Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Prior adventures of the Lady Shore

Source: William Anderson 1757-1837. An English 3rd-rate ship-of-the line (74 guns) in three positions off Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa, flying the Royal Navy ensign. Painted circa 1795. Oil painting on canvas. You can buy it here

It appears the Lady Shore had rather an interesting life. In 1796, the year before she played host to the mutiny described in this post, she was taken as a prize by the French ship Le Moineau (It is mis-spelt in the journal here) a few day's sail from Cape Town. In a slightly unusual turn of events, especially as the English and French were at war at the time, the French decided not to keep the ship, so after taking all that they could, and destroying a far deal more, they took a few prisoners and gave the ship back to the English, who limped on to Cape Town.

Logs, journals, letters and charts were always taken by the victors, and rarely survive in official collections. So in this case we are left with a rather rare example of an account written during the time the events were taking place - not in the original log book, but on pages Williams probably carried around in his pocket.

Cape Town had only just been occupied by the British in 1795, forcibly taking it from the Dutch, who several years later (in the name of the Batavian Republic under Napoleon) won it back by treaty.

So during this time, there were a lot of British warships in the vicinity, and indeed the journal, part of which is transcribed below, records many ships at anchor in Table and Simon's Bay when she arrived. Within a few days the Lady Shore was re-rigged, with a newish set of spars and rigging, and on her way to London via St Helena as part of a protective convoy which saw its own bit of action against the Dutch.

The reason the French let the Lady Shore go therefore doesn't require much deduction: She had VIPs on board, and had just run the gauntlet from Isle de France (Mauritius). They knew there were plenty of the enemy around, and taking the Lady Shore in the state she was in would undoubtedly slow things up. It appears Williams was able to talk up those ideas, so the French further damaged the Lady Shore enough to delay news of their presence long enough to get a good start home. Perhaps they wanted the British to know their VIPs had escaped and therefore not be quite so zealous when pursuing other French ships.

I don't know who these VIPs may have been, but I suppose it could be found out. I've written to a couple of museums in France hoping to find the log of Le Monieau. It would be good to see the story from the other side.

Below is my transcription of some of the pages from the journal. Each paragraph represents a page. It is handwritten, but Williams used the system printers did at the time for making sure all pages are there and in the correct order by printing the same word twice: last on one page and first on the next. He doesn't appear to have heard of full stops, but put that down to it being written all in a rush.

(the way it reads below you're not immediately sure whether the disorderly state referred to on the first page refers to the ship or his wife)

James Williams
Commander of the
Lady Shore

Ship Lady Shore in possession of the French off the Cape of Good Hope, ------------
Tuesday 19th July 1796.

At 8 PM was captured by a French Man of War, the Cape of Good Hope, bearing then about ESE 16 or 17 Leagues, Myself, Mates, and the greater part of the Crew, also Captain Bris??? of His Majesty’s Navy was immediately sent on board the French Man of War, found her to be the le Monieau of 26 Nine pounders and 190 Men, commanded by Captain Tayeau, from Mauritius bound to Bordeaux and after a great deal of persuasion having represented my wife, and family was on board, and no person left on board to protect them from any insult that might be offer’d knowing well the state the must be in just boarded by an Enemy at 11pm I was permitted to return to the ship and found her in very disorderly state indeed as I expected; they French crew breaking open chest’s trunk’s, locker’s, etc, and Plundering Myself, Mates, and Crew, Brissai (?), of our Wearing Apparel, Books, Papers Etc, and in short every thing

could lay hands on, I was on going onboard ^immediately^ ordered to my Cabbin, and a Centinal placed over me, At 4AM I was requested to come on deck; where I found they had carried away the Fore topmast, Main Top Gall.t Mast, Jibb Boom, with all the Yardes and Sailes beating under her bows, at day light the ship was a perfect Wreck, all her Sails blown and split to pieces, Owing to the Intoxicated state their Crew was ^then^ in, the Ship lay labouring in the trough of the Sea and shipping a quantity of Water, the Wreck lay ?ealing under her Bows for near four hours before they cut it away, they then seeing the disabled ^state ^ the Ship was then in, it appeared to me their was a probability of recovering the Ship and Cargo again, if I could possibly persuade the Lieutenant she was very leaky, which I thank God, had the desired effect, and was the saving of Ship, and Cargo, without a doubt, knowing she had Ship’t a great deal of Water and that it would find it’s way to the ^Pump^ well, I sounded the Pump, and shewed him by the line, she ^had^ a great quantity of Water in her, as the Ship was tumbling about she had weted the line a great way up, that She was very leakey and it would be impossible to carry her to any distant

Port in that state as I was uncertain that the Ship must have sustain’d material damage, from the wreck beating so long under her Bows which he seemed to be very much Alarm.d ^at^ and replied tht they should be obliged ^them^ to burn her, I had learn’t by this time, the Moniceau had dispatches and also two Commissioners from the Mauritius of great importance, which was much in my favour as they did not wish to be delay’d, I then endeavour’d to dissuade him ^from^ the Idea of burning her, as their would be a number of Prisoners onboard and a long Voyage, must make use of a great deal of Water, therefore should be very unpleasant Passengers, and requested he would represent the state she was in to his Captain and Officers, which he seemed very inclinable so to do, for he appeared to be heartily tire’d of his disorderly Crew; they had almost upset the Ship during the Night in squalles’ before the Mast, and sails, went Notwithstanding the disabled state she was then in, of the Captain, Officers, & Crew, should think proper to give us up the Ship again, I would endeavour to reach some Port with her which I have reason to believe they little expected at.

10AM the Second Lieutenant came to take charge of the Ship, /as Prize Master,/ to remain and carry the Ship, wherever they should judge fit to send her, and the former went onboard who was their first Lieutenant; however he had not been lon onboard, before they came to a determination, to take out part of the Cargo such as was most valuable, their Boats was hoisted out immediately, also the Prize Master wa hail’d from the le Monieau, and order’d to hoist all the Boats belonging to the Prize and to clear away immediately to get at the Bale Goodes which was stowed in the Hold, and their Boates came onboard with a number of hands, they first begin clearing away in the tween decks on the Bales of Cotton that was stow’d their getting them on deck and throwing overboard the same, and every thing else that came in their way to get at the hatchways to open the Hold where the bale Goods, Sugar, and Indigo, was stow’d, having broke open the Hatchway and got at the above Goods the Boats was Keep’t continually employ’d carrying to Same onboard the le Monieau, also a

quantity of Provision Rice, Ghee, and all my Cabbin Stores, and left the Ship almost destitute of every species of Provisions-------------------------------------------------
Wednesday 20th July
Prisoner as before, they French Crew employ’d taking the Cargo out as before,-----
Thursday 21st July
Prisoner as before, the French Crew employ’d as before, At 21(?)PM, the Mates, and Crew, was returnd to the Lady Shore all excep’t Mr. Williams third Mate, and Antoney a Seaconnie, who was keep’t as prisoners, in order to carry them to france, to Condemn the property they had taken out of the Prize, the Lieutenant then inform’d me that the Captain Officers and Crew of the French Ship of war, had come to a Resolution to give up their Prize, and the remaining part of the cargo to the master, Mates & Crew, of the Lady Shore. for their sole use that she would be deliver’d up that night for me to proceed wherever I should think proper, and Crew, of the French republican Ship call’d the le Monieau, at 10 PM came orders

the before mentioned Certificate from under they Hands, an Seal, of the captain, Lieutenant and Crew, of the Republican Ship of War, call’d the le Monieau, to deliver me up the Ship with the said Certificate to Certify to all whom it may concern, that the Ship Lady Shore and remaining part of her Cargo our lawful Prize, We do voluntary give the said prize, to the Master, mates, and Crew of the English Ship Lady Shore, for their sole use to act and ^do^ with the same as they shall think fit and this our Certificate is ^given^ to serve when need, the Ship was then delivered up accordingly to me, also a Certificate from under the Lieutenant Hand who was prize Master, that he had deliver’d up the English Ship lady Shore, Prize to the le Monieau, agreeable to the captain, Officers, and Crews/orders as their voluntary gift to the Master, mates, & Crew of the Lady Shore, for their sole use; and to proceed wherever they think proper, he then left the ship, with his Crew; the Wind being from the Wrd; got her head to the NE and stood in shore that night with what little sail we could

found three feet of water in her; all the Upper Deck Hatche’s off; and the appearance of a great quantity of water having gon down, which has greatly injured the Cargo, and have every reason to suppose from the quantity of water they left in the Hold, and the Ship tumbling about in the trough of the Sea, the ground tier of Sugar, must have received considerable damage, found the after Hatch to be missing, suppose’d to be thrown overboard, secured the same in the best manner we could by nailing plank over it and sailing the same up. At day light she appear’d a perfect Wreck they had wantonly cut an Anchor from her Bows, paid two Cables overboard, cut & destroy’d all the Running Rigging, Sails, from the Yard’s; All the Ammunition, tore to pieces two suits of Colours, and in fact, every thing they could not possibly carry with them, about ½ past 6 AM saw the land bearing NE b E 10 Leagues, and a large fleet in sight to the Wrd, which shew’d English Colours, a fresh gale from the Wrd, with hazey weather at 8 AM made the Cape of Good Hope bearing ENE at 11/ rounded to, and stood up False Bay.

False Bay
with baffling winds and hard rain at 6 PM Anchor’d in the bottom of the Bay
NB, this Log contains 36 hours.
Friday the 22nd July
At day light weighed with a light breeze from the Erd; and stood into Simons bay. At Noon came too with the sheet Anchor in 10fms veered away and moor’d Ship, I went onshore immediately and proceeded to Cape towne, to the Honb’le East India Company Agent their to acquaint him what had happen’d and the state of the Ship, requested their would be survey hel’d thereon to examine into the state of ^the^ Ship, Cargo, which was order’d accordingly by Admiral Sir G: K: Elphinstone Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Fleet etc, etc, etc.

The journal goes on to describe the refitting of the ship and then is structured in the rather systematic way all logs are once the ship is under way. Unless you're a climatologist, it doesn't exactly make compelling reading. The final entry is interesting though, and if we didn't know the Lady Shore made further voyages, and the fact that the journal itself survives, makes strangely foreboding reading. I'll say why at bottom:

Thursday 17th Nov
Ground 70 fms
Hard squalls with rain
Ground 80 fms in 2 reef Main Top Sl

Squally as at 2am

Hard Squalls hail and Rain
AM Bent the Cables


Spoken a frigate told us the Lizard bore NW 9 Leg
Latt?. Obsv? 219''.27' N*
*These question marks appear in the original

They're not really sure where they are, They can't see a damned thing, and can't take readings. They're reefed in and have readied the anchors. It's blowing a great Atlantic storm, and they've just heard the Lizard is near.

The Lizard is a peninsula, and the Southernmost part of mainland Britain, and forms part of Cornwall. Both it and the Scilly Isles are responsible for nobody knows how many wrecks, but it's a lot. There are all kinds of stories of wrecking (sometimes deliberate) going on down there over the centuries (and it happens today as well), probably the most famous wreck and wrecking being that of this naval convoy in 1707 when about 1400 men died. Anyway, funny that the log just stops there, and turns up again at the British Library!

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