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Thomas Shaw (~1754-1844)


Thomas Shaw sailed on Captain Cook’s Second and Third Voyages.  The muster records of Discovery list Shaw as being born in London about 1754.  He may have been the Thomas Shaw baptised on 11 February, 1753, at St. John of Wapping, the son of William and Sophia Shaw. 


Shaw briefly joined HMS Scorpion on 17 Sep-tember, 1771, as an able seaman (AB).1  Three months later, on 16 December, he and some other men followed James Cook to HMS Drake.  She was renamed Resolution on the 25th.2 Shaw, still an AB,3 must have had an uneventful voyage in her as he was never mentioned in the records.  However, for some unrecorded reason he was discharged to the Supernumerary list on 28 April, 1772, and re-entered on the muster as an AB on 1 July, 1772. 


Shaw was still an AB when he joined Discovery for Cook’s Third Voyage on 16 March, 1776.4  However, he became a gunner’s mate on 30 March.  Shaw appears in this voyage’s accounts when he was one of two men who tried to desert, and to remain on Raiatea, in the Society Islands, in 1777.


Cook moored at Raiatea on 3 November, 1777, remaining there until 7 December.  The departure was delayed because Alexander Mouat,5 midshipman, and Thomas Shaw absconded on 24 November.6  It took many days to recover them.  Charles Clerke, commander of Discovery, wrote
The Afternoon the People at their own disposal.  In the Morning, when turning them to their Work, we found one of the Midshipmen and one of the Gunners Mates missing, who had deserted in the Course of the Night.  About nine I went away in the Resolutions Pinnace accompanied by my own Cutter, to the Eastern Part of the Isle in search of them.
Our two Deserters were brought back after they had been away about a week; they had gone over in a canoe to Bolabola [Bora Bora], and from thence to a small Island called Tubia [Motu Iti] 12 Leagues distance from hence, where the Natives surprized them when they were asleep; and brought them onboard.


William Bayly, the astronomer, recorded
put them both in irons both legs where they are to remain during our stay among the islands


While Cook wrote
Thus ended this affair which gave me more trouble and vexation than the Men were worth, and which I would not have taken but for the reason before mentioned and to save the Son of a brother officer from being lost to the World, for I could soon have supplied their places with Volunteers that would have answered our purpose full as well if not better 7


Shaw must have redeemed himself, because at the end of the voyage, James King petitioned the Earl of Sandwich, advocating promotion for Shaw.8


By whom recommended

For what position

Case in support

How provided for

Thomas Shaw on bd. Magnanime

Capt King

To be Gunner

Round the world on Discovery – Passed exams

Appointed to the Lady Mackworth


Over the next few years various warrants were issued for Shaw as a gunner:
Alexander Dewar, purser; Gregory Bentham, purser; Thomas Shaw, gunner.  Warrants or commissions for service at this rank in the Royal Navy9
Thomas Shaw, gunner.  Warrants or commissions for service at this rank in the Royal Navy10
Thomas Shaw, gunner . Warrants or commissions for service at this rank in the Royal Navy11


By the early 1800s Shaw was ready for retirement and several records show him becoming a superannuitant
Thomas SHAW; Rank: Gunner; Born: [Not Given]; Age on entry: [Not Given]; Dates served: 23 May 1781-31 December 180312
William Marsden. Thomas Shaw, Gunner of the Glory has served 22 years and is eligible for superannuation.  The records show he is over 5113


His name appeared in the list of superannuated gunners of a second rate from 6 August, 1804.  Another Admiralty entry records Shaw’s death on 15 June, 1844
Number: 265 Thomas Shaw, Superannuated Gunner, who died: 15 June 1844.  Notes on executor's application for money owed by the Royal Navy.14 


John Robson


1.    Recorded as number 40 on the muster roll. 

2.    Cook’s Log, page 23, vol. 34, no. 4 (2011). 

3.    Recorded as number 34 on the muster roll.

4.    Recorded as number 34 (N25) on the muster roll.

5.    Cook’s Log, page 2, vol. 35, no. 4 (2012). 

6.    Cook’s Log, page 2014, vol. 25, no. 4 (2002). 

7.    Alexander Mouat was the son of Patrick Mouat, a captain in the Royal Navy. 

8.    SAN/6.  Held at the National Maritime Museum Archive, Greenwich.. 

9.    ADM 6/22/285. 1781.  Held at The National Archives (TNA), Kew. 

10.  ADM 6/23/73. 1783. 

11.  ADM 6/23/365. 1786. 

12.  ADM 29/1/150. 

13.  ADM 354/216/131. 27 July 1804. 

14.  ADM 45/18/265. 1845. 

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 12, volume 40, number 2 (2017).

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