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The Wreck of the 'Draper'

The Belfast News Letter of Tuesday, 14th March, 1769 carried this advertisement:

by J. F. Rankin

"The Draper, John Moore, Master, now at the Kay, will be ready to take in Goods in a few days, and will certainly sail the first of April next, wind and weather permitting".

In fact the brig did not sail until 9th May, as the next reference is on 16th May when we are informed that she was cleared outwards to London on 9th May with beef, pork, etc. The story continues on Friday, 26th May:

"The Draper, Moore, from Belfast to London laden with linen etc., struck on the Rundlestone Rock near the Land's End on Saturday last; the Master, crew and passengers were all saved in the boat and a small part of the cargo. The vessel is floating on the stream".

The same issue prints a copy of a letter from John Bullen of Penzance to Mr. Daubuz dated 13th May, 1769:

"On the 11th inst., the Draper, Moore, from Belfast for London with 107 bales and cases of linnen, beef, pork and skins, struck on the Rundlestone Rock, near the Land's End, and was soon full of water. The Captain has valued himself on our Collector and me; we got 10 boats and 100 men to do the best they could to bring the ship into our bay, but all in vain; the wind blowing hard at N.E, drove her off the land; the boats followed her and scuttled the decks and took up the undermentioned goods which are under my care as she is floating on the tide. I This morning got a decked vessel and three boats and sent my Clerk and two officers to get her to Scilly, as she floats on the stream of the water. I left her this morning about four leagues from the Land's End; the Captain cannot tell all the Freighters' names as he has lost his book, but some of them are at the foot of this letter. The cargo is computed worth 20,000 1.

Goods saved


cases of linnen, about 1500 yards each


bales ditto


pieces ditto


calves skins

The fishermen have gone so far for the goods, we have been obliged to give them one fourth of all they have brought on shore.

Since the above account, advice hate been received, that the Vessel bath been towed into Scilly, and that it is expected much more of the Cargo hath been saved".

We last hear of the Draper on 30th May when we learn that she has been "got" into Scilly with all the materials on board.

Of what interest, the reader may ask, is this story; recently the writer had access to a number of letters and papers deposited in the Down and Connor Diocesan Library. Among these papers was a number relating to a gentleman by the name of Charles Hamilton; the principal item of interest was an inventory of his possessions which had been salvaged from the 'Draper' on the Scilly Isles. In order to fill in, or rather fill out the story, it was necessary to find out as much as possible about Charles Hamilton. Who was he? Where did he live? Why was he moving to London?

In order to answer these questions and perhaps to explain the ecclesiastical connection, let us go back to Francis Hutchinson, who was Bishop of Down and Connor from 1720 until his death on 23rd June, 1739. The Bishop purchased the estate at Portglenone which had been in the possession of the Stafford family to whom it had been granted during the Plantation; he also owned land at Cranfield and Duneane on the shores of Lough Neagh near Toomebridge. Hutchinson had only one child, a daughter named Fanny, who married a John Hamilton in 1721. John Hamilton had been ordained in the Established Church, his father having been sometime Rector of Knockbreda and Dundonald. Subsequently he became Dean of Dromore. Dean Hamilton died young and was buried in Lisburn on 30th July, 1729; he left three sons, the second of whom was Charles, After the Dean's death, his widow, Fanny, married Colonel Henry O'Hara of O'Hara Brook and thus became heir to considerable property at Crebilly near Ballymena.

Charles Hamilton, therefore, was a grandson of Bishop Francis Hutchinson and his mother, having re-married, was the wife of Colonel Henry O'Hara. Charles inherited the Portglenone, Cranfield and Duneane properties on the deaths of his father, mother and brother; he appears to have lived at Portglenone. This advertisement appeared in the Belfast News Letter on 29th May, 1759:

"To be let, and immediately enter'd on; a large commodious store-hcuse with a handsome dwelling house adjoining situated on the shore of Lough Neagh and lands of Cranfield, between the Main Water and Toome, where there is a very convenient harbour, and quay, with sufficient water for the largest flats in the dryest seasons, and as much land to accommodate the tenant as he will find necessary. As this store-house is most conveniently situated for trading to Newry or any part of the Lough, and lies in a well inhabited country, many miles distant from any place of trade, a person who would set up there with a tolerable capital and knowledge of business might soon make a fortune; for betides many other advantages it lies in the most convenient spot for carrying on a trade between Belfast and the lough when the Lagan navigation is finish 'd. Whoever has a mind to treat for the same, may depend on the utmost encouragement on applying to Hans Hamill, Esq., at Ballyatwood near Belfast, or to Charles Hamilton esq., at Portglenone near Antrim. The store-house etc., will be shown by William Mulligan, farmer in Cranfield".

Ten years later, on 7th April, 1769, this advertisement appeared:

"To be sold by publick Auction, for ready Money, at Portglenone, on Monday the 24th Day of April next; All the Cattle and Houshold Furniture of Charles Hamilton, Esq., who is going with his Family to reside for some Time in England. His cattle consist of Horses, and a Number of horned Cattle of different Ages, and a good greed; His Furniture consists of Mahogany, Walnut and Oak Beds, Tables and Chairs, choice Feather Beds, with English and Lambeg Blankets, Crimson Damask Settees and Chairs, almost all as good as new, Pier-Glasses, Marble Side boards, Escritores, Cabinets and Tallboys, together with a Number of good Prints and Pictures, a new Harpsichord, some useful Plate, useful and ornamental China, Delft and Paris ware, several Carpets, a considerable Collection of Books, some useful Fire-Arms, Pewter, Brass, Copper, and all Sorts of Kitchen Furniture, a good Post Chaise and a Pair of well trained Horses, a Jack, and Eight-Day Clock, several Carts with Iron Axle Trees, and of the most useful construction, Cars, Ploughs, with other farming and gardening Utensils, together with a handsome large Pleasure Boat compleatly rigg'd, and a prime Sailer, also a small Flat Boat.

Portglenone, March 18, 1769.

N. B. The Cant to continue from Day to Day till all are sold."

It is evident from this list of possessions that Hamilton was a man of some substance; harpsichords and 'handsome large Pleasure Boats' were the preserve of the gentry. It has not been possible to establish the reason for his departure to London but from the list of possessions salvaged at Scilly it would be reasonable to guess that he was a merchant in trade, transporting his stock to London and this would be supported by the above advertisement where the store-house and its situation would seem to be of greater importance than the dwelling house.

The inventory lists the contents of 14 chests; Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 & 13 were identified as being directed to Charles Hamilton; No. 8 was marked R.R. No. 3 I. M.C.; No. 10 was directed to Robt. Adair Esq., at Mr. Burne's Taylor, King Street, Covent Garden; No. 12 was marked for William Dobbs on board Commodore Man to the care of Robt. Allen Esq., Ironmonger Lane, London whilst Nos. 11 & 14 bore no directions.

Who else but a merchant would have 14 women's Bed Gowns, 22 Caps for women, 30 Aprons and 43 Shifts, not to speak of 6 Holland Drawers. As was general at the period, he also traded in other commodities; thus we find 22 cakes of chocolate, 160 black and white prints, 79 painted medals. One is intrigued by the small camera and artificial apple in chest No.9.

On 29th May an agreement was drawn up by Isaac Hood, Collector of Customs on Scilly; it carries 3 signatures 'for the Proprietors', one 'for the out isle people' and 7 'for the Salvers'. Two further persons were named as 'concern'd for the Proprietors' and two for the Salvers. The agreement set out the terms on which the appraisors were to value the salvaged goods and apportion the charges between the various parties. John James was one of the agents acting on behalf of the proprietors and it is he who subsequently looked after Charles Hamilton's affairs.

The total appraisement of Charles Hamilton's effects was calculated to be £241.8.11 less the duty due on 224 oz. Irish Plate at 17d 9/20 = 45/100 = £16.6.6., leaving a figure of £225.2.5¼ The salvers received one fourth part of this amount, calculated to be £50.13.1 and £1.14.6 on the quarter part of Mr. Dobbs' trunk. A further £22.10.0 being one tenth part of the appraisement, was paid to Lord Godolphin as Lord of the Soil. Mr. John James also thought it proper to offer a gratuity of £5.5.0 to the gentlemen appointed as appraisors.

The next document was written at St. Mary's Scilly, on July 19th, 1769:

"These are to certify all whom it doth or may concern that Mr. John James of Newlyn did shipp on the Content, sloop, Thos. George, Master on Saturday last being the 15th of this inst., July, Ten chests & Trunks directed for Chas. Hamilton Esq., & one Trunk directed for Mr. Wm. Dobbs."

John James wrote to Chas. Hamilton on 22nd July:

....The appraisers would not let me be there as being a party in the beginning; but this much I can assure you by of specimen, that the 10 new pack thread stays are perfectly preserved & apprais'd only at 2 1 each. The best silk gowns only @ 18 1 and the poorer ones £1.11.6...... I forgot to mention that the Table Linnens are, I think, apprais'd cheap, but the dearest articles I found were 36 shirts apprais'd at 6/8 each. The reason they gave was that refd shirts were mostly new."

The remainder of the collection of papers in the Diocesan Library consists of various accounts and receipts, together with an inventory of goods in Hamilton's house in Jermyn Street, Piccadilly, in September 1772. It is evident that he travelled widely around the country, as we have a receipt for £4 excise duty for a four-wheeled carriage at Bromley, Kent; there are accounts for the hire of horses in various parts of the country covering a period of several years. A school account for his son, John O'Hara, dated April 1775 is of considerable interest to-day as are the receipts for £63 for the delivery of a harpsichord. It should be mentioned that his son John added the O'Hara name after Hamilton in order to inherit the O'Hara property at Crebilly.

A number of these papers are reproduced.

Charles Hamilton's papers which form the basis of this story are in the possession of the Diocesan Library of Down, Connor and Dromore to whom acknowledgment is made for permission to reproduce them.

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