Six Kings and Two Queens (2)

Hopefully, you have already read the first part of the blood soaked story of Captain John Deane and the wreck of The Nottingham Galley on the ice cold, wind swept rocks of Boon Island, just off the coast of New Hampshire:


The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood by John Frost Sutton does not disappoint with its continuation of the story.

Captain Deane returned to Nottingham where he wrote a bestselling book about the tragedy. Surprisingly, he was the hero.

The First Mate, Christopher Langman, did exactly the same. He wrote his own book where he was the hero.

Two very different stories, with each author accusing the other of being a liar and a cheat.

According to Stephen Erickson, the controversy lasted for a good while. It was essentially the two boat owners, the Deane brothers, versus the members of the crew.  John Deane in particular, was to become an eighteenth century spin doctor for the rest of his life, telling and re-telling the story with himself as its hero, over and over again, to whoever would listen.

Books were written in the immediate local area, such as Great Shipwrecks of the Maine Coast by Jeremy D’Entremont.


The same events were related in Great Storms and Famous Shipwrecks of the New England Coast by the aptly named Edward Rowe Snow. The most recent book is Boon Island: A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck, and Cannibalism by Stephen Erickson and Andrew Vietze.  And Boon Island by Kenneth Roberts turned the story into a novel:

book novel

Modern authors have added to the drama with suspicions of insurance fraud and the allegation that The Nottingham Galley could have arranged beforehand with French privateers to be captured for financial gain.
Most interesting perhaps is the Wreck of the Nottingham Galley published by the Book Arts Studio at the University of Maine at Machias. This contains everybody’s two cents’ worth, with five significant histories of events: Captain John Deane’s original account; the crew’s rebuttal; Cotton Mather’s rendition; a sensationalized, anonymous narrative; and John Deane’s expanded final account.

wreck of the npottingham gaslley

As if all that controversy, from 1711 to the present day, were not enough, according to The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood:

“….a very sad and fatal affair arose. Dr Jasper Deane, the brother of Captain John, resided in Fletcher-gate. He had embarked considerable property in The Nottingham Galley, and whenever he met his brother, the Captain, he yelled at him so long and loud about the cause of his serious financial loss, that they finally just avoided each other’s company.
At length their animosity appeared to subside, and under the condition that the subject of the shipwreck should not be brought up, the Captain met the Doctor at a party. There was every appearance of a restoration of friendship on both sides. No mention was made of The Nottingham Galley, and instead of separating, the Captain agreed to accompany his brother back to his house. Unhappily, the Doctor’s stifled feelings broke free, and in Fletcher-gate he again gave way to prolonged and bitter abuse of his brother. They had nearly reached his door when the Doctor assumed a threatening attitude, the Captain pushed him away with his open hand, and the Doctor fell. He ruptured a blood vessel, and died immediately. Whether the rupture was caused by excitement or the fall could not be ascertained.”

In 1714, Captain Deane commanded a ship of war in the service of the Czar of Muscovy, which he retained until 1720. We know this Czar of Muscovy better as Peter the Great. the founder of the Russian Navy:


Captain Deane was subsequently British Consul at the ports of Flanders and Ostend, until 1738, when he retired to Wilford near Nottingham with a handsome pension. Wilford was a live wire sort of place in 1740. In actual fact, the man you can see fishing in the River Trent in this picture is still there to this very day. He is a kind of Flying Dutchman figure, cursed by his wife never to come home from his fishing for the rest of eternity:

wiklford ferrry

The Date-Book hasn’t finished the tale yet:

“The retired Captain built the two neat dwellings near the entrance of the village from the ferry. The one nearest the river was the one he occupied first; the other, very similar in appearance, was erected afterwards:”

his house the palazzo
“In 1748, whilst walking in his own grounds in broad daylight, the Captain was attacked by a robber, who plundered him of everything valuable he had about him, even to the sleeve buttons from his wrists. The despoiler, whose name was Miller, was apprehended, and a few months afterwards he was executed.”

Miller was hanged in public on a wooden gallows. This execution would have taken place on the Forest Recreation Ground as I have previously described in my article “Gun Battle on Derby Road

One more bit to the story…..





Filed under Criminology, History, Nottingham

16 responses to “Six Kings and Two Queens (2)

  1. I shall wait patiently for the next instalment. With baited breath.

    • Well, many of the places are still there to be visited, within five or ten miles of where I am sitting now, so hopefully local people will find it an interesting tale. Years ago, I used to go running where the Eternal Fisherman sits in the picture from 1740. Fortunately, they had built a bridge for me to run over in the intervening 250 years.

  2. I wonder if this is where Fletcher Christian got the idea to lead the mutiny on HMS Bounty in 1789? Fascinating post John.

    • Thanks very much, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Overall. mutinies have not been desperately uncommon in the Royal Navy over the years with one as recently as 1931 at Invergordon in Scotland.

  3. I wonder if crime rates would go down if we brought back the gallows? Well, it’s a thought –

    • Only if you could kill all of the criminals and not miss a single one! Mind you, the British Crown made a gallant attempt to do this for at least 200 years with capital punishment in place in the 18th and 19th centuries for virtually every crime you could think of. The closest they came to mercy was not applying hanging, drawing and quartering to women. They were burned at the stake instead!… recently as 1789!

      • I only just read about the bombing that took 22 souls. The families of those victims and your nation have my deepest condolences. This is another loss for all of us.

  4. Excellent story – Nottingham seems to have been more like Dodge City in those days.

    • Absolutely. We have no concept of how many times riots broke out and there was total anarchy in the streets. Most of it came in late18th century when the French revolution gave a focus to people who were unhappy with upper class rule. It continued past 1800 with many, many food riots connected with the Corn Laws. This was the period when the castle was destroyed. They didn’t manage that, even in Dodge City!

  5. …and there was me thinking the folk of Nottingham were all law abiding citizens of a good nature!

    • To be honest, if Nottingham were to be twinned with a city on the basis of temperament, for me, it would be New York. It’s the same thing as in so many cities, though. There are lots of decent working class people that nobody in charge has had the faintest interest in permitting them any degree of social mobility over the last 50 years.

  6. Pingback: The Great Flood of 1875 and the Fossilised Streets of Nottingham (2) | John Knifton

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