HMS Bucton Castle

Source: A.M. Handley Journal, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1064

Pen and ink sketch of the H.M.S. Bucton Castle.

Pen and ink sketch of the H.M.S. Bucton Castle.

Staff Person: Jon Dembo

Attached is a pen and ink sketch of the HMS BUCTON CASTLE, a three-masted sailing ship. It was drawn on the inside front cover of his journal by one of her passengers, Capt. A. M. Handley. An officer in the British 19th Infantry Regiment, Handley was traveling to India to join his unit and help reestablish order after the recently suppressed Indian Mutiny (1857). He kept his journal to occupy his time sailing from Gravesend, England to Calcutta. He certainly had plenty of time to occupy for the voyage took a total of 160 days from January to June 1859. That may explain the extreme pains Handley took to number and name all the sails, masts and decks on this small pen and ink sketch. The original closely written 136-page journal measures only 9 mm by 15 mm.

In his journal Handley recorded his day to day observations of life aboard the BUCTON CASTLE, including descriptions of the personalities on board, shipboard routine, the ship’s time-keeping system, and a meeting with the whaling ship Isabella. There was much to surprise him. The following excerpt is from his first day aboard ship:

    “3 o’clock. Ship just towed into harbour; went on board immediately & to our immense surprise were told by the captain that if he had not had to wait for us, he would not have anchored at all at Gravesend. All passengers on board except ourselves. Finally embarked at ½ past 10 o’clock, same night. Too late to put up berths & so slept on the ground. Had not been in bed long before a baby in the next cabin began to cry & simultaneously a loud “mew” in the cabin made us aware that we had a cat shut up in it, with us. When the baby stopped the cat began, & between the two sleep was impossible. Thus [I] passed the first night on board.”

After a while he became more used to the routine and was able to remark:

    “Tea at 6. Grog at 8 and bed at 10.”

Anyone who has been irritated by modern travel — the discomfort, expense, delay, unpleasant fellow travelers and surly employees — may sympathize with Handley who endured this and more for more than six months. And without email or web access.

On April 1st 1859 Handley commented:

    “All Fools Day, especially dedicated I should think to those who are fools enough to go to Calcutta round the Cape when they had the chance of going overland.”

If anyone has any questions, or would like to see the actual journal, it is available to the public in the Special Collections Department search room.

Source: A. M. Handley Journal, pp. 1-2, 4, 44-45. (East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1064.1.a).

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.