Papers of John Hunter, fl 1865-1912, carpenter's mate, Royal Navy

Scope and Content

  • Retrospective journal, c1865-1912;
  • Note of dates of birth, c1865-1912.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Hunter was apprenticed as a shipwright at Fairfield ship building yard, Govan, Scotland . In 1865  his apprenticeship was coming to an end - he considered joining the blockade-runners then in use for the American Civil War but was amongst many in the area who were made redundant. After a nine- month period of unemployment he was assigned to HMS Lion, which travelled down to Portsmouth to join the display put on for the Sultan of Turkey. In 1867  Hunter joined HMS Jackal, a paddle steamer in charge of all fisheries around Scotland. Journeys were mainly around Scotland, but also venturing as far as South Shields, in South Tyneside, England

Around 1868  Hunter married and took a house in Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland . A year later he made a boat for the captain who wanted one for his own personal use for sailing around the Scottish islands. In 1871  those who had served three years or more, including Hunter, were transferred to other ships. Hunter was transferred to the Black Prince for passage to Plymouth and once there, was put onto HMS Indus, a steam reserve ship for all artificers and stokers. His time on this ship was taken up with working on other ships in the moorings. On 7 October 1871  Hunter left Plymouth Sound on board HMS Lord Clyde as a carpenter's mate, heading for Gibralter . In March 1872  the ship ran aground near Malta whilst endeavouring to aid the SS Raby Castle. HMS Lord Warden towed Lord Clyde away and Hunter was assigned to help with the repairs. HMS Hibernia then brought him back to the UK in 1872  , where he was given eight weeks leave, which he used to visit his wife and son in Scotland.

After leave he was drafted to join HMS Audacious in Hull where his wife and son joined him. In 1874  the Audacious travelled to Sheerness where the crew were turned over to HMS Newcastle, a frigate. A few months later Hunter was reassigned to HMS Audacious, a flag ship for the China station. By 1876  Hunter was transferred to HMS Sylvia, a surveying vessel in Japan, to act as the chief carpenter's mate. He spent over four years on this ship. In November 1880  he was back home in Paisley, Scotland , with eight weeks leave to spend with his wife and two sons.

In January 1881  Hunter was assigned to HMS Pembroke, and then in March was sent down to Sheerness on board the HMS Duncan Flagship. In January 1882  he was employed working on board the Hanson Hulk, which was attached to HMS Pembroke. The following month he was assigned to HMS Sylvia again, this time for surveying work around South America (mainly the Magellan straits) and the African Coast (from Cape Town east up to Mozambique). After charting of the Magellan Straits had been completed the crew were given a chance to see the chart, as many parts were named after officers and men. A Cape was named after Hunter.

In April 1884  the ship and crew arrived at the Cape of Good Hope and spent several weeks repairing the ship before surveying the coast up to Quilimane , situated half way along the coast of modern Mozambique , and back to Cape Town . By May 1885  the ship was heading north towards St Helena and home. At Malta , in December 1885  , the ship's company was transferred to HMS Wye, a stores ship. She arrived in Plymouth at the beginning of January 1886  and Hunter went on board HMS Pembroke to travel up to Chatham, London where he applied for his pension as his time in the Navy had expired.

He arrived back home in Paisley on 10 January 1886  but found that the pension was not enough for a family of four to live on. He worked at a brass mouldery and finishing factory for six or seven years, the saw mill in Johnstone for a number of years, and then found work refitting railway wagons. He also travelled to America for six months to help his eldest son establish himself on a farm, while his youngest son found work in Philadelphia . Shortly after he returned to Scotland, he and his wife moved to the coast at Saltcoats . In 1912  he wrote a memoir based on diaries he had kept during his Navy career. His date of death is unknown.


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposit : June 2002 : Rev Angus Turner of Govan Old Church (ACCN 2223)

Other Finding Aids


Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Archivist's Note

Previously catalogued as GUA 36301, then M13/4. Fonds level description compiled by Andrew Thomson, Hub Project Archivist, 12 August 2004. Lower level compiled by Ruth Boreham, Archive Assistant, October 2002. Finding aid created by Andrew Thomson, Hub Project Archivist, 12 August 2004. Catalogue edited by Michelle Kaye, Archives Assistant, 27 September 2012.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist.

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History



None expected

Related Material

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  • GB 0248 DC 38 Glasgow University Dialectic Society.

Location of Originals

This material is original


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Corporate Names