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Formally incorporated as a public company in 1901, the Hain Steamship Company can trace its roots back to 1816 when the Hain family of St Ives, Cornwall, acquired a part share in the fishing lugger Dasher. She proved so successful that the family purchased the schooner Camilla in 1838 and began trading with Mediterranean ports delivering cargoes of cured fish and returning with Greek and Turkish dried fruit. At the time of the Camilla’s purchase, the business of Edward Hain & Son was established. The subsequent acquisition of the Mystery schooner in 1850 meant Hain and his grandson (also Edward) could now trade in West Indian sugar and Brazilian coffee.
In December 1851, Edward Hain IV was born, followed shortly after by the death of his great grandfather. Initially, young Edward did not share his predecessors’ enthusiasm for the sea; instead choosing to move away to take up employment first with a bank and then with a London tea merchant. It was the tea trade that alerted Edward to the importance of making the switch from sail to steam and upon his return to St Ives in 1878, he convinced his father, although the elder was initially reluctant to make the transition. Armed with finance provided by Bolitho’s bank (the forerunner of Barclays) the youngest Edward visited the shipyard of John Readhead & Co at South Shields where Hain placed the first of many orders for the company. Readhead’s delivered the first steamer named Trewidden in honour of the Bolitho estate outside Penzance. The relationship between Hain and Readhead ultimately produced a total of 87 ships for the company, all with the prefix ‘Tre’ a Cornish word for ‘farmstead’.
In September 1901, the Hain Steamship Company was incorporated as a public company in Cardiff under the direction of Edward Hain III and Edward Hain IV. By 1913, the number of ships in their service reached 36 with another five on order with Readheads. At the outbreak of war, two of Hain’s ships were docked in German ports and were immediately detained while another ship in the Black Sea was requisitioned by Russian forces. By the end of the war, the Hain Steamship Company lost a total of 18 ships to enemy action and three by other causes.
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