Clarence, Henry and Sidney Barcham

When researching family history it is remarkable what turns up in the most unexpected places. By family lore it was known that Clarence, Henry and Sidney Barcham, sons of Ann (née Edwards) and William Ayres Barcham, became mariners, but only Henry’s career was known until this year when Chris Farrow visited the Scilly Isles. At the Isles of Scilly Museum on St Mary’s, Chris had a chance meeting with Roger Banfield, a local genealogist who is a descendant of Francis Banfield, owner of the three-mast barque Chieftain, a tea-clipper built by Thomas Edwards and commanded by Anne’s brother Richard Edwards. Roger had a transcript of the 1851 Crew List of the Chieftain which named Clarence and Sidney Burcham [sic] indentured to their maternal uncle. [previously, Chris had assumed that the brothers had sailed to China with their paternal uncle, Robert Barcham, aboard the Salamander. The Chieftain made a number of voyages to China from 1847 until May 1855, when she was dismasted and badly damaged in a typhoon off Pollilo Island, Phillipines, while sailing from Shanghai. She put into Hong Kong for repairs, then sailed to Rotterdam where the ship was condemned and sold for scrap.


It is known that Captain Richard Edwards became master of coastal trading ships, sailing from the Scilly Isles. Clarence and Sidney may have joined another ship in Hong Kong, because it is known that Clarence was murdered by a ship’s cook on 22 November 1866, and buried on Formosa by his brother. It is not known if Clarence received his Master’s Certificate of Competence because the surviving Lloyd’s Captain’s Register lists only those who were in active service in 1859. The Mercantile Navy List for 1861 shows that Sidney gained his Second Mate’s Certificate of Competence in London in 1855, presumably before sailing on the Chieftain’s last voyage to Shanghai. Since he is not listed in Lloyd’s Captain’s Register, Sidney probably left the merchant navy in about 1865, and settled in Australia before migrating from Melbourne to Dunedin as a steerage passenger aboard the South Australia in December 1865.


Meanwhile Clarence and Sidney’s brother, Henry, had married Jane Richards in 1854 and settled in Portland, Victoria. This year, Chris visited the tiny, picturesque  Zennor Church Village, near St Ives on the north coast of Cornwall, where Jane’s father had been a shoemaker before he and his large family sailed to Australia aboard the Nestor in 1854. Sidney was probably going to visit Henry and Jane in Melbourne when he died aboard the Te Anau on 14 July 1882, aged 48.