Home

William Isaac Thorndale

This site is being relocated, and the original you have presently reached will be maintained rather infrequently. Before long, when the new site seems pretty stable and is being found by Google, I shall put automatic redirects on each of the pages of this old site. In the meantime, you could click this link to go to the new one: grahamhague.com. Sorry about this!

William Isaac Thorndale

WIT Memoirs WIT WIT's Memoirs

This site, especially the section concerning the terrible hurricane at Samoa and the dramatic escape of HMS Calliope from the harbour at Apia, is respectfully dedicated to my great-grandfather: William Isaac Thorndale.

It is worth recording before anything else that William Isaac Thorndale, or WIT, as he seems to have been known to his peers, left two hand-written books of memoirs, penned when he was in his seventies around 1932. It is from these books that I take the majority of the details which follow, but I have also gleaned much from visits to the Public Records Office at Kew, and from a descendant of WIT's brother who kindly got in touch via this web-site.

Here is that first page if you are having trouble reading it:

"This is not a history of my life but a rough story of truth[?] and facts of what any person may put down in writing. I was born at Kingswood in parish of Reigate in the year 1861 being the youngest of a family of seven. My father was a shepherd at Mr. Taylor of Lower Kingswood, whilst watching his flocks on the hill, he contracted a cold which he never recovered, leaving my mother with six of us to fight for, which she did, and faithfully she brought us up, and as they grew up they went each their own way into service and to take up the work that they could find. At the age of 12 my Mother passed away leaving me the only one who had not started work, at the time to live with my brother who looked after me until I attained the age of 14 when I left school and started work. Yes it was [?] my first introduction to work was a very hard task for a boy of my age."

WIT's memoirs cover his boyhood, early days in Victoria's navy, then service around the world, and his time on HMS Calliope and the miraculous escape from the hurricane at Samoa in 1889. They contain fascinating insights into life for an ordinary boy and sailor in the navy that was still primarily sailing ships. I feel they contain important data from a point of view not often chronicled, and don't know what to do with them. When Scaramouche finally pops off, I have a nightmare of them being consigned to a skip, along with all my Calliope books and reference data. I have no children to leave them to.

In case they ever got lost, I have self-published "WIT's Memoirs" which contains these memories in his own words, spelling and grammar, and which carry a few of my research notes into what he talks about. Since I used his memoirs as a strong central theme in my own book there is much repetition between them.

The details about the book are:

If any visitor to this site would like to contact me about it, or any of the subjects on it, please do so. I would appreciate any feedback you have, good or bad. I know I can always improve the site, and any help in doing so would be gratefully received. Even the mildest of comments is good to get.