Captain Ernest Prior BISHOP

(19 Dec 1849 – 26 Nov 1916)


Captain Ernest Prior Bishop


Master Mariner’s Certificate




Ernest Prior BISHOP, the fourth son of Skynner Egerton BISHOP, was born 19 Dec 1849. In his later years he lived in Japan and died there in 1916. He was a ship's captain with P&O Mail Service.  He had a company house in Yokohama, Japan and after his death was laid to rest in the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.  In 1878, Ernest Prior BISHOP married Fanny Grace WOODHOUSE, daughter of Henry Woodhouse and Hannah Beecroft.  In the 1891 census he was listed as the head of household at 44 Hampton Road, West Ham, and as a Master Mariner.  He received his Master Mariner’s Certificate on 13 Jul 1882.


Below is a record of Ernest Prior BISHOP’s indenture as apprentice mariner at age 17.  The date was 11 Dec 1866.  He was indentured for 3 years, under a Captain A. Nicholson, on a vessel named Argonaut. 



Argonaut on an Angry Sea, painting by Henry Scott

Information about Argonaut can be found on the internet.  In the 1800s it was of critical importance to ship owners that their cargoes arrive at their destinations as soon as possible because the first cargoes back earned the best prices.  There was always, therefore, a race between the great sail clippers to return to England ahead of ships that were owned by competitors.  Argonaut has been described as "a galloper" and her first captain, ‘Sandy’ Nicholson, who was her master for many years, was "noted as a sail carrier," meaning that he liked to deploy as much sail as possible for the prevailing conditions.

Argonaut's first voyage was to Foochow in China on a tea run.  Leaving Foochow with her cargo of tea on 10th July 1867 she arrived back in 111 days, arriving in London on 29th October.  It was an exceptional maiden voyage.  One can imagine that Ernest Prior BISHOP, as an 18 year-old apprentice, may well have been on this voyage.  No doubt it was a memorable experience.