Buccleuch who?

In an earlier post (HMAS Sydney Lost 75 Years Ago) I alluded to the unusual middle name of my 1st cousin 1 x removed, Henry Buccleuch Shipstone. So, for all those wondering, “what the …”, rest easy, all (well, what I believe to be true) will be revealed. If there are any inaccuracies, my apologies in advance. Please set me right (with evidence) in the Comments Section.

We’ll start at the beginning of my line of the Shipstone family in Australia. My great-grandfather, Samuel Henry Shipstone, was born on 16 January 1854, in Star Lane, Bullwell, Nottinghamshire, England to parents John Shipstone and Isabella Glover. At the age of 22 in 1876, Samuel married Frances (Fannie) Burton and in 1881 their son James (Jim) was born. According to the 1881 census records the family was living in Openshaw, Manchester and Samuel was working as a railway wagon maker. By 1883 they had decided, along with many others in Britain, to emigrate to Australia. This was probably due to the recruitment drive by the new Queensland Government to attract families and workers to the new State of Queensland. See Colonial Immigration in Queensland for an overview. So, they packed up their possessions and their small son and boarded the Duke of Buccleuch.

DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH – iscs 3,099gt 1873 Barrow
Courtesy of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom (G2228)

You may already know but, on 27 August 1883 the island of Krakatoa, located in Indonesia (formerly the Dutch East Indies) erupted three times on that day. It is considered one of the most deadly volcanic eruptions of modern history and it is believed that more than 36,000 people died due to the subsequent tsunamis following the eruptions. It was a significant global event. See 1883 Krakatoa Eruption for an excellent essay by Monique R Morgan. By October 1883, the Duke of Buccleuch was sailing by Krakatoa on its way to Queensland Australia. The main eruption was over but minor eruptions, mostly of mud, continued.


Krakatoa eruption 1883 – Image courtesy mentalfloss.com

The eruption of Krakatoa was not the only drama unfolding for the young Shipstone family. Fannie Shipstone had embarked on her journey to Queensland with an extra passenger. Fannie was pregnant and on 19 October 1883 gave birth to their second son. To honour their son’s birth at sea aboard the Duke of Buccleuch, he was named Samuel Buccleuch Shipstone.  In turn, Samuel Buccleuch named his only son similarly, ie, Henry Buccleuch Shipstone.

Family legend held that Fannie had died in child birth and Samuel Henry was left to care for his two young sons. It was further believed that a fellow passenger, Alice Bray, was passing by the cabin when Fannie had “died” and helped out with the children. However, the ship’s records show that Fannie arrived in Brisbane, Queensland in November 1883 with her family. The records showed that Samuel Buccleuch was born on board the vessel and some passengers had died. But not Fannie. The sources show Fannie died and was buried in Brisbane in 1885. That was two years after her alleged death on board the Duke of Buccleuch.

Great story. Just not all true. Interestingly, Alice Bray was to become Samuel’s third wife in 1888 and my paternal great-grandmother. My grandfather, John William (Jack), was the youngest of Samuel Henry and Alice’s six children. I guess that is a story for another day.

(As an aside, while trawling through the shipping lists, I found two other babies were born on the same voyage. What do you know? One of them was named Alice Buccleuch Lake. Might follow that up one day.)

(As a further aside, the Duke of Buccleuch was lost with all hands following a collision with the Canadian vessel Vandalia in the English Channel on 7 March 1889. See Loss of Duke of Buccleuch for an interesting read).

I trust that you are not too confused. Family history takes many twists and turns and I am along for the ride. Have you had any family myths that have been busted? Let me know your story in the Comments Section. I would love to hear from you.


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