On This Day: 21 February 1701/2

On this day in 1702, the ill-fated ship Worcester was moored in the Downs being prepared for her voyage to the East Indies. John Madder, the first mate, wrote from on board to Thomas Bowrey, the principal freighter. The letter, itself, was not of any great interest but its very existence points to the tensions building up around the ship.

Merchant ships, at the time, carried a Captain (usually described as the Commander) and a Supercargo. For this voyage, Captain Thomas Green and Robert Callant. The Captain was responsible for the navigation of the ship and the management of the crew but the Supercargo, responsible for the trade, had the ultimate say over where the ship went and for how long. He was acting on behalf of the freighters.

Bowrey, never comfortable relinquishing control, appeared particularly uncomfortable at this time. This was probably because his ventures since returning from the East Indies more than a decade earlier had not gone well. Green was not helping by seeming reluctant to communicate. He probably just wanted to get on with his job. Bowrey addressed this in two ways. He arranged for a passenger to be carried who would act as a second Supercargo and set up a secret correspondence with the chief mate.

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