On This Day: 17 October 1707

On this day in 1707, Captain Joseph Tolson wrote to Thomas Bowrey from Dunkirk Hospital. He had started his letter four days earlier but missed the post. He had to explain this delay because he was on the defensive.

Tolson was master of the Mary Galley and had recently returned from a trading voyage to the East Indies heavily loaded with a valuable cargo. Having been separated from a Dutch convoy, the galley had engaged in a fight with two French privateers. Tolson had evaded capture by them but was severely injured in his leg. The galley has then been taken by two more privateers having mistaken them for friendly men-of-war off Jutland.

To add to Tolson’s misfortunes, Bowrey considered him to be at fault especially as the invoices for the cargo was destroyed by the privateers. Bowrey was demanding an affidavit from Tolson swearing his detailed account of what had gone wrong. Although Tolson had made arrangements to swear his affidavit before a judge, he sets out a little of his story in this letter complaining that the galley’s small Armes were as useless as a Bartholome fair Bow and Arrow – a reference to the toys sold at the notorious fair held in London on St Bartholomew’s Day. He further complained that the Great Gunns Bowrey had supplied for the galley Jumpt out of the Carriages att first firing.

Despite this, they got away and headed for a safe harbour in Norway before being captured through trickery. Tolson had more to say once he got back to England but he was clearly much aggrieved not only by Bowrey’s attitude over the capture of the galley but about the whole ill-conceived voyage.

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