John Alexander Elrick

#1182, b. 22 February 1867, d. 10 April 1909

The coastal ship Oonah on which John was a crew member

Individual's Timeline

Birth22 February 1867John Alexander Elrick1
Death of Mother21 January 1892Mary Elrick
Marriage26 November 1894John Alexander Elrick2
Marriage18 December 1895John Coe3
Death10 April 1909John Alexander Elrick

Primary events

Secondary circumstances

  • Occupation: John was on the Industrial Training ship 'Mars' which was moored in the River Tay in 1881. Later a Royal Navy reservist, then a sailor on international merchant ships, then a sailor on Australian interstate shipping out of Tasmania.
  • Residence: In 1889 John Alexander lived in 15 Yeates Lane, Aberdeen, St Nicholas, Aberdeen, Scotland.
  • Description: At the age of 22 years, 1 month and 27 days John Alexander Elrick was described as 5ft 7in, fair complexion, blue eyes, scar on breast. It was noted in the certificate (book similar to a modern passport), that John ELRICK had served 3 years 8.5 months as a Naval Reservist, second class.
  • webexhibit: John sent a letter to the editor of the Mercury - see text exhibit.
  • Anecdote: Fire. An alarm of fire was rung at 5:10 p.m. yesterday. The fire proved to be at 46 Montpelier street occupied by John Elrick, and was confined to the roof, being caused by a defective chinmey. The flames were extinguished easily.

Census details

Some aspects of John Alexander Elrick's life. As a young man John was placed on the "Ind Trng Ship Mars" Moored In River Tay, Census Place: Forgan, Fife, Scotland.

Linda Caston wrote a book on the Mars a few years ago which is now out of print.

Basic facts: the Mars was a battleship built in 1840. Served in the Crimean war and later the Med. Brought to Dundee in August 1869 as a training ship for orphaned boys and those 'beyond the control of parents' (hence the reputation as a prison ship). Up to 400 boys did two watches: one went to school on the ship while the others went to workshops ashore. They switched over in the afternoon. There had been over 6000 'Mars boys' by the time it was scrapped in 1929.

The ship had a brig, the Francis Molison, which 70 or so boys sailed for holidays around Scotland every May. Other boys spent holidays ashore at Elie in Fife.

Brushes with the LAW

A warrant was issued for the apprehension of John for desertion of his wife and 2 children. The text from the Tasmanian Police Gazette is - John Elrick is charged on warrant issued on the 20th ultimo, by B. Shaw, Esq., P.M., that he, being a person of sufficient means, without lawful or reasonable cause or excuse, at Hobart, on and since the 3rd December 1900, did desert his wife, Martha Elrick, and his two children. Description: Age 34 years, height 5 feet 8 inches, fair complexion, blue eyes, fair hair and moustache , mark on chest ; fond of drink ; a fireman , employed by the U.S.S. Co., and now supposed to be in Melbourne . May go by the name of John Grant.


His death was commemorated by an obituary in the Hobart newspapers on 13 April 1904 in The Mercury, Tasmania, Australia, ELRICK.- On April 10, 1909, at Hobart, John Alexander, dearly Loved husband of Martha Elrick, in the 41st year of his age leaving a wife and two children to mourn their loss. Funeral will leave his late residence, 46 Portsea Terrace, Montpelier street, on Tuesday (This Day), at 3 o'clock, for Queenborough Cemetery.4

Military Career

Records show that John Alexander Elrick served in the armed forces. Royal Naval Reservist, first class. Royal Naval Reserve certificate First Class #84617. Book in the care of Alan Elrick.

Research Notes

  • Research note 01: He was on the mars because his father had died and John and his older brother Robert had both been taken into training schools, which were 'provided chiefly for vagrant and neglected children and children who have NOT been convicted of theft'. In 1885, he was a Royal Naval reservist, second-class, promoted to First Class (Certificate #84617) by 1889. From 1885 until 1891 when the 'Cochin' came to Melbourne and he signed off for the last time he was a sailor on international ships - Ispingo, Sierra Blanco, Celtic Monarch, Falls of Earmy and Ardincraig. After 1901 John was a sailor on coastal passenger and cargo shipping in Australasian waters, on such ships as the 'Oonah'. Pictures of the Mars and the Oonah are attached as exhibits.

Children of John Alexander Elrick and Martha Coe


  1. John Alexander Elrick, Certified copy of certificate 307 (8/3/1867).
  2. BDM in Australia, Aust Vital Records 1788-1905, 1894/231.
  3. BDM in Australia, Aust Vital Records 1788-1905, 37/348.
  4. Trove - Australian Newspapers on line, online