A sailing trip aboard the schooner Mary M Lewis from Bridgetown to Georgetown – Summer 1939.

This is the story of a sailing adventure by 3 boys: Joe Burton (aged 18), Jim Burton (aged 16) and “Ginger” Edwards (aged 16?) who sailed from Bridgetown to Georgetown and back on board the schooner Mary M Lewis in the summer of 1939.  Joe Burton and Jim Burton were brothers. “Ginger” Edwards was the junior at Manning & Co. who came along for the trip.

Our grandfather Horace Burton (Pop) worked for Manning & Co. as the company secretary.  Manning and Co. were the agents for the schooner Mary M Lewis that plied between Bridgetown and Georgetown with cargo. Pop knew the skipper: Captain Kenneth Marshall (whose nick name was “Fellows”).

The three boys were entrusted to Captain “Fellows” Marshall.  While the Mary M Lewis was unloading her Barbados cargo and loading her BG cargo the boys stayed in a boarding house in Georgetown.

The one story we all remember from our childhood is how a pig lived on board the Mary M Lewis.  If the captain got lost the pig would be put into the sea and it would swim in the direction of the nearest land. I am not sure if that is true but most accounts of sailing vessels trading between the islands mention having a pig on board.

This story has been put together from an old photo album we have.

There are lots of details we don’t know such as:

  • What was the route taken by schooners sailing from Bridgetown to Georgetown?
    We think it was probably due south to Venezuela then south east along the British Guyana coast to Georgetown. 
  • How long did it typically take on the outbound and inbound legs?  Schooners like the Mary M Lewis did not have a back-up Caterpillar engine to combat the tides and wind!
    We think it’s about 450nm from Bridgetown to Georgetown so if the Mary M Lewis averaged 5 knots that would be about 4 to 5 days sailing.
  • What typically did the schooners take as cargo from Barbados to BG?
  • What typically did the schooners bring back as cargo from British Guiana?
    Lumber. Charcoal, Rice and Salt beef.
  • What was the name of the the land lady of the boarding house in Georgetown?
    Do you know?
  • Can you name any of the places in Georgetown or the boats in the photos?
    Do you know?

If you can name any of the places or the people in the photos, fill in any of the missing details, please add a message in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Mary M Lewis

A few days in Georgetown


  • The houses in Georgetown are raised with the ground floor unoccupied. This is was to protect homeowners possessions as Georgetown is at sea level and tends to flood annually.
  • A lot of the old wooden houses only had shutters rather than glass windows.

Michael Carter shared this with us:

The Mary M Lewis in the Careenage, Bridgetown, Barbados – 1965

The Mary M Lewis was built in St. Lucia and named after the builder’s daughter. She was owned by my grandfather Captain A. L. Marshall and then bought and sailed by his son Captain Ivan Marshall.

I understand that she had no engine and was totally dependent on wind. The story goes that after a bad experience of being stranded on the Waini River for several days with no wind, Captain A. L. Marshall decided to get rid her and my cousin Tom Marshall then sailed down the Hawarden Bridge from the UK which Uncle Ivan sailed until his death.

It is believed that the Mary M Lewis ended her days unceremoniously on a mud flat on the Demerara river.

Responses to “A sailing trip aboard the schooner Mary M Lewis from Bridgetown to Georgetown – Summer 1939.”

  1. Jan Ratcliffe

    My best friend Claudette Gilkes (Marshall) father Ivan Marshall and his brothers owned the Mary M. Lewis in the 50’s and 60’s. I believe Ivan captained the schooner and took it to Georgetown and back like was mentioned. Rice was one of the main cargoes.

    So enjoy all your postings. I left Barbados in 1967. BTW today is Claudette’s Birthday.

    Keep up the good work Eh !!

  2. Jim Webster

    Thanks for this story and pictures. My Dad too sailed between Barbados and British Guiana on Hassel schooners during this period so many of the things they saw would have been familiar to him. It seems there was a a close connection between the two countries during that time.

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