Lieut. John Irving, R.N. of H.M.S. “Terror,” in Sir John Franklin’s Last Expedition to the Arctic Regions: A Memorial Sketch with Letters

[Arctonauts note] This is the chaptered version of the book, for the full version go here. For the letters only, go here.

Benjamin Bell, F.R.C.S.E.

Edinburgh: David Douglas

Prefatory Note.

It has occurred to a few friends of the late Lieutenant John Irving, R.N., whose remains were recently interred with Naval honours and much public sympathy, in the Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh, that a brief yet reliable memoir of the deceased might be acceptable to many of his countrymen. The circumstance that he was the only individual of Sir John Franklin’s Expedition whose identity has been proved,—an Expedition the history and results of which, although in many respects successful and glorious, are still veiled in much mystery,—invests his name with a peculiar interest, and seems to justify this endeavour to draw attention to a character of rare excellence, which, unless he had thus become, in some measure, a representative man, would have been allowed to pass into oblivion without special notice.

The present Editor having been requested by Major-General Irving to undertake this office of friendship, has much satisfaction in doing his best. A series of letters from the deceased to his early friend and messmate, the present William E. Malcolm, Esq. of Burnfoot, and another series addressed to his sister-in-law, Mrs. L. H. Irving, have greatly facilitated the task. Much obligation is also felt to C. R. Markham, Esq., C.B., Secretary to the Royal Geographical Society, for several communications which will be more particularly acknowledged afterwards.

The Record discovered by Sir L. M’Clintock, introduced at p. 136, has been photographed from the original for this publication by Mr. W. Griggs, London, through the courtesy of the authorities.

EDINBURGH, May 1881.



Birth—Parentage—Colonel Lewis Hay—Mrs. Irving—At New Academy, Edinburgh—Royal Naval College, Portsmouth—Medal in mathematics—His brothers and sister—Enters the Navy in 1830—The “Cordelia”—The “Belvidera”—Mr. W. E. Malcolm, Mr. George Kingston, his shipmates, 1


Correspondence with W. E. Malcolm—Idea of leaving Navy—Joins H.M.S. “Edinburgh”—His shipmates described—Vourla— Malta— The Chaplain—Portsea—Passes as mate—At home—Exeter—London—Bridport—Returns to his ship—Serious reflections—Egina—Athens—Boat upset in a squall—Exertions in rescuing the crew—Zante—Malta—Ascent of Mount Etna—Vourla—Sir G. Clerk, Bart.—Rev. L. H. Irving—Self-condemnation—Portsmouth—Ship paid off, 12


Visit to Cambridge—London—Voyage to Scotland—Visits his brother Lewis—Benefit derived—Rev. H. Melville —Visit to Glendoick—Lockhart’s Life of Scott—Severe weather in spring 1837—Purpose of leaving the service and settling in New South Wales—Letter from Greenock—Ship “Portland” off Greenock—Plans and purposes—Arrangements on board, 47


Letter from New South Wales—Sympathy with his friend in affliction—Account of the voyage—Procedure on landing—Arrangements for his brother—Robbed in the bush—Goulbourn—Rev. Mr. Hamilton—Description of the country and natives—Kangaroo-hunting—Hopeful state of mind—Mr. Waugh—Severe illness—Feels an occasional yearning after the sea, 62


Again at home in July 1843, after an absence of six years— Explanation—The Disruption of the Church of Scotland —Appointed to H.M.S. “Volage” as Lieutenant—Old reminiscences—Account of his new messmates—Cork —Bantry Bay—Reference to the troubles in Ireland— Duke of Wellington—Captain Hope of Carriden— Derrynane—Daniel O’Connell—State of public mind—Accident to the ship—Captain Dundas, his former Captain—The Irish State Trials—Mayor of Waterford—Berehaven described, 74


Appointed to H.M.S. “Excellent”—Life at Portsmouth— Change in Naval warfare—Thinks of Arctic Expedition —Appointed to H.M.S. “Terror”—Short visit to Scotland—Thoughts suggested by his new destination —Greenhithe—Steam power provided for “Terror” and “Erebus”—Account of the preparations—Stromness—Whalefish Island—Natives—Last letter, 110


History of facts ascertained by Sir L. M‘Clintock—Mr. Markham’s account of the Schwatka discoveries, 131


Officers of H.M.S. “Terror”—Probable course of events after abandoning the ships in April 1848—List of officers who landed at Point Victory—Summary of dates—Concluding remarks by Editor, 149


  1. Account of the Public Funeral, January 7, 1881, 161
  2. Testimonials, 166

List of Illustrations

Photograph of the Medal found near Cape Victory—Frontispiece.

Sketch by Lieutenant Irving, explanatory of the application of steam power to the “Erebus” and “Terror,” 119

Ditto, a native in his Canoe, 124

Ditto, the Ships taking in Provisions at the Whalefish Islands, 129

Photographic facsimile of the Record discovered by Sir L. M‘Clintock, 136

Map of the Arctic regions mentioned in the Memoir.

Go to: Chapter I.