The Situation of His Majesty's Packet the Lady Hobart on the 28th of June 1803
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From the Collection
The Falmouth registered Post Office packet ‘Lady Hobart’, commanded by William Dorset Fellowes was bound for England from Halifax, Nova Scotia, when, on June 26th 1803, she was attacked by a French privateering schooner which mistook her as defenceless: Fellowes opened fire and instead took the schooner. He sent her to England under a prize crew commanded by two Royal Naval lieutenants who were on board the packet as passengers, and sent off most of his prisoners, with the exception of the French captain, in Newfoundland fishing schooners which happened to be nearby. On June 28th, in fog, the 'Lady Hobart' hit an iceberg at speed and rapidly sank: all those on board, among whom were female passengers and Fellowes' wife, took to the cutter and jolly boat, and survived eight days adrift before being picked up by another schooner that took them to Newfoundland. The only casualty was the captive French captain, who, under the influence of rum, reportedly killed himself by jumping overboard. Fellowes and his company later left Newfoundland in a ship taking salt fish to Oporto, but in mid-ocean transferred to an American vessel they encountered, which carried them into Bristol. Having sent a report of the loss, written in Newfoundland, to the Postmaster General, Fellows subsequently expanded it into a more public account published as a book. This watercolour depicts the immediate aftermath of the disaster, as the lifeboat and jolly boat, tethered together, drift free from the sinking ship amid huge waves that suggest shards of ice. Behind them, the ‘Lady Hobart’ lists helplessly to port in the high seas.