RE: [Peterhead] Digest Number 1794
- You speak of William Nicol and his wife Helen(Milne)
They were my ggreat uncle and aunt. It broke my heart to read the letter that he sent to Helen. What great love he had for his family. I would love, more than anything, to have a copy of the letter. Or I should say a copy of the written document. I, almost, wanted to sit here and have a good cry. It truly touched me. Thank you so much for putting it on the Peterhead group.
Re: Losses of Seamen and Fishermen from Peterhead
Posted by: "Stephen Hutchison"
Sun Feb 7, 2010 5:13 am (PST)
Maybe you are aware of the following story from 1861, as follows.
Died on Kekerton Island, Cumberland Strait while wintering ashore,
harpoonist on a whaling vessel.
The Aberdeen Journal, Wednesday, October 9, 1861
THE "ALERT" OF PETERHEAD - SUFFERINGS OF THE CREW - The Sentinel says
number of rumours are flying about town with reference to the conduct at
ice of Mr Forbes Milne, the nominal captain of the vessel - charges of
cruelty, &c, being flatly and broadly brought against him, with what
of authority or truthfulness it is impossible for us to say. However,
greater part of the complications in the melancholy matter seem to have
arisen from the fact of his having been placed on board of the vessel as
actual and practical Captain, while he neither appeared in the books of
Custom House in that capacity, nor possessed a certificate entitling him
hold that office. With regard to the charges brought against Mr Milne by
crew, we forbear alluding to them until the matter be properly and fully
investigated by the authorities. The Alert left Peterhead for the
the 18th May, 1860, and sighted the ice on June 8. On July 27, a boat
capsized following a fish, and two of the crew, Burnett and Mitchell,
never seen after being pitched out of the boat. On August 12, five boats
chased and kept in a number of white whales on a shoal till the tide
receded. 111 of them were killed. On October 25, a number of the men
ill, and only a boat's crew out of the whole ship's company were able to
"flinch" a fish that was caught, which could not be done for a few days
consequence of the severity of the weather. On November 3, the Alert
for home with a northerly wind, but after several endeavours, could not
out of the Gulf. On the 25th she was driven up into a bay about 20 miles
equi-distant from Niatlik and New Boyes stations. At this place she
wintered. Serious misunderstandings are said to have taken place between
Milne and the crew on the score of provisions &c. Between the 11th
1860, and 31st July 1861, other eight men died. Fuel ran short, and
food, even when it could be had, could not be properly cooked. Sometimes
couple of days' allowance of beef would be served out, and then for some
weeks no more would be allowed. The crew had little or any sugar (so
essential in these regions) for the whole of this time. The bread got
and flour and Indian meal (got from the American ships) was served out
food; but in consequence of the scarcity of fuel, it could not be
properly available. For some time a number of the crew left the ship,
existing by what they could get at the stations and from other ships.
flesh, whale skins, blubber, &c., had to be eaten on board the ship.
Milne, however, remained all along in the vessel - for some time alone,
the exception of a couple of boys, the rest of the crew being taken away
Captain Simpson of the "Union," and Mr Thompson, manager of the Aberdeen
Artic Company at Kickarton, as they were all dangerously ill at the
The most deaths occurred in the commencement of the thaw, the cases
scurvy, exhaustion, and exposure to the weather - none of the crew being
prepared with the necessary clothing or anything else for an Artic
On the 23d August of this year, when the "Alert" was preparing to
home, on the representation of the crew, and investigation into the
differences between Mr Milne and them was held on board the "Artic" of
Aberdeen - Captain Reid of the "Artic," Captain Simpson of the "Union,"
Captain Mackinnon of the "Alibi," acting as judges in the matter. The
of their deliberations was that they decided on displacing Mr Forbes
from his post as Captain, filling his place by Mr Taylor the mate. Mr
Robertson of the "Alibi" was then obtained to act as mate. Matters now
on more smoothly, and a full supply of provisions having been obtained
the depots of the Aberdeen Artic Company, the vessel bore up for home
immediately, and arrived here on Tuesday forenoon (as stated in our
The names of the men dead are - John Mitchell, New Deer, and William
Bennett, Strichen, drowned by the upsetting of a boat, 27th July 1860;
Walker, Peterhead, 11th November 1860; John McKenzie, Portknockie, 13th
December 1860; William McKenzie, Peterhead, 24th April 1861; Peter
Sutherlandshire, 30th May; Alex. Pickard, Longside, 3d June; Robert
carpenter, Peterhead, 25th June; William Nicol, Peterhead, 31st July.
"Alert" brings intelligence of the loss of the "Union" of this port. She
sank at her station in the month of May, but her cargo, amounting to
or 30 tons of oil, and her casks, do, have been saved. Her men were
at their station-houses, and were all saved.
William Nicol, was among those who died on that expedition, and it's
to have some
more information. William died of rheumatism and scurvy at Kekerten
in the Cumberland Sound. His death was entered in the Marine Register
later transcribed into the Peterhead register.
It would seem that the Alert had not planned to spend the winter in the
Arctic, which might explain the lack of appropriate clothing and
provisions. If John Walker was the Ship Master, how did it come about
Forbes Milne is described as "nominal captain" and later in the article
"actual and practical captain". I note that John Walker died on
1860, and, except for the two who drowned when a boat capsized, all the
other deaths came after that. I wonder if Forbes Milne took over command
the vessel after the death of John Walker? There was a Forbes Milne born
Peterhead in 1830. Could this be the one? If so, he was the brother of
William Nicol's wife Helen.
Kekerten Island is referred to in the article as "Kickarton". It was the
location of a Scottish whaling station in the 1850s and 1860s. The site
now part of a Canadian Historic Site and National Park. There is a photo
the whaling station at:
I have a copy of a document, a single page, source unknown, with a
letter from William Nicol to his wife Helen, and a memorial to William.
cousin found it among papers belonging to his father (who was also a
It is typeset, so presumably came from a published book or pamphlet, and
it's very touching.
Here is the text:
�Alert�, 1st June 1861.
My Dear Helen,
I write you these few lines to let you know in what state I penned these
lines. I was taken badly with rheumatism in the fall of the last year,
recovered, but, in a short time after, about the New Year, it again
relapsed, and up to this time I have been bedfast, and I feel that I am
getting very rapidly worse, which is the reason of me writing this
let you know in what state this leaves me. I do not expect to survive
days from this date. But, my dear, dear Helen, give your heart entirely
the Lord, and then I shall expect to see you in Heaven; for I have tried
much as I could, since I have been afflicted, to walk in all His
and commandments, for I have found peace with God, and am this moment
relying on His mercy, so I shall expect to meet you in Heaven; and my
darling children-Matthew, William (,) Francis, and the other of which I
not the name, as far as your ability goes, bring them up in the nurture
admonition of the Lord, so that they may not wander so long as we have
�Strangers to His saving grace.� Oh! my darling, darling Helen - the
woman ever I have loved on earth, the dear and faithful partner of my
I now bid you goodbye; so farewell for a time, and I shall expect to
you in Heaven. God bless you and protect you, and may He, in your
experience, prove a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless.
farewell! My darling Wife and Children. I am too weak now to say any
so farewell! My dear, darling, faithful partner. I shall meet you in
Good-bye! - From your affectionate Husband,
With a Sore Heart.
In Memory of WILLIAM NICOL Late Seaman on Board the "Alert" who died on
shore, JULY 31 1861, AGED 28 YEARS.
Farewell! for all my sufferings are,
And all my sorrows gone;
I go to live upon the shore
Where Christ shall be my home. [Item provided by Mary Barnes.]
(See William Penny article)
Email from malcolm.simpson@...
Have just read your e-mail about the "Alert". My gGrandfather James
was the Mate during that terrible voyage,the passage home being his
command. He was lost with all hands in the Bristol channel in the barque
"Nerbudda"of London in a great storm 1886.
You will find reference to this in the Peterhead Sentinel. My
George Simpson was a well known whaling master,mainly in command of the
"Traveller" and three sons also became whaling masters, John the eldest
being master of the "Union"involved in the "Alert" story.
Hope this proves of some interest.
Best wishes in your project, Malcolm Simpson.
There is more in "The Aberdeen Journal" (from the "Sentinel") 9 Oct 1861
............... Captain Mr Forbes MILNE (didn't hold a ticket!).
MITCHELL were pitched out of the boat when it was upset by a whale and
seen again July 27th 1860. A harrowing story about how the men were
mistreated by the captain ie. not rationed properly. The names of the
John MITCHELL, New Deer 27 Jul 1860
William BURNETT, Strichen 27 Jul 1860
John WALKER, Peterhead 11 Nov 1860
John M'KENZIE, Portknockie 13 Dec 1860
William M'KENZIE, Peterhead 24 Apr 1861
Peter CAMBELL, Sutherlandshire 30 May
Alex PICKARD, Longside 3 Jun
Robert MILNE, carpenter, Peterhead 25 Jun
William NICOL, Peterhead 31 Jul
It is reported that she wintered about 20 miles equi-distant from
and New Boyen stations and was preparing to head home 23 Aug 1861.
Hotmail: Trusted email with Microsoft�s powerful SPAM protection.
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- On 09/02/2010, at 2:02 PM, DeLories Vaughn wrote:
> You speak of William Nicol and his wife Helen(Milne)Hello DeLories,
> They were my ggreat uncle and aunt. It broke my heart to read the letter that he sent to Helen. What great love he had for his family. I would love, more than anything, to have a copy of the letter. Or I should say a copy of the written document. I, almost, wanted to sit here and have a good cry. It truly touched me. Thank you so much for putting it on the Peterhead group.
I'm curious to know just how you are related to William Nicol and Helen Milne. Is it through the Milne side of the family or the Nicol side? If the Nicol side, then we are distant cousins. Would you like to contact me directly at the address below, so that we can exchange information off-list?
William Nicol was MY (half) great uncle, since my grandfather, Matthew Nicol, was his half-brother. Matthew was 28 years younger than William. I was the source of the printed letter, and can send you a scanned version of it, if you would like. One of my cousins found it among his father's papers after his death (his father was a seaman too, so the letter may have resonated with him). I have absolutely no idea where the original handwritten document might be, if it exists. I would imagine that it was kept by Helen - but she married again a few years after William's death, moved to Aberdeen, had several more children, and eventually emigrated to Cape Town, so even if it has been preserved, I doubt if it could be traced.