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William Griffin (1755-1839)


William Griffin was born in London about 1755.  He joined Resolution for Cook’s Third Voyage on 10 February 1776 as an AB, and acted as cooper and ship’s corporal from 12 March 1776.  His name was spelt as William Griffiths on the muster roll.  He was reprimanded over an incident with sugar cane beer off Hawai`i in December 1778.  Midshipman John Watts wrote on 12 December, “Punish’d Willm Griffiths, (Cooper) with 12 lashes for starting ye Cask of Decoction which was sour.”1


During the voyage, Griffin kept a short journal, which he did not submit at the end of the voyage.2  He rewrote the document, or at least copied it out, after 1813 as the paper of the surviving copy carries a watermark dated that year.  The narrative and various other belongings and curios passed down through his sons Alexander and Thomas before being purchased by the Dixson Library, part of the State Library of New South Wales.


Beaglehole records that Griffin’s spelling is unique but he quotes Griffin on several occasions.  Among the other items held by the Dixson Library is a licence for Griffin to pursue his trade (presumably as cooper) with a certificate from James King.  It is signed by John Wilkes, Chamberlain, and dated 23 November 1780.


Beaglehole records that Griffin lived in London after the voyage.  He married Elizabeth Edge on 1 July 1781, and together they had eight children, all baptised at St Sepulchre, London.  The family went to live in Watford before 1814.  Griffin was a religious man and acted as overseer at St. Mary’s Church in Watford.  He died in 1839 in Watford. Another item acquired by the Dixson Library is an account book for the parish of Watford covering 1814-1815. 

This entry was compiled with information from Dave Tate, for which many thanks.3


John Robson



  1. Cook’s Log, page 29, vol. 26, no. 4 (2003). 
  2. A short narrative of a Voyage undertaken in His Majestys Ship Resolution Captn James Cook with the Discovery Captn Clerk.  Dixson Library MS.  
  3. Cook’s Log, page 20, vol. 30, no. 2 (2007).


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 35, volume 36, number 2 (2013).

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Jennifer, thank you for that interesting information. I will keep my eyes open for anything that might link the two Griffin families.
By Cliff Thornton on 4/3/2020 3:45:12 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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I am researching the Griffins of Kendal, Westmorland, coopers. One, William, was buried in Kendal parish church in 1784 "An amiable Youth" but was of the parish of St. Olave, London.
It ssems likely that there is a connection as cooperage was the trade of both branches.
By Jennifer Forsyth on 4/3/2020 1:39:33 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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