Sir James Anderson
1824 - 1893

 Relationship to me: First Cousins Four Times Removed Gen -4

 Born: Dumfries, Scotland 4 Jun 1824
 Died: London, 17 May 1893
 Age 69  
 Father:   John Anderson 1792 - 1858
 Mother:   Agnes Richardson 1794 - 1886
 Brothers: Robert Anderson c.1827
  David Anderson c,1828
  Wellwood Anderson 1829
  John Anderson  c.1830
  William Anderson  c.1831
 Sisters:   Agnes Anderson 1825
  Elizabeth Anderson c.1826
 Married: (1) Mary Stewart 1824 - 1856
  (2) Margaret Milligan 1826 - 1891
 Children: (1) Wellwood Anderson 1854 - 1893
  (2) Kenneth Anderson

James Anderson was the captain of the Great Eastern Steamship at the time that it successfully laid the first Altantic Cable - the telegraph cable that opened up 'instant' communications between Great Britain and the USA. James was knighted for his role in this great venture.

The S.S. Great Eastern was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel - one of the great engineers of all time, who was responsible (amongst other things) for the design and construction of the Great Western Railway including the famous Royal Albert Bridge of the River Tamar in Cornwall. He then went on to design the first ocean going steamship, the SS Great Western which operated trans-Atlantic services from Bristol for many years; the first iron hulled propeller driven ocean-going steam ship, the SS Great Britain (now preserved in Bristol); and finally the Great Eastern, completed in 1858 and by far the largest vessel ever built at the time. It was designed for operating between England and Australia with a single coaling stop, but proved too far ahead of its time and never went to Australia. The ship ruined Brunel financially and physically, and he died shortly after it was completed. It never earned its way as a passenger carrier and spent most of its life idle until its size was found ideal for the purpose of carrying and laying the 3000 mile cable across the Atlantic. It made its first cable laying attempt in 1865 when the cable broke in mid-ocean and couldn't be recovered. The second attempt in 1866 was successful and opened the door to global communications as we know them today. My grandmother Mary Helena Neslon Smith gave me a small piece of the original Atlantic Cable which I believe I still have. Photo right is of another piece of the cable in the possession of my cousin Oliver Suffield who also provided the cable's construction details below.

Links to find further information about the Great Eastern Steam Ship can be found at:
(This site has a photo of Capt Anderson and the text which I have reproduced below)

Notes on Sir James Anderson. He was the captain of the Great Eastern on the 1865 and 1866 transatlantic cable-laying voyages.

James Anderson was born in 1824 at Dumfries in Scotland. He became very interested in boats and the sea when he was a boy. He longed to become a sailor but his parents did not share his enthusiasm. Instead they sent him to work for the local newspaper, the Dumfries Herald, as a printer. His job was to remove the printed sheets from the printing press. It was boring work but it allowed him to retell the stories he had read to his fellow workers. James' urge to go to sea finally won and he joined the merchant navy when he was 16. When he was a second mate his captain said that he did not swear, there wasn't a bit of bully in him and, young though he was, he had the manner and voice that made other men jump to his orders. He was quickly promoted. In 1851 he joined the Cunard Company and commanded some of their best ships. His ambition was to command a ship on the Atlantic mail service. He was perhaps the most respected and experienced commander within Cunard. The company released him to command the Great Eastern in 1866 for the Atlantic cable-laying voyage. They thought he was their best captain. For the part he played in laying the Atlantic telegraph cable he was knighted and was known as Sir James Anderson. He died in London in 1893.

Last Updated: May 2002