Image courtesy of Glasgow University Archive Services, ref. UGC182
A fascinating online bicentennial exhibition has just been launched at Glasgow University Archive Services. It concerns a log kept by a Glaswegian able seaman Andrew Service. The log offers a rare glimpse into the daily routine of service on the 38 gun frigate Medusa during the Napoleonic Wars. Recounted are not the regulation views of the ship’s officers but Andrew’s own impressions of 9 years at sea including distant foreign ports and their indigenous inhabitants, battles with the Spanish treasure ships and the perils of getting one’s fingers caught in the armoury hammock!
Frequently phonetic, Andrew’s spelling is a challenge to one’s palaeographic skills and to read it aloud is to hear a little Glaswegian of 200 years ago. Recording the encounter with the Spanish treasure ships, he writes:
Commenced action and after 3½ hours ingagin 3 of thim struck and blue up in action. They were laden with monny.
And what of Greenwich? The project turned out to be a great example of collaboration in the Archive sector, with a fusion of resources and expertise up and down the country. As a former employee of Glasgow University Archive Services, I was only too happy to lend a hand. I visited the National Archives to find out more about Andrew Service. The muster rolls soon revealed he joined aged 20 and in the 9 years he was on the ship, his age remains at 20! In this time his rank changes from landsman to ordinary seaman, then on to able seaman and then back to ‘ordy’ for reasons we can only guess at. Imagine my amazement as I turned a page and found a certain well known naval personality had also recently been onboard the Medusa:
Image of ADM 36/15155 courtesy of the National Archives
I regularly commute on the train with a colleague from the Museum’s Plans and Photos department and it became apparent that we also had the plans of HMS Medusa. These give another perspective of what shipboard life was like for Andrew Service. As Historic Photograph and Ship Plans Manager Jeremy Michell points out:
The lower deck plan (ZAZ2968) illustrates the various cabins for the lieutenants, purser, surgeon, captain of marines, and the master on one side of the wardroom bulkhead, and the standing warrant officers on the other side. Compare these cabins to that of the Captain on the upper deck (ZAZ2969), and the space on the lower deck for the sailors’ hammocks and tables, then one gets a sense of the spatial distribution onboard.
In other words, stores, guns and two hundred and fifty people crammed into a space the size of the Caird Library reading room!
The exhibition was launched 200 years to the day when Andrew Service completed his log, left the ship and ‘retired’ on a naval pension of £10 a year! Its publication online caused quite a stir and generated a lot of interest.
Martin (Manuscripts Cataloguer)
The monas hieroglyphica, Dr. John Dee’s own personal symbol, appears in an Intelligence Book, kept by the spy William Lytlestone, 1582 (REC/40, a previous item of the month). The esoteric symbol represents the moon, the sun and the elements, visually in the form of astronomical signs. Dee, a famous bibliophile, inscribed works from his library with his own mark, hence it is believed that this volume once belonged to his collection.
This ‘glyph’ is a combination of the seven days of the week. To illustrate this, we can refer to examples of astrological symbols taken from lieutenant logbooks kept at the NMM.
In the image shown we have a weekly entry for the KINGSTON kept by Captain Eaton, 1721. For each day we have an image of the moon for Monday ‘moonday’, followed by the astrological sign for Mars or the anglo-saxon ‘Tiw’ variation of the god for Tuesday, is the masculine symbol.
Mercury or ‘Woden’ for Wednesday is depicted with horns, Jupiter or Thor for Thursday, Venus or Freya for Friday, depicted as the feminine symbol. Saturn is for Saturday and an image of the sun for Sunday.
Interestingly, each of these symbols can be combined to form the ‘monas hieroglyphica‘. Even though this version is not a perfect example, we can clearly see the horns of Woden along with the other features. One slight difference is that Tiw is represented in the glyph as the symbol for Aries (the greek equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon) with rams horns at the base.
Mike (Assistant Archivist)
Over 25,000 people visited Portsmouth Dockyard for the Navy Days event last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Attractions included 12 ships from the Victory of 1765 to HMS Daring of 2005, not to mention roving bands of eighteenth century sailors and other costumed re-enactors. Whilst the modern Navy and its ships received boarders of all ages, many people left their ice creams outside to turn to the serious matter of enquiring about their own naval and maritime ancestry at the Naval Historical Branch of the Admiralty Library.
Brought together under the banner of the Naval and Maritime Libraries and Archives Group, staff from several national libraries and archives specialising in maritime records combined to help the public with tracing their naval ancestors, interpreting photos and service records and advising on how to unearth the next tantalising piece of family history.
Represented were the Imperial War Museum, Gosport Discovery Centre, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Admiralty Library and the Medals Office of the Ministry of Defence, together with staff from the Archive and Library at the NMM.
The day was a great success and produced some fascinating and wide ranging enquiries. Topics included Trafalgar veterans, medals from the Siege of Ladysmith and tales of struggling to Jamaica by life boat after being torpedoed mid Atlantic- and then not wanting to be repatriated!
Martin (Manuscripts cataloguer)
August’s item of the month is the ‘journal of cruise of H.M. Ship Maender’ (HTN/69) kept by Captain Henry Keppel and beautifully illustrated by Oswald Brierly. The journal documents a voyage throughout the southern hemisphere undertaken between 1847 and 1851.
If you would like to learn more about Keppel and Brierly they both have entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography which can be consulted at the National Maritime Museum.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)