The case of the tricky captain: part two

To recap, then; our Irishman, Swinney, escapes John Bull’s navy for a whaling ship with famous owners.

Ten months later, Swinney was dead.  We don’t know what happened, but whaling is a dangerous business; he could have been killed in a hunt, or fallen overboard in a gale, or died of scurvy in the course of the Kent‘s voyage.

After they got back to London in March 1792, the ship’s captain, Paul Pease, was met at the Enderby wharf by a lawyer,  George “Swallow” Smith.   Swallow told the captain that he had been sent by the family of Thomas Hurry, a seaman on the Kent, who had supposedly died on the voyage home. Pease told Swallow that there was no such seaman on his ship. Swallow replied that “seamen very frequently changed their names” and asked for the names of the men who had died.

Pease told him there were two, Clark and Cattlebasher, but noted that Cattlebasher’s wages had already been paid to an administrator. Swallow asked him how much Clark was owed; Pease told him it was £30, but he warned Swallow that he would only pay the wages to him if he was ‘fully empowered’ (i.e., with a power of attorney) from the man’s next of kin.

Swallow, sure enough, returned several weeks later with an elaborate explanation of his mistake; he had confused the whaling ship Kent with the Indiaman Kent, he told Pease; Hurry had died on board the other Kent, but he had the papers for Clark’s estate, signed by his brother, and asked for payment.

Pease was suspicious. Why, he asked, did Clark’s brother sign the papers the day before but not come in person? “I asked him,” Pease said, “what he belonged to?” Swallow replied that “he did not know that [Clark’s brother] belonged to any ship.”

Pease continued to question Swallow, who “expressed much dissatisfaction,” Pease said, “and said he had heard I was not a gentleman.”

Swallow and Pease agreed to meet again the following Saturday. Swallow brought another man with him, but Pease had alerted the authorities and there were two policemen waiting for them. Swallow was arrested and charged with forging a power of attorney.

At the trial at the Old Bailey Pease testified that Clark’s real name was Edward Swinney. It was true, as Swallow had told him, that “seamen very frequently changed their names,” but this worked to trap Swallow. In his defense, Swallow said, “Captain Pease said he would sell his ship from under him, but he would hang me.” Which, as it turned out, was what happened. He was found guilty of forgery and sentenced to death.