As members will know, John Gore was a lieutenant in Captain Cook's Endeavour, and later first lieutenant of the Resolution, on Cook's last voyage. William Bligh was the master in this ship. Gore took command of the expedition after Cook had been killed and Charles Clerke had died of consumption; and, after the voyage, was promoted to post captain. He was appointed a captain of Greenwich Hospital, where he died in 1790.
Gore's private life has always been something of a mystery. Just before leaving in the Resolution, he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks, on 12th July, 1776:-
"The Young one whome you was so kind As to promise an attention To in case of my Death, is under the Care of the Reverend Mr Firebrass of Braintree In Essex, him I have refer'd To you."
On 30th May l778, he wrote in his journal:-
"This Foreland I beg Leave to Call Nancy's, a Favourite Female Acquaintance of your Humble Servant."
In editing the journals of the voyage, Beaglehole commented that this was not the way an officer would normally have referred to his wife; but neither did officers normally name places after their mistresses. Beaglehole speculated on the "Young one":-
"was this possibly the son who was said to have sailed with Portlock and Dixon to the north-west coast of America in 1785-88?"
Unfortunately he did not quote the source of this report (and if any member has seen it, I should be glad to hear from them.)
Portlock and Dixon were both veterans of Cook's last voyage. In 1785 they commanded two merchant ships on a semi-official expedition to open up the fur trade. Portlock published an account of the voyage in 1789, in which he said:-
"Several gentlemen's sons, who had shewn an inclination to engage in a seafaring life, were put under my care, for the purpose of being early initiated into the knowledge of a profession which requires length of experience, rather than supereminence of genius."
A footnote gives the names of the boys and those they were "sent out by". It Includes "John Gore, by Captain Gore of Greenwich Hospital." It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that he was the son referred to by Beaglehole.
In 1789 young John entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman, sailing with another of Cook's former officers, Edward Riou, in the Guardian. Young John was one of those who stayed with the ship after she hit an iceberg and helped to get her to Cape Town.
When he returned to England, Bligh was preparing to set out on his second breadfruit voyage in the Providence. He was accompanied by a brig, the Assistant, which Portlock commanded, and Portlock took young John as a master's mate. He is shown in the muster book as aged 18 and born in Boking, Essex, which is near Braintree. He kept a full, informative journal of the voyage, which lasted from 1791 - 1793. On this occasion the breadfruit was successfully delivered and young John was recommended for promotion by Bligh and Portlock. He took his lieutenant's examination in 1795, listing his service in the Guardian and the Assistant.
By that time, the Admiralty were insisting upon candidates producing baptismal certificates, to stop the practice of young men taking the examination before they had reached the minimum age of 20. Young John produced one as follows:
"John, Son of John & Ann Gore Born 7th Baptised 31st March 1774."
"I do hereby Certify the above to be an Extract of the Register of this Parish. N. Wakeham. Dean of Bocking."
Nancy was the usual diminutive for Anne and from this extract it would appear that she and John Gore the elder were married. A search of the Essex County Records by Julia Rae and Myself has, however, failed to find a record of their marriage, or the original baptismal entry. We did ascertain that the Rev. N. Wakeham was Rector of St Mary's Boking, but have not so far traced Mr Firebrass.
From this evidence there does not appear to be much doubt that young John was the son of Cook's John Gore, although there must still be some question as to whether he was legitimate.
He was promoted to commander in 1808 and made a post captain in 1821. He was advanced to the rank of rear admiral (retired) in 1852 and died the next year.
- Beaglehole. Journals III, p. lxxv, p. 363n & p.1512.
- O'Byrne. A Naval Biographical Dictionary. p. 413. (This is in-accurate in the date of John Gore jnr's service in the Guardian.)
- Portlock, Nathaniel. 1789, A Voyage Round the World but more particularly to the North-West Coast of America, 1785-1788.
Documents in the Public Record Office, Kew
- ADM 36/11169 Muster book of HM Brig Assistant.
- ADM 15/4527 Journal of Master's Mate John Gore.
- ADM 107/19 John Gore jnr's Lieutenant's certificate, 22nd June, 1795.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1550, volume 21, number 4 (1998).