Firefly was a steam powered paddle dredger built by William Stebbings for Spencer Addison’s oyster business. Work commenced January 5th 1882; she was launched July 1st 1882; and had her steam trial August 1st 1882. Length on keel 29’6″. Length overall 33′. Depth aft 4’4″. Depth forward 4′. Draft master aft 3′. Draft forward 1’8″ with beam 9′.
In the photograph above, Firefly is the second boat from the right. Her fishing registration – CK47 – can be seen quite clearly on her bow. The semi-circular paddle sponsons can be seen, and they’re also evident on the vessel moored to port. What is slightly confusing it that neither paddle boat appears to have a smoke stack. Perhaps they’d been converted from steam to oil at this point, it is not clear. In Essex Gold, Hervey Benham wrote that Firefly was at some point converted to a motor driven propeller, “ending her working days at Mersea where her exceptionally long nameboard, now in the local museum, is a reminder of the broad counters favoured for this sort of hull”.
Of her launch, the CHELMSFORD CHRONICLE, Friday 7th July 1882, recorded,
LAUNCHES – Never before has such an event taken place at Burnham as that of Saturday last, viz., the launching of two steam dredging vessels on the same day. Both launches were successfully carried out. From the ship-building loft belonging to Mr. Spencer Addison there glided into the river a smart-looking craft built for Mr. Addison by Mr. Wm. Stebbings, and from the workshop in the occupation of Mr. William Read was launched an equally smart looking, though smaller, vessel, that had been converted into a steamer by Mr. Read by direction of Mr. John Auger. Both vessels will be employed in the oyster fishery, and will form important additions to the steam dredging fleet connected with this place, which is all of recent construction. The launches, which took place between twelve and one o’clock, excited considerable interest and were witnessed by a large number of persons. The vessels in question were respectively names Firefly and Zeta, the former being named by Miss Rosa Wright in the usual manner, while in the latter case the ceremony was not observed. On Monday evening, in celebration of the launch of the Firefly, the men employed by Mr. Addison partook of an excellent supper provided by Mr. and Mrs. J. Smith at the Anchor Inn.