Voyage of the ‘Pearl’, 1849

George Morgan Clarke (1798—1849) was the second son of Charles Clarke. He married Caroline Maria Likely in 1826, but they do not appear to have had any children. At least, none were living with them at the time of the 1841 census. George Clarke was a cabinet maker and lived in St. Pancras, near his father. In the 1840s, after the death of Charles Clarke, George’s brother Henry and sister Julia, together with their families, emigrated to Canada. George visited them, as he is recorded at the baptism of his brother’s daughter, Yvonne in July 1847. Perhaps emboldened by their success in starting a new life, he decided to join them.

On 23rd August 1849, George Clarke wrote a short and slightly unusual will leaving everything to his wife and naming her executrix. After her decease all was to go to her sister, Sarah Elizabeth Likely for life, and after her decease to “my children if I have any”. The ship sailed the same day.

George, and presumably his wife, sailed on the ‘Pearl’, a ship full of emigrants bound for Montreal. The voyage did not go smoothly. They sailed from Deal on the 23rd of August, but put back on the 27th before leaving again on the 31st. On September 1st, they put into Portsmouth, departing for the Atlantic crossing on the 4th.

In early October, the London newspapers had an update. This is from the Morning Chronicle of October 5th.

On the 12th of September, the Pearl emigrant ship put into Vigo [in Spain], the captain and chief mate being attacked with cholera. The former died; the latter has taken charge of the ship and will sail for Quebec as soon as the Board of Health will permit. The crew and passengers all well.

The last sentence was a little optimistic.

The London Daily News of 27 October carried this further report.

The very shameful robbery perpetrated at Vigo by the authorities in the case of the British emigrant ship, Pearl (says a correspondent), ought, I think, to be brought forward. The Pearl having Asiatic cholera on board, put in there and demanded assistance. She was offered the alternative of either proceeding to sea or discharging all her cargo at the Lazarette; and the mate being ill and the master dead, the latter alternative was perforce adopted. Not content with the exorbitant fees demanded and paid for the landing of her very valuable cargo, not a night passed during the time the cargo was ashore without trunks and cases being clandestinely opened and robbed. No one belonging to the ship was allowed ashore after sunset, and had it not been for a bribe of about 60l. given to the Alcalde, the peculation and delay would have been still greater. Many of the trunks thus opened were worth 300l. or 400l., and, of course, until the ship’s arrival at her destination the amount pilfered cannot be ascertained. The widow of her unfortunate master, as well as one of her owners, came home in the Jupiter.

Time was passing, winter was coming, and the captain was dead. The ship was eventually cleared to leave, but only made it as far as Plymouth, where she put in November 7th. There she wintered, finally departing for Montreal on March 21st. By then George Clarke was dead, along with his wife. The whole sad tale comes out in the proving of his will in December.

Cholera was a fearful disease and had ravaged Montreal in the 1830s. The waves of emigrants to Canada in the 1830s and 1840s faced great risks. By some accounts, at times as many as 1 in 6 died in the crossing. Among them were George Clarke and his wife.

1 thought on “Voyage of the ‘Pearl’, 1849

  1. Pingback: Charles Clarke (c. 1760—1840) | Kirby and his world

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