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Papers of Commander George Walker, privateer


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Collection Archive
Gallery locationNot on display

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Biographical details George Walker served in the Dutch navy during his youth, and later owned a merchant ship. Between 1739 and 1742 he patrolled the Carolina coast on behalf of the colonial American government in the WILLIAM against Spanish privateers. In 1744-1745 he commanded two private ships of war and, although taken prisoner from the MARS in January 1745, he captured five French ships and sank another in the BOSCAWEN. His conduct led a London syndicate to offer him the command of a squadron of privateers – the KING GEORGE, the PRINCE FREDERICK, DUKE and PRINCESS AMELIA, collectively known as 'the Royal Family' – which was commissioned to attack French and Spanish cargo ships in the Atlantic. The 'Royal Family' undertook two eight month cruises, from April 1746 - March 1747 and Jul 1747 - April 1748, capturing £400,000 worth of prizes, including the 70 gun Spanish GLORIOSO. Walker then became involved with the Society of the Free British Fishery, set up by Royal Charter in 1750, and carried out surveys of the Scottish coast on their behalf. He also appears to have spent time on the Isle of Arran, and leased property in Lamlash. Walker and his crews struggled to reclaim their expenses and share of the prizes from the Royal Family’s owners, and some of the sailors filed a bill in Chancery against the owners in 1749. In the same year Walker applied to the owners for an advance from the sums owed to him, in order to finance his fishery concerns, and signed a bond assigning his share of the interest on the prize money and money he had advanced to the officers and crew to the owners as a surety. Walker was imprisoned in 1756 for a debt linked to this loan at the suit of two of the owner, William Belchier and Israel Jalabert, and was declared bankrupt in 1757, although he remained in prison until 1761 as the owners were able to prevent him obtaining a certificate of bankruptcy: this led to an enquiry in the House of Commons in 1759. An anonymous account of Walker, 'The Voyages and Cruises of Commodore Walker', was published in 1760, and appears to have been written by someone who accompanied Walker on the majority of his cruises (a copy of a 1928 edition is available in the Caird Library's printed book collections). Walker died in 1777. The Royal Family's crews and the heirs were still trying to reclaim their share of the Royal Family's prizes into the early nineteenth century until the matter was dropped on technical grounds in 1810.
Description Letter book of George Walker and papers relating to the distribution of the prize money from the mid eighteenth century privateer squadron the 'Royal Family'.
Date made 1746-1842

Finding Reference WLK
Catalogue section Personal collections
Creator Walker, George
Credit On loan to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, from a private lender
Extent 0.02 linear metres
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