Robert Davies sailed as surgeon’s second mate in Resolution during Cook’s Third Voyage. He received his warrant on 22 March, 1776,1 and joined the same day, having qualified two weeks earlier only. He was made surgeon’s first mate in Resolution on 5 August, 1778,2 after the death of William Anderson, surgeon in Resolution, and the removal of David Samwell to become surgeon in Discovery.
Davies may have received his appointment as second mate through Samwell, who later described him as an old school friend. On 25 March, 1776, Samwell wrote in a letter to Matthew Gregson, “For thro’ Mr Crosier’s Recommendation to Captain Cook I am made first mate & what will render the Voyage still more pleasing, an old Schoolfellow and Countryman of mine is 2nd Mate.”
After the voyage, on 18 October, 1780, John White wrote to Anna Blackburne, a collector, about transactions with David Samwell regarding natural history specimens. “Mr S. [Samwell] told me the Surgeon’s Mate of the Resolution [Davies] was his friend & that he was almost the only One that had any Birds in the Ship & that his were reserved for Mr Bankes – but what Duplicates he had I should certainly see, as soon as he came on Shore & could bring them up to his Lodgings, not caring to open them on board or Expose em to the Publick I’ve waited Impatiently to see these, but without Success as yet.”
Other than a note about his promotion, Davies is not mentioned in the voyage narrative. It is not evident that Davies ever went to sea again. It is more likely that he returned to North Wales, where he practised as a doctor, and became coroner at Mold, in Flintshire. There are two references in the Crime and Punishment database of the National Library of Wales for Robert Davies in his capacity as coroner. In one, he is actually the accused, being prosecuted for neglect of duty, for which he was found guilty and fined. In the other case, he prosecuted a man accused of murder.
Robert Davies was baptised on 23 March, 1753, at Llansannan in Denbighshire, North Wales, the youngest son of Pierce Davies and Maria (née Jones). The family lived at Chwbren (variously spelt Chubren, Chwybren), two kilometres south of Llansannan. Robert Davies married Elizabeth Owen on 13 January, 1783, at Mold. She was the daughter of John Owen, from Pencraig, near Llangefni, on the island of Anglesey. Robert Owen, an uncle, was sheriff of Anglesey at various times. Elizabeth would inherit land and property near Llanrwrst in Denbighshire. George Davies, a son of Robert and Elizabeth, became a landowner / farmer, living at Cyffdy, two kilometres south of Llanrwrst, until his death in 1854.
It is not known when and where Robert and Elizabeth Davies died. They had at least four children, including Pierce Astle Davies, who was also a doctor in Mold.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 22, volume 38, number 1 (2015).
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