The portrait is of Captain John Lumley, a master mariner born in 1830 at Church Lane, Selby, Yorkshire, the son of a tailor. He began his career on sailing ships such as the Goole registered brigantine ‘Ellen’. John married Mary Griffithes in March 1853 at St Saviour’s in Southwark, London and they settled in the West Riding port of Goole. He was employed by the Goole and London Line of Steam Packets, his brother-in-law Captain Thomas Woodhead being manager of this concern, and John served as first mate on their steamer SS ‘Contest’. He then became master of the SS ‘Emily’ which can be seen in the painting, taking over from his brother Captain William Lumley. After the ship’s cargo of coal caught fire by scuttling her on a sand bank, the ‘Emily’ was later cut in half and lost in collision with the SS ‘Londos’ in the Humber in 1874, for which Lumley was cleared of any blame. Having survived this, Lumley died tragically aged 48, his body being washed up on the Humber shore at Barton. He had been last seen at Hull Fair and was presumed to have drowned whilst attempting to board his then command the SS ‘Musgrave’. At the time of his death he was living at Banks Vue cottage, Goole and was buried at the nearby cemetery.
The ship shown in the portrait, the SS ‘Emily’, was quite unusual for a ship of that date in that it had a large deck cabin, clearly visible in the painting.
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