In 1998, Madge Darby reviewed what was known about the early life of John Gore Jnr. and his subsequent career in the Royal Navy [see Cook's Log, page 1550, vol. 21, no. 4 (1998)].
Before his father, John Gore Snr. had sailed with Cook on the Third Voyage in July 1776, he had written to Joseph Banks:
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.
Despite an extensive search at the Essex Record Office (ERO) Madge Darby found no trace of the "Reverend Mr Firebrass". Eight years later, it is now possible to search the contents of the ERO on-line, but the Reverend Firebrass remains as elusive as ever. However, thanks to other institutions making their records available on the Internet, two more pieces of this jigsaw have come to light.
It is now possible to search for the records of individual clergymen on-line at The Clergy of the Church of England Database (CCEd). This database is a collaborative project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, that brings together scholars from King's College London, the University of Kent at Canterbury and the University of Reading. Its objective is to create a database documenting the careers of all Church of England clergymen between 1540 and 1835. To date, only a few dioceses have been catalogued. However, the database contains an entry for John Firebrace (1744-1792) showing he was ordained a deacon in Norwich in 1766, and became a priest in 1768. Unfortunately, the diocese covering Essex has not yet been indexed, but it is interesting to note that he married in Deptford in 1773.
The second find came courtesy of The Banks Archive. This is a project currently based within the Natural History Museum London, that was established to catalogue, transcribe and publish the correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820). The Archive has its own website which contains a search facility. Whilst nothing was found when searching for "Firebrass", the name "Firebrace" produced a positive result. The Archive kindly provided a copy of the letter that Revd. Firebrace had written to Joseph Banks:
I had the honour of yr letter yesterday upon my return to this place.
Your tenderness gives me pleasure & you may depend that as Gore's friend & as a man who has engaged himself in this business I shall be properly attentive to the Child.
He is a very fine boy & in perfect health
I am with the greatest respect
yr obligd. Servt.
Octobr. 22d. 1777
From the above letter it appears that Joseph Banks did not wait for the return of the Resolution, but was proactive in discharging his responsibility to John Gore Snr. and had written to Revd. Firebrace to enquire about the boy.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 34, volume 30, number 2 (2007).