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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mrs. R. goes sightseeing on Penang

[August 1800]We set off early next morning in gigs to view the waterfall; during our ride we passed for several miles between an avenue of the cocoa-nut and beetle-nut trees, and many huts or sheds occupied by that industrious race the Chinese, who have charge of the pepper plantations. The supported twig of the pepper plant appeared to me not unlike our hop plants, supported by poles; the pepper hangs in bunches like our currants when green. 

We were highly regaled with the delightful fragrance of the aromatic shrubs, as we passed to the place under the hill, where we were obliged to dismount and follow our guide along a narrow winding path. In this spot the sun could not be observed at noon-day, so completely were its rays intercepted by the thick foliage of the lofty trees on each side. In many parts it was a thick impenetrable jungle, which had never been entered by man. We heard the noise of the descending waters some time before we came near, a circumstance that roused the imagination, and prepared us for something magnificent. I had provided a pair of thick shoes, understanding that the walk was wet and heavy, particularly near the fall. Notwithstanding our fatigue, however, we were well repaid when we arrived at a certain point near the rocky bason, or natural reservoir, where this grand cascade descends with a roaring noise that entirely drowns the sound of the voice, and obliged us to reserve our admiration and opinions.

After we left the spot there was a haze all round the place, caused by the vapour of the falling stream, at the same time so cool as made it unsafe to sit long after our fatiguing walk. As we looked up through the open branch of the trees to the highest source of the dashing element, it had a grand effect upon our minds. It was an imposing spectacle to behold the crystal stream impetuously rumbling over the rocky steep—

“Defying power of man its passage to stem
“Till with Ocean, the mother, it met.”

The fall is said to be upwards of a hundred feet above where we stood. One of the party had brought a small mirror, which by turning one’s back, and looking into the glass in a certain position, presented the alarming appearance of the waters falling upon our heads.

Having then rested, and feasted our eyes sufficiently, we thought of satisfying our appetite, which was acknowledged by all to be pretty keen. We only waited the arrival of the captain, who, to our surprise, was still absent. We knew he could not miss the way, as there was no other path; however he soon joined us, and explained the cause of his delay. Having staid behind to alter the stirrups of his saddle, and left the horse with the man who had charge of the gigs, he advanced alone up the path a considerable way, when he observed a snake coiled, and partly lying in the pathway. This induced him to retreat and make a noise, to fright it out of his way, but the reptile kept its station; having, however, determined to make a bold push to pass it, if possible, and procured a large branch of a tree, he prepared to strike it while it lay shooting out its forked tongue at every respiration, and coming pretty nigh, he with all his force aimed a blow, which struck it near the head, and repeating the strokes, he made it quite defenceless, and passed on to us. 

After our refreshment we returned, much gratified with the sight and scenery altogether. As we descended, we saw the snake writhing in agonies, being covered with ants, who were fastened upon it. One of the party soon put it out of its misery, and carried it on to town; we there found that it measured three feet nine inches, and was reckoned of the poisonous kind. There were a sort of leeches amongst the grass, which bit several of the gentlemen on the ancle above the show, and made the blood flow; but the bite was so small as not to be perceptible until the blood flowed from it.

We returned to George Town about four o’clock next morning; I was honoured by a visit from Lady Leith, with an invitation to dinner on the following day. She appeared about the age of twenty-five, with handsome features, but of a sickly appearance; she said that the settlement was scarcely tolerable, for want of society, and after chatting some time took her leave. In the afternoon, Mr. Baird remarked that there were two of the greatest beauties brought for sale from the Queda shore that ever were seen, and that if I would accompany him after the sun was low he would be happy to shew them, as they were at present placed within his grounds at the water-side. 

No duty as yet, he added, had been fixed upon for their importation. Accordingly we went towards the jetty, where two of the most horrid monsters that ever met the eye were seen, covered with mud. They were, in fact, two young alligators, with their mouths tied up, and rattans twisted round their legs: one was about ten or eleven feet long, and the other about nine, but so disfigured with mud that we could see nothing of the colour of their bodies; thick scales appeared near their tails, but we had no opportunity of examining them a second time, as they regained their liberty: it was supposed by some that they had rolled down, as their feet were so secured they could not use them.

The next day we waited upon Sir G. and Lady L. at dinner, accompanied by our host, who was also invited. I was rather surprised at not meeting any other ladies at the government house, but was afterwards informed that Lady L. had but recently arrived, and had not formed much intimacy as yet with the ladies of the settlement. To me it was on this account less a relief to be entertained on shore, and less a disappointment that the company soon broke up.

I have been unable to find the source of the two lines Eleanor Reid quoted when she was inspired by the sight of the waterfall (pictured at about the same time she was there). Maybe she was inspired enough to make them up -- or maybe her memory was faulty.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tate to return looted Constable maritime

The 1824 painting, entitled Beaching A Boat, Brighton, is understood to have been looted and smuggled out of war-time Hungary.
A committee of government-appointed experts said the Tate had "a moral obligation" to return the painting.
The artwork became part of the Tate's collection in 1986.
It was donated to the Tate by Mrs PM Rainsford.
The picture, which is believed to have been stolen in 1945, was first recorded in London in 1962.
It will be returned to the family of the original owner, who died in 1958.
The report said the unnamed man was "a well-known Hungarian artist and connoisseur from a Jewish background" and described how he fled the 1944 Nazi invasion and "went into hiding".
The Spoliation Advisory Panel said: "His properties were confiscated, and contemporary witness accounts noted German military trucks being loaded with effects from the castle and being driven away."
The claimants discovered two years ago that the painting by Constable had ended up in Tate's collection. The claim was formally submitted to the spoliation panel in April 2013.
The panel was critical of the Tate for failing to thoroughly investigate the painting's history, given "the possibility that the painting had been the object of spoliation".
"It would not have been difficult to have made enquires of the Hungarian government, [which] included the painting on its official [1998] list of looted art from the late 1940s," the report said.
It also suggested the gallery had not furnished the heirs with all the relevant information about the artwork.
The Tate said it was "grateful for the care with which the Panel has examined the evidence and is pleased to follow the conclusions of the Report."
It added: "Tate will therefore recommend to its Trustees, when they next meet in May, that the work be returned to the claimants."

Are you worried?

With thanks to Rob Bowie and Nancy Yerly

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lady Maria Nugent's eyes

On board East India Company ship Baring, en route to India, after a stopover at the Cape of Good Hope

As readers may remember, Lady Maria, wife of Lieut.-General Sir George Nugent, traveled from England to India in 1811, disembarking at Calcutta in January 1812.  According to the Arrivals column in the Bengal newspapers (found on "fibis," the British India Society database), there were 31 cabin passengers on the Baring, four of them ladies. And the captain's table was headed by Captain Templar, a shipmaster with an uncertain temper and a great deal of pride.

One of the females was Lady Maria herself.  Another was Lady Charlotte, wife of Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. McGregor Murray. The third was Ann, wife of Captain William Midwinter of the Bengal Army ... and the fourth was our very own heroine, Eleanor Reid, who was travelling to Calcutta with Captain Hugh Reid for the launching of his latest ship.  

Not, as you will see, that Lady Maria ever mentions her.  Back in those days, highborn officers of the army and navy looked down on those who were associated with trade, even those who were doing very well financially. But, apart from its testament to Georgian snobbery, this extract from Maria's journal is interesting because it gives an amusing little window into the social complexities of travel by sea at that time.

October 30, 1811. Some new arrangements at the dinner table, made on my account--the medical man at the Cape saying it was injurious to my eyes to sit opposite to the glare of the sun on the sails.

--A Captain Midwinter, of the Company's service, insisted upon keeping his seat, which would place him and his wife next to me and Sir George; and as this was Captain Templar's place, and Colonel and Lady Charlotte Murray next, Captain T. would not submit to it. There was, in consequence, much confusion, and it ended in Captain Midwinter retiring to his cabin, and ordering his and his wife's dinner to be sent to them there.

This was all very uncomfortable to us, but we were not to blame, nor had we it in our power to make either of the gentlemen reasonable. I would have given much to be allowed to dine in my cabin, or to have resumed my former situation [at the table], but this was not permitted. Captain M. sent me an apology, but abused Captain T., when, in fact, he behaved with the most violence of the two. it seems Captain M. is a West Indian, and suspected of being party-coloured, and these people are always very furious, in all their passions.

November 1st. Had an explanation with Captain T. on the subject of yesterday, and insisted on being allowed to dine in my own cabin.  Lady C. Murray begged to be with me, and so it was all settled, excepting that Captain M. was not permitted to resume his seat at the table, but was desired by Captain Templar to dine below, and this he did. 

So Ann Midwinter was banished to the steerage with her husband, and Lady Charlotte and Lady Maria ate their meals in Lady M's cabin.  This means that Eleanor Reid was the only woman left to grace Captain Templar's table -- but, being a most experienced seafarer by now, she undoubtedly handled the strange situation with her usual aplomb. But how one wishes that it was possible to read her description of the posturing and fuss!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Thing in our harbour

Wellington is currently experiencing a strange visitation

A Russian-owned superyacht resembling a stealth submarine has arrived in Wellington Harbour.
The harbour pilot met the superyacht named "A" about 6.40am on Sunday, CentrePort's marine services manager Captain Charles Smith said.
Named for the first initial of its owners, Andrey and Aleksandra Melnichenko, the yacht's provocative styling has been controversial.
The Russian chemicals magnate (reputedly worth $18 billion) is expected to re-join the vessel from Queenstown on Monday.
The yacht has requested to anchor in the harbour.
Built by in 2008, the 119m vessel is considered one of the finest yachts on the water.  It is also supposed to be built that way so that it can't be easily boarded by pirates.  Or irritated Ukrainians.
It can accommodate 14 guests in one owner's suite and six guest suites, according to It can also accommodate as many as 37 crew members.
The yacht is rumoured to have cost $US300 million ($NZ351.60 million).
And it hasn't even docked.  Instead, it is anchored in the stream, in the road of ferries and local yachties, and all other kinds of important stuff.  Do you reckon it might be lurking out there to save wharfage fees?  

Or perhaps sanctions against Russian travelers are at work.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mrs. R. and the privateer

The Friendship sails from Malacca, and Eleanor hears about an exciting encounter

On the 15th of August [1800] we sailed from Malacca with a fine breeze; no person on board had to regret touching here. The officers, seamen, and lascars, who were tired of the feathered tribe, sold their birds very well at this place; some fetched as high as ten and twelve dollars, each, particularly the luries [lories] from Gillolo. The lascars were then rich in money, as well as in many little comforts which the place so plentifully afforded. 

In the evening we reached Cape Ricardo [Rachado], where we were obliged to anchor and furl all the sails, in consequence of one of those storms of thunder, lightning, and rain, to which I before alluded as prevalent in these latitudes. There we remained all night and next day; passed through that dangerous channel which extends on both sides from the mount called Parcellar [Gunung Ledang], on the Malay side, and some small rocky islands on the Sumatra side, called the Arrowes [possibly some of the Riau Islands].  Before dark we were reckoned clear of all danger, and the following day saw upon our right the islands called the Sambelongs.  We were still, however, annoyed with heavy squalls, but were not, as before, under the necessity of anchoring, having, as the sailors expressed it, more sea room.

On the 17th we saw five sail of ships a-head; this number gave us more confidence than the sight of a single one would have done, and we therefore stood on towards them. One of these proved to be the [HEIC letter of marque] Arniston, Capt. [Campbell] Majoribanks, bound to China: our captain went on board, and learn from Mr. Jamieson [James Jameson, first mate] the particulars of the attack made on it by a privateer at Bencoolen. 

It appeared that the Armiston had just anchored, and the seamen were aloft furling sails; they had no suspicion of the strange ship that was approaching with American colours hoisted; but the privateer no sooner got within gun-shot, than she fired her broadside into the Indiaman. Not a moment was lost on the other side in getting the people down, when they slipped the cable and followed her; this was of little use, there was no equality between the sailing of the ships, and the privateer made off, no doubt finding herself mistaken in the superior force of the enemy, and the latter concluded that the privateer had taken them for a country ship, manned with lascars. 

Capt. Majoribanks said that he had landed a detachment of sepoys at Penang, and advised our putting in there, having no doubt but they would be sent to Calcutta with us, and besides a protection, they being all armed, the business would pay the owners of the ships very well.

In consequence of this information, it was determined upon to call at the above-mentioned place, it being also reported that the Bay of Bengal was infested with several privateers. The next day we came in sight of Prince of Wales’ Island, or Penang, and anchored in the harbour on the 20th of August, saluting Fort Cornwallis with nine guns, which number was returned. The ship had but just anchored, and the sails been secured with all possible expedition, when one of the Sumatra storms came on, with the most tremendous peals of thunder, lightning, and rain; but we were now so accustomed to these visitations, after a passage of thirteen weeks, and running upwards of eighty degrees of longitude within a short distance of the equator, that they had become little alarming to any on board.

After this, the captain landed, and repaired to the master attendant’s office, when he was accompanied by Mr. [John] Baird to the government-house, and was introduced to Sir George Leith, the commandant. The offer of the ship to take on the troops to Calcutta was accepted, provided the ship could stay four or five days, to enable them to prepare provisions, water, &c. It was mentioned that there was water enough on board for double the number of men to be conveyed to Calcutta; however, they thought proper to detain us, saying, that as the troops were Hindoos they must fill their own water.

Mr. Baird, the master attendant, came on board, and very politely offered us apartments at his house during our stay, which were accepted, and I landed next morning, determined to make good use of my time while we remained. I was anxious to see all that was worth notice at this second Botany Bay, as it was termed by our host, Mr. B., who had much satire in his disposition and conversation, although in every respect a worthy and honourable character, and had commanded an Indiaman in the service of the Company many years previous to his appointment to this island.

Captain John Baird had commanded more than one East Indiaman:  first, he was captain of the Rochford, 1773, 1775-76, and 1777-79; then he took over the Locho for  two voyages, 1785-86, 1787-88.  He was also, as Mrs. R. was to find out, an affable and amusing host.

The Big, Big, Biggest Bestsellers

Since 2001, that is. And you have to take it into account that James Patterson is a book-production machine, not a Real Person.  But look at the money they have made -- even if it is just 10% of the earnings ....

 1: James Patterson (1st to Die)
• 2: JK Rowling (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
• 3: Nora Roberts (Red Lily)
• 4: Dr Seuss (Oh, the Places You'll Go!)
• 5 John Grisham (A Painted House)
• 6: Stephenie Meyer (Twilight)
• 7: Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code)
• 8: Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook)
• 9: Janet Evanovich (One for the Money)
• 10: Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
• 1 JK Rowling – £209,722,338
• 2 Julia Donaldson – £84,236,523
• 3 Dan Brown – £89,430,433
• 4 Jacqueline Wilson – £81,944,149
• 5 Roger Hargreaves – £30,746,661
• 6 James Patterson £86,534,077
• 7 EL James – £48,787,532
• 8 Jamie Oliver – £131,031,085
• 9 John Grisham – £71,111,424
• 10 Terry Pratchett – £79,091,038
• 11 Stephenie Meyer – £57,488,542
• 12 Daisy Meadows – £33,333,081
• 13 Enid Blyton – £38,525,177
• 14 Francesca Simon – £42,459,107
• 15 Danielle Steel – £50,268,720
• 16 Martina Cole – £54,414,431
• 17 Roald Dahl – £42,987,766
• 18 Alexander McCall Smith – £48,535,939
• 19 Lee Child – £44,312,245
• 20 Ian Rankin – £48,171,091
UK figures courtesy of
With thanks to Dale Williams

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lady Maria Nugent crosses the line

Lady Maria, the wife of Lieutenant-General Sir George Nugent, sailed to India on the East Indiaman Baring in 1811. No hardy traveler, she spent most of the voyage praying in her cabin. However, she did venture out on deck to watch the festivities as the ship crossed the line on 16 September -- maybe because she had no choice -- and this is what she wrote about it.

The ceremonies customary on passing the line took place about 9 o'clock this morning, and lasted till 10, and that I am sure was long enough; as in many respects it is a cruel sort of business.  To keep clear of scrapes, it was first agreed, that the soldiers and cadets should be exempt from the ordeal, on paying a dollar each to the crew. -- at 9 A.M. everything being ready, the ship was hailed from the forecastle (as if from the sea) by Neptune, and answered by Captain Templar. Neptune asked what ship it was, and said he wished to come on board. -- Orders were accordingly given to hoist in his car and attendants, and they all immediately came on deck, Neptune and Amphitrite, with their son, in a car drawn by six sea horses, and driven by a sea god. -- Several sea gods were in attendance, as well as the barber and his mate, with a long pole, and instruments for shaving; there were two large tubs near the gangway, filled with salt water, to which Neptune and his people proceeded. Some of the attendants were then ordered to bring every seaman in his turn, who had not crossed the equinoxial line before -- they were taken to the tub blindfolded, and seated there, when the barber and his mate rubbed their faces with tar, asking them at the same time some questions -- the instant they opened their mouths to answer, the mate stuffed a large lump of tar into it, and the barber began shaving them with something that looked like a small saw; then, while the poor man was attentive to these proceedings, he was suddenly ducked, over head and ears, in the tub, and escaping from that, and running towards the forecastle, he was half drowned by buckets of water, thrown by those of the crew who had passed the line before, and were stationed for that purpose to waylay him. All the poor midshipmen underwent this watery trial, and it was astonishing to see how much the soldiers, sailors, &c., seemed to enjoy the fun; but I could not help thinking of the frogs in the fable. Captain Templar, however, very properly forbid an cruelty or severe ill treatment, as is sometimes the case if the men are not restricted; for the sailors have been known to revenge themselves upon the officers, &c., that they disliked, by shaving the skin off their faces, &c. No accident, however, happened on board the Baring, and the day ended in perfect good humour on all sides. The soldiers and sailors continued to amuse themselves till sunset, with dancing and leaping about, &c., after which they assembled near the lee gangway, and sung songs till the hammocks were piped down. -- There was a young sailor, and a serjeant, in particular, who sung really extremely well, and some very pathetic songs, and a Frenchman who sung about his chaumière.

The fable about the frogs is presumably Aesop's parable about the frogs who asked for a king.  Jove, as a joke, dropped a log into their pond, and for a while they were perfectly happy with King Log.  Then one frog who was more daring than the rest jumped upon the log and danced up and down.  Seeing the trick, the frogs demanded a proper king, so Jove, becoming irritated, sent them a stork, which ate them up one by one.

A chaumière is a cottage.

Foreword finalists

I was delighted to learn that two of the members of the facebook group ALL THINGS NAUTICAL feature in the list of finalists for the Foreword Best Independent Book of the Year Award

One is SAM LOW's Hawaiki Rising, and the other is LINDA COLLISON's Looking for Red Feather

Foreword’s 2013 Book of the Year Award Finalists Announced


TRAVERSE CITY, MI, March 13, 2014 — Foreword Reviews, the only review magazine solely dedicated to discovering new indie books, announced the finalists for its 16th Annual Book of the Year Awards today. Each year, Foreword shines a light on a small group of indie authors and publishers whose groundbreaking work stands out from the crowd. Foreword’s awards are more than just a shiny sticker on the front of a book; they help connect the best indie books to readers eager to discover new stories written by previously unknown authors.
In the next two months, a panel of over 100 librarians and booksellers will determine the winners of these prestigious awards. A celebration of the winners will take place during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas on Friday, June 27 at 6 p.m. with awards in over 60 categories, cash prizes for the best in fiction and nonfiction, and widespread recognition.
Ready to read the best indie books of the year? Here is the complete list of Foreword Reviews’ 2013 Book of the Year Award Finalists.

Librarian honored

Luis Herrera, Director San Francisco Public Library, Receives 2014 Sullivan Award

31914luisherrara Luis Herrera, Director San Francisco Public Library, Receives 2014 Sullivan AwardThe American Library Association (ALA) has announced that the 2014 Peggy Sullivan Award for Public Library Administrators Supporting Services to Children has been awarded to Luis Herrera, San Francisco Public Library’s city librarian. The Sullivan Award is presented annually to an individual in a library administrator role who has shown exceptional understanding and support of public library service to children. The award will be presented at the ALA President’s Program, Sunday, June 29 at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas.
As the jury chair, I can attest to the vigor of Herrera’s accomplishments throughout his career, and the entire committee I worked with was equally impressed. Kathleen Reif, last year’s Sullivan Award winner and 2014 jury member, noted Herrera’s wide ranging impact on children’s services, from his leadership in the Every Child Ready to Read initiative to the recent procurement of IMLS funding for a Teen Digital Media Center at San Francisco Public Library.
The deadline for submission of applications for the 2015 Sullivan Award for Public Library Administrators Supporting Services to Children is Dec. 1, 2014. Guidelines and applications are available on the ALA website.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Captain Reid's bulldog

[August 1800] The commandant accompanied my husband off to the ship this afternoon; and amongst other things, very much admired a fine bull-dog we had on board, the very sight of which struck terror into the Malays; but he was docile and harmless, unless very much provoked. 

I cannot help travelling back to Ireland for a short account of this faithful creature’s adventures. He had belonged to an industrious blacksmith, who used to do jobs for the ship at the passage of Waterford; the owner had a garden that was not too well defended against depredators, in consequence of which a neighbour’s cow entered, and was feasting away upon the cabbages. The blacksmith’s son, a boy about fourteen years of age, seeing this, called the dog, who instantly seized her by the nose, and pinned the poor cow down, bellowing out so loud ass to arouse all the neighbours, and amongst the rest her master. The dog was soon loosened from his hold, but left the blood streaming from the cow’s mouth, the owner of which said the dog should not live; but the blacksmith, well knowing the threat would be put in execution, getting my husband (who happened to be present) to take the dog on board the ship, and save his life.

This was complied with, and a guinea given to his master, who shed tears, as well as his son, at parting with the animal; the dog, however, very soon became attached to the captain, who called him Friends, and was the same he now presented to Col. Taylor. The latter, highly pleased with the gift, declared that he need fear no mad Malay whilst Friends should be with him. The poor animal had been so long on ship board, that when he landed he seemed beside himself; he could not pass a bush without running round and about it several times; rolling on the grass was a great luxury to him: but on the way from the boat to the castle no Malay approached near; they all kept at a respectful distance, some were even running into their houses and shutting the doors.

These people have a most disgusting custom of chewing the beetle-nut with the chunam, which is a kind of paste prepared like lime from shells; and the better sort keep a slave in constant attendance, with a box, for this purpose. Their teeth are as black as jet, and their mouths and lips as if dyed with a deep red, in consequence of this filthy propensity. They are idle, and very treacherous in their dealings. The Chinese are the only industrious people here; a China-man is, indeed, generally a jack of all trades, and the colonel has several of them in his service as domestics, who act as cooks, gardeners, painters, show-makers, and carpenters, all in turn. I was shewn a book of drawings, in which most of the fruits and shrubs of this place were coloured in the most correct and beautiful manner, by a China-man who was then at work in the garden. I think no person of the least observation could mistake a Malay for a China-man, let them dress as they will; and although they appear to have originally sprung from the same stock, they have the same flat cast of countenance, and the larger lineaments are closely similar, the Chinese having at the same time fairer complexions and smaller eyes than the Malays.

Some of the gentlemen riding out one morning, attended by the dog “Friends,” were in a dangerous predicament, passing a large pool or tank of stagnated water, where several buffaloes were cooling themselves, with their heads just above the surface. At sight of the dog, they instantly rose, and pursued the party, leaving poor Friends to bring up the rear, who was reluctantly obliged to obey his master, and retreat also. These creatures are just like swine in the mire, their backs being covered with wet mud, from rolling in the dirty water, which is gratifying to them whenever they can indulge in such a luxury, but no doubt serves also to keep the stinging flies from biting them. They have no hair, only a few bristles on their skins, like those of a pig, but more thinly scattered over the surface of the body; they have a twisted rattan passed through the nostrils, in the shape of a ring, by which they are led when at work. When in a wild state, it is said that no animal, not even the tiger, will attack the buffalo, or if he do, is sure to give up the encounter first. There are numbers of tigers as well as crocodiles at this place, together with very large and venomous snakes, of which many stories were related by the inhabitants.

After spending five most pleasant days with our very kind and hospitable friends, we prepared to go on board, and parted with regret on both sides from several Dutch families, who visited at the castle while we were there, from Col. Taylor and his amiable partner, of whom all agreed in speaking in terms of the highest commendation.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mrs. R. in Malacca, continued

[August 1800] There was a small party engaged to dine at the castle that evening, where for the first time I saw and wondered at the eastern manners and style of living. The suite of apartments were lofty and spacious, and the table was covered with a profusion of delicate viands; after which, the finest fruits were served, the different names and properties of which were painted out by our kind entertainer. 

Amongst these the mangosteen is, I think, without exception, the most delicious and finest flavoured fruit I ever tasted; it is about he size of an apple; the part to be eaten is enclosed in a thick dark brown rind, and when opened, it shews five or six white jelly-like fibres, resembling the small quarters of an orange. The pine-apples were very large, and well flavoured; we had also mangoes and guavas, with the custard-apple; the latter, about the size of a large orange, with a rough grey coat outside; when ripe it appears to burst the skin, and exhibits a thick cream-coloured substance. It is eaten with a tea-spoon, and the hard black seeds, which it is mixed with, rejected. 

Many persons are extremely partial to this fruit, but I must confess it was no favourite of mine; we also had several kinds of oranges and lichees, originally transplanted from China. The latter is a very delicious fruit, a kind of pulp covered over a hard kernel, and a rough coast formed an exterior covering to the whole, about the size of a walnut. We also had the pumblenose [pomelo], or, as they are called in the West-Indies, chaddock; they are a fine cooling fruit, about the size of a cocoa-nut, and resemble the orange in colour: a still greater variety of others, the names of which I have forgotten.

After dinner the gentlemen joined the ladies at tea in the drawing-room; cards were then introduced, and the evening passed away most pleasantly. My long absence from female society acted as a charm upon my spirits, and made me meet it with a double relish. I was informed at parting with Mrs. T[aylor]. that a horse would be ready for my husband at daylight next morning, and that the colonel would drive me out in his curricle, to see the place before the sun rose too high, as it was only early in the morning that this could be accomplished. I thanked my polite hostess for her information and next morning was ready to attend.

We had a most delightful drive round the environs of the town. Passing the Chinese burial ground, and through the street where these people reside, I was surprised to observe a long chest, finely carved and ornamented, at each door of the Chinese houses. These the colonel told me were their coffins, and that as soon as a China-man saved money enough he then procured a coffin for himself, and generally slept upon the lid. He also informed me that a poor fellow had been lately murdered, while thus asleep upon his coffin, by a mad Malay, who had ran a-much, or, in other words, had lost all his money and other property by gambling, and then given himself up in despair.

The Malays on such occasions often indulge in in an intoxicating drug called bang, mixed with opium, and the operation of which causes raging madness. In this state they determine to stab, with their kresse or dagger (a weapon no Malay is without) every living creature that falls in their way, after first having sacrificed, if possible, the person who had gained their property. The old invented story, however, about the upas-tree being possessed of a gum of a deadly poisonous nature, is nothing else than a scarecrow to keep European nations from smelling out the Dutch spices. It is well known that no grass will grow under the clove-tree, but the Malay kresse may be poisoned in various ways independently of this fictitious gum, the colonel told me that such scenes frequently occurred in the interior of the country; and when known to take place, a high price was offered to the first man who could dispatch the demon, for in this light they certainly deserve to be viewed; but we cannot marvel much at such atrocities taking place amongst these savage people, when, alas! but too many such instances occur amongst our own countrymen, after bad fortune at the gambling-table. There is but little difference (in my humble opinion) between him who shoots his friend in a duel, and afterwards destroys himself, and the mad Malay who runs a-muck, and always ends in self-destruction, if not overtaken.

Before we returned to the castle, the sun became so very warm as to render the shade not a little grateful. We breakfasted at a pleasant retreat on a hill within the boundary of the fort, and from whence we had a fine extensive view of the surrounding country; we commanded also a view of the shipping in the roads, and the lofty mountains on the island of Sumatra. Notwithstanding the proximity to the equator, being in lat. about two deg. north, the verdure and foliage are ever green. 

Near the mount is an old church, which was built by the Portuguese upwards of two centuries ago, and might still be preserved at a small expense. Perhaps, however, the settlement may be given back to our Dutch friends, should a peace take place; in which case they should advance the needful for this purpose, but at present there is really danger, in walking across the slab floor, of the vaults underneath giving way. On these stones are many memorials of Europeans, formerly resident, and whose remains are interred here.

After breakfast we again descended to the castle, but on the way were detained to look at a reservoir of water, which contained many gold and silver fish, which eat from the hand. I felt much indebted to Mrs. T. who took great pains to let me see every thing worth notice within the fort. It will be a matter of regret should they ever demolish the strong walls of this secure retreat; it was frequently, however, the subject of conversation, that orders were expected from home to blow up the works.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Eleanor Reid in Malacca, 1800

On the 6th of August [1800], in the evening, we came to a place called Saint John’s Island, where we anchored for the night. On the next morning a Malay boat came alongside, with three fine turtles, and a quantity of fish fresh caught, as well as some which had been dried in the sun. The captain purchased all they had with dollars, for the persons in the boat would take nothing else in regular barter. The turtle might weigh about two hundred to two hundred and fifty pounds each, and the three cost only five dollars and some spirits, the latter of which they seemed to prize highly.

We now left the straits of Singapore and entered the straits of Malacca, having the great Island of Sumatra on the left, and the very southernmost extremity of the continent of Asia, called the Peninsula of Malacca, on our right. Our only interruption, on passing these straits in the day, arose from very hard squalls, with much rain, thunder and lightning. These squalls generally lasted about an hour.  We always anchored and furled the sails when the squall was approaching, and enjoyed a most agreeable change after it had ceased, as the thermometer would fall from ninety to eighty and seventy-five degrees. I may here remark, that notwithstanding the difference of climate we had hitherto experienced, our seamen were all healthy, a circumstance perhaps which may be chiefly attributed to the large supply of fine pigs we got at Norfolk Island. This enabled them to have a fresh meal three times per week, and they were constantly at full allowance of water.

In the afternoon of the 9th, we had again the satisfaction of beholding a place where civilized inhabitants of our country lived; this was the fort of Malacca, which, with the city, had a very fine appearance as the ship entered the roads. We found lying here the ship Commerce, Capt. Lane, who with his purser, Mr. Edward Brightman, a young man of colour, came on board as soon as the ship anchored; he made many inquiries as to where we had procured the spices, &c. These questions the captain did not think proper to answer; but the purser, Mr. Brightman, who understood the language of our lascars, was more successful, as they told him all they knew, and his ship was employed in the Malay trade.

The next morning the captain went on shore, to wait upon Col. Aldwell Taylor, the commandant at this place, who no sooner understood that I was on board, than he came off to invited me on shore. He would take no denial, and informed me that Mrs. Taylor had apartments at the castle quite at my service. There was here no alternative; I soon packed up a few necessaries, and accompanied my husband and the colonel on shore. On landing I could make no immediate observations, being hurried into a palanquin, and shut up to avoid the heat of the sun. This mode of conveyance was indeed a great novelty to me, being the first of the kind I had seen; however, I was not so closely shut up as to preclude me from observing the shops and houses as we passed. They mostly appeared built of wood, having three, and some four stories, and reminded me of the Dutch houses at the Cape, the windows and doors being painted green, and having a similar external appearance. In the shops were plenty of sugar-canes, and all kinds of tropical fruits.

We soon approached, however, and entered the castle-gates, where I was received by Mrs. Taylor in the most polite and friendly way; her pleasing manners, affability, and ease, very soon convinced me I was welcome. There was another lady with her, a Mrs. Butler, a distant relation, whose husband was a merchant, and formerly commanded a ship in the country trade.

The photographs of Malacca were taken by Ron in 1979.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mrs. R. sails through the Spice Islands

On the morning of the 18th July [1800] we left Osso, and proceeded on our voyage, passing between an island called Pulo Moor [Muor Island] and Polut Potanny [Batek Island]. Next day we saw the island Oby Major [Obi Island], and sailed between that and Pulo Gassas [Gag Island]; then were observed the islands of Ceram [Seram] and Booros [Buru], which we passed upon our left Amboyna [Ambon] is situated a little to the south of these islands, but being out of our track we did not see it.

On the 25th we saw the island of Bootan [Butung]; at which place, when my husband was there in the Cornwallis, and in charge of a watering party, they would have been murdered, had not the treacherous design been discovered by one of the seamen, who understood the Malay language, he overhearing a conference between the Malays, who were all armed, and very numerous. He learnt that their first proposition was to massacre the boat’s crew, and then attack the ship. But this was overruled by a chief, who observed, that if they could the next day entice the boat’s crew to come again for water, that the ship’s company would be more off their guard, and more easily overpowered. A Malay, who spoke a little Dutch, enquired, in pursuit of this scheme, if the ship wanted any more water: it was answered that there was very little on board, and it would take three days to complete the watering. This reply induced them to allow the boat to proceed on board, not suspecting that their evil intentions were known. On the boat’s return, the unpleasant discovery was communicated to the captain: the Malays were then instantly ordered out of the ship; and no time was lost in leaving a place where so much danger was to be apprehended. There were upwards of twenty war proas counted in the river, mounting from four to six guns, and capable of containing from thirty to forty men in each. Fortunately for the Cornwallis’s people, it was low water when she sailed, and most of the proas were aground.

Reid's log of the Marquis Cornwallis at Butung SLNSW

Leaving Bootan on our right, we passed through the Straits of Saylair [Flores Strait], and next day saw a most dangerous shoal, called the Brill, upon which part of the wreck of a ship was visible, with three large pirate proas at anchor to leeward of it. The ship’s head being turned towards them, they doubtless thought we were coming to reconnoitre: they instantly got under weigh, set their sails, and made off as fast as possible; after which we altered our course, and stood on, so as to clear the shoal. It being very fine weather, we passed within a few miles of the Brill; it appeared like a large white patch in the midst of the blue water, the white coral shewing the danger under the surface. The Friendship did not delay her progress by sending a boat to examine the wreck, as only some of the ribs or timbers were seen above water. At this time the high land of the island Celebes was in sight.

From July 27 until August 3, was occupied in passing through the dangerous Java Sea: and during this time we had seen the great island of Borneo on our right, of which the animal nearest in likeness to the human species is a native, namely, the Orn-Outang [orang-utan], or man of the woods, according to the Malay language. There are also great quantities of gold dust procured at Borneo; but all ships trading with the inhabitants must be continually on the watch, and well armed, as one chief who barters the gold may employ another to way-lay the European party, and these, if overpowered, are sure to be murdered; too many instances of this have occurred to vessels trading amongst the Malays.

We had now reached the east entrance of Singapore Straits. On the 4th we were gratified by the sight of a ship coming out of them as we were entering; she proved to be the Lowjee Family, from Bombay, bound to China, with a cotton cargo. They informed us that many privateers were in the India Seas, and that some had been seen in the Straits; that the Arniston, Indiaman, had nearly been taken by one off Bencoolen. This information made our captain prepare for a defence, and put on as formidable an appearance as possible. The ship had but twelve guns mounted, but ports below for twenty-four: the vacant ports were filled with what the sailors called quakers, namely, wooden guns painted, which made her show at a distance as if she had upwards of thirty guns mounted.

It was very pleasant sailing through these Straits, having the land very near us both sides of us, covered with wood to the water’s edge.

Mrs.R.'s "Pulo" is from the Malay, "pulau," island.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mrs. R. learns more about her husband's past

...that Hugh Reid, as a young lieutenant, was a privateer ... though the Dutch would have called him a pirate

[July 1800, at anchor at Galilo] It very much surprised the mates to find our captain so well known at this apparently wild place. 

But nothing will remain to excite wonder, when it is known that he assisted in reinstating the Sultan, just mentioned, as Chief of Tidore, an eminence which was his by birthright; but he had formerly been displaced by the Dutch, and a price put upon his head, in consequence of his having supplied an English ship with provisions, &c. To revert to the origin of that transaction: in 1776 [1796], our captain received a lieutenant’s commission, signed by Sir John Shore, and the other members of council at Calcutta, to act against the Dutch. The establishment he then belonged to fitted out several armed vessels, as well for trade as war; and the officers directing this force acted amongst these islands and people near two years, assisted by a number of war-proas well armed: they drove the Dutch from Tidore, and attacked Ternate three successive times, where a number of men were killed and wounded on both sides.

The Dutch at this time were almost starved out, and otherwise to harassed, that had any of our king’s ships been present, these lords of the eastern seas would most gladly have delivered up the island; but they thought, and justly too, that the influence of the private ships were not sufficient to keep the hostile Malays in check. Some of the Dutch governors in these settlements exercise great cruelty and tyranny over these people, particularly if the natives be detected in trafficking with the English, the Batavian authorities having the power of life and death vested in themselves without any appeal. But, thank God, this abuse of sovereignty cannot be erected in any of our settlements with impunity.

Twan-Allie [Tuan Hadjee] stated that the Sultan was very happy now at Tidore, and had not for some time been attacked from Ternate, the Dutch having no disposable force; but as he was upwards of seventy years of age, it was thought that his youngest brother, Rajah Mooda, from the island of Ceram, would be called to the government of Tidore.

Our friend, Twan-Allie, continued on board all the time we remained here; notwithstanding his apparent strictness in keeping the institutes of the koran, he partook of our wine, and the common fare of the table, ham and pork excepted. He was too high a personage to trade, but made presents in hopes of a double return. This is the custom with the Sultan and all his chief men in these parts. However, I must not say too much on this score, as I came off pretty well.

He admired a topaz broach which I had; this was presented to him; in return he gave me three beautiful birds of paradise, two cockatoos, and two handsome luries [lories]; he was pleased with the exchange, and so was I. We also received from this person about two ounces of seed pearls, and some fine tortoise-shell, in the rough state; for all which he got more than an equivalent. The Malays had also plenty of the edible bird’s-nests, which are so much in demand amongst the Chinese, for making a luxurious soup: but as all our little merchandize was exhausted, we could purchase no more of their commodities.

The ship’s rudder being now put to rights, preparations were made for our departure. The ship at this place was filled with parrots, cockatoos, and luries, belonging to the seamen and lascars; many of them equal in beauty to our Botany Bay birds, but not so hardy.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Cunard stunt that worked

Captain Kevin Oprey displays nerves of steel as he stands on the bulbous nose of his ship, Queen Mary.

Captain Kevin Oprey stands beneath the soaring hull of the Queen Mary 2 during a round-the-world voyage in its tenth anniversary year.
Two safety craft stood by during the shoot off Bali, Indonesia, but the 61-year-old remained sure-footed on the bulbous bow of the ship throughout.
The Cunard liner is 72m (236ft) high from keel to funnel – one-and-a-half times the height of Nelson’s column.
‘I’ve always tried to take pictures that capture the public imagination,’ photographer James Morgan told Yahoo!7 News.
And he certainly succeeded -- the item has been reproduced by just about every news magazine going.  But one has to admire the captain's grit and courage.

Not only is he brave (or foolhardy), but he is a good sport, as witness this interview HERE

To my surprise and amusement, what should come gliding into Wellington this morning, but the Queen Mary herself, presumably complete with Captain Oprey.

Luckily, it is a beautiful day.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

At anchor in western New Britain

Mrs. R. continues her journey on the Friendship through exotic islands and shores.

[July 1800]The land hereabout was clothed with verdure to the water’s edge. We had no communication with the shore that evening, but during the night were serenaded with many different and harmonious notes of the feathered tribe, as well as with the mixed under tones of many humming insects; the ship lying so near the shore, and the night being still, the least noise could be heard amongst the trees. 

Next morning a proa came alongside, with a chief and six paddlers. When he came on board, he immediately recognized the captain, and was most happy to see him, saying, everything in his power should be done to assist in getting the ship watered, &c. This person was an Imaum, or Mahometan priest: he might be about forty-five years of age; had a commanding countenance, which with his long white beard gave him a respectable appearance. He ordered some very fine pine-apples and plantains to be brought from the proa, with sago-bread, in the shape of little square cakes. The latter were not much relished, being of a dry nature; but the pine-apples were a great treat, having a most delicious flavour. 

In the afternoon two large armed proas were seen coming into the harbour; but kept at a distance until we shewed English colours. When they directly entered, and came close to our ship. They were from Papua, or New Guinea.  The chief men were Malays, but the others resembled the negroes, except that the air or wool on the head was frizzled out like a large black wig, twice the size of the head; and a most ferocious look they had.

These boats carried swivels, mounted behind a barricade, with loop-holes to fire through. They were trading vessels, but it was said they would plunder if a chance offered. We got some nutmegs, mace, and beautiful birds of paradise from them, in exchange for crockery, hatchets, and cloth; they very much wanted gunpowder, but that demand was not complied with.  They had been at first afraid we were Dutch, which made them hesitate entering the harbour, until they saw our colours; observing, as they told us this, that the Dutch were their greatest enemies. The people on shore were glad when the proa went away, saying, if we had not been there they should have been plundered by them.

I had often heard that the birds of paradise lived in the air, and could not approach the earth without certain death; that they had no feet, nor any terrestrial habits. However, those we procured from these people had not only feet, but claws like a parrot. The Malays informed us that these animals come to Papua at certain seasons, like birds of passage, and are snared. We had three different kinds, the straw-coloured, the yellow, and the crimson; the latter are by far the handsomest; these are called the rajah or king birds: our specimens measured about nine inches in length, the body not thicker than a goldfinch, and the plumage of a most beautiful crimson, scarlet, and green colour. They had two quills projecting about seven inches from the tail; these quills appeared as if stripped of the feathers, until at the extreme end, which was curled up about the size of a small daisy, tinged with the most delicate colours imaginable. The yellow birds, although beautiful, were very inferior to the rajahs.

The nutmeg is very plentiful here, notwithstanding what is said to the contrary; the natives brought us the fruit upon branches, in all its stages, from the size of an olive to that of a peach upon the twig. The nut, when bursting the pulp or rind, and shewing the bright red mace over the shell, is exceedingly beautiful. I procured plenty in this state, and had them preserved in clarified syrup of sugar. The captain did not go into the woods this time, but I have heard him say that when here formerly as an officer, within an hour’s walk from the shore he has counted upwards of an hundred trees bearing fruit.

There were several large proas, or corra-corras, which arrived from several parts of the same island to trade while we remained; they had plenty of spices, which they readily exchanged with us for cloth, &c.; but were particularly fond of some Scotch plaid. If we had had plenty of the same commodity on board, it would have turned to good account; indeed, the captain bartered all the merchanize he had for spices; and my small wardrobe of old apparel came in for a share. We found the Malays at this place very honest and fair dealing people. We were supplied with plenty of fruit, fish, and turtle, while we staid. They were afraid to take their trade to Amboyna, on account of pirate proas which infested those seas; and if any ship were so unfortunate as to get on shore, it was sure to be plundered, and the crew murdered by those vultures. This was the case with a ship under Danish colours, going through Dampier’s Straits to China, the year before.

One night we were alarmed by the firing of two muskets from the forecastle of our ship; two proas were observed approaching, beating upon an instrument, and singing what was thought to be a war-song; notwithstanding they were challenged from the ship, they still advanced. Immediately on the muskets being fired, the captain went upon deck, and as he understood the Malays pretty well, soon found they were friends, and invited them alongside; when three chiefs came on board, and sent the proas away from the ship; one of them was an old friend of the captain’s, named Twan-Allie. His master, Sultan Newkoo, of Tidore, had dispatched him to collect tribute at the different ports of Messa, Weda, and Osso, which was paid in spices. 

It was very soon understood that he wanted some presents for his master, as also for himself. Captain R. gave him, in the presence of the other chiefs, a handsome pair of pistols, a sword, and a dirk, with four cannisters of gunpowder for the Sultan. They wished the ship to go to Tidore, saying, that the Sultan had plenty of cloves and other spices, which she wished to part with. This, however, was out of the question, as we were not prepared for traffic.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Eleanor Reid reaches Indonesia

[June 17, 1800]  As the Walker was about a mile astern of us, we were much surprised to hear firing of musketry from her, and to see the canoes leaving her in all directions. We did not learn the cause of this until next day, when it was reported that a crow-bar had been taken from one of the party, with which a canoe made off rapidly towards the shore. It was to bring the plunderers back that several muskets were fired at them; and, I am afraid, from what the surgeon said, that several were wounded, if not killed, in the canoe. 

We were extremely sorry to learn this, as it might be detrimental to other navigators passing this way. It had been much better to leave good impressions with these friendly islanders, who did not retaliate hostilities upon the Walker’s people. Having a favourable breeze during the night, next morning we were out of sight of land.

The captain wishes to keep as near the old track as possible, as the least deviation in the night exposed the ships to danger. He also drew the line on Capt. Nicholl’s charts, in case of separation; but as the Walker sailed much better than our ship, it was always in their power to keep company if they wished.

In our progress to the west, being so near the equator, we suffered much from excessive heat, particularly in the night, when we had little wind: the thermometer sometimes stood at ninety-five and one hundred. We had, however, plenty of water, the casks for the use of the prisoners on the passage out being furnished by the owners, were kept on board, when the other stores were returned at Sydney.

We saw islands and land to the south of us every day, from the 19th June until arriving off the New Guinea Cape. On the 24th we had much rain, with heavy squalls, accompanied with thunder and lightning. At day-light next morning, the Walker was not to be seen from our mast-head; it as supposed she had tacked in the night, to avoid a small low island, which our ship passed just at dusk.

In this track we passed many large trees and drifts: one tree which appeared very straight, was taken on board; but when the root had been sawed off, it was found very soft and full of worms; besides the smell was so offensive, that it was again thrown overboard. A species of cormorant were commonly perched upon these trees; which, when seen at a distance, made us at first imagine them to be canoes with people. Five or six of these birds were seen together upon one tree; they would fly away as soon as our boat approached; no doubt they were attracted by the fish that hovered about the wood.

We had the coast of New Guinea daily in sight on our left, but at too great a distance to make any observations; it appeared in many places very mountainous. On the 29th we passed the islands named, after their discover, Schouting’s Islands [Schouten Islands, named after Willem Schouten, now part of Indonesia as Kepulauan Biak]; they lie off the coast, and have many low, dangerous coral reefs about them, which had been observed, with the advantage of a nearer view, by our captain, when previously in the Cornwallis.

On the morning of the 1st July we were again joined by the Walker, who had tacked, as before supposed. Captain Nicholl and his officers now delivered their letters to us, to forward by the first opportunity for England. He intended to separate from us that evening, and proceed to Dory Harbour; the high land of which was in sight; we accordingly parted, with mutual good wishes for the safety and prosperity of each other.  

Two days after this, having favourable winds, we came in sight of the Cape of Good Hope [Cape Yamarsba], the south-western extremity of New Guinea.

As something was amiss with the ship’s rudder, which could not be rectified at sea, it was judged proper to put into some place for that purpose, and at the same time to fill the empty casks with fresh water to stiffen the ship, for old sailors say, that casks once filled with salt water never become sweet again. For this object the captain steered to make a port upon the island Golilo, which was well known to him formerly. In our way thither, we passed Dampier’s Straits, having the coast of New Guinea (or Papua) on our left, and the island of Waggiou on our right; passing several islands whose names were not known. We then came in sight of Galilo, and in the evening anchored in a harbour called Osso.