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Author Topic: Lord Cochrane Joins the 'Hind' at Sheerness  (Read 2130 times)

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Lord Cochrane Joins the 'Hind' at Sheerness
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2012, 23:08:32 »
On the 29th July 1793, Lord Cochrane joined the 'Hind' at Sheerness as a midshipman.
At the time the 'Hind' was being prepared for an overhaul, the guns, gunpowder, stores, sails and most of the rigging had been removed. She was then taken into dock at Sheerness to have her bottom copper sheathing repaired and her topsides recaulked.

The Dowager Countess of Dundonald, then meditating a journey to London, offered to take me with her. On our arrival in the metropolis, after what was at the time the formidable achievement of a tour through Wales, her ladyship went to reside with her brother, General James Stuart, in Grosvenor Street; but, anxious to become initiated in the mysteries of my profession, I preferred going on board the 'Hind' at Sheerness; joining that ship on the 27th of June,1793, at the mature age, for a midshipman, of seventeen years and a half.
My kind uncle, the Hon. John Cochrane, accompanied me on board the 'Hind' for the purpose of introducing me to my future superior officer, Lieutenant Larmour, or, as he was more familiarly known in the service, Jack Larmour-a specimen of the old British seaman, little calculated to inspire exalted ideas of the gentility of the naval profession, though presenting at a glance a personification of its efficiency. Jack was, in fact, one of a not very mumerous class, whom, for their superior seamanship, the Admiralty was glad to promote from the forecastle to the quarter-deck, in order that they might mould into shipshape the questionable materials supplied by parliamentary influence-even then paramount in the navy to a degree which might otherwise have led to disaster. Lucky was the commander who could secure such an officer for his quarter-deck.
On my introduction, Jack was dressed in the garb of a seaman, with marlinspike slung round his neck, and a lump of grease in his hand, and was busily employed in setting up the rigging. His reception of me was anything but gracious. Indeed, a tall fellow, over six feet high, the nephew of his captain, and a lord to boot, were not very promising recommendations for a midshipman. It is not impossible that he might have learned from my uncle something about a military commission of several years' standing; and this, coupled with my age and stature, might easily have impressed him with the idea that he had caught a scapegrace with whom the family did not know what to do, and that he was hence to be saddled with a 'hard bargain.'
After a little constrained civility on the part of the first lieutenant, who was evidently not very well pleased with the interruption to his avocation, he ordered me to "get my traps below." Scarcely was the order complied with, and myself introduced to the midshipman's berth, than I overheard Jack grumbling at the magnitude of my equipments. "This Lord Cochrane's chest? Does Lord Cochrane think he is going to bring a cabin aboard? The service is going to the devil! Get it up on the main-deck."
The order being promptly obeyed, amidst a running fire of similar objurgations, the key of the chest was sent for, and shortly afterwards the sound of sawing became audible. It was now high time to follow my property, which, to my astonishment, had been turned out on the deck-Jack superintending the process of sawing off one end of the chest just beyond the keyhole, and accompanying the operation by sundry uncomplimentary observations on midshipmen in general, and on myself in particular.
The metamorphose being completed to the lieutenant's satisfaction, though not at all to mine, for my neat chest had become an unshapely piece of lumber, he pointed out the "ludderliness of shore-going people in not making keyholes where they could be most easily got at," viz. at the end of a chest instead of the middle! The observation was, perhaps, made to test my temper, but, if so, it failed in its object. I thanked him for his kindness in imparting so useful a lesson, and left him evidently puzzled as to whether I was a cool hand, or a simple one.
Poor Jack! his limited acquaintance with the world-Which in his estimation, was bounded by the taffrail and the bowsprit-rendered him an indifferent judge of character, or he might have seen in me nothing but an ardent desire diligently to apply myself to my chosen profession-with no more pride in my heart than money in my pocket. A short time, however, developed this. Finding me anxious to learn my duty, Jack warmly took me by the hand, and as his only ideas of relaxation were to throw off the lieutenant and resume the functions of the able seaman, my improvement speedily rewarded my kind though rough teacher, by converting into a useful adjunct one whom he had, perhaps not unjustifiably, regarded as a nuisance. We soon became fast friends, and throughout life few more kindly recollections are impressed on my memory than those of my first naval instructor, honest Jack Larmour.
another good friend in need was Lieutenant Murray, a son of Lord Dunmore, who observing that my kit had been selected rather with a regard to economy than fitness, kindly lent me a sum of money to remedy the deficiency.


Lord Cochrane's first voyage was to the coast of Norway.

By way of return for the hospitality of the Norwegian people, the frigate was freely thrown open to their inspection. On one of their frequent visits, an incident occurred not unworthy of record.
On board most ships there is a pet animal of some kind. Ours was a parrot, which was Jack Larmour's aversion, from the exactness with which the bird had learned to imitate the calls of the boatswain's whistle. Sometimes the parrot would pipe an order so correctly as to throw the ship into momentary confusion, and the first lieutenant into a volley of imprecstions, consigning poll to a warmer latitude than his native tropical forests. Indeed it was only by my uncle's countenace that the bird was tolerated.
One day a party of ladies paid us a visit aboard, and several had been hoisted on deck by the usual means of a "whip", but scarcely had its fair freight been lifted out of the boar alongside, than the unlucky parrot piped "Let go!" The order being instantly obeyed, the unfortunate lady, instead of being comfortably seated on deck, as had been those who preceded her, was soused overhead in the sea! Luckily for poll, Jack Larmour was on shore at the time, or this unseasonable assumption of the boatswain's functions might have ended tragically.


When the 'Hind' returned to Sheerness in October 1793, the crew were transferred to the 'Thetis.'

The 'Thetis' was ordered to equip at Sheerness, and knowing that her first lieutenant, instead of indulging himself ashore, would pursue his customary relaxation of working hard aboard, I begged permission to remain and profit by his example. This was graciously conceded, on condition that, like himself, I would put off the officer and assume the garb of a seaman. Nothing could be more to my taste; so, with knife in belt and marlinspike in hand, the captain of the forecastle undertook my improvement in the arts of knotting and splicing; Laarmour himself taking charge of gammoning and rigging the bowsprit, which, as the frigate lay in dock, overhung the common highway. So little attention was then paid to the niceties of dockyard arrangement.
Dockyards in those days were secondary objects. At Sheerness the people lived, like rabbits in a warren, in old hulks, hauled up high and dry; yet everything was well done, and the supervision perfect.


From 'The Autobiography of a Seaman' Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, 1860.


 

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