Rodger, sea captain and shipowner, was born in November 1801
at 26 Shore Street, Cellardyke. He was educated at the Parish
School in East Forth Street and passed the first 19 years of
his life in his native village. At the fishing and by studying
hard he acquired a knowledge of navigation which was unusual
for someone of his age and limited opportunities.
the age of about 19 he joined a collier as a sailor and in little
more than a year was appointed second mate, being promoted two
years later to the command of a brig in which he made many successful
voyages to the Mediterranean. He subsequently sailed over the
world and was the commander of the first ship of any size or
tonnage to sail from Glasgow to an Australian port.
incident that well illustrates his character occurred when he
was making a voyage in his own ship, the Helen, through the
Indian seas, when drifting with little or no wind but with a
heavy swell, the ship struck a sunken reef where according to
the charts there was a clear and open sea. The violence of the
shock made the ship quiver from stem to stern and a large piece
of her false keel was knocked away and floated alongside. Once
clear of the reef it was ascertained that the pumps could keep
the water from gaining a hold so Captain Rodger lowered a boat
and made the most careful soundings and bearings of the reef.
On his return home he reported the results to the Admiralty.
'Rodger's Rock' was thereafter recorded on the chart.
years of hard service Captain Rodger was compelled by failing
health to retire from the sea and it was about this time that
the first news of the Australian gold fields reached this country.
He immediately planned an expedition to the gold fields, which
he led himself, consisting of sixteen young fishermen from Cellardyke,
five of whom were his own nephews. After spending six months
with the expedition, the success of which can be gathered from
the fact that the £1,200 advanced towards the expedition
was repaid and each member had about £200 over, he returned
then began another speculative enterprise. He had long been
convinced that fast clipper ships had great advantages in the
China tea trade and by 1855 he was part owner of the Kate Carnie
with C. Camie of Glasgow. This was the first clipper ship built
by Steele & Co. Next came the Ellen Rodger, named after
his wife, with Captain John Keay of Anstruther as her master.
Next came Min, Captain John Smith, Anstruther, and in 1863 his
most famous clipper Taeping, which in 1866 won the most exciting
tea race of them all.
Captain McKinnon, drawing less water than Ariel tied up in London
docks twenty minutes ahead of Captain Keay, 99 days out of Foochow.
Such a close and exciting finish had never been seen before
in - an ocean race. Taeping divided her winnings of 10 shillings
per ton with the crew of the Ariel and Captain Mckinnon divided
the captain's £100 with Captain Keay.
interest in the race was intense as Ariel was captained by Captain
Keay of Anstruther and included Anster men in her crew while
Taeping was owned by Captain Rodger of Cellardyke and her crew
included Dykers. His last clipper ship, the Lahloo , was built
in 1867. When Lahloo and Taeping were both lost in the East
in 1872 he sold the Mon and retired. He bought a field at the
east end of Cellardyke for the use of the community and had
rocks cleared from the harbour entrance and each winter he gave
£20 for the poor of the burgh. For many years he was an
examiner for marine certificates and served on the board of
Clyde Lighthouses. He died on June 6th 1877 at Newton Place,
Glasgow, after a short illness in his 76th year. Rodger Street,
Cellardyke, was named after him.
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