In one of his postings Russell Potter discusses a collection of papers found by McClintock on a skeleton he found on the south coast of King William island in 1859.1
One of the documents was a summary of Harry Peglar’s navy service and it goes as follows:
This is to Se( ) H Peglar Has served On board of his M S Clio 1825 Joined H M Ship Magnificent at Spit Head Sail For Jamaker Under Command Lev( )tenent Mundel tern Over to H M Hulk Serreapes Commander Ellott Tran( ) H M Ship Rattelsnake Captain J. Leath Searved Under him two years Joined H M tender Pearsis Captain C….t late Chief Press Master tower Hill London joined H M Ship Prince Regent discharged for ( )g apprentice Sail under Command of Tommy larking to China left Gor Tallis and his lady and douthers at ( )aint Helena Struck with lighting on the Passadge …ut tow Men Struck Dead a Seargent and Private Retern to England 182( ) entered for H M Ship Ramelis tern over at Chatham Reentered for The Tallavarer Cap Coalby Supper Seaed by Cap Brown Rit for my discharge and got … China in the Marquis Camden lost our Chief Mate Shot going in to Bombay Mr …en Retern to England 1833 …… H M Ship Gannett C M Maxfeild ( )ntered for H M Spih Temmarare 1838 ( )n over to H M Ship ocean Cp Sir John Hill Shearness Paid of 38 Joined H M S Wander…. C M Denman alas Seamour now in the Terror.3
The C The C the open C it grew so fresh the Ever free.
When I wos On Old England Shore I like the/young C more and more and ofte times flewe/to a Sheetering Plase like a bird thar Seek it/mother’s Case and a H She wos and Oft to me/for I love I love a young and Hopen C.4
Another document is the following address, “Mr. John Cowper, No 47 John St., Commercial Road, London. Paid.”6
Another document simply bears the words “ Sentemental Song”.7
Another document is largely indecipherable; it has a date “September … 1840” or “1846”. According to Cyriax and Jones it appears to be a story about a dog. There is a heading on this document saying “Lines writ on the north” and a drawing of a eye with the words “lid Bay” below it.8
Another document which seems to be about sea animals as part of it is as follows:
Late on one summers night/ … the month of june/ … sent a way/… a spoon/ Imaid my bark a thort the tide/ and my crew they went to sleep/ while…keep a lookout/ for fish alli n the deep/ Has my little bark was drifting down/ I wos shot a … and ggit one of O”Connell/ Tertill came swimming sloley by/ my crew got up and grapple him/ and lug him in my boat/ off one pull quite marely/ to that gallnt bark a float/ sir the wait … that little marter/ bird w…67 pounds/ the … made a splened/ hot dinner off … prime little fellow wot …/ a tertill.9
A little below that is written “Lines upon Trinadad laying in Asham Bay”.10
On another piece of paper is written “Lines writ … party wot happened at Trinadad”, and the word “September”, with some other words that could not be made out.11
Another document seems to be a sort of a poem. Cyriax and Jones give only the opening line stating that much is unintelligible. The line is:
O death whare is thy sting, the grave at Comfort Cove for who has any doubt how … the dyer sad and whare traffalger, etc.12
Considering what happened to the crews of the Erebus and Terror just a little to appropriate.
On the other side of this paper, written in a circle, are the following lines. “He I … ave wonder … mony a night gl … a bouat the harmonic”. Within that circle is written “ … rode … tell the w … you peglar bord onn hay the terror camp clear”.13
A further document seems to a description of gathering in Cumana Venezuela. Cyriax and Jones do not give a transcription of the text but it does include the following passage:
Has we have got some very hard ground to heave … we shall want some grog to wet houer … issel … all my art Tom for I do think … time … I cloze should lay and … the 21st night a gread.14
Cyriax and Jones wonder if the 21st mentioned is the 21st of April 1848 the day before the Terror and Erebus where abandoned by the surviving crew members.
On the back of the paper is the following address “IME…P Evarglleb Raauqs, Ocilmip, West”.15
Another paper as the following address, “O. J. Rezzoe, a Squier, R.N. … Sandile Harber … Belvue Couart … eth”16
Finally another piece of paper with another address, “To Mr. Heather, sen … Citty…ation, Abberdeen, Lond…”
There was also a parchment certificate of the seaman service of Harry Peglar. Cyriax and Jones do not provide a transcription and the writing appears to be largely illegible anyway.17
Infuriatingly the documents tell us next to nothing about what happened to the Franklin Expedition and from their fragmentary condition it appears that a good deal was lost of them during the attempted escape. It appears that the papers we have are documents by Peglar and one or more other men. Thus what we seem to have is a collection of what amounts to fragments written for the most part, for unknown reasons, backwards.
Still they are glimpse into the minds of those doomed men and it would seem that in fairness to their memory perhaps a full transcription of what can be gleaned from the papers, using modern methods of analyzing old documents to see if we can find more writing in the papers, should be published. So we can have a glimpse, however, fleeting of those lost lives.
1. Visions of the North, Here the posting about the Peglar papers Here
2. Cyriax, R. J., & Jones, A. G. E., The Papers in the Possession of Harry Peglar, Captain of the Foretop, H.M.S. Terror, 1845, The Mariner’s Mirror, v. 40, pp. 186-195, 1954.
3. IBID. p. 189.
4. IBID. p. 190.
5. IBID. p. 191.
6. IBID. p. 191.
7. IBID. p. 192.
13. IBID. p. 192-193.
14. IBID. p. 193.
15. IBID. p. 193.
16. IBID. p. 193.
17. IBID. p. 188.