Provided by David Carter 2018
In the 1870s, 5 Odun Road, Appledore, was home to the West family. One of the children William Henry West (born 21 May 1857) wrote some reminiscences of his early life at sea.
One of these visits in 1874 was to the Nicobar Islands…
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A large fleet of canoes approached us. We had some small arms in our ship and we prepared to ‘repel boarders’ but we soon saw that they were not hostile. We were a little nervous at first because the Viceroy of India, Lord Mayo, was assassinated a few years previously at the Andaman Islands, a group of islands near the Nicobars.
The Native ~ing canoe came alongside looking friendly so we invited him on board. He was arrayed in a white nightshirt and a silk top-hat given him by some previous visiting ship. Our Captain attended a fancy dress ball at Rangoon, and wore a soldier officer’s uniform. This he gave to the King and dressed him in it. Some of the canoes were sent ashore and they returned bringing us loads of fruit and lots of chicken and some pigs in return for the uniform. When the wind came we sailed away having as we thought cleared out all the natives who had swarmed the ship. Some hours afterwards the Steward discovered a native hiding in the Captain’s wardrobe. We were too far away to return so perforce had to bring the man home to England. He turned out to be a splendid young man. We christened him James Gladstone Nicobar. He learned to speak English in a few months and got accustomed to wear clothes. When we discovered him, he was dressed in a small pocket handkerchief,
In London he was amazed at horses, there being no animal in the Nicobars beyond pigs and dogs. At Paddington the railway engines terrified and mystified him.
My family adopted him as a boy servant. He was a source of great interest when I took him to the Bethel Sunday School.
He was able to tell us of the strictly moral life prevailing in the Nicobars, stealing and lying were forbidden and News’ and procured him a passage in a ship bound for Calcutta. The King of Car Nicobar attained that rank because he had been to Calcutta. I imagine that when James Gladstone Nicobar eventually reached Car Nicobar, he would be the new King.
[Written by William Henry West, 21 May 1857 to 12 June 1941, Waterloo Gardens, Cardiff].
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