A Pretty Little Boy

Found May 1873, off Scottish coast, near Dundee.

In a soda-water bottle, corked and sealed with wax, inside an 11ft shark:

On board the Beautiful Star, Sunday, 1st September, 1872.
We have cross’d the line, and all’s well. Last night the Captain’s lady had a pretty little boy.
“Heaven bless the little stranger,
Rock’d on the cradle of the deep;
Save it, Lord, from every danger,
The angels bright their watch will keep.
Oh, gently soothe its tender years,
And so allay a parent’s fears—
A father’s love, a mother’s joy;
May all that’s good attend their boy.”
ANNETTE GORDON.

The 11ft shark was one of three caught within the space of a few weeks by Scottish fisherman. The shark’s carcass was presented to the Dundee Museum, and opened in front of a large crowd. Inside were found parts of cod, dogfish and seal, a man’s bonnet, and a soda-bottle containing a note written “in a lady’s neat hand”. The bottle was smashed open, and the note was read aloud to the spectators, who took pieces of the broken bottle as souvenirs.

The Beautiful Star was an Aberdeen-built clipper that sailed between Britain and Australasia. Enquiries found the ship in Lyttelton, New Zealand, where a Captain Bilton confirmed that the captain in command in 1872 had his wife on board, and “she was confined as stated”.

[Huddersfield Chronicle, 21 February 1873]

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