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Monday, April 7, 2014

Eleanor Reid, heiress.

For the last couple of months, I have been serializing the story of Eleanor, captain's wife on the East Indies merchant ship Friendship, transcribing the entries from The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australia: volume 8 (July-December, 1819), pages 237, 344, 452, and 555; volume 9 (January-June, 1820), pages 37, 130, 255, 451, and 564; and volume 10 (July-December, 1820), pages 40, 249, 454, and 575.

The introduction to the first extract runs, “In this number we commence a series of extracts from an unpublished MS with which we have been favoured, bearing the following title: Cursory Remarks, on board the ship Friendship, H. R—, commander; or, the Occurrences of a Voyage from Ireland to New South Wales, the South Sea, the Spice Islands, and Bengal, and thence back to Europe; performed in the years 1799, 1800 and 1801.

So far in my serialization, we have got up to September 1800. The ship is on the verge of working up the Hooghly River, and Eleanor is on the verge of discovering Calcutta, city of palaces.  But first, I'd like to introduce some of her family history.

Eleanor's father, William Barclay, was married to Janet Hardie on October 11, 1767, in Edinburgh.  They had three children in that city -- William junior, Andrew (1770), and Margaret (1772), all of whom were baptised at St Cuthbert's.  Sometime around 1778, when Eleanor was born, the family moved to London, where Eleanor's youngest brother, George Dallas Barclay was born on June 8, 1782, and baptised at the  London Wall Scotch Church on 7 July 1782.  Some years later Eleanor's youngest sister, Jane, was born.  They were a very warm and loving family, and appear to have been prosperous, as all the children were well educated -- in the case of Margaret, Eleanor, and Jane, probably by governesses at home.

In London, the Barclays were part of a merchant class that was deeply involved with the ships that traded in the East Indies, many of them with commanders and officers who were fathers, brothers, sons, and cousins.  This would have been how Eleanor met another displaced Scot, Hugh Reid: as we know, he came home from voyage in 1798, and they were married at St Mary-le-Bone on 16 September, a ceremony that was witnessed by William Barclay and Hugh's brother, Thomas Reid.  A few months later, on June 23, 1799, her older sister, Margaret, married a merchant, Richard Porter, in the same church, the ceremony witnessed by both William Barclays, father and son, Thomas Reid, John Calvert and Stephen Knight. In the same ceremony, Stephen Knight married Richard Porter's sister, Elizabeth.

These merchants, along with their kin, seafaring merchant-adventurers like Hugh Reid and Eleanor's oldest brother, Captain Andrew Barclay, were looked down on by the nobility of England because they made their money by trade -- and this despite the fact they were stalwart and upright citizens, religious and charitable, and certainly prosperous. In the 1790s, when a fellow Scot, John Fordyce, who was the Surveyor-General for Crown Lands, realized the potential of the 500 acres of open farmland that became Regent's Park, these were the men who could afford to invest in the grand and beautiful buildings that were designed by John Nash.  Richard Porter, Margaret's husband, bought 19 Regent Street, and Hugh Reid purchased 16 Cornwall Terrace ... and were rich enough to do it, because of the profits of ventures like Eleanor's maiden voyage on the Friendship.

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