Volume 8, Chapter 10 -- Early Voyages of the English to India, after the Establishment of the East India Company: *section index*

Volume 8, Chapter 10, Section 9 -- Voyage of Captain Richard Rowles in the Union, the Consort of the Ascension.[299]


"In Purchas this is entitled, 'The unhappy Voyage of the Vice-Admiral, the Union, outward bound, till she arrived at Priaman, reported by a Letter which Mr. Samuel Bradshaw sent from Priaman, by Humphry Bidulph, the 11th March, 1610, written by the said Henry Moris at Bantam, September the 14th, 1610.' This account given by Moris, the same who wrote the brief account of the journey of Nichols, relating the voyage of the Union no farther than to Priaman, appears to have been only transcribed by him from the letter of Mr. Bradshaw, one of the factors; yet in the preamble to the voyage, Moris says that he had the account from the report of others, without any mention of the letter from Bradshaw. What concerns the return of the Union from Priaman, and her being cast away on the coast of France, contained in the second subdivision of this section, is extracted from two letters, and a kind of postscript by Purchas, which follow this narrative by Moris."--Astley.

§ 1. Of the Voyage of the Union, after her Separation from the Ascension, to Acheen and Priaman.

You have already had an account of the voyage of the two ships, the Ascension and Union, from England to the Cape of Good Hope, but of the proceedings of the Union after her separation you have not heard; therefore I have thought proper to make some relation thereof, as well as of the other, as I have heard from the report of other men, and thus it was:

The Union and Ascension were separated by a storm in doubling the Cape, during which storm the Union sprung her main-mast, and they were obliged to fish it in the midst of the storm, owing to which they lost company with the admiral; and as the storm continued, and they were hopeless of recovering the company either of the Ascension or pinnace by continuing off the Cape, they shaped their course for the Bay of St. Augustine in Madagascar. Being arrived there, they went ashore, and remained twenty days, where they procured good refreshing, being always in hopes of the coming of the Ascension and pinnace, but were disappointed. Then making sail from thence, they directed their course for the island of Zanjibar, in hopes to meet the general there. On their arrival they went ashore, and were at first kindly received; but when they went ashore again, the natives lay in ambush, and sallied out upon them as soon as they landed, killed presently the purser and one mariner, and took one of the merchants prisoner; yet the rest had the good fortune to get off the boat and came on board. The names of those who were slain, were Richard Kenu, purser; I have forgotten the mariner's name, but the merchant, who was taken prisoner, was Richard Wickham.

The Union put now to sea about the month of February, 1609, having the wind at N.E. and north, which was directly contrary for their intended voyage to Socotora. After having been long at sea, and made little or nothing of their way, the men being very much troubled with the scurvy, the captain thought proper to bear up for the north part of the island of Madagascar, meaning to go into the Bay of Antongil; but they came upon the western side of the island, where they proposed to endeavour the recovery of their almost lost men, and to spend the adverse monsoon. On this side of the island, they came into an exceedingly extensive bay, which they afterwards understood was called by the natives, Canquomorra,[300] the country round being very fertile and beautiful. The first view of this place gave much pleasure to all their men, and they soon had conference with the natives, who at the first proffered great kindness, but afterwards treated them very ill.

As all the merchants had been sundry times on shore visiting the king, who treated them kindly, and came aboard again as safe as if they had been in England, the captain, attended by Mr Richard Reve, chief merchant, Jeffrey Castel, and three others, adventured to go ashore to the king. Samuel Bradshaw had been often before employed about business with the king; but it pleased God at this time that the captain had other business for him, and so made him remain on board, which was a happy turn for him: For no sooner was the captain and his attendants on shore, than they were betrayed and made prisoners by the natives; but by the kind providence of the Almighty, the boats escaped, and came presently off to the ship, informing us of all that had happened.

No sooner was this doleful news communicated, than we saw such prodigious numbers of praws and large boats coming out of the river, as were quite wonderful. The master gave immediate orders to the gunner to get the ordnance in readiness, which was done with all speed. The vast fleet of the infidels came rowing up to our ship, as if they would have immediately boarded her; but by the diligence and skill of the gunner and his mates, sinking some half dozen of the boats, they were soon forced to retire like sheep chased by the wolf, faster than they had come on. But before our ordnance made such slaughter among them, they came up with so bold and determined a countenance, and were in such numbers, that we verily thought they would have carried us, for the fight continued at the least two hours, before the effect of our ordnance made them retire, and then he was the happiest fellow that could get fastest off, and we continued to send our shot after them as far as our guns could reach.

We remained after this in the bay for fourteen days, being in hopes of recovering our lost captain and men, in which time we lost seven more men by a sudden disease, which daunted us more than the malice of the infidels; those who died were among those who fought most lustily with the cannon against the savages, yet in two days were they all thrown overboard. These crosses coming upon us, and having no hopes to recover our captain and the others, we thought it folly to remain any longer at this place, and therefore we made haste away. Not being thoroughly supplied with water, we thought good to stop a little time at another place not far off; but before we could dispatch this business, the savages made another attempt with a great multitude of boats, some of them even large vessels, and so thick of men that it was wonderful; but they liked their former reception so ill, that they did not care for coming near a second time, and went all ashore, and placed themselves so as to have a view of the ship. Perceiving their intended purpose, and fearing some mischief in the night, we weighed, and stood in towards the shore where the savages sat, and gave them a whole broadside as a farewell, which fell thick among them, making visibly several lanes through the crowd, on which they all ran out of sight as fast as possible.

We then stood out to sea, leaving fourteen of our men behind us, seven treacherously taken prisoners by the savages, and seven that died of sickness. We then directed our course for Socotora; but by some negligence, by not luffing up in time, the wind took us short, so that we could not fetch that island, but fell over upon the coast of Arabia. This was about the 4th June, and as the winter monsoon was come, we durst not attempt going to Cambaya, neither could we find any place upon that coast to winter in. Wherefore, after being in sight of the coast four days, and several times in danger of getting on shore, we thought it improper to waste time any longer, and determined to consult how we might best promote the advantage of the voyage. The master therefore held a council of all the principal people in the ship, who were best conversant in these affairs, when it was unanimously concluded to go for Acheen, being in hopes to meet there with some of the Guzerat people, to whom we might dispose of our English commodities.

We accordingly directed our course towards Acheen, where we arrived on the 27th July. Within seven days we had admittance to the king, to whom a present was made, which it was necessary to make somewhat large, because the Hollanders endeavoured to cross our trade, aspiring to engross the whole trade of India, to the exclusion of all others. Wherefore, after Mr. Bradshaw had waited upon the king, he began to trade with the Guzerat merchants who were at Acheen, bartering our English cloth and lead for black and white baftas, which are Guzerat cloths in much request in those parts. We then went to Priaman, where in a short space we had trade to our full content; and though fortune had hitherto crossed us during all the voyage, we had now a fair opportunity to turn our voyage to sufficient profit. We stayed here till we had fully loaded our ship with pepper, which might indeed have been done much sooner, had there not been a mutiny among the people, as the sailors would only do as they themselves pleased. At length they were pacified with fair words, and the business of the ship completed.

Griffin Maurice, the master, died here, and Mr. Bradshaw sent Humphry Bidulph to Bantam, with Silvester Smith to bear him company, to carry such remainder of the goods as they could not find a market for at Priaman and Tecu. Mr Bidulph sailed for Bantam in a Chinese hulk, and Mr Bradshaw set sail with the Union, fully laden with pepper, for England.

§ 2. Return of the Union from Priaman towards England.[301]

Respecting the disastrous return of the Union from Priaman, instead of a narrative, Purchas gives us only two letters, which relate the miserable condition in which she arrived on the coast of France, and a short supplementary account, probably written by Purchas himself, which here follow.

Laus Deo,[302] in Morlaix, the 1st of March, 1611.

Brother Hide,

This day has come to hand a letter from Odwen[303] [Audierne], written by one Bagget, an Irishman, resident at that place, giving us most lamentable news of the ship Union of London, which is ashore upon the coast about two leagues from Audierne: which, when the men of that town perceived, they sent two boats to her, and found she was a ship from the East Indies, richly laden with pepper and other goods, having only four men in her alive, one of whom is an Indian, other three lying dead in the ship, whose bodies the four living men had not been able to throw overboard, through extreme feebleness; indeed they were hardly able to speak. The people in the two boats have brought the ship into the road of Audierne, and they of that town have unloaded most of her goods. The Irishman has directed his letter to some English merchants in this place, desiring them to repair thither with all expedition, to see the proper ordering of the ship and goods, as belonging to the East India Company.

This letter is confirmed by another in French, written by the bailiff of Quimper to a person in this town, which I have seen.

Wherefore we have thought it right to send three several copies of the Irishman's letter, by three different barks, that the merchants may be duly advertised, and may give orders to look after their ship and goods; for it is to be doubted [[=suspected]] that the rude people will endeavour to make a wreck of her. I think it therefore not amiss that they send to the court of France, to procure the king's authority, as I fear there may be much trouble about the matter. In the mean time, I and George Robbins will ride down to see in what state all things are, and to do the best we can for the interest of the company, till they send someone with a procuration in good and ample form for conducting the business, as in their discretion may seem fitting. The ship is reported to be of three or four hundred tons, and has three decks; but I doubt [[=suspect]] we shall find her sadly rifled before we get there. The importunate writing, both of the Irishman and the bailiff of Quimper, has induced us to take this journey; which we do the rather in consideration of the company, presuming that they will consider our charges, as we have both solicited friends, and procured money in this place, that we may satisfy those who have exerted themselves in saving the ship and goods, if that should be necessary. Yet I would wish the company to send some person in all expedition by way of Rouen, with additional provision of money; as you know that this is no place of regular exchange, where money can be had at all times. I had rather have given fifty pounds than taken this journey at the present time, because I have much goods upon my hands, as I partly wrote you in my last. The name of the master of the Union is Edmund White, his mate's name is Thomas Duckmanton, and the other man is Thomas Smith, besides the Indian formerly mentioned. They are in a most piteous condition, and in great want of money, neither can they have any command of their goods. Therefore let the company send men of good experience to conduct this business, and do you lose no time in making this known to the company. Thus, being in haste to take horse, I commit you to the Lord's protection, resting your assured friend always to command,


To Mr Thomas Hide, Merchant in London.

Second Letter respecting the Union at Audierne.

The 8th day of February, I came over the Pole-head of Bourdeaux, and the 11th I lost my foremast, bolt-sprit, and rudder, and put into Audierne that night for repair. The 13th the Frenchman brought the ship Union of London upon the rocks. The 14th I went in my boat aboard the Union, by which time the Frenchmen had been four days in possession of her. I then brought on shore Samuel Smith, Thomas Duttonton, and Edmund White the master. The 15th I got William Bagget, my merchant, to write a letter to Morlaix; and the 18th the letter was sent off, when I paid two crowns for its carriage. The Indian died on the 20th, and I buried him. The 20th the master died, and I buried him also. The 22d Mr Roberts and Mr Couper came, and then went back to Morlaix on the 26th. Again the 4th of March, William Coarey, the host of Mr Couper and Mr Roberts.[304] The 5th, I and Mr Coarey went in my boat to the Union. At low water I went into her hold, and brought away a sample of the worst pepper. The 6th I left Audierne, and came to Morlaix on the 8th. The 17th Mr Hide came to Morlaix. The 21st I sailed from Morlaix, and got to the Isle of Wight on the 22d at night. The 24th I came to Southampton, and the 28th I arrived in London.

Your loving friend,


After the spoil of the Bretons, they saved almost 200 tons of pepper, some benzoin, and some China silks, which had been purchased at Tecu in Sumatra. The Union, after her unfortunate voyage outward-bound, as already briefly related, loaded with pepper at Acheen, Priaman, Passeman, and Tecu, at which last place they bought some silk out of a Chinese junk. On their return voyage, they met Sir Henry Middleton, having then thirty-six men on board in reasonable good health, and they delivered some chests of silver to Sir Henry. They afterwards became very sickly, missed the island of St. Helena, and most of their men died on this side of Cape Verd. Ten Englishmen and four Guzerats were taken out of them by a bark belonging to Bristol, and a Scot. The circumstances respecting their landing at Audierne, and other matters there, are before set down in the two preceding letters.

After the pepper and other goods were taken out of the ship, she was inspected by Mr. Simonson, a skilful ship-wright, sent thither on purpose to save her if it could be done, but she was found utterly unserviceable. All the ordnance, anchors, and other furniture, were brought away, and the hull was abandoned. Of seventy-five men that went in her from England outward-bound, only nine got home alive. These were Thomas Duckmanton the master's mate, Mr Bullock the surgeon, Robert Wilson of Deptford, Jacob Peterson, and five other Englishmen, besides three or four Guzerats.[305]

[Footnote 299: Purch. Pilgr. 1. 202 Astl. I. 348.]
[Footnote 300: In the margin Purchas gives Boamora as a synonimous name of this bay. Vohemaro, or Boamora, is a province or district at the northern end of Madagascar, in which there are several large bays, but none having any name resembling that in the text. The Bay of Vohemaro is on the east side of the island, in lat. 13° 30' S.--E.]
[Footnote 301: Purch. Pilg. I. 234. Astl. I. 349.]
[Footnote 302: This seems to have been the name of a ship, and Mr Bernard Cooper appears to have been an English merchant or ship-master, then on business with this vessel at Morlaix.--E.]
[Footnote 303: This certainly is Audierne, on the southern shore of the peninsula of Britanny, called Olde-yearne in the subsequent letter.--E.]
[Footnote 304: This sentence is left unintelligible by Purchas; Coarey probably came at this time to Audierne. Roberts is probably the person named Robbins by Couper in the former letter.--E.]
[Footnote 305: All these must have been brought home in the Bristol vessel and the Scots ships, except Duckmanton, and perhaps Smith. But Purchas seems to have forgot that Mr. Bradshaw and Humphry Bidulph were left alive in India.--E.]


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