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Blenden Hall Shipwreck and Marooning

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Inaccessible Islandmap
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The Blenden Hall was wrecked off Inaccessible Island on 22 July 1821.

For a brief, not entirely accurate account see Wikipedia:Blenden_Hall; for a better summary of events see this account by the author of a recent book on the subject. For an exciting but lengthy account, see the captain's son's book but if not reading from the start, be aware he changed the passengers' names for privacy reasons. Another account of the wreck written by John Pepper is lodged in the British Library, with his letters[1], but I haven't had access to it.

Either fifty or eighty or eighty-two passengers and crew survived the initial wreck and then were marooned on the island for four months in difficult conditions; two sailors not included in this total, John Bantiff and Matthew Hore, died in the water during the shipwreck. Six of those who made it to land safely were later lost in an attempt to reach Tristan da Cunha to get help - these were (according to the newspaper report) Joseph Nibbs, And. McCulloch, M. Alister, Jacob McDougald, William Smith and William Taylor. The rest survived and were rescued. The 1823 newspaper report (see below) states there were 50 survivors of the initial wreck, however Greig in his book states that there were eighty-two at the initial muster on the island, or possibly he meant that the total list was eighty-two including the two who had drowned.[2]

A newspaper report from 1823[3] quotes a summary of the incident, copied from a paper which had been left on Tristan da Cunha by those shipwrecked when they were rescued, which is helpful in definitively identifying some of those involved whose names were changed by Greig in his account. It lists the six lost men, and is signed by:
Mrs Mary Gormley,
Mrs Ann Keys,
Mrs Pepper,
Benj. Gormby, Quarter Master, 67th Regt,
John Patch, assistant surgeon, H.C.S.,
Wm Law,
S. Harris, Lieut.,
John Apris, Lieut.,
Richard Furtong,
Mark Serme, Cadet, H.C.S.,
Robert Siddall, Assist. Surgeon,
Colin Maclavis,
Jas. McSenes,
------
Geo Syms, Surgeon,
Rob. Lymens, 2d Officer,
A.M. Greig, junior Passenger,
John Scrinager, Chief Officer,
Alexander Greig, Commander

Finally, the paper names two of the men who made it on a homemade boat to Tristan da Cunha and got help:
Robert Perrie (ship's carpenter) and
Leonard Sanksley (boatswain).

An account by Dr Law of the shipwreck and time afterwards was published in the Aberdeen Press and Journal 8 January 1823; Law was said to be "of this place" in the article. He praises the carpenter in his account, and names him as Pirie rather than Perrie. He also states that the cook was from St Kitts.

On 8 Sep 1824, the Bombay Gazette reported that the recovery of money lent by the Company's Agent in Capetown to Assistant Surgeons Law, Liddell, McLennan, Mactavish and Patch, and Cadet Giberne was suspended. Quartermaster Gormley of the 67th foot was granted 910 Rs in compensation forthe loss of his baggage, and 1400 Rs passage money on bond. The Agent's decision to award them pay from the date when the ship left England was accepted but it was not to set a precendent.

Greig in his book states that there were 24 passengers, and that he has changed their names but not their "rank and position in society", and that in all else he has been strictly factual. The book was not however published till 1847, though he had kept a journal at the time which he could check his memory against, but since this was written in bird's blood on the margins of salvaged newspapers, it seems reasonable to assume he expanded considerably on the journal. The list of passengers he gives isn't exhaustive but it may be helpful to quote it here, with the false names he gives, and the real names we have identified as theirs where know. Dr Law in his account states that there were 82 (or 52?) crew and 20 passengers, ie 4 ladies and 11 gentlemen (chiefly newly appointed officers in Honorable Company service), 3 children, 1 male and 1 female native servant. Either he has forgotten the "other native servants" Alexander mentions, or Alexander has inserted them when they didn't exist. Aside from that, their tally of the gentlemen passengers differs; Alexander explicitly names seven not counting himself, states that there were also six assistant surgeons and names four of those. If Dr Law was one of the assistant surgeons, and if Stephen Newcomb was the sixth one, then there could have been only eleven of them; or perhaps Dr Law has left two out of his reckoning but this seems a little less likely with his account being written up much nearer the time of the events than Alexander's one.

Mrs Lock (wife of Commodore Lock, Indian) Mrs Ann Keys
her infant son Alexander Keys
and daughter Sarah Keys
Miss Morton (spelled Martin once), her niece (also Indian; 13 in 1821)
Lieut. Painter, of the same service as Lock (a short man) Lieutenant John Pepper
"Bet" or Ann, his lady (of lower class, and had lived all her life in Deal; they married between 6 May and 8 May) Mrs Ann (Evans) Pepper
Quarter-Master Hormby of HM -th Regt (recently promoted from private) Bernard Gormley, Quarter Master, 67th Regt
his lady (18 in 1821) Mrs Mary Gormley
and infant daughter (unknown) Gormley
Major Reid, Poonah Auxiliary
Shabberdeen, his servant
Dr Law, surgeon in the Royal Navy previously attached to H.M.S. Lyra and on his way to join an East India Company regiment (a bachelor from Aberdeen) William Law
Mr M Gibson, cadet Mark Serme, Cadet, H.C.S.
Capt Miles,
and six assistant surgeons in the Hon Co's military (1) John Patch, assistant surgeon, H.C.S.
and six assistant surgeons in the Hon Co's military (2) Robert Siddall/Liddell, Assist. Surgeon
and six assistant surgeons in the Hon Co's military (3) Dr or Mr McLennan
and six assistant surgeons in the Hon Co's military (4) Mr McTavish
and six assistant surgeons in the Hon Co's military (5) Law (mentioned in Bombay Gazette as asst surgeon - or is this Dr Law?)
Master Stephen Newcombe of the Co's marine
Mrs Lock's servant Peggy Margaret Vass, later married Stephen White
other native servants

Since Greig hasn't included himself in the above list, and it adds up to 22 people without the unspecified number of additional native servants, the only way it can total 24 and the servants can be plural as stated is if he hasn't counted the infants, which seems plausible since they didn't require a separate berth so may not have been included in the captain's reckoning. Including Greig and not including the 3 infants, the total comes to 20 people meaning there were four other native servants.

A baby girl Nerinae was born to the Painters a few days after arrival in Cape Town, according to Greig, so around 24 Jan 1822.

Signatories of the paper mentioned in the newspaper report who aren't identified in the above list: S. Harris, Lieut., John Apris, Lieut., Colin Maclavis, Jas. McSenes, Richard Furtong.

Greig explicitly states that he hasn't changed the names of the "officers of the ship". This appears to also apply to the crew, based on comparison with other sources. The following officers and crew are named in the book:

Book Name Description Real Name (& source)
John Bantiff drowned
John Carter able seaman, went on second venture for help
John Dulliver
Thomas Elliott able seaman, went on second venture for help
James Fowler
Joseph Fowler same as James Fowler?
Black Francis
Richard Gilbert boatswain's mate, went on second venture for help
Alexander Greig Captain/Commander Alexander Greig
James Harris
Joseph Harris built one of the small boats not used to go for help
Leonard Hawksley boatswain and third officer, went on second venture for help Leonard Sanksley boatswain[3]
Matthew Hore midshipman, drowned
Edward Hurry ship's steward, went on second venture for help
George Leggatt able seaman, went on second venture for help
Andrew McAllister gunner, lost in first venture for help M. Alister[3]
James McCulloch sailmaker, lost in first venture for help And. McCulloch[3]
Jacob McDougall able seaman, lost in first venture for help Jacob McDougald[3]
Joseph Nibbs cook, man of colour from St Kitts, lost in first venture for help
John/Robert Perry carpenter, led second venture for help Robert? Perrie or Pirie[3]
Mr Scrymgeour 1st officer John Scrinager[3]
John Smith carpenter's mate, went on second venture for help
James Smith
William Smith able seaman, lost in first venture for help William Smith[3]
Dr George Symmers ship's surgeon, brother of 2nd officer George Symers[3]
Mr Thomas L Symmers 2nd officer Thomas Lyell Symers[3]
William Taylor able seaman, lost in first venture for help William Taylor
Joseph Thomas able seaman, went on second venture for help
James Western able seaman, went on second venture for help
Stephen Whily
Stephen White Stephen White
Peter Wilson

That makes a total of 32 named officers and crew, however a few may be the same person named twice as Greig's book does not always reliably give the same forename to some crew members although the narrative make it clear they're the same person. Stephen Whily might possibly be the same person as Stephen White. The passengers were said to be outnumbered by the crew when the crew mutinied, even after the loss of eight sailors, although eleven of the passengers were women, children or servants and wouldn't have been counted. 24 passengers and 32 crew would be a total of 56, which is already more than the 52 in the newspaper story.

In summary, it seems very likely that the correct muster county was 82 as in Greig's book, not 52 as the newspaper story has it. It also seems likely he has given the true names of all officers and crew of the ship, apart from accidental errors.

Greig relates that Peggy, Mrs Keys' serving girl, and at least six men stayed behind on the island, the men possibly fearing prosecution for their actions. The six men named were Stephen White, James Fowler, Richard Gilbert, William Smith, James Western and Black Francis.

Notes on the Gormleys:

  • Mary was born in about 1802-3, since she was 18 in 1821.
  • No marriage found yet for Bernard Gormley and Mary, and no birth for their daughter
  • Bernard's promotion to Quartermaster was published in the Gazette in 1821.[4]
  • Bernard is unlikely to be the Bernard Gormley of the 67th foot who was born in Mullingar, Westmeath - this person was discharged in 1820 suffering from TB, and held the rank of private.[5]
  • Bernard died in 1822, and was buried on 12 Nov 1822 at Sholapore; he was described as quartermaster of H.M. 67th Regiment.
  • Mary married Gilbert Samuel Forbes Plaisted 26 Mar 1823 at the house of A. Millar Esq. in Poona, Bombay.[6][7] She was stated to be the widow of the late Mr Gormly of the 67th regiment; Gilbert was stated to be a lieutenant of the 2nd battalion of the 10th regiment of the BNI.
  • Gilbert had been christened on 14 Jul 1798 at St Andrew's in Holborn, Middlesex, the son of Samuel and Mary Plaisted.[8] His father may have been the Samuel Plaisted late of Hatton-Garden and formerly of Holborn, Middlesex, Gentleman, who went bankrupt in 1801.[9][10] On 1 May 1824 he was promoted to Captain.[11] He died in 1824; he was reported as being a captain in the 19th.[12] He was buried on 12 Jul 1824 in Bombay.
  • Mary might possibly have returned to England and worked as a cook after her second husband's death.[13]

Footnotes

  1. National Archives Catalogue Reference: Mss Eur C699. Title: Letters of Lt (later Commodore) John Pepper (c1794-1848), Indian Navy 1811-48; also letters of his son George Augustus Pepper-Staveley (1823-90), Bengal Civil Service 1846-73, and of his wife Jessie Louise. Description: Letters of Lt (later Commodore) John Pepper (c1794-1848), Indian Navy 1811-48, Commodore in the Persian Gulf 1833, Senior Naval Officer at Surat 1839, Acting Supt of Indian Navy 1844, Indian Naval Storekeeper 1848, and manuscript account by him of sinking of the 'Blenden Hall' in 1821; also letters of his son George Pepper-Staveley (1823-90), Bengal Civil Service 1846-73, and of his wife Jessie Louise. Date: 1821-1872. Accessed on https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/f1526c41-a92e-4c8d-8f31-1b3e73b3c658
  2. Greig, Alexander M. Fate of the Blenden Hall, East Indiaman ... bound to Bombay : with an account of her wreck, and the sufferings and privations endured by the survivors for six months, on the desolate islands of Inaccessible and Tristan d'Acunha. (New York: W.H. Colyer, 1847), p. 52. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044019421171&view=1up&seq=78&q1=muster
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Hobart Town Gazette 5 Jul 1823, p. 2. Accessed on https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1089924?searchTerm=%22blenden%20hall%22
  4. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/Edinburgh/issue/2889/page/67
  5. https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C8782482
  6. "India Marriages, 1792-1948 ", database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FGVV-B94 : 5 February 2020), Mary Gormley in entry for Gilbert Samuel Forbes Plaisted, 1823.
  7. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.500615/page/n95/mode/2up?q=%22g+s+f+plaisted%22
  8. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J3M2-G24 : 19 March 2020), Gilbert Samuel Forbes Plaisted, 1798.
  9. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/15400/page/1044
  10. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/15417/page/1258
  11. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.500615/page/n95/mode/2up?q=%22g+s+f+plaisted%22
  12. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.104655/page/n649/mode/2up?q=%22g+s+f+plaisted%22
  13. "England and Wales Census, 1851," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:SG2V-FD4 : 9 November 2019), Mary Plaisted, Melcombe Regis, Dorset, England; citing Melcombe Regis, Dorset, England, p. 36, from "1851 England, Scotland and Wales census," database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.




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