Hugh Murray.

Historical account of discoveries and travels in Asia, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) online

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English East India Company seem to have turned
their attention to the Red Sea, and the coast of
Guzerat. In March I607, Captain Alexander
Sharpey was sent out on a combined expedition
to these two destinations. "In an unfortunate
*' houre" he weighed anchor, ** with the two tall
" shippes, the Ascension and the Union." He


sailed without any pause round Africa, till he
came to the island of Pemba j when, finding botli
wind and current adverse, he run upwards of two
hundred leagues to the south-east, in hopes of at-
taining a favourable breeze. He was disappoint-
ed, and was tossed about for more than a month,
when he happily came upon twelve or thirteen
uninhabited islands, which he called the Deso-
late Islands, (probably the Seychelles). He says,
** These islands ought very diligently to be sought
" of them that shall travaile hereafter, because of
" the good refreshing that is upon them/* They
abound, he says, in cocoa-nuts, fish, turtles, and
are covered with palmeto-trees ; *' so that these
" islands seemed to us an earthly paradise.*'
Thus refreshed, they proceeded on their voyage,
and after struggling long with contrary winds,
entered the Red Sea, and came to Aden. The
governor immediately came to invite Captain
Sharpey ashore, and received him with every
possible honour, " not suffering him once scantly
** to treade on the ground, but mounted him up-
" on a faire Arabian horse." After every species
of good treatment, he returned to the ship, and
sailed for Mocha, the great mart of Arabia, where
they were also " most lovingly received." Hav-
ing spent six weeks there, they came down the
Gulf, and touched at Socotora. As they were tak-
ing in water here, a violent gale arose, in which.


they lost two of their anchors : having lost two
already in the Red Sea, they had now only other
two remaining. Having sailed across tlie Indian
Ocean to Diu, they began steering for Surat. A
Moor, however, warned them that the passage
was very dangerous, and offered to procure a
pilot ; but the master, ** not regarding the words
1' of tlie aforesaid Moore," set sail without any
precaution. That night they struck on the shoals,
and next day the vessel was completely wrecked.
*' Thus was this tall ship lost, to the great hinder-
•* ance of the worshipful Company, and the utter
" undoing of all us the poore mariners." They
succeeded, however, in getting the whole crew
on board of two small boats, " being a thing most
** miraculous,'* and began steering for the en-
trance of the river of Surat. *' But note how the
" Lord did preserve us." They were obliged,
" contrary to their mindes," to put into the river
of Gandevee, when they learned that five Portu-
guese frigates were stationed at the bar of Surat,
who would at once have taken them all prisoners.
Gandevee they found governed by a Banian, one
of those who " observe the law of Pythagoras,
" and holde it a great sinne to eate of any thing
" that hath life or breath." The women, he says,
were formerly accustomed invariably to burn
themselves after the death of their husbands ;
" but now of late years they have learned more


" witte." Still those who omit this sacrifice
" are ever after held tor no honest women."

Jones was " in many determinations'* how to
return home. The rest went to Hawkins, then
ambassador at the Mogul court, to seek a passage
by land through Persia ; but thinking this, he does
not say why, " no fit way for him,*' he earnestly
sought some mode of returning by sea. " It
" pleased God, of his goodness, to send a father
" of the order of St Paul," who becoming ac-
quainted with our sailor, undertook to procure
him a passage at least into Portugal, *' which
" promise he did accomplish most faithfully."
Jones, therefore, set sail for Goa on the 18th No-
vember, and arrived at Lisbon on the 3d August

Though Sharpey and his " tall ships" had met
with so unfortunate a catastrophe, there was no-
thing in the commercial part of their adventures
tending to discourage the hope of a successful
trade. A new squadron was therefore fitted out,
consisting of the Trades-Increase of 1000 tons,
under Sir Henry Middleton, the Pepper-Corn
of 250 tons, under Captain Nicholas Dounton,
and the Darling of 90 tons. We have narratives
of the voyage both by Middleton and Dounion.
They set sail for the Red Sea, and made the cir-
cuit of Africa, without meeting with any thing


extraordinary, till they came to the island of So-
cotora, where they touched to take in water. The
king received Sir Henry well, and brought him to
his house, " where being set in a chaire by him,
" there passed many complements, which I omit."
He praised much the trade of the Red Sea, and
the character of the people of Aden and Mocha,
but confirmed the loss of the Ascension, " which
" was no little griefe for me to heare." Of the
island, Dounton observes, that its chief produce
is aloes, though the annual amount does not ex-
ceed a ton. Cattle may be bought, but " exceed-
" ing small, according to the drie rockie barren-
" nesse of the island ; wood, at twelve-pence a
" man's burthen ; every particular is a very deare
" pennyworth ;" and concludes, " of rocks and
** stones, drie and bare, it seems the whole island
" is composed." Supplied and encouraged. Sir
Henry then steered for Aden, which, he says,
*' standeth at the foot of a mountain on a vale,
" and maketh a faire shew." Dounton, however,
struck with the barrenness of the country behind,
would scarce have looked for a town there. How-
ever, the situation is strong, being particularly
defended by an ** high rocke, somewhat larger than
" the Tower of London, w^hich is not by enemies
" to be in haste ascended ;" the road up being
so steep and narrow, " that foure men may keep
** down a multitude." They were received with


much outward shew of kindness, and assured, that
as Englishmen they were welcome, and that Cap-
tain Sharpey had found ample vent for his goods.
The natives seemed at first, however, shy of trad-
ing, and Sir Henry merely applied for a pilot,
which was promised him ; but they afterwards
came, saying, that the pilot's wife would not let
him go, without four English sailors in pledge.
At the same time they began to vaunt the advan-
tageous trade which might be carried on at their
own port, " with glozing shewes of indigo, mirh,
" and divers other things.'* They allowed that the
former governor had done every thing in his
power to discourage trade, but said the present
one was anxious to recal it. An Arab, indeed,
on being examined, said, that this governor indeed
was a little better than the last, *' but all the
" Turkes in generall starke naught." Middle-
ton, however, was at last persuaded to leave the
Pepper-Corn, and proceed up himself with the
Trades-Increase and Darling.

Sir Henry passed the Straits of Babel Mandeb,
where he fell in with two Arab pilots,- who " tooke
" upon them to be very skilful," but in fact run
him aground on a bank of sand near Mocha.
As soon as they were descried, *' a Turke, a pro-
" per man," came out, and assured them, that if
Englishmen, they were welcome, and if they came
to seek trade, " they should not fliile of that they


" looked for." He made light of the running
aground, to which he said all large ships from
India were liable, and never found any serious in-
convenience from it. Sir Henry was then assured
of every commercial advantage he could desire,
only that, according to the custom of the place, it
was necessary to come on shore and wait upon
the Aga. Sir Henry, being welcomed with so
much kindness, did not hesitate to comply with
this invitation. He was received at landing " by
" divers chiefe men, and with musicke brought to
" the Aga's house, where were assembled all the
" chiefe men of the towne." The Aga received
him with the most extreme courtesy, and caused
him to sit down by himself, while all the rest of
the company were standing. After assuring him
of every commercial privilege, and of security
from all injury, he caused him to stand up, " and
" one of his chiefe men put upon my backe a
" vest of crimson silke and silver, saying, I need-
" ed not to doubt of any evil, for that was the
" grand senior's protection." Sir Henry then
departed " in my new coate, with the musicke of
" the towne V* and was so much gratified with his
reception, that he agreed to remain a few days on
land, to superintend the mercantile transactions,
and get his pinnace repaired.

During Sir Henry's stay at Mocha, not a day
elapsed without some courteous message from the


Aga, usually accompanied by presents. On the
eighth day that chief" sent word, that the fast being
now on the eve of terminating, he would take
him an excursion through his gardens, and other
parties of pleasure. The same evening. Sir
Henry and some of his officers were sitting be-
fore the door to enjoy the fresh air, when an
alarm arose, that " the Turkes and his people
" were by the eares at the backe of the house.*'
Sir Henry ran and called to his men to come and
secure the house, when some one struck him
from behind, so that he fell down senseless. His
hands were then pinioned behind, " so straite,
" that the extreme pain brought me to my rae-
" morie." As soon as he shewed any symptoms
of life, a Turk took him by each arm, and led
him to the Aga, rifling him by the way of all the
jewels about his person. At the Aga's he found
others of his company " in like taking," and was
dismayed to learn, that eight had been killed, and
fourteen severely wounded. He himself, with
seven others, were chained together by the neck.
Their feet were also chained, and their hands
fastened so close behind their backs, that the
blood was ready to burst out at the ends of their
fingers. During the night their guards took com-
passion, and eased them from the most galling of
their bonds, which afforded them present relief,
*♦ though still overcharged with griefe oi' heart.'*


Meanwhile, as they afterwards learned, three
boats, with a hundred and fifty Turks, were sent
off to capture the Darling. They set upon her so
suddenly, that they had boarded her, and killed
three men, before the full alarm was given ; but
" now it pleased God in mercy to look on us.'*
The crew having mustered, and seeing the Turks
*' standing very thicke, hollowing and clanging
" their swordes upon the decke," threw amongst
them a barrel of gunpowder, followed by a torch,
which caused sucli an explosion, as made them
precipitately retire to the half-deck. Here they
*' were entertayned with another trayne, which
" put them in such feare, that they leaped into
" the sea, hanging by the ship's side, desiring
" mercy, which was not there to be found."
The enraged English put to the sword the whole
body of their assailants, except one man, who
found means to hide himself " till the furie was
" past."

Early next morning Sir Henry was called be-
fore the Aga, whose rage was still increased by
the above catastrophe, though he carefully con-
cealed it from his captives. He entirely laid
aside the false and smiling countenance which he
had hitherto worn, and frowning sternly, asked,
how he, an infidel, dared approach so near to
their holy city of Medina ? Middleton having
referred to his own invitation and pledged faith.


he replied, that the order was imperious from the
grand seignior, to " captivate" all Christians who
should come into those seas, much more to Mocha,
the *' doore of their holy citie.'* His next object
was to demand that Sir Henry should write to
those on board the vessels, desiring that both the
ships should be brought on shore ; and he was
then promised the small one to convey home him-
self and his crew. Sir Henry, as became a Bri-
tish seaman, gave an absolute refusal ; and on
being told, that if he persisted his head would be
cut off, " I bade him do so." The Aga then re-
solved to employ the most rigorous means of aw-
ing him into acquiescence. The chain was taken
off which bound him by the neck to the other
six, his feet and hands were then manacled, and
he was thrown singly into a dirty dog's kennel,
under a pair of stairs. At night, on the interces-
sion of the Banian consul, he was removed into a
somewhat more eligible dungeon ; but even here
" my lodging was upon the hard ground, my pil-
" low a stone : my companions to keep me wak-
" ing were griefe of heart, and multitude of rats,
" which, if I chanced to sleepe, would awake me
" with running over me." Every means, both of
threat or entreaty, were employed, to induce him
to write a letter of the tenor above mentioned.
He resolutely refused ; but agreed to write one,
asking how many Turks were captive in the



Darling, saying nothing, according to agreementy
of his own treatment, yet slipping in a warning
to be on their guard, and by no means to come
on shore.

Meantime the seamen on board were " very
" evill to passe," and *' at their wits* ends what to
" do.*' After much perplexity, an honest fellow,
John Chambers, undertook to go on shore at all
hazards, " rather than see men live in this dis-
" content.'* In fact the Turks, after having
drawn from him all the information possible, be-
yond expectation, introduced him to Sir Henry.
" They brought him to my darke cell, who, com-
" ing out of the light, was a great while before he
" could so see me. He delivered me the letter,
" with watery eyes to see me fettered." Middle-
ton asked him if he was not afraid of being de*>
tained as a prisoner ? but the courageous seaman
replied, " he came with that resolution to take
*' such part as I did, if they would be so villain-
" ously minded." However, they not only allow-
ed him to go on board, but to return next day.

We shall now look back for a moment to the
fortune which attended Dounton at Aden. Im-
mediately on the departure of the Trades-In-
crease, the English began working the ship up to
the town, *' as men striving to hasten their own
" harmes." They announced to the Mir or go-
vernor, that they were ready to treat with any


merchants who should come on board, but that
they would not land the goods. The Mir posi-
tively rejected such terms, which seemed " a con*
*• tradict to his purpose and policie ;" at the
same time he arrested three men for the dues of
anchorage. Dounton, meanwiiilc, the more he
saw of the city, found tiie less reason ** to conceit
" any hope of trade or honest dealing." It had
once been large and populous, but now " the
*' houses, both great and small, are greatly ruin-
" ated ; merchants none to be discerned worthy of
" that calling ; money seemeth to be very scant."
This last deficiency appeared manifest, when a
piece of eight being shewn to the people, they
passed it from hand to hand, " gazing as at a
** strange thing ; — an ill signe in a place where a
" ship's lading is brought to sell." The gover-
nor, however, being soon to leave the place, be-
came daily more anxious that they should be " so
" foolish as to land." He continually reminded
Dounton of the confidence which Captain Sharpey
had reposed in them, and the benefits he had de-
rived from his trade. Dounton observes, that
Sharpey being the first, " perchance might passe
" away in some reasonable sort," but that " since
" then they have had time to advise themselves
" how to do more villanie." He found himself
meanwhile awkwardly situated at Aden, beiflg de-
pendant on the town for water, " the wind and

VOL. I. s


" sea both often most vehement/* and " a low
" shoare, nothing to hinder the mayne siifFe and
*' violence of the mounting billowes.** The Mir,
however, became every day more courteous. He
treated the three prisoners with the greatest kind-
ness, declaring, that the moment the ship should
begin to trade, they would be set at liberty. All
who went on shore were received with open arms.
The whole crew began to murmur at Captain
Dounton, for refusing to avail himself of such
friendly dispositions. He was at length so far
wrought upon, that being in want of small rope,
he applied for permission to make some under the
walls of the town, " which was promised with
" great favour, in the best and convenientest
*' place they could find.'* As soon as a party of
the men were on shore for this purpose, they re-
ceived notice that the Mir had set all his smiths
to work in the manufacture of shackles ; but
their confidence was such, that " they took it as
" a merrie jest.'* Two days after, while not only
the men employed, but several others for their
amusement, had come on shore, the whole, to the
number of twenty, were seized, stripped of all they
had, and put in irons. Among these were the
surgeon, apothecary, cooper, carpenter, boatswain,
and other inferior officers. Dounton does not
give any account of his feelings upon this disas-
ter, but states, that he immediately set out to join

Carried to saka. 27-^

Sir Henry. The prisoners were carried to Mocha,
and shared the fate of the rest, which we shall
now proceed to relate.

On the SOth December, orders were received
to conduct them to Zenan (Sana), the capital of
Yemen, and residence of the Basiia. Their irons
were struck off, and they were mounted upon
asses, being closely guarded on the way, though
not so narrowly but that one found means to
escape. In passing through the towns, they " were
" marshalled two and two in a ranke, as they do at
" Stambola (Constantinople) with captives taken
** in the waries, our Aga riding in triumph as a
*' great conquerour." Middleton had not duly
regarded the warnings given him of the cold he
would meet with in the high country; he found
it exceedingly severe, and the ground covered
every morning with hoar-frost. They reached
Zenan in fifteen days, and being immediately led
before the Basha, were received in the same rough
manner as by the Aga at Mocha. Middleton,
however, was sent to a tolerable lodging, though
all his companions were clapt in " waightie irons."
The only tragical event occurred in the case of a
youth, who does not seem to have possessed the
true British hardihood, since, " at such time as I
" was brought before the Basha, he thinking I was
" so led to have my head strook off, fell in a sound
" with very feare, thinking his turne would not


" be long after ; hee fell sick upon it, and shortly
" after died."

Although the first aspect of affairs at Zenan was
thus gloomy, circumstances soon occurred tend-
ing to give them a more favourable aspect. A
Moorish merchant of Cairo, an intimate friend of
the Basha's, wrote to him, that he would soon ruin
the country entirely, if he followed his present
courses ; and coming himself to Zenan, " iterated
" what he had written.'* At the same time the
Basha Caia, or lieutenant-general, who shared
in some degree the power of the Basha, espoused
their cause ; and being in the course of their
stay created a vizir, he derived, ** from so high a
" place and calling,'* a very considerable influ-
ence. The first fruits of this favour consisted in
the men being taken out of their dungeon, allowed
the use of fresh air, and a due proportion of beef,
which soon restored them to their wonted health.
At length, after six weeks* stay, Sir Henry was
again called before the Basha, who began to extol
his own clemency, but added, that the Grand
Seignior had a long sword, and that neither he,
nor any Christian nor Lutheran, must come again
into those seas. Sir Henry intreated, that if any
of his countrymen should venture before he had
time to give them warning, they might not be
betrayed as he had been ; but could not obtain
such a promise. Warning had also been given.


that neither the goods, nor a pinnace which luul
been seized at Mocha, would be returned, as they
had both been put to the Grand Seignior's account.
Sir Henry expressed his dread, that the Aga at
Mocha, being his mortal enemy, would not fullil
in his favour the intentions of tlie Basha ; to
which the latter proudly answered : *' Is not my
" onely word sufficient to turn a whole city upside
" down ? If Regib Aga wrong you, I will pull his
'* skin over his eares, and give you his head.'*

In leaving Zenan, the author describes it as
somewhat larger than Bristol, well built of stone
and lime, and encircled with a strong mud wall.
Round it were numerous gardens, orchards, and
country-houses, beyond which extended a barren
and stony valley, encircled by lofty hills ; wood
and water were scarce. The castle was filled
with women and children belonging to the chiefs
of the neighbouring mountains, who could only
be kept in awe by these hostages. On their way
they passed through Tayes (Tiias), a walled city
half as large as Zenan. Mocha is represented as
a third less than Tayes, " unwalled, very popjj-
" lous, seated close to the sea-side, in a salt, sandy,
" barren soyle." The fort by which it was de-
fended was then in ruins. On reaching Mocha,
Sir Henry was received by the Aga with the
same false and smiling countenance he had at first
worn. He expressed deep regret at his former


conduct, prompted solely, lie said, by the impe-
rious commands of his master, but assured him
that he might now depend on his friendship.
" I soothed him up, but believed nothing he
** said." The EngHsh were first conducted to a
handsome house by the sea-side ; but this appear-
ing insecure, they were, in two days, transferred
to a strong situation in the middle of the town,
where a guard of soldiers was placed round
them ; however, they were well accommodated.
The Aga afterwards invited them to a feast, and
calling for the Alcoran, voluntarily swore, " that
" he ought me no evil will, but wished me all
** good.'* Sir Henry " seemed greatly satisfied
" therewith, though he gave no credit thereto."
In fact, he was detained for nearly two months,
and was confidently assured, that the Aga had not
the least intention of allowing him to return to
the ship. Under these circumstances, he deter-
mined, at whatever hazard, to attempt an escape.
He wrote to the ship, desiring the people to send
to the shore a boat well manned, and with it a
bottle of aquavitag, and one of wine, for the pur-
pose of intoxicating his keepers. He then called
for Mr Fennel, his chief officer, and before com-
municating his plan, made him swear, first, that
he would conceal it ; and next, that he would
say nothing against it. He then stated it to be,
^^ that I would convey myself into an emptie


** butt, and so be carried downe to the boate as
" an emptie caske." After much deHberation,
he says, •* this devise it pleased God to put into
*' my head.** As the rest of the company were
by no means so closely watched as himself, they
were desired to run to a point on the sea-coast,
at a little distance, where he would come round
in the boat and take them up. On the day ap-
pointed, every thing happened favourably ; " The
** Aga, with all the chiefe men of the towne were
** rid abroad in great state to his garden to be
** merrie; which I seeing, did not a little glad my
** heart.** At the same time, the Subasha " fell
** to drinking hard at a racky house ;" and
though he returned before the appointed hour,
he went to the. other end of the house, and was
not in a state to take very diligent heed of what
was going forward. The carpenters, therefore,
had full time to hoop up Sir Henry in the empty
barrel, which was forthwith carried to sea. He
then pushed out the head, went into the boat,
and hastened to the appointed place, where he
took on board part of his men. As the alarm had
been instantly given, the rest, through their own
want of diligence, as he alleges, were overtaken
and made prisoners. Sir Henry then pushed out
to sea, and reached the vessel.

The same day, two Arabs, in a boat, brought
intelligence that the Aga was in the greatest


fury ; that he had caused all the prisoners to be
chained by the neck, and was threatening their
lives. Sir Henry immediately wrote, that either
the Aga must give up his men and the pinnace,
or he would fire all the ships in the road, and do
his best to batter the town about his ears. Till
he had obtained the men, he postponed all men-
tion of the goods, which, however, he was deter-
mined also to seek. The Aga, intimidated by

Online LibraryHugh MurrayHistorical account of discoveries and travels in Asia, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 30)