Suicide of a Captain

Last year I visited Thurso bay to visit the memorial to Captain Michael Atwell Slater [1796-1842] the hydrographer who helped chart Scotland’s coastline. Alas, I found that his memorial had collapsed to no morte than a rubble of stone.

Recently, I came across an account of  the wrecking on the 7th October 1858 of the HENRY PORCHER in Thurso Bay on the rocks at Scrabster.

The Henry Porcher was launched in 1817 at Bristol.

Between 1818 and 1831 she made three voyages to India for the British East India Company. On the second she first transported convicts to Sydney, New South Wales. Between these voyages for the EIC Henry Porcher traded privately to India as a licensed ship. She made two further voyages as a convict transport, one to Sydney in 1834–35, and one to Hobart in 1836.

The last Captain of the Henry Porcher was Captain Peter Simpson:

Captain Peter Simpson was  born at Carronshore in 1817:

In December 1851 Captain Simpson married Agnes McLaren. They lived next door to the Blue Bell Tavern on the Main Street of Bainsford, Falkirk. In the immediate vicinity were 5 other taverns.

In 1858, Peter Simpson captained the Henry Porcher to Quebec but he did not make it back to Scotland:

Captain Peter Simpson shot himself whist in delirium tremens.


Without a  Captain the Henry Porcher was guided home by the pilot, Arriving in Thurso on the 7th August 1858 the barque was anchored to wait out bad weather, but her cables parted with result that the ship went aground near Scrabster harbour. All 15 members of the crew landed safely.

In the Falkirk paper sharing the news of the shipwreck was this front page advert:

Agnes, the Captian’s wife, lived out the rest of her life in Bainsford as a widow. Without children to support her life must have been very difficult and  her husband’s sucide would have been talked about in every tavern. She died in the summer of 1895 in her brother’s home: the Crown Inn, Stenhousemuir.

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