People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Hamilton, Shakespear (1807–1852)

by Sandy McGie and Xavier Reader

Princess Royal Harbour, Albany, Western Australia,by Duncan Cooper, 1854

Princess Royal Harbour, Albany, Western Australia,by Duncan Cooper, 1854

National Library of Australia, 2686136

Shakespear(e) Hamilton (c.1807-1852) was a sea captain and harbour master who emigrated to the Swan River colony in the late 1830s.[1] He was born around 1807 on the island of Nevis in the West Indies.[2] His father, the Reverend William Vaughan Hamilton (1775-1844) and his mother, Elizabeth Currie Shakespear (1775-1808), were both descendants of plantation-owning families who relied on the labour of enslaved Africans.[3] Elizabeth came from a lineage of well-known Scottish plantation owners, the Campbells of Black River Estate.[4] Shakespear’s parents lived in Europe, America and the West Indies, and married in New York in 1797.[5] Elizabeth died in Nevis, a year after Shakespear’s birth.[6] Elizabeth left a further two children: Caroline (1798-1846), and Eliza (b.1800), both of whom were baptised in Jamaica.[7]

Shakespear’s paternal grandfather Andrew Hamilton (1743-1808) was born on St Kitts and held the position of President of the General Council of the Leeward Islands.[8] His first marriage was to Hannah Vaughan (1747-1782), who died in London, aged thirty-four, after having had Shakespear’s father.[9] Hannah’s father, uncles and cousins were part of a large and prominent family of merchants, bankers, politicians, and West Indian traders.[10] Amongst their ranks were free-thinking religious dissenters and political radicals, who were keen supporters of the French and American revolutions. These same family members acquired significant financial benefit from owning and trading in enslaved people and slave estates in the West Indies, and many were later beneficiaries of slave compensation.[11] Andrew Hamilton married for a second time, in May 1787, to the heiress Martha Herbert of Montpelier Estate in Nevis.[12] The pair were renowned for leading a spendthrift life and remembered for hosting the wedding of her cousin Fanny Nisbett (1758-1831) to Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) in March 1787.[13] In 1802, William Vaughan purchased two plantations and 271 enslaved people from his father Andrew for £30,000. This was funded by a mortgage of £10,000 from the Denninstouns of Glasgow, secured by the two estates and ten bonds of £2000 each.[14] Andrew died in 1808 with financial problems; his estate appears to have been forfeited to his bank.[15]

Shakespear’s father, William Vaughan Hamilton, was more industrious. He returned to England to take holy orders, arriving in Nevis in 1805 as “a minister who went to the western colonies in return for a bounty from the King.”[16] William served as Rector, first of St. Elizabeth’s and later of St. Catherine’s Church, from 1814 to 1822.[17] In 1817 William was serving as an Assistant Judge and Justice of the Peace in St. Elizabeth. In 1818 he became Chaplain of the House of Assembly.[18]

Shakespear’s sisters married during his adolescence, but both were widowed shortly afterwards. Eliza married George Singer (1790-1821), an attorney of St. Catherine, Jamaica, in 1818.[19] They had one son, who became Captain George Singer (1819-1867) and died in Dorset.[20] Shakespear’s sister Caroline married James Daun (1794-1823) in 1820 at Spanish Town, possibly at St. Catherine’s church, aged twenty-two.[21] Her husband was a rector of the Westmorland School in Jamaica and trained as a surgeon.[22] Their son, Captain James Hamilton Daun (1821-1869), became a major, then captain, in the Indian Army.[23] Shakespear’s father William died in London in 1823. At the time of his death, William appears to have been bankrupt, as his estate was foreclosed in 1821 due to his debts. This may be why Shakespear and his siblings did not receive an inheritance.[24]

In 1818 Shakespear Hamilton sailed on the brig Kains.[25] The boat travelled from Grenada and Black River in Jamaica to London and back again, and later, from London to India.[26] His uncle, Arthur Shakespear (1788-1845) was the master of the vessel.[27] The purpose of Shakespear’s journey is unclear. Aged eleven or twelve at the time, Shakespear was old enough to receive training in seamanship under his uncle’s guidance. Alternatively, he may have been voyaging to England to receive an education, as many children of West Indian plantation owners did. Regardless, by 1827 Shakespear was captain of the ship Cambrian.[28] In 1832 he is listed as master of the brig Ann Wise of Workington, England.[29] By December 1833, he had applied for discharge on the basis of insolvency as Commander of the ship Cambrian. In this notice, a British newspaper described him as “a west India man.” At this time, his address was Hardwicke Place, Commercial Road, St George in the East.[30] This was a poor area around the London Docks comprised of boarding houses, pubs, and brothels.[31]

In 1839 Shakespear Hamilton emigrated to the fledgling Swan River (Western Australia) colony, arriving aboard the Lulworth on the 1 May 1839 which docked at Albany.[32] His port of departure is listed as Calcutta.[33] While it is unclear what encouraged Hamilton to emigrate to the Swan River, he may have had a familial or business connection from the West Indies, given that there were a number of Swan River colonists with West Indian backgrounds.[34] In October 1840 he was appointed assistant harbour master and pilot of the Princess Royal harbour, located in the small southern town of Albany. There he assisted harbour master Lieutenant Peter Belches.[35] During this period, the harbour became a major centre of activity, due largely to the development of the whaling industry in Albany.[36] In 1840, twenty-eight whaling vessels and a further fifteen colonial and international vessels entered the harbour.[37] From 1834 the government established instructions for the harbour master and pilot at Albany which compelled them to ensure local ships competed with French and American vessels and check all ships for disease.[38] In 1846, the government declared all West Australian ports free of harbour and pilot charges. Hamilton was appointed harbour master and pilot following Lieutenant Belches’ resignation.[39]

In January 1850, it was determined that a pilot house be built on a site on the north shore of Princess harbour, but by the time Hamilton died building had not commenced due to a lack of labour and materials, an ongoing problem in the colony.[40] Shakespear Hamilton died in Albany on the 7 October 1852, aged about forty-five.[41] His cause of death was identified as an infection of the bladder.[42] His funeral was officiated by Bishop J.R. Wollaston. He was buried in the Albany Memorial Park Cemetery.[43] A newspaper notice announcing his death remarked that his passing was “much regretted by all the inhabitants of Albany.”[44] There is no record of Shakespear having married or had children, and his will has not been located.  

Endnotes
[1] Shakespear Hamilton, West Australian Pioneer Index, Albany Deaths and Burials, membership.wags.org.au/membership-data/cemetary-data/Albany-deaths-and-burials; ‘Shakespear Hamilton,’ Find a Grave online database, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/232691439/shakespear-hamilton Many thanks to Georgina Arnott and Jane Lydon for advice on this entry.

[2] Shakespear Hamilton, West Australian Pioneer Index; ‘Shakespeare Hamilton,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146651193.

[3] William Vaughan Hamilton, England Select Births and Christenings 1538-1975, Family Search online database, http://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NYNQ-VFH; William Vaughan Hamilton, England Select Deaths and Burials Family Search online database, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JZIC-BP6; Elizabeth Currie Shakespear, Ancestry.com online database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349061631/facts

[4] Elizabeth’s grandfather was John Campbell of Black River. ‘David Shakespear or Shakespeare,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146634240; ‘Col. John Campbell of Black River, Jamaica,’ Clan MacFarlane and Associated Clans Genealogy, Online Database, https://www.clanmacfarlanegenealogy.info/genealogy/TNGWebsite/getperson.php?personID=I45336&tree=CC

[5] ‘Marriage of William Vaughan Hamilton and Elizabeth Curry Shakespeare,’ Trinity Parish Register, Baptisms Marriages and Burials from 1750, https://registers.trinitywallstreet.org/registers/display_detail.php?id=4678&sacr=marriage

[6] Elizabeth Currie Shakespear, Ancestry.com online database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349061631/facts?_phsrc=Gnd70&_phstart=successSource

[7] Caroline Hamilton, Ancestry.com online database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349061848/facts; Eliza Hamilton, Ancestry.com online database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349061806/facts;

Jamaica Church of England Parish register Transcripts 1664-1879, Ancestry.com online database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/discoveryui-content/view/776484:9999?ssrc=pt&tid=180029015&pid=112349061806

[8] Andrew Hamilton, Ancestry.com online database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349104649/facts

[9] Hannah Vaughan, Ancestry.com online database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349104693/story.

[10] ‘Benjamin Vaughan,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/45943; ‘Charles Vaughan,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/45942; ‘John Vaughan,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146643701; ‘Samuel Vaughan,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146643669.

[11] R.G. Thorne, “Vaughan Benjamin 1751-1835” in The History of Parliament Vol 1790-1820 Online, http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1790-1820/member/vaughan- benjamin-1751-1835.

[12] David Small, Montpellier Estate, St John Figtree, Nevis: Contrasting Legacies on a sugar plantation (2010), Seis.bristol.ac.uk/emcee/montpelierhistory.pdf p.28

[13] Small, Montpellier Estate, p.28.

[14] David Small and Christine Eickelman, ‘Hamilton House’ Charlestown, Nevis, is it connected with Alexander Hamilton’s family?’ seis.bristol.ac.uk/~emcee/hamiltonhousepdf, p.17 n.38.

[15] Small and Eickelman, ‘Hamilton House,’ p.44

[16] Gerald Fothergill, A List of Emigrant Ministers to America (London: E. Stock Publishing, 1904), p.32. https://curiosity.lib.harvard.edu/immigration-to-the-united-states-1789-1930/catalog/39-990024326490203941

[17] Frank Cundall, Historic Jamaica (London: Institute of Jamaica, 1915), p.94.

[18] David Dobson, Directory of Scottish Settlers in North America 1625-1825, vol. 3 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1984), p.77; Cundall, Historic Jamaica, p.23.

[19] Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, Jamaica (1664-1879) Family Search Online Database, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VHD1-3QL; England & Wales Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills 1384-1858, The United Kingdom National Archives, Ancestry.com.au/family- tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349061996/facts

[20] Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, Jamaica; England & Wales Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills; Captain George Singer, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349107588/story

[21] James Daun, Ancestry.com online database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349065003/facts; Dobson, Directory of Scottish Settlers in North America 1625-1825, p.43-4. The Legacies of British Slavery database incorrectly lists Catherine’s husband as ‘Dawes’, not ‘Daun’. See ‘Mrs Caroline Dawes,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146651197

[22] Dobson, Directory of Scottish Settlers in North America 1625-1825, p.43-4.

[23] Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, Jamaica (1664-1880) Family Search Online Database, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VHDI-6TCl; James Hamilton Daun Major, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180029015/person/112349065835/facts

[24] Small and Eickelman, ‘Hamilton House’, p.17.

[25] ‘Passengers Sailed,’ Royal Gazette of Jamaica, 13 June 1818, British Newspapers Archive, https://britishnewspapersarchive.co.uk/viewer/print/BL/0002834/18180613/039/0019, p.19.

[26] ‘Arthur Shakespeare,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146634242

[27] William O’Byrne, A Naval Biographical Dictionary (London: J. Murray Publishing, 1849): p.1055-56.

[28] The Constitution or Cork Advertiser, 15 November 1827, The British Newspaper Archive, https://britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001646/18271115/005/0001

[29] Cumberland Pacquet, 5 June 1832, The British Newspaper Archive, https://britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000950/18320605/010/0002, p.2; ‘Reverend William Vaughan Hamilton,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146633319, n.6.

[30] The Morning Herald London 31 December, 1833, The British Newspaper Archive, britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/searchresults/1800-01-01/B49-12- 31?basissearch=Shakespear%20hamilton&exactsearch=false&retrievecountrycountsfalse

[31] ‘History,’ St George in the East Church, www.stgite.org.uk,stgitehistory.org.ulc/history.html

[32] Shakespear Hamilton, The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, pre-1829-1988, ed. Rica Erickson (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1987); ‘Western Australian Arrivals 1829-1890 Passenger Index,’ Family History WA Online Database, http://data.fhwa.org.au/members-data/members-only-data/523-wa-passenger-arrivals-index-1839-1890

[33] ‘Western Australian Arrivals 1829-1890 Passenger Index,’ Family History WA Online Database, http://data.fhwa.org.au/members-data/members-only-data/523-wa-passenger-arrivals-index-1839-1890

[34] Several of the early emigrants to the Swan River colony were born in, or had connections to, the West Indies and slavery enterprises and ownership. See Georgina Arnott, Zoë Laidlaw and Jane Lydon, “Introduction,” Australian Journal of Biographical History (Special Issue) 6, no. 1 (2022), p.8.

[35] Donald Garden, A Panorama of the Sound from 1827 (West Melbourne: Nelson Publishing, 1977): p.77; ‘Albany Pilot Station,’ Register of Heritage Places, Heritage Council of Western Australia, 2002, http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Admin/api/file/c77cde60-85f5-dee0-cb9b-70c6fe2d8e4e, p.11.

[36]  Donald Garden, Southern Haven: A History of the Port of Albany, Western Australia (Albany: Albany Port Authority, 1978): p.22.

[37] ‘Albany Pilot Station,’ Register of Heritage Places, p.11.

[38] Garden, Southern Haven, p.22.

[39] Garden, Southern Haven, p.22; ‘Albany Pilot Station,’ Register of Heritage Places, p.11.

[40] ‘Albany Pilot Station,’ Register of Heritage Places, p.4.

[41] Albany Deaths and Burials 1816-1991, Family History WA, membership.wags.org.au/members-data/cemetery-data/Albany-deaths-and-burials; Shakespear Hamilton, Albany Cemetery Board, https://albanycemeteryboard.com.au/allambie-park/search-results/?formid=public-view&dbtable=mem_park&no=1947

[42] Shakespear Hamilton, Find A Grave Database.

[43] Shakespear Hamilton, Albany Cemetery Board.

[44] The Inquirer, 27 October 1852, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/65485001, p.2.

Original Publication

Citation details

Sandy McGie and Xavier Reader, 'Hamilton, Shakespear (1807–1852)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/hamilton-shakespear-32807/text40811, accessed 3 October 2022.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Princess Royal Harbour, Albany, Western Australia,by Duncan Cooper, 1854

Princess Royal Harbour, Albany, Western Australia,by Duncan Cooper, 1854

National Library of Australia, 2686136

More images

pic pic

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1807
Nevis, St Kitts and Nevis

Death

7 October, 1852 (aged ~ 45)
Albany, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

bladder disease

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Passenger Ship
Occupation