THOMAS M. M. HEMY (1852-1937) - PAGE 38

DISCIPLINE (1911)

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Below is an image of another Thomas M. M. Hemy work entitled 'Discipline'. It depicts, I understand, the loss of the transport 'Abercrombie Robinson' in Table Bay, South Africa, in 1842. It came, from 'Bibby's Annual' 1914. An image of the cover of that edition is at left & the most interesting text which accompanied it is below. I am not sure who to thank for the 'Discipline' image that I show with the featured text below. Mr. Greenwood, perhaps? But I know I can thank Liz Hillary for both the text that appears below & the cover image at left. The image I now present? From a 'Discipline' print, that sold at U.S. $9.99 on e-Bay, but not quite all the engraving was scanned, it would seem. But a fine image, none the less. (Another copy sold later, for U.S. $13.49, in early Mar. 2003).

Now my wish in these pages is to present the works in as big a size as possible, ideally full screen width. That is rather easier with a work which is horizontal in format but quite impossible for a large vertical image - unless one shrinks the image dramatically. So you must scroll to see the whole image I now present ~ which is unfortunate.


“Discipline” The loss of the transport “Abercrombie Robinson” in Table Bay, 1842

This is one of those incidents in the history of our Empire that make us proud of the name of Britain. The transport, with 700 persons on board, arrived at Table Bay in August, 1842, and anchored preparatory to disembarking her passengers. In the night a sudden hurricane sprang up, the cables parted: and in the fury of one of the heaviest storms of thunder and lightening ever known in Cape Town, the vessel drove ashore. (cont'd) 


 The sea broke continuously over her, she rolled incessantly: and gave every indication of going to pieces. A convict ship near by broke up, and 143 convicts and 15 soldiers perished, before the eyes of the terrified people on the “Abercrombie Robinson”. At length a rope was got ashore, and two surfboats were brought alongside, and the disembarkation commenced. Perfect order and discipline prevailed. The women, children, and sick men (100 in all) went first: then precedence was given to the detachments of the 27th Regiment and Cape Mountain Rifles: and finally the 91st Argyllshire Regiment (450 strong) drew lots by companies, and after seven hours work every soul was landed. The brave fellows of the 27th and Cape Mountain Rifles, who were ordered ashore before the men of the 91st, obeyed much against their wills: and asked to be allowed to draw lots with their comrades. Well might the Duke of Wellington write in strong commendation of the discretion and firmness of those in command: and of the confidence, good order, discipline, and obedience of all ranks, including the women and children.


The Hemy work was, I now know, shown at the Royal Academy in 1911, & was published in many places. From the text above, you can see that it was published in 'Bibby's Annual' 1914 & as a print. It was also, I learn, published in colour in Boy's Own Paper ~ since it appears in Annual Volume # 36 re 1912/1913 (print printed by Tom Browne & Co. of Nottingham). Could there have been a related article? That is quite possible, indeed likely, but I do not know if there was an article yet. The BOP print is a fold out print & is very large therefore. I had to scan it in two sections & merge the two images. What I show below is a small image of the print, such that you can see it in its entirety without scrolling. A giant image of the print is today available by a click of your mouse, should you wish to see it. But it is very large indeed.

The work was certainly published in black & white in 'The Graphic' of Aug. 26th 1911. I read that date off an e-Bay image in Oct. 2006, and while the exact publication date might be August 28th I think it read August 26th. The heading re the image was 'DISCIPLINE A PICTURE WITH A MORAL' and 'Recalled by the wreck of the Abercrombie Robinson in Table Bay, August 28, 1842' along with many lines of tiny text at the foot of the image.

And lower on the page is a detailed section of the BOP print. A copy of a similar print, published in 1912 'in a rare illustrated American periodical and art journal' was e-Bay available in Mar. 2011. For U.S. 14.99. 11 x 15 inches in size.

The next images appear here due to the kindness & consideration of e-Bay vendor 'gordon504' of Jersey, Channel Islands, whose e-Bay site is here. Gordon de Gruchy, we thank you!


"THE ABERCROMBIE ROBINSON"


From "Perils At Sea" written by Thomas Carter (Adjutant General's Office) - 1859

The reserve battalion of the 91st regiment arrived in Table Bay on 25 August 1842. On the 27th the command of the battalion and the detachments embarked on board the Abercrombie Robinson transport, devolved on Captain Bertie Gordon, the Lieutenant-Colonel and the Major having landed at Cape Town on that day.

The situation on the transport was considered a dangerous one from her size (being 1430 tons), and from the insufficient depth of water in which she had brought up. The port-captain, who boarded her on the evening of the 25th, advised the captain to take her to another berth on the following day. This was impossible, for the wind blew strong into the bay from the quarter which is so much dreaded there, and continued to increase during the following three days.

At 11 o'clock on the night of the 27th it was blowing a strong gale and the sea was rolling heavily into the bay. The ship was pitching much, and she began to feel the ground; but she rode by two anchors, and much cable had been veered out the night before. Captain Robinson made such arrangements as he could, in warning the officers, the sergeant-major and the orderly non-commissioned officers to be in readiness.

From sunset on the 27th the gale had continued to increase and, at a little after 3 A.M. on the morning of the 28th, the starboard cable snapped in two; the other cable parted two or three minutes afterwards, and away went the ship before the storm, her hull striking, with heavy crashes, against the ground as she drove towards the beach, three miles distant, under her lee.

About this time the fury of the gale was rendered more terrible by one of the most awful storms of thunder and lightning that had ever been witnessed in Table Bay. While the force of the sea and the wind was driving the ship into shoaler water, she rolled incessantly; and heaved over so much with the back-set of the surf, that to the possibility of her going to pieces before daylight, was added the probability of settling down to windward, when the decks must have inevitably filled, and everyone of the seven hundred souls on board must have perished.

While in this position the heavy sea broke over her side and poured down the hatchways. The decks were opening in every direction, and the strong framework of the hull seemed compressed together, starting the beams from their places. The ship had been driven with her starboard-bow towards the beach , exposing her stern to the sea, which rushed through the stern-ports and tore up the cabin floors of the poop-deck. The thunder and lightning ceased toward morning and the ship seemed to have worked a bed for herself in the sand, for the terrible rolling had greatly diminished, and there arose the hope that all on board would get safe on shore.

At day-break it was just possible to distinguish some people on the beach opposite to the wreck. Owing to the fear of the masts, spars and rigging falling, as well as to keep as much top-weight as possible off the ship's decks, the troops had been kept below but were now allowed to come on deck in small numbers.

An attempt was made to send a rope ashore; and one of the best swimmers, a Krooman, volunteered the trial with a rope around his body; but the back-set of the surf was too much for him. A line tied to a spar never got beyond the ship's bows, and one fixed to a cannon also failed. One of the cutter was then carefully lowered on the lee-side of the ship, and her crew succeeded in reaching the shore with a hauling line. Two large surf-boats were shortly afterwards conveyed in wagons to the place where the ship was stranded, and the following orders were given by Captain Gordon for the disembarkation of the troops:-

1. The women and children to disembark (there were about seventy).
2. The sick to disembark after the women and children.
3. The disembarkation of the troops to take place by the companies of the Ninety-first drawing lots; the detachments of the Twenty-seventh Regiments and the Cape Mounted Riflemen taking the precedence.
4. The men to fall in on the upper deck, fully armed and accoutred, carrying their knapsacks and great-coats.
5. Each officer to be allowed to take a carpet-bag or small portmanteau.

The disembarkation of the women and children and of the sick occupied from half-past eight until ten o'clock A.M. The detachments of the 27th regiment and of the Cape Mounted Riflemen followed. That of the 91st was was arranged by the wings drawing lots, and then the companies of each wing. At half past ten in the morning, one of the surf-boats which had been employed up to this time in taking the people off the wreck, was required to assist in saving the lives of those on board the Waterloo convict-ship, which was in still more imminent peril, about a quarter of a mile from the Abercrombie Robinson.

Having now but one boat to disembark 450 men, and the wind and sea, which had subsided a little since daylight, beginning again to rise, together with the captain's apprehension that she might go to pieces before sunset, which (however unfounded as was afterwards proved) powerfully influenced Captain Gordon's arrangements; it became necessary to abandon the men's knapsacks, as they not only filled the greater space in the surf-boats than could be spared, but took a long time to hand down the ship's side. The knapsacks had been brought on deck, but were now, for these reasons, sent below again, and stowed away in the women's standing-berths.

The officers were likewise informed that they would not be allowed to take more than each could carry on his arm. The disembarkation of the six companies went on regularly, there being one boat which could only hold thirty men at a time. At half past three in the afternoon the last boat left the ship's side. It contained those of the ship's officers and crew who had remained to the last, sergeant-major Murphy of the 91st's reserve battalion, and two non-commissioned officers who had requested permission to remain, Captain Gordon and Lieut. Black RN, agent of transports. Nearly 700 souls completed their disembarkation without a single casualty. Among them were many women and children, and several sick men.

The two sergeants, Phillips and Murray, were young lads, barely 22 years of age, they had married shortly before the battalion embarked at Kingstown, and their wives, quite girls, were clinging to them for support and comfort when the ship parted from her anchors. When they were called on duty they left their wives without a murmur. In the women's quarters, confusion, terror and despair, joined to the wildest shrieks, were the fast spreading the their dangerous influence, when Captain Gordon first descended to the lower deck. A few words sufficed to quiet them, and from that moment their patience and submission never faltered. By half past three in the afternoon, the bilged and broken wreck was was abandoned with all the stores and baggage to the fast-increasing gale.

Webmaster's Comment. The above appears here thanks, I believe, to the efforts of Michael Phillips & Jane Buchmann Phillips. I changed a few words in the above text to correct what seemed to be simply typographical transcription errors. But a few words still may be incorrect. A search tells me that 'Krooman' is or was a person from a negro tribe of Liberia & the adjacent coast, whose members were much employed on shipboard. It would be good to locate the original 1859 report, to permit a perfect text to be provided here.

It would seem that a poem was written about the Abercrombie Robinson, by William Topaz McGonagall (1825 or maybe 1830/1902) - who is described as being 'the writer of the worst poetry in the English language'. Not my words! The poem was available in a couple of places on the WWW. In two places today that I can see - here & also here, where 206 of his poems are, in fact, available.

More about the above work when I have more to tell you! Do contact me if you can help.

Thomas M. M. Hemy datapages 01, 02 & 03 are now on site. Plus all of the other image pages, accessible though the index on page 05.

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