Showing posts with label Ghana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ghana. Show all posts

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Thomas Jones' Cruise off West Africa 1841

An 1850 map showing the Akan Kingdom of Ashanti within the Guinea region in West Africa
Rev. Thomas Milner, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On 29 Apr 1841, Thomas Jones joined HMS Forester (1832), as an Able Seaman. Whilst there is no image online of Forester, she was a Royal Navy 10-gun Cherokee-class brig-sloop of the same era and ilk as HMS Beagle

"Per a report made to Parliament in 1842, at some time during 1841 [Forester] was involved in combatting the Slave Trade". And just two days prior to Thomas joining this ship, the following entry appears, which certainly explains why they will have suddenly needed men to replace those lost: 
27 Apr 1841 [Forester] proceeded up the River Pongos with the ship's boats to ascertain the state of the slave trade in the river. Early next morning the boats of the Termagant joined the party, and as soon as the flood tide commenced at 7.00 am, they boarded several boats while proceeding up the river to Mrs Lightbourne's slave barracoons, which were burnt. However following an explosion, as they were departing a number of men were killed and wounded, and several went missing, in particular one man who would appear to have found alcohol in the barracoon, which he consumed to excess, and was awaiting punishment.
Forester had arrived at Accra (Kingdom of Ashanti - Ghana), from Whydah (Kingdom of Whydah - now Benin) on 28 Apr 1841, and departed on the 29th on a cruise. (It's only a guess, but I doubt they mean pleasure cruise.) 

Thomas had presumably arrived in Accra on some other vessel, however, there's a gap of some 4 years, from when he was paid off from HMS Sparrowhawk on 4 Feb 1837, until joining Forester in 1841, where no ship assignments are listed for him, so I have [so far] not discovered how he got to Accra.

One theory that's been suggested to me is that, at that time they signed on each voyage rather than permanent navy, so he could well be merchant navy in the intervening time. There is always a danger in accepting a theory, just because it fits, but this time it does, on several levels. One, because that would adequately explain both the gap and provide a means by which he could have got to Accra on a commercial vessel. Also, because, while his son David followed him into the Royal Navy, his son Nicholas had a long career in the Merchant service. It hadn't occurred to me before that both of them could have been following in their father's footsteps. There are, however, at last count over 900 records for Merchant Seamen named Thomas Jones, born around 1817, in the relevant timeframe, so I think finding proof will be, shall we say, 'challenging'.

Being on this cruise does explain why Thomas was not on the Census of 6 June 1841 as he was at sea. Seamen on shore on census night were enumerated in the same way as the general public, in the place where they spent that night. There was no provision made for recording seamen at sea on census night. 

There are no more details of what this cruise aimed to achieve - besides bringing the ship back to England - or where it went either, merely the notice that, on 17 Sep 1841, it arrived Plymouth Sound from the coast of Africa. And on 29 Sep 1841 Plymouth, was paid off, which is the date Thomas left this ship.

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If you're related to any of the people written about, I'm guessing you'll recognise them from the surnames. If you are, do please get in touch.