David Thomson USN was born in Scotland in 1834

17 July 2011

Good Morning Mac,

I have a somewhat interesting story for you. The above sailor (David Thomson USN) was born in Scotland in 1834, and at age 17 was on the England to Australia run. The main basis for the story is a long interview Thomson gave to the Melbourne `Herald' in 1908.

Thomson also sailed to the United States, becoming a member of the US merchant marine in 1855. When war broke out in 1861 he signed up for the Union Navy, served under Admiral Farragut, and appears to have witnessed the epic battle between the `Merrimac' and the `Monitor'. I have details of the various US ships he served on.

Thomson returned to Scotland after the war and signed up with the Loch Line, but was on board the `Coryphaeus' when it was wrecked in 1871. Thomson made the longboat voyage to Queensland with the captain.

As far as I can determine, he stayed at sea until 1905, when he finally came ashore at Melbourne, and got married,
though 71 years old. His marriage came unstuck, for in 1927 he was sued for maintenance by his wife, at the age of 93.

What I'm struggling to find are any further details of his sea service, merchant navy records being notoriously scratchy, and most importantly when and where he died. The last record of him found so far is at an address in Hawthorn in 1928, but no BDM or burial at all. Any assistance would be appreciated.

Ray Peace


Regret I can find no mention of when David Thomson died.

British bark CORYPHAEUS of London, Capt Roe, was wrecked on reef of Ailuk on Aug 23. Crew was treated well by natives there. Two open boats with most of the crew left the island on Sept 3. Five men remained on the island until the arrival of HMS /Barrosa/ in Apr 1872. [Moore 1872; Shadwell 1873]


1. In reference to the castaways from thisvessel, the secretary of the  > Chamber of Commerce has handed us the following copy of aletter from Commodore Stirling to His Excellency the Governor, which was read with other correspondence at the meeting of the chamber committee yesterday :

" Clio, at Melbourne, Nov. l8, 1871.

"To His Excellency the Right Hon. Viscount Canterbury. K.C.B., Governor, &e., Melbourne.

"My Lord,-In reply to your lordship'sI letter of yesterday, enclosing/- letter from the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce dated the 4th instant, respecting the crew of the Coryphaeus, wrecked at the Marshall Islands, I have the honour to acquaint your lordship that H.M.S. Rosario, now cruising amongstthe New Hebrides, has been ordered to make inquiries, and to look out for the missing boat with the mate and five seamen of the Coryphaeus, in the event of their being heard of near that group.

"2. I regret that I cannot send a vessel toAilu, as it is so far  beyond the limits of my command, but I will forward the Chamber of Commerce's letter to the naval commanderin-cbief in China, within whose station the Marshall Islands lie.

"3. It appears from the newspapers that the five men who were left at Ailu elected to Iremain there, that being in their opinion themost prudent course. I therefore do not apprehend that they are in any immediate danger. They
may, however, suffer much inconvenience from being detained on the island, and if it were in my power to render them assistance, I should willingly do so.

(signed) . STIRLING,
Commodore and Senior Officer."



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