[ M. V. Portman, '"Father" of Andaman Islanders', edits and annotates a printed 'Report of the Wreck of the British Ships "Briton" and "Runnymede.'

Author: 
M. V. Portman, Officer in charge of the Andamanese.' [ Maurice Vidal Portman (1860-1935), naval officer, and ethnologist in the Andaman Islands ]
Publication details: 
Without date or place. The wreck took place on the Andaman Islands on 12 November 1844. The document postdates the cyclone there in November 1891.
£450.00
SKU: 20120

Portman's obituary in The Times, 22 February 1935, is subtitled '”Father” of Andaman Islanders', and he was 'Officer in charge of the Andamanese' from 1879 to his retirement in 1901. His ethnographic activities have received some degree of attention in recent years. He wrote two books on the Andaman Islands, presented a large collection of Andaman artefacts to the British Museum, and his many volumes of photographs and papers are scattered between a number of institutions. The present item is excessively scarce, with no copy traced on either OCLC WorldCat or on COPAC. (Portman reproduced the text, with some alterations to his editorial matter, in his 'A History of our Relations with the Andamanese', Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India; 1899.) It is 14pp., folio; unbound and stitched. In good condition, on lightly aged and worn paper, with traces of mount adhering to reverse of final leaf. In small print. The two troop ships were wrecked on the morning of 12 November 1844. The main body of the document reproduces a text first printed in the Englishman newspaper of Calcutta, in January 1845 (it is dated at the end from Calcutta, 18 January 1845): 'An account of the wrecks of the British Ships “Briton” and “Runnymede”, which were driven ashore on the Andaman Islands by a cyclone, during the night of the 11th of November, 1844. Compiled from the Journal of survivors who had sailed in the “Briton” from Sydney, New South Wales.' There is a three-paragraph introduction by Portman, in which he describes the occurrence as 'one of the most remarkable known in the history of wrecks'; and a half-page final note, signed in type 'M. V. PORTMAN. | Officer in charge of the Andamanese.' The latter brings the story up to the time of writing (a reference in the note places the document after a cyclone in November 1891). It concludes: 'The Andamanese, in their stories of the wreck, assert in their usual boasting way that they were continually fighting with the soldiers, and that they killed very many of them. They also state that, as soon as the ships were cast on shore, they went on board and fought the soldiers, driving them back, and taking every thing they wanted. | They certainly looted the wrecks after the parties had gone, taking the iron but leaving the brass, and all that is now left is, three anchors, some twisted ribs, pieces of the keel, numbers of brass bolts, and the ship's ballast, which appears as a mere heap of stones rising slightly above the level of the swamp.' From the papers of Sir J. D. Rees.