Saturday was the main day of the weekend, with lots of interesting talks. It is held at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton. We started with an update on the museum by Phil Philo. Unfortunately, the financial situation is tough at the museum, with cuts being made in the council’s funding that are having a large impact on the museum itself. More cuts are likely, so the future is looking a little uncertain. Phil is doing a brilliant job in the middle of all this turmoil.
One of the things I love about the Society is the fact that, while Cook is the one figure that binds us all together, people come to him from different angles and interests. It was reflected in the talks given on the Saturday. Wendy Wales has spent many years researching William Wales, one of her husband’s ancestors. She gave an interesting talk on how she went about doing her research, where she started, and some of the documents that she looked at. As a researcher myself I always find it fascinating to hear of other resources that people use, and was reminded of the very useful ECCO.2 It is also reassuring that I am not the only one who can become obsessed about someone while doing their research!
The next speaker was George Fussey, a teacher at Eton College and curator of the Joseph Banks museum there.3 He gave a fascinating talk on Banks’s time as a pupil at Eton from 1756 (having previously lasted at the rival school Harrow for only one year!). We learnt of Banks’s furore into crime—shooting two swans! And how he appears in the painting “The Tide Rising at Briton Ferry, 1773” by Paul Sandby.4 George really whetted our appetites for a visit to the college and museum.
Lunch is always a chance for me and Dad to discuss what we have seen and heard, and have a general chat, as well as catching up with those who weren’t at the hotel the night before. Then we went down to the museum itself, which has also been renovated. The exhibitions were fascinating and I very much like the new layout. The previous thematic structure has been changed to a chronological one.
The first talk after lunch was by Stephen Baines. It was primarily about Endeavour and her life after Cook. The talk explored her voyages to the Falkland Islands, which I knew nothing about. I usually think about Cook’s ships in relationship to their time with him, so it was a good reminder that life continued for Endeavour after her round the world voyage.
Cliff Thornton’s talks are always entertaining – he has a great way of dividing up the information that he wants to tell you in a way that has you wondering how it is all linked together until the very end. In this case, the talk centred on the portrait of the chief of Santa Christina and the possibility of engravings from the Second Voyage being in a museum in Russia. If true, then can I suggest a CCS trip to that museum?!
The day of talks was wrapped up with a bonus short talk by Derek Morris who, since writing his fascinating article in the last issues of Cook’s Log,5 had discovered a little more information about Mary Smith and the possible connections between her husbands Samuel Batts and John Blackburn. He wondered if there was a link with John Blackbourn, baptised in Whitby in 1724.
For me, Saturday evening is spent not at the CCS auction, but watching as much of the TV programme Strictly Come Dancing as I can, while sending my mum text messages about the dances, etc. Then it is down for dinner and another chance to catch up with people. This year we were treated to some of Alwyn Peel’s jokes. Not to be missed!