Surviving in the ship’s boats

The Pandora’s log (Adm. MS 180) also makes for interesting reading, especially on days when the officers -usually the captain- report on  ‘out of the ordinary’ events that were happening during the voyage. The ‘remarks’ for the two days following the wreck focus on the preparations for the open boat voyage to Timor.

Remarks on Tuesday 30th August 1791

Took an account of the provisions etc. saved out of the wreck and spread them to dry. There was about 350 lb of bread, a small cask of wine and a few bottles. Meat not sufficient to make a division for a day,  ? gallons of water, two canisters of portable soup, 1 keg of essence of malt. The island or rather key for it was only 32 yards across at high water and about double the distance in length, there was not a single tree, shrub or blade of grass upon it. Nor could we catch any fish, a few shell fish was all we could procure here. 

 Began to prepare our boats and make arrangements for our return to England. Put our people to the following allowance of provisions per day, 3 ounces of bread, two wine glasses of water and a glass of wine, ½ an ounce of essence of Malt, ½ an ounce of portable soup, but the last two articles were not issued until we left the island. We also saved 3 loaves of sugar, three bottles of tea, a few guava cakes and about 2 lb of chocolate and a keg of tripe. This was all we had to feed 99 men. A voyage of such considerable length in open boats before we could expect to get any material supply of provisions.

Remarks on Escape Island Wednesday 31st August 1791

Moderate and hazy weather – launched the two yawls and sent one to the wreck to see if anything could be procured from her. She returned with the head of one of the TG masts, part of the lightning chain and a little of the TG rigging, but not one article of provisions. The other boat was sent to examine more thoroughly the channel from the reef which she found sufficient for any ship. She was afterward sent fishing and unfortunately lost her grapnel and rope without catching any fish. Artificers were busily employed in fitting the boats, all of these 24 hours.

The boats were completed and launched, and everything we had saved was put onboard them and at ½ past 10 we embarked and steered NW by W. 29 men in the launch, 24 in the pinnace and 23 in each of the yawls – two men were put out of the blue yawl into the launch

Lat obs’d 10º 22’ S

Long ?

The open boat voyage to Kupang would take 17 days. For Lt. Thomas Hayward, the only so-called Bligh ‘loyalists’ from the Bounty’s launch assigned to the Pandora, this was the second time within as many years that he found himself in the same waters, in the same arduous circumstances, making a perilous open boat voyage to safety.


George Mackay Brown

I am looking forward to getting hold of a copy of a collection of Orcadian author George Mackay Brown’s short stories published in 1996 as ‘Winter Tales’. There’s apparently a story in there that elaborates on William Bligh’s meeting in Stromness  with the Stewart family in 1780; when Bligh was returning home from the Pacific as sailing master in the Resolution, having distinguished himself during James Cook’s (fatal) last voyage. The Resolution’s officers were hosted and entertained by prominent families in Stromness. Bligh was keen to repay the Stewarts for their kindness and hospitality and gave this as one of the reasons he recruited George Stewart  -a “seaman … of good character..and creditable parents” – as one of the Bounty’s “young gentlemen”

Richard Mackey (Mackie?)

Assuming this is the man who served in the Pandora, it seems this Richard Mackey (baptised in Stronsay 1765) only had one sibling: Margaret.  If that is the case, then a brick-wall of some description has appeared here. Unless his father Peter remarried and had sons (‘half brothers’) with another woman.  Any other suggestions anyone?

OPR print-out from Scotland’s People

Thanks to Brisbane-based family history researcher Lynda Hodgkinson for this detail; she sent it to me quite a while ago.


A survivor’s account of the Pandora wreck


“About Sun rise, the Armourers’ Mate Joseph Hodges, was sent down to knock the  Irons off Skinner,  Muspratt & Byrn,  who were ordered up,  but Skinner being  in too much hurry,  got up with his hand-cuffs on,  and as soon  as  they  were up,  the Scuttle  was  barr’d,  leaving  the Armourers Mate below, who in the mean time knocked off my Irons & Stewarts  & we begg’d of the Master at Arms to open the  Scuttle, to  which he answered “never fear my Boys,  we’ll all go to  hell together”.  The words were hardly out of his Lips before the Ship took  a Sally,  and he and the Corporal rolled overboard;  at the same instant I saw Capt Edwards,  thro’ the Stern Ports; swimming to  the Pinnace, and the Boats shoving off as fast as  possible.  

 Burkitt  & Hillbrant were yet hand-cuff’d,  the others  had  been broke the Night before; the water flowing in on us, when the hand of God directed the Boatswains Mate (Molter) to the Place, he was scrambling  upon the Box & heard our Cries,  had the presence  ofmind  to haul out the Bolt,and take the Grating off,  which he dove overboard  and  followed himself,  upon  which  all  except Hillbrant,  got  out,  tho’ with much difficulty;  and for my own part, I had as much as I could do to get clear of the Driver Boom before she sunk.

 I was to the best of my recollection, about an hour and an half in the water, when I was taken up by Mr. Bowling in the blue Yawl & soon after landed on a small sandy Key, about 2 1/2 or 3 miles from the Wreck.”

This account is taken from James Morrison’s narrative which he recorded as his report while waiting for his trial in

Reynolds’ pen & ink sketch (c. 1792) of a shipmate in the water  (Private Collection)

Portsmouth in 1792. It mentions the names of other prisoners and recounts what happened in and around ‘the Box’ during the last hours the Pandora was afloat.

An ms-version of this account is kept in the Mitchell Library (State Library New South Wales)  as Morrison’s “Report” to Reverend  Howell   (Mitchell Library MS Safe 1/33)


Peggy Stewart and Edward Bell

Edward Bell was the clerk on board HMS Chatham during its’ voyage in 1791 – 92 in the Pacific as tender to  HMS Discovery, George Vancouver’s main expedition vessel. Bell kept a journal – an MS version is at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington (NZ) and is interesting for the light that it throws on Peggy Stewart’s love for George Stewart and their daughter Charlotte (also known as ‘Little Peggy’).

Some quotes from Bell’s journal entries:

“We were surprised today at seeing alongside in a double canoe, 3 women all dressed in white linen shirts,and having each a fine young child in their arms, perfectly white (…) they were women who had cohabited with some of the Bounty mutineers and these little ones were the offspring of their amours (…)  the women called themselves by the names of those with whom they had lived, with the addition of a Christian name …Peggy Stewart, Mary McIntosh and Mary Bockett…” (27 Dec 1791)

“Poor Peggy was not a beauty, nor had she in her appearance that I should suppose would ever tempt a man to turn Pirate  but she is possessed of much sensibility, an affable, agreeable disposition together with a sweetness of manners that upon a short acquaintance made up for the deficiency of personal beauty. She was immoderately fond of her little child and seldom without it…”  (24 Jan 1792)

“She frequently asked if Stewart would be hung and  at those times burst into a flood of tears (when told it was likely)(…) she informed us that the Pandora had been here and had taken 13 of the Bounty’s people and sailed from here about 8 months ago (…) she pleaded two midshipmen Stewart and Hayward Heywood’s part very strongly, and endeavoured to impress us with an idea that they were in no way concerned with the mutiny”(….)(folio 72)

“Peggy Stewart came today with a present and as usual brought her child with her, she was much distressed by Capt. Vancouver telling her that Stewart and Heywood would be hung on their arrival in England with the other mutineers… (folio 88)

At the time these entries were written, George Stewart was already dead, drowned during the Pandora wreck on 29th Aug 1791; however this news would not reach Tahiti for a considerable length of time, possibly Peggy was not directly informed until the arrival in 1795 of the London Missionary Society’s missionaries. It is said she died of a broken heart upon hearing this news.


George Stewart’s siblings

One of George’s sisters was Mary Stewart (born in the White House in Stromness ca 1780)  The 1841 Scotland census attests that at age 60 she was living in the Manse of Shapinsay; her husband being Revd. John Barry (b: 1783)  – a Presbytarian minister. There were no names in the census record of any dependant children living with them in this household at the time. But they did have  a son : Lt Robert Barry RN.

With several of her sisters  (Williamina, Jean and Isabella) Mary also inherited c. 1813 the Masseter estate in South Ronaldsay upon the death of their brother Robert (‘without issue’) She may have lived there ( or in Stromness) – even after her marriage to John Barry in 1810. Her brother-in-law Rev. George Barry (born c. 1796) was also recorded as a member of the household at the Manse, together with three ‘female servants’.

Williamina Stewart also married a clergyman – Robert Sands. They had a daughter who was named Wilhelmina – presumably for her mother; two of George’s sisters Jean and Isabella apparently remained spinsters.

According to Major Clapperton-Stewart, Wilhelmina Sands also married a man of the cloth (the Rev Turnbull of Tingwall)  Their daughter Grace Turnbull-Stewart -one of 15 children- eventually inherited Masseter when Mary Barry -Stewart’s heir Henrietta Stewart (b. 1796) George’s niece died c 1880 – she was a daughter of George’s brother Walter.

Unfortunately this female lineage is not useful in terms of my search for male Pandora wreck descendants.

George’s brother Walter’s line  may provide useful clues; although Major Clapperton-Stewart would have it that Walter Stewart died in 1782.  Yet there appears to be documentary evidence that indicates Walter Stewart had several sons who carried on into mid 19th C the male line from George’s father Alexander Stewart of Masseter.


Torquil:nursling of the northern seas

I found the following reference to George Stewart in the 3rd edition (1851) of

 Guide to the Highlands & Islands of Scotland by George Anderson & Peter Anderson, (Adam & Charles Black, Edinburgh  1851)

Section IX – The Orkney & Zetland Iss, Part 1: The Orkney Iss  §22


“Although Stromness is of such modern origin, it is singular that the first novelist, and the first poet of the age, have obtained each a hero from its natives, or, at least, from those who are so connected with it as to be considered such. As to Gow or Smith, the hero of “The Pirate,” we do not wish to save him from the same ill-gotten fame as is attached to the memory of the jarls, or sea-kings, who preceded him; but we may remark, that some interesting details regarding his history will be found in Mr. Peterkin’s “Notes on Orkney;” and the remains of his father’s garden may still be seen on the cast side of the harbour of Stromness. But on “Torquil, the nursling of the northern seas,” we must, in justice, offer a few observations. The traveller will perhaps recollect the poet’s description of him, in Canto II. of Lord Byron’s “Island:”—

And who is he? the blue-eyed northern child,
Of isles more known to man, but scarce less wild,
The fair-lian’d offspring of the Hebrides,
Where roars the Pentland with his whirling seas;
Rock’d in his cradle by the roaring wind,
The tempest-born in body and in mind;
His young eyes, opening on the ocean foam,
Had from that moment deem’d the deep his home,” &c.

“As Byron has not condescended to enlighten the reader as to his real history, we shall endeavour very briefly to do so. The hero, George Stewart, was a son of Mr. Stewart of Masseter. who resided on a property on which was one of the first houses built with lime in Stromness; hence it is still called the White House, and here his sisters lately lived highly respected.

“He went to sea about the year 1780, and was a midshipman in the Bounty with Bligh, when he went to transplant the bread-fruit tree of Otaheite to our West India Islands, and he remained on board after the mutiny, contrary to his own wish. Stewart took no part in that transaction; and he is vindicated, in a late publication on the subject, by one who had access to the best information. He was one of those who perished on the sinking of the Pandora in the following August. We have been favoured with a perusal of two interesting letters, exculpating this handsome and promising youth, which were written to his father in 1792.”

It would of course be more than useful to  know who showed the Andersons these letters AND, more importantly, to know who wrote the letters to George’s father.

The “late” publication the Andersons refer to is probably Edward Tagart’s 1832 ‘Memoir‘ of Capt. Peter Heywood or Sir John Barrow’s 1831 ‘Mutiny & Piratical seizure...’

If so, it is probable that the 2 letters to George Stewart’s father in 1792 were from George’s Bounty ‘messmate’, fellow midshipman Peter Heywood who  – after the Royal pardon he had received- wrote an open letter to Fletcher Christian’s brother ‘exculpating’ Fletcher Christian. This open letter was published in a local (Cumbrian) newspaper and contributed to the ensuing controversy between Bligh and Christian’s brother Edward about ‘WHO WAS REALLY TO BLAME’ for causing the infamous mutiny: a subject that still can stir up debate and controversy and has been the stuff of more than 200 years of history- and mythmaking. Some of it fanciful, overdramatised and inaccurate.

It is noteworthy that the Andersons apparently felt (in the early 1830s when they were compiling their book) they should touch on George Stewart’s “True History” because it was ‘just’  to make their observations.

As if they were righting some wrong they felt may have been done; as if the Stewart family’s reputation had been indelibly stained by the accusation of piracy against their son. Readers are assured that no such perceptions properly exist in Orkney, where his  well-respected sister had lived all her life and 2 letters exist, that are testimony that George had had no hand in the mutiny. That notion moreover, recently re-inforced by the well-informed author of the”late” publication.

The Stewarts’ headstone in Stromness cemetery (Doug Allen 2005)

One of the sisters the Andersons referred to is George’s sibling Isabella, who never married and lived in the Stromness ‘White House’ until her death in 1821. She was buried in the Stromness cemetery in the same plot as her parents Alexander & Margaret Stewart.


Davidson re Miller/Millar


Some correspondence below with Kay Davidson on 29 Mar last. re Miller/Millar.

I’m now inclined to think the Pandora’s James Miller/Millar may be the fourth listed as this James’ father was William Miller – to whom the Admiralty paid James Miller’s “neat wages” in 1792 (Adm 35/1360)  “Neat” wages were the nett wages owed to a sailor who had been “discharged dead” during a voyage – i.e. after deductions had been made for  purchases of goods he had made or for services he had received – e.g. clothing and bedding (“slops”) tobacco or VD treatments.  Noted in the ship’s “pay book”.

>>>>>>…… “Hi Peter
I thought I would send you the following as I think it may provide a possible match for James Miller from Orkney. There are four possibles on this list but the second one seems the most likely. The information you sent me says that James Miller was 21 when he was recruited. If the second James Miller was christened one or even two and a half months after he was born then he would still have been 21 when he was recruited on September 8th 1790.
The first and third James Millers would have been 22 and the fourth one is a Millar with ‘a’.This information comes from
I was redirected to this site while searching on the IGI index.
I forgot to say that I think it’s unlikely that George Eglington will turn out to be Orcadian. The name sounds very English and I couldn’t find any Orkney births of that name at all.
Best wishes,
James Miller

Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950
parents: Alexr. Miller, Ann Brough
James Miller

Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950
christening: 20 Nov 1768 HOLM AND PAPLAY,ORKNEY,SCOTLAND
parents: John Miller, Helen Bewes
James Miller

Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950
parents: John Miller, Katharine Yorston
James Millar

Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950
parents: William Millar, Margaret Reid


“Hi Kay
Thx for the details re Miller (Millar?)
I think you’re probably right abt Eglington – But if I remember correctly from my notes, there was one b in Caithness!  I’ll have to check – moreover it shows that just because someone was recruited in the Orkneys, doesn’t necessarily mean he was b. there;  seafaring men were notoriously mobile and stopped somewhere for a while after arriving there upon a previous voyage
The Miller/Millar example is a good illustration of how complicated this research will be – I guess it shows that we will have to be exact about the ages found in the sources – makes you wonder whether someone who was 1 month or a few weeks shy of his 21st b/day when recruited would have given 21 instead of 20!  also it shows that having more information to hand will help deciding which is whic – e.g. the 4 Rbt Bowlers I found could be narrowed down because i had reliable source material saying he had a sister called Theodosia!
It’s all grist for the mill!……” >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Stewart research

A Robert A. Clapperton Stewart (a major in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) was photographed in uniform in 1915. Doug Allan sent me a copy along with some details about the Stewart connection with the Massater estate on South Ronaldsay. It is not yet clear to me how (if at all) Major Clapperton Stewart ‘fits in’ with Geo Stewart’s family.  His grandfather or great grandfather may be one of George Stewart’s nephews, descending from George’s brother Walter ? Alternatively there is a distant connection through one of George’s sisters who jointly inherited the estate ca. 1814 following the death, ‘without issue’ of  George’s brother Robert Stewart.

Major R.A. Clapperton-Stewart

I have found a reference to an article about the Stewarts of Massater written in 1912 by one  R A C S (= Major R.A. Clapperton S.) and published by the Viking Society for Northern Research in volume 6 of Old-Lore miscellany of Orkney, Shetland,Caithness and Sutherland.  The article details the various generations of Stewarts who lived in Massater, including the Bounty’s George Stewart. The major’s article throws some interesting light on George’s family and mentions a naval sword that might have belonged to George Stewart and calls him matter-of-factly , ”the lieutenant RN, one of the Bounty mutineers”.  

There also apparently was (is still?) a portrait of George’s brother Robert Stewart  (who died in 1813) once belonging to A.Francis Stewart, bequeathed to him ca. 1880 by Grace Turnbull-Stewart, second cousin to George’s sister Mary Stewart of Masseter (b:1780 Stromness)

Mary Stewart,  to whom Massater was bequeathed when Robert Stewart died in 1813.  Mary Stewart married the Rev John Barrie- they lived at Massater with several of Mary’s spinster sisters until the estate was inherited upon their deaths during the 1880s by Grace Turnbull-Stewart.   The estate was divided during the 1890s and eventually sold to the Keillor family.



The National Library of Australia manages a  digital archive of Australian websites . It came together as a result of a project called PANDORA  and now encompasses  a growing collection of Australian on-line publications; it was initiated by the NLA in 1996. PANDORA is an archive of sites considered to be of significance and having long-term research value. The Queensland Museum’s Pandora wreck project -including the feature ‘Who was Harry?‘ – was also archived at the time.