It’s 1854, meet Orcadian Billy Botcher.

Liverpool 1854 on the quayside –

“‘Gather round, gather round all. My name is Billy Botcher. Second Mate on the Princess Rose, It’s my job to welcome you today. They’ve chosen me because I’ve got such a loud voice. I’ve been with the Hudson’s Bay Company since I was fifteen. I’m an Orcadian by birth and proud of it.”

‘What’s that?’ whispered Tom.

‘He was born in Orkney,’ replied Stag. ‘I’ve heard sailors from there called that before.’

Billy blew his whistle. ‘We’re still liftin’ and shiftin’,but since we’ve a while t’wait ‘ow ’bout I give you a little learnin’ on this beautiful lady ‘ere?’ He swung his arm out in an ostentatious arc to point to the ship behind him. ‘We ‘ave ‘ere a lovely lady of the sea. Our own Princess, the Princess Rose, beloved by all ‘er crew.’ All heads turned to the ship which towered above them. ‘Right now, you’re all spectators, but come the morrow you’ll be carried in the bosom of our dear Rose.’ Several of the single men sniggered and Billy acknowled them with a grin and a tap on the side of his nose.'”

[Taken from chapter 7, “New Beginnings on Vancouver Island”. ]

So why did I make Billy an Orcadian? It would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t spent two weeks in Stromness on Orkney Island, in Scotland, three years ago. I was wandering down the street when I stumbled across the Stromness Museum. You’ll have to take my word for it that when I visited it the museum was exhibiting lots of Hudson’s Bay Company material because its current website doesn’t seem to hold any reference to any of it. I can think of reasons why this may be so, but I’m not going to speculate here. However, when I was there I learned that the Hudson’s Bay Company used to come into port in Stromness to pick up supplies and crew to man their ships across to Canada. So when I came to write about Liverpool and the boarding of the Princess Rose in Liverpool I just knew one of the crew had to be an Orcadian from Stromness.

I hope you’ll want to read more about Billy and the trip around The Horn to Vancouver Island. In the meantime here’s a bit more about him. He’s 34 years old, has red hair and Norwegian ancestry. He has a wife and children in Dundee that he misses dreadfully. He’s always battling with the conflict between home and the sea – he loves them both.

If you want to learn more about the HBC in Stromness I recommend Sigurd Towrie’s interesting website –

Image credit:Stromness, Orkney by William Daniell (1769-1837)

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