport, Rhode Island, towards the end of the 18th century.




A collier - literally, coal boat - also known as a Whitby collier, and colloquially as a cat , was an 18th century bulk carrier designed expressly to transport coal by sea from the north east of England to London. Traditional collier brigs of wooden hull and two masts could carry between 280 and 300 tons of coal (although some sources that could lead up to 600 tons) And it took between five and six weeks to make the round trip in optimal conditions. In contrast, collier John Bowes, an iron-hulled steamboat , launched in 1852, would make the same trip in five days with 650 tons. 


The first colliers wood had a wide and deep line, with a stern narrow and lacked figureheads of the bow . They had two or three masts . Bats catch and most wore large square sails , while the mizzen had gaff sails front and rear. This type of sail allowed the boat to navigate with almost any weather condition, facing the most violent storms. Also, if the boat needed to be beached, it could be done without suffering any damage.


HMB Endeavor was a collier




Since James Cook knew this type of ship well, having sailed on one on his first voyage on sea - in fact, his first nine years as a sailor, before enlisting in the Royal Navy, he passed them on three colliers - and for its ability to carry heavy loads and many men for a long voyage, in 1768 I chose the Earl of Pembroke, launched in 1764, for his first expedition to the South sea , from 1768 to 1771 successive his voyages of exploration, of 1772-1775 , and from 1776-79 , he would also make them aboard colliers- Endeavor's wineries were modified to house food for 18 months, scientific material and 94 people (a crew of 71 men, 11 scientists from the Royal Society and 12 Royal Marines.