A scene on board His Majesty's ship 'Deal Castle', Captain J. Cumming, in a voyage from the West Indies in the year 1775

In 1771 the topographical artist Thomas Hearne accompanied Sir Ralph Payne, the recently appointed Governor-General of the Leeward Islands, as his official draughtsman. Payne was recalled after three-and-a-half years in 1775 and Hearne sailed back to England with him. Studies made on that voyage probably formed the basis of this rare scene on board a Royal Navy ship. It is signed and dated 1804, some thirty years after the event.

The image, which looks forward across the ship's quarter-deck, has many points of subject interest. These include; the observation of the helmsman with the wooden compass binnacle forward of the wheel, which usually held two compases to left and right (illuminated at night) of which one can be seen, while the binnacle itself comprises a table with drawers above for making log notes etc.; the officers' chicken coops for eggs and fresh meat; the free-ranging goat, taken for milk; the use of an awning for shade against tropical sun while under way in light conditions; the ship's master and others (probably master's mates or midshipmen) taking their noon sight with quadrants over the starboard rail; the presence of water barrels on deck for ready use and the general but ordered jumble of working cordage. The figures on the left are officers. If the drawing was indeed done as late as 1804 it is too late for them to be considered specific portraits, but the implied relationship suggests the one on the left is James Cumming, the ship's captain, possibly with his hat under his arm, while the stouter one ( possibly wearing a dark rather than blue coat) might be Sir Ralph Payne, hat in hand, or an older lieutenant. Cumming, however (1738-1808, see MNT0134), is known to have been 6 feet 2 inches (1.88m) tall so the heights may be reversed unless the second figure was really even taller.

Object Details

ID: PAJ0773
Collection: Fine art
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Hearne, Thomas
Vessels: Deal Castle (1746)
Date made: 1804
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Sheet: 190 x 155 mm; Mount: 558 mm x 405 mm

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