Untold lives blog

20 posts categorized "Australasia"

07 July 2020

The Jacob orphans – lives linking three continents

We continue our story of the Jacob family.

When Vickers and Anne Jacob died in 1836, they left seven orphans aged between fifteen and nearly two.  According to newspapers, only four of them were with Anne in Tasmania at the time of her death.  Amelia Australia Harriet Jacob (1821-1873) had returned to England on the ship Ocean in 1824, probably in the care of the Irvine family. Mrs Irvine was the sister of Thomas Cudbert Harington, Assistant Colonial Secretary of New South Wales.  Harington administered Vickers Jacob’s estate and in 1845 was named in East India Company cadet papers as guardian of his son Vickers Gilbert Jacob. A newspaper in November 1830 reported the arrival of Miss Australia Jacob at the Royal Hotel Leamington Spa with a number of her mother’s Watson relations.

In March 1838 the passenger list of the Portland shows the children of Vickers Jacob returning to England from Sydney in the care of Mr Powis and Dr Clifford - probably William Clifford, an Irish surgeon who served on convict voyages.  The number of Jacob children on board is not specified.

Sydney - view from east side of the cove 1810

View of Sydney from the east side of the cove by Eyre and Clark (London, 1810) Images Online

In 1841 Amelia and her sisters Frances Matilda (1824-1871), and Eliza Anne (1834-1866) were living in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, with their maternal aunt Catherine Frances Watson.  Amelia was married in India in 1849 to Frederick Elms, a Madras Army officer.  Elms retired in 1860 and the couple lived at Undermilbeck in the Lake District with Miss Watson.  Frances Matilda continued to live in Southwell for most of her life, but died in Marylebone, London. Eliza Anne married William Ernest De Veuelle from Jersey in 1856 at Southwell.  After Eliza’s death on the Isle of Man in 1866, their three daughters lived with the Elms family as Frederick’s wards.

Distant view of Bowness and part of Lake Windermere 1801A distant view of Bowness and part of Windermere Lake by Francis Jukes - British Library Online Gallery

Vickers Gilbert Jacob (1828-1857) attended the Diocesan School Lincoln and King’s School Chester.  In 1838 his father’s lands in New South Wales were transferred to him in his absence.  He was awarded a cadetship in the Madras Army in December 1845.  Vickers Gilbert died on SS Colombo off Gibraltar in August 1857 when returning from sick leave in England.

La Martiniere College CalcuttaLa Martinière College, Calcutta from R Jump, Views in Calcutta (London, 1837) Images Online


Archibald Hamilton Jacob (1829-1900) was educated at La Martinière College, Calcutta, and in Lincoln from 1840. He studied for the church at Chester, but ill health set him back and he joined the Liverpool and Manchester Bank.  In 1851 Archibald decided to go to Australia to farm with his brother Robert.  He married Mary, daughter of Colonel Kenneth Snodgrass, in 1853 and they had seven sons. From 1872-1880 Archibald was a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.

Portrait of Archibald Hamilton Jacob - The Daily Telegraph ( Sydney) 29 May 1900Portrait of Archibald Hamilton Jacob from his obituary in The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) 29 May 1900 via Trove 

Robert Jacob (1831-1906) left school in Calcutta in 1840 and joined the merchant navy as a midshipman in 1846.  Robert became a farmer in West Maitland in New South Wales.  He married Eliza Lorn McDougall in 1860 and they had twelve children.

William Higgins Jacob (1833 -1918) may have been educated at Christ’s Hospital in Hertford – the 1841 census shows a seven-year-old William Jacob born in foreign parts.  He became a bank clerk in Manchester and then at the Bank of England.  In 1864 William married Charlotte Emma Chapman and they had two children.

Seven very different overlapping lives connecting the three continents where their father Vickers Jacob had lived.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Trove for Australian newspapers
Free Settler or Felon – Newcastle and Hunter Valley history 
Australian Dictionary of Biography for Archibald Hamilton Jacob
British Newspaper Archive 
Baptisms, marriages and burials from the India Office Records have been digitised by Findmypast 

 

03 July 2020

Vickers Jacob – a life in Ireland, India and Australia

In 1818 the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India received a memorial from Edward Cahill, a boot and shoe maker in Dublin.  Mr Cahill reported that in 1808 he had supplied Vickers Jacob, a Bengal Army cadet, with boots and shoes to the value of £10 16s 0½d.  Jacob left Dublin shortly afterwards without having paid and Cahill asked for help in recovering the debt.

First page of Edward Cahill's memorial about Vickers Jacob's debtFirst page of Edward Cahill's memorial about Vickers Jacob's debt IOR/E/2/51 f.1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Vickers Jacob was born in Queen’s County Ireland in 1788.  He enrolled at Trinity College Dublin in 1806 before joining the East India Company’s Bengal Army in 1808.  Jacob took part in the Nepal War 1814-1815 with the 3rd Bengal Native Infantry.

In August 1817 Lieutenant Jacob married Anne Watson at Barrackpore.  Anne’s father and brothers were officers in the Bengal Army.  During the early years of their marriage, a son and daughter died.  Because of ‘a deep conviction that the climate of India would have bereft me of my only surviving child and of my wife’, Jacob took furlough in 1821 and travelled with Anne and their daughter to the ‘genial clime’ of New South Wales.

In early October 1822 the authorities in Australia received ‘private information’ that Jacob’s request for furlough was a cover for mercantile speculation in Sydney.  This was considered ‘subversive of military feeling and character’.  Unless Jacob could prove he hadn’t been trading, he would have to return to duty or resign from the Bengal Army.

 Vickers Jacob's advertisement in Hobart Gazette 20 April 1822Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land AdvertiserSupplement 20 April 1822.  Image courtesy of Trove

Jacob refuted the allegation.  In April 1822 he had placed an advertisement in the Hobart Town Gazette announcing his intention of going from Tasmania to settle in New South Wales as a general merchant and agent.  The ship carrying his letter of resignation did not arrive in India until 20 October.  In November 1822 Jacob was granted permission to resign from the Bengal Army with effect from 11 July 1822.

In 1823 Jacob was granted 2,000 acres of land in Newcastle next to the Hunter River which became the Knockfine estate.  In December of that year tragedy struck the Jacob family again when baby Vickers Frederick died of a teething-related fever.

Death notice for Vickers Frederick Jacob in The Sydney Gazette 11 December 1823Death notice for Vickers Frederick Jacob in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 11 December 1823 Image courtesy of Trove

In February 1824 Amelia Australia Harriet Jacob, aged nearly 3, was a passenger for England on the ship Ocean, perhaps sent away by her grieving parents to a place they considered safe.

The ups and downs of Vickers Jacob’s eventful life in Australia can be traced through local newspapers, including a challenge to fight a duel and a case of defamation of character.  He published a pamphlet entitled A letter addressed to Earl Bathurst on the subject of hardships complained of by V. Jacob ... in New South Wales.  Two more children were born there, one of whom died as a baby.

In February 1825 the Jacobs sailed for Calcutta on the Princess Charlotte.  Vickers Jacob became an indigo planter at Jessore.  He and Anne had another five children, all of whom lived to be adults.

In June 1836 the Jacobs and four of their children were about to sail from Calcutta to Hobart on the ship Boadicea when Vickers died of a fever.  Anne and her children carried on to Tasmania but on 3 October 1836 she also died.

I can't tell you if Edward Cahill ever received his money.

Our next post will tell the story of the Jacob children after their parents’ deaths.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
V C P Hodson, Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834 (London, 1927-1947)
Trove for Australian newspapers 
Vickers Jacob, A letter addressed to Earl Bathurst on the subject of hardships complained of by V. Jacob ... in New South Wales (Sydney, 1825) - British Library General Reference Collection 8154.aa.56.  There is also a copy in The National Archives Colonial Office papers CO 201/167 – digital version available via Trove 
Baptisms, marriages and burials from the India Office Records have been digitised by Findmypast 
Documents relating to Vickers Jacob in New South Wales State Records and Archives 
Free Settler or Felon – Newcastle and Hunter Valley history 

12 April 2020

The Bunny Family of Berkshire

The Bunny Family was well-known in the Newbury area of Berkshire in the late 18th and 19th centuries.  Descendants of grocer Blandy Buck Bunny became prominent members of local society working as bankers and in the legal profession.

Blandy’s grandson Jeré Bunny was a solicitor in Newbury.  In 1813 he married Clara Slocock, the daughter of a brewer.  Clara died in 1835 at the age of 46.  Ten of their children, born between 1815 and 1834, survived to adulthood, and their lives took many different paths: vicar’s wife, soldier, farmer, fugitive, solicitor, gold miner.

The Bunny daughters were Clara, Caroline Eliza, Laura, Gertrude and Alice.  Clara married Charles Hopkinson, a wealthy banker.  Gertude and Alice became the wives of clergymen Henry Towry White and Douglas Belcher Binney.  Caroline Eliza and Laura remained single and lived as annuitants.

Eldest son Charles farmed at East Woodhay in Hampshire on land passed down the family. 

The next brother Brice Frederick trained as a barrister.  He emigrated to Australia in the early 1850s and worked as a gold miner at Forest Creek in Victoria, but gave up after six months, moving to Melbourne to resume his legal career.  Brice became a highly regarded equity lawyer.  He served as an MP and then became a judge.


Forest Creek Victoria
S. T. Gill, Forest Creek, Mount Alexander Diggings 1852- from National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Edward William Bunny studied at Oriel College Oxford and trained as a solicitor. He had to have a leg amputated because of a diseased knee joint.  In 1861 Edward moved to New Zealand, becoming Registrar of the Supreme Court.

Henry Bunny also qualified as a solicitor and worked with his father in Newbury.  By 1853 he was the town clerk.  Then he suddenly disappeared with his family to escape his debts.  A special messenger was sent by his creditors to the Duke of Portland which was about to sail from Plymouth to New Zealand.  Mrs Bunny and her children were found on board but there was no sign of Henry.  It was rumoured that he was on the ship but disguised in women’s clothes.

In New Zealand Henry set up business as a solicitor but was suspended when a case for fraud was brought against him in the UK.  However he bounced back and then entered politics.  He was elected a representative in the Provincial Council of Wellington and served in the New Zealand Parliament.  Sadly Henry committed suicide in 1891 whilst suffering from ‘melancholia’ and sciatica.   The inquest returned a verdict of temporary insanity.  A monument funded by public subscription was erected in his memory.

Youngest son Arthur Bunny had a distinguished career in the Bengal Artillery.  He fought in many campaigns and received awards for bravery.  At the battle of Multan in 1848 he was wounded by a musket ball in the shoulder and had his horse shot under him.  Arthur was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1873.

Siege of MultanHenry Martens, The Siege of Multan, January 1849 British Library Foster 198 Images Online


Jeré Bunny died in 1854.  Newspapers speculated that his death had been hastened by the strain of the legal proceedings against his son Henry.  Jeré’s will was made in May 1851, but a codicil dated November 1853 revoked all bequests to Henry, except 20 shillings.   Another codicil the following month withdrew all bequests to Charles, Brice, Henry and Arthur as their entitlement had been already been spent on their ‘advancement’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive also available via findmypast
Trove  - Australian newspapers
Papers Past  - New Zealand newspapers

 

07 April 2020

India Office Family History Search

The information included in the India Office Family History Search website is taken from a card index which used to be available only at the British Library.  The card index was compiled by members of staff at the India Office Records from the mid-1970s onwards to meet the growing interest in genealogy.  Only a small proportion of the biographical sources available in the India Office Records has been incorporated into the index but it is a very good starting point for researchers and is free to access.

Sepoy Bengal Light InfantrySepoy of the Bengal Light Infantry from John Williams, An historical account of the rise and progress of the Bengal Native Infantry, from its first formation in 1757, to 1796 (London, 1817) British Library shelfmark T 35392 BL flickr Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

We have been adding data from the Bengal General Orders (IOR/L/MIL/17) on gallantry awards and pensions for Indian soldiers.  Pensions were granted to invalid soldiers, and the relatives and next of kin of soldiers killed or dying from wounds received in action might be admitted to a family pension.  For example, in 1825 the mother of the late Kamahjut Singh, a Sepoy in the 68th Regiment Native Infantry, was admitted to a pension. The following details are recorded about her:
Claimant: Bheekoo, aged 60 years 0 months.  Claimant's height: 4 feet 11 ¾inches.  Caste: Rajpoot. Claimant's appearance:  Has no particular marks, but very aged in appearance.  Location: Kurkah, Okurru, Behar.  Relationship to the deceased soldier: Mother.  Admitted: 24 Dec, 1825.  Amount of pension: 2 12.  Payable: For life.  Desires to draw pension at Dinapore.  Paid by Pension Paymaster.

We have also recently started adding data taken from newly catalogued papers in the Accountant General records relating to family pension funds for European personnel.  There is an entry from the Madras Military Fund for the splendidly named Gabrielle Antoinette Marie Fidèle Dubois de Moulignon de Chastelles, daughter of Louis Antoine Dubois du Moulignon de Chastelles and Maria Gabrielle Fidèle de Grivel.

One very useful feature of the India Office Family History Search is the opportunity to search by keyword as well as by name.  It is therefore possible to investigate causes of death from diseases such as cholera and from natural disasters such as earthquakes.  Searches on place names can reveal interesting lines of enquiry and links.  A check on Cheltenham shows that the town was very popular for retirement amongst East India Company and India Office overseas officials, especially military officers and their wives.

Entrance of Parramatta River c.1802Entrance of the Parramatta River, New South Wales from George Barrington, The History of New South Wales (London, 1802) British Library shelfmark 9781.c.12. BL flickr Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Exploring with the keyword Australia brings back 50 hits for people from a variety of sources including application papers for military and civil posts, pension fund records, memorial inscriptions, registers of baptisms and marriages, and ship journals.  Some examples are:

Convicts Daniel Sutherland and Mary Springate died at Port Jackson in October 1792 having arrived on the ship Royal Admiral.

William Grant Broughton worked in the Accountant General’s Department at East India House 1807-1814 and was subsequently ordained. He became Bishop of Australia in 1836.

Mary Stirling*, whose father James was the Governor of Western Australia, was born at sea on 11 October 1832 and baptised at St Helena nine days later.

Sister Emily Clare of the Australian Army Nursing Service died of pneumonia on 17 October 1918 aged 28 and was buried in Deolali Government Cemetery.

Time to start hunting!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Family History Search 

*The name is spelled Sterling in the St Helena baptism register and transcribed as such in the India Office Family History Search.

 

03 February 2020

La Freya – 'artistic visions and superb poses'

On 3 February 1908 the Swansea Empire was offering a varied bill of entertainment – music, magic, comedy, ventriloquism, the American Bioscope, and La Freya ‘The Parisian Beauty, in a Novel Speciality’.

Theatre bill for Swansea February 1908South Wales Daily Post 3 February 1908 British Newspaper Archive

 

La Freya was a French vaudeville performer whose act consisted of ‘artistic visions and superb poses’.  She appeared at theatres the length and breadth of Britain between the years 1907 and 1915.  In 1909 she was on the bill at the Euston Theatre of Varieties which stood opposite St Pancras Station, a stone’s throw from the British Library’s present site.  

 
 
Euston Theatre of VarietiesEuston Theatre of Varieties from The Era 16 June 1900 British Newspaper Archive 

Advert for Euston Theatre of Varieties April 1909Advert for Euston Theatre of Varieties from Music Hall And Theatre Review 2 April 1909 British Newspaper Archive 

Taking the stage, La Freya stood on a podium in front of a black velvet curtain, dressed in a thin white silk body suit.  Her body was used as a screen.  She adopted a variety of poses as her husband projected lantern slides he had painted to ‘clothe’ her.  The ‘Decors Lumineux of Mr La Freya’ transformed her into visions such as a fairy, a butterfly, a mermaid, a gondolier, and a Scottish Highlander in full warpaint. 
  Full-length portrait photograph of La Freya

Portrait photograph of La Freya by Antoni Esplugas - Government of Catalonia, National Archive of Catalonia courtesy of  Europeana

La Freya and her husband had developed the act when they were working at the Folies Bergère in Paris.  The act lasted for ten minutes and the strain of standing still made La Freya sick when she first performed it.  She overcame this, although the lights continued to hurt her eyes.

The couple went to England intending to stay for just one season but ended up staying for several years, apparently because their management would not let them leave.  However La Freya and her husband did travel abroad for short seasons.  For example, from September to December 1910 they were in the United States, captivating audiences in New York, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia.

Review of La Freya's act from Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 10 November 1910 Review of La Freya's act from Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 10 November 1910 via findmypast Copyright: 'Fair Use' allowed (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

They sailed to South Africa in June 1911 with other performers to fulfil engagements with Sydney Hyman at the Empire in Johannesburg.  By September La Freya was back on the London stage.

In June 1912 ‘Mr and Mrs La Freya’ were passengers on SS Medina to Australia.  They appeared in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane and the act was well-received.  A special tableau was created – the personification of Australia with Sydney Town Hall in the background.

The Australian press was keen to interview the couple.  La Freya spoke to journalists in English with her husband acting as interpreter.  She came from the south of France and her husband, identified as Monsieur La Mort, from Paris.  The Sydney Sunday Times  published a special illustrated feature on La Freya’s fitness regime, with advice on how to achieve a corsetless figure through ten or fifteen minutes’ exercise every day.

‘Mr and Mrs La Freya’ were bound by contracts for two more years and were aiming to make as much money as possible.  Then they planned to retire whilst La Freya was still a big name in vaudeville.  She wanted to concentrate on setting up a house and garden in the south of France, whilst her husband intended to shoot and fish.

It seems that La Freya disappears from the newspapers in early 1915.  So did she retire to lead a quiet life far away from the public gaze?  Can anyone tell me what happened to ‘the most perfectly formed woman in the universe’?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
Trove newspapers from Australia
Anita Callaway, Visual ephemera – Theatrical art in nineteenth-century Australia (2000)

 

09 January 2020

Internment during the Second World War – Part One: the diary of a Jewish refugee confined by Britain

This blog is the first of a series on internment, highlighting the experiences of both civilians and military personnel detained across the globe in the Second World War.

In 1940, Winston Churchill ordered what he later referred to as ‘a deplorable and regrettable mistake’: the internment of men and women living in Britain from enemy countries.  This included Germans, Austrians, and Italians; among them were refugees who had fled Nazi persecution, including Jews.  One was nineteen-year-old Konrad Eisig, whose diary of internment on the Isle of Man and his voyage to Australia on HMT Dunera is held by the British Library.

The first page of the diary, noting Konrad’s arrest and journey to the Isle of Man The first page of the diary, noting Konrad’s arrest and journey to the Isle of Man – Add MS 89025 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Konrad had escaped Germany on the eve of the War, settling in Leicester.  When he applied to travel to the Lake District for a holiday, the police showed up at his door in May 1940 to detain him. He entered the Onchan Internment Camp on the Isle of Man in June.  He worked as a cook, attended numerous classes, and was involved with the camp university and youth organisation. Writing to his girlfriend, he exclaimed: ‘I want to see you, I want to be free!…but we shall come together again.  We must’.

However, Konrad was transported to Australia on HMT Dunera, setting sail on 10 July.  The voyage was horrific, with more than 2500 men on board, 1000 over capacity - Jewish refugees, Nazis, prisoners of war, and Italian refugees who survived the sinking of the Arandora Star.  Konrad reported that British soldiers ‘robbed and plundered us’.  Detainees were kept in a hold which was not big enough, and were only allowed ten minutes of air and exercise each day.  One man committed suicide by jumping overboard.  Another was thrown down the stairs by soldiers for not taking his wedding ring off quickly enough, and another ‘got a bayonet into his back’ for daring to ask for permission to keep his prayer book.

The seventh page of the diary, showing Konrad’s journey to HMT DuneraThe seventh page of the diary, showing Konrad’s journey to HMT Dunera – Add MS 89025 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A torpedo missed the Dunera by only 50-100 yards two days after setting sail.  The ship eventually arrived in Australia in September.  The internees were well treated by the Australians, who quickly realised most of the men were not the evil Nazis they had been expecting.  The men were taken to Hay, New South Wales, which was ‘much better than we expected’, though the climate was a vast change from England and Germany!  Konrad again attended many classes ‘in order to leave as little time for thinking as was at all possible’.

Konrad’s diary finishes abruptly on 1 August 1941.  The fear of German invasion by Nazis disguised as refugees had died down, and arrangements were being made for refugees to return.  Joining the Pioneer Corps gave priority.  However Konrad was disdainful of this option: ‘it is an insult, a crime against all justice’.  It appears that he waited for a later ship.

The final page of the diary, explaining Konrad’s misery and the effect of internment on his life expectancy The final page of the diary, explaining Konrad’s misery and the effect of internment on his life expectancy – Add MS 89025 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Konrad had escaped persecution but then been unjustly incarcerated where he thought himself safe.  He says: ‘We were called “Refugees from Nazi Oppression”, we were used as England’s best advertisement.  Then suddenly “Intern the damned fifth columnists” and here we are’.

The diary covers a variety of themes: justice, mental health, anti-Semitism, homosexuality, and more.  It gives a unique insight into an experience which has not received much attention, reminding us that the War affected innocent refugees, even in Britain.

Jack Taylor
Doctoral researcher at the Open University. His CHASE-funded research explores sexual violence between men in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Further reading:
Add MS 89025 – Letter diary of Konrad Eisig's voyage on HMT Dunera and his internment in Australia
Cyril Pearl, The Dunera Scandal: Deported by Mistake (1983).
Rachel Pistol, Internment during the Second World War: A Comparative Study of Great Britain and the USA (2017).

 

05 December 2019

Marine Society boy to master mariner to pauper – Part 2

We left George Byworth in Tasmania working as a merchant officer on sealing voyages.

Back in London, his father Thomas died in 1837.  His will left everything to George’s mother Mary.  She carried on with the watch-making business in Lambeth with her son Thomas.

We know that George returned to England at some point, because on 24 October 1844 he married Amelia Webb in Camberwell.  He described himself as a master mariner of Old Kent Road.  Nineteen-year-old Amelia came from Binfield in Berkshire.

View of Singapore with ships at anchorView of Singapore with ships at anchor from Pieter Harme Witkamp, De Aardbol (Amsterdam, 1839) Shelfmark 10002.g.16-19. BL flickr Public Domain Creative Commons Licence 

The couple were soon travelling.  Their son George Alfred was born in October 1845 and baptised in March 1847 in Singapore.  In June 1847 George was the master of the Antaris sailing from Singapore to Port Jackson with a general cargo.  His wife and son were passengers on the ship.  Sons Donald Campbell and William Wordsworth Russell, were born in Sydney in July 1847 and April 1849.  Four more children were born in Tasmania between 1851 and 1858: Mary Ann Louisa, Amelia Frances, Edith Constance Burnell, and Loughlin Alan.

George’s mother Mary died in 1853.  She left the business premises and equipment to her son Thomas.  Household goods and other personal effects were shared equally between her sons George, John and Thomas.  She named her friend Henry Vandyke of the Marine Society as her executor but he renounced probate in favour of Thomas. An intriguing link to the Marine Society!

In 1854 George changed careers and became licensee of the British Hotel in George Town, Tasmania.   He advertised in his local paper, the Cornwall Chronicle:
‘GEORGE BYWORTH (late Master Mariner) has great pleasure in making known to the public at large, and particularly to families who visit George Town for health and recreation, that he has obtained a license for the BRITISH FAMILY HOTEL, where will be found accommodation for families and parties, of the most agreeable nature, and at moderate remunerative charges. G. B. will devote himself to ensure the comfort of all persons who favour him with their patronage’.

George Town, TasmaniaGeorge Town, Tasmania from Francis Russell Nixon, The Cruise of the Beacon: a narrative of a visit to the Islands in Bass's Straits (London, 1857) Shelfmark 10498.aa.7. BL flickr Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

However in September 1857 George Byworth, licensed victualler, was declared insolvent.  By July 1859 the Cornwall Chronicle was reporting the destitute state of the family.  George was desperate to find work and, even though he had ‘seen better days’, he was very willing to accept ‘humble employment’.  Local people raised money for the Byworths and donated clothing, flour, tea, sugar, wood and coal.  Amelia was given help to open a milliner’s shop. 

Launceston, TasmaniaLaunceston, Tasmania from Élisée Reclus, The Earth and its Inhabitants (London, 1878) Shelfmark 10005.ff. BL flickrPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

The next blow was Amelia’s death from dropsy in October 1862.  George tried to earn a living by running evening classes in navigation, and then expanded this into a commercial and nautical school offering ‘an English education’.  But in 1869 the seven-roomed cottage in Launceston he had occupied was advertised for letting, and his household goods were put up for auction – ‘Piano, table, chairs, bedstead, cooking utensils, and quantity of sundries’.

Things weren’t going well for the Byworth family in London either.  In 1869 George’s brother Thomas was sentenced to eighteen months’ hard labour for receiving stolen goods.

In September 1870 George Byworth entered the Launceston Invalid Depôt, a government-run institution for the sick and poor.  He was unable to work but left in March 1872 at his own request.  George died in Launceston on 20 October 1876 at the age of 69 after a life full of incident.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Trove newspapers
British Newspaper Archive

Marine Society boy to master mariner to pauper – Part 1

03 December 2019

Marine Society boy to master mariner to pauper – Part 1

We met George Byworth in our story about the East India Company and Marine Society boys.  He was given as an example of a boy apprentice who made good of the opportunity offered by the Marine Society.  Here we look at his interesting life in more detail.

George was born in London, the son of watchmaker Thomas Byworth and his wife Mary.  His baptism record at St James Clerkenwell from March 1807 gives his date of birth as 23 February 1807.  This tallies with the age given on his death certificate.  However records from the Marine Society and the Board of Trade say George was 14 in March 1823 and 15½ in September 1824, suggesting he was born in 1809.  Why the discrepancy?

Sailor Boy on the lookoutSailor boy on the look-out from Mark James Barrington Ward, The Round World (London, 1890) Shelfmark 10004.f.7.  BL flickr  Noc

From March 1823 to May 1824 George served in the East India Company ship Scaleby Castle on a voyage to Bombay and China.  He sailed with nine other Marine Society boys, one of whom fell overboard and drowned.  They were paid a monthly wage of 10s. 

List of Marine Society Boys on the Scaleby CastleList of Marine Society boys from IOR/L/MAR/B/34-O Journal of Scaleby Castle Noc

Captain David Rae Newall’s journal of the voyage sheds light on how vulnerable these young boys were.  On 1 April 1823 seaman Thomas Barnes was confined in irons for making attempts ‘to commit an unnatural crime on some of the Marine Society Boys’.  On 13 August 1823 a court of enquiry found seaman James Russel guilty of an ‘unnatural attempt’ upon George Byworth.  Russel had a cut on the back of his hand which George said he had made with his knife.  Russel was punished with three dozen lashes.

 In September 1824 George was bound as a merchant navy apprentice to William Shepherd for four years.  He petitioned the East India Company in September 1827 to be granted free mariner’s indentures for India.  This was approved and he spent some time in Calcutta as a merchant officer in the intra-Asia or ‘country’ trade.

George then based himself in Australia undertaking convict and sealing voyages.  Questioned about provisions on sealing vessels in 1834, he described an allowance of pork, bread, flour, coffee, sugar and spirits, supplemented by gathered food such as fish, penguin eggs and petrels.

Map of KerguelenMap of Kerguelen from John Nunn, Narrative of the Wreck of the 'Favourite' on the Island of Desolation (London, 1850) Shelfmark 10460.e.23. BL flickr  Noc

In March 1832 George was the chief officer in the Adelaide when she was sent to Kerguelen, or Desolation Island, to rescue five shipwrecked men.  The Adelaide met with Captain Alexander Distant who reported that he had already taken the men to St Helena.  George went on board Distant’s ship for some supplies but a violent gale prevented him from returning to the Adelaide.  He was obliged to sail with Distant to St Helena.

View of St Helena from the seaView of St Helena from the sea from John Charles Melliss, St. Helena: a physical, historical, and topographical description of the island (London, 1875) Shelfmark 10096.gg.15.  BL flickr Noc

On 14 August 1833 George wrote to the Governor of St Helena telling his story and asking to be paid the cost of clothing provided by Captain Distant plus the rate allowed by the British government to wrecked mariners.  The St Helena Council granted him a daily allowance of 1s 6d.   George wrote again on 9 September expressing his thanks for the island’s kindness, and asking for £12 for his passage on the Lord Hobart to the Cape of Good Hope where he could pick up a ship to return to Tasmania.  The East India Company was repaid George’s expenses by the Admiralty in March 1834.

Part 2 will tell what happened next!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/B/34-O Journal of Scaleby Castle and IOR/L/MAR/B/34DD Pay Book of Scaleby Castle.
IOR/B/180 pp.398, 406 Petition of George Byworth to the East India Company to be granted free mariner’s indentures September 1827.
The National Archives BT 150/1 Merchant Navy apprenticeship September 1824.
IOR/G/9/24 Cape Factory Records.
IOR/G/32/96 St Helena Factory Records.
Trove newspapers.
Thierry Jean-Marie Rousset, ‘Might is Right’. A study of the Cape Town/Crozets elephant seal oil trade (1832–1869). A dissertation submitted for the degree of Master of Arts in Historical Studies. Faculty of the Humanities University of Cape Town. 2011.

 

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