in the Hudson’s Bay [II] picked up Orcadian recruits “to make up for the failure to hire sufficient men in England,” HBC captains recruited sailors in Stromness for the ocean crossing. Into the twentieth century, employment records of HBC sailors included numerous references to places of origin in the Orkney Islands, including Stromness, Birsay, and South Ronaldshay.
The records also list boatmen from Shetland, from ports of mainland Scotland such as Peterhead, and seamen such as Jeremiah Mc Carthy, aboard the Prince Rupert [VI] in 1848, from Ireland.
The sailors of the world indiscriminately populated the fleets of all nations.” Using Edward W.
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In the early period, therefore, nothing officially distinguishes who was natively English from who was not. Listing a sailor as “of” a particular location does not necessarily indicate a sailor’s birthplace.
It may as readily indicate the last place of residence ashore, the current location of next of kin, or the home port of the previous voyage. Beginning in 1702, when Captain Michael Grimington Sr.
In 1890, a year before cessation of the Company’s “official connection” with Orkney (one that had been maintained through an onsite recruiting agent) Alfred Alexander Mitchell of St.
Petersburg, Russia, entered HBC service as an engineer aboard the SS Erik, serving in the same capacity in 1901 aboard the SS Pelican. Some three decades earlier, Isaac Cowie had remarked that the crew of the Prince Rupert [VII] included individuals who had sailed to, and were originally from, places “all over the globe.” According to Franklin Remington of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who worked his passage from Hudson Bay to London on the Prince Rupert [VIII] two decades after Cowie, his shipmates “consisted of all nationalities – Dutchmen, Norwegians, English, Irish, Australians, Swedes and –mirable dictu – all bossed by a coal black negro from Jamaica.” The variety of sailors listed on other nineteenth-century transoceanic HBC routes, as well as correspondence from eighteenth-century ships’ masters, suggest that the Company recruited according to convenience: sailors were hired to meet labour needs whenever they were needed, wherever they were readily found, at all ports of call. Thus, records of HBC shipping activity on the Pacific Slope show native-born pilots such as Chief Comcomly of Chinook, Washington Territory, in addition to sailors from the Sandwich Islands, such as Joseph Poalie Friday of “Woahoo.” Both Alexander John Weynton, master of the Cowlitz from 1846 to 1851 and John Fawcus, second mate of the Princes Royal in 1860, were from Jamaica. One explanation for the varied HBC workforce is that the London Committee continuously looked to hire cheap labour.
More common are tales of captivity, forced transportation, and exploitation.