Uncle Dave's book

Sunday, April 20, 2014

53 Ancestors # 15: John Buck, Sailor from Liverpool

     John Buck was my father's great great grandfather. He was born on 23 Nov 1810 in Manchester, England and baptized on 27 Mar 1811 in Manchester Cathedral. His father was William Buck, a fustian manufacturer, and Ann Hulme was his mother. What is a fustian manufacturer, you ask? Fustian is a type of cloth made of cotton and linen.  It was a heavy cloth, similar to denim. This was a major industry in Manc- hester in the late 1700's and 1800's. It was a cottage industry but by 1810 the Industrial was underway and it was being produced in factories. William and Ann had 7 children, John was number six.

     William died in 1815 leaving Ann with seven children from the age of 2 to the age of 14. How she coped we don't know but she did and the next thing we know is that in 1830 she apprenticed John to Thomas Elliot, a ship owner.  Here he began his career as a sailor. I have the original apprenticeship paper hanging on my wall. It was given to my father by his Aunt Mabel.  It states it is between "John Buck of Manchester and the consent of Robert Earlcott on behalf of his mother" and  "Thomas Elliot, Ship Owner" for a term of five years.

     The next we hear of John is a letter he wrote on Jan.12, 1839. This is addressed to William Lane of Manchester and the greeting is "Dear Uncle". I haven't yet found any family connection between them which would correspond to Uncle-nephew. But we know that he married William Lane's daughter, Sarah, in December 1939. So I suspect the term Uncle is used as one of respect and implying a family relationship to the father of one's bride-to-be. It's a great letter! Again I suspect he is really writing to Sarah or at least for her benefit but for the sake of propriety addressed it to her father. Here is some of the letter:
                                                                                               " Lisbon Jan ? 12th 1839
"Dear Uncle,

You will be surprised to hear from me from this part of the globe but the reason we are hear (sic) is on account of our great distress from the heavy gales we had.  We saild(sic) from Liverpool the 13th Dec and was (sic) tow'd as far as holyhead the wind being foul we had tolerable weather till we came too(sic) the mouth of the channel it then came on to blow heavy gales from SW to WSW and continued till we got well in the bay of Biscay when the wind haul'd round to the N/W and blew a complete hurricane nothing could withstand the gale  particular the Saturday night and Sunday before Christmas day. for that was worse than all, it happen'd to be my 8 hours on deck that night that his (sic) I had the first and last watch and of course had from 12 to 4 o'clock to sleep but I could not sleep for the heavy rolling of the ship for she labour'd very heavy and indeed I never saw a ship make worse weather than she did for both me and the Capt. are much deceived in the vessell(sic), she is the worst sea boat I ever was in. but I must make some allowance for the cargo that is in her that will make her worse for our cargo is partly iron which is but a bad cargo. at 2 AM all hands where(sic) calld (sic) on deck -the main topsail and mast being carried away the sea was then beginning to run swift(?) and to blow harder so we furl'd the fore topsail and foresail. then sent the watch below, it being my watch on deck at daybreak the sea was indeed awful never did I see such  a high sea before. I thought I had seen has(sic) heavy a sea off the Cape of Good Hope as could well be but I was mistook for the sea here was high and hollow soon after she ship'd a heavy sea which washed away all our Bulwarks fore and Aft Spars Cookhouse etc. I was on the point of calling the Capt. after we had secured some spars that were adrift but the shock of the sea brought him quickly on deck.  all my watch myself and Capt where (sic) on the quarter deck when another tremendous sea broke over all the decks carrying everything before it.  Dear Uncle it was a most miraculous thing that I was not washed overboard for I d

id not see the sea coming the Capt and the rest of them was (sic) holding on by the rigging when the sea struck her it carried right aft on the lea side of the ship then Capt and Crew saw it but could render me no assistance but thank god I caught hold of something but scarce know what and held onb till the sea left the deck. Dear uncle what strange things comes in a person's head when in danger I thought of the mate of the Royal William that was washed overboard in the same way. I must own that I was alarmed at so sudden a shock but I had little time to reflect when other difficulties call'd my attention the Crew were getting quite exhausted indeed I was myself but it would not do to show it we where (sic) now trying to secure our boats and water casks but was not able for sea was breaking over all the ship rolling and labouring heavy we where (sic) now compelled to lash ourselfs(sic) to the rigging for fear of being washed away and by midnight all our boats water casks and spars where (sic) washed away in short our decks where(sic) clean swept fore and aft...the Ship as(sic) put all hands quite out of conceit with her and I question weather (sic) our Crew will go the voyage or not but for my part I shall go the voyage let the consequences be what it will for it would be a folly for me to leave her Please to give my love to My Aunt and Cousins hoping you are all well Your affec J Buck"

     One can see why that letter has been saved all these years! the original letter was lost in a fire in the 1970's, I have a Xerox copy made for my father.

     John and Sarah were married at Liverpool Cathedral on 31 Dec 1839 (New Year's Eve!). Their son, Edward was born 31 Aug 1841,daughter, Hannah Elizabeth was born 10 May 1844  and lastly John born 14 Apr 1846. All were baptized at the Manchester Cathedral.  In the 1841 Census John Buck is enumerated in the household of William Lane with his wife, Sarah and is listed as an iron monger(William Lane's profession). Perhaps he was trying to stay at home and not go to sea out of concern for his family.
However, I did find evidence of other voyages during this period. So perhaps he could not stay away from the sea for long. He was ticketed as a sailor on 15 Nov 1845 and joined "The Bombay Packet Africa" on 9 Feb 1846. His ticket says he was a Mate, was 5' 1 1/2" tall, had brown hair, brown eyes, a ruddy complexion and a scar on his forehead. He could write. He was 35 years old. When he sailed with the Africa his wife was pregnant with his third child. This was probably his last voyage because the family Bible records his death on "the 16th day of December 1846 at noon aged 36 years." His youngest son, John, died soon after his demise although that death is not recorded in the Bible.

     I have often wondered whether the attempt to be a merchant and not go to sea contributed to his early death. He was well remembered by his daughter to her grandchildren and by them to their children and grandchildren.  His letter shows his courage and matter of fact determination in the face of adversity. Tat is worthy of remembering!


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