Pilot Cutter LlanelliDuring the 1840’s – 1850’s the port of Llanelli was handling in the region of 2000 ships yearly. Charged with bringing them in and out of the port safely were some thirty nine pilots. In 1845 the total earnings paid out to the pilots by the Harbour Trust was some £2117 – 3s – 3d (£2177 – 16p) the highest paid being £105 – 19s – 4d and the lowest £26 – 3s – 0d (this pilot only worked part of the year). Not a great deal of money considering the skills needed, the knowledge of the ever changing sandbanks and waterways, also the weather conditions they had to face. Covering the port of Llanelli were twenty five pilots, seven covered Pembrey, four Broughton Bay and three covered Penclawdd.

To qualify to apply for a pilot’s licence certain criteria had to be met. First they had to be able to read and write and “that they have held the position of master or mate for a period not less than 12 months; they shall also produce satisfactory testimonials of seven years of service at sea, of sobriety, of good conduct and capability, and also a certificate from the harbour-master that such candidate for a licence has been examined by him and is in his opinion eligible for the situation”.

The cost of a licence was initially 5s (25p) for the year, with renewal cost of 1s for the ensuing years. On the front cover of the licence was a description of the holder, this gave the Pilots name, his height, the colour of his eyes, hair and complexion. On the inside pages was a licence renewal page and a page covering the bye-laws and regulations of the pilots and harbour. The back page referred to the way the pilot boats were to identify themselves and also the charges to be made to incoming and outward bound ships.

A Pilots Committee sat at regular intervals and made judgements on a number of issues. There were regular disputes with masters of ships complaining about pilots, there were disputes between pilots as to who should have what ship to bring into port. They also administered monies from the pilots’ benevolent fund to help out pilots or their families who had fallen on hard times through ill health or death. An example of this was that an order was passed that “an oven be built for Margaret Perrott and a sum not exceeding fifteen pounds be placed in the hand of Mr. Cawer for that purpose and for the supplying her with a stock of flour for bread baking”.