Captain George Moodie
George Moodie was born in 1829 in East Wemyss. He was the third son of Alexander Moodie and Alison Thomson, and had two older brothers, (Alexander and John), one younger brother (Henry) and four younger sisters (Elizabeth, Alison, Agnes and Joan). As he grew up, he spent a lot of time with the local fishermen around West Wemyss harbour.
George became an apprentice on one of Johnson’s ships, importing flax. It was Johnson who built the linen factory in East Wemyss in 1860, before which, linen was made in many local homes. He went to Dundee to study navigation, and first went to sea on ‘The Maria’, a ship owned by Provost Don Swan of Kirkcaldy, a linen manufacturer. George Moodie signed an article of apprenticeship to David Johnston of East Wemyss, thereby being guaranteed £24 per annum, for four years sailing before the mast, being ‘lawful money of Great Britain’. For this article, George needed a reference from William Paul Burns (head teacher in West Wemyss for 50 years), and on 21 January 1845, he wrote 'This is to certify that I have known the bearer and have great pleasure in certifying that he is a sober, steady, trustworthy young man. He has received a liberal education. His moral character as far as I have observed is above mediocrity.'
George Moodie obtained his Master’s Certificate after seven years, having survived the hazards of his apprenticeship.
In 1854, George married Janet Cassels from West Wemyss and they had four children.
In 1863, having served as mate on a very successful moneymaking trip on the ‘Tweed’, under Captain Stuart, Moodie was given command of the ‘Laurel’ and later, the ‘Lauderdale’. He was a Captain full of character; a careful, cautious navigator, taking no risks in the China seas. He was also a good businessman, which made the difference between a good and bad voyage for the owners.
He supervised the building of the ‘Cutty Sark’, and was famous for being her first Captain, a position he held for three years. He resigned his Captaincy aged 43, in 1872, resuming his career in the new steamships, serving as captain on the London to New York line for another 19 years.
The Captian retired in 1891 to 'The Anchorage' in Bowling Green Street, Methil, being active for many years. He founded the Methil Bowling Club in 1900, donating the ‘red duster – flag of the ‘Cutty Sark’ which was, unfortunately stolen.
In 1911, at the age of 82, he moved to McDuff House in Auchtermuchty. It was a 200 year old house with a large garden in which he enjoyed working. He delighted his many friends with stories of the old sailing days, and he had many pictures of his old ships hanging in the house, including a large canvas of the ‘Cutty Sark’.
His main interest after retirement was meteorology.
His wit was sharp – the Provost of Auchtermuchty once asked the Captain what he thought the weather would be. ‘Wet’, was the reply. ‘Surely not’ said the Provost, ‘my glass was at fair when I came out’ ‘Aye’, sneered George Moodie, ‘and do ye think the weather cares a damn for your glass?’
In 1918, his wife Janet died aged 87. Captain Moodie survived her by 5 years, and died at the age of 94 on 2nd September 1923. Both the Captain and his wife are buried in Methilmill Cemetery. Captain Moodie was survived only by his daughter Catherine, (who looked after him), the other three children having pre-deceased both him and his wife.
The family gravestone in Methilmill Cemetery where both Captain and Mrs Moodie are buried, states on the front face:
in loving memory of
Born 27th March 1870
Died 16th May 1908
Also their son
James A.C. Moodie
who died at New York
on 21st March 1911
aged 52 years
Also the said
who died 1st October 1918
Aged 87 years
and on the West face:
Who died 2nd Sep.1923
Aged 94 years
Also his daughter
James T. Whiteman
Who died 3rd July 1915
Aged 50 years
And his daughter
Moodie who died 17th June 1942
Aged 80 years
With grateful thanks to Hugh Ward
(great great nephew of George Moodie)
for allowing us to use the information he collected.