In the name of God Amen, I Robert Taylor, Armourer of his majesty's Ship the Endeavour, Lieut. James Cook Commander, being of sound and disposing Mind and Memory do hereby make this my Last Will and Testament, first and principally I Command my Soul into the hands of Almighty God, hoping for Remission of all my Sins through the Merits of Jesus Christ my Blessed Saviour and Redeemer, and my Body to the Earth or Sea as it shall please God,
and as for such worldly Estate and Effects which I shall be possessed of or intitled unto at the time of my decease I give and bequeath the same as followeth, that is to say unto my true and beloved friend and Brother Robert Anderson, Quarter Master belonging to the said Barque or Ship Endeavour, now lying at Woolwich, Subject to his paying the Sum of twenty Guineas to my Robert Taylor, Son of William Taylor, Shoemaker in the Grass Market , Edinburgh, Scotland at three month after my decease,
and I do hereby Nominate, Constitute and appoint my true beloved friend and Brother Robert Anderson Executor of this my Last Will and Testament, and I do Give and Bequeath unto my said Executor all the Rest and Residue of my Estate whatsoever both Real and Personal, hereby revoking and making void all other and former Wills by me heretofore made, and I do declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this twenty fifth day of July - year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy one, and in the Eleventh year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith -
- Robt. Taylor - Signed Sealed published and declared by the said Robert taylor as and for his Last Will and Testament in the presence of us who have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses in the presence of the said Testator - Thos. Peck Surgeon - John Mara - William Peckover.
This Will was proved at London before the worshipfull George Harris Doctor of Laws and Surrogate of the Right Worshipfull George Kay also Doctor of Law Master Keeper or Commissary of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Lawfully Constituted on the Eighth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand Seven hundred and seventy one by the oath of Robert Anderson the Sole Executor named in the said will to whom administration was granted of all and singular the Goods, Chattels and Credits of the said deceased, he having been first sworn duly to administer.
(Transcribed from the copy at the Family Records Centre, London, microfilm reference Prob-11-970-294.)
- Robert Taylor was specifically requested by Cook to be appointed as Armourer of the Endeavour. How Cook knew of him, whether by personal acquaintance or recommendation from a fellow officer is not known. Taylor joined the ship on 11th June 1768 whilst she was still being fitted out at Deptford.
- The will was made out on 25 July 1771 after the Endeavour had completed its voyage of discovery and returned to the River Thames. Most of the crew were paid off on 18 July and soon afterwards the vessel was docked at Woolwich for resheathing and repairs. Taylor was a sick man and appears to have remained on board. The will refers to the Endeavour being at Woolwich. The ship's pay book indicates that Taylor was discharged as dead on 1 August 1771.
- Beaglehole was unable to trace Taylor's origins, however Taylor's will shows that his father lived in Edinburgh and it seems reasonable to conclude that Robert was born in Scotland. This may explain his close friendship with Robert Anderson who was another Scot, born in Inverness. The will indicates that Taylor meant to leave 20 Guineas to a relative but the actual relationship is missing from the text, and there may have been an error in the name of the relative which is given as "Robert Taylor".
- Taylor's choice of witnesses for his will may have been limited by the circumstances which he found himself.. There is no record of a Thomas Peck serving as surgeon on board the Endeavourand he may have been brought onboard to administer to the dying Taylor. John Mara and William Peckover were both sailors who went on to become gunner's mates serving under Cook on later voyages.
- Taylor's will was processed with remarkable speed. Normally wills take weeks if not months to be processed and Administration granted. What influence enabled this will to be dealt with in a mere seven days before Administration was awarded on 8 August 1771?
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1807, volume 24, number 1 (2001).