Tom, Dick & Harry

3 skeletons were found during archaeological excavation in the Pandora wreck. They represent 3 of the 35 men who died during the wrecking. When they were found they could not be positively identified by linking them to the names of the men who had died. So they were affectionately nicknamed ‘Tom’ ‘Dick’ & ‘Harry’.

Tom and Dick were found in the vicinity of the surgeon’s cabin on the lower deck; they are possibly the two men mentioned by Surgeon Hamilton who were killed the night before while the crew were trying to save the ship. Unfortunately Hamilton gave no further details about their identity, so they are included in the tally of 31 crew who died in the wreck.

Harry was found another deck down, near the officers’ stores room on the platform deck. Harry’s skeleton is nearly whole, but the skeletons belonging to Tom and Dick are less complete. A facial reconstruction was made from Harry’s nearly perfectly preserved skull by forensic anatomist Dr Meija Sustisno at the NSW Police Forensics Lab.

Harry’s age was estimated at about 30 ± 2; while Tom is thought to have been 18 ± 2 and Dick 22 ± 2 years old.

The research to find genealogies for most of the Pandora’s dead will be challenging. Not only because the progenitors of the 35 ‘reverse genealogies’ were born in the 1760s and early 1770s -some 10 to 12 generations ago- but mainly because for most of them information about their age and origin are very sketchy. The columns in the Pandora’s muster books are blank where this data was supposed to be recorded.

Page from the Pandora’s muster book showing blank LH columns

Thankfully however there are  exceptions in the Admiralty’s records; vital data is available for 68 men who were recruited for the Royal Navy by a press gang operating from HMS David in Orkney in August 1790. The David’s musters do provide age and origin details for these men, 8 of whom were assigned to the Pandora in early September 1790. (Adm.36/11085)

Of these 8 Orcadian seamen, 7 perished during the voyage and were consequently “discharged dead” from the Pandora’s books. (Adm.36/11036)

The first Orcadian to die was 19 year old Ordinary seaman James Scott, who went missing (believed dead) on 24th May 1791 off Palmerston’s Island – prior to the wreck, so he cannot be Tom, Dick or Harry. Nor can 21 year old Ordinary seaman James Murray, who survived the wreck in August 1791 but died of a fever several months later.

Strong contenders for Tom, Dick & Harry among the Pandora’s Orcadians are William Cray (26), George Eglington (22), Robert Fea (21) Richard Mackie (24) and James Miller (21)  – all “discharged dead” on 29th August 1791; they died along with fellow Orcadian, 25 year old Bounty midshipman George Stewart, one of the 4 prisoners lost in the wreck.

The only Orcadian from the Pandora to survive was 34 year old Able seaman Hugh Houston. It is assumed that he eventually made it home to Orkney to tell family and friends about his South Pacific adventure in the Pandora.

The names of the 31 men who perished in the wreck were annotated in the ship’s books with the comment “Discharged Dead” (DD) – together with the names of 25 others who died at other times and places during the voyage – as a result of extreme exposure, illness or misadventure. It is noteworthy that all of the lowest rated men – ‘ordinary seamen’ and ‘landsmen’ – died during the voyage.

Admiralty pay books reveal how much money was paid out -to the survivors and to the nominated beneficiaries of the men who had been “discharged dead” and had made wills- when the ship’s company was officially “payed off” in September 1792. (Adm. 35/1360) In some cases these records fortunately also indicate where men were from and how old they were when recruited and in some cases also give more useful details about family members.