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Packet Surgeon’s Journals

Packet Surgeon’s Journals
The first page of the Journals

James Williamson was a Surgeon on the Packet ships operating out of Falmouth between 1828 and 1835. In all he made seventeen successive voyages across the Atlantic or into the Mediterranean. During these voyages he kept meticulous personal diaries which have been transcribed by Tony Pawlyn, Head of the Bartlett Maritime Research Centre. Tony’s article explains the background to his work.

The diaries provide a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Packet ships through the eyes of a young Scot, visiting foreign ports for the first time at much the same time as Charles Darwin was making his voyage in HMS Beagle.

James uses a number of literary devices. When he wishes something to be confidential, he spells the English words with the Greek alphabet: hardly a staggering piece of code. Tony has shown this text in [square brackets]. Then again, he occasionally lapses into (bad) Latin, especially for medical matters. Wherever possible, we have used his original spelling, in as far as we can decipher it.

The transcripts on this site are available without copyright to the general public but it would be appreciated if any quotation from them carried an acknowledgement of the work of Tony Pawlyn and the work of the Bartlett Centre.