Excerpts from the book Iím Alone by Captain Jack Randell
Published by Jonathan Cape, Toronto. Printed in Great Britain by the Garden City Press Ltd. 1930.
Captain Jack Randell lived a most interesting life, becoming a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery in the Boer War, where he became a mounted scout, or the eyes for the British Army in South Africa. From there he returned to London, England and then in 1902 was assigned a berth to an outgoing ship that sailed for Quebec. Shortly after the Duke and Duchess of York, King George V and Queen Mary, were in St. Johnís and he received notice that he was to be presented with the South African War medals.
He then took on the job of quartermaster on a vessel between New York and Southampton, England. He later took his second mate papers and eventually went on to get his masterís ticket. By then at the age of 28 he was a certified master of any ship of any tonnage, in any ocean, in steam or sail.
Mrs. Gertrude Lewis of Cardiff, England became Mrs. John Thomas Randell the first week that he was back to England. She was the daughter of the chief inspector of the Cardiff police. He had met her when he was going for his masterís ticket. They sailed to Newfoundland for their honeymoon and after four months in Newfoundland they returned to England and he to Lagos, Africa to work on a dredging machine.
Toward the end of 1912 he was still doing free-lance work from project to project and returned home to England when he could to Mrs. Randell and their young son. The next project was establishing the new Russian Naval Base at Reval in Estonia on the south side of Finland. He became the supervisor of all the dredging that would take place at the site. He was being well paid and they needed the money as they were expecting their second child (Edwin Randell). When WWI broke out he signed up for the British Navy and took office as Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. From here he was responsible for patrolling the waters around England.
June 25, 1915 he was given the Distinguished Service Cross. Received it on May 17, 1916 at Buckingham Palace from King George V. He also received the Croix de Guerre from France for saving one of their ships from sinking by a German submarine. In 1918 he was named by Admiral Tupper for general work and mentioned in British dispatches. France awarded him two palms for his Croix de Guerre and the British Admiralty awarded him a general service ribbon. After the war ended he remained on duty with the British Navy until July 1919 when he was sent back to Newfoundland and demobilized with the rank of Lieutenant-Commander, Royal Naval Reserve.
By 1922 he had made trips to New York on business but did not talk much about it but more about liquor and the staggering profits in it. In Halifax where he was now working they were also discussing it and he finally decided to enter the trade. For his first trip twelve hundred cases of assorted liquors were bought in Scotland and shipped to St. Johnís in transit to Settlement Point in the Bahamas. Captain Jack sold that liquor over the rail outside the three mile limit called Rum Row to the first boats that came alongside and paid the price. He was also a part owner in a gypsum mine in Newfoundland. However not all was well in the rum running trade and Capt. Jack was left stiff a couple of times.
In 1927 he went home to Newfoundland for a rest and thought he was done the rum running game. He went back to his efforts to develop the gypsum mine that he had become a partner in. In 1927 the Canadian government sent for him. He was offered the command of the government chartered ship St. Ann to go north with the Fort Churchill Expedition. The purpose of the expedition was to take dredges and stores to Fort Churchill for harbor construction. Shortly after he was asked to lead a ship that was owned by the Lindseley Group of Canada to prepare an expedition to stake out mining claims in the North West Territories.
In 1928 he was approached by some Montreal businessmen who asked him to take command of a schooner that they wanted to put into the liquor trade with the United States. The name of the schooner was the Iím Alone. He was doubting returning to this venture as the rum running business had begun to fall; he had undergone some unfortunate experiences the last time; he had and would be again risking his life; and he had been cheated and swindled. The business had changed they told him as now the American purchaser was known before the liquor was loaded, transactions would be arranged before they left for sea and the price would be settled in advance. The liquor ship would remain at high seas outside the American territorial waters and they were not to fraternize with anyone on board the American rum-running craft. Half of dollar notes were used to identify them to each other.
The Iím Alone was a two masted schooner, one hundred and twenty five feet six inches with a beam of twenty six feet eleven inches. She was two hundred and five tons gross and ninety one tons net with a carrying capacity of two hundred and fifty tons. The only problem was that she was on the Black List of the United States prohibition authorities and the United States Coast Guard.
He set sail for St. Pierre - Miquelon from Halifax on November 4, 1928 where they took on an assortment of liquors. He was to proceed to the coast of Louisiana. While awaiting word the US Coast Guard cutter Walcott came up and dropped anchor. As soon as the Iím Alone moved the cutter did as well. They managed to lose him and made their way back to the rendezvous point. Several trips were then made back and forth to Belize. The Coast Guard cutter the Dexter appeared and Captain Randell tried to lose him but he was not successful. On the second attempt however Captain Randell did manage to trick the captain of the Dexter and he headed back and unloaded the remaining liquor and then back to Belize for another load.
On board this trip was twenty five hundred cases of William Penn rye whisky that cost eight dollars a case in Belize; three hundred cases of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch whisky costing eighteen dollars a case in Belize; one hundred ten gallon demijohns of Carta díOro Bacardi rum, costing eight dollars a gallon at Belize and two hundred cases of mixed champagnes and liqueurs that averaged twenty dollars a case at Belize. This trip had cost the Montreal businessmen about sixty two thousand four hundred dollars. The Iím Alone also cost around forty five thousand dollars.
The chase began again with the Walcott but they changed their minds and went after an oil tanker. But came back after her again. Was told to heave to but Captain Randell said that he was on the high seas and they had no jurisdiction over him. The Captain of the Walcott, Paul, boarded the Iím Alone. Once on board Captain Randell was questioned as to why he did not stop and he told the Coast Guard that they had no jurisdiction over him as he was fourteen miles off shore when he was first spotted. Captain Paul replied that he was inside treaty limits and they had figured that the Iím Alone was thirteen and half miles offshore. Captain Paul departed the Iím Alone but kept following and eventually said that he had orders to take him in and if he did not stop that he would fire upon him. First two shots were blank the third tore a hole through the sail. In total they fired about twenty shots all of which were aimed at the sails.
The chase continued for three more days. By March 22 the Dexter had joined in with the Walcott.
The Dexter opened fire after giving warning with four pounder explosive shells, machine gun bullets and rifle bullets. Thirty shells had been fired when they were ordered to cease. Captain Powell megaphoned ďNow will you stopĒ to which Captain Randell replied ďNo damn you. You may sink me if you like but I will not surrender.Ē
They began to fire at the waterline. They were successful hits and the water began to pour in. The boat had started to sink and the crew of the Iím Alone began to throw over pieces of the boat to hang on to when they jumped.
Once the ship was sunk and the crew were placed aboard the Coast Guard vessels Captain Randell was placed in leg irons. One day when he managed to make it to the deck when they were en route into Louisiana he was able to read the signals that were flying between both coast guard cutters. From the Walcottís signal man, ďThereís hell to pay ashore about this business. Tip your crowd to keep their mouths shut about the position of the Iím Alone.Ē ďLet them try to get it, the Dexter signal man sent back to the Walcott.Ē
Once they were landed Captain Randell was interviewed by Mr. Creighton, the Supervisor of Customs, and Captain Gamble, Base Commander of the US Coast Guard for the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Randell informed them that he was more than 200 hundred miles from the coast of the United States and that they had no jurisdiction over them and that he wanted to get in touch with his counsel and owners. Captain Randell signed his statement and he was let go.
He then found out that one of his men, the boatswain, Leon Maingoy, was dead and that he was under arrest charged with conspiring to violate the laws of the United States. He went to jail as it was a Sunday and it was too late to make bail. On Tuesday they were let out on bail. In the United States Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana at New Orleans, the US District Attorney dropped the case. Every man went free.
According to the Publisherís Postscript at the time of going to press the incident of the sinking was the subject of arbitration between the United States Government and His Majestyís Government of Canada as provided for in Article IV of the Convention between His Majesty and the President of the Untied States of America of the 23rd January 1924.
On March 26th the Hon. Vincent Massey on behalf of the Secretary of State for External Affairs requested Mr. Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of State for the Untied States of America to furnish the Canadian Government with a statement of facts concerning the sinking of the vessel. Two days later Mr. Massey received such a statement, briefly outlining the incident from the viewpoint of the US Government. Letters went back and forth to try and come to an amicable decision on the facts of the case but this did not happen.
The end result was that the two ministers failed to reach an agreement on any of the points of difference. The settlement of the matter was referred to arbitration and after a year the public still awaited the award.
|Back to Documents|