Presentations from a crew to their captain

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  • #2603
    Anonymous
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    My great-grandfather Captain William Kennedy (1816-1876) was presented by his crew with a fine spyglass “as a mark of Esteem for his Gentlemanly conduct on a voyage from San Francisco to Liverpool, Jan 17th 1854”. How common was this, and are there any official records of other such presentations?

    #2604
    Alastair Wilson
    Participant

    You do not say if your forebear was Merchant service, or Royal Navy, though the nature of the voyage implies he was in the Merchant service. There are records of presentations (especially by passengers) to masters after a successful voyage, or peril overcome. An example is a report from the Liverpool Daily Post , 07 April 1859, which reports on the arrival of the Royal Charter of the Black Ball Line and the fact that “addresses being presented to the Captain and officers by the passengers” after she had made an exceptionally fast voyage from Melbourne. Undocumented is a piece of family history. My wife’s great-uncle was Captain William Jameson who was Commander of a number of East India Company (EIC) ships in the period 1800-1830. We do have documentation in the form of an unpublished family memoir, which records that when Commander of the HEICS Fame in 1806, he made a most gallant defence of his ship against a French frigate of much superior force, La Piémontaise , 46, and on his return was awarded a piece of plate worth 200 guineas by the Court of Directors of the HEIC which according to the memoir “I believe was given to him in cash, as he had lost all his effects by the Capture and loss of his trade.” Of greater relevance, but undocumented, is the fact that when later he was Commander of HEICS Balcarres in 1820, he was presented with a silver tea-service by his passengers after a brush with pirates. My wife saw the service when she was a child, and I myself have seen a painting of the ship inscribed to Captain Jameson, though both have now passed out of the hands of my wife’s immediate family.

    In the Royal Navy, such presentations were specifically forbidden in ‘Queen’s Regulations’. The relevant article will be found in Q.R.& A.I. (1899 edition) where, in article 684 (2), it is stated “No officer shall allow himself to be complimented by presents, or by any collective expression of opinion from Officers or Ships’ Companies’ There is a specific example – when Captain A.K.Wilson (later Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur, V.C., etc.) won his V.C. at the battle of El Teb in 1884, he broke his sword in the fight. In T A Heathcote’s British Admirals of the Fleet (Barnsley; Leo Cooper, 2002) in the section on Wilson he says “As a special concession, the Admiralty allowed the officers of Vernon to present him with a new sword to replace the one broken in battle. A similar presentation by the wives of his brother officers on Hecla’s return to Malta was considered not to need Admiralty permission”. Clearly, the matter of presentation from juniors to a senior was an issue.

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