Journal Volume 5 2006

Log for 1860

Being the account of the travels of a bandsman for three years on board of a Ship of War (51 Guns), being on two stations during that time namely S.E. Coast of Africa & the S.E. Coast of America.

By Henry Edward Kearns

This paper is a rendition of a diary handwritten by Henry Edward Kearns who was born in 1842 and died August 1905, aged 63 Years. Also included are some letters written by Henry to his parents, and some published material related to key events noted by Henry.

Henry Edward Kearns’s life subsequent to the events noted in his diary was not recorded, however, he did eventually move to Bray, Co. Wicklow, changing his surname along the way from Kearns to Cairns. He was Pat Brennan’s grandfather, and the Society thanks Pat for this primary source material.

The handwritten diary was initially word processed by Emmett Brennan. Although some minor editorial changes were made in the version below, the sequence of events and the words are those recorded and written by Henry almost 150 years ago.

Heny Kearns

The Diary

In the early part Spring of Eighteen Hundred and Sixty I took a notion of going to sea and not content with going myself I got 3 more young men (names: Washington Caltow, Richard Heap and James Heap) who were weavers and musicians likewise to go with me and at this time I was learning to weave along with the first one, which circumstance was very favourable for my intention, because I made the excuse that morning that I was going to weave and I accordingly got up a little before six o’ clock in the morning and the night before I had to make up the price of my fare down to Portsmouth, which I had done by putting my Violin and case and burlap coat in pawn, on which I realized ten shillings at Mr. Jerimiah Kippaxis, Burnley.

On the morning of the eleventh of February - a cold wintry morning and it was snowing also, I went out of our house with my bagging can, but I left it under the mangle which my mother kept and I proceeded to the house to one of the weavers (Was. Cat.). There I had to meet the others and after having a cup of coffee made by Mrs. Caltow, we proceeded to Thorny Bank Railway Station, where we waited for a short time when we proceeded to the 7.00 a.m. train for Halifax, then we had to wait there about twenty minutes when we took tickets for London, but I forgot to mention that I had to pawn a summer coat which I had, on which I realised Ten Shillings. We had to stop at London all night.

On the morning of the 12th we went from Victoria Station to Portsmouth (Landport Station). On our arrival at Portsmouth we made our way to No. 10 Berkley Street, Southsea, which was occupied by an old man named John Constable. This man was what you would call an agent for Bandsmen that is, the Captains of several vessels employed him to get him musicians, for which he would receive One Pound and sometimes he would Admiral Keppel ( the purchasing of the instruments and you can imagine he used to buy inferior ones, and pocket the balance between them and good ones. He had a good Euphonium in his house when I went, but he thought it was not working, because one of the valves got stuck, but after I tried it and cleaned it out I told him different, but I had not the slightest idea that I was doing myself an injury at the time for when I wanted to have that one, he said: ‘Oh no, I will send up to London for one and you will get it along with the rest’. You must remember that there were several more bandsmen besides us four there and all waiting for the instruments to come down. When we got our instruments, I thought I should damage mine, which was a bad one. So I accordingly did so in the following manner. One night after we played on board I smashed (one of the valves) of my instrument just where it joins the lower part of the Bell and I told the Bandmaster it was done with pinching up. So I got this good one through that, but old man Constable was very annoyed. On the thirteenth day of February he brought us on board the ‘Victory’ Guard & Flag Ship at Portsmouth, where the other three passed the doctor, I not being inclined that day, but on the 14th I went on board the ‘Victory’ and passed also, from which we were sent to the St. Vincent Receiving ship to await a Steamer going to Sheerness, where H. M. Ship ’Forte’ laid, that being the name of the ship for which we joined. The names of the Officers belonging to her were as follows: Admiral Sir Henry Keppel K.C.B., Captain C. H. Turnour, Commander Buckley, Flag Lieutenant Henige and 1st Lieutenant Squires.


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