Journal of a young seaman's service aboard HMS Canada from 1889-1892 on the North America & West Indies Station illustrated with many colour sketches
The Journal, etc of HMS Canada by A. White. Quarto notebook, with home-made stitched wrapper, front hinge cracked. Decorated title page. The journal records the voyages of the ship between November 1889 and December 1892 on the North America and West Indies Station. Approx 76 handwritten pages, rectos only and something like 51 watercolours drawn by the author of the journal, Able Seaman White in a naive style. Something like two thirds of the available pages are written up, the rest of the pages blank. Included are two photographs; a cabinet photograph of a sailor, presumably of the author and a postcard sized photograph of a young woman, perhaps the sailor's fiancee/wife? One has the sense that he has written this journal perhaps [for her?] to give a flavour of his life aboard ship to those back home. His narrative begins in the West Indies where he joins the ship. His lively account mentions the accidental drowning of a sailor in Bermuda; the Bluejackets being reviwed by the ex President of the US [this would be Rutherford B. Hayes]; the flying boom carried away in a storm; the desertion of a party of Bluejackets as the ship was moored off Newport, two of them getting away, the other 12 being captured [this account accompanied by a sketch]; the court martial of a sailor for desertion and another for striking an officer ['what they were sentenced to we need not mention']; landing at Caughnawaga [of the Mohawk nation] 'had a yarn with the natives', accompanied by a sketch of an Indian pilot; back in the West Indies he enjoys a church service onshore 'better than a service held aboard'; a sketch illustrates an episode of a man overboard; a sketch of the SS Atlanta, sunk off Savannah-la-Mar [Jamaica]. Divers from the Canada go down but find the stricken ship wedged between two rocks; a sketch of the Jamaica Exhibition building [the Exhibition ran from January to May 1891]; while at Vera Cruz he notes that the men wear hats but the women do not; on an uninhabited island a party go ashore where they find rabbits, from, they presume one of the many wrecks; another island the men christen 'Agony Island' because of the mosquitoes 'even smoking would not keep them off...next morning we could scarce recognise our own shipmates'; at St. George's, Bermuda, the men help put out a fire at the commissioner's house; at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the Bluejackets and the Marines stage a mock fight for the townspeople; a sketch of the lightouse on the Ild d'Anticosti; the ship takes on new guns [one of the same type having burst aboard another ship]; in Halifax they go on a long march on shore [charming sketch of two sailors resting]; a boat race is held over five miles between the shipwrights and a crew from the Flagship; sketch of an accident with a lifeboat on passage to Antigua; sketch of 'English Harbour', Antigua; in Bermuda, the ship goes into dry dock [sketch] and the crew scrape the bottom; they carry our target practive at night, firing at the target by searchlight; Christmas where the first lieutenant does 'parson's duty', the sailors sing songs and the officers listened in 'I fancy one or two got a rather hard knock in some of the songs'; on Domenica a cricket match is played onshore; a series of small sketches illustrate a shore leave on St John's; sketches of the exotic fruits to be found on the island; In Venezuela, he hears that there is fighting going on at some of the ports [Venezuala was experiencing a coup at the time]; almost beached on rocks in dense fog; back to Canada where a bullock is hauled aboard and slaughtered [shot in the head with an Enfield revolver]; an onboard concert; he is not impressed by Newfoundland ['dreary and desolate...St George is a small town composed of rude wooden houses']; Venezuala again 'the country in a very unsettled state'; return to England. Four handwritten pages to rear titled 'Sailor's pets' mentions several animals which had a berth on the ship, latterly a goat called 'Bill' who ate anything and whom the sailors took ashore when they had shore leave. An evocative written by an unsphisticated, but observant young man chronicling the routine of a ship in this station often encountering foreign naval ships, Dutch, American, French, Spanish. A first hand account written, very probably as a souvenir of his service for those back home. The condition, in general is VG. A number of the pages/signatures are loose. HMS Canada was a Comus class screw corvette in the service of the Royal Navy serving in the North America and West indies station. Launched in 1881 she was scrapped in 1897. Her bow badge was presented by the Dominion of Canada, when the ship was launched and was given to the Maritime Museum in British Columbia when the ship was scrapped.
Author Seaman White
Illustrator Seaman White