225 : Richard Esdale of Bristol, 1852

A Bristol newspaper reported an inquest on Richard Esdale, cook on the brig Eling from Bristol to Nevis in the West Indies who returned in such bad health he soon died. Officials insisted the captain and mate came to the inquiry, which resumed on 16 April 1852. They had sailed for Bristol around 10 February. Esdale had been fit on the voyage out but developed swollen feet which stopped him cooking. Only the ship’s boy looked after him. A surgeon who had known Esdale for years visited him at home and found him emaciated, almost incapable of speech, suffering from palsy, exhaustion and sores. The post mortem revealed damage caused by a recent blow to the skull. The boy, a stowaway from Bristol, had taken food to him and thought the blow to his head resulted from being dropped when a crew member moved him from his sick bed. The widow Henrietta Esdale said her husband spoke a little and said ‘O, cruel captain’. She added crew members had visited and told her they would testify in court, but they had gone back to sea.
The matter was delayed again as the sailor alleged to have dropped Esdale was in Wales. He duly confirmed Esdale had fallen out of bed but could not explain the blow: ‘all the crew were on good terms with him; we would do anything for him, and he would do anything for us’. The coroner repeated his question on whether Esdale had fallen when being moved, and it was suggested a door might have hit him. There was mention of perjury, and all but one of the jury censored the captain for leaving Esdale for fifteen days with just one change of clothing. How Esdale had come by the damage to his head was not resolved. The

What happened to his widow is unknown.


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