Passengers & An Execution

Captain Ferguson

Captain Ferguson belongs to the Rifle Brigade, and is the nephew of Ferguson of Raith, and the son of General Ferguson, who served with so much reputation in the Peninsular War. In person Capt.n far exceeded the common height and from the delicacy of his complexion I should consider his constitution to be by no means very stout. In his manners he is void of that hauteur and grandiloquent affectation of superiority which Officers in the army but too frequently assume towards their brethren in the navy – and indeed his frankness and sociability were very prominent. In short he conducted himself in such a manner as to stand high in the good opinion and graces of all of us. He expects to be in Malta only a few months – a period which it is absolutely necessary that he should spend with his brigade, ere he can obtain promotion by purchase or otherwise.

[Earl of Rothes – passenger] – Bet made by him

His Lordship the Earl of Rothes and a lieutenant in the 7th Royal Fusiliers presented the greatest possible contrast in size to Capt.n Ferguson, being as much below the mean standard as the latter was above it. His features were regular and pleasing and he had such an eye, as I have seen before – so dark and piercing was it that you could only assimilate to that of a hawk who sees his prey at a great distance and seems to pierce it thro’ with the intensity of its gaze, when it approaches near. The family name of the Earl of Leslie – and both he and Captain Ferguson possess property in the neighbourhood of the “lang-toun o’Kirkaldy.” The manners of his Lordship were pleasing and popular – easy and unaffected, although he could at times assume that air, with which we the ignoble vulgar are accustomed to invest a nobleman. He at all times entered into unreserved conversation with every one, and never offensively obtruded his title of nobility as a bar to freedom of sentiment and language. Of course we know little or nothing of his former life – but we have heard that he has been living rather fast, i.e. has been indulging in the pleasances of dissipation too freely. The only thing which came under our notice as detrimental to his health was an unfortunate predilection for ardent spirits. From the effects of the large potations which he quaffed, he was several times much intoxicated – and I suspect that when in that condition, he is in the habit of swallowing large doses of laudanum, with a view of counteracting the Brandy. On one occasion, as I have before alluded to, when he was half seas over, he made a bet of ten dozen of Champaign, that by the next day at noon, we would be at Cadiz. Now at the time the bet was made we were not more than three or four [hours] sail from that place with a fresh and favourable breeze – but it so was that the wind it was dead on ends, and it depended entirely on a change in the winds, whether he should lose or gain. Those who bet against him were the Capt.n for five dozen, and captain Ferguson for a like number of bottles of Champaign. The result of this bett was, as from the circumstances might have been expected, against the Earl – and he nobly paid it. In consequence of this bett too we have had 2 bottles of Champaign every day at dinner, of which all of us have had our full share – and the Capt.n in his own opinion by far too much for his good, since from what he drank, he as got a very severe attack of his old complaint the Gout.
The Earl brought out along with him a gig, fitted up like a Mail Coach, and intends to cut a dash among the Maltese. He designs also to purchase several horses for driving and racing, both of which exercises he is very fond and is furnished with a jockey dress & Cap for the latter.

Reverend Joseph Marshall

The last of the trio of our passengers was the Reverend Joseph Marshall. This Gentleman was a native of a ‘Green Erin,’ and was a good specimen of the Irish character. Altho’ from his education which as a Clergyman was of course liberal he avoided committing any of those bulls for which Irishmen are so famous – yet the proof of his nationality was on the very tip of his tongue and in every intonation of his voice. His voyage with us was his first outset into the wide world and by his conduct he fully confirmed our supposition that it was so. I never met a man so utterly simple and unversed in the ways of the world. Living as he had done among countrymen and friends so many years of his life, he was a stranger to that caution and reserve which characterises the man of the world in his intercourse with indifferent persons. He was so utterly guileless, that he took for gospel every absurd and ridiculous story which his fellow passengers (and they were abundantly disposed to do it) choose to palm upon his credulity. Altho’ many wonderful things which he heard told caused him to exclaim in the sentiment of Dominic Sampson “Prodigious,” yet such an ignoramus was he in the elegant act of hoaxing or quizzing, that he placed implicit reliance upon the credibility of the narrator – and no doubt he would store up the fact as worthy of being remember[ed]. It was strange to see a man so well educated and so well versed in theology and Mathematics act and speak with all the simplicity of a Parson Adams.

In his clerical capacity I did not admire M.r Marshall, and I must confess that I was sadly disappointed in my preconceived estimate of him. When I first learned that we had a Minister of the Church of England on board, about to join the Admiral’s Ship as Chaplain, I immediately set it as a positive fact, that he would preserve order and decorum by his presence, and discharge the functions of his calling, for our benefit, on Sunday. But no such thing – for the first week after leaving Falmouth he confined himself to his bed on the plea of sickness – but in reality as I suspect, that he might not be subjected to the sneers and jeers, which might be vented against him by the irreligious crew of officers, a how we carried with us. As it was, he could but hear the oaths and profane jests, which they purposely uttered aloud with the view of annoying him and of raising a laugh at his expense. Well at the expiration of a week he got up for a few hours and it was soon evident that his appearance operated not as the slightest check to the usual current of conversation. After we left Gibraltar he favoured us with a little more of his company – and with but a little more indeed. He was the laziest mortal I ever saw on board, being seldom up till 2 or 3 in the afternoon – and when asked why he lay abed so long, he always had a ready picture that he was very unwell, altho’ he belied the assertion by the excellence of his appetite and his relish for the Champaign, the Port and the Madeira. It is not however to be supposed that he was allowed to rest all this time in peace – by no means, for Captain Ferguson and the Earl of Rothes seemed to desire no better amusement, than to plague the parson as they said. Early in the morning, while he was in the enjoyment of a sound repose, they used suddenly to awake him by most discordant music on a trumpet – and serenading him with notes not more melodious than the braying of an Ass. At other times they shut his Cabin door and window, and thereby excluded the free circulation of air in his narrow crib – while on other occasions, when they thought he wished to be very quiet, they would keep up a constant knocking and hammering of nails right over his head – loud and grating enough to put to flight even leaden sleep. In short from morning to night, they racked their invention for the means of annoyance either by words or deeds. On some very rare occasions the carnal man of M.r Marshall would rise up in rebellion against this uncivil treatment – and then a regular logomachy or sparring match at words took place. Gibes and retorts – accusations and recriminations were bandied about – jeers were met with jeers and scurrility repelled with scurrility. Capt.n Ferguson and the Earl being both Scotsmen, they attacked the Irish character and spoke of the Wild Irish, and on every topic which is so often objected to [by] our Irish neighbours  – whilst on the contrary, the Reverend Gentleman entertained us with stale jests on “crowdy ” haggis ” gardy loo” &.c

Upon taking a review of the conduct of the Rev.d Joseph Marshall, I think you will agree with me that there was much blame to be attached to it. it may be urged that he was a very young man – and so he was – but yet he was arrived at the years of discretion, and if [he] had entertained a proper sense of the responsibility and sacred nature of his profession, he would have acted very differently from what he did Altho’ he was four Sundays on board, he never performed divine service, and I am afraid that his plea of indisposition was only a pretence to avoid the performance of a duty which we but naturally considered it to be incumbent upon him to discharge. Again, if he had been anxious to keep up the dignity of his sacred character, and had possessed more firmness with less regard to the opinions of the Officers, I am persuaded, that he might have effectually checked for the time all swearing &.c and have awed the ungodly set into respect for morality. It is also evident that if his conduct had been such he would never have been the subject of those childish tricks which they, which when played upon him with impunity, were calculated and indeed had the effect of bringing him into contempt and ridicule.

Execution at Malta

Wednesday 3rd February – at 12 oClock today, the Master and I went ashore for the mail to the Parlatorio. As we passed along to the place, which lay at the other end of the Town to where we lay, we observed a large assemblage of people in a field lying between two divisions of Malta. At first we could not make out the cause of the unusual concourse until we came almost abreast of them when we ascertained that a further execution was the magnet of attraction – from a lofty gibbet the bodies of these unfortunate men were swinging to and fro in the air. They were dressed in white and therefore, as well as from their unviable exaltation, they were easily distinguishable from the crowd. We were informed afterwards that these malefactors had been guilty of the cruel murder of an old [man] and his wife six months ago, who had unfortunately obtained the repute of having much money by them. I should guess from the immense crowd of spectators either that crimes of such a deep dye were infrequent and capital punishments rare, or that the good people of Malta in general possess more of the spirit of curiosity and pleasure in such sights than our own countrymen do – for the sake of humanity, let us suppose the former to be the case.

This awful exhibition, however, did not delay us a moment – altho’ we could not help considering it as a curious circumstance, that an execution should have taken place the day before we arrived at Cadiz – that a man should be hanged the day after we left Gibraltar – and finally that these three men should have undergone the last sentence of the law, the very day we set sail from Malta. But as I said we tarried not – put proceeded to our destination, received the Mail and then hastened back to the Packet. When we arrived, immediate preparations were made for our departure and a 2 oClock P.M. we were fairly under weigh for Corfu, with a fresh and favourable breeze, and very squally weather.

Read on … Corfu