On This Day: 11 January 1684

On this day in 1684, John Beavis loaded goods onto Captain Thomas Bowrey’s Borneo Merchant on behalf of Nathaniell Gyfford and wrote his instructions for it in a letter. This letter, similarly to yesterday’s manuscript, speaks of in case of mortality (which God forbid) referring to Bowrey’s sickness.

There had been mention of Bowrey’s sickness since 23 December at which time he had probably been ill with Feavor and ague for some time. He did, however, recover in time to command the voyage to Borneo.

After Bowrey returned to England, various correspondents commented on him being unwell, the first time in December 1696 and then during a number of summers for ten years from 1702. There were probably other, unrecorded, periods of sickness. He and his wife Mary visited the spas at both Bath and Tunbridge Wells and apothecary bills survive in his papers.

It is likely that Bowrey contracted malaria during his time in the East Indies and that he continued to be affected by it for the rest of his life. It may well have been the cause of his death and this is a subject I will deal with at more length in my biography.

On This Day: 25 December 1683

In may have been Christmas Day but that appeared to mean very little in the East Indies. On this day in 1683, James Wheeler and John Beavis loaded his cargo onto the Borneo Merchant at Madapollam. At this time, Thomas Bowrey was still sick with fever and there was some doubt whether he would be fit enough to be the commander of the ketch for her voyage to Borneo. If he died, Robert Masfen was to take his place.

The Borneo Merchant was small but was designed specifically for Bowrey and his business partners to trade in the region, probably to carry the type of bales of textiles included in today’s invoice.

Bowrey did survive and recovered in time to command this voyage. He was, or was to become, an acknowledged expert in the islands of the Malay archipelago, their trade and the textiles of India. Once home in England again, he was to cash in on this knowledge in various ways until he was in a position of being able to invest in his own trading voyages again.

But that was still some time in the future. He was to spend four more Christmases in the East Indies before returning.

Merry Christmas to all my followers!


On This Day: 13 December 1683

On this day in 1683, James Wheeler in Madapooam wrote to Thomas Bowrey about how Sancho Narso was delaying the fitting out of their new ship. Narso had previously built their Adventure but the partners relationship with him was not good. Wheeler describes his Roguery. The new ship, the Borneo Merchant, would be delivered before the end of the year and would be under Bowrey’s command for most of his remaining time in the East.

The letter continues to discuss the cargos they are to carry on their ships as well as passing on news of relatives, friends and acquaintances. Notably, this letter contains the first reference to Bowrey being ill – with fever and ague. There are periodic such references in correspondence up until his death thirty years later.

Wheeler finished the letter: I observe what you write about our Adventure, and that you have gotten Mr Prickman to go her Master (replacing Bowrey when he moved to the new ship), should be glad to hear it is not that mad Prickman that was once in the Williamson, a Servant to Captain Bays. Samuel Prickman was recorded at Fort St George in the 1680s as being a mariner and not a permanent inhabitant of the town. He was married to an English woman. It is not know if he was the mad Prickman but, as there were no further complaints from Wheeler, it is unlikely.

There was another Prickman, Benjamin, who was master of the East India Company ship, the Fort St George Merchant, in 1698. Perhaps he was mad.