Captain William Shaddick and His Amazing Cross Atlantic Ordeal

A brigantine ship.

Gordon Shattock found this amazing story in a November, 1842 issue of the Taunton Courier, but it was actually first published January 1st, 1842 in The Examiner, a London Newspaper (No. 1770, p. 733). The Examiner was a weekly paper founded by Leigh and John Hunt in 1808. It was a leading intellectual journal. Wikipedia: The sub-title was "A Sunday paper, on politics, domestic economy, and theatricals," and the newspaper devoted itself to providing independent reports on each of these areas. It consistently published leading writers of the day, including Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and William Hazlitt.

The story is of the type Hollywood loves to take to the box office. A lone man sails a massive ship across the Atlantic single-handed, his crew sick and dying of yellow fever. Yellow fever is a tropical viral disease affecting the liver and kidneys, causing fever and jaundice and often fatal. It is transmitted by mosquitoes. (Interesting to note is that a Shattuck name would become associated with the medical treatment of tropical diseases.)

The story is told of Captain William James Shaddick (1813-1861), whose feat of navigation and strength could only have been achieved by a man of his age: twenty-eight. Captain Shaddick had been in the merchant marine since the age of eleven, had first become a master in charge of navigating a ship at the age of twenty-two, became a captain sometime before he acquired his post as captain of the brigantine Enfield and was awarded his Masters and Mates Certificate when he was forty.

William Shaddick was born in Pembroke Dock on the south west coast of Wales. This was a major boat building location for the Royal Navy. His father William (1788-1841) had moved from the Appledore area just across the Bristol Channel in England and worked in the shipyards of Pembroke Dock as a shipwright. He was descended from the Tawstock Shaddocks of north Devon, ultimately tracing back to the village of North Molton, where the old spelling "Shattick" occurs. (You can read about the Tawstock Shaddocks on this site.) Captain William James Shaddick was the first of a long line of Shaddick seafarers. The story of Captain Shaddick's extraordinary feat of seamanship must have rung down through the Shaddick generations, until alas, most of the branches of the family died out. (His father William unfortunately died seven months before his son undertook his epic journey.) I am restoring this story to the library of Shattocke stories here, with thanks to Gordon Shattock for discovering it. Pause and think about what it must have taken in mental and physical strength to navigate a brigantine ship like the one seen above across the Atlantic Ocean from Mexico to England with an incapacitated crew. How terrifying and lonely that journey across the water wasteland must have been. He left Tampico on the east coast of Mexico and landed in Milford Haven, not far from his birth place in Pembroke Dock, Wales. His ordeal had lasted exactly six weeks and covered over 5,000 miles or 8,000 km. What a read this must have been to London gentry opening the Examiner on a New Year's day in the comfortable chairs of their lounges...