Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

J. M. McLachlan

Note: Information provided by a reader and enhanced by additional research.

Born: 1828, Tobermory, Scotland
Died: 1897, Brooklyn Heights, New York

John M. Lachlan (aka John Mclachlan in his early years in England and Australia; J. M. Lachlan in S.F.)

Superintendent of Pacific Mail Steamship Company 1870-80's. Master of most steamships of Pacific Coast Steamship Company and their subsidiaries.

Designed, oversaw construction of the many ships built for PMSS in Chester, PA. Delivered several of the ships from there to San Francisco and made many of the initial voyages on them to China, Pacific NW, Alaska, and Australia/New Zealand. Brought the State of California out from Chester to S.F. in record time.

Made City of San Francisco's first commercial voyage to Australia in it as Master afterward turning it over to Captain Waddell of CSA notoriety.

Capt. Lachlan's career spanned just short of 50 years was memorable in that he never lost a ship and never experienced a maritime disaster of any sort. Many of his commands, the City of Chester and the Rio for example came to grief afterwards.

He was Master, all tonnages all oceans with pilotage in and out of San Francisco and all ports on the Pacific Coast plus other world ports.

Marine History of the Pacific Northwest.

Strongly hope that all your magnificent research includes Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest: An Illustrated Review of the Growth and Development of the Maritime Industry, from the Advent of the Earlist Navigators to the Present Time, with Sketches and Portraits of a Number of MenLewis and Dryden Marine History Pacific Northwest., a monumental work about the Pacific Northwest which naturally references many of the San Francisco stories, Captains and vessels.

He received his original Master's papers from The Lords of Privy, England, after a five year service in sail and steam in 1851 at age 23 whereupon he travelled to Hobart to command the SS Mimosa, first steamer on the coast of Tasmania. He then operated several steamers out of Sydney and Melbourne to ports in China, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

April 12, 1865, New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian: Departures: S.S. Albion, 453 tons, McLachlan, for Lyttleton, Dunedin and Melbourne. Passengers: 30 in the cabin and 30 in the steerage. THE ALBION: The Otago Steam Navigation Company S. S. Albion, Captain John M'Lachlan, from Melbourne via Okitiki and Nelson, arrived in port on Friday afternoon at 5 o'clock. She left Port Phillip Heads at 11:30 p.m. on the 30th March, anchored off Wilson's Promontory for 14 hours to repair air pump; arrived at Okitiki on the 5th inst, after a passage of five days eight hours, having experience N.N.W. and variable winds with a heavy sea; landed 183 diggers. Left Okitiki at 1 o'clock on the 5th; arrived at Nelson at 10:30 a.m. on the6th, but was detaiend by the tide until 5 p.m.; discharged cargo and left on the 7th at 6:15 a.m. and arrived here as above.

May 14, 1865, Lyttelton Times: Albion, s. s., 453 tons, M'Lachlan, from Wellington. Passengers: Capt. Hodge, Rev. Mr. Barton, Mrs. M'Kinnon and child, Miss Bonnington, Messrs. Bishop, Stevens, Coubern, Rae, Denslow, Stewart, Juce, Young, Angus, Marks, Macbeth, Smith, Winterugham, Boyle, Lance, and Jago; six in steerage.

He came to San Francisco with his family in 1870 and began work for Pacific Mail Steamship Company, soon becoming Superintendent. He and his family lived at 1612 California Street in the city; a son and daughter were born there.

June 14, 1872: Steamer Alaska, Captain J. M. Lachlan. Apply at the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.

August 31, 1872, Pacific Appeal

September 16: FOR NEW YORK via Panama.
Steamship Alaska, Captain J. M. Lachlan
Increased Service.
Leaving punctually at 12 o'clock M. on the 7th, 17th, and 27th of each month,
for Panama, connecting, via steamers from Aspinwall for New York.

December 17, 1872: Steamer Alaska, Captain Lachlan.

August 11, 1873, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

August 1st: Colorado, Captain Harris
August 16th: Quang Se, Captain Lachlan

October 29, 1973, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.


Three days ahead of time the Pacific Mail Company's steamer Quang Se, Captain J. M. Lachlan, arrived at San Francisco October 27tb, bringing Yokohama dates to the 7th instant, and Hongkong dates to September 27th. The following are items of news from the East:

CHINA. The Rev. R. S. Maclaj D. D., for many years Superintendent of the American Methodist Episcopal Missions at this port, has been transferred to Yokohama as Superintendent of the Missions of his church in Japan. F. Lee has recovered $500 damages against Thomas Ide Hauler, an Englishman for breach of promise of marriage. The foreign residents are evidently excited at the result of the suit, and one paper remarks that the "Event of the day is a judicial court established solely for the purpose of trying cases of breach of promise, and for awarding suitable damages to jilted Chinese maidens. It is the first case of the sort in China, where the damsel is a native and the defendant a European.

All the coolie ships have been ordered out of Hongkong and Chinese waters by both Governments, and there are twelve Peruvian coolie ships lying at Macao. There are no coolies at Macao, and a telegram has arrived from Lisbon to stop coolie traffic for the present. Chinese gunboats cruise off Macao to intercept coolie junk or ships.

June 20, 1875, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Her Trial Trip to Benicia Yesterday.

The new new and elegant tug, just built by the Pacific Mail Company, the Millen Griffith, made her first and trial trip yesterday. To say that she is as fine a specimen of that style of naval architecture as ever plied the waters of the Pacific Coast, would but faintly convey the idea of her genuine merit. She is constructed of the best material in all particulars, and her machinery works as readily and as satisfactorily as thought in use for months. This tug is named after Captain Millen Griffith, the well-known and popular tug-boat proprietor of this city, but is designed exclusively lor the work of the Mail Company.

The Swedenborgian Society designated yesterday as their picnic or excursion day, and as the Griffith was to make her initiative run about the bay, the Society was invited to "get aboard" and be of a party to enjoy the first trip an invitation extended by Captain Bacon of the Company, and Captain J. M. Lachlan, the urbane an gallant Commander of the tug, and gratefully accepted by the Society. The town of Benicia was designated at the point of visit. At 10 o'clock there had gathered at the Vallejo Street Wharf quite a crowd of ladies and gentlemen, and ahortly after that hour the staunch little vrtisel steamed op from the Mall Dock to that wbarf to receive Its Jolly crowd, there was no time lost in making a start, and the boat shot out into the bay on as fine a morning as has been enjoyed for months, and the water was as calm as a pond. As soon as the party was well ont from the wharf,


Struck up their music. Capt. Griffith had not forgotten to provide this music, and it was greatly enjoyed during the trip. After scudding about the islands for awhile, teh tug was turned toward the Sacramento river and for Benicia. The time was variously spent on the trip by the party -- of of them enjoying the surrounding sights by means of their marine glasses, and diversifying the time by visits to the elegant lunch spread below decks.

The Griffith landed in Benicia, between the Arizona and Moses Taylor, about one o'clock in the afternoon. Here lunch was regularly indulged in many going ashore to eat. After the good things wore disposed of, a dance was enjoyed in the company's old machine shop, and was kept up for about two hours, when it was time to return. The return trip was inaugurated by a salute from the Moses Taylor. Coming down the Giffith's journals became somewhat heated, and her engines were stopped till tbe machinery could cool. It was a great time of sea-aickneas among the little ones, and among some of the ladies; however it was worth more than a doctor's bill. The passengers were landed, much elated and reached the Mail Dock, about seven o'clock. Among the party were noticed: Tin Hot. James Worcetter, and many of the of the New Church; Captain J. M. Lachlan and family, Captain A. P. Bacon, Henry B. Cooper, S. C. Fowler, Chief Euglnor of the Company A. Gould, Captain Mtllpn Griffith, A. P. Denniion, General K. Taylor, all of the Pacific Mail Company, Mr. and Mrs. Durhit, Judge Edwards and family, Air, and Mm. Ouburt and family, A. Cotton and family, Mr. and Mrs. Blancliard, Miss Ward, Miss Qilmore, Miss Mooro, Dr. and Mrs. Ingersoll, Mr.Boericke, Miss Pike. Mrs. Dupree, Mr. and Mrs. D. McKee, Miss Mitchell, and numbers of children, all of whom had a good time and will not soon forget their trip to Benicia on the Millen Griffith.

January 22, 1875, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

How She Was Rebuilt Description of the Ship.

This vessel has just been rebuilt almost from her keel up and left the Company's dock at noon yesterday for Panama, via the Mexican and Central American ports.

She was originally built at Green Point, New York, in 1865, and was sold by Wm. H. Webb to the Mail Company in 1872, together with the Nebraska, Nevada and Moses Taylor. Her engines and boilers are comparatively new having been put In less than three years ago; since which time the steamer has made but the trip round from New York to San Francisco and one voyage to Australia and back. Four months ago she was moored, and decaying, at the Company's wharf in Benicia; now she is a new ship, and good for eight years to come.

There was much rotten wood in her planking, timbers and ceiling. The planking was stripped from the covering board to the turn of the bilge and all the decayed timbers and ceiling removed. New timbers, of Oregon pine, were put In and filled between, nearly solid. The new planking is seven-inch Oregon pine, of great length and edge-bolted with seven-eighths inch square iron. In upper between-decks, ceilings, clamps, waterways and thick-streaks, she bas been all new edge-bolted and thoroughly fastened; new main deck and thirty-five new beams, with knees, put in. In orlop deck, six new beams forward and four aft. A stringer on the waterways, six by twelve inches, and a part of the ceiling put In, new. Two additional pointers pat in stern ; also, now rudder stock of teak wood. A large portion #f lower between decks now. Twenty tons of iron bolts and twenty seven thousand locust-tree nails, wedged at both ends, were used for fastenings.

The vessel was docked, stripped, recaulked and sheathed with copper up to sixteen feet. The machinery and boilers have been pat In thorough order, the saloons, staterooms, social hall and officers' rooms repainted, upholstered and carpeted, and the entire ship refitted from stem to stern. She Is complete in all her appointments, and stands to-day rated A1 for five years at Lloyds, and one of the finest slde-wheelers owned by the Company. These extensive repairs were planned and perfected by Barsella Cocks, the Company's Master Carpenter, and the repairs to maohinery and boilers done by Sapertendent Engineer S. W. Hauxhurst.

Captain J. M. Lachlan, the Company's General Superintendent, from his long experience and thorough practical knowledge of steamships and their requirements, was enabled to render material aid as "Consulting Physician."

The steamer certainly is a credit to those who have so quickly and thoroughly rebuilt her, and will prove a valuable addition to the Company's fine fleet. Length, 270 feet; beam, 40 feet; depth, 27 feet; tonnage, 1235; draft, 18 feet; cost of repairs, $100,000.

July 3, 1875, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

The Accident at the Mail Company's Wharf -- Inquest Yesterday

An inquest was held yesterday by Coroner Swan in the case of Patrick Linehan, who wan killed on Thursday by the discharge of a gun at the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's wharf.

Captain John M. Lachlan, who had charge of the battery of four 30-pounders, placed at the end of the wharf, testified that the men who were detailed to handle the battery, had been drilled for some time to accustom them to the use of the guns. When the salute was being fired the numbers of the guns were called out distinctly, and four seconds after, the Order to fire was given. No. 1 went off, No. 2 missed fire, and No. 3 was discharged. After the lapse of about 20 seconds No.2ii was called again, and went off. When the piece missed fire the gunner put a new primer in. Some time elapsed before Captain Lachlan became aware of the accident.

B. C. Howard, Purser in the Mall Company's employ, witnessed the accident from the signal station at the end of the wharf and directly over the battery. When the order was given to fire No. 3, the witness saw the deceased and another man swab No. 1 and put a cartridge in that gun. They then jumped to No. 2, put the swab in and drove the cartridge home. When the order to fire was given, Linehan was standing in front of the gun and was blown into the water fifteen or twenty feet from the wharf. The body turned face upward and sank almost immediately.

At this stage the inquest adjourned until eleven o'clock this forenoon, to procure the attendance of the gunner. Deceased was a native of Ireland and 37 years of age.

March 30, 1876, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Pacific Mail Change

It is currently reported that W. Waddell, of the Oriental and Occidental Steamship Company, will assume, on the 9th of April, the position of Captain of the Dock on the Pacific Mail wharves, replacing vice Captain Lachlan, who resigns. Mr. Waddell was formerly in the employ of the Company.

Captains Tanner, Searle, Connolly and Howard have been placed on the retired list of the Pacific Mail service.

U.S. and Brazil Mail Steamship Company

American industrialist John Roach established the United States and Brazil Mail Steamship Company in 1876 to operate a shipping line between the United States and Brazil. At this time, British shipping companies operated a highly lucrative "triangular trade" from Britain to Brazil to the U.S. and back to Britain which allowed them a near-monopoly on Brazilian imports. Roach hoped to break into the Brazilian import market with his new shipping line, but lacking the funds to engage in a prolonged trade war, intended to rely on subsidies from the American and Brazilian governments to support his venture.

The U.S. and Brazil Mail Company was launched with great fanfare, with President Rutherford B. Hayes and many members of Congress attending the launch of one of the company's first ships. (However, both the Brazilian and U.S. governments ultimately rejected his application for subsidies, and his Brazil Mail company struggled on for a number of years before eventually failing.)

As an employee of Crocker, Huntington, et al, McLachlan transferred to New York City to join the United States and Brazil Mail Steamship Company and became director/owner of the one of the ships, SS Allianca, which later became the first steamship to be locked into the Gatun Locks in the Panama Canal.

Editor's Note: Sources indicate that the first ship through the Gatun Locks, Panama Canal ,was the Allianca in 1914. On June 8, Cristobal was the first to make a test passage through the Canal and Ancon the first to make an official transit on August 15.

The United States and Brazil Mail Steamship Company operated between New York, St. Thomas, Pernambuco, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro, from 1865 until 1875.

Travelers' Guide to Brazil: To Para: 3,460 miles from New York; 12 days; fare $100. From New York (Newport News, 3 days later), United States and Brazil Mail Steamship Company, twice a month.

December 3, 1865, New York Times, New York, U.S.A.

RIO JANEIRO, Saturday, Nov. 4, 1865. Panama Canal. The United States and Brazil Mail Steamship Company has at last become a reality, the new line having been inaugurated by the steamer Havana, which will leave this port on her return trip this afternoon. Let us hope that the new enterprise may flourish as it deserves, for it cannot fail to be of immense advantage to the two countries. Brazilians going to Europe will, it is to be hoped, avail themselves of the facility afforded by these vessels to see the United States on their way, as a four months' stay is allowed to passengers who may wish to go to England via New-York. Thus far the Brazilians have been far too apt to take the Old World, especially France, for their model, instead of studying and following the progress of the United States; the consequence has been, as we see but too clearly, an almost complete stagnation of material enterprise, a highly polished but rather superficial education among the better classes, not unfrequently accompanied by practical irreligion and gross ignorance and bigotry among the lower.

The U.S. and Brazil Steamship Co. began operations from New York to Rio de Janeiro, via St. Thomas, on October 30, 1865 with the departure of the steamship North America.

August 19, 1892, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Captain Lachlin of New York, representing the Merritt Wrecking Company, with two assistants, was accompanied to the San Pedro this morning by Captain Whitelaw, and occupied most of the day in a survey of the wreck. Captain Whitelaw remains in charge until the Merritt people deckle to lift her. It is expected that that New York York experts have a different point from Whitelaw, although what has been done meets with the approval of marine men. If the ship is given up it is to be taken to pieces for the iron and fittings.

August 23, 1892, San Francisco Call

Victoria, B.C., August 22. 1t is understood that the Merritt Wrecking Company has withdrawn from the raising of the San Pedro, although Captain K. M. Lachlan may remain for some time as a consulting wrecker. Captain Whitelaw will have the job of raising the vessel, he went to work this morning and ail the coal in the vessel will be removed.

On 1892, the United States and Brazil Mail Steamship Company extended their lne to the river Platte during the year; the steamship Allianca arriving here October 2, twenty-two days out from New York. The vessels of this line, under the provisions of the postal subsidy law, come out direct, and after going on to Buenos Ayres, return, stopping here, at Santos, Rio, and the other Brazilian and West Indian ports.

May 27, 1893, San Francisco Call, San Francsico, California, U.S.A.

Another Attempt to be Made to Raise Her

Tacoma, May 2;. The Pacific Improvement Company will make another attempt to raise the collier San Pedro, which was wrecked near Victoria in November, 1801. Captain Lachlan, a steamship man ol New York, is to do the work. The steamer is worth about $230,000, and $350,000 has been expended trying to raise her already. It is estimated that it will cost $75,000 to repair her when raised.

August 14, 1893, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Efforts to Raise the Steamer Relinguished

Port Townsend, Washington, August 13: The combined efforts of thirteen tugs failed to move the wrecked steamer San Pedro from Brotchy ledge last night. One hundred and twenty tons of water were pumped out of the vessel each minute for fourteen hours, and as fast as the water went out new leaks appeared.

Captain Lacklan of New York, under whose supervision the woik was carried on, now abandons all hope of getting the vessel off. He says her iron bottom is rusty, and several new leaks have appeared. Over $209,000 has been spent trying to raise the San Pedro.

The Sea Chart
The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational Charts
The Sea Chart.
John Blake
The sea chart was one of the key tools by which ships of trade, transport and conquest navigated their course across the oceans. John Blake looks at the history and development of the chart and the related nautical map, in both scientific and aesthetic terms, as a means of safe and accurate seaborne navigation.

This work contains 150 color illustrations including the earliest charts of the Mediterranean made by thirteenth-century Italian merchant adventurers, as well as eighteenth-century charts that became strategic naval and commercial requirements and led to Cook's voyages in the Pacific, the search for the Northwest Passage, and races to the Arctic and Antarctic.

Shanghaiing Days
The Thrilling Account of 19th Century Hell-Ships, Bucko Mates and Masters, and Dangerous Ports-Of-Call from San Francisco
Shanghaiing Days in San Francisco.
Richard H. Dillon
An Amazon Editors' Favorite: In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the American Merchant Marine went into a tragic decline, and sailors were forced to serve under conditions that were little better than serfdom. Seamen were exploited in wholesale fashion, disfranchised of almost all their civil and human rights, and brutally punished for even minor offenses. Successful skippers had turned into slave drivers, cracking down on the sailors, sometimes even murdering their "hands." Though captains were legally prohibited from flogging their crews, they did not hesitate to wield belaying pins, marlin spikes, or their bare fists. The seamen's lot became so horrible in this period that entire crews frequently jumped ship when a vessel came into port. One result of this was that new crews had to be kidnaped, crimped, or shanghaied from the unsuspecting populace of the ports. These "impressed" or "hobo" crews were still further conspired against. They often had their wages stolen from them; they were poorly fed and clothed. Their lives became "hell afloat and purgatory ashore." In this way what had been our "first and finest employ" in colonial days was turned into a disreputable profession-one that was classed with criminals and prostitutes.

Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Storiessea captains and ships.Shanghaiiing Days.
Simon Winchester
"Variably genial, cautionary, lyrical, admonitory, terrifying, horrifying and inspiring. A lifetime of thought, travel, reading, imagination and memory inform this affecting account." —Kirkus Reviews
Blending history and anecdote, geography and reminiscence, science and exposition, the New York Times bestselling author tells the breathtaking saga of the Atlantic Ocean, setting it against the backdrop of mankind's intellectual evolution. Until a thousand years ago, no humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its vast infinity. But once the first daring mariners successfully navigated to far shores — whether it was the Vikings, the Irish, the Chinese, Christopher Columbus in the north, or the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south — the Atlantic evolved in the world's growing consciousness as an enclosed body of water bounded by the Americas to the West, and by Europe and Africa to the East. Atlantic is a biography of this immense space, of a sea which has defined and determined so much about the lives of the millions who live beside or near its tens of thousands of miles of coast.

Annapolis Book of Seamanship.The Annapolis Book of Seamanship
Fourth Edition
Annapolis Book of Seamanship.
John Rousmaniere
Since the publication of the first edition in 1983, The Annapolis Book of Seamanship has set the standard by which other books on sailing are measured. Used throughout America as a textbook in sailing schools and Power Squadrons, this book covers the fundamental and advanced skills of modern sailing. This edition of Annapolis is a major overhaul. Over half the book has been revised; old topics and features have been updated, and many new ones have been introduced, with the design modernized, and additional color illustrations.

A Sea Captain's Adventures Battling Scoundrels and Pirates While Recovering Stolen Ships in the World's Most Troubled Waters
A Sea Captain's Adventures.A Sea Captain's Adventures.
Max Hardberger
Seized takes readers behind the scenes of the multibillion dollar maritime industry, as Hardberger recounts his efforts to retrieve freighters and other vessels from New Orleans to the Caribbean, from East Germany to Vladivostak, Russia, and from Greece to Guatemala. He resorts to everything from disco dancing to women of the night to distract the shipyard guards, from bribes to voodoo doctors to divert attention and buy the time he needs to sail a ship out of a foreign port without clearance. Seized is adventure nonfiction at its best.

The Rebel Raiders
The Astonishing History of the Confederacy's Secret NavyShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
James T. deKay
During its construction in Liverpool, the ship was known as “Number 290.”
The Rebel Raiders.When it was finally unleashed as the CSS Alabama, the Confederate gunship triggered the last great military campaign of the Civil War; yet another infamous example of British political treachery; and the largest retribution settlement ever negotiated by an international tribunal: $15,500,000 in gold paid by Britain to the United States. This riveting true story of the Anglo-Confederate alliance that led to the creation of a Southern navy illuminates the dramatic and crucial global impact of the American Civil War. Like most things in the War between the States, it started over cotton: Lincoln’s naval blockade prevented the South from exporting their prize commodity to England. In response, the Confederacy came up with a plan to divert the North’s vessels and open the waterways–a plan that would mean covertly building a navy in Britain with a cast of clandestine characters.

Latin America, World Journeys, Discovery.The Age of Sail.Commodore Levy: A Novel of Early America in the Age of Sail
(Modern Jewish History)
By all accounts, Uriah Phillips Levy, the first Jewish commodore in the U.S. Navy, was both a principled and pugnacious man. On his way to becoming a flag officer, he was subjected to six courts-martial and engaged in a duel, all in response to antisemitic taunts and harassment from his fellow officers. Yet he never lost his love of country or desire to serve in its navy. When the navy tried to boot him out, he took his case to the highest court and won. This richly detailed historical novel closely follows the actual events of Levy’s life: running away from his Philadelphia home to serve as a cabin boy at age ten; his service during the War of 1812 aboard the Argus and internment at the notorious British prison at Dartmoor;  his campaign for the abolition of flogging in the Navy; and his purchase and restoration of Monticello as a tribute to his personal hero, Thomas Jefferson. Set against a broad panorama of U.S. history, Commodore Levy describes the American Jewish community from 1790 to 1860, the beginnings of the U.S. Navy, and the great nautical traditions of the Age of Sail before its surrender to the age of steam.

History of Seafaring. Donald Johnson and Juha Nurminen.History of Seafaring.The History of Seafaring:
Navigating the World's Oceans
Navigating the World's Oceans.
Donald Johnson and Juha Nurminen
Royal prestige, intellectual curiosity, and territorial expansion all propelled mankind to undertake perilous voyages across unpredictable oceans. This large and lavishly illustrated volume brings that history to life. From the early Phoenician navigation techniques to the technologies behind today's mega-ships, the greatest advances in shipbuilding are covered, accompanied by hundreds of images, with an in-depth look at navigational instruments (including those used by the Vikings).

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Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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