Alexander Home sailed with Cook on the Third Voyage. Alexander was born in Coldingham, Berwickshire, in 1739, the eldest son of John Home (17xx-1799) of Paddockmyre, Berwickshire, and his wife Margaret.
Alexander Home joined the Royal Navy about 1766 in a 1st rate variously known as Royal Ann and Royal George. He began as a landsman, and then was rated an able-bodied seaman (AB). In June 1767, he joined HMS Fowey, a 6th rate, under Captain Mark Robinson, and together they went to the Carolinas in North America. After 16 months, according to his lieutenant’s certificate, Home joined HMS Brune, where he remained for 28 months.
In early 1771, Home joined HMS Flora, a 5th rate, under Captain Charles Saxton. Home was aboard for five months, mainly in the English Channel. It was followed by 31 months from late 1771, in HMS Levant, a 6th rate, based in the Mediterranean, under Captain Samuel Thompson. While still there, Home moved, in 1774, to HMS Minerva, a 5th rate, under Captain John Brookes.
Back in Britain in late 1774, Home joined HMS Ardent, a 3rd rate under Captain George Mackenzie, for guardship duties at Chatham. Home next spent 10 months aboard the sloop Senegal, under William Dudington, in American waters. Home was, therefore, a well-experienced sailor when he successfully sat his lieutenant’s examination just prior to joining Cook for the Third Voyage. However, he did not receive his commission immediately.
Home joined the ship’s company of HMS Discovery on 16 March, 1776 as an AB.1 In July 1776, when Cook’s expedition left Plymouth, he was promoted to master’s mate. In December 1777, while the expedition was at Tahiti, he was made quartermaster, and on 31 December, 1778, Home resumed his position as master’s mate.
Lieutenant’s certificate for Alexander Home
In pursuance, etc of the 30 March 1776, we have examined Mr. Alexander Home who by certificate appears to be more than 33 years of age, & find he has gone to sea more than eight years in the Ships and qualities undermentioned (viz)
LM & AB
AB & Coxswain
He produceth Journals from the Flora and Levant. He produceth Certificates from Captains Saxton and Thompson of his diligence, etc. He can splice, knot, reef a sail, etc and is qualified to do the duty of an Able Seaman and Midshipman. Dated April 1776.
Captain John Campbell, Captain Abraham North.
On 18 December, 1780, after the ships had returned to Britain, Home finally received his lieutenant’s commission. He served in the sloop Rattlesnake in 1781, and in the cutter Cruizer in 1782, during the American War of Independence. His sight was damaged, and he retired on half-pay in 1783, to spend the rest of his life on a small farm at Buskinburn, Berwickshire.
In 1785, Home married Elizabeth Stewart, the daughter of a local cottager from Duns. This marriage infuriated his parents, who disinherited him, making his younger brother, David, their heir. Alexander and Elizabeth Home proceeded to have two daughters and three sons.
Of their sons, Francis Douglas Home became an army captain, while George Home became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. George was in HMS Bellerophon when that ship carried Napoleon to St. Helena,2 and later wrote the book Memoirs of an Aristocrat and Reminiscences of the Emperor Napoleon (1837).3 The book incorporated reminiscences of Alexander Home, and was the source of the account of the “trial of the cannibal dog”. That described an incident at Queen Charlotte Sound, in 1777, when members of the midshipman’s mess, led by Home, tried, and then cooked, the dog of Edward Riou.4
The Homes were an important family in south-east Scotland, with many branches. Several of its members had supported the Jacobite cause in 1715 and 1745, leading to their demise. Surviving branches claimed vacant titles, and Alexander Home’s family believed they had been denied the earldom of Marchmont. Much time and effort was devoted to advancing their claims. There was sympathy for the claim, and the House of Lords awarded £600 to Alexander Home when his claim was referred to them in 1804. Alexander Home’s son, Francis Douglas, maintained the claims well into the nineteenth century.
Alexander Home was made a superannuated commander in December 1815, and died on 21 February, 1823, at Buskinburn.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 6, volume 40, number 2 (2017).
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