The Adams Family of Dundee

 

CAPTAIN WILLIAM ADAMS SENIOR

By Professor Hugh M Begg, Honorary Patrick Geddes Fellow, University of Dundee

Captain John Watson OBE, Archivist, The Fraternity of Masters and Seamen in Dundee

Section One: Introduction
Recent research has added to, and thrown new light upon, our understanding of how the economic base of Dundee was transformed in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times from a settlement still displaying something of its Mediaeval origins to a city heavily dependent on the linen and, later, jute industries. The location of Dundee on the Firth of Tay played an integral part in that transformation (Whatley et al,1993);and the whalers the men and the vessels which ventured to Greenland and the Canadian Arctic played a vital part in all of that.

The early history of whaling in Great Britain is well trodden ground and there is no need to go into detail here. (See for instance the website maintained by the British Arctic Whaling research unit based in the Maritime Historical Research Centre, University of Hull). The Dundee Whaling Project, a partnership between the Archive Services at the University of Dundee, the Local History Centre in Dundee Central Library and the Archive and Record Centre for Dundee City Council has succeeded in placing the City of Dundee in its rightful place in the history of whaling in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Sufficient to note here simply that whaling from Dundee began around 1750 following the introduction of the Crown bounty intended as an incentive to maintain a fleet of ships which could, in an emergency, be pressed into service in the Royal Navy. It continued as a part of the economy of the City for more than 160 years before being finally extinguished in 1914.

Moreover, there is now a considerable array of valuable secondary sources on which to draw. To the seminal works of Lythe and Henderson (Lythe 1964, Henderson 1972) have been added works which have provided a general context (notably Watson 1993). Others have delved deeper into particular aspects of the whaling industry and its role in the city.Studies have been published on the whalers themselves (Smith 1993, Archibald 2004), the voyages they undertook (Markham 1874, Lindsay 1911), and the vessels in which they sailed in (Friends of Dundee City Archives, Archibald 2013). Other authoritative works have focussed on the associated ship building industry (Lythe 1962, Lythe 1964, and Grace’s Guide), the harbour from which the fleet sailed (Kenefick 2000), and the jute industry whose rise it facilitated (e.g. Lenman et al 1969, Walker 1979).

Less well known, but no less interesting, are the accounts of the life and times of individual Masters (e.g. Fairweather 1928, Rycroft 2005, Clark 1986).These were remarkable men. Ocean currents and polar winds meant they needed navigational expertise, seamanship and leadership qualities of the highest order.  To meet year after year the challenges presented by horrific weather conditions in the Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, Melville Bay and beyond and on occasion risking all to save the lives of other mariners in distress may, today, seem “heroic” but for the Dundee whaling Masters and their crews it became almost routine.

This paper adds to that last line of research by focussing on Captain William Adams who became known as the most skilled and experienced of the whaling Masters of his time in the Canadian Arctic. Hailed in the local press as “The Most Famous Whaling Captain in the World” he was also as an astute businessman.

Section Two: Captain William Adams Senior: Some Biographical Details

Captain William Adams’ gravestone in Barnhill cemetery in Broughty Ferry indicates that he was born on 15th September 1837 and that he died on 6th August 1890. His grandfather was George Adams, a school teacher in Dundee, who had married Margaret Heron. Captain Adams’ father, also William Adams, amongst other things, was the Master of a coaster which plied between Perth and Dundee and he also sailed several times with the Dundee whaling fleet. Indeed, the Dundee Courier on 27 March 1882 noted that “the gallant and veteran captain” who the previous year had accompanied his son to the Arctic gave a lecture on “Sea and Whale Fishing” in the Good Templar Hall, Broughty Ferry. He died in 1893 at the age of 81.

Captain Adams, the focus of this research, was twice married and had five children by his two wives. Three sons were associated with the whaling industry.The best known is William Adams Junior; Thomas died at sea aged 18; and Hector, a son by his second marriage, also became a whaler.

Captain Adams and his first family lived at 8 James Place in Broughty Ferry, a terraced property enjoying uninterrupted views across the Tay, situated close to the long established fisher village.  Although Broughty Ferry was, by then, readily accessible from Dundee it was still a still a prosperous independent Burgh in its own right. Adams’ first wife bore him two sons and one daughter. Around 1877 Adams’ financial success as a whaling Master enabled him to move house to 12 (now renumbered 28) Duntrune Terrace in a wealthier area of West Ferry. Successive Dundee Directories showed him in that property until 1888. However, in 1888/99 edition his address was given simply as, Disco, West Ferry.  It seems that he had moved to an even larger property nearby on Strathern Road (renamed Struan House around 1895). Captain Adams was the tenant paying an assessed yearly rent of £52.5.0 to John P Kyd, Solicitors. By then Captain Adams had married for a second time, to Elizabeth Beattie. Born on the 14th of September 1852 she was rather younger than William: she bore him two sons and one daughter.

A posthumous portrait in oils of William Adams senior was commissioned by his son, William Adams junior. Painted by William Ferrier in 1891, it was presented to the collection of Dundee Art Galleries and Museums in 1941. Adams is presented in the prime of life, confident and successful both as a whaling Master and businessman. He appears to be seated within his mansion in West Ferry which he named “Disco” after the island in the Davis Strait off the west coast of Greenland and a chart of the vicinity is open on the table to his left. The small Danish administrative settlement of Lievely was located on the south coast of Disko Island also known as on Disco in the harbour of Goodhavn which provided a haven for whalers en route for the whaling grounds in Baffin Bay, Melville Bay, Lancaster Sound, Prince Regent’s Sound and beyond.

Adams appearance, solemn and at ease in his home in West Ferry, contrasts with his description by Albert Markham of his appearance as the Master on the whaler Active in 1873: “To enhance the general wintry aspect, snow was falling heavily in the forenoon, the deck and rigging being completely covered; the captain himself with his beard and whiskers so encrusted as to resemble, with his portly person and jovial face, the drawings of Father Christmas.” (Markham, 1874, p 65)

Albert Hastings Markham, the cousin of Clements Markham and later an Admiral, joined the Active to gain polar experience. While performing his share of whaling duties, he also kept detailed notes on weather and ice conditions, topography and cartography. During his short stay in Dundee he was “most hospitably entertained by several of the leading citizens of that prosperous town...” (Markham, 1874, p14). His account of the subsequent voyage provides fascinating insights not only into the character of William Adams senior but also his conduct of a whaling voyage in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The introduction to the book by Rear Admiral Sherard Osborn written from his desk in London suggests that the book: “can be read with much interest by all who relish an unadorned tale of adventure. The voyage demonstrates the boldness and skill with which her dashing captain, William Adams, pursued his mighty and valuable prey through ice, storm, and dangers.” (Interesting comparisons can be made with the Lindsay’s account published in 1911 of his voyage to the Arctic in the whaler Aurora in the following year with James Fairweather as Master).

Markham’s diaries provide insights into Captain Adams’ character and approach to his duties as Master of a whaling ship. After a characteristic send off from Dundee the Active had stopped off at Broughty Ferry “at which place the captain allowed himself a brief leave taking of his wife” who was then living in the family home at 8 James Place.(An interlude at Broughty Ferry was not uncommon for out-going vessels to disembark adventurous young stowaways, and to allow those of the crew who had over imbibed during their leave-taking to come to their senses.)

Closely observed by Markham, Captain Adams displayed many of the traits characteristic of his fellow whaling Masters who, along with their crews, were notoriously superstitious.Thus, for instance, although all set to leave on 2nd May the sailing of the Active was put off until the next day, Saturday, because of the pervading view that to set sail on a Friday was unlucky. Then again: “Our captain always carries about with him what he calls a “lucky penny”, one of those huge coins in circulation in the reign of George111. With this, from the first thing in the morning until the last thing at night, whether on deck or below, he is always anxious to toss with the doctor for the best of five successive guesses. It is most amusing to watch the cunning manner in which our worthy skipper puts his coin down, and the delight beaming on his jolly countenance when he succeeds in winning.” (Markham, 1874, p 72)

There is no doubt that Adams was consistently “lucky” in finding and killing whales. However, the evidence is that his “good fortune” had nothing to do with rituals and irrational belief and all to do with good character, sensible behaviour and outstanding skills as a whaling Master.

For whaling Masters of vessels their voyages to the Arctic fishing grounds were first and foremost commercial ventures with all else coming a poor second save when the rescue of fellow voyagers was required. Exploration was a useful by-product since central to Adams’ role as Master was the task of seeking out the regions where whales could be found. For this purpose he would spend long hours in a purpose built “crows’ nest” scanning the waters. Markham noted that the captain: “…is possessed of remarkably quick eyesight, rendered doubly acute by constant observation and frequent use of the telescope…” (Markham,1874, p151). On the voyage, “the worthy skipper” appears to have been consistently good humoured except when “unlucky” in finding whales for slaughter. On those occasions he was “...constantly picturing to himself the other ships in the midst of whales, whilst we are lying idle; and he is, therefore, rather morose and taciturn, so different from his usual jovial and boisterous humour.” (Markham, 1874, p 129).

A whaling voyage to the Arctic might last for anything up to six months from May to November. The stress placed on the Master must have been very considerable and it is interesting that Adams seems to have recognised the need to eat well. Markham noted that Adams was fond of “whelks” and he “having by the skipper’s advice smothered the well with vinegar, mushroom ketchup, and pepper, found them by no means unpalatable.” (Markham, 1874, p 19) Markham noted also: “Another favourite edible of our worthy captain is a sea weed called “dulse, which is picked up in large quantities on the beach at Broughty Ferry.This is kept in a bucket of salt water on the after-part of the quarter–deck, so as to enable those so disposed to refresh themselves at their pleasure.” (Markham, 1874, p 19) Today, dulse continues to be sold as a snack food, recognised as having a high protein content and being a good source of minerals and vitamins with all the trace elements needed by humans.

As well as taking some care with his diet Adams seems to have recognised the need for adequate rest in periods when the handling of the ship could be safely entrusted to others: “The captain has certainly a most wonderful constitution for sleep; during the last forty hours he has been over thirty in his bed” (Markham, 1874, p 165)

Section Three: Early Years and Career as Master for Alexander Stephens & Sons

The Early Years

The Dundee Year Book of 1847 records the young William Adams as being an Apprentice at the Dundee, Perth and London Shipping Company. (This tends to support the view that, contrary to the date on his gravestone, William was born in 1835 and may have been 13 years old at best when he was first apprenticed).

During the years 1847 to 1850 he sailed to India and to Baltic countries. In 1850 he embarked on his first trip to the Arctic regions on board the sailing whaler “Princess Charlotte” as an Able Seaman. Built in South Shields in 1814 she was ship rigged (meaning: rigged with three or more masts and square sails), with a standing bowsprit.The well-respected Dundonian, Captain Alexander Deuchars, was her Master between 1850 and 1856 and she was owned by The Tay Whale Fishing Company.

In the late 1850s there were significant changes in the whaling industry as a consequence of the introduction of steam power in the vessels built by Alexander Stephens & Son, in Dundee.They modified Baillie William Clark’s ship the “Tay”.by fitting an auxiliary screw propeller along with a 75 horsepower steam engine. Such was the success of this initiative that Alexander Stephens went on to build a fleet of custom built steam whalers. Stephen was a part owner of the first of these, the “Narwhal”, which was launched in 1859.  She was 151.4 feet long and 31.1 feet in beam, ship rigged with three masts and powered by two engines provided by Gourlay Brothers, Dundee. She was an immediate success and on her maiden voyage the crew slaughtered 3,000 seals in Labrador in only two days.

William Adams moved from the Princess Charlotte to be boatswain on the “Narwhal” where he remained to advance through the various maritime examinations and promotions gaining his Masters Certificate No. C27185 in 1866.By this time William Stephen, the son and heir of Alexander Stephen, had recognised Adams’ exceptional abilities, and appointed him First Mate of the company’s new flagship “Arctic” (known later as “Arctic 1”). Launched in February 1867 and owned equally by the Stephens, father and son. Under Captain Wells brief command it was the first whaler to explore Prince Regent Inlet.

Master for Alexander Stephens and Sons

 In 1868, William Adams took over the “Arctic” as his first command; and he went on to become the most successful of the outstanding string of Masters working for Alexander Stephens and Sons. The company became firmly established as builders of custom-built whaling vessels and, later, were owner operators of a considerable whaling fleet based in Dundee. As far as Adams was concerned, the catch record between 1868 and 1873 provided him with a substantial income and the basis of his fortune.

The voyages in Arctic 1 were not only fruitful, they were eventful, and each is the basis of exciting stories. Thus, for instance, in 1871 Captain Adams assisted in their distress the first Leigh-Smith Arctic Expedition to Svalbard and Franz Josef Land and was warmly applauded for his efforts, being invited to a dinner given by the Lord Mayor of London to honour members of that scientific expedition.

In 1872, The Dundee Advertiser noted that the “Arctic” returned to Dundee with a catch of 8000 seals yielding 80 tons of oil: “The crew commenced to kill them at will and in the course of two or three days what proved to be the cargo of the Arctic was taken on board.” (Watson, 2003 p 55). Later in that season, Adams went on to command the Arctic on the British whaling and exploration expedition from Dundee.

Captain Adams returned to the Davis Strait region in 1873 as captain of the “Arctic”.This was the voyage on which he was joined was joined by Albert Markham of the Royal Navy whose purpose was to gain Arctic experience with a view to further polar exploration.That voyage was a notable success and included the provision of some of the life-saving assistance required by the American exploration party voyaging south in the Polaris following its ill-fated and controversial failure to be the first expedition to reach the North Pole.Troubled by poor leadership, incompetence, and consequential insubordination, the Polaris was wrecked near Etah, Greenland, in October 1872. Some of the crew were abandoned on an ice floe; the remaining men were rescued in July of the following summer by the whaler “Ravenscraig” out of Dundee with assistance from Adams and the “Arctic”.

However, the following year brought disaster.  In its edition of 11th December, 1874 The Advertiser reported the loss of the vessel: “Arctic lost in ice Cresswell Bay, Prince Regent Inlet, 07 July 1874 (it happened a month later in August according to Captain Adams formal statement), Captain W Adams senior in command; crew of 54 - had taken out Danish mail to Disco - had 185 tons whale oil on board - tightly beset off Cape Fury 05 July during South East gale - master had her warped into natural harbour in the ice to protect her as much as possible from the nip. Survived first squeeze but second threw her on beam ends. Crew saved provisions and personal effects and took to ice in terrible weather - fire broke out in the evening - flames fed by oil rose hundreds of feet; ship sank stern first in hissing cloud of steam - crew joined men from ‘Intrepid’ and ‘Victor’, which had been abandoned nearby - tents made from sails - storm moderated next day”.

Captain Adams’ formal statement elaborates on these notes and is worth quoting since it serves as a graphic illustration of the perils faced by Arctic whalers:

“On the morning of the 7th of August a very strong gale, blowing from the SSE, was experienced. The ice ran very fast and squeezed the vessel heavily. At 8:30 am the ice brought up on Cape Garry, causing it to crush more strongly around the Arctic. Her timbers created in an alarming manner but she made no water. At 9 am the ice took a fearful sally, heaving the vessel completely on her beam ends. It was then discovered that she was making water rapidly. The mate and carpenter informed Captain Adams that the port bow had been stove in, and that there was a fearful rush of water aft. He sent all hands to the pumps and the donkey and bilge injection pumps were set to work. The water, however, gained so fast that in fifteen minutes the fires were drowned out. The water very shortly afterwards gained its own level. Captain Adams sent all hands to save provisions and effects. The ice was at that time taking tremendous sallies, so much so that as fast as the provisions were landed on it they were covered up by the broken masses. Many of the men, in trying to save the provisions, lost all their clothes.

The ship was up to this period borne up by the pressure of the ice, but it was unsafe to go under decks in case of the ice opening, when she would immediately have sunk. To make matters worse, a howling storm and heavy rain came on, and it was pitiable to see 54 men walking about without shelter and drenched to the skin. Nor were the other ships much better. Although the nips were not so hard upon them, the crew had all their effects and provisions on the ice, many of the men losing their clothes.
At 6 pm the Arctic took fire in the fore part, and the flames rapidly spread over all of her that was above the water, the ice then opened and the wreck went down stern first. For several days the crew had to live on the ice. The tents were erected and in this they made themselves as comfortable as the circumstances would permit. The storm at last passing, the men were on the 8th, taken on board the Intrepid but they were afterwards divided amongst the four ships within reach. On the Victor completing her cargo, Captain Deuchars offered to take all hands home with him, and of course, his proposal was gladly accepted.

Captain William Adams returned to Dundee in the late summer/early autumn of 1874 with no loss of reputation as Master. In the meantime, William Stephen, amongst others, had leased ground to the south of the harbour in St John’s, Newfoundland where he had a yard built for rendering blubber complete with storage tanks, a blubber crushing machine, boiling coppers and a coal depot. This facility underpinned the trend for whalers to make two trips to the fisheries during the season: the first to the discharge the outcome of the seal slaughter at the depot in Newfoundland; and the second, back to the grounds to catch another cargo, which would then be taken back to Dundee.

With all this in mind, Alexander Stephen and Son designed and built the “Arctic II” which was launched in 1875.It had a slightly different design from its predecessor with a funnel and engines situated amidships, instead of aft of the mainmast.Her figurehead was an Inuit with a lance and cut out in gold letters around her stern was her motto: ‘Do or Die’. At over 200 feet long, nearly 32 feet in beam and powered by a 98 horsepower engine she was the pride of the Dundee fleet. Captain Adams was appointed her first Master and thus confirming his continuing close and successful relationship with the company that was to last until he retired from its services in 1883 having served for 18 years.

The Fraternity of Masters and Seamen in Dundee maintained detailed records of the comings and goings of all of the Dundee fleet of whalers.The part of the record of 26th August 1880 which refers to Adams and the Arctic is illustrative of contemporary conditions and Adams’ success in meeting them. In that year the fleet consisted of 11 vessels and only the Aurora with Captain A Fairweather as Master exceed the catch achieved by Captain Adams in the Arctic. Once again it is worth quoting in full as illustrating the conditions to be met and the results achieved:

STRAITS WHALE FISHING: SUCCESS OF DUNDEE SHIPS

The steamer Arctic, Captain Adams, belonging to Messrs Alexander Stephen & Sons, arrived at Dundee yesterday from the Davis Straits whale fishing. The Arctic has made a most successful voyage this year, the total catch at the seal and whale fishing amounting to nearly 600 tuns of oil. She was employed at the Newfoundland seal fishing in the spring and landed nearly 400 tons of seal oil at St John’s. After refitting she left St John’s on the 22nd May for Davis Straits. Lievely was reached on 31st May and Upernavik on the 5th of June. Three days later while proceeding to the northward the vessel got beset amongst heavy ice and remained fast until 15th June, when a strong swell set in and broke up the floes. The Arctic then got clear and a course was steered for what is known as the ‘middle ice’, where a number of very large whales were caught last year. On the 21st June the first whale was caught and three others were afterwards secured. These were all of large size, the biggest yielding about 20 tuns of oil.

The Pond’s Bay fishing was next tried and eight small whales were got there, making a total of 12 whales, equal to about 90 tuns of oil. At the close of the Pond’s Bay fishing, Lancaster Sound and Prince Regent Inlet were explored, but no trace of whales could be seen. Capt. Adams then gave orders to steer for Eldwin Bay, in the hope of adding to his cargo by the capture of some of the white whales which frequent that quarter. He was fortunate in discovering a large ‘school’ of these white whales, which were surrounded by the boats and driven ashore to shallow water where they were killed when the tide receded. In this was about 600 white whales, producing about 90 tuns of oil, were secured within the course of four days, increasing the cargo from 90 to 180 tuns. After this substantial addition to her cargo the Arctic returned and proceeded down the west side of Davis Straits but the fishing there proved a failure. Only three whales were seen near Cape Hooper but the boats could not get near them.

On the 15th of August Captain Adams bore up for home, as there seemed little hope of further success, and the vessel arrived here yesterday after a fine run of ten days. Captain Adams reports that the weather at Davis Straits this season was the finest he has ever experienced in those northern latitudes. The whales were generally very shy, going together in ‘schools’, and the vessels which have the largest cargoes were those which were fortunate in falling in with these ‘runs’ of fish. The most of the Dundee ships were in the vicinity of Cape Kater at the 15th of August when the Arctic left for Dundee.

Moving on to the 1881 season there is extensive coverage from a number of sources which enable a picture to be built up of the “whaling year”. First of all, the private papers of Robert Kinnes provide further insights into the place of Captain Adams and Arctic in the Dundee whaling fleet.The entry for 13th January 1881 states: ‘The Dundee fleet to be engaged at Newfoundland this year will consist of six steamers – the Arctic, Aurora, Thetis, Resolute, Narwhal and Esquimaux. Captain Adams has been advised to stay in this country during the spring for the benefit of his health, and the Arctic will be commanded at the seal fishing by a Newfoundland captain. Captain Adams has to go out to St Johns, however, and take his ship to the whale fishing.” (The reference to Adams’ health is interesting and will be taken up later.)

On February 7th  ,the Arctic, with Captain Welsh as Master, sailed for St Johns arriving later that month having suffered “slight damage”. On 13th March it was noted that:“The Arctic arrived St Johns with 600 seals. The small catch of the Arctic is accounted for by the vessel being beset amongst the ice in Queen Bay during the best part of the fishing season.” The papers go on: “5th May 1881 – Arctic arrived St Johns – 1350 old seals. Captain Adams left Dundee about a fortnight ago to take command of the Arctic for the whaling voyage. Arctic 1st trip – 600 seals, 2nd trip 1350 – total 1950”.

On this occasion the Arctic moved directly to the whaling grounds for a successful voyage.  On 14th October 1881 it was reported that “Arctic arrived Dundee with 13 whales calculated to yield 130 tuns oil. Best fished of Dundee fleet. Captain Adams left Dundee early in May and joined his ship in St Johns sailing from there on the 18th May for the Davis Straits, On the northward passage upwards of 100 old seals were picked up on the Labrador coast, and 20 sea-horses were captures off Lievely on the east side of the Davis Straits. No obstruction was met on the passage north, or in crossing Melville Bay. A few whales were seen at the ‘middle ice’ but the boats could not get near them and the Arctic proceeded to Lancaster Sound, where the first whale was got on the 11th July. The vessel then cruised about the fishing ground at one time going up the Gulf of Boothia as far as Bellot Straits and eleven other whales were killed. On the 29th August Captain Adams proceeded back through Lancaster Sound and a few fish were seen in Ponds Bay and on the passage southward, but only one was captured at Dexterity Harbour, near Coutt’s Inlet on the 23rd of September. The Arctic thereafter proceeded southward and was off Cape Kater on the 30th September, but owing to the quantity of ice packed against the land she was unable to force a passing through and was obliged to run north as far as |Clyde River, when a course was steered toward the middle of the Davis Straits. Two days steaming brought the vessel through the ice, and on the 2nd October Captain Adams bore up for home, experiencing heavy weather during the greater part of the passage.

Captain Adams reports of seeing Olnik during the autumn. Olnik has a lively recollection of his visit to Scotland several years ago and wished to be remembered to his friends. The three wives whom he had when he was in this country are dead, and he has espoused two others in their place, one of them belonging to a tribe in Ponds Bay, the other being native to Admiralty Inlet.”

This was account followed up by a further report which is worth quoting in full for its historical detail:
16th October -

ARCTIC DISCOVERIES BY CAPTAIN ADAMS


Captain Adams, of the Dundee whaler Arctic, furnishes some interesting information in regard to his voyage in the Polar Seas. He states that in the course of his search for whales he went up Wellington Channel as far as that water has ever been penetrated by any expedition, and his further progress was only checked by encountering heavy ice, or the Polar barrier. This occurred in the month of August last. No whales were seen in that quarter and the Arctic steamed up Barrow Straits till the Polar barrier was encountered a second time. A course was then taken down Peel Sound to within a few miles of where the Erebus and Terror were lost. Beachy Island was visited, and there Captain Adams saw the monument erected to Sir John Franklin and five of his crew. He found the house erected in the vicinity in a wretched condition, and the provisions left by the former explorers not at all serviceable. Accompanied by a few of his men he made some search of the locality, and just as the party were coming away they were confronted by a polar bear, which Captain Adams shot within a few yards of the graves.

The skin of the bear he intends to present to some of the relatives of Sir John Franklin.
No whales were seen in this direction and accordingly the Arctic proceeded up towards the Gulf of Boothia. An attempt was made to reach this sea earlier in the year but no advance was possible owing to the heavy ice. In the end of August, however, the ice was in a totally different condition and the Arctic got up as far as Cape Nordenschold, on the west side of Boothia. Here several whales were got. A storm coming away, the captain tried to get to the other side. A heavy fog was experienced and when it cleared away the ship was found within fifteen miles of Fury and Hecla Straits, and in very shallow water. In this district the captain got on board a very intelligent esquimaux from whom he obtained a good deal of interesting and valuable information. The native stated that when he was a young man in his father’s hut three men came over the land towards Repulse Bay, and that one of them was a great captain. When he died the other two men were in sore distress and cried very much, stating that he was the Aniguk, or great Captain. The other two lived some little time in his father’s hut and he showed Captain Adams the spot on a chart where they were buried. The Esquimaux, continuing the narrative, said that seventeen persons started from two vessels which had been lost far to the westward, but only three were able to survive the journey to his father’s hut.

From all the information furnished by the Esquimaux Captain Adams has no doubt that the vessels referred to were those of the Franklin expedition, and that the great captain mentioned was none other than lieutenant Crozier. Assuming that what the Esquimaux stated was correct, it is beyond doubt that the members of the Franklin expedition were attempting to reach Hudson Bay territory. Judging from the present age of the native, Captain Adams is of the opinion that his allusion of having seen three men when he was a young man must refer to a period some thirty-five years ago. It was Captain Adams intention to bring home the native but circumstances occurred which prevented this resolution being carried out; but he is in a position to furnish information in a very detailed nature, and calculated to throw considerable light on the movements and ultimate fate of the members of the Franklin expedition.
Captain Adams also brings home a few papers found in the vicinity of Fury and Helca and these have been forwarded to the Admiralty. While in those high latitudes Captain Adams had the greatest possible difficulty in navigating his vessel. He was without charts, and his compasses were practically of no use and did not indicate the course steered. He was only able to guide his ship by the use of the lead and the keeping of a sharp look-out; and when the fogs, which were exceedingly prevalent, cleared away he always took the opportunity of ascertaining the position of his ship by the sun. Captain Adams has given frequent proof of his devotion to Arctic discovery, and it will be remembered that some years ago Captain Markham of the Royal Navy, who had a command in Sir George Nares’ expedition, accompanied him to the Polar Seas. He was also fortunate in being able to render assistance to the members of the unfortunate American expedition under Captain Hall, and brought to Dundee some twenty-five of the Polar explorers.”

The Dundee Whaling Project has further details of the catches of the “Arctic II” during the time she was under Captain Adams command. In 1882 for example, the year before he retired from Stephens, his voyage to Newfoundland yielded 24,662 seals and 250 tons of oil.

Captain Adams and the Inuit


In common with many of the whaling Masters Captain Adams developed an intimate knowledge, and empathetic understanding, of the Inuit people with whom he came in regular contact in the Canadian Arctic. Based on his exhaustive researches in the local press Watson has provided the following: “Captain William Adams of the Arctic bought (an Eskimo chief called Olnick) to Dundee from Hudson Bay, in 1876, after he had made repeated requests to visit Scotland. Olnick was reputed to be a dead shot who had killed 11 polar bears in the year of his departure to Scotland.  He was feted wherever he went in the city. He gave spear demonstrations to crowds of devoted youngsters and had an interview with the Prince of Wales, later King Edward V11, during a visit to London.  He took back many presents, including a small armoury of guns and ammunition which he apparently used to “boss” the settlement…..While at Pond’s Bay in 1888, Captain Adams, by then master of his own whaler Maud, received a visit from Olnick’s tribe, comprising nearly 100 Eskimos.  The tribe boarded the Maud and asked to be conveyed to the other side of the bay some 40-50- miles distant to reach a new fishing ground.  Captain Adams acceded to their request and the whole encampment was squeezed on board for what must have been a memorable voyage…….

Urio Etawango was a “fine young fellow” brought by Captain Adams in 1886 from Davis Strait. Etawango spent five months in the city, appropriately over winter, and on his return on the Maud the following year he received an ovation at Lerwick “where he appeared in his native dress in his kayack” ... He gave a canoe and seal-hunting demonstration at Claypotts, which was attended by 2000people. He also addressed a meeting in the Kinnaird Hall, Bank Street, in which he provided harrowing details of the harshness of Eskimo life. Many men had been lost hunting, he said, and in some parts of his homeland women outnumbered men five to one. On his return to Davis Strait in 1887, Urio Etawango’s young wife exploded with joy at the sight of numerous presents which the people of Dundee had sent her, among them 200 yards of flannel from Mrs Adams. Another of the gifts was a mandolin.To the astonishment of the ship’s company, she lifted the instrument and played “There’s nae luck about the House). The popular song could have been written for her poor husband. Returning from Pond’s Bay the following year,Captain Adams called in at the settlement of Durban to discover Urio in a state of dejection. His wife had deserted him and had taken the gifts from Dundee” (Watson 2003, pp105-107).

Adams’ obituary had a section headed “His Love for the Esquimaux” which contained the following observations:  Captain Adams was a man of large sympathies, and his heart went out to the poor Esquimaux whom he met in the far North. Everyone knows that at considerable expense he brought at different times representatives of the race to Dundee, and by lecturing and otherwise he excited an interest in them. The captain, while admitting their barbarous condition, was of the opinion that they could be very much raised in the scale of humanity. He was loud in his praise of what had been done for them by the Danish Government, and in a tone of bitterness somewhat akin to reproach contrasted the efforts of that Government with those of the British Government. In his own way the captain did a great deal for the Esquimaux, and he never failed when opportunity offered to arouse interest in them and sympathy for them. Writing in 1887 on this subject he said; “When I returned from Davis Strait in the fall of last year I brought with me an Esquimaux, a fine young fellow, who during his short stay in this country has acquired a considerable knowledge of our language, and has adapted himself in a remarkable manner to the usages of civilised society. I have spent the greater portion of the last thirty years in the Arctic regions and the question has often occurred to me - Can nothing be done for the Esquimaux? On the coast of Greenland, between Lat. 60 degrees and 73 degrees North, there are about 13,000 natives, all civilised, and under the influence of Christianity. This gratifying state of matters is due to the action of Denmark. Many years ago the Danes sent missionaries to those out-of-the-world people and they have had their reward. Denmark and the Royal Danish Company carry on an important and valuable trade there. Numerous small villages are to be found along the sea coast, the inhabitants of which enjoy many privileges.

The Danes sent out ships every year with clothing, tea, coffee and other provisions. Each village has a church and school and the Governor is generally a Dane. The Governor collects the oil, skins, ivory etc., and gives money in exchange - there is no truck system. The natives can read and write, are attentive to their religious duties and, considering their surroundings, may be described as a contented and happy people. Therefore I say great honour to the Danes for what they have done for the poor Greenlander. To the North and West of the Danish settlements are the British possessions - from latitude 73 to about 78 North. Here there are about 300 natives, familiarly known as ‘Arctic Highlanders’. They are nomadic and miserable, and though I have known them well for many years I could not venture a description of them. The Great Melville Bay glacier bars their way South; but could not means be taken to convey them to the Danish settlements or to the West side of the Davis Strait, where their life, though by no means luxurious, would at any rate be tolerable? A great many Esquimaux are to be met with in the vicinity of Admiralty Inlet, Navy Board Inlet, Pond’s Bay, Eglinton, Cape Kater, Durban, Cumberland Inlet, Hudson’s Straits and Labrador, not one of whom has ever heard the Saviour’s name, and whose existence is that of semi-barbarism. To these places a ship could easily penetrate any year. Should such a state of things continue? Surely some help could be extended to these poor, God-forsaken people. I know the men can be got for such work and the cost would not be much. It has occurred to me that one celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee year might take the form of starting one settlement as an experiment at Durban or Cumberland Inlet, where many natives are to be met with. Such an act would remove a blot from the flag of Christian England, which was unfurled in Possession Bay by Ross and Parry in 1818”.

It is not out of the question that, like other whalers before, and after him, Adams had an Inuit family in the Canadian Arctic unacknowledged in Scotland.

Section 4 The Most Famous Whaling Captain in the World: His Own Master

The Most Famous Whaling Captain in the World

In 1883, after his last voyage on the New Arctic (Arctic 11) Adams left Alexander Stephens & Sons and bought the wooden barque the “Maud”. By this time Adams was recognised as “the most famous whaling captain in the world”. A few examples are sufficient to substantiate the high regard in which he was held not only at home but also further afield in Newfoundland and post Confederation Canada.

Given his reputation amongst his fellow Masters, it was not surprising that it was Adams, home during the winter months at his residence in Broughty Ferry, who led out a group in their forlorn search for survivors following the fall of the high girders of Tay rail bridge on the night of Sunday, 28 December, 1879. In 1880 he was called as an expert witness for the prosecution in the trial of 4 officers charged with being criminally responsible for the loss of the Peterhead whaler Xanthus in Melville Bay.

A report which appeared in the local press late in 1881 concerning 'the American arctic exploring expedition” provides further evidence that Adams was regularly consulted for his views: The American Arctic exploring party in the Jeannette are supposed to be near the Copper Mine or the Mackenzie River in the North West Passage. Captain Adams has never been there but he believes, from the nature of the ground in that neighbourhood, they would manage to exist even though the provisions they had with them were to run out, as the soil not being of limestone, reindeer would largely abound and could easily be shot in sufficient numbers to succour the beleaguered explorers. So far as Mr Leigh Smith is concerned, Captain Adams thinks there is no cause for anxiety yet. He states he has a good ship and should be able to reach a harbour for wintering'. Then again, following the wreck of the Chieftain out of Dundee in Greenland waters in 1884 and the heroics of her gallant Master, Captain Gellatly, it was Adams who called a meeting in Lamb’s Hotel, at the top of Reform Street, to launch a relief fund for the surviving crew.

During the winter months, when he was at home in Broughty Ferry, Captain Adams was much in demand as a lecturer and raconteur. In the final year of his life the Dundee Evening Telegraph advertised that he would lecture on 21 January 1890 on The Arctic World illustrated by 100 lime light views of Arctic Life and Scenery under the auspices of Newport Bowling Club in the Blyth Hall.  Some idea of the content of his lecture can be gained from a previous version.  His obituary notes that:  In the course of a lecture delivered in Newport in 1883, Captain Adams gave the following graphic account ofa fearful night in the ice”. The transcript read as follows: “Leaving St John’s at midnight, we found the ice closely packed on the land and thickly studded with icebergs. Our progress was slow, but we fought on manfully and well. In a short time the Arctic had the lead and kept it. On one occasion the Arctic had to butt at one stiff knot of ice for 27 hours - that is, letting the ship go as far astern as possible and then running at the ice full speed, with 300 men on the ice hauling on a strong rope to assist the ship with all available power, and so backwards and forwards until we accomplished our object. This terribly hard work both for men and ship was continued for twenty days, the ship then showing some signs of distress through her constant crushing blows at the heavy ice that everywhere surrounded her. In the night the wind suddenly changed to the North-East, with fearful drift of snow and such a storm as I can scarcely describe.The ice, very heavy and thick, commenced to tighten around the ship. All hands were sent out with powder and dynamite, hatchets, pokers and prizes to relieve the ship, or at least to make a bed for her. As the storm increased the ship commenced to crack and strain, and the men were got on board to secure the boats and provisions and what effects they could manage to save, when a fearful rally of the ice took place.

The ship heeled over, first on one side and then on the other, to an alarming degree. The men, amidst blinding drift, rushed to the ice, which was toppling over, and breaking in great rifts and tracks, and immediately closing again. After seeing this I can well imagine the effects of one of the great earthquakes in the East. With great difficulty some 100 bags of bread were got out, along with a few more necessaries, when the crew became wild, the ship at this time lying on her broadside, with her lower yards touching the ice. The scene was fearful in the extreme. One could with difficulty hold on to the staggering and reeling ship. I stood to my post on the bridge, when the engineer – a fine specimen of a man – came to me and told me that the bunkers were stove in and coals and water were filling the engine-room, the beams of iron were broken, and all hands had left him. We had the boilers blown down – that is the steam was let off in case of their bursting. The mate and another officer at this moment fought their way through the drift along the ship and told me she was filling with water. My faithful steward, with a few more of my noble crew, both Scotchmen and Newfoundlanders, stood by me on this most trying occasion of my life, and rendered me every assistance. I knew that no ship could stand this much longer, but something told me – after all the others had given up in despair – that we were not to be lost. All of a sudden the ice that held us in an almost fatal grasp slackened, and the ship righted. My fine fellows immediately rushed to the pumps and my heroic engineer to his duty. We freed the ship of water, repaired her as much as possible, and kept our fine ship and home above water, although in a terribly battered condition. After this we had a hard job to get our crew on board; the night was pitch dark, and the drift and snow so dense that it was impossible at times to see twenty feet before us. This was accomplished without the loss of one man, although some were frost-bitten, and three went mad - one hopelessly.

An indication of just how widely Adams was respected in post-Confederation Canada is provided by the fact that, in 1885, he was invited there to advise on the prospects for a new railway to run from Winnipeg to Port Nelson, on the Hudson Bay from whence grain would be exported by steamer to the United Kingdom.The principal obstacle to be overcome in that venture was the ice belt at the mouth of the Hudson Strait, and Adams was to report the best course to be followed and the class of vessels to be employed. Unfortunately, the proposal came to nothing and the railway, when finally built, terminated at Churchill on Hudson Bay well to the north of Port Nelson.

By this time Adams had built up a fortune as a successful business man. He, like his fellow Masters, had always seen voyaging to the Arctic as part of the commercial ventures of sealing and whaling with exploration of uncharted waters as merely a by-product. His substantial annual incomes generated from the sale of whale and seal blubber and whale bone were the basis of his fortune. However, it seems that Adams added some worthwhile diversifications to the main business. Thus, for instance, as Master of the Arctic he had given the authorities a problem when he took coal to St Johns on a sealing trip as “ballast” rather than a commercial cargo with a view to using the coal as fuel on the usual trip later in the season to the whaling grounds.Then again, in September 1887 he returned from his voyage to moor at the Earl grey Dock with a live walrus which he offered Barnum Circus for £500 (around £30,000 today).

As further evidence of his business acumen, the inventory of Adams’ estate following his death in 1890 suggests that his time in Canada was well spent in other ways. When his will was read, it was found that around 27% of his assets was invested in the emerging rail networks of North and Central America.

Captain William Adams: His Own Master

Undoubtedly, Captain Adams’ grandest business initiative was the purchase of what was to become his own, wholly owned, whaler. Early in 1884, at the age of 48 and by now a very wealthy man, he bought the “Maud’ from William McCulloch of Inverkeithing and brought her to Dundee where he converted her to an auxiliary steam whaler by installing a small, 35 horsepower engine built by White & Cooper, Dundee.  Originally built by T. Turnbull and Sons of Whitby the "Maud" was a 117 feet long, 25 feet beam, three masted, barque rigged sailing ship.  Immediately after her conversion Adams sent her north under Captain John Watson formerly of Peterhead. She returned with a catch of 56 bottle nosed whales yielding 70 tons of oil.

In 1886 with Captain Adams himself as Master, her catch was more varied: 100 seals, 35 tons oil, six white whales, 220 walrus, 23 bears, 27 narwhal. In 1887, the record was 60 tons of oil and 1,5 tons of baleen (Archibald 2013, p 166).Three further successful voyages are recorded in the Dundee Yearbooks for 1889, 1890 and 1891.

Of some interest, in 1889 the wealthy Walter Livingstone-Learmonth, then an Australian of Scottish parents, sailed with Captain Adams aboard the Maud to Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. In the previous season, in 1888, he had travelled on the whaler “Elipse”, commanded by Captain Grey, to satisfy his craving of killing for sport. Grey is reported to have said that he: ‘knows everything and has been everywhere. He knows how to shoot seals and bears before he has seen any of them’. One can only assume that Adams tolerated the man because his money added to the profitability of the voyage.  Livingstone-Learmouth was hoping to follow Albert Markham and others in writing a book on his travels but he was unable to find a publisher. His lasting legacy is a series of photographs taken on the Eclipse showing her companion that year, the Maud; others depict some of the more gruesome aspects of whaling; while others show him proudly standing over some of his own kills: 26 walruses and seals and four polar bears.  (Scott Polar Research web site)

Section Five:  Captain Adam’s Final Voyage and his Resting Place

In 1890 Captain Adams as Master of the “Maud” set out again from Dundee bound for the Arctic fisheries where Adams had spent, more or less, the last 40 years of his life. Voyaging with him was his 21 year old son, William, who had joined “Maud” when he was a boy of 15, and who on this voyage acted as Mate. The season yielded a useful catch of seven whales, 100 tons of oil and 110 cwt of bone. However, the return trip was to prove William Adams’ last. The weather conditions were horrendous, and the “Maud” suffered a severe battering from hurricane force winds and mountainous seas. In the midst of all this Adams took ill, so seriously that William junior took the “Maud” into Scrabster Roads in Caithness on the 4th of August and landed his father, taking him to a hotel in Thurso.

Mrs Elizabeth Adams was telegraphed and arrived in Thurso from Broughty Ferry on the night of the 5th.  Arrangements were made to catch the 12:30 am train early the next morning but at 8:25 am on August 6th, 1890, at Dingwall railway station, William Adams died, the cause of death given as ‘obstruction of the bowels’, and the duration of the illness recorded as ‘uncertain’.

It is worth noting that a bowel obstruction happens when either the small or large intestine is partly or completely blocked. That prevents solids, fluids, and gas from moving through the intestines in the normal way and the blockage causes severe pain that comes and goes.That fits well with what is known of Captain Adams’ health in the preceding years, and in his last few hours. His obituary noted: “Some time ago Captain Adams contracted an internal disease, but it never assumed a character which caused any apprehension to his family and friends. On returning from fishing last year he was attacked with an illness, but it passed off, and almost up to the time of sailing this season he was in remarkably good health. A week or two before he left this country in March last he was complaining of illness, but it did not assume so acute a form as to prevent him returning with his ship to the seal and whale fishing”.   With assistance Captain Adams walked from his bedroom to the hotel ‘bus outside and was driven to the station where a special saloon was in waiting for him. He was comfortably provided for in the saloon, and, though weak was in pretty good spirits. After the train started the jolting seemed to affect him very much. His breathing became laboured, and he appeared to suffer great pain, which he bore with great fortitude. He partook of some stimulants and the difficulty of breathing was relieved, but the pain otherwise did not subside and he gradually became weaker….There is no evidence from what is known of his father and sons that the Adams family was predisposed to colon cancer which is a common cause of ‘obstruction of the bowels’. However, that form of cancer may be associated with a diet low in fibre and high in fat and calories. Furthermore, people who smoke may have an increased risk; and heavy use of alcohol may further increase the risk. It is clear that Captain Adams’ diet and life style, despite Markham’s observations on his diet noted above, rendered him vulnerable to the disease.

Adams’ son, William junior, signed the death certificate as the ‘informant’, and gave his address as ‘Disko, Broughty Ferry. The Captain’s body was carried to Dundee by the Caledonian Railway, and thence to Broughty Ferry by the Joint Railway Company. It was interred in Barnhill cemetery, Broughty Ferry, on the 9th of August 1890.

Such was the reputation of Captain Adams that his death was noted not only in Dundee by way of the Dundee Courier, the Dundee Advertiser and the People's Friend but also further afield. For example, his passing was noted in the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, the South Wales Daily News, the Gloucester Journal and the Gloucester Citizen.

Captain Adams will is provided as Appendix Two. He left an estate of £16,319.11.03 (which translates to between £1.5 and £1.7 million in 2016 prices). He first registered his will on 5th of November 1879 with a codicil added on 15th of March 1889. In the codicil, he chose to release his original Trustees, messrs Smith, Hume and Congleton and replace them with a Bank Agent, David Scott, and a new Solicitor, Robert Steven, while retaining his original accountant, Charles Peter. It may be that he felt that this group were in a position to provide the legal and financial advice appropriate for his new station in life.

It is worth noting that, although a millionaire in today’s terms, Captain Adams did not own any of his homes.The furnishings and related items at Disco were valued conservatively at around £35k at current prices; and, on the same basis, his precautionary balances held in local banks amounted to around £64k. More than 25% of Captain Adams assets were tied up in various stocks and shares in the evolving network of railway lines in North and Central America. His enthusiasm for these ventures can reasonably be traced back to his time in Canada advising on the proposed line from Winnipeg to Nelson on Hudson Bay.

However, the inventory of his estate reveals that greatest part of Captain Adams’ fortune was invested in the “Maud”. His ownership, and the monies accruing from his last voyage, amounted to around £1 million at our current prices. It seems that shortly after purchasing the vessel Adams had sold off eleven shares. He held the other fifty-three shares until his death at which point Robert Steven handled them as executor. These were sold to Captain Andrew Scott. Sadly, in 1892, the Maud was wrecked at Coutts' Inlet in the Davis Strait, between Greenland and Baffin Island with Andrew Scott as Master.

A Promissory Note dated 23rd April 1888 to George Boathe and Thomas Beattie for £500 does not fit well with the rest of his portfolio of assets. Dykes Farm, Jedburgh provides a clue. Adams second wife Eliza’s maiden name was Beattie and her birth certificate reveals that she was born in Roxburghshire. It is likely that Thomas Beattie was Eliza’s brother and William Adams had made the loan of £500 (almost £60k) to his brother-in law at terms better than those offered by the banks of the day.

A few final matters provide closure for Captain Adams life and distinguished career. A public notice appeared in the Dundee Courier of 15 August 1890 inviting all persons having claims against the late Captain Adams, of Disko, to lodge the same with Rollo and Steven at 41 Reform Street, Dundee. Later, The Arbroath Herald of 6 August 1891 carried a lengthy piece telling that a monument to Captain Adams had been erected in Barnhill Cemetery:“The monument is thoroughly emblematic of the deceased’s calling”. As far as those family members were present at his death are concerned, it was reported in the local press that Mrs Adams died having suffered “an apoplectic fit” (probably a stroke) on 16th August 1893.  William Adams junior went on to be whaling Captain achieving well-earned distinction as an explorer and expert Master in his own right.

HMB/JW 2.6.16

 A NOTE ON SOURCES 

Primary Sources
In respect of the life and times of William Adams senior we have relied heavily on successive editions of the Dundee Year Book and the Dundee Directory. Captain Watson has unrivalled access to the archives of the Fraternity of Masters and Seamen Dundee; and we have made good use of the British Newspaper Archive including the extensive obituary contained in the Dundee Advertiser of 7th August, 1890.

We have benefited from a plundering of the authoritative work already undertaken by Norman Watson who, when archivist at the D C Thomson Press published “The Dundee Whalers” in 2003. We have also benefitted from the journal of Albert Hastings Markham who sailed with Adams on the “Arctic” in 1873 which was published as “A Whaling Cruise to Baffin’s Bay and the Gulf of Boothia and an Account of the Rescue of the Crew of the Polaris.”

We have welcomed comments and assistance from Helen Kerfoot and Dr Peter Usher.  Helen has recently retired as Chair of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names and is Emeritus Scientist at Natural Resources, Canada. Peter has lived and worked in the Canadian Arctic as a consultant and was, amongst many other appointments, Director of Research at Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, in Ottawa and Chair of the Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project.

Finally, we note with gratitude the note from Matthew Ylitalo of St Andrews University setting out the Dundee Shipping Register for the Maud in the period 1883-1892 which enabled us to trace the details of its ownership.

Selected Secondary Sources

Archibald M (2004) Whalehunters: Dundee and the Arctic Waters, Mercat Press, Edinburgh

Archibald M (2013) The Dundee Whaling Fleet Dundee University Press Ltd

Archibald M (2013) Ancestors in the Arctic: A Photographic History of Dundee Whaling Black and White Publishing

Burn–Murdoch W G (1894) From Edinburgh to the Antarctic: An Artist’s Notes and Sketches During the Dundee Antarctic Expedition of 1892-93, London

Clark G.V. (1986) The Last of the Whaling Captains (Life and Adventures of Captain John Murray). Glasgow Brown Son & Ferguson Ltd

Elder M (1986) Whalers: a One Man Play about Two Men (Theatre Notes for a production in the Assembly Rooms during the Edinburgh Festival)

Fairweather J (1928/9) Memoirs, Scots Magazine (issued in 5 articles monthly September1928 to January 1929)

Friends of Dundee City Archives (undated) The Dundee Whaling Industry 1756 to 1920.

Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, (undated) A Shipbuilding History. 1750-1932 (Alexander Stephen and Sons)

Henderson D S (1972) Fishing for the Whale: a Guide Catalogue to the Collection of Whaling Relics in Dundee Museum, Dundee Museum

Kenefick W (2000) The Growth and Development of the Port of Dundee in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries Chapter 2 in Miskell L, Whatley C A, Harris B (2000) Victorian Dundee: Image and Realities Tuckwell Press, Edinburgh

Lenman B., Lythe C, and Gauldie E (1969) Dundee and its Textile Industry 1850-1914 Abertay Historical Publication No 14

Little Gleaner (1888), a monthly magazine for the youth, vol. x., new series-

Lindsay D M (1911) A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora (in 1884) A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, Boston, Dana Estes &Co

Lythe S G E (1964) Shipbuilding at Dundee down to 1914, The Dundee Whale Fishery, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Vol 1X, pages 219-232.

Lythe S G E (1964) The Dundee Whale Fishery, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, VolX1, pages 158-169

Lythe S G E (1964) Gourlay’s of Dundee: The Rise and Fall of a Shipbuilding Firm, Abertay Historical Publication No 10

Markham A H (1874) A Whaling Cruise to Baffin’s Bay and the Gulf of Boothia and an Account of the Rescue of the Crew of the Polaris, London

Miskell L, Whatley C A, Harris B (2000) Victorian Dundee: Image and Realities Tuckwell Press, Edinburgh

Miskell L (2002) From Conflict to Co-operation: Urban Improvement and the Case of Dundee, 1790-1850, Urban History, Vol29(s) pp350-371

Miskell L and Whatley C A (1999) Juteopolis in the Making: Linen and the Industrial Transformation of Dundee, c 1820-1850, Textile History, Vol 39 (2) pages 176-198

Scott Polar Institute Picture Library Voyages of the Eclipse and the Maud

Rycroft N (2005) Captain James Fairweather: Whaler and Shipmaster-His Life and Career 1853-1933, Pennine Printing, 7

Smith R (1993) The Whale Hunters, John Donald Publishers Edinburgh

Watson N (2003) The Dundee Whalers: 1750-1914, Tuckwell Press Edinburgh

Whatley C A, Swinfen D B and Smith A M (1993) The Life and Times of Dundee, Chapter 8, Dundee and the Sea, John Donald, Edinburgh

Wordie J M (1944) Polar Record, Vol4 (27) pp 119-122).

APPENDIX ONE

Captain Adams’ obituary as it appeared in the Dundee Advertiser of 7th August, 1890 and reproduced in the Dundee Year Book of 1890.

Captain William Adams
The sudden and unexpected death of Captain William Adams, of the Dundee whaler Maud, took place on Wednesday, 6th August. Early in the week it was reported that the captain had just returned to this country from another of his successful voyages to the Arctic regions. Although his vessel was among the last of the fleet to leave Dundee in the spring, she was the first to be home with a full ship, a fact of which itself speaks volumes for her late master’s indomitable pluck and perseverance. Some time ago Captain Adams contracted an internal disease, but it never assumed a character which caused any apprehension to his family and friends. On returning from fishing last year he was attacked with an illness, but it passed off, and almost up to the time of sailing this season he was in remarkably good healthy. A week or two before he left this country in March last he was complaining of illness, but it did not assume so acute a form as to prevent him returning with his ship to the seal and whale fishing. It seems that while at the fishing ground he became very ill, and was unable to give that supervision which he no doubt considered so necessary. So as soon as the ship was full, orders were given to bear up for home, and early on Monday morning she reached Scrabster Roads. The captain’s condition was then so critical that the mate of the ship (his eldest son) and the crew thought it advisable to make an effort to get him ashore at Thurso, where he could get medical advice and be well attended to. This was accomplished with some difficulty and the captain was taken to a hotel in Thurso under the charge of his son and his officers. After arriving there he seemed to get a little better and spoke of leaving Thurso with the morning train on Tuesday, but, not being so well as he expected in the morning, he put off till the mid-day train. Meantime Mrs Adams was telegraphed for and he was persuaded to wait till she arrived at Thurso. Mrs Adams arrived on Tuesday night and it was then agreed that they should proceed home by the train leaving Thurso on Wednesday morning at 12:30 am. With assistance Captain Adams walked from his bedroom to the hotel ‘bus outside and was driven to the station where a special saloon was in waiting for him. He was comfortably provided for in the saloon, and, though weak was in pretty good spirits. After the train started the jolting seemed to affect him very much. His breathing became laboured, and he appeared to suffer great pain, which he bore with great fortitude. He partook of some stimulants and the difficulty of breathing was relieved, but the pain otherwise did not subside and he gradually became weaker. In the saloon were Mrs Adams, a nurse, and Mr Deuchars (one of the crew, who had sailed with Captain Adams for upwards of 20 years). At one of the stations on the line a doctor was called. After examining the patient and doing everything in his power to alleviate his sufferings, the doctor remarked - “Keep up, captain; you will get proper medical attendance at Inverness.” “Ah,” was the reply, “I will be dead before I get there.” The words were prophetic, as the unfortunate gentleman died just as the train was entering Dingwall station. Mrs Adams, the nurse and Mr Deuchars were the only parties present when he quietly passed away.

BRINGING HOME THE BODY

The body was allowed to remain in the saloon. At Inverness the saloon was attached to the mail leaving the Highland capital on Wednesday fore-noon. The body was brought on to Dundee by the Caledonian Railway, and thence to Broughty Ferry by the Joint Railway Company. At Broughty Ferry the corpse was enclosed in a shell and conveyed to the deceased gentleman’s residence in West Ferry.

Captain Adams was twice married and by his first wife he had a large family, most of whom are still alive. His eldest son by the first marriage made his first voyage as mate to the Arctic regions this year. Deceased left a widow and a young family. His father is still alive and resides in Dundee, and the captain is survived by a brother and two half- brothers, one of whom is a shipbroker in Hartlepool, and the other is captain of a large steamer belonging to London.

HIS CAREER

Captain Adams was one of the best known and probably the most successful of Scotch whaling captains. He was born in Dundee in 1832, and when a very young man he went to sea. Before actually binding himself as a seaman, he assisted his father on board a boat which plied on the river. The late captain then began his career with the Dundee and London Shipping Company, but he did not serve his full term of apprenticeship, and completed it in the employment of another company. He gradually rose from the position of ordinary seaman to A.B., and ultimately he passed through the various stages of third, second and first mate. He sailed some years in general traders and made a number of voyages to the Baltic and India. While in an Indian port on one occasion he was requested by the Consul to bring home a ship, of which the master had died. Subsequently he became master of the three-masted schooner John William belonging to Kirkcaldy, and after remaining in her for about eighteen months he left to take command of another vessel which was then being built. Unfortunately, however, just as this ship was ready for launching, she took fire, and the captain lost his employment for some time. He, however, was not long in finding other work, and then he took to the seal and whale fishing business, and since 1851 he had been engaged in that trade. He went out in the Narwhal, the first steam whaler to go to the Arctic regions, and since that time he had commanded two vessels named the Arctic, both belonging to Messrs Alexander Stephen and Sons. The captain was altogether eighteen years in Messrs Stephens’ employment, and during the whole of that time he served the firm most loyally. Some years ago he purchased the barque Maud, which he converted into a steam whaler, and this vessel, as well as the others which had been under the charge of the captain, has always come home well fished. As a whaling captain there can be little doubt that Captain Adams stood conspicuous by reason of the reputation that attaches to his name as a successful whaler and daring seaman. In the course of a lecture delivered in Newport in 1883, Captain Adams gave the following graphic account of

A FEARFUL NIGHT IN THE ICE

“Leaving St John’s at midnight, we found the ice closely [packed on the land and thickly studded with icebergs. Our progress was slow, but we fought on manfully and well. In a short time the Arctic had the lead and kept it. On one occasion the Arctic had to butt at one stiff knot of ice for 27 hours – that is, letting the ship go as far astern as possible and then running at the ice full speed, with 300 men on the ice hauling on a strong rope to assist the ship with all available power, and so backwards and forwards until we accomplished our object. This terribly hard work both for men and ship was continued for twenty days, the ship then showing some signs of distress through her constant crushing blows at the heavy ice that everywhere surrounded her. In the night the wind suddenly changed to the North-East, with fearful drift of snow and such a storm as I can scarcely describe. The ice, very heavy and thick, commenced to tighten around the ship. All hands were sent out with powder and dynamite, hatchets, pokers and prizes to relieve the ship, or at least to make a bed for her. As the storm increased the ship commenced to crack and strain, and the men were got on board to secure the boats and provisions and what effects they could manage to save, when a fearful rally of the ice took place. The ship heeled over, first on one side and then on the other, to an alarming degree. The men, amidst blinding drift, rushed to the ice, which was toppling over, and breaking in great rifts and tracks, and immediately closing again. After seeing this I can well imagine the effects of one of the great earthquakes in the East. With great difficulty some 100 bags of bread were got out, along with a few more necessaries, when the crew became wild, the ship at this time lying on her broadside, with her lower yards touching the ice. The scene was fearful in the extreme. One could with difficulty hold on to the staggering and reeling ship. I stood to my post on the bridge, when the engineer - a fine specimen of a man - came to me and told me that the bunkers were stove in and coals and water were filling the engine-room, the beams of iron were broken, and all hands had left him. We had the boilers blown down - that is the steam was let off in case of their bursting. The mate and another officer at this moment fought their way through the drift along the ship and told me she was filling with water. My faithful steward, with a few more of my noble crew, both Scotchmen and Newfoundlanders, stood by me on this most trying occasion of my life, and rendered me every assistance. I knew that no ship could stand this much longer, but something told me - after all the others had given up in despair - that we were not to be lost. All of a sudden the ice that held us in an almost fatal grasp slackened, and the ship righted. My fine fellows immediately rushed to the pumps and my heroic engineer to his duty. We freed the ship of water, repaired her as much as possible, and kept our fine ship and home above water, although in a terribly battered condition. After this we had a hard job to get our crew on board; the night was pitch dark, and the drift and snow so dense that it was impossible at times to see twenty feet before us. This was accomplished without the loss of one man, although some were frost-bitten, and three went mad - one hopelessly.

HIS KNOWLEDGE OF THE ARCTIC REGIONS

While fully alive to business interests he found time for the work of exploration, and he was instrumental in adding considerably to our geographical knowledge of the Arctic regions. Captain Adams came to be recognised as an authority upon Arctic exploration. He was invited to the dinner given some years ago by the Lord Mayor of London to the members of the Leigh-Smith expedition, and was present at the great meeting in ST James’s Hall, at which the Prince of Wales presided, and where he was openly spoken of as the fittest man to lead the American exploration in search of the last Greeley explorers. In 1885 he went to Canada for the purpose of negotiating as to the opening up of a new trade route between Western Canada and this country. The intention was to construct a railway from the city of Winnipeg to Port Nelson, Hudson Bay, where the grain would be put on board a line of steamers and conveyed to this country. This railway would be from 500 to 600 miles in length, and it was proposed to construct it in the first place from the North end of Lake Winnipeg to Port Nelson – a distance of about 280 miles – so that while the remainder of the line was being formed the grain might be carried by steamers from the South to the North end of the lake. The principal object to be overcome in the new route was the ice belt, commonly known as the ‘Polar Stream’, at the mouth of Hudson Strait, and the mission of Captain Adams was to report the best course to be followed and the class of vessels to be employed. It was believed that steamers semi-fortified would be the most suitable, and as the route was generally navigable for fully four months in the year it was expected that two voyages could be made each season. The discovery ship Alert was placed at the service of the expedition, which was fixed to sail from Halifax on the 19th inst., and proceed by way of Davis Strait, Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay to Port Nelson, but it fell through. The captain’s opinion on the much discussed question of an open Polar Sea had often been asked, and on this subject he on one occasion said, “As to the existence of an open Polar Sea, I may as well here mention that in my opinion no such sea exists. It is plain to any observer that the outlets from the unknown Polar Sea are so limited in extent that the ice cannot get away to the South to enable such a sea to form. The sun, too, is not powerful enough in these high latitudes to melt the ice. The outlets are the following:- Between Spitzbergen and Greenland, 500 miles - Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla, with Franz Joseph Land between is but a poor outlet - Behring Straits some 30 miles, and Smith Sound at the narrowest part about 20 miles. Therefore I hold that the unknown Polar area is covered in No. 1 ice - that is, ice which has accumulated or grown for ages - and that no open water does or can exist. The passage called the N.E. of Nordenskjold is kept open by the great rivers Obi, Yennisie and Lena, pouring their hot streams into the Siberian Ocean, and for a few months each year keeping a stream of open water along the land, but this passage will never be available for commerce. In the same way the North-West Passage may be accomplished along the shores of North America, which is no doubt kept open by Back’s Great Fish and Coppermine Rivers and other small streams pouring their hot water from the South into the Arctic Sea; but in my opinion this passage, although made, will not be of any commercial value to the world, only it will, like the finding of the North Pole, solve a great problem. I don’t think, however, that the result will be worth the risk and expenses involved; not worth powder and shot, as the saying is”.

HIS LOVE FOR THE ESQUIMAUX

Captain Adams was a man of large sympathies, and his heart went out to the poor Esquimaux whom he met in the far North. Everyone knows that at considerable expense he brought at different times representatives of the race to Dundee, and by lecturing and otherwise he excited an interest in them. The captain, while admitting their barbarous condition, was of the opinion that they could be very much raised in the scale of humanity. He was loud in his praise of what had been done for them by the Danish Government, and in a tone of bitterness somewhat akin to reproach contrasted the efforts of that Government with those of the British Government. In his own way the captain did a great deal for the Esquimaux, and he never failed when opportunity offered to arouse interest in them and sympathy for them. Writing in 1887 on this subject he said; “When I returned from Davis Strait in the fall of last year I brought with me an Esquimaux, a fine young fellow, who during his short stay in this country has acquired a considerable knowledge of our language, and has adapted himself in a remarkable manner to the usages of civilised society. I have spent the greater portion of the last thirty years in the Arctic regions and the question has often occurred to me - Can nothing be done for the Esquimaux? On the coast of Greenland, between Lat. 60 degrees and 73 degrees North, there are about 13,000 natives, all civilised, and under the influence of Christianity. This gratifying state of matters is due to the action of Denmark. Many years ago the Danes sent missionaries to those out-of-the-world people and they have had their reward. Denmark and the Royal Danish Company carry on an important and valuable trade there. Numerous small villages are to be found along the sea coast, the inhabitants of which enjoy many privileges. The Danes sent out ships every year with clothing, tea, coffee and other provisions. Each village has a church and school and the Governor is generally a Dane. The Governor collects the oil, skins, ivory etc., and gives money in exchange - there is no truck system. The natives can read and write, are attentive to their religious duties and, considering their surroundings, may be described as a contented and happy people. Therefore I say great honour to the Danes for what they have done for the poor Greenlander. To the North and West of the Danish settlements are the British possessions - from latitude 73 to about 78 North. Here there are about 300 natives, familiarly known as ‘Arctic Highlanders’. They are nomadic and miserable, and though I have known them well for many years I could not venture a description of them. The Great Melville Bay glacier bars their way South; but could not means be taken to convey them to the Danish settlements or to the West side of the Davis Strait, where their life, though by no means luxurious, would at any rate be tolerable? A great many Esquimaux are to be met with in the vicinity of Admiralty Inlet, Navy Board Inlet, Pond’s Bay, Eglinton, Cape Kater, Durban, Cumberland Inlet, Hudson’s Straits and Labrador, not one of whom has ever heard the Saviour’s name, and whose existence is that of semi-barbarism. To these places a ship could easily penetrate any year. Should such a state of things continue? Surely some help could be extended to these poor, God-forsaken people. I know the men can be got for such work and the cost would not be much. It has occurred to me that one celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee year might take the form of starting one settlement as an experiment at Durban or Cumberland Inlet, where many natives are to be met with. Such an act would remove a blot from the flag of Christian England, which was unfurled in Possession Bay by Ross and Parry in 1818”.

THE CAPTAIN’S DARING

As a whaling captain, even his enemies, if he had any, would admit that his success had been great beyond comparison with others. This might easily be attributed by some to a remarkable run of good luck on his part, but no one who had watched his career and was familiar with the man could fail to be struck by his wonderful dash and daring, his tenacity of purpose, and at times, one might almost say the rash spirit of adventure that led him on. He had been known to boldly push his ship between crumbling icebergs and through dense fields of ice that threatened every moment to close upon him and crush her timbers like an eggshell. Nor had he always escaped with impunity from the perilous positions into which he had adventured in the pursuit of his calling. While in command of the first Arctic, which he had sailed as captain for seven years, he pushed his way into Cusswell Bay, to within a few miles of the Magnetic Pole. At the time the ship was almost full with its oily cargo, but the ice closed in upon him. The Arctic was caught in the iron embrace of the relentless ice that gathered round, nipped in the grinding floes her timbers cracked and gave way, and the ship went down, giving the captain and crew barely time to save their lives ere the ship disappeared from view.

CAPTAIN ADAMS AS AN ADVISOR

For a long time Captain Adams had been recognised as an authority on all that pertained to the Arctic regions, and he was frequently consulted by the Admiralty, the Royal Geographical and other societies on questions of Arctic exploration. His advice had also been sought by the American Government, particularly in connection with the relief of the Greely Expedition.

THE END

After such a useful and eventful life the end has come, and the last chapter of his life’s work is pathetic to the extreme. Crowned with success he returned to his native land to die. When taken ashore on Sunday night he tried to bear himself up as well as he could, but the disease which was eating his life away held the mastery, and he was compelled to lean for help on members of his trusty crew between the boat and the conveyance which was to take him to his hotel.
The remains of Captain Adams were interred in Barnhill Cemetery on Saturday, 9th August 1890.

APPENDIX TWO

Captain Adams’ will was read at Dundee Sheriff Court on 5th September 1890, just over three weeks after his burial in Barnhill Cemetery, Broughty Ferry. Dundee.

‘At Dundee the fifth day of September eighteen hundred and ninety. The following inventory of the Personal Estate of the late William Adams, with relative ……. was presented in this Register conform to Law by James Alexander Rollo, solicitor, Dundee: Inventory of the Personal Estate, whomsoever stated of William Adams sometime of Duntrune Terrace, Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, and master of the steam whaling ship “Arctic” of Dundee, afterwards of ‘Disko’, West Ferry near Dundee, and master of the steam whaling ship “Maud” of Dundee, who died at Dingwall on the 6th day of August 1890.

Scotland

 

1 Cash in house
£
5-0-0
2 Household furniture, silver plate and other effects
in the deceased’s house, conform to appraisement
by David Richie, licenced appraiser, Dundee.
284-9-6
3  Balance due to the deceased on an account current
with the British Linen Company Bank,
73-13-11
  Dundee Interest thereon to date of oath to inventory
0-1-4
4 Sums on Deposit Receipt with the National Bank of Scotland, Hilltown Branch, Dundee belonging to the deceased
475-0-0
  Interest thereon to date of oath of inventory
2-9-10
5 Sum on Promissory Note dated 23rd April 1888 by George Boathe and Thomas Beattie both of Dykes Farm by Jedburgh payable one day after date in favour of deceased
500-0-0
  Interest thereon at 5% from 1st April 1890 to date of oath
To inventory
9-7-8
  Two Atchison Topoken and Santa Fe Railroad Company four per cent General Mortgage Gold Bonds Nos. 11391 & 11392 for 1,000 dollars each at £87
368-0-0
  Two Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company four per cent Mortgage Gold Bonds Nos. 6719 & 6720 for 1,000 dollars each @ £84 each
£
336-0-0
  Three Canada Southern Railroad Company five per cent First Mortgage Bonds Nos. 1812, 1813 and 3695 for 1,000 dollars Each @ £107-10-0
645-0-0
  One Chicago Milwaukee and St Paul Railroad Company (Hastings and Dakota division) 7 per cent First Mortgage Bond Nos. 3844 for 1,000 dollars @ £125-0-0
250-0-0
  One Central Pacific Railroad Company of California Six per cent 30 years Gold Bond Series 2 No: 17710 For 1,000 dollars @ £112-10-0
225-0-0
  One Baltimore and Ohio South Western Railroad Company 4% First Mortgage Gold Bond No: 1035 for 1,000 dollars @ £103-0-0
206-0-0
  One Mexican Central Railroad Company 5 per cent consolidated Mortgage Priority Gold Bond No:1193 for 1,000 dollars @ £110-0-0
220-0-0
  Two Norfolk and Western Railroad Company 5 per cent 100 years Mortgage Gold Bonds Nos: 619 & 620 for 1,000 dollars each
400-0-0
  One Norfolk and Western Railroad Company six per cent General Mortgage Gold Bond No: 3279 for 1,000 dollars @ £124-0-0
248-0-0
  One New York Lake Erie & Western Railroad Company 7 per cent First Consolidated Mortgage Gold Bond No: 856 for 1,000 dollars @ £137-10-0
275-0-0
  One New York Ontario and Western Railroad Company six per cent First Mortgage Gold Bond No: 3136 for 1,000 dollars @ £112-0-0
226-0-0
  Forty-six shares at £10 each fully paid of British Investment Trust Limited Nos: 62028 to 62073 inclusive (second issue) at £11
506-0-0
  £120 Preferred Stock of British Investment Trust Limited at £103
123-12-0
  £80 Deferred Stock of British Investment Trust Limited at £130
106-0-0
  30 shares of £5 each (£1 paid) of Western and Wawain Invest. Coy. Ltd. Nos: 51 to 80 @ 21/-
31-10-0
  One ST Paul Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad Coy. 50 years
1st Mortgage Bond for £500 at £86
430-0-0
  Fifty four sixty fourth shares of steam whaling ship “Maud” of Dundee @ £40 per sixty fourth
2160-0-0
  Four sixty fourth shares of Barque “Eden” of Dundee at £11Per sixty fourth
44-0-0
  Wages due to the deceased as Capt of the “Maud” six months at £10 per month
60-0-0
  Bones and oil money payable to him
163-0-0
  Divided earn on shares of the “Maud” say
8000-0-0
  Amount of Personal Estate
£
16369-4-3
   
  Funeral Expenses
  To paid Messrs J & J Suttie, joiners, Broughty Ferry
29-13-0
  Total amount of Personal Estate as per foregoing inventory
£
16319-11-3

 

 

(Signed) Robt. Steven John Adamson JP

At Dundee the twenty nineth day of August eighteen hundred and ninety in presence of John Adamson one of Her Majesty’s Justice of the Peace for the County of Forfar, appeared Robert Steven, Solicitor, in Dundee Executor of the deceased William Adams, sometime of Duntrune Terrace, Broughty Ferry, near Dundee and master of the steam ship “Arctic” of Dundee afterwards of Disko, West Ferry, near Dundee and master of the steam whaling ship “Maud” of Dundee, who, being solemnly sworn and examined, depones, that the said William Adams died at Dingwall domiciled in Scotland upon the sixth day of August eighteen hundred and ninety and left a widow and issue surviving. That the Deponent has entered upon the possession and management of the deceased’s Estate as Executor nominated by him, along with Charles Peter, Accountant, Princes Street, Dundee, who declines to accept and David P Scott, Agent of the National Bank of Scotland Limited. Hilltoun, Dundee, in a General Trust Dispositai and Settlement, askt by him, upon the sixth day of November eighteen hundred and seventy nine and codicil thereto annexed by him dated the fifteenth day of March eighteen hundred and eighty nine, both registered in the Sheriff Court Books of Forfarshire upon the twelfth day of August eighteen hundred and ninth, an extract whereof is produced and signed by the Deponent and the said Justice of Peace as relative hereto. That the Deponent does not know of any Testamentary Settlement or writing relative to the disposal of the deceased’s Personal Estate and Effects or any part thereof, other than the said General Trust Disposition and Deed of Settlement and codicil. That the foregoing inventory, signed by the Deponent and the said Justice of the Peace as relative hereto, is a full and complete inventory of the personal Estate and Effects of the said deceased William Adams wheresoever situated and belonging or due to him beneficially at the time of his death in so fat as the same has come to the Deponent’s knowledge. That the Deponent does not know of any money or property belonging to the deceased secured by Scottish Bonds or the Instruments excluding executors. That the said deceased had heritable estate in this Country. That the funeral expenses of the said deceased amount to twenty nine pounds and thirteen shillings. That the net value of the said Personal Estate and Effects situated in Scotland, including the proceeds accounted thereon down to this day and after deducting the amount of said funeral expenses is sixteen thousand three hundred and nineteen pounds eleven shillings and three pence Stg. And that there is herewith delivered a statement duly stamped of the said Personal Estate subject to Estate Duty as required by the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1889. That confirmation of the said Personal Estate is required in favour of the Deponent and the said Davis S. Scott. All which is truth as the Deponent shall answer to God. (signed) Robt. Steven, John Adamson J.P.

Ext: Regd Trust Disposition and Settlement and Codicil at Forfar the twelfth day of August one thousand eight hundred and ninety years the Deed hereinafter engrossed was presented for registration in the Sheriff Court Books of the County of Forfar for preservation and is registered in the said Books as follows: I William Adams of Duntrune Terrace, Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, master of the steam whaling ship “Arctic” of Dundee, being desirous to settle my affairs so as to prevent all disputes in regard thereto after my death and to provive for the administration thereof. Do hereby assyn, dispone and convey to and in favour of Charles Peter, Accountant, Princes Street, Dundee. Allan Soutar Smith, Taybrae Cottage, West Newport. George Thomas Hume, Ship-stores Dealer, Dundee, and Thomas Craigpaton, Solicitor, Dundee and the acceptors or acceptor and survivors or survivor of them and such other person or persons as they or he may assent to act along with or in succession to them or him in the premises, the major part alive and asking at the hour being a always as a quorum as Trustees or Trustee for the purposes after mentioned and to the assignees of the said Trustees or Trustee all and sundry lands and hostages, and the whole goods, gear and estate both heritable and moveable now belonging to me or which shall belong to me at the time of my death together with the whole vouchers and instructions thereof and all that has followed or is competent to follow thereon. But declaring always that these presents are granted by me in Trust only and for the uses and purposes aftermentioned validated.

First. For payment for all my just and lawful debts, deathbed and funeral charges, and the expenses of working of the Trust hereby constituted.

Second. My said Trustees or Trustee shall as soon as convenient after my death and out of the first and readiest of my means and estate pay to my spouse Eliza Beattie or Adams in the event of her surviving me such a sum as in the opinion my said Trustees or Trustee is fair and reasonable for mournings and for her maintenance up to the time when she shall receive the revenue of my estate as hereinafter provided for.

Third. My said Trustees or Trustee shall in the event of my said spouse surviving me give to her but so long only as she remains my widow and does not enter into another marriage, the use of the whole household furniture plushing and effects including silver plate and plated articles, books, prints of pictures belonging to me at the time of my decease and shall deliver to her absolutely my wearing apparel and personal articles, trinkets and jewellery and my watches and chains and appendages. In the event of my said spouse predeceasing or surviving me and entering into another marriage, or be soon after my decease as may be convenient in the event of her not entering into another marriage my Trustees shall deal with said furniture pliushing and effects, including silver plate and plates articles, books prints and pictures belonging to me at the hour of my demise and wearing apparel and personal articles trinkets and jewellery and my watches and chains and appendages, if these are not delivered to my said spouse absolutely in such manner as they think best with interest of my children then surviving and that either by dividing same or part thereof among such children in equal proportions according to the appraised values thereof at the hour, or by selling and disposing of the same or part thereof in such way or manner as may be deemed proper and holding the precedes arising therefrom as part of the Trust Estate.

Fourth. My said Trustees or Trustee as soon as convenient after my death shall make up title to my whole other property and estate herein above conveyed and realise such portion thereof as they may consider necessary and get the remainder transferred to their names as Trustees and pay the free income arising from said whole estates to the said Eliza Beattie or Adams, and out of such revenue my widow shall be bound to pay and provide for the education clothing and maintenance of such of my children as may for the time be in minority in so far as they may not be in a position to maintain themselves it being optional to my said Trustees or Trustee to give to my said spouse possession rent free of any house belonging to me in which she may be residing at the time of my demise she however paying all feu-duties and the taxes charged against the proprietor and occupier and making all disbursements necessary for keeping such house in repair while she so occupies same, but declaring that in the event of my said spouse entering into another marriage she shall after that event have no right or interest in my estates above conveyed, and shall then quit possession of any  house she may occupy under my trustees as before mentioned and my Trustees after the death or second marriage of my said spouse shall pay to or apply for behalf of my children until the youngest attain the age of twenty one years complete the free income from my said estates and that at such times in such proportions and in such way and manner as my Trustees to whom I permit the fullest discretionary powers may think proper, with special power also to my Trustees to make such payments from the Capital of my estate to or for behoof of my said spouse or therein as my Trustees in the exercise of discretionary power hereby conferred on them may hold to be necessary in any special circumstances which may emerge, they keeping in view however that it is my wish that as much of the Capital as possible shall be preserved for division amongst my children.

Fifth So soon as convenient after my youngest child attains the age of twenty one complete, and after the interest of my said spouse has ceased by her decease or having entered into another marriage my said Trustees shall either convey or pay over the whole of the free residue of my estates to my children equally, the issue of any child who may have predeceased, leaving issue coming in place of and taking the share which would have been taken by the predemising  parent if in life. Declaring expressly however that the shares of all female beneficiaries shall be conveyed or paid to them and shall be held by them exclusive of the ‘pis marik’ (?) and right of administration of any husband they may have married or may thereafter marry. And I do hereby give full power to my said Trustees or Trustee to sell and dispose of all of my said Estates above conveyed and that either by public roup or private bargain and after such advertisement or without advertisement as to my said Trustees or Trustee may seem best and power to grant all necessary conveyances in favour of purchasers containing all usual and necessary clauses and binding my Estate in absolute warranties. And I specially empower my Trustees or Trustee to hold and retain during the subsistence of this Trust for which period as they deem expedient any shares of ships, or in joint adventures which I may hold or be concerned in at the time of my demise declaring expressly hereby that by so doing my said Trustees or Trustee shall not incur any pecuniary responsibility to the beneficiaries under these presents. And further I grant special power to my Trustees or Trustee to invest the monies realised by them in such Stocks in Joint Stock or Investment Trust Companies, or on shares in ships or in Railway Debentures or on such Securities heritable or personal as they may deem reasonably safe and sufficient investments and I hereby free them of all responsibility as aforesaid, And further my said Trustees or Trustee are hereby empowered to appoint any one of their own number to be their Factor, Law Agent or Cashier in the administration of the Trust hereby created and to allow him a reasonable remuneration for his trouble, any law or franchise to the contrary notwithstanding and for the more effectual carrying out of these presents. I do hereby nominate constitute and appoint the said Charles Peter, Allan Soutar Smith, George Thomas Hume and Thomas Craigpaton and the acceptors or acceptor and survivors or survivor of them to be my sole and only Executors or Executor with power to them or him to interact  with my personal estate to give up inventories thereof, and to confirm the same and generally every other thing to do in the premises competent to an Executor, and for the encouragement of the persons herein before nominated and appointed as Trustees and Executors to accept of office. I do sincerely declare that neither they or any of them shall be liable for neglect or diligence of any kind nor one for the other, but that each shall be liable to his own actual intromissions only as the same shall be established by his Writing or Oath. And I reserve my own life rent of the whole premises hereby conveyed with full power to me at any hour of my life and even on deathbed to alter innovate or revoke these presents in whole or in part at pleasure but declaring that the same in so far as not altered or revoked by me shall be effectual though lying in my own hands or in the hands of any person to whom I may intrust the same in delivered at the time of my death being hereby forever disposed with, And I consent the Registration hereof for preservation. In witness whereof these presents written on this and the three preceding pages by Thomas Dow Clerk to Heron & Congleton, solicitors in Dundee. are subscribed by me at Dundee on the fifth day of November in the year eighteen hundred & seventy nine before those witnesses the said Thomas Dow and George Millar Steele also Clerk to the said Heron & Congleton.

Signed: William Adams
Thos Dow - Witness
Geo. M. Steele - Witness

I, William Adams, dauguid with the foregoing Trust Disposition and Settlement of Duntrune Terrace, Broughty Ferry near Dundee master of the steam whaling ship “Arctic” of Dundee and master of the steam whaling ship “Maud” of Dundee  do hereby make the following alterations and additions to the foregoing Trust Disposition and Settlement viz: I do hereby revoke and recall the appointment of Allan Soutar Smith, George Thomas Hume and Thomas Congleton charged with the foregoing Trust Disposition and Settlement as my Trustees and Executors and in room and place thereof I hereby appoint David P Scott, Agent of the National Bank of Scotland Limited, Hilltown Dundee, and Robert Steven, solicitor, Dundee, to be my Trustees and Executors to act as such along with Charles Peter designed in the said foregoing Trust Disposition and Settlement, and I hereby confer upon the said Charles Peter, David P Scott and Robert Steven as my Trustees and Executors all the powers and privileges which are conferred upon my Trustees and Executors, in virtue of the foregoing Trust Disposition and Settlement and in addition to the powers already conferred upon my said Trustees and Executors by the foregoing Trust Disposition and Settlement I further hereby empower them so long as they may deem it desirable to allow my Trust Estate or part or parts thereof to remain in the State of investment in which the same may be at the date of my death. And I also empower them to lend out and invest the Trust funds under their charge or any part or parts thereof in or upon the Debentures mortgages funded debt perpetual annuities or preferential guaranteed or debenture stock of any board, corporation, authority, company or body municipal, commercial or otherwise in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and whether carrying as business in this country alone or both in this and another country, and I confirm the foregoing Trust Disposition and Settlement in all other respects and appoint this codicil to be read and considered along therewith, and I consent to Registration thereof for preservation. In witness thereof :this codicil written by Alfred Alexander Slidders, Apprentice to Rollo and Steven, Solicitors, Dundee, is subscribed by me at Dundee on the fifteenth day of March eighteen hundred and eighty nine before these witnesses: James Alexander Rollo, solicitor, Dundee, and the said Alfred Alexander. Slidders.

Signed: Wm Adams. James Rollo, witness, Alfred A Slidders, witness.

Extracted at Forfar upon this and the seventeen preceding pages (the first four pages being stamped paper) by me Deputy Sheriff Clerk of the County of Forfar.
Signed: William Y Esplin

Dundee 29th August 1890. This is the Extract of the General Trust Disposition and Settlement referred to in the Oath to Inventory sworn to by me of this date.
(signed) Robt Steven.
John Adamson J.P.

Some Explanatory Notes

Captain William Adams’ Estate of £16,319.11.03 in 1890 translates to between £1.5 and £1.7 million in 2016 prices.

He first registered his will on 5th of November 1879 with a codicil added on 15th of March 1889. In the codicil, he chose to release his original Trustees, messrs Smith, Hume and Congleton and replace them with a Bank Agent, David Scott, and a new Solicitor, Robert Steven, while retaining his original accountant, Charles Peter. It may be that this group were in a position to provide legal and financial advice appropriate for his new station in life.

A millionaire in today’s terms Captain Adams did not own any of his homes. By 1879 he had moved from 8 James Place and taken the tenancy of 12 Duntrune Terrace. From there he moved to his nearby mansion Disco. The furnishings and related items were valued conservatively at around £35k in today’s terms; and, on the same basis, his precautionary balances held in local banks amounted to around £64k

The Promissory Note dated 23rd April 1888 to George Boathe and Thomas Beattie for £500 does not fit well with the rest of his portfolio. Dykes Farm, Jedburgh provides a clue. Adams second wife Eliza’s maiden name was Beattie and her birth certificate reveals that she was born in Roxburghshire. It is likely that Thomas Beattie was Eliza’s brother and William Adams had made the loan of £500 (almost £60k) to his brother-in law in terms better than bank rates of the day.

More than 25% of Captain Adams assets were tied up in various stocks and shares in the evolving network of railway lines in North America. His enthusiasm for these ventures can reasonably be traced back to his time in Canada advising on the proposed line from Winnipeg to Nelson on Hudson Bay.

However, the greatest part of Captain Adams’ fortune was invested in the Maud. He had left Alexander Stevens employ in 1883 to become a ship owner in his own right, taking command of the “Maud” in 1886. His ownership and monies accruing from his last voyage amounted to around £1 million at our current prices.  Sadly, in 1892, she was wrecked at Coutts' Inlet, Davis Strait, between Greenland and Baffin Island: Captain Andrew Scott was Master.

APPENDIX 3: PLACE NAMES

While the primary objective for Captain Adams Senior and his son in their voyages to Newfoundland and the post confederation Canadian arctic was fishing for whales and the slaughter of seals, a by-product of their endeavours was exploration of previously uncharted waters.  Consequently, there are number of locations which bear their names. At this distance it is difficult to separate those which celebrate father from those which do the same for his son. The following is part of a personal communication from Helen Kerfoot the Ottawa-based geographer with an unparalleled expertise in geographical names. She helped form Canadian Geographic’s policy regarding Canadian place names, was until recently the Chair of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, and she is an Emeritus Scientist at Natural Resources, Canada.

On Captain Adams Senior:

“Cooke and Holland in "The Exploration of Northern Canada" (1978) have an entry for William Adams in the Arctic in 1872: “According to Captain J.E. Bernier, Captain Adams surveyed Admiralty Inlet during a whaling voyage in 1872, named Richards and Yeoman islands, and entered Adams Sound. “The records of the current Geographical Names Board of Canada show Yeoman Island as an official name (on 48B, 72 16N - 85 06W ... to be verified), just with the comment ... “between pages 24 and 25 in Cruise of the Arctic, 1906-07”. This would be Bernier’s voyage in the Canadian Government steamer "Arctic". Adams Sound is on 48B (72 52N – 84 45W), but I have not yet found an origin stated. Richards Island as mentioned in Cooke and Holland may be Ricards Island.

Adams Island (on NTS map 48D) “after Capt. Adams of the whaler "Arctic" who made surveys of Navy Board and Admiralty inlets” (73 44N - 81 27W, Navy Board Inlet, N. Baffin Island). This origin was published in Place-Names Northern Canada, Part IV of the Ninth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, 1910.

On Captain Adams Junior

Adams Island (on NTS map 37H) was submitted by J.M. Wordie in 1938 for William Adams, who in 1903 apparently passed here in the "Diana". (71 27N - 73 05W, NE Baffin Island)

 Cape Adams (on NTS map 67C) “named by Amundsen, 1905, after Capt. Adams, a Scotch whaler, who had deposited stores for him on Dalrymple rock” (68 48N - 100 08W, E. Side of Boothia Peninsula).  This is also from the Ninth Report of the GBC, 1910.

With Grateful thanks to Professor Hugh M. Begg (Honorary Patrick Geddes Fellow, University of Dundee) and Captain John Watson OBE, Archivist, The Fraternity of Masters and Seamen in Dundee who have allowed us to put this on our Website.