Looking for the Vicar of Bray

January 28, 2020, Off of Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

There’s no sleeping in on port days in this stateroom.  The tender hangs right outside our window and as soon as the ship anchors we hear the whine of the engines lowering the tender.  After the tenders were in the water and had made a run into Stanley the Captain came on the horn and said that it was blowing 40 (actually closer to 45) but he would attempt to get us ashore although he urged those with ambulatory issues to skip the Falklands.  The Celebrity Eclipse was also in Stanley and Captain Mercer had cunningly put Amsterdam in the lee of the much larger ship.

Suzi and I were at breakfast preparing for my “mission” in the Falklands, to find the wreck of the three masted barque “Vicar of Bray.”  The ship was built in England in 1841.  She hauled coal from England to Argentina and copper back.  With the California Gold Rush the Vicar was put into the  California service taking stampeders to the gold fields, going ‘round the horn and stopping in the Falklands along the way.  On her first visit to San Francisco her whole crew deserted and headed for the gold fields. She ended her career in the Falklands in 1880, her hull was repositioned as a jetty in Goose Green, the site of the major battle between Argentina and the UK in 1982. 

I was not sure I could get to Goose Green because with two ships in there may not have been any transport except to take the battlefield tour.  As an alternative I would go to the bank and pick up some £2 commemorative coins issued honoring the Vicar of Bray.  Apparently, she is the last remaining gold rush sailing hull that still exists and there is interest in maritime circles in both San Francisco and Whitehaven, where she was built, in using her as a basis for either a restoration or a recreation.

I was hoping to get one of the coins for me and one for my son Kevin.  It would be the perfect gift touching on three of his interests, ships, broadside ballads and religion.  Where does the music and religion fit in?  The Vicar of Bray was a satirical broadside about a priest who started as a Catholic under Henry VIII, became a Protestant when Henry did, returned to the mother church with Queen Anne and then back to Protestantism under Elizabeth.  The actual vicar was the Reverend Simon Aleyn (played in a 1937 movie by Stanley Holloway of “Get Me to the Church On Time” fame.)   If you listen to all the song’s verses, he must have been a very long-lived man because verses take you all the way to King George, the vicar becoming Presbyterian under Cromwell and back to the Church of England ending up with King George of the house of Hanover.  He held the parish for 150 years! 

But it was not to be.  At breakfast the Captain came on again.  The tender deck was awash and the harbor master had canceled both cruise ship visits.  The Celebrity ship already had 200 ashore.  They had to be rounded up and brought back the ship and no others from that ship were allowed ashore.  All I got to do in the Falklands was take a few pictures from the deck with my telephoto lens through the driving rain.  Our tenders returned with the shoreside team and we cruised out past the Eclipse and into the South Atlantic.

Two of my favorite verses of Vicar of Bray

When royal James possessed the crown, and popery came in fashion,
The penal laws I hooted down, and read the Declaration.
The Church of Rome, I found, did fit full well my constitution
And I had been a Jesuit, but for the Revolution.

And in a final switch

The illustrious House of Hanover and Protestant succession
To these I do allegiance swear – while they can hold possession.
For in my faith and loyalty I never more will falter,
And George my lawful king shall be – until the times do alter.

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