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Murder on the High Seas

 First published in ‘The Endeavour’ : The journal of The Botany Bay Family History Society.
Issue No. 103, June 2010 - ISSN 0814-9828.
© By kind permission of Beryl Bauld, author.

Family stories capture our imagination and often start us on the quest of finding our family history. My friend Peter De Low had such a story, but could I help him to prove it. What a challenge.

Peter’s mother Dorothy Trigg had migrated to New South Wales with her mother and six siblings aboard the “Commonwealth” on the 26th September 1912. She was two years old. Her parents were Daniel Abraham Trigg and Emily Tilbury. Daniel had preceded them on the “Rangatira”, on 11 January 1912.

They had a family story that an ancestor, John William Trigg had travelled to New South Wales, as a ships officer and had fought off a sailor who had run amok on the journey to Sydney in 1839. The passengers were so pleased with him that they presented him with a silver teapot on 10 October 1839. This teapot is owned by another family member. It is inscribed Presented to J.W. Trigg the Chief Officer of the Sesostris by some of the passengers to mark their sense of his spirited and seamanlike conduct during a voyage from London to Sydney Oct 10th 1839.

Can you imagine sailing on a 488 ton barque from England to Sydney in 1839? The early settlers to New South Wales were very brave people. They had to battle wild storms and rough seas and a boring diet that was short on fresh fruit and vegetables, and sometimes even violent sailors.

We rarely hear about the crew. This is the story of the First Officer on the “Sesostris”, John William Trigg.

I was able to find the case of R v. Trigg [1] in the records of the Division of Law, Macquarie University. John William Trigg was accused of murdering Thomas Flynn, a sailor who had acquired alcohol and ran amok on 12 August 1839 at sea. In the ensuing struggle to restrain him he was shot and died. The jury found John William Trigg guilty of manslaughter, with a strong recommendation to mercy. He was fined ™50.00 and imprisoned until the fine was paid.

It was noted that the mercantile laws of England are disgraceful and infamous in the extreme; they are insufficient in the protection of ship’s captains.

The National Library of Australia has a picture of the barque “Sesostris [2]” being piloted through the Torres Straits by the HMS Britomart in May 1841.

John William Trigg returned to England to his wife Mary Ann Hobday whom he had married on 18 October 1835 at St Anne, Limehouse. [3]

Mary Ann’s brother William Edward Hobday was one of the witnesses, the other one was Sarah Trigg.

Mary Ann and her son Daniel are listed on the 1841 Census [4] with her father Elias Hobday and his wife Mary in Canterbury. Elias died on the 7 December 1841 and left a Will [5] dividing his estate between his three sons and his daughter Mary Ann Trigg wife of John Trigg.

John and Mary Ann’s son John Kaye Trigg was born in 22 July 1836 but died 25 May 1842 age 6 years, and was buried at St Anne, Limehouse, they had another son, John William Trigg, 24 November 1846, baptised at St Anne, Limehouse. [6] I have been unable to find a burial, death or Will for John William Trigg. Usually mariners left a Will.

Their son Daniel married Sarah Eastwood and I have found seven children [7] including Daniel Abraham Trigg who was baptised 18 Feb 1872 at St. Anne, Limehouse.

Peter had the birth certificate of Daniel Abraham Trigg. He had been born 10 January 1872 at 6 Henry Street, Ratcliff, London. This is an area adjoining Limehouse down near the docks.

Daniel’s parents were listed as Daniel Trigg and Sarah Eastwood. Daniel senior was a Mathematical instrument maker at that time. This is also his occupation on the 1871 Census at 6 Henry Street, Ratcliff. His mother is living with them and she is a needlewoman. Ten years later in 1881, Mary Ann Trigg is still living at 6 Henry Street, but Daniel is now at Glencoe St. in Bromley (By Bow) and is a brass finisher. He and Sarah have six children and his mother-in –law Elizabeth Eastwood and her son Richard are living in the same premises. Next door is the widow Sarah Hotten with her four children. She later becomes Daniel’s second wife on 30 April 1887.

The records from the London Metropolitan Archives [8] are now available on Ancestry.com have been invaluable in tracing this family.

Although Dorothy De Low O.A.M did not arrive in Australia until 1912 her ancestor John William Trigg was making history in N.S.W. way back in 1839.

[1] R v Trigg, Macquarie Uni Law
[2] National Library-nlapic-an2360164-v
[3] Pallot’s Marriage Index
[4] Census 1841, 1871,1881
[5] Kent County Archives Ref 2771/10
[6] LMA records of baptisms, marriages and burials
[7] Ancestry.com
[8] Findmypast.co.uk