The Prance Family


Frederick and Deera Prance with four of their five sons

from left to right: Arthur, Bertram, Clarrie & Claude. Photo taken about 1915

Frederick William Prance was born 22nd. February 1859 the eldest son of William and Harriet. He married Deera Hollway on 4th. December 1884 at the Zion Chapel, Silver Street, Bideford. Frederick later became known as Captain Prance when he skippered his own fishing vessel the 'Deera' which was based in Bideford but trawled in the once fertile waters of Bideford Bay from Hartland to Morte Point and around the island of Lundy. In the early part of the twentieth century these waters teemed with an abundant supply of herring, mackerel and other fish and provided a good living for those prepared to face treacherou' Atlantic gales and the rocky coastline for which the area is famous. The narrow entrance from the Bay into Appledore Pool known as 'The Bar', is bordered by shifting sandbanks and a trap in heavy weather to anyone not familiar with its dangers. Fortunately Frederick was a tall strong man and an able swimmer and is reputed to have saved a number of lives during his career at sea.

One such incident occurred in April 1909 and was fully written up in the Devon Weekly Gazette. The French ketch "Andree" manned by the Captain, his wife and crew of four and carrying 140 tons of coal, struck a rock off Boggy Point and was foundering. Frederick, accompanied by his permanent mate John Folley, was trawling in the bay in the "Deera" and saw the distress flag flying on the "Andree". He immediately hauled in the trawl and made for the stricken vessel which was about three miles distant. The head of the "Andree" was down but their small boat was launched with three of the crew and the Captain's wife, their belongings, boxes, ship's papers, a drake and a poodle. Everything was done to get the people aboard the "Deera" as soon as possible and they were just putting the Captain'\s wife into the trawler when the ketch suddenly went down in eight fathoms of water leaving the Captain and one of his crew in the water. The wind was strong with a heavy sea and as the two unfortunate men were being buffeted about prompt action was necessary if their lives were to be saved. Without waiting to get any of the others aboard, Captain Prance made his own boat fast and went to the rescue of those who were struggling in the sea., and after tacking twice while it was blowing a gale of wind he, with some difficulty, succeeded in rescuing them in an exhausted condition. Once they were all aboard the "Deera" he was able to bring them to Bideford Quay. The "Andree" having sunk in a position in which she was a danger to navigation was later blown up by the Trinity Boat. It was generally acknowledged that but for the skill and bravery of Captain Prance there is little doubt that the six french would have perished. A copy of the newspaper article giving a full acoount of the incident is available.

Frederick and Deera had five adult sons. One of them, Claude, suffered a severe injury while a baby and although handicapped for life had talents to compensate. Bertram became a well known cartoonist and illustrator and his profile is available on this site. Towards the end of his life Frederick suffered terribly from asthma so much so that it became a struggle for him even to walk from one end of the house to the other without inhaling a strange mixture which he burnt on the top a tin. I only knew him in these latter years. Deera Prance on the other hand was a slight woman with straight back, very serious, quite strict in her outlook and a great character. She soldiered on until she was 91 and was very fit almost until her end. When she knew her time had come she said "Call the brothers"! Dutifully they all came and she then died peacefully.

Captain Frederick Prance aged about 75

The 'DEERA' sailing up the Torridge to moor.


Frederick Albert b.31st March 1886 (Early death presumed)
Frederick William b.28th. June 1888 d. 15/3/1974 m. Bessie Pike 1913
Bertram Stanley b.5th. December 1889 d. 9/8/1958 m.Kate Lily Macfarlane 1915
Clarence Lythaby b.5th. July 1895 d. 15/8/1952 m.Ethel Grace Wilkinson 1926
Claude Albert b.12th.January 1897 d. 28/7/1980 unmarried.
Arthur Edgar b.10th. September 1899 d.28/10/1977 m. Evelyn Phyllis Young 4/7/1929

Deera Prance died 2nd.March 1952

Bideford Burials

Captain Frederick Prance on board DEERA with two visitors.
John Follet on left behind the mast.

Model of the DEERA made by Claude.A.Prance