“The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood” by John Frost Sutton does not disappoint with its entry for August 18 1761:
“Death of John Deane, Esquire, at his residence at Wilford, in the 82nd year of his age. Captain Deane was born in the reign of Charles II, in the year 1679, and was the youngest son of a gentleman of moderate fortune living in Nottingham. When he attained a proper age for business he took the strange fancy of being apprenticed to a butcher. He was not satisfied with this, but being bold and spirited, he became associated with a gang of poachers and deer stealers. At length, dreading detection, he thought it prudent to go to sea.
In this new occupation Deane was happy in his job, and there is strong reason for believing that he was with Sir George Rooke at the capture of Gibraltar, where he was raised for his bravery to the rank of a naval captain.
Here is the striking shape of the “Rock of Gibraltar”:
In 1710, when laid up and without employment, Deane, along with his father and brother, purchased a vessel which they named, The Nottingham Galley. After filling the ship with merchandise, Captain Deane took command and sailed for North America.
Here is that happy, happy ship:
The ship was unfortunately wrecked on the New England coast.
Here is a sketch from the time:
The crew landed with great difficulty on a barren island.
The island was actually called Boon Island, and was well known as a very good place to die:
Deane and his crew were destitute of both clothes and provisions, the sea having swallowed up everything. Here they remained for twenty-six days exposed to severe hunger and cold. Three of the seamen perished, and the survivors were driven to the horrid and revolting necessity of feeding upon one of the dead bodies.
“Here we are!! Come and get it! Raw leg again!!”
On the 5th of January, 1711, a vessel came near enough to perceive their signals, and when despair had almost driven them mad, they were providentially rescued.”
A number of websites attach a great importance to this shipwreck, given its almost four weeks of bleak, desperate horror.
A good example would be ‘boonislander’ or Stephen Erickson, who, in his own words, is a resident of Portsmouth in New Hampshire and a co-author of a new book on the wreck of the Nottingham Galley, the splendidly titled Boon Island: A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck and Cannibalism. He wrote:
“The Nottingham Galley is one of the most important episodes in maritime history for a number of reasons. It may have been the most well-known shipwreck controversy prior to the Bounty mutiny. The story is famous for cannibalism; they ate the ship’s carpenter.
No shipwreck castaways were ever less prepared for the subfreezing temperature they were forced to endure, and lived to tell about it; they were without food, freezing, and compelled to lie for weeks at a time, huddled together on solid rock. “
The shipwrecked men had certainly been forced to rely on their own ingenuity. A piece of sail provided a shelter of sorts and there was enough cheese soaked in salt water to last around a week. Ironically, the first to die was the cook. They respectfully consigned him to the waves. The next to go was the ship’s carpenter. He was out of luck, because by now they were hungry enough to eat him, allegedly wrapped in pieces of seaweed.
They were unable to light a fire, so it had to be raw. What a pity they were never able to kill a seal and eat that.
For those of you interested in the precise details of gastronomy, the usual tale is that:
“they hacked off the feet and hands, gutted the bodies and then cut them into quarters like a pig or a cow.”
“Wrap in raw seaweed and serve at Atlantic Ocean temperature. Serves up to a dozen.”
Later, despite severe frostbite for those who had not yet eaten their own hands and feet, the men tried to build a boat, but it sank and took two men with it. A second boat fared equally badly but a corpse drifted to the mainland and alerted the locals as to what was happening on Boon Island. They were finally rescued in the early days of January 1711.
26 responses to “Six Kings and Two Queens (1)”
A grimly entertaining story!
Absolutely. I am a little surprised that Hollywood has not picked it up in one form or another.
Truly macabre! I wonder how many of us would resort to the same act when driven mad by hunger? Something I hope I will never have to test!
I think I would find it rather difficult to eat my travelling companions as well. The problem is though, that unless you eat them early on in the shipwreck, they may not be worth eating. Quite a dilemna!
And a gruesome one at that John!
To be honest, I prefer my carpenter a little less raw.
Who really knows what gets eaten in the restaurants of Nottingham? It’s never been the same since Mrs Lovett moved to London.
A suitably gruesome tale. I think I’d prefer to have been the cook to the carpenter.
It would depend on their relative weights I suppose. As a rather large gent, that’s why I personally would never go on a long sea voyage.
Something to bear in mind next time I’m booking a ferry or flight!
Wow indeed. And a much bigger event in the USA than over here. There is still interest in it …https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0985365919
Thanks, John. I hope you have a few Maine followers
The story literally gave me the shivers, we can imagine those days on the island, really terrible. I wonder about the later life of the survivors. Thank you for sharing. Regards, Lakshmi
In a similar case, the Essex was sunk by a whale (providing the inspiration for Moby Dick). Years later, they found that one survivor, Owen Chase, just before he was institutionalised, had packed his house floor to ceiling with food. He had learnt his lesson!
Life must have been very difficult for the survivors.
Well that’s better than any name I thought for up for the very special dishes they were being served. Tastes like pork, as everybody knows….or was it like chicken?
When I was studying Law (about 50 thousand years ago) we read the case of R v Dudley and Stephens (1884) which established that necessity was not a defense to a charge of murder. It isn’t quite the same but it is a very interesting case to read.
I have a feeling that when the survivors of the Essex finished up eating each other that similar legal arguments were raised in America. People were not happy that the lots drawn to decide who died and was eaten seemed to have been fixed.
That is what the prosecutor said
Grimly story indeed… why did you name it “Six kings and two queens”?
Well, all will be revealed next time, but basically it is the fact that Captain Deane was alive through the reigns of six kings and two queens of England. Given the immense fuss we make over our monarchs, they usually tend to be long lived, and to experience the reign of eight different ones is very unusual.
That is unusual indeed… Look forward to the future posts 🙂
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