I am a curator at the Manx Museum, Douglas, Isle of Man.1 There is some debate here among historians as to whether Peter Fannin, Master of Adventure, was Manx. We know that he lived here, but prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Booth there is no record of him on the island.
I’m fairly convinced he was not from the Isle of Man. As we were a small community at that time, our records are fairly comprehensive and, aside from the fact that I can find no baptism, I can find no evidence of anyone who died here who might conceivably have been his parents. Nor is he mentioned in anyone’s will, of which we have a good collection, other than that of his father-in-law, which long post-dates his journey with Cook. He also occasionally appears in Manx court records for minor debts, but so far as I have been able to find, only from the 1780s onwards.
The aspect about his courtship of Miss Booth which puzzles me is this: he came back from Cook’s Second Voyage, and almost immediately they were married. This action implies that they had known each other for at least a short time before that, but how, if he has been away at sea? If he was previously married that further complicates things, as that seems to rule out some sort of long engagement which predated the Cook voyage. Miss Booth was quite wealthy, however, as her father owned a brewery.
With the outbreak of war with France in 1793 Fannin placed several advertisements in local newspapers asking for creditors to settle with him. He left the Island, presumably recalled to the Navy, but I have yet to find any postings for him between 1793 and his death.
I was told that he died in London, and his tomb was destroyed in the Blitz. As for his court martial, I am told by other historians that he ran his ship aground.
- For more information about the museum, visit www.manxnationalheritage.im/
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 27, volume 39, number 2 (2016).