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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Captain R. goes in for some playful place-naming

And we learn something very interesting about the captain's wife...

On the morning of the 17th of June[1800], the Admiralty Islands were seen.  

It was found that the ships had been driven by currents more north than they had expected; in consequence of which, they were, according to first appearances, embayed; but proceeding nearer the large island, which we named the Sovereign, it was observed that there was a considerable opening between the Sovereign and three smaller islands, which lay to the south of it. This induced our captain to ask Captain Nicholl if he would venture through. He replied, if our ship would take the lead, he would follow. The wind was fair for passing in that direction, and we proceeded accordingly. 

Coming near, we observed a number of canoes approaching us full of men. Before entering the passage, we let them come alongside; which they did with every confidence, that made us suppose that they had had intercourse with ships before. Their canoes were large, and had a platform in the centre, with a fire upon it, and some bread-fruit and jack-fruit were roasting, which they gave us, exchanging it for any thing we offered them; but iron was their favorite. They thought we wanted eatables most, and handed up fish and cocoa-nuts, with the jack-fruit. They also presented calabashes of water, which made us suppose that some ship had been there in want of provisions and water.

If the natives had any arms, they were concealed under the platform, for we saw none. They appeared to be the most civil people we had ever met with in these parts; in consequence of which, the captain called the marine localities, Port Mangles and Friendship’s Passage. It was thought there was some very good anchorage in the port, as the ships had from seven to twelve, and thirty fathoms, in passing through, with the land so near on both sides as to give the resemblance of a locked harbour. On the island to the south of us many parts of the territory had the appearance of being under cultivation, with a sort of lattice-work in some places, as if designed to preserve fruit from the winged tribe. Many houses and inhabitants were seen on shore. 

To distinguish a remarkable hill, sloping gently down to a ravine that was cultivated, the captain, in compliment to the owners of the ship, called the former James’ Mount, and the latter John’s Valley. A projecting point of land was named Point Thomas; and a white coral bank lying off it, seen very plain under water, Reid’s Bank. Another small opening was denominated Eleanor’s Cove, and a little elevated spot Barclay’s Peak. These names were all given to different parts of that island which is south of the Great Admiralty (or Sovereign) [Manus] Island. Farther, some rocks, about five leagues to the west of this place, were called Muirhead’s Reef, after the chief mate. We observed numbers of parrots and paroquets, flying about on the shore, amongst the trees.

So why did Captain Hugh Reid choose those names?  "Port Mangles" is easy, as the Mangles Brothers, ship merchants and oil merchants of Wapping, in the East End of London, were the owners of the ship.  "Friendship's Passage" is easy too, as Reid was going in for the customary practice of naming something after the ship. James, John, and Thomas were the first names of the Mangles brothers. And then there is "Reid's Bank," obviously named after the captain himself. And, as Mrs. R. says, "Muirhead's Reef" was named after the first mate. But Eleanor's Cove? And Barclay's Peak?  What can that mean?  Could Eleanor Barclay have been Mrs. R's maiden name?

Oh yes indeed, it was -- as the marriage certificate testifies.  Hugh Reid and Eleanor Barclay were married at St John's in Wapping, on September 16, 1798, and the witnesses were Hugh's brother Thomas Reid, and William Barclay, the new Mrs. R's father.

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