Thursday, 4 October 2012

Born at Sea

File:Lady Blackwood.jpg

There are some fascinating stories about babies being born at sea. Fairly recently, in 2010, an American couple had a baby while sailing from Jacksonville to Key West - they named their little one Bearing, as a way to remember his birth (for full story, please see here).

But the tradition of honouring a sea birth has been around for centuries...

Scindian Gibson Foot was a born at sea baby. His or her- the child's gender is not disclosed in the source - father was Joseph Foot, a private with the 46th Regiment, working on the Scindian, a convict ship. They were travelling from Portsmouth, England, to the Swan River Colony in Western Australia. Scindian's mother, Catherine, and his/her four siblings also tagged along for the 4 month long journey in 1850.

The Scindian was named after the Indian royal dynasty, Scindia. The dynasty were on good terms with the British during the 19th and 20th centuries. Interstingly, records show a Scindiana Cook, also born in the Victorian era. One has to worder if she too had a connection to the ship.

Claris Wells has a similar story. Just like Scindian, Claris' father, Alexander, was a private travelling with his wife from London to the Swan River Colony. They set off in March 1857, taking just over one hundred days to reach Australia. Along the way little Claris was born, named in honour of the convict ship the Clara. Alexander, who became a farmer once in Australia, and his wife Caroline had a daughter travelling with them, Martha.

There is no certainty over Claris' gender. However, the fact that the parents decided to opt for Claris rather than Clara, the name of the ship and a popular name in the Victorian era, could indicate that the child was in fact a boy. Likely, Claris is a variant of the masculine Latin name Clarus, meaning 'clear, bright, famous'. (Update: Claris was indeed a boy)

Hybert Raglan Pollett's parents, Thomas and Mary, went down a more subtle route, but they still kept their baby's place of birth in mind when it came to name him. The little guy's first name was in honour of Thomas Hybert, the captain of the Lord Raglan in 1858, and, of course, the child's middle-name is in honour of the ship he was born in.

The ship was named after Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, a commander in the Crimean War. Somerset's title comes from Raglan, or Rhaglan in Welsh (meaning 'rampard' or 'boarder'), a medieval village in south east Wales. Hybert, however, seems to be of Nordic origin, a variant of Hubert, meaning 'bright heart'.

Sultana Gardiner was perhaps unlucky to be born in the Sultana, although we may agree that she was lucky to not have been born in the Racehorses ship. Her father Thomas Gardiner was a private with the 48th regiment, and sailed with his family to the Swan River Colony from Plymouth in 1859. Sultana's siblings John, Stephen, Caroline, Theresa and Elizabeth were also aboard. Sultana Gardiner was by no means, though, the only British baby to have this quirky name bestowed upon them in the 1800s; records show a number of women who went by Sultana also.

Image: The Lady Blackwood by George Gregory.