Untold lives blog

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87 posts categorized "Middle East"

21 May 2024

Across the Great Desert: an unlikely rescue on the coast of Oman

In late July 1892, a ship from the Seychelles wrecked on the coast of Oman.  Its two surviving crewmen- brothers named Melicourt and Despilly Savy- were stranded without food or water.

One month later, the pair walked into the British Consulate at Muscat, accompanied by the man who had saved their lives and guided them across 230 miles of harsh terrain; Salim-bin-Said-bin-Khatir [Sālim bin Sa‘īd bin Khāṭir], a Bedouin ‘of the Yal Wahibah tribe’.

This remarkable story, told through correspondence between British officials in the Gulf region, provides an insight into how those officials sought to encourage the protection of British subjects, and thereby reinforce imperial prestige.

On 24 June 1892, a sailing boat named Venice left ‘the Isle of Vaches’- most likely Bird Island- with a crew of six men and a cargo of eggs.  The ship was left crippled by ‘a very heavy sea and stormy weather’ and drifted north for almost a month.  Two men died aboard the ship, while another two died just after it had wrecked on the Omani coast.

Melicourt and Despilly likely would have met the same fate, if they had not been found by Sālim bin Sa‘īd.  The Bedouin took them to a nearby hut and hosted them ‘with great kindness and hospitality’ for eight days as they regained their strength.

Once the brothers had recovered sufficiently, the intrepid Bedouin led them on a lengthy journey across Oman to Muscat, where they could expect assistance from the British Consulate:
‘...he took them through the great desert of Oman to Mideibee [Al-Mudhaibi] in the Sharkiyyeh [Ash Sharqiyah], thence through the Baldan-al-Awamir [Buldan-al-Awmir] to Oman proper and through the Wadi Beni Ruhah [Wadi Bani Rwahah] to Semail [Samail], whence he has brought them safely to Muskat [Muscat]’.

Approximate route taken by the sailors and their rescuer from Ras Sarab to MuscatThe approximate route taken by the sailors and their rescuer from Ras Sarab [Ra’s Sirab] to Muscat. Image created by Hannah Nagle, Content Specialist Archivist. Map data ©2024 Google.


The journey took about 20 days, and they arrived in Muscat on 31 August 1892.  Sālim bin Sa‘īd seems to have gone to considerable expense to escort these sailors.  One of his camels died during the journey, and he even sold his dagger to pay for food.

The British Political Agent at Muscat decided to reward the kindness and risk-taking shown by Sālim bin Sa‘īd; his expenses were reimbursed, plus a 100 rupee present.  The Bedouin left Muscat wealthier than he had arrived, while the two sailors were sent home to the Seychelles via Bombay [Mumbai].

Photograph of the British Consulate at Muscat  taken in the 1870sA photograph of the British Consulate at Muscat, taken in the 1870s. 'Muscat Consulate & Agency' [‎22r-b] (1/1), British Library: Visual Arts, Photo 355/1/43, in Qatar Digital Library 

The Agent noted that the reward given to Sālim bin Sa‘īd was intended to ‘act as a stimulus to himself and others of his countrymen to exert themselves in a like manner in protecting British subjects’.  The Political Resident in the Persian Gulf went further than this, suggesting that ‘some special present’ should be sent from the Government of India to Sālim bin Sa‘īd.  He even proposed that the HMS Sphinx should be used to deliver this gift in Sālim bin Sa‘īd’s ‘own country’- ‘The wider the recognition given to actions so creditable... the greater is the prospect of the kind treatment of any who may be unfortunate enough to be shipwrecked hereafter’.  This proposal does not seem to have been taken further, primarily due to the difficulty of finding the Bedouin again.

Dan McKee
Content Specialist Archivist
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
IOR/P/4185 ‘INDIA. FOREIGN PROCEEDINGS. (External) Sep. to Dec. 1892.’

 

28 September 2023

The Battle of Waterloo and ‘the Honourable Company’s business’

A short exchange of correspondence, digitised for the Qatar Digital Library, sheds a fascinating light on the impact of the Battle of Waterloo beyond Europe.

On 1 September 1815, a letter was addressed to the Governor of Bombay by Johanness Tergasper [Hovhannes Ter Gaspar], the Native Broker at Bussora [Basra].  The name of the letter writer identifies him as a member of the large Armenian trading community living in Basra at that time.  And his job title, Native Broker, meant that he acted as a local partner of the East India Company in that city.  It was a common practice at this time for the EIC, in its more peripheral outposts, to appoint a local merchant to handle its commercial business.

Close-up of an 1804 map showing Basra and the Persian GulfClose-up of an 1804 map showing Basra and the Persian Gulf, taken from ‘A New Map of Arabia, Including Egypt, Abyssinia, the Red Sea, from the Latest Authorities', Qatar National Library, 12886’

One of the duties of EIC personnel in Basra was to oversee the safe passage of mail that came into their hands.  Basra was at an important point on the mail route between Britain and India.  Here, letters arriving overland from Europe were transferred to ships, which transported them through the Persian Gulf and across the Arabian Sea to their final destinations in India.

Hovhannes had deemed it necessary to send the communications he had received as quickly as possible.  However, as he explained to the Governor, his efforts to do so had been frustrated.  As there was no Company ‘cruiser’ available for the task, Hovhannes approached a merchant ship, the Kusrovee. But the commander refused to leave without a promise of payment.  Hovhannes was indignant at this, and asked that the commander be punished when he finally arrived in Bombay.

Excerpt of a letter from Hovhannes Ter Gaspar  1 September 1815Excerpt of a letter from Hovhannes Ter Gaspar, 1 September 1815, IOR/F/4/479/11535, f. 282v

The Governor’s response to this suggestion is not recorded.  Instead, the remaining correspondence is with Captain Williams of the Durable, the ship which ultimately conveyed the letters from Basra.  Williams requests ‘remuneration for loss of what I should otherwise have received in freight’, a loss he claims he took on in order to bring the news contained in the dispatches from Basra.

And what was this news, which was so urgent?  It was ‘good news for us and misfortune to Napoleon Bonaparte’: news of the victory of Britain and its allies at the Battle of Waterloo.

Second excerpt of a letter from Hovhannes Ter Gaspar  1 September 1815Excerpt of a letter from Hovhannes Ter Gaspar, 1 September 1815, IOR/F/4/479/11535, f. 281v

Though these events had happened thousands of miles away, they held great significance for India and the Middle East.  Just a few years earlier, Napoleon had been laying plans for a French invasion of India and had even made an agreement with Persia [Iran] allowing French troops to pass through on their way.  These plans had ultimately come to nothing, but with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, any remaining French threat to British supremacy in India was finally extinguished.

Perhaps understandably, the merchants entreated to convey this news were more concerned about the trade they might forego as a consequence.  The Native Broker in Basra, however, had been unimpressed, declaring: ‘If he has got the English flag and is an English Captain, how can he stop the Honourable Company’s business’?

In contrast to the two merchants concerned only with that season’s profit, this comment of Hovhannes shows his awareness of the wider-reaching significance of the news he had received.  With the French challenge removed, Britain would now be free to consolidate its control over India, including the maritime trade routes stretching out from India across the Arabian Sea and into the Gulf.  The events in Waterloo, therefore, truly were of great significance for ‘the Honourable Company’s business’.

David Woodbridge
Gulf History Cataloguer
British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
London, British Library, ‘Delay in the conveyance of certain intelligence from Bussorah to Bombay’ IOR/F/4/479/11535
John Casey, ‘The Impact of the Napoleonic Wars in the Gulf: The Franco-Persian Alliance and Napoleon’s Threat to India’
David Woodbridge, ‘The British Residency in Baghdad’

 

29 August 2023

The Use of the Term 'Qafila' in the India Office Records

Within the India Office Records (IOR) and other materials catalogued for the British Library-Qatar Foundation Partnership, there are many references to the term qafila, which appears in a variety of spellings across the records.  These include caphila, caffalla, cafila, kafila, and kafilah.  This post explores the meaning of the term qafila, and examines the way it is used within the records.

Definition of QafilaMeaning of qafila, IOR/R/15/5/384, f 91v, Crown Copyright


The term qafila (pl. qawafil) has its origin in the Arabic root qa fa la (قفل), which primarily means ‘to return’.  The word itself is used to refer to a caravan; a train of travellers; or any large party of travellers such as pilgrims or merchants moving between distant destinations.  However, beyond this common meaning of qafila, there is a literal meaning of the term, which is ‘the returning one’.  Arabs named their parties of travellers, pilgrims or merchants, who were getting ready for travel, qafila as a sign of sanguinity that the travellers would reach their destination and make a safe and successful return.

Arabic meaning of qafila by al-ZabidiArabic meaning of qafila by al-Zabidi, public domain

People working for the East India Company often used the term qafila when corresponding about trading activities in India and the wider Gulf region.  It is difficult though to know whether they were aware of its literal meaning or not.  In their correspondence, the term was often associated with trade caravans carrying commodities such as coffee, spices, cotton, silk, wool, wine, and iron.  The most numerous of these caravans was the wool qafila, which departed from Kerman (also known as Carmenia) and made its way to the port of Bander ‘Abbas (also known as Gombroon), from where the wool was shipped to the British market.

Note on supply of Carmenia wool Carmenia wool qafila, IOR/L/PS/20/C227, f 79v, Crown Copyright

The ‘Gombroon Diaries (IOR/G/29/2-14)’, and ‘the letters and enclosures received from Bandar ‘Abbas (Gombroon) and Basra (IOR/G/29/15-24)’, are rich source materials reporting on the movement of the Kerman wool qafilas, as well as the qafilas carrying English woollen goods sent to the Persian market.  These contain reports on the amount of woollen goods carried, including information about their prices, types and colours.

Woollen samplesWoollen samples IOR/G/29/17, f 4, Crown Copyright


The records also indicate that the safety of the qafilas was a major concern, with cargoes from time to time being seized while en route to their destinations.  There are also references to qafilas being delayed due to various circumstances including bad weather and internal military operations.

Circumstances affecting Caphila’s movementCircumstances affecting Caphila’s movement, IOR/G/29/16, f 192v, Crown Copyright

Caphila seized on way to YazdCaphila seized on way to Yazd, IOR/G/29/11, f 38r Crown Copyright

Other qafilas that appear in the records are the Hajj (pilgrimage) qafilas arriving from various parts of the Muslim world into the cities of Medina and Mecca during the Hajj season.  The most popular of these are Qafilat al-Haj al-Shami (the pilgrimage qafila travelling from Bilad al-Sham or Greater Syria), and Qafilat al-Hajj al-Misri (a qafila which travelled from Egypt).  These were usually received with great excitement and celebration.  One fascinating example has been mentioned by Captain Richard F. Burton in his  Personal Narrative of a pilgrimmage to al-Madinah and Meccah Vol. I  describing the arrival of the qafilas on Sunday 23 Dhu al-Qi‘da 1269 AH/ 28 August 1853 CE:

Richard F Burton's description of the arrrival of Hajj CafilaArrival of Hajj Cafila, W48/9840 vol. 1, [416], public domain


Many more examples of the various types of qafilas, and the records documenting them, can be found among the materials digitised and made available online on the Qatar Digital Library (QDL).

Ula Zeir
Content Specialist/ Arabic Language and Gulf History

Further reading:
IOR/G/29/11 ‘Diary and Consultations of Mr Alexander Douglas, Agent of the East India Company at Gombroon [Bandar-e ʻAbbās] in the Persian Gulf, commencing 1 August 1757 and ending 31 July 1758’
IOR/G/29/16 ‘Letters and Enclosures etc., Received from Gombroon’
IOR/G/29/17 ‘Letters and Enclosures etc., Received from Gombroon (Bandar-e ‘Abbas)’
IOR/L/PS/20/C227 ‘Selections from State Papers, Bombay, regarding the East India Company’s Connection with the Persian Gulf, with a Summary of Events, 1600-1800’
IOR/R/15/5/384 ‘Field Notes on Sa‘udi Arabia, 1935’
W48/9840 vol. I Personal Narrative of a pilgrimmage to al-Madinah and Meccah. Vol. I
Al-Zabidi, Taj al-‘Arus min Jawahir al-Qamus, vol 30 (Kuwait: Kuwait Government Press, 1997), 264. Accessed online 
Ula Zeir, ‘Finding Aid: IOR/G/29/2-14 Gombroon (Bandar ‘Abbas) Diaries and Consultations (1708-1763)’, Qatar Digital Library 

 

16 August 2023

T.E. Lawrence and the Hashemite dynasty: from the Hejaz in Arabia to Clouds Hill, Dorset

Born on 16 August 1888, Thomas Edward Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’) was instrumental in formulating a strategy of guerilla warfare against the Ottoman military forces in the Hejaz during the First World War.

Cover of report Summary of the Hejaz RevoltIOR/L/PS/18/B287, f 75 'Summary of the Hejaz Revolt'

Better known aspects of his life might therefore include orchestrating the attacks against the Hejaz railway.

Plan of the 'Damascus-Mekka Railway'IOR/W/L/PS/10/12 (ii) 'Damascus-Mekka Railway'

T.E. Lawrence and the Hashemites
Lawrence had been sent from the Arab Bureau, Cairo, to the Hejaz region of western Arabia.  Here he linked up with Faisal, the second son of Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca.  Hussein was the head of the Hashemite dynasty who was encouraged by Britain to launch a revolt against the Ottoman Empire.  In return the Hashemite dynasty expected the creation of an independent Arab Kingdom as discussed in the Hussein-McMahon letters, 1915-16.  The map below indicates the areas to be ruled by the Hashemite dynasty: Hussein and his sons Abdullah and Faisal.

Map indicating the areas to be ruled by the Hashemite dynastyMss Eur F112/276, f 104

Lawrence helped to foment this revolt which started in June 1916 undertaking intelligence work including producing maps of the Hejaz.

Plan of Womat  ArabiaWomat. Arabia. 29(b), 1917. Photograph: Francis Owtram

In regards to the maps of north-west Arabia the Arab Bulletin reported that he had produced new information about Wadi Sirhan including the preponderance of poisonous snakes and that ‘all existing maps leave much to be desired’ although ‘Miss Bell’s was good … but too slight.’

Paragraph on maps of north-west Arabia in the Arab BulletinIOR/L/PS/10/568, f 9v

Faisal and Lawrence: onwards from Aqaba to Damascus

Photograph of Aqaba from the seaIOR/L/PS/12/2160B, f 50 1 'AKABA (Transjordan)' (this photograph created in 1937)

Faisal and Lawrence successfully took Aqaba with a surprise attack from land and sought to establish Faisal in Damascus.  However, France evicted him following the Sykes-Picot agreement secretly signed by Britain and France which undercut the Hussein-McMahon correspondence.  In compensation Faisal was installed by Britain as King of Iraq; that monarchy was overthrown in 1958.  For strategic reasons Britain chose not to intervene when Ibn Saud conquered the Kingdom of Hejaz in 1925 but the dynasty lives on in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

From Arabia to Dorset
It is possibly lesser known that disillusioned with the post-war peace settlement, Lawrence sought anonymity and signed up under an alias to the Tank Regiment in Dorset.

Photograph of Clouds Hill DorsetClouds Hill, Dorset Photograph: Francis Owtram

He renovated a dilapidated cottage at Clouds Hill.  It was here that he wrote his autobiographical account of his involvement in the 1916-18 ‘Arab Revolt’, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Painting of Faisal in the Music Room at Clouds HillPainting of Faisal in the Music Room at Clouds Hill. Photograph: Francis Owtram

He was later to spend time in Afghanistan but thereafter returned to rural Dorset indulging his love for speed on his Brough Superior motorbike.  On 19 May 1935 he came round a bend and to avoid two boys on bicycles skidded off the road.  He died a few days later and was buried in the cemetery of St Nicholas Church, Moreton.

Grave of T.E. Lawrence  cemetery of St Nicholas Church  MoretonGrave of T.E. Lawrence, cemetery of St Nicholas Church, Moreton. Photograph: Francis Owtram

Lawrence, who in his quest for adventure had travelled the world from Aqaba to Afghanistan, found his final resting place under the Dorset clouds.

Francis Owtram
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading
James Barr, Setting the Desert on Fire: T.E. Lawrence and Britain’s Secret War in Arabia, 1916-18 (Bloomsbury, 2006)
Rodney Legg, Lawrence of Dorset: From Arabia to Clouds Hill (Dorset Publishing Company, 2005)

 

08 August 2023

William Henry Quilliam – the Victorian solicitor who established Britain’s first mosque

What do the names Abdullah Quilliam, Henri Marcel Léon and Haroon Mustapha Leon have in common?  The answer is that they are all aliases of William Henry Quilliam, 19th century solicitor and convert to Islam.

William Henry Quilliam was born in Liverpool on 10 April 1856.  He was of Manx descent and raised by Wesleyan Methodists.  After training and working as a solicitor, he moved to the Middle East in 1887, where he converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah Quilliam.  He returned to England and opened Britain’s first Muslim institute and mosque at 8-10 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool, in 1889.  The site was a place of worship and education, with its own science laboratory and museum.

Quilliam was given the title of sheikh-ul-Islam (leader of the Muslims) of Britain by the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II.  He also found time to edit a series of Islamic periodicals, publishing frequently under the alias H. [Haroon] Mustapha Leon.  A controversial figure in Victorian England, he received backlash for publicly renouncing Christianity, while Brougham Terrace became a target for vandals.  After leaving the UK for a short period he lived on the Isle of Man in the 1910s, changing his name for a third time to Henri Marcel Léon.

Photograph of William Henry Quilliam  alias Abdullah QuilliamWilliam Henry Quilliam, known as Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam. Public Domain

Quilliam is the subject of British Library manuscripts collection Add MS 89684, which has just been catalogued and is now available for research.  The papers in this collection were compiled by Patricia ‘Pat’ Gordon, granddaughter of Quilliam, while conducting research into her grandfather’s life history.  The collection comprises correspondence, newspaper and magazine cuttings, photographs and even a ceremonial silver trowel.  The trowel was presented by the United Methodist Free Churches to Quilliam’s mother, Harriet, on the laying of a memorial stone of the School Chapel, Durning Road, Liverpool, on 20 August 1877.

A ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs QuilliamA ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs Quilliam Add MS 89684/4/6

During the 1990s, Pat was in regular correspondence with the Abdullah Quilliam Society of Liverpool.  The Society was founded to restore the location of Quilliam’s mosque at Brougham Terrace.  Pat was invited by the Society to unveil a plaque outside the prayer hall on 10 October 1997, in a ceremony which was organised to commemorate Quilliam’s achievements.  Photographs of this event can be found at Add MS 89684/3/2.

Quilliam died in London on 23 April 1932.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Muslim section of Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, not far from the grave of the Islamic scholar and barrister Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1872-1953).  It is thanks to the work of Pat Gordon and the Abdullah Quilliam Society that William Henry Quilliam’s mosque and unique history have survived.

George Brierley
Manuscripts Cataloguer

Further reading:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Quilliam, William Henry
Add MS 89684 – Papers relating to Abdullah Quilliam

 

06 April 2023

The disastrous paintings of Richard Greenbury

Richard Greenbury was an artist and decorator of furniture in early 17th century London.  In the 1620s, he received two important painting commissions from the East India Company.  Both documented incidents of treachery and suffering.

The first commission showed an odious moment of horror on the Indonesian island of Ambon.  In this faraway place, the East India Company was exporting spices alongside a larger, more established Dutch trading station.  In 1623, the Dutch tortured to death ten Englishmen at Ambon, claiming that they were going to invade the Dutch fort.  News of this event sparked a diplomatic incident in Europe.  In London, the East India Company published a pamphlet telling its side of the story, titled A True Relation of the Unjust, Cruell and Barbarous Proceedings against the English at Amboyna.

Frontispiece of the East India Company’s pamphlet  'A True Relation of the Unjust  Cruell and Barbarous Proceedings against the English at AmboynaFrontispiece of the East India Company’s pamphlet, A True Relation of the Unjust, Cruell and Barbarous Proceedings against the English at Amboyna.  The illustration on the left might have been the basis for Richard Greenbury’s painting. (British Library, T39923)

Richard Greenbury’s painting of the event, titled 'The Atrocities at Amboyna', was so graphic that the Company had to ask him to repaint part of it.  Crowds flocked to the painter’s studio to see it before it was finished.  One woman, purportedly a widow of one of the massacred Englishmen, fainted when she saw it.  It stirred such outrage that London’s Dutch citizens had to appeal to the Privy Council of King Charles I for protection from the furious public.  In February 1625 the completed painting went on display inside the East India Company’s headquarters, but only two weeks later, it was removed by order of the king and never seen again.  It was most likely destroyed by order of the Privy Council.  Reluctant to pay for a vanished painting, the East India Company eventually gave Greenbury less than half the amount of money he expected to receive.

Portrait of Naq’d Ali Beg by Richard GreenburyPortrait of Naq’d Ali Beg by Richard Greenbury (British Library, Foster 23)

The Company then gave Greenbury another commission.  This time, it wanted a pair of portraits of Naq’d Ali Beg, a trade ambassador from the court of Shah Abbas of Persia.  Unfortunately, this exotic young man’s stay in London was fraught with scandals, and he was ordered by King Charles I to return to the court of Shah Abbas.  Unable to bear the embassy’s failure, Naq’d Ali Beg committed suicide during the journey back to Persia in 1627.  Even though the East India Company contributed to the Persian ambassador’s disgrace, Greenbury’s portrait was displayed inside its headquarters in London.  Today, that same painting is part of the British Library’s permanent collections.

The disastrous subject matter of Greenbury’s paintings highlights the instability and sloppy diplomacy that the East India Company somehow survived in the 17th century.  One hundred years later, a new, relatively stable United East India Company emerged.  By the late 18th century it was a systemic part of Britain’s economy and a prolific corporate patron of British art.

CC-BY
Jennifer Howes
Art Historian specialising in South Asia

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
East India Company. A True Relation of the Unjust, Cruell and Barbarous Proceedings against the English at Amboyna. London: Nathaniel Newberry, 1624.
Howes, Jennifer. 'Chaos to Confidence'. Chapter one in Howes, J. The Art of a Corporation: The East India Company as Patron and Collector, 1600-1860. New Delhi: Routledge, April 2023. 

 

28 March 2023

Close Encounters of the ‘Sea Duck’ kind

The East India Company ship Martha under Captain Thomas Raynes (or Raines) set sail from England in April 1700, destined for Bombay.  It zig-zagged across the globe on the prevailing winds, via the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, and Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints’ Bay) on the Brazilian coast, before heading towards Southern Africa, across to Sumatra, and then onwards to India.  By January 1701, the ship had reached the Malabar coast, sailing to Bombay via Cochin, Karwar and Goa.  After reaching Bombay, the Martha made a journey to the port of Gombroon (Bander Abbas), before heading back to Bombay and then on to Surat.

Title page of Samuel Goodman's journal

Title page of Samuel Goodman's journal  - IOR/L/MAR/A/CXLVI 

India Office Records and Private Papers holds the journal of this latter part of the Martha’s voyage, written by mate Samuel Goodman.  It is a daily account of the voyage, mostly detailing navigational information, and wind, weather and sea conditions- if you were on a sailing ship in the early 18th century, this is what you would expect to be occupying the mind of the ship’s senior crew.   The text is interspersed with an occasional sketch of the coastline as seen from the ship.

Page from Goodman's journal showing sketches of the coastline around the CapPage from Goodman's journal showing sketches of the coastline around the Cape -  IOR/L/MAR/A/CXLVI, f.38v

But on the morning of Sunday (‘Soonday’) 27 October 1700, having not long left the Cape of Good Hope, heading towards India, Goodman observed something that must have been so out of the ordinary that he choose to record it in detail.  He came across a group of peculiar birds - black and white creatures with fins and no visible legs, with a yellow streak on their heads.  He even made a sketch of one of the birds, and captioned it the ‘Sea Duck’.

Entry from the Journal of the Martha for 27 October 1700 with a sketch of the 'Sea Duck'Entry from the Journal of the Martha for 27 October 1700 with a sketch of the 'Sea Duck' - IOR/L/MAR/A/CXLVI, f.43v

Goodman wrote: ‘I saw beetwene 15 and 16 fishes or fowells ass it may bee termed, the[y] Came close too the ships side, the[y] had A head and neck And A yallow bill like A Duck And Ass well formed Ass A land fowel Is, And A bodey ass bigg Ass A midling Duck two fins like A turtell, butt A fishes tayle Ass you may see by the figer the[y] lay a pretty while upon the surface of the Watter Soe thatt I had A full vew And Saw them oute of the watter as the[y] playd too and froo: and one particuler thing I Observed Ass the[y] Came Close to the side the would stare you in the face: the[y] had all of them too yallow strakes upon there heds, the back parte wass blacke And the belley all White butt had Noe Leggs: wee Could not distinguish them from A Blacke duck butt by the fishes tayle and There finns’.

Sketch of the Sea DuckSketch of the 'Sea Duck' - IOR/L/MAR/A/CXLVI, f.43v

So what animal did Samuel Goodman see playing in the waters off the Cape?  His physical description of the birds, as well as the description of their behaviour, lead us to believe that Goodman’s ‘Sea Duck’ wasn’t a duck at all , but actually a penguin.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/L/MAR/A/CXLVI: Journal of the Martha to Bombay, 20 Apr 1699 [1700] to 3 May 1702.
If you would like to delve further into the journal, it has been fully digitised and is available via the Qatar Digital Library
IOR/L/MAR/B/118A(1): The remainder of the Samuel Goodman’s journal of the Martha’s voyage, detailing the return voyage of the ship to England, 1702-1703, via Mauritius, Saint Helena, Ascension, Barbados, and Erith has also been digitised and is available via the Qatar Digital Library. 
Anthony Farrington, Catalogue of East India Company ships' journals and logs, 1600-1834 (London: British Library, 1999).
A copy of IOR/L/MAR/A/CXLVI, f.43v, showing the Sea Duck, with a transcription, can be found amongst the papers of Anthony Farrington Mss Eur F704/4/3/1 Visual material relating to ships (this collection will be available for consultation shortly).

 

14 March 2023

From Chester to Mesopotamia: Thomas Crawford of the Royal Welch Fusiliers

When sixteen-year-old Thomas John Crawford joined the Second Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers in August 1906 he was escaping a turbulent home life.  His parents Clara (née Jones) and Alfred were married on 8 July 1888 in Chester, and daughter Annie arrived later that year.  Thomas was born in Chester in 1890, younger brother William in Liverpool in 1894.  By this point, the marriage was at breaking point, and Alfred deserted his wife and children, leaving Clara to apply for poor relief.

Report of Alfred Crawford's court case from Chester Chronicle 13 August 1898

Report of Alfred Crawford's court case, British Newspaper Archive Chester Chronicle 13 August 1898

In 1897, after dodging the law, Alfred appeared at Chester Petty Sessions and was sentenced to two months in jail.  The Justices were outraged at ‘one of the worst cases ever brought before them’ - Crawford earned a decent salary of around £2 per week as a compositor while his wife was claiming poor relief.  However the prison sentence was not enough to persuade Crawford to support his family, and he was sentenced to three months’ hard labour in August 1898.  By 1901 he had moved to Wales, and spent the period from 1911 to his death in 1925 as a ‘single’ man living in a boarding house in Warrington.  Clara moved on with her life, ‘marrying’ Samuel Griffiths in 1901 and starting another family.  As an abandoned wife she must have felt morally, if not legally, justified in marrying again.

Photo of Quetta cantonment early 1890s Photograph of Quetta cantonment early 1890s - British Library IOR/L/MIL/7/6553

Thomas Crawford headed overseas, arriving in Shwebo, Burma, in early 1908.  On 31 December 1910, he left Rangoon for Karachi, en route for Quetta, Balochistan.  The Royal Welch took part in the series of events connected with the visit of George V and Queen Mary in that year, including the Coronation Durbar.  The Regimental Records of the Royal Welch state: ‘The Battalion is doing well and is very efficient… Men are clean, healthy and cheerful. There is a tremendous esprit de corps… I consider the Battalion has improved much during its stay in Quetta’.  Thomas’s service record shows a charge against him for neglect of duty, insubordination, and being absent from parade in November 1911, so perhaps Quetta did not improve him personally!  Despite this blemish, he is described as ‘Honest, sober and thoroughly reliable’.

Thomas Crawford 's regimental defaulter sheetDefaulter sheet from the service record of Thomas John Crawford, UK British Army World War I Service Records 1914-1920, The National Archives WO 363

Thomas returned from India in March 1913, transferring to the Army Reserve.  He married his cousin Elsie Maud Jones in July 1914, but Thomas, like many of the Royal Welch reservists, re-enlisted in early August 1914.  He was immediately sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, serving there for two periods during 1914 and mid-1915, before being shot in the thigh and returning home to recuperate.

October 1915 saw Thomas leave for the Mesopotamia campaign, and by February 1916 he was in Basra.  A report describes the conditions: ‘The whole theatre of operations is as flat as a billiard table. It is impossible to locate one’s position except by compass bearing and pacing.  This induces in the individual a sense of isolation and an impotent feeling of being lost.  The mirage also distorts and confuses all objects…Man in these surroundings feels like an ant on a skating rink… Under the effect of rain or flood the country is turned into a bog of particularly tenacious mud’.  Thomas went missing in action on 9 April 1916 - his body could not be found.  His death was formally certified at Basra on 28 August 1917.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
Reports of Alfred Crawford’s desertion of his wife and family can be found in the Chester Chronicle, 25 December 1897, 18 June 1898 and 13 August 1898, available at the British Newspaper Archive, also via www.findmypast.co.uk.
Regimental Records of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, late the 23rd Foot. Compiled by A. D. L. Cary ... & Stouppe McCance, 4 vols. (London: Royal United Service Institution, 1921-29) - quote from p.326.
IOR/L/MIL/7/6553: Defensive works in Quetta: plans and photographs 1888-1891.
New Horizons Volume 2 Number 1 2008 Cadet Gregory E. Lippiatt ‘No More Quetta Manners: The Social Evolution of the Royal Welch Fusiliers on the Western Front’.
IOR/l/MIL/15/72/1: Critical Study of the Campaign in Mesopotamia up to April 1917, Part I Report (Calcutta; Government of India Press, 1925) - quote from p.66.
1911 Census records the 300 men of the Second Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers at the Roberts Barracks, Quetta.  Available via www.findmypast.co.uk and www.ancestry.co.uk. 

 

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