When in England recently from Malaysia, a note by Harry Ward on Thomas Edgar [see Cook's Log, page 1882, vol. 24, no. 4 (2001)] inspired me first to a pay a visit to the village of Lydd, out on the Romney Marsh in Kent. My UK home is in nearby Rye, East Sussex.
Edgar had served as master on the Discoveryduring James Cook's Third Voyage to the Pacific (1776-1780). According to the entry on Thomas Edgar in John Robson's book The Captain Cook Encyclopaedia 2004:
He kept a log and a journal, and he made surveys and drew charts. After the voyage, Edgar was promoted to lieutenant in 1781. He visited The Falkland Islands from 1786 to 1787 on board the whaler, Hope. He surveyed part of the coast and is commemorated by Port Edgar on West Falkland, while Hope Reef honours the ship.
Edgar was born in Woolwich in 1745. Little is known of his early life although, like many young boys at the time, he went to sea at the early age of ten. He would have been 31 when the Discovery sailed from Plymouth on August 1st, 1776, under the command of Captain Charles Clerke.
When Edgar eventually ended his sea-going days he became keeper of the Dungeness Signal Tower in Kent and remained in this post until he died at the age of 56; he was buried in the grounds of All Saints' Church, Lydd.
A modem nuclear power station is located close to the site of the early signal tower, now replaced by an automated lighthouse on the cusp of Dungeness Promontory.
Harry Ward reported that Edgar's original tomb stone in the All Saints' Church yard in Lydd had been moved into the North Chapel for safe-keeping, since it had been broken.
I viewed the old stone in its new location but saw no signs of structural damage. However, the engraved testimonial words to this much-travelled sailor had been badly eroded, due no doubt to the salt-laden winds blowing inland from the nearby English Channel, so that they were almost illegible. Nevertheless, after sitting on a nearby seat, I concentrated on deciphering their message.
The inscription seems to read:
LIEU THO EDGAR of the Royal Navy
Who departed this life Oct 17th 1801
AGED 56 Years
He came into the Navy at 10 years of age
was intl at memorable Engagement
with Adm Hawk and sailed round the world
in company with the unfortunate
CAPTAIN COOK of the Resolution
in his last Voyage when he was killed
by the Indians at the island of Owhie
In the South Seas the 14th Feb 1778.
The lower part of the tombstone was, indeed, so overgrown with lichen that I was unable to read the touching poem in Edgar's memory. But Harry Ward concludes his note with its lines, having derived them from another source:
Tom Edgar at last has sailed out of this world,
His shroud is put on and his topsails are furl'd
He lies in death's boat without any concern,.
And is moor'd for a full due ahead and astern,
Ov'r the compass of life he has merrily run,
His voyage is completed his reckoning is done.
I searched in vain for the replacement grave stone, once more located outside, even though Harry Ward's article features a picture of the marker.
As may be seen, it is a simple tomb stone.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 27, volume 30, number 1 (2007).
your email address will not be published