On This Day: 3 January 1703

On this day in 1703, Thomas Bowrey took the opportunity of the imminent departure of a Man-of-War for St Helena to write a quick letter to Robert Callant, the supercargo on the Worcester. The Royal Navy ship had been sent to the island to lead a convoy of East India Company ships returning home. The waters close to England could be considerably more dangerous than anywhere else. Here, the ships heavily laden with exotic goods were at risk from Barbary pirates, privateers and enemy shipping. Bowrey said that French privateers were now very thick in our Channell.

At this date, the Worcester was trading on the Malabar Coast of India. It is likely that Bowrey intended the letter to be held at St Helena until his ship arrived there on her return journey. Perhaps he hoped that the Worcester would arrive early enough to join this particular convoy. If so, he would be disappointed. The ship sprung leaks on the Coast and had to sail to Bengal on the other side of India for repairs.

Another concern was the Act of Parliament that had recently been passed forbidding the pressing of all Harpooneers into the Navy. If the Worcester‘s should be pressed once they reached the coast of England, they should plead the Act to obtain release. These two men had been employed to undertake whaling during the voyage and, if they had proved successful, Bowrey wanted them retained for another voyage. Unbeknown to him, the whalers had, in effect, been carried as mere passenger and had died whilst in  the East.

The news Bowrey sent of the good health of all the owners would never be received by Callant. He died at the Cape of Good Hope whilst homeward bound. Bowrey looked forward to the owners’, and Callant’s, profits if the cargo was as good as expected.


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