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RUNNING FRANCO'S BLOCKADE: CAPTAIN JOHN JONES, ABERARTH, AND THE S.S. SARASTONE 'I am having my share of difficulties, apart from being nicknamed as well', wrote Captain John Jones, Master of the S.S. Sarastone, from Bordeaux on 29 April 1937. He was referring to the difficulties encountered by himself and other captains in taking their ships laden with much needed food into the Basque port of Bilbao following General Franco's imposition of a blockade during Spain's civil war and to the nickname, 'Ham and Eggs Jones' that an inventive English journalist had given him some weeks earli- er to distinguish him from other Welsh captains also named Jones whose ships had been turned back from Spain and ordered to France. At the age of sixty-two, the months April to July 1937 were to prove amongst the most eventful of his forty-seven years at sea and his letters home, some of which survive in an Aberystwyth collection, provide a vivid first-hand account from a Ceredigion captain caught up in the vicious struggle between the Republicans of the north and the Nationalist forces of Franco's army and navy. John Jones was born in 1875 at Ddol, Aberarth, a house with a few acres of land situated right on the beach at the mouth of the river.2 Seafaring was in the blood.3 His father, Captain David Jones, had held a master's cer- tificate since 1866 and from 1893 until 1898 was captain of and a share- holder in the 487 ton barque Theodore Engels which, despite its foreign- sounding name, was Aberystwyth registered and usually had a significant Ceredigion element amongst its crew.4 John accompanied his father and learnt his seamanship aboard the Theodore Engels and during the last decade of the nineteenth century, there were few oceans of the world across which he, his father and the ship had not ventured. With the decline of sail, John turned to steamers and by 1914, like his elder brother, Tom, was in command of ships of the Liverpool firm of Joseph Hoult. Having survived two wartime sinkings,5 and after a period in the RNR, John decided post-war on a quieter life and joined the Llanelli firm of Stone and Rolfe, whose smaller ships traded from south Wales ports to continental Europe and into the Mediterranean. In 1937, Stone and Rolfe owned nine ships, the majority being under one thousand tons. The Sarastone, at 2473 tons and built in 1929 by the Burntisland Shipping Company, was its largest and newest.6 During the 1930s, the one-funnelled Sarastone was a familiar sight in Belgian, French and Spanish ports and was sometimes seen as far away as North Africa carrying whatever cargo was available at the best possible price. The