Some Adventures of a Seafaring Accountant: William Crickmay and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, 1853–1858
William Crickmay was the purser of five Royal Mail Steam Packet Company ships from 1854 to 1858. These ships provided mail services from Southampton to St Thomas and Rio de Janeiro, and thence to local ports of call. His third ship, the Orinoco, chartered for war service, voyaged to and from Portsmouth to the Crimean war zone. After the war it returned to the St Thomas route. During Crickmay’s last voyage on it 27 people died of yellow fever. He very nearly joined them. After a long recovery period he made three more fever-plagued voyages before ending his seafaring career. He recorded his experiences in a series of diaries which have now been deposited at the National Maritime Museum. His broad experience gave him extensive knowledge of how the company operated. He established cordial relations with ships’ officers and crews, passengers, shippers, company administrators and agents, and government officials. His often terse diary entries contain important and reliable information about a significant part of the early steamship world.