William JEFFREY (?-1840) - Mariner

We don't know anything about William JEFFREY's life or career prior to the birth of his son in 1837 when he was descrbed as the Captain of the Lady Grant.

Below are some transcriptions in chonrological order of the exploits of the ship the Lady Grant


There were three new opium clippers in 1835. These were the brig Lady Grant, of 239 tons; the barque Sir Herbert Compton of 346 tons, and the barque Cowasjee Family, of 431 tons.

from The Opium Clippers by Barry LUBBOCK, 1933, p.118



Following are two accounts of the attack of the pirates on the Lady Grant, opium runner, in 1836

It appears that the Lady Grant was attacked on the 2nd February by no less than five Malay praos off Pulo Jarra. The praos were observed standing out from the Sambelangs and as the wind fell light they lowered their sails and pulled towards the Lady Grant. On observing their approach Captain Jeffrey fired at them when they hoisted the black flag and redoubled their exertions to get at the schooner. She, however, taking advantage of a light breeze that then sprung up, did not await their onset, but glided away and left them, in the darkness of the evening, out of sight. The moon soon thereafter rose, when the wind died away and left the clipper again to the mercy of the pirates, or rather to the defensive resources of her crew. Happid [sic] for the opium under-writers these were not foun [sic] wanting and her able Commander most judiciously determined on coming to an anchor with a spring on his cable. About ten o clock the praos were observed right a-head pulling quietly but eagerly for the schooner. A small piece on the forecastle was immediately fired at them on which they yelled, beat their tom-toms and continued pulling towards the schoone.r Captain Jeffrey in the meantime by the assistance of the spring on his cable, had brought the Lady Grant's broadside to bear on them and kept up a constant, and from the result, evidently a well directed fire, the guns being ably served by the officers and six or seven British seamen shipped as Seacunnies. The largest prao came on in advance: this vessel, Captain Jeffrey says, was nearly as large as the Lady Grant, and so full of men that it is supposed it was the intention of the pirates to carry the clipper by a coup de main on boarding from her. They had in this instance miscalculated, for being now within pistol shot the rounds of grape and cannister from the Lady Grant drove them from their sweeps to take shelter below, and their vessel was allowed to drift away with the tide. Before daylight the Lady Grant had weighed and made sail to an incrersing[sic] breeze ,and nothing more was seen of the pirates.



The clipper, Lady Grant, captain Jeffrey during the last month was attacked in the straits of Malacca by five Malay prahus. During the afternoon the prahus had been seen in chase but the wind had carried the brig quite out of their reach. At night, however, it fell calm again and at midnight when all were on watch, the pirates were discovered very near, coming down upon the clipper. Captain Jeffrey immediately opened fire upon them but they continued to close in with the brig till they were distant only half a cable's length, when several well directed "broadsides" of grape and canister disconcerted them, and finally compelled them to haul off. Had they not been it perfect readiness on board the Lady Grant to receive the pirates, it is almost certain that she must have been boarded, and the news of her fate been brought us by other means. So in another instance a year ago, a brig was attacked on her passage from Singapore to Malacca by several piratical boats, and though resistance was intended, yet it was believed by those on board that she escaped only in consequence of a freshening breeze.

From The Chinese Repository By Elijah Coleman Bridgman and Samuel Wells Williams, Canton, 1836.



The Lady Grant in coming up the river ran down the dak boat near Hooghly Point and the crew were only saved by getting into the boat of the Lady Grant which was towing astern and was cut away on the accident occurring On breasting the Bishop's College the Lady Grant grounded on the tail of the Sumatra sand and has been obliged to go into dock in consequence



We have been favoured with the perusal of a letter from Capt. Jeffrey of the Lady Grant, relating the melancholy manner in which Mr. Plaxton his chief officer met his death.-Mr. Plaxton dined on the 6th of this month on board the Falcon, and one of the party having proposed to go on shore to shoot at a mark, Mr. Plaxton called on board the Lady Grant, to get one of her muskets. One of the Seacunnies accord- ingly handed one up from the gun-room to Mr. Page, chief officer of the Waldemar,Fix this text who was not aware of its being loaded. It is not certain whether Mr. Pago touched the trigger or not, but the gun went off, and the shot passed through Mr. Plaxton's body, who exclaimed : Oh my God ! and instantly expired. At an inquest held on the body, Captain Crockett, foreman, the jury returned a verdict of " Accidental death," and an account of the unfortunate occurrence has been forwarded to H. .M. Chief Superintendent, Sir George Robinson.

-Singapore Free Press, March 1836.
quoted in The Sydney Herald, NSW, Monday 19 September 1836

1839, June

The following is an extract of a letter lately received by the firm of Messrs. Ramsay and Young, of Sydney, from their correspondents at Batavia : -

We have received accounts from China to the 11th May, by the Lady Grant, passed Anjer yesterday for Bombay, whence you will probably receive them before this comes to hand. Up to 2nd May, 15,500 chests of opium had been delivered. It was supposed, however, that the article would not be burned, the whole being regularly weighed, classed, and warehoused with great care. A recent proclamation of the High Commissioner of the Chinese Government contains the following paragraphs :-" It appears that the English Superintendent Elliot, the American Superintending officer Snow, and the Dutch Superintending officer Van Basel, have presented addresses, requesting that they all should return home at the head of the people, and the vessels of their several nations."
After then a full completion of the present deliveries, let it be even as requested. It shall be left to you entirely to return to your countries. You will not be allowed to make pretexts for procrastinating and delaying. And after you have thus returned, you will not be allowed to come agaom. Let there be no turning backwards and forwards, no inconstancy, whereby investigation and proceedings thereon will be involved," and closing with the following threat. " All you foreigners of every nation, should you not come hither, then the matter rests ; but should you come to the territory of the Celestial Court, be you foreigners of any country whatsoever, so often as Opium is brought, in all case in accordance with the new law, the parties shall be capitally executed, and the property entirely confiscated. Say not that it was not told beforehand."
This measure was considered almost tantamount to closing the Port against foreign trade and it was thought that hardly any foreigners would feel inclined to peril their lives by remaining there under the new law, and that they would probably all leave with Captain Elliott on completing the delivery of the Opium. On the other hand, some hopes were entertained that a change of measures would take place, and that at least the vessels now in China would obtain cargoes.

We remain, sirs,
Your most obedient servants,
Thompson Roberts & Co.

Batavia, June 21.

1839, September

3. From a later 1843 condemnation of the trade in Parliament

A letter from a merchant at Bombay to a firm in London, dated December 31, 1839, contains these passages:— The opium trade is carrying on with the greatest vigour, and enormous prices are being realized. We have seen a letter from an officer of the Lady Grant, a clipper that left this in September with about 700 chests of opium. She was leaving Singapore with twelve guns, and a crew of fifty-five men, for the coast of China.

from HANSARD, April 1843 → Commons Sitting
Speech of Lord Ashley (later Lord Shaftesbury) calling for the Suppression of the trade
Link definitely worth reading: Link to document

1840, January

. . .

Letters received from China by the Thomas Coutts state, that notwithstanding the pending warlike preparations between China and England, the smuggling of opium was freely carried on round the Eastern coast. The notorious opium clipper the Lady Grant had arrived in Tongkoo Roads on the 13th January, ready to proceed on that passage, and was expected to be absent at least one month in the channels of the various islands getting rid of the drug. The quantity on board this clipper was valued at 100,000l. It appears that high wages are given to those who enter the trade, and the agreement between the commanders and their men are only verbal. The Lady Grant was stated to be "armed up to the teeth," mounting fourteen guns, worked by Europeans, besides a full supply of all kinds of missiles , and therefore feared little from the Mandarin junks. Some of the men on board had expressed confident expectations of "obtaining some Chinamen's tails" (excellent for making watch-guards) in a day or two. This gives an idea in what estimation the courage of the natives of the Celestial Empire is held by English seamen. - Courier.

From The SPECTATOR for the week ending Saturday, June 13th, 1840, Vol. 13, No.624

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