Friday, 2 June 2017


 A while ago now, I introduced  you to my guest blogger, 
Joan Birtles...

 Joan's blog post, 


attracted quite some interest.

 Joan has now contributed another post 
re another interesting ancestor


Peter Hughes was born Pierre Hue in St Helier, Jersey, Channel Isles 30 April 1815 to Alain Pierre and Jeanne Thomas.  Alain was born 1774 in Parame, St Malo, France and evidently fled France at the time of Napoleon as Alain, a Mariner, was on a record with his family, similar to a census, in 1800 at Roteneuf in France.   He met Jeanne Thomas who was born in St Lawrence, Jersey, and in 1805 had their first child Jeanne Susanne, Elizabeth in 1807, Jean/John in 1811 and lastly Pierre/Peter.

Peter, my gt gt grandfather was a seaman as was his father Alain Pierre but my story begins with the adventures that Peter had as a boy of about 16 although he would have been about 12 when he went to sea.     

The adventures he wrote in a journal, part of which was found by a cousin when she was cleaning out some of her grandfather’s possessions after he had passed away.   We have no idea what happened to the first or last part of the journal but I hope you will enjoy our part of the journal which begins about 1830 when Peter would have been about 15 years of age.  Although there were very few dates in Peter’s journal he did mention particular ships so together with Lloyd’s Lists, his “Jersey Seaman’s Benefit Fund” record and a lot of help from various shipping enthusiasts,  I was able to tie some of these ships in with the dates he would have had his adventures.  Although Peter had beautiful hand writing it was difficult to transcribe his journal as he used no commas, fullstops or paragraphs….it just flowed.

In about 1830, Peter’s voyage took him to Russia when Cholera broke out and like any inquisitive boy while on shore going to the market every morning, being the junior member, to get the day’s rations for the ship’s company, he decided to check out “one of the vehicles going through the streets to see its contents only to find it contained 10 or 12 dead Russians packed in like herrings head to tail”.  He rejoined his ship and with a lading of wheat and feathers headed back to St Heliers, Jersey.

About 1831, whilst on his next voyage, the ship made lading of potatoes, codfish, bar iron, cyder wine and cordage and had a beautiful passage past Cape de Verde Island and Tenerife then headed to the south where they were chased by 2 schooners flying the American Flag and being the youngest on board he was sent to the main top mast to see what sort of crafts they were.   He spotted a large swivel gun and the form of several men and it was not long, because of the breeze, that it soon cradled up within hailing distance but luckily the cloud and a bad thunderstorm during the night they lost sight of the chasers.  

The ship arrived at Rio De Janeiro, after no more incidents, at the time that Don Pedro First abdicated the throne in favour of his 5 year old son Don Pedro 11, who was not crowned until 1840. 

There was a 94 gun ship on guard in Rio harbour and as usual Peter had to go ashore for the ships’ stores of oranges, banana and good strong coffee.  He was always on shore with the Captain and “had the pleasure of seeing the procession with the men covered in gold gems or diamonds and the ladies literally covered head, body and feet with one lady who had a wreath of diamonds over her head fast with a necklace around her neck that actually dragged upon the pavement”.   Although Peter was very intrigued by the procession he was still aware of the dangers and tested his Jack Knife to see whether it was sharp enough when he saw the fierce looking Portuguese besides their dark featured slaves holding the corners of their beautiful embroidered sadle cloths.  

With more thoughts of either being nabbed by the slaves or getting his head chopped off by one of the great men on horseback with great swords hanging by their sides, he decided to go to a Portuguese Coopery, or Pub in English, to spend his five shilling piece on a cup of coffee.    He was given a bag full of coppers about twice the size of an English penny, of which he had no idea of the value, however on getting into the boat when he returned he fell overboard and lost all his coppers whatever the value was.  

He recalls that readers must think he was quite ignorant of Portuguese tricks as they must have put some raw rum made from sugar cane into his coffee [called Casiask?] as he was sick for two days.    His friend, the second mate, was not on board as he was left in Tenerife through firing an old gun that burst and took his thumb off his hand but Peter would have liked for him to be on board as he would have forgiven him for the jar of Brown what was spilt in his berth.

1830-1831 was also the time of the Belgian Revolution and with their ship laden with coffee, onloaded in St Heliers harbour for Antwerp, the ship arrived safely into the docks before daylight although German boats had been following them up the River Schelde.  While in Antwerp, with houses very pretty much upon the French style, he visited most of the places of note, including the magnificent Cathedral, also a place called Bergrath, by train and arrived in the famed Plains of Waterloo where he remained for 3 days.   After  the ship was loaded with gin & red ?, they proceeded on their voyage home to Jersey which took 5 days where Peter was happily greeted by the cats and kittens he obviously played with and tormented.

On the next voyage to Rio de Janeiro and then to Cape Trio, the Captain’s son was lost overboard although it was dead calm. The 2 quarter boats were lowered but could find no trace of the boy.  The ship proceeded on to Montevideo after leaving Rio as there was no market, then up the River Plate to Buenos Aires.  It was on this trip that Peter was made an “able seaman” for showing myself smart as a good sailor.  He was evidently not impressed with the long straggling town of Buenos Aires running along the river.  They loaded with green hides, tallow and dry hides, shank bones, horns & hooves and sailed for home.    

As the ship needed extensive repairs which would take quite a few months Peter shipped on board a brig called the Broad Ax of Jersey and made 2 successive trips to South Shields for coal but 'as the coal trade did not agree with me I left her in Jersey.'

His next voyage was on the “Mariner” of Jersey with Captain Langley on their usual run to Rio de Janeiro, then Gibralter 'passing islands which were too numerous to mention including Stromboli an island with a burning mountain, and the straits of Messina and with the dropping of the wind with the ebb tide their vessel drifted into strong currents like a succession of whirlpools off the coast of Calabria, hit sunken rocks and with the velocity of the whirlpool only had sufficient time to lower the gig from the starboard side and lower the jolly boat from the stern and jump to them without thinking of any more we laid on our oars off the vessel carrying on all sorts of antics which put me in mind of a dog running round and round to catch his tail, but we had not much time for contemplation for within the half hour the brig begun to role and gradually settle down. Not knowing exactly the position we were in the captain made his mind to pull for the Ferro Light on the Messina side which we reached just at day break.     

Peter noted on this voyage a circumstance that happened when the shipowner’s [Mr Parshard of Jersey] son was super cargo and when he heard the captain’s order to clear the boats he was paralysed not with fear for he had served his time at sea like myself but the lofs of the brig and the valuable cargo we had to put him in the boat for he had not power to move and remained so until we near reach Faro?.  

The authorities there would not allow the ship’s company to land and were sent back to the wreck with 2 police boats following where they reached the wreck about 2 in the afternoon.    They cut the sails down and put them in the boats and after finding a creek, landed the contents in a vineyard some 50ft from high water mark and managed to make a bed of the topsails and a cover.    

They had not had any food or water for 30 hours and although “I could not swim but the carpenter being a powerful man and a good swimmer we made it up to go round the points of rock for water as we were all parched for a drink of the preshus fluid…I would not have cared if I had had my brandy jar full of good water but we found a small stream running down the rocks we drank our fill but having nothing to carry water for our famished ship mates we had to come back when the remainder found that we had found water it was a rush for it but to our great disappointment the police tried to stop us with pointing their carabines at us but we pushed on weather or no and reached the water had our fill and retreated has we had nothing to convey it in another night without food but bloated like frogs with water.   We passed as comfortable a night at circumstances would allow.”  

Some of the boats from the shipwreck had gone direct to a place called Shilla [Thilla]? and gave information of the wreck.  “In the morning a man and a woman came to claim the vineyard the shipwrecked men had taken possession of  but to their great surprise were put in quarentine with the ships company for 40 days”, as Cholera still rampant in all Ports so each Government had its own quarantine restrictions for shipping [Lloyds List 1830-1832].     “After having fullfiled hour 40 days quarantine we were taken to a fishing town called Shilla and had every attention paid by the French Consol has their was not an English Consol there.”  They were then taken to Masina under the British Consol who found them temporary home until ships were found for them.   They then sailed with the Captain and the super cargo for London thence to Jersey where the remainder of the ships company found situations.

He was on the “Rapid” of London about 1832 where he joined another ship the “Dart of Jersey” back home to his native place to find he had lost the only dear tie he had in the world.  “My mother having died in the Cholara.   Having no ties to keep me at home I shipped as soon as pofsible”.  On one of the ships during this time the vessel Peter was on, evidently made excellent time on the journey and the Captain received a Gold Watch, the mate a hat & coat and the vessels company according to their grade received money.

About 1836, he was on the “Robert Watt” of Jersey to Cadiz, Cowes, Denmark where in “Copenhagen he noticed he got a sly glance from the pretty bar girls”, then lower Germany and in 1837 he was on the “Larch” to Spain again, these voyages lasting about 5 months.   
In 1838 Peter’s was made 2nd officer of the “Robert Watt” stopping at Cadiz, Rio de Janeiro, however he had some words with the Captain and left the vessel in Rio where he remained for about 3 months, a place he was not very impressed with.  1839-1840 he was on an American barque on his first whaling adventure ‘the excitement was that great with me that I wished myself in the boats”…which he eventually did get into one of the boats and was 24 hours chasing whales where they lost sight of their ship but were found together with other boats.    Peter went into great lengths to describe this adventure, the cutting up of the whales, the cleaning and also cleaning of the boats and the ship but was greatly rewarded when “I received the astonishing sum of 15 dollars”.

“Strolling about Maidenlain warf I fell in with a school mate and in conversation found he was Captain of the Brig “Mary Ann” of Belise [Captain Norm Hampton]  he was shipping hands that day and I shipped with him. Took in cargo of flower soap candles rice spirits cider not forgetting potatoes cabeage carrots parsnips onions and in fact anything eatable left New York about the begining of May and proseded on our voige arrived at Belise everything was sold before arrival and Mr Coffin [Caffin] the owner was in a great hurry to get it landed  Waiting for cargo three weeks then had to go to the Monkey River to load 75 logs of mahogany then back to Belise to take remainder of the cargo consisting of log wood sarsfaralla root about the beginning of June sailed for new York”.

Unfortunately this was the end of the adventures that I have as the above portion was from page 11 to page 19, whatever happened to the other pages we’ll never know.

Peter eventually sailed into Port Jackson, Sydney, New South Wales 1846 on the Samuel Boddington which he gave as his abode on his marriage to Mary Jane Souter/Suter at Scots Presbyterian Church, Sydney 17 June 1846.   He may have already known Mary Jane from previous trips.  They had 13 children.

The Hughes Family c.1895

© Joan Birtles

When Joan kindly sent me this wonderful photo and gave permission for me to publish it, I asked the obvious question..
Do you know anyone in this photo?

The only one I know for sure is the man with moustache sitting down on the ground with his arms around a child.   He is Philip Henry Hughes b 1860  [gt grandfather of my cousin who found Peter Hughes’ memoirs and the photo also].  Philip Henry had lost a leg.

The 13 children of Peter Hughes & Mary Jane Souter/Suter were just in case someone was interested:-
John Thomas b 1847, Ann b 1849, David Allan b 1850 [my gt grandfather], Elizabeth Jane b 1852, Emildrida Amelia b 1854, Peter b 1855, Martha Anne b 1857, Richard William b 1858, Philip Henry b 1860, Edmund b 1861, Cecelia b 1863, Maria Jane b 1866, Frederick b 1867 [he could also be known as Patrick?]

If you think you may have a connection with some of these people, then please contact me, either via a comment, or via my email address in About Me, and I will put you in touch with Joan.

 Thank you, Joan, for another interesting story, well worth a Headline of Old.


  1. Thanks for saving this diary extract, Joan & Chris. Myself & many others in the Antipodes had ancestors who must have had similar adventures, but they didn't get recorded. So this helps fill a gap in history for many. These random snapshots of memories seem very authentic to me, -- after many decades, what we each remember is so random! Months of routine boredom interspersed with a few hours of terror?!

    1. Thank you for your comments. I was honoured that Joan chose to share this very precious part of her family history. It is an amazing document and story.
      Would that more of us would be left with such treasures. It is a good reminder to us to ensure that we leave something behind for our descendants.