Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Captain George Cannon: Logbook of the Iris

In my first post on Captain George Cannon, I mentioned finding a copy of one of Captain Cannon's logbooks at the George Q. Cannon family website.  With some research, I found a reference to the logbook in Manx Annals. Eighty Years Ago., 1901/2, Chapter XVIII, Property Advertisements. In a reprint of an advertisement for sale of George Cannon’s home in Peel in 1816, after giving the listing information, the author states: “(There exists at the present day in the hands of a well-known Peel gentleman ‘A journal of a voyage per ship Iris from Liverpool to Benny in Africa. Commencing the 8th June 1798 by George Cannon.’ The log ran till the date, August 3rd, 1800, was reached the book then being completely filled. The ship was in the slave trade, and at the latter date had almost finished her second round between Africa and the West Indies. Inside of the book is “George Cannon, Peeltown, Isle of Man, 1820” One of his descendants emigrated to America and afterwards became the well known Mormon leader, George Quayle Cannon, who died in Utah a few months ago)”.

My cousin, Mary Alice, recently found the owner of the logbook and Judy and I had an opportunity to visit her and see the originial. It was a thrill! It was in much better condition that I imagined it would be. Below, a photo of the cover.
On the inside, written sideways in large writing is: “Journal of a Voyage of Ship Iris, from Liverpool to Bonney in Africa. Commencing the 8th June 1798 by George Cannon”. Written underneath, in different handwriting and different colored ink, is “Born May 1766” and “Killed at sea on board his own vessel in mutiny in 1810”.
Another page has “George Cannan Peeltown[,] Isle of Man 1820”. Underneath that “George Cannan” is written again and a line is drawn to it indicating: “died in St Louis of sun stroke about 1844”. This was apparently not in the journal in 1901 or 1902. My guess is that the journal was in the possession of Captain Cannon's son, Immigrant George Cannon, and that the 1820 reference is to him. On the same page, underneath, in different handwriting and different colored ink, is written: “Angus M Cannon purchased this book in Peel, Isle of Man March 9th 1906 and gave it to George M Cannon in 1914 who gave it to George M Cannon Jr. April 12th 1917.”
The journal is contained in a pre-printed journal called “The Mariner’s Journal Book; or, the Liverpool Ready Ruled Journal; in which the columns are disposed in the most advantageous Manner, for the ready setting down a Day’s Work, according to the Method many Years taught By the late Mr. Egerton Smith: And published at the Desire of a great Number of his former Pupils, who, from many Years Experience, have given it the Preference to every other Method yet made public, both for Ease and Expedition; and Sold at the Navigation Shop, in Pool-Lane.”
The entries are periodic. The first set begin June 9, 1798 and go more than a month, until July 15, 1798. George Cannon was the first mate on the Iris during that period. The entries start again, for a short period, from September 2, 1798 to September 6, 1798, after which George Cannon has become captain (although no mention of that fact is made in the log), then resume September 23, 1798 until November 14, 1798. After a break of almost four months, the entries resume on March 2, 1799 and go more than a month, to April 9, 1799. After another four month break, the entries resume August 17, 1799 and go until September 19, 1799. After a nine month break, the final entries resume June 19, 1800 and go until August 3, 1800, missing 13 days during that period.

Below, I provide photos of a number of pages of the logbook. First is Friday, October 26, 1798. "Light Breezes and Clear weather; Expended 180 yams. At Midnight Saw the Island of Berbuded [Barbuda] Being S.W. Distand about 2 Legues Saim time B[ore] away for St. Christophers. Bore S.W. Dist. 5 Lgs. At Meridian Past By Between St. Christopher and Steustatie:--. Latter Part Pleasent and Clear weather:-- Expended 180 yams and 3642 remains Burried one Famale Slave"
Barbuda, mentioned in the logbook, is an island in the Caribbean located north of Antigua and east of St. Kitts. St. Christopher, also mentioned, is now known as St. Kitts and is an island located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. The reference to "Steustatie" is to St. Eustatius, an island six miles south of St. Kitts and 2 miles north of Nevis.

The next logbook entry is for Saturday, October 27, 1798: "At 3 P.M. St. Eustatia Bore N.B.E. Distand 8 Legues:-- From whitch I take My Departure Middle Part Light Breezes and Fair – all Necessary Sails Sett. Several Slaves complaining of there Eyes and 2 with Sore Mouths.:--- Burried one Man Slave Expended 170 and 3472 remains 8 of Bains and 194 remains: Distd. 94 Miles Lattd. Obsd Sun Obscure"
The next logbook entry is for Sunday, October 28, 1798: "First Part of this 24 Hours Light Squalls with rain. Middle and Latter Light Breezes and clear weather – all Sails Sett to the Best advantage:--- People Employed in tending Ship and Slaves Mending the Quartor Deck Arvening &c. Expended 180 yams and 8 Crues of Bains 2 ½ rice:--- 3392 yams remaining 186 Bains:--- Lattd. Obsd. 16..48: North"
The next entry, Monday, October 29, 1798: "First Part Light Eairs and Clear:-- Expended 170 yams 8 Crues of Bains 2 ½ rice Remains 3222 yams 178 Bains:--- Middle Part Ditto. weather:-- Slaves all in Good Spirrits there Eyes Nearly Better. Distd. 126 Miles Lattd. Observed 16..56 No."
The next entry, Tuesday, October 20, 1798: "Light Breezes and Clear -- Expended 181 yams and 3041 8 of Bains and 170 remains Middle and Latter part Ditto. weather People Employed Making Platt for the Cal… Cleaning the Bens &c:-- Distd. 103 Miles Lattd. Obsd. 17..08 No."
The next entry, Wednesday, October 31, 1798: "Light Ears Inclinable to Calm – Middle and Latter Part Ditto. weather People Employed repairing the Awning Doing Several about the riggon. Expended 164 yams and 2877 remains 8 of Bains and 162 remains:--- Dist. Per Loog 45 Ml. Lattd. Obsd. 16..50 N:--"
Entries from Friday and Saturday, September 6 and 7, 1799: "These 24 hours steady breeses and cloudy.- Carpenter Employed as before. – People Painting and doing sundry other necessaries. – Lattd. Obsd. 00..59 S." and "During these 24 hours – steady breezes and cloudy. Broached 1 Butt of Water No. 9. – People employed doing necessary jobs, and the Carpenter as before. – Lattd. observed 1..50 S."
Finally, a picture of me with the logbook to provide a sense of the size of it.
I have transcribed the entries in the logbook and I am working with Professor Stephen Behrendt, an expert on the English slave trade, to have it published by an academic press. Steve is preparing a forward that will go with the logbook entries.


  1. I want one when you go to press. Fascinating stuff.

  2. What is the status of your study and the prospect of a published book?

    1. We are awaiting copies of new-found information that give more information on his Iris voyages. When it is obtained and digested, I believe the book will then be published. Given the way things go, it will easily be another year before the book is published.

  3. The handwriting talking about Angus Cannon purchasing the journal on the Isle of Man in 1906 is in the handwriting of George M. Cannon Jr. who was with his grandfather and father having just completed a mission in South Africa. He met his father and grandfather in Liverpool and together the three of them traveled to the Isle of Man.

  4. Any updates on the status of your transcription publication?

  5. David Cannon died of Heat Stroke in ST. Louis? Does anyone know where his grave is?

  6. Any news on the publication of the logbook, or would it be possible to get a copy of the transcription? Look the research you did here. I was going to get a look at a copy of the original myself, but if you already have the transcription, this could save the trouble.