Loss of the "Admiral Barrington"

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    M.G. Ellery

      I am researching the fate of the “Admiral Barrington”, a convict transport commanded by John Mitchison, that left Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) on its return voyage to England on 6 January 1792. Mitchison intended to call at Bombay (Mumbai) to load a cargo of cotton. The “Admiral Barrington” was reported passing Anjer Point (on the eastern side of the Straits of Sunda) on 23 May 1792 but it failed to arrive at Bombay. [Ref. General Evening Post (London), Issue 9239, 11-13 Dec. 1792; and St James Chronicle (London), Issue 4956, 11-13 Dec. 1792.]
      Note that three convict ship master’s names in Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, (2nd edition, Glasgow 1969), are incorrect. They may have been sourced from Phillip to Grenville 8 Nov. 1791, Enclosure No. 2 ‘Declaration of Masters of Transports’ in which the masters placed their signatures incorrectly. [Ref. transcript in Watson, F., (ed.), Historical Records of Australia (Sydney, 1915-1925), I, I, 297]. The correct names are “Active”, George Bowen; “Admiral Barrington”, John Mitchinson; “Albemarle”, J. Boulton.
      The fate of the “Admiral Barrington”, was reported in the Bombay Courier on 23 February 1793. The article, which included the text of two letters from John Mitchinson to John Tasker of the East India Company, was published in London at the end of July. [Ref. Morning Chronicle (London), Issue 7535, 29 Jul. 1793; and Star (London), Issue 639, 30 Jul. 1793.]
      The article quoted letters from Goa that reported some seamen, belonging to ‘the Botany Bay ship’, taken by the Malwans, had escaped and arrived at Goa and that two seamen found their way to Poonah [Pune], and subsequently arrived in Bombay. These men reported there was little chance of recovering the Barrington as at ebb tide she was dry upon the rocks and, and her bottom had received so much damage that when floated again with the flood the water had risen several feet in her hold.
      In his first letter Mitchinson wrote ‘There appeared from the first a determination of making prize of the ship at all events, she being immediately plundered of every valuable article on board’. He reported the ship as ‘laying ashore among the rocks’ and as ‘the greater part of the crew being sent to Goa make it evident no idea of restitution was ever entertained’. The only clue to his location is ‘should I be permitted to quit this place for Bombay, [I] shall therefore rest here till I hear further’. The letter was (Signed) “John Mitchinson”, February 1st 1793.
      In his second letter, dated 10 February 1793, Mitchinson mentions that he had, by then, been detained for seven weeks and that he only had contact with his first and second officers and four seamen as the rest of the crew had been sent away.
      News of the loss of the ship was not received in Port Jackson until March 1794 when Collins recorded that it ‘was driven off the coast by a gale of wind, in which she was forced on shore on one of the Malouine Islands, where she was wrecked, and her crew (the master, chief mate, and surgeon excepted) were murdered by the natives. These people saved themselves by swimming to an East-India country ship which was riding at anchor near the island.’ [Ref. Collins, D., An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: With remarks on the dispositions, customs, manners, &c, of the native inhabitants of that country, (London 1798)].
      According to Bateson [p139] she ‘was driven from her anchorage at Bombay and totally wrecked on Malwan Island’. This cannot be correct as the island lies off the coast of the Maharashtra town of Malvan which is approximately 200 miles south of Bombay. Perhaps Bateson embellished Collins’ account.
      None of the above accounts provide a detailed explanation of the events surrounding the incident and the following matters remain unanswered: the date of the stranding; the precise location of the wreck; were any pirates involved; had the vessel been at anchor and if so why in view of her destination being said to be Bombay; what was the extent of loss of life, if any?
      The answers to these questions may possibly be found in contemporary correspondence between Mitchinson and Tasker, copies of which are in the Private Letter Book of John Tasker held by the Pembrokeshire Record Office (which I am, unfortunately, unable to visit), Ref No. D-TE/2. [Ref. cited in Sturgess, G. L. and Cozens, K., ‘Managing a Global Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century: Anthony Calvert of the Crescent, London, 1777-1808′, Mariner’s Mirror 99:2 (2013), 171-195.
      It seems likely that the ship struck Burnt (or Vengurla) Rocks (15deg 53′ 24″ N, 73deg 27’ 42″ E) or the rocks off Malvan Island, about ten miles to the north, and then, not being able to take any defensive action, was plundered by the pirates of Malvan Island.
      Any information on this incident, citing any relevant sources, would be most appreciated.

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