Bristol Channel Pilots: William & William David Selway: Alison Berqqvist (Nee Selway)

Pilots in Cork

The only picture we have of William Selway is this one of him sitting on the floor with his hat in his lap representing Bristol Pilots at a conference of UK Pilots in Cork (year unknown).  He was born about 1824, died in 1902 and is recorded as having sailed in Speedwell 1863-67, Lady Clive 1867-85, Jessie 1886, Stranger (which he owned)1887-89 and Hope (1892).  William’s son, William David Selway was born in Pill in 1858 and indentured in 1875 at the age of 16 to Charles Hill of Bristol.  He was serving in the Moss Rose when his indenture ended on 11th May 1879 and paid off at Gloucester on 18th August 1879 after a voyage to Quebec lasting 3 months under a master named John McNairs.

Moss Rose


Moss Rose

The barque Moss Rose (pictured above) was built in 1863 by Thomas Hilyard at St. Johns, New Brunswick. She measured 153.3 ft long and 797 tons and remained in service until 1886.  In the painting, she is shown off the South Stack, North Wales. The Skerries Reef and lighthouse are to the left of the painting, and the harbour of Holyhead is hidden behind the hull of the barque. At the foremast flies the  flag requesting a pilot. Behind the ship, a two-masted pilot schooner races for the ship which has just begun to shorten sail.

William David Selway 1William David Selway



From 1879-90 William David Selway assisted his father in various pilot boats and for 13 months in 1891/2 served as an AB in the Home Trade on the 825 ton SS Nigel under the Master William Reed.  Then for 10 months in 1892/3 he was an AB in the North Atlantic Trade on the London registered 2154 ton, 250HP, Bayonne under Masters Payne and Manning.  His voyages were of 4-6 weeks duration and he was engaged and discharged variously at Cardiff, Liverpool, Tilbury and Avonmouth.

In 1894/5 William obtained references from pilots Edward Edwards, William Hunt (Olive), JJ Carey (Stranger) and  W Howe (Madcap) commending him for a Channel Pilot’s Certificate.  He was eventually made a pilot in 1896 after an apprenticeship in sail of over 4 years, 8 years assisting his father, over 6 years with other pilots, also serving nearly two years at sea on steamships.  Once qualified he is recorded sailing on Lady Clive (1896-98), Olive (1899) and Freda (1901-19).  William had the Freda  built for him by Rowles of Pill in 1901 and named her after one of his daughters.

 Freda Pilot Cutter deck shot

Freda ( Photo probably taken during her construction in 1901)

  Amalgamation of the Bristol Pilot Service followed the 1914-18 war and William served on the SS Queen Mother from 1920 as the old sailing cutters, including Freda, were sold off for conversion to yachts or fishing craft or broken up.  He retired in 1924 after serving 28 years in the Pilot Service.  He died on 18th May 1934 and his funeral was attended by no less than thirty serving and retired Bristol Channel Pilots.  The lives of these two Selway Pilots spanned 110 years but no other Selway followed their path.

Freda painting 2Painting of Freda



William David Selway married the daughter of a Master Mariner in 1881 and had four daughters and two sons.  The younger son, Hubert James Selway, intended to follow in his father’s wake as a Pilot but sadly was drowned by enemy action on Easter morning 31st March 1918 whilst serving as officer on  the SS Excellence Pleske.  She was a defensively-armed British Merchant Ship which was torpedoed without warning and sunk by submarine 2½ miles SSE from Dungeness. 13 lives were lost in total.

Alison Bergqvist (nee Selway)

All photos & illustrations are from the author’s collection.


12 Responses to “Bristol Channel Pilots: William & William David Selway: Alison Berqqvist (Nee Selway)”

jon sargent
March 14th, 2014 at 21:24

Hello ‘I would very much like to say how much i enjoyed reading your article about selway family and madcap ,i just like to say at some point my g g grandfather sailed her his name was william morgan and apparently very well known during his time as pilot at cardiff also sailing breez and other vesels as im am doing my family tree i have found that many of my family members are pilots and officers at cardiff and no wonder myself and my sons love the sea .. thanks jon


Judith Hamdi
September 11th, 2014 at 17:39

A wonderful site. I am descended from a number of Bristol Channel Pilots out of Pill and Cardiff. My great grandfather Robert George Brown Case was a Master Mariner from Pill and later Cardiff. He married Harriet Paines and the Paines produced many pilots. I am even related to James Ray who piloted John Cabot out to sea to discover Newfoundland but do not know the exact relationship. I do ancestor research with a cousin in Bristol who is related to the Case family and with a cousin in Hampshire who is descended from the Paines. Richard Case, a pilot who drowned in the late 1880s or early 1900s was my Bristol cousin’s direct ancestor. He died when his younger relative was unable to pull him aboard after he fell trying to board a ship in the channel. He had just been elected President (or an equivalent title) of the local Pilot’s Association and his grandfather was on the quay at Pill, waiting to congratulate him on his election.

It seems that many people in Pill were related and I would love to hear from other descendants of these brave men.

Judy Hamdi

November 12th, 2014 at 17:49

Hi Judy, I’m currently rebuilding the Letty 1905 built by Rowles in Pill. The Pilot who had her built was James Gilmore Dickens of Pill, Bristol Pilot licence nr. 22. Please let me know if you come across any history relating to Letty when doing your own research.. & Facebook; Letty Pilot-Cutter


jon sarge
November 13th, 2014 at 19:15

Any photo of william morgan cardiff pilot

November 17th, 2015 at 14:39

My ancestors were the Case family of Pill. My great great grandfather was James Case b 1829, son of John (b1805) & Ann (nee Bullock). John Case, a fireman, was killed when a boiler on the ‘Fury’ exploded in 1859. James was a survivor of the shipwreck of the Mars in 1862, later moved to the dock area of Cardiff (now Cardiff Bay) but died young in 1879. His only surviving child was Alma Sarah who married Thomas Acland; their daughter Ethel was my paternal grandmother.
We have a metal token (coin) with the head of King George, punched with the letter B in a dozen places either side. This is said to have once belonged to a mariner relative of James or John, who was drowned.
Surnames connected to the Case family are: Bullock, Rowles, Ball, Hales and Humphries.


Judith Hamdi
November 21st, 2015 at 03:45

Hi Adrienne,

We are probably related since I am the great granddaughter of Robert George Brown Case, a Master Mariner from Pill. He was from a long line of Pill mariners and he married Harriet Paines, the son of William Paines, a Bristol Channel Pilot. The Paines produced many pilots. I will need to review my family tree to refresh my memory regarding his direct ancestors. After my branches of both the Cases and Paines moved to Cardiff to take advantage of the growth of that port, the next generation remained mariners. My grandfather, Thomas William Case and his brother Martin Case were mariners. His older brother Robert Baker Case was a Master Mariner. Martin died in his twenties, my grandparents moved to the States (did not become US citizens)and Robert retired after fifty years. Check the Portbury Hundred site. M. Mason has copied many records that may prove helpful.
Judy Hamdi

November 23rd, 2015 at 18:14

Thanks Judith. I think James Case’s father (bc1805) was possibly a brother of your ancestor. I am fairly sure that all the case families in Pill were related. After moving to Cardiff & then Newport in South Wales, the family remained in the area; some are still there although the surname changed (James had one surviving daughter who married Thomas Acland in Cardiff in 1876 & one of their daughters was my paternal grandmother). I am continuing my research & have found a few sites of interest.Are you living in the States?
Thanks again for your email & information; I will look up the Portbury Hundred.
Best wishes
Adrienne Roche


November 23rd, 2015 at 18:26

Hi has anyone got any photo’s of william morgan master mariner cardiff bristol channel — or of any info regarding him


March 24th, 2017 at 17:38

Does anyone have any knowledge of a John Morgon, John Webb, Joseph Wright or John Williams? my great great grandfather John Williams drowned in 1851 listed as a hobbler with the three other men above and a “boy” . John Morgon was the Pilot. There is a news article about it in January of 1851 they went down in Penarth roads in a fierce gale.
My great grandfather was William Williams a Cardiff Channel Pilot who appreticed under Evan Morse his step fathers’ nephew. He owned a cutter called the Crystal Spring.


Michael Cottam
November 15th, 2021 at 04:40

Hello Alison
I was doing some research on the mould Eric made for the Sir William Priestly lifeboat
I wondered if there was any record of the hulls that were produced from it?
It is now registered with the old gaffers association

Mike Cottam

February 18th, 2023 at 19:37

My great great grandfather, David Julian, 1820-1874, was a Bristol Channel/Cardiff marine pilot, no. 16. I’ve seen documents relating to him in the Glamorgan Archives: some pilot boarding cards, a witness statement and details of his cutter Jane. Does anyone know if photos exist of these pilots and their boats? I found a newspaper account of his unwanted voyage of 49 days to Genoa when the captain would not allow him to board the tugboat returning to Cardiff.


Angela Fenelon
February 18th, 2023 at 21:32

Adrienne Roche were we at college together? Something else we have in common, my great great grandfather was David Julian, 1820-1874. Bristol Channel pilot number 16, working out of Cardiff. I am trying to trace a photo of his boat Jane.


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