Posted by: Rob Viens | March 6, 2013

The Funeral of Edward Hellyer

As Darwin discovered during his first year away from home, travel can be a dangerous and frightening endeavor (see Sick and Tired in Brazil). Most of the time, the nearest doctor was the ship’s surgeon (though that is not even true on the trail).  The next best medical facility could easily have been 1000’s of miles (and many days or weeks) away. So getting injured or sick was a big deal.

On March 4th, tragedy struck the Beagle crew for the second time in their 5-year journey. The first tragedy (about a year ago) resulted in the death of two men and one boy who contracted malaria (see “Bad Air” on the Beagle).  This time it was the captain’s clerk – Edward. Hellyer – who wandered off on his own and got himself in a bad predicament.  Darwin describes the accident:

“A grievous accident happened this afternoon in the death of Mr Hellyer.— One of the residents brought the news that he had found some clothes & a gun on the sea coast.— We made all haste to the place & in a short time discovered the body, not many yards from the shore, but so entangled in the Kelp, that it was with difficulty it was disengaged.— It was quite evident he had shot a bird & whilst swimming for it, the strong stalks of the sea weed had caught his legs & thus caused his death.” (Mar 4)

I can’t find much about Edward Hellyer – alas.  One genealogical source suggests that he was born in about 1810, making him about 23 when he died.  If others have information, please do share, as it would be nice to leave a little more of a legacy of the Beagle’s clerk.

In the Royal Navy, the captain’s clerk was the crewman who was responsible for keeping records and correspondence for the captain. Typically, this would be a young man (equivlent to a midshipman), who was working his way towards the position of ship’s purser (the crewmen responsible of the ships finances). Today, the title is no longer in use.

FitzRoy was upset by his clerk’s death, and in character, he blamed himself for the loss of a man who he felt was his responsibility:

“To me this was as severe a blow as to his own messmates; for Mr. Hellyer had been much with me, both as my clerk and because I liked his company, being a gentlemanly, sensible young man. I also felt that the motive which urged him to strip and swim after the bird he had shot, was probably a desire to get it for my collection. Being alone and finding the water cold, he may have become alarmed, then accidentally entangling his legs in the sea-weed, lost his presence of mind, and by struggling hastily was only more confused. The rising tide must have considerably augmented his distress, and hastened the fatal result.” (FitzRoy’s Narratives)

Johnson Harbor in 2007 – Eward Hellyer’s final resting place (from Wikipedia Commons)

Johnson Harbor

Hellyer was buried on the shores of Johnson Cove (see Johnson Harbor located just east of Port Louis on the Falkland map). Darwin describes the somber occasion:

“Mr Hellyer was buried on a lonely & dreary headland.— The procession was a melancholy one: in front a Union jack half mast high was carried, & over the coffin the British ensign was thrown; the funeral, from its simplicity was the more solemn, & suited all the circumstances.” (Mar 5)

Rest in peace Edward Hellyer. (RJV)


Responses

  1. Mr. Edward Hellyer may be connected to James Edward Hellyer, Sr., Shipcarver of Portsmouth and London, possibly a son or brother. At least that is what we believe in our family. Russ Smith, Kansas

    • Thanks Russ! I appreciate your personal connection with history and some more information on who Hellyer was. -Rob

  2. I have corresponded with the Falkland Island residents whose property includes the headland where Hellyer is buried. I had hoped to visit the grave in 2012, but to my and the Falklanders’ great frustration, the cruise ship I was sailing on got as far as the harbor and then decided against landing.

    Can anyone shed light on how young Hellyer happened to become ship’s clerk? He was, as noted, from a family of admiralty carvers in Hampshire. And he had to have been literate. Were the families acquainted? Were they perhaps in the same parish? Would he have been recommended to Fitzgerald, and if so by whom? ‘Tis a puzzlement!

    Another puzzle is a group of rocks off of Chile dubbed “Hellyer.” Did the Beagle chart them, and did Fitzgerald name them in honor of his deceased clerk? The placement of the rocks is suggestive.

    BTW, our branch of the family believes that carvings by Hellyers include the “Nanny Witch” prow for the Cutty Sark (now at Greenwich) and a lectern in Westminster Cathedral.

    We have a genealogical tree that includes Edward. I am currently traveling, so do not have access to it. But I’ll be happy to share what we know of his ancestry later.

    Connie Hellyer of Seattle

    • Hi Connie – Thanks for the fantastic history you are able to share about Edward. I’d very much look forward to hearing more when you are able, and I see that you are right here in the Seattle area (I’m at Bellevue College). Feel free to contact me at rob(dot)viens(at)bellevuecollege(dot)edu. I look forward to hearing more. And I will look into those rocks in Chile – I strongly agree that they were named by FitzRoy. He was surveying the coast and creating maps, so it would only be natural to name new “islands” after people he knew. – Rob

      • Hi, Rob,
        Here’s a possible text for the “page” on the Funeral of Edward Hellyer. Rather than rephrase the source documents, I chose to string them together in narrative order. Okay?

        If the formatting does not come through well, let me know your parameters, and I can re format as PDF.

        I’ll copy Richard Whiting, as he has been so kind and such a terrific resource. Cheers, Connie Hellyer

        EDWARD H. HELLYER, CLERK: FAMILY BACKGROUND

        Edward Henry Hellyer was born in 1811, most likely in Portsea, Hants. His parents were James Edward Hellyer (1787-1872) and Mary Ann Kingsford (d. 1840). The couple were married in 1810 at St. Mary’s in Portsea. Son Edward Henry was the eldest of 16 named and 6 unnamed (stillborn?) children.

        — from Hellyer family archives, compiled by Dr. Robert Hill (maternal descendant)

        Edward’s father, James Edward Hellyer “. . . created a successful firm of naval carvers and gilders – James Hellyer and Sons of London and Portsmouth, continued by his sons, Frederick (1822-1906) and James (1828-81), and his grandson, James Edward Hellyer Jnr. (1846-1914). Hellyer and Son exhibited a group of seventeen carved figures on pedestals at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The firm had carved the original figurehead for the Cutty Sark and for HMS Warrior, now moored in Portsmouth. James Edward’s eldest son Edward Henry Hellyer (b.1811) was the clerk on HMS Beagle . . .”

        — Richard Whiting, Whiting family history (the Whitings being intermarried with Hellyers in the 17th and 18th centuries).

        ON THE POSITION OF SHIP’S CLERK

        “The complex job of captain’s clerk was a plum one, not unlike the position of personal assistant to a CEO. It generally went to young men who could combine an impressive array of secretarial talents with an unusually personable, sensitive nature.”

        — Peter Nichols, Evolution’s Captain (HarperCollins, 2003), p. 190.

        THE SHIP’S LOG

        [March 4, 1833]
        “Received on board the body of Mr E H Hellyer, Clerk, accidentally drowned near the ship.””

        ROBERT FITZROY, CAPTAIN

        [March 4, 1833]
        “At my return on board, I was shocked by the sad information that Mr Hellyer was drowned. He had walked about a mile along the shore of a creek near the ship, with one of the Frenchmen, who then left him* (having recollected that he would be wanted for a particular purpose). Mr Hellyer, anxious to shoot some ducks of a kind he had not before seen, walked on with his gun, saying he would return in half an hour.
        “About an hour after this, the capataz of the gauchos, Jean Simon by name, riding towards the French tents to learn the news, saw clothes, a gun, and a watch, lying by the water side; but, as no person was in sight, he thought they must have belonged to some one in the boats which were surveying, so rode on quietly; and not until another hour had elapsed, did he even casually mention to the Frenchmen what he had seen. They, of course, were instantly alarmed and hastened to the spot, with those of our party who were within reach. Some rode or ran along the shore, while others pulled in whale-boats to the fatal spot, and there, after much searching, the body was discovered under water, but so entangled by kelp that it could not be extricated without cutting away the weed. Mr Bynoe was one of those who found it, and every means that he and the French surgeon could devise for restoring animation was tried in vain. A duck was found dead in the kelp not far from the body, and his gun was lying on the beach, discharged, with which the bird had been shot.
        To me this was as severe a blow as to his own messmates; for Mr Hellyer had been much with me, both as my clerk and because I liked his company, being a gentlemanly, sensible young man. I also felt that the motive which urged him to strip and swim after the bird he had shot, was probably a desire to get it for my collection. Being alone and finding the water cold, he may have become alarmed, then accidentally entangling his legs in the sea-weed, lost his presence of mind, and by struggling hastily was only more confused. The rising tide must have considerably augmented his distress and hastened the fatal result.

        5th. This day we buried the body of our lamented young friend, on a rising ground near Johnson Cove, in sight of our ship. All the French attended the melancholy ceremony, as well as all our own party, excepting the very few who were obliged to stay on board.
        ________
        [ftn] *It was a positive order on board the Beagle, that no one should make any excursion, in such places alone. “

        — Robert Fitzroy, et al. Narrative of the surveying voyages of the His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, 3 vols, 1939 edition (Vol. 2, Proceedings of the Second Voyage, 1831-1836), pp. 272-3.

        CHARLES DARWIN (Naturalist)

        [March 4, 1833]
        “A grievous accident happened this afternoon in the death of Mr Hellyer. One of the residents brought the news that he had found some clothes & a gun on the sea coast. We made all haste to the place & in short time discovered the body, not many yards from the shore, but so entangled in the Kelp, that it was with difficulty it was disengaged . It was quite evident he had shot a bird & whilst swimming for it, the strong stalks of the sea weed had caught his legs & thus caused his death.

        “5th
        Mr Hellyer was buried on a lonely & dreary headland. The procession was a melancholy one: in front a Union jack half mast high was carried, & over the coffin the British ensign was thrown; the funeral, from its simplicity was the more solemn, & suited all the circumstances.”

        — Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary (1831-1836)
        Source: wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Apcbg/Darwin-1833

        BURIAL SITE

        “The lonely headland was almost certainly Duclos Point, south of Johnson Harbour, about a mile from where the Beagle lay at anchor. (A point marked on some maps as Grave Point is in fact a few hundred yards to the west.) Two graves . . . each surmounted by a cairn of large boulder and whale bones can be identified on Duclos Point . . . Neither of the two graves bears any sort of headstone or inscription, so it is impossible to know which is the grave of Darwin’s shipmate.”

        — Patrick Armstrong, Darwin’s Desolate Islands: A Naturalist in the Falklands, 1833 and 1834 (Chippenham: Picton Publishing, 1992), p. 28. [Photos of the two graves appear on p. 29.]

        HELLYER ROCKS (ROCAS HELLYER)

        [Dec. 29, 1834]
        “While examining the coast towards Cape Taytao* . . ., we found a very dangerous patch of rocks,** five miles from the nearest land; there are soundings near them . . .
        _______
        [ftn] * Cape Taytao is a high bold promontory.
        [ftn] ** Hellyer Rocks.”

        — Fitzroy (ibid.), p. 372.

        “Rocas Hellyer Rocks is drawn on the National Geospacial Agency (NGA) Map. Rocas Hellyer is located in the Aisen Del General Carlos Ibanez Del Campo Area of the Country of Chile. The Rocks is located at the latitude and longitude coordinates of -46.066667 [lat.] and -75.216667 [long.] . . . This could be one of the best fishing or outdoors adventure locations in the regions of Americas/Western Europe. . . . “

        — MyFishMaps.com

        [Compiled by Constance A. Hellyer, Feb. 14, 2014]

      • Hi Rob. In the “page” transmitted earlier today, I should have identified Robert Hill (and myself) as “descendants of Edward’s younger brother Frederick”
        Cheers, Connie Hellyer of Seattle
        (FYI, I returned to my maiden name after a somewhat complicated marital history; also in tribute to my father, who had no sons.)

  3. Hi Connie, I think I remember a Connie Hellyer as one of the three daughters in “At the Forest’s Edge.” If so, then we are about fourth cousins, as I am descended from James Herbert Hellyer of Baltimore. I would be interested in the family tree if would share.

    Sincerely, Russ Smith of Kansas

    • Right you are–my father David Hellyer, who thought of himself as a “congenital naturalist,” became a pediatrician (homo sapiens being a particularly interesting product of evolution) and ultimately, with his wife, founded the wildlife park Northwest Trek in Washington state.
      I hadn’t known about the James Herbert Hellyer branch of the family, so would be delighted to swap or meld family trees!
      I’m currently traveling, so separated from family documents. Let’s correspond later. Cheers, Connie Hellyer (file)

    • Hi Russ,
      I probably can’t help unless you trace back to Edward’s brother Frederick. There were a lot of other sibs—sixteen named by our account. But we have only traced the Frederick line, especially as descended from his grandson Frederick and wife Georgianna Tirrell (originally of Boston). Frederick and family were tea merchants, spending considerable time in the Orient, where there was a Hellyer Tea Company. Their American base was Chicago. Does any of this ring a bell? Otherwise, I’m in ignorance.
      Best wishes, Connie Hellyer (Seattle)

    • I’ve been researching James Herbert Hartley-Hellyer. I’m having trouble posting.

  4. Rob and Connie,

    I’ve dug a little deeper. It looks like Edward (Henry) Hellyer, chr. May 21, 1811, was the first child of James Edward Hellyer, chr. June 6, 1786. There may have been as many as 15 younger siblings, which could make for a lot of nieces and nephews. I’m going to guess that the Hellyer who did the figurehead on the Cutty Sark was Frederick, a brother, born 1821.

    Best regards,

    Russ Smith

    • Thanks again Russ and Connie!
      The Beagle will be heading back to the Falklands for the last time next month. If either of you would like to do a guest post on Edward, I’d be happy to post it to the site when he is there. – Rob

      • Yes, your info on Edward Hellyer’s birth year and his father’s accords with my family records. I can add that their home seems to have been Portsea. At least that is given as the birthplace of both his parents ( mother Mary Anne Kingsworth married 1810-died 1840) and his next-born sib 1 year later. I have 15 named sibs in all including my ancestor #9 Frederick born 1821. Plus, at the end, 6 unnamed. Poor woman must have died of exhaustion! I can draft Edward entry for Falklands. Cheers, Connie Hellyer Sent from my iPhone

        >

  5. Here is the account of Edward Hellyer’s death and burial provided in late 2010 by the undersigned Falklands Island historian:

    Thank you very much for your email enquiry regarding the seaman named Hellyer.  From our burial records I can tell you that he is buried at Duclos Point at Port Louis, which is south of Johnsons Harbour – about a mile where the Beagle was at anchor.

    From our files, we can determine that Mr. Hellyer was Captain Fitzroy’s clerk was indeed drowned.  We don’t know the exact details of what happened to Mr. Hellyer, but with excerpts from Patrick Armstrong’s book ‘Darwin’s Desolate Islands’ which includes Capt. Fitzroy and Darwin himself, it appears that Mr. Hellyer had been shooting duck specimens that had not been seen before, in the company of a French man (whose name is unknown).  The French man left Mr. Hellyer, as he had already collected what he wanted.

    Some time later, a gaucho who had been riding past the site where Mr. Hellyer had been, saw clothes, a gun and a watch lying by the water side, but no person in sight.  Apparently he did not think this out of the ordinary, and did not mention this to the other Frenchmen till almost an hour.  By this stage there was much concern, and a search party set out to the area.  Mr.  Hellyer’s body was found entangled in the kelp – so much so that he could not be extricated without cutting the weed away.  A duck was found not far from the body, and his gun was also nearby, having been discharged.   

    The ships log shows at 6.00 pm there was “received on board the body of Mr E H Hellyer, Clerk, accidentally drowned near the ship”.  The following day the interment took place.

    In 1999, under the instruction of the Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust a wooden cross with a small plaque was prepared for this site.

    —Sian Davies
    falklands.museum@horizon.co.fk

  6. The Hellyers were a family long established in Por(t)chester, Hampshire and intermarried with the Whitings over the generations. Herewith an extract from our family history volume:-

    Jane Whiting L.27
    b. 1800
    d. 1880 26th May buried 29th May at Porchester.
    Unmarried.

    1850 secured creditor with title deeds to two cottages in Diamond Street in respect of a loan of £160 @ 5% renewed in 1849 on the bankruptcy of William John Law.
    Jane lived at Landport Place, Portsea, before removing to Cosham shortly before her death.
    1878 9th March – in her will she bequeathed one half of her property to her nephew George Curtis, corn merchant and mentioned her `two friends’ the Misses Hellyer of Hawthorn Cottage, Cosham, who were related by both blood and marriage to her. They were Maria and Emma, the daughters of James Edward Hellyer [1787-1872] who created a successful firm of naval carvers and gilders – James Hellyer and Sons of London and Portsmouth, continued by his sons, Frederick (1822-1906) and James (1828-81), and his grandson, James Edward Hellyer Jnr. (1846-1914). Hellyer and Son exhibited a group of seventeen carved figures on pedestals at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The firm had carved the original figurehead for the Cutty Sark and for HMS Warrior, now moored in Portsmouth. James Edward’s eldest son Edward Henry Hellyer (b.1811) was the clerk on HMS Beagle whose death by drowning whilst duck shooting in the Falklands in 1833 is recorded by Darwin in his journal. Jane chose to be buried in the churchyard of her ancestors, within the walls of Porchester castle.

    • Thank you for this information re the Whiting connection, with details on the carving Hellyers. Much is new to me, and will be shared with cousins. This website is opening doors! Cheers, Connie Hellyer of Seattle

  7. Hello All!

    I’d like to go back to Connie’s earlier question of how did Edward Hellyer become a ship’s clerk? My impression is that his father, James Edward Hellyer, wasn’t the only shipcarver among his brothers, which also included several “clean work” professionals, which also would be the case for Edward’s generation with next brother William as a lawyer, along with Frederick and James. Also not mentioned is was this Edward’s first voyage? 20 was not young in those days.

    As to family status, we can note the presence of Hellyer and Son and later Hellyer and Sons from about 1850 whe James Edward was 63. But where was he employed in the 40 years from his marriage in 1810 to 1850. This might have some bearing on why and how Edward went to sea around 1832.

    Finally, an ordinary Google search turns up a personal website of a Will Kemp (willkemp.com) with a signficant Hellyer page. He seems to be a descendent of Frederick son of Frederick, which would make him a second cousin, perhaps twice removed of Connie. I couldn’t find a contact email on the website, but perhaps someone else could.

    Best wishes,

    Russ Smith, formerly of California

    • Yes, Will Kemp is a cousin, 2d cousin once removed, through his mother and grandmother. We share great grandparents Frederick Hellyer (1849-1915) and Georgianna Tirrell (1848-1914). This branch of the Hellyers was in the tea business in the Orient until World War II . I know of Will but mainly through his maternal uncle Dr. Robert H. Hill now of Vancouver Canada. I appreciate your interest, as already you have uncovered information new to me.
      More later.
      Connie Hellyer

    • The website of Will Kemp takes the Hellyer tree back to Philip H. born 1715. Our family history provides information on Philip & earlier Hellyers including elements of their social history in Portchester. If any one individual is interested l could e-mail a copy of our history (extensive) when a Hellyer name search would highlight such information within. Some cousins of mine met a Canadian Hellyer (squadron leader RCAF?) when he came to the UK in search of his roots in the ?1950’s.
      Richard Whiting

      • Thank you, Richard!  This is fabulous.  If you’d transmit the history to me, I’ll take responsibility for disseminating among the Frederick descendants (which include a PhD historian).   Re Canadian Hellyers, the only one I know is  my cousin Dr. Robert Hill who was educated in England (Winchester), and ended up practicing medicine in Vancouver, Canada.  However, I recall that there was a Hellyer in the Canadian government at some point, which may be your visiting aviator’s branch. You are splendid to share your (and our) family history.   Connie Hellyer, Seattle e-mail: conniepearl@yahoo.com [to Rob Veins: you have my permission to share with Richard]

  8. Richard,

    I, too, would be pleased if you would shared the family history with me. My e-mail is In the Hellyer lineage I am great great grandson of James Hellyer, the other son in Hellyer and Sons. The family genealogist was my late mother, Ruth Smith, who is cited on the Will Kemp website. My mother was only able to get back as far as Philip Hellyer, although she does mention a brother William who may have been established enough to have a recorded will. As you can tell by my earlier comments, I have an interest in social history, especially related to coasts and ports.

    Connie, my calculation is that we are fourth cousins, give or take. My mother and your parents were in contact, although I think it was after your father’s both was published. Her visit to Northwest Trek was in 1986 while her visit to the cemetery in Cosham was in 1974. There is evidence of family correspondence with Hampshire as late as the early 1950s. Pretty amazing since our immigrant ancestor left when he was 15.

    Best wishes.

    Russ Smith

    • Russ–I hadn’t known of your parent’s contact with my parents and mother’s visit to Northwest Trek. Perhaps the fact that a Hellyer descended from a sibling of the Beagle clerk founded a notable wildlife Park should be part of the story . . . Certainly my father David T. Hellyer, MD was an ardent naturalist as well as pediatrician, and pleased by the Beagle connection. Northwest Trek wildlife park in Washington state was conceived by him and the land gifted by him for that purpose. Would the Webmaster like more??! Cheers, Connie Hellyer, Seattle

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  9. Have sent to Connie the relevant section of our recorded family history containing Hellyer information, together with links and leads which will enable connection with pre-Portsea Hellyers. She will share with interested relatives.
    Richard

  10. I can tell you how exciting it is to see the Beagle Project be a catalyst for bringing together several members of the Hellyer family and the shared history that you all have. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and the uncovering of the story. Connie – thank you for the material for a guest blog. I will plan to put it up as a post (with your suggested additions) in March when Darwin and the Beagle are back in the Falklands.

    As a parent of a couple of young children in the Seattle area, i am very familiar with NW Trek and the story of its founding. Ironically though – I never put 2 and 2 together and made the connection with Edward. What a great connection between 2 naturalists separated by over a century!

    Thanks also Richard and Russ for all the conversation – it has been very interesting to read all your shared knowledge. Please feel free to continue to use the site to share info. If any of you would like to contact me directly, I can be reached at rob(dot)viens(at)bellevuecollege(dot)edu.

    If there is anything else that you think I should add to the post between now and March, please let me know.

    Rob

    • Hello Rob,
      I am Russ Smith’s sister. Not sure how all this blog stuff works, whether to respond to you or Connie or Russ. Our brother Roger, in California, has about 50 pages of Mom’s notes and research on the Hellyers; he is planning on scanning the documents due to fading (even without being exposed to light). As part of that research she found and met Connie’s parents. They corresponded after her visit to Northwest Trek, and after Mom passed in 2008 I wrote to them to let them know and Mrs. Hellyer wrote back a very beautiful letter.
      Best Regards from western Colorado,
      Katherine Colwell

      • Hi Catherine,
        Another Hellyer heard from!
        I think your puzzlement about the Beagle website comes from not knowing that it is about the Beagle voyage, not the Hellyer family. Our great-something uncle Edward Hellyer only appears in the log for a couple of days. So my sense is that It’s not really fair to the professor who started the Beagle site to pile on with a lot of Hellyer history not germane to the Beagle voyage. I don’t know what to suggest instead. Maybe we Hellyers can compile a group e-mail list for exchanging information? Or all agree to input what we know into an accessible database like Family Tree? And/or is one of us (not me) up for creating some sort of Hellyer website or blog? Whatever, I suggest we spare the Beagle site compiler the minutiae of Hellyer genealogy! Feel free to share with me, though, as I am currently updating a tree constructed by Rob Hill of the Frederick line. My e-mail is conniepearl @yahoo.com. Cheers, Connie Hellyer of Seattle


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