Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Postage Stamp Commemorating Captain Worsley's Deeds on Lake Huron

     I visited the Nancy Island Museum this summer. It is the 200th anniversary of the burning of the HMS Nancy in the Nottawasaga River. I did not go for any of the historical re-enactments because the truth is stretched far too much in those re-enactments to make me happy. It is rather like trying to get me to say the Lord of the Rings trilogy on film is a great adaptation of the novels. I think my head might explode.
    It seemed to me that the museum displays could use a little updating and fact checking but most annoying of all is this stamp that is only available at Nancy Island, depicting Miller Worsley, the Commander of the Nancy.
There are other things I find objectionable about the image but worst of all and least excusable is the grey hair. Worsley was 23 years old when he took command of the Nancy. He died at the rather young age of 43. It is doubtful that he ever looked this old. The vigorous young man who rowed across Lake Huron with supplies and who lead a daring attack on two American warships in those same rowboats is not this guy. He looks like he is some crazy old guy scaring teenagers off his front lawn. Grrrrr, indeed.
      At 23, Worsley was an 11 year veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. He was a veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar at the age of 14. He was credited with having genial manners and self discipline and I have never pictured him as this snarling old fart. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Eat this! Mmmmmmmm!

     The February 6, 1832 Hampshire Telegraph was reporting on a duel between two lawyers over a case that had recently been tried in London. It was interesting but just below it was an even more interesting story.
    At the Queen Square Police station, a case had been heard about a dispute of wages between a master butcher and his journeyman. Part of the evidence heard was that the two had dressed an old cow that had died of udder disease and sold it to a sausage maker in Cow Cross. The journeyman also told the court that he had been hired to dig up some pigs which had died of disease and had been buried. They dressed those pigs and sold them to the same sausage maker.
     This is why we have and need government meat inspectors and they are worth every penny.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Sailor and the Princess

      One finds the most extraordinary stories in old newspapers. I spotted an article in the August 4, 1834 Hampshire Telegraph about the captain of an American whaling ship the Erie who had married a princess. The captain was from Newport on the Isle of Wight, hence the interest from the Telegraph, but they seem to have gotten the name of the kingdom wrong. They identified her as being from Hawaii which they spelled 'Gwyhee'.
     Always looking for confirmation of extraordinary stories, I went searching for other sources to confirm this event. When distance is involved, newspapers are not reliable. I found a French book on curiosities called Le Livre des Singularit├ęs by G.P Philomneste, published in 1841 . He too found the story interesting enough to relate on page 43. Philomneste stated that Captain Charles Spooner of the Erie married Kingatara-Oruruth, the daughter of a chief in Tahiti,  in 1834. There were some racist and snide comments about the bride's tribal markings. The bride, who was a skilled swimmer, celebrated the marriage with a demonstration of her skills for the guests. He ended the story by commenting he did not know how the marriage worked out since the maritime annals were silent on the subject.
     On page 150, Whaling by Charles Boardman Hawes, published in 1924, also describes the marriage. Hawes stated that the wedding took place in 1843 but this was a typo since news of the marriage clearly appears in the Telegraph in 1834. He states that the marriage took place at Otahete in the Society Islands, which Tahiti was a part of. He repeated the humorous and racist comments the editor of the Philadelphia newspaper saw fit to print adding that the princess was 16 years of age and a giant at 6'6" in height. Nobody masticates sugar cane. Using that term applied to a human is clearly making her less evolved. The article goes on to say that the Erie left its captain in New Zealand and took on a new commander Captain A.W. Dennis but the fate of Spooner and his bride were unknown.
      A more recently published book(1976): Islands and Empires: Western Impact on the Pacific and East Asia by Ernest Stanley Dodge also described the marriage. I do not have a copy of the book so I cannot read what Dodge had to say about it but the Telegraph did have something to say about the fate of the marriage. Two weeks after the marriage had been reported in the Telegraph, there had been an update. Miss Cingatara Oruruth had gone into the water to amuse her husband with an exhibition of her extraordinary feats of swimming when she was attacked by a large shark. The unfortunate princess was cut in two by the shark that had seized her in its jaws. The story was a reprint from the Bristol Gazette so it is difficult to say if in fact the poor girl died but surely, if there had been a Captain Spooner, he would have returned to England or whaling upon her death and there would have been some kind of confirmation that the story was true. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Circus Comes to Town (1891)

Found this ad in the Orillia Packet. It must have been quite a show - a $30,000 parade for such a small town financed by a 50 cent ticket. The biblical spectacle must be a pious way of featuring dancing girls since it includes the Queen of Sheba and - a Roman Hippodrome and three monster menageries!!