He literally “killed himself by excessive drunkenness and his wife is very much addicted to the same vice” – The fate of William Puckey (1776-1827)

In November 2022, I wrote an article for the German Historical Institute London, where I summarized one specific archive finding during my research fellowship, which I kindly received from them between September and November 2021. The interaction between Missionaries and Whalers at the Bay of Islands is considerably well recorded at the Bay of Islands’ history throughout the 1820s and 1830s – thanks to the CMS records but also local newspapers such as those in Sydney talking about local developments and incidences in Aotearoa New Zealand.

On the example of William Puckey Senior (1776-1827), I would like to demonstrate how fruitful, promising and eye-opening the consideration and inclusion of different types of sources and “layers” can turn out in historical research. As I have shown in the mentioned GHIL blogpost, it was a very common practice for Missionaries to visit anchoring whaling ships occasionally in order to communicate with them, exchange goods, knowledge and newspapers but also to give Divine Service to the seamen.

Probably for similar reasons, CMS member William Puckey visited the whaling ship “EMILY” under Captain William Brind, who remained at the Bay of Islands on Christmas evening in December 1825. I do not know what exactly happened onboard of the ship during these days, but it surely shaped the first CMS quarterly meeting only some days later in January 1826.

Henry Williams and the rest of the missionaries on land, however, seem not to have been happy at all with Puckey’s behaviour and his amusement with the whalers. On the 2nd of January 1826, it was recorded in the minutes that:

H. Williams begged to call the attention of the Committee to the late conduct of W. Puckey, who on Christmas Eve [1825] took his family onboard the ship Emily, and remained until Tuesday following, when he and his wife come [back] in a most disgusting state of intoxication. On Thursday, he returned by himself to the ship to renew his shocking conduct and remained until Saturday morning last, when his son obliged him to return home.

W. Williams suspended him from further work […] until the opinion of the committee should be given.

The committee is of opinion that from the repeated disgusting conduct of W. Puckey, he should not be permitted to work longer for the Society and that his suspension should remain in force.

CMS Quarterly Local Meeting Minute, 2nd Jan. 1826, in: Series C N 4/ (a), p. 138, AJCP: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-2668474019/view, [12.01.2023].

Therefore, in January 1826, the Quarterly Meeting decided then to sent William Puckey (1776-1827), his wife Susanne Puckey, and daughter Elizabeth Puckey to Sydney. The son William Puckey (1805-1878) however, seem to have remained at the Bay of Islands.

In the following months and years in Sydney, while waiting to be sent back to London, the Puckey parents however did not show any remorse. In contrast, they continued consuming even higher amounts of alcohol, which eventually culminated in the father’s death in 1827. Samuel Marsden, witnessing Puckeys’ behaviour in Sydney, did not show any mercy too and would later simply tell the CMS-Secretary that William Puckey literally “killed himself by excessive drunkenness and his wife is very much addicted to the same vice”, yet Marsden adds at the same time, that “the children were notably different from their parents.”1.

The fate of the Puckey parents is recorded in detail in an article of the Sydney Newspaper “The Monitor” of 12th November 1827.

Mr. Puckey has a daughter who some six weeks back was married; at which period the scene of intoxication commenced which eventually put a period to his existence.

Deaf to the calls of prudence and religion, he indulged in the debasing propensity, his wife being a willing partner in his excesses, – pledging and selling all that she could come at to uphold his debauchery until a few days ago when they became so exhausted as to be compelled to seek that relief from their neighbours, which with proper management they had been well able to have afforded themselves.

On Sunday the old man ventured to walk out; he was then much emaciated from a want of proper nutriment, and his wife had also so far recovered her strength as to be enabled to comply with the advice of a friend, to go home and look after her husband.

This she did until Monday afternoon, when the deceased, in attempting to lie down on the bed, fell on the floor, having complained of giddiness in the head. She ran out to obtain assistance to lift him, and to her dismay found upon her return that the vital spark had become extinct.

The man had been placed in the coffin before it occurred to those acquainted with the circumstances of his case, that it was necessary to summons an inquest, which was convened on Wednesday morning, when the Jury found that “the deceased died by the visitation of God.”

Domestic Intelligence, in: The Monitor, 12.11.1827, p. 7, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/ 31759112/4230039, [12.01.2023].

At the end of the text, the newspaper editor justified the length of the text: “We have entered thus at length into the details of this case, in order to point out to others, the ill consequences directly proceeding from an intemperate use of ardent liquors.”2 During the time in Port Jackson, daughter Elizabeth Puckey married Captain Gilbert Mair, and together with her new husband, she moved back to her Brother William Puckey to the CMS station at the Bay of Islands, where Gilbert Mair opened a local store in order to trade with Māori, Missionaries, Settlers and Whalers.

How ironic!

  1. Gunson, Niel (1966): On the incidence of alcoholism and intemperance in early pacific missions, in: The Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 1, 1, pp. 43-62, p. 50, DOI: 10.1080/00223346608572078 []
  2. Domestic Intelligence, in: The Monitor, 12.11.1827, p. 7, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/ 31759112/4230039, [12.01.2023]. []

GHI London Blogpost

 

Thanks to a scholarship of the German Historical Institute London, I have spent several months of last year (September 2021 to November 2021) in several english cities (Birmingham, London) and welsh cities (Aberystwyth, Pembrokeshire, Milford Haven) in order to undertake archival research in a number of Archives, Museums and Libraries.

In the Cadbury Research Library of the University of Birmingham I was able to read (and to copy) extensive amounts of manuscripts of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Stations and its actors at the Bay of Islands (roughly from the period between 1814 until 1840). Adopting on one particular meeting minute of the CMS in London, I summarized my PhD research project for the blog of the German Historical Institute. I remain very grateful for this wonderful opportunity of the GHIL and thank Dr. Marcus Meer for the lectoring process.

You can read the blogpost on the GHIL Blog here.1

  1. Hussein, Haureh: Māori Iwi, Quaker Whalers, and Missionaries at the Bay of Islands in Aotearoa/New Zealand (1790–1840), in: GHIL Blog, https://ghil.hypotheses.org/1227 [Last Access: 24.11.2022]. []

Hello from Aotearoa!

This blogpost reaches you from Auckland in Aotearoa/New Zealand and was planned already some days ago, but no chance!

Last week on the 17th September, I arrived in Auckland after a long flight of 33 hours, departing from Frankfurt over Hong Kong to Auckland. Experiencing a long-distance flight for the first time, I suffered a heavy jetlag throughout the next days, leaving me with an almost not existing sleep-cycle and unconcentration. The flight went considerably well although I could barely find any sleep. What is worth to be mention is the wonderful flight safety clip, which Air New Zealand have shown before leaving the Airport of Hong Kong. I am happy to have found it online.

Air New Zealand Safety Video 2022: Tiaki & The Guardians, in: Youtube, Air New Zealand Safety Video 2022: Tiaki & The Guardians – YouTube, [22.09.2022].

After arriving on Saturday morning and reaching my hotel, I spent most of the following days with discovering the city and practicing my presentation on this Conference, which will take place already next week. The days between Tuesday and Thursday were shaped by archive visitings in the reading room of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, where I had ordered relevant material.

Archive visiting mean picture accumulation. Private Picture, 22.09.2022
Auckland War Memorial. Private Picture, 22.09.2022

It took me some days to shake off the jetlag, and it is a pity to leave this big city with over 1 million inhabitants, yet I look very much forward to travel to Russell town in the Bay of Islands next Saturday.

Logbook analysis: “William Hamilton” (1834-1837)

Some years ago, the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island has digitized its entire whaling logbook collection, which includes over 750 logbooks of American whaling voyages and covers an amazing time period between 1762 and 1931. The whole collection is now available through archive.org1 In order to receive a certain overview, this collection offers a detailed finding aid to the public.2

During the year of 2020, when most of the world was overwhelmed with the Pandemic, I had the opportunity to analyse a part of those available logbooks of the Swain and Starbuck family, which cruised into the Pacific Ocean. In this context, I would like to introduce you the logbook of the whaling voyage of the WILLIAM HAMILTON whaling ship, which was at sea between 1834 and 1837.3

The whaling ship was owned by Isaac Howland at New Bedford, and William Swain captained the voyage. In this blog article, I want to show you how I have reconstructed the voyage and analysed the digitized logbook, which you can find here.4

For this, I used a simple Excel document, and defined already beforehand, what kind of developments and encounters I am interested in. On the Y axis, I decided to categorize my observations in “Sojourn in”, “Communication with”, “Land in sight”, trading with”, “Recruitment”, “whale in sight”, “Hunting process” as well as “etc.” The X axis marked the timeline. In doing so, I moved from page to page, and “screened” each whaling logbook page for relevant observations, which I noted down immediately. This allows me, to go through the Logbook just by scrolling the document to the right and I have immediately access to the most interesting information for myself.

Private Excel document. Click on the picture in order to view the picture in more detail.

As you can see on this small glimpse of the Excel document, I can immediately reconstruct the sailing route of the whaling ship only by following the ports, which the logbook mentions. In this case, the whaling ship departed from New Bedford and most likely rounded the Cape Horn because he stopped for the first time in Chile, then went further northwards for a stopover at Payta, continued its voyage in the direction of the Society Islands and headed to Aotearoa/ New Zealand, before he sailed to Otaheite and then sailed back to New Bedford. On the whaling voyage, the ship meet many other ships, as you can see.

Stopovers were crucial for whaling voyages. They needed them for refreshment and in order to trade goods, supplies, and also to recruit Indigenous sailors for their voyages. While the logbooks keepers did routinely trace developments during the voyages at sea, they remained disappointingly silent on land, and only continued with entries when they began to sail again. Having these gaps in mind, helps me to realize for how long the ships did stay at harbour.

Now let me go in further detail on one of the stopovers and skip to January 1836, when the whaling ship arrived the Bay of Islands. At the 8th of January 1836, the logbook mentions: “5 PM spoke the LADY AMHERST5 of London 28 month out with 2500 bbl Oil” and then: “Land in sight”. You can read the entry at the end of the left page here.6

Whaling ships saw it essential in coming in touch together and to exchange crucial information, and their current state of their voyage; thus, one often read of whaling ships, which also give their amount of whale cargo which they have hunted and boiled already. As you can see from the page, William Swain did meet at the Bay of Islands also the whaling ship SARAH AND ELIZABETH7. Since the ship was on the end of his voyage, the Logbook just briefly records “spoke the Sarah and Elizabeth, full bound home”. The captain of this London-based whaling ship was also another William Swain, one of his relatives, who lived in London and was regularly with whaling voyages in the Pacific Ocean too. Together with the LADY AMHERST, the SARAH ELIZABETH sailed back to London.

Both William Swain do have the same family background in the Quaker community of Nantucket, and the name of the Ship William Hamilton shows already, that the whaling ship of owners of Howland in New Bedford seem to have been aware of the history of the Quaker whalers, who migrated to Europe roughly between 1790 and 1815 for William Hamilton is considered as the pivotal contributor of the establishment of the Milford Haven. He is known to have invited and supported those Quaker whalers to come to Wales in order to establish and to continue their whaling activities.

The whaling ship William Hamilton arrived at 10th January 1836 the Bay of Islands and seems to have remained until 27th January 1836 at the harbour, because there are no logbook entries for the days in between, which you can see on the right page.6

In the days after they sailed they prepared the stores and the logbook regularly mentions entries such as “all hands employed storing chicken” or “the watch employed in ships duty”. Just two days after they left the Bay of Islands, they saw a whale and lowered the boats, and such whale sightings were even drawn in the daily entries.

On the last pages of the logbook, the keeper shows unusually the crew of the different parts of the ship and shows, how the constitution of the boat-crews changed and differed during the voyages. This proves to be a valuable insight into the multi-ethnicity of the crew, because it also mentions the places and islands from where some crew-members were taken off. Some crew members were taken from Pacific Islands such as the Galapagos, Navigator Islands, Society Islands Tongataboo or New Zealand as you can see on this logbook page here.8

Thank you very much for reading this. This was a very brief overview of a logbook, and in case you have a question to any part or aspect, you are welcome to leave a comment.

  1. Nicholson whaling collection, in Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/providencepublicnicholson, [Last Access: 12.03.2022]. []
  2. Wells, Kate (2019): Finding Aid, Nicholson whaling logbook collection 1762-1931, https://www.provlib.org/wp-content/uploads/finding-aids/003-02-01-FA.pdf, [last Access: 12.03.2022]. []
  3. William Hamilton, 1834-1837, in: whaling history database, https://whalinghistory.org/?s=AV15649, [Last Access: 12.03.2022] []
  4. William Hamilton Logbook 1834-1837, in: Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/journalofwilliam00will/mode/2up, [Last Access: 12.03.2022] []
  5. LADY AMHERST, in: whaling history database, https://whalinghistory.org/?s=BV078010, [Last Access: 12.03.2022] []
  6. William Hamilton Logbook, in: Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/journalofwilliam00will/page/n61/mode/2up?view=theater [Last Access:12.03.2022] [] []
  7. Sarah and Elizabeth, in: whaling history database, https://whalinghistory.org/?s=BV078010, [Last Access: 12.03.2022] []
  8. William Hamilton Logbook, in: Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/journalofwilliam00will/page/n127/mode/2up?view=theater [Last Access:12.03.2022] []

What my dissertation project would say about the year 2021 (2/2)

July to September 2021 – vacation, vaccination, and preparation

In July 2021, I planned to take some weeks free from work, free from writing, free from reading articles and take a break of constantly thinking of my research project. Apart from visiting friends, applying for an UK visa, I used also the opportunity to attend together with some other doctoral researchers a “Schreibwerkstatt”, kindly organized by PD Dr. Simon Karstens from Trier University. Within two very intensive and productive days, we talked, discussed and analyzed text passages, the working environments as well as useful tools and skills to write and to structure the work in long-term projects.

I used the first weeks of August to organize the last aspects of my archive stay in the UK and to book the places in Birmingham, Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest and London. The August marked also the beginning of this research blog and one of my first intentions was to devote at least one blog article to each archive.

By the late August I eventually moved to London and Birmingham and quickly began to read the first manusripts of the Cadbury Research Library in Birmingham in the first weeks of September. The Missionary manuscripts turned out to be very productuve and helpful from the very beginning. In Birmingham, I also contacted some staff members of the Department of History at the Birmingham University and so came in touch with Dr. Tom Cutterham. We had a great conversation and agreed to stay in touch in the future.

October to December 2021 – conferences, conferences, conferences

The preparation of conference presentations as well as archive researches in Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and London shaped the last quartal of 2021. At the first of October, I had the opportunity to introduce my topic to the audience of the Australian Seascapes Conference of the “Gesellschaft für Australienstudien“, which took place virtually via Zoom between 30th Sept. and 2nd Oct. 2021.

In the last week of November then between 23rd and 26th Nov. 2021, the New Zealand Historical Association came virtually together under the conference title “Ako: Learning from History“. I was delighted and very thankful to have had the possibility to present my research project in front of a Aotearoa/ New Zealand audience.

The last presentation, which I had in 2021 was in mid of Dec. 2021 to the GHI London Colloquium, where I have shown the first results of findings during the time in the UK. Being back in Germany now, I have used the christmas days to take a break and look forward to beginning the new year of 2022 with new motivation and to read the archive material, which I have collected and gathered.

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