Jack Nastyface: Memoirs of an English Seaman

Guest post from member Sue Catterall.

jacknastyMy GGG Grandfather William Robinson wrote the book Jack Nastyface: Memoirs of an English Seaman and it became a famous classical novel.  You can find an article on him on a web page called Jack Nastyface – Memoirs of an English seaman.

In London, recruiting posters began appearing appealing to the patriotic to take up arms, and it seems certain that William would have paused before one of these.

With feelings of patriotism running through his veins and keen to escape the tedious work of shoe-making, William left his father’s workshop and walked to the recruiting centre on Tower Hill to offer his services to His Majesty as a landman (volunteer).  The recruiting officer, on seeing his leather apron, immediately thought he was a runaway apprentice, but William quickly assured him that that was not so.  He was sent to the receiving ship lying in the Thames and ordered into the hold with other volunteers and impressed men.  The gratings were battened down and a guard of marines, with fully loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, was placed round the hatchways as though the wretched occupants were capital convicts.  Completely ramped and unable to sit or stand separately, the ship sailed down the Thames and arrived at the Nore.  With lack of ventilation and the air turning foul from seasick men, they were a pitiable sight indeed and William began to regret the rash step he had taken.

William Robinson was at the Battle of Trafalgar against Nelson on the ship HMS Revenge.  Many of those serving on the various ships were thrown on there by Press Gangs that use to roam the area of London plucking anyone up they came across.  They had no experience in what they were about to do.

William wrote this book to encourage reforms for sailors, briefly, in 1805 conditions for Englishmen serving in their navy were worse than slavery.  As he wisely learned on entering the Navy, a sailor “must confine his thoughts to the hold of his mind and never suffer them to escape the hatchway of utterance.” 

When spoken to by an officer, even if it was a bullying 12 year old midshipman, the ordinary seaman was only allowed to say, “Aye, aye, sir” while touching the rim of is cap.  Were he to say more, he could be flogged for insolence.  In one instance, after two marines threw an officer overboard, they were seized and hanged for the yardarm.

Conditions were appalling, discipline was by sheer terror, not by reason or persuasion.  Yet, when pennants were hoisted stating, “England expects each man will do his duty” these sailors responded with pride and courage that made England master of the seas for centuries.

Its marvelous glimpse at the brutality that was all too common and the pride and the class distinctions of England, and why the Industrial Revolution spawned the appalling conditions that made Karl Marx inevitable.

Reading this book and understanding the everyday conditions of those times, explains why so many Englishmen and Europeans were willing to risk so much to get to America – truly a paradise.

The navy in the USA use William Robinson’s book as a guide in training their naval cadets.  William hated the way the common sailor was treated by the hierarchy of the navy. 

Thanks Sue for sharing this story – we now have a new title for our reading lists.


Bob’s Genes

We have recently added a new link to our Hornsby Genies Online page.dna-163710_1280One of our newer members Bob is interested in genetic genealogy and has a website, The Allison/Ellison DNA Project. This is a collaborative project of genealogists who use DNA testing to further their family research. We are thrilled to have a DNA expert in our midst.

If you know of any other members who have genealogy sites please let us know and we will add them to the Hornsby Genies Online page.

A Message from Gail

dna-297576_1280Below is pasted a message our member Gail left on our Facebook page. If you haven’t yet ventured into the world of DNA you are missing out on making valuable connections.
The magic of DNA – restoring family connections severed by tragedy.
My maternal great – grandfather was orphaned at the age of 9. The youngest in a family of 5 living children, the older siblings ranging in age from 20 to 12, he was placed in an orphanage and lost touch with all his older siblings except for a 12 yr old brother.
A few weeks ago we made contact with the great – granddaughter of my great – grandfather’s 16 yr old (at time of parent’s death) brother, through DNA matching on Ancestry. Yesterday we met up and spent 3 wonderful hours getting to know each other and catching up on family history.”
Spinetingling stuff.

Visit from Rookwood


Rookwood Cemetery

We are thrilled that Mark Bundy, Director of External Operations at Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust, will be the guest presenter at our July General Meeting.  The Trust unites Rookwood’s former Anglican, General, Independent, Jewish and Muslim Trusts to provide burial and commemoration services to over 90 culturally diverse communities.

Members and guests are welcome to join us at Hornsby Central Library for this event at 2:00pm on Wednesday 18 July.

Mark who has worked at Rookwood for over twenty years will be sharing stories and secrets from Rookwood Necropolis (as it was first known), the largest cemetery in the southern hemisphere, which was established in 1867. Mark will also answer  some of your questions about Rookwood and burial processes.

200 year Anniversary

Many of our members have ancestors who spent time at The Female Factory in Parramatta.  You may be interested in attending the event celebrating the 200th Anniversary of Governor Lachlan Macquarie laying the foundation stone for the Parramatta Female Factory & to commemorate the lives of the women, children & men who are a part of this history on Saturday July 7th. Click on the link below to view the poster for the event.

Parramatta Female Factory Bicentennial Poster

David Michel

We were saddened to hear of the death last month of David Michel, a founding member of the Hornsby Shire Family History Group.

David, a resident of Mount Colah, was the first secretary of our Group. He was a passionate family historian with ancestry from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Sweden, England and New Zealand . He was particularly proud of his ancestor, Matthew James Everingham, a First Fleeter.

We extend our condolences to his widow, Anne and family.