Jack Crawford (sailor)

Jack Crawford (sailor)

known as the "Hero of Camperdown."

Crawford, born in the east end of Sunderland, was a keelman until 1786 when, aged 11 or 12, he joined the crew of the "Peggy" at South Shields as an apprentice. In 1796, he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy and served on HMS "Venerable" under Admiral Duncan, the Royal Navy Commander-in-Chief of the North Seas.

At the Battle of Camperdown (11 October 1797), "Venerable" was Admiral Duncan's flagship. During the battle, part of the "Venerable's" mast was felled, including the admiral's flag. Lowering the Admiral's personal flag was a sign of surrender, and even an unintentional fall was unacceptable. Despite being under intense gunfire, Crawford climbed the mast and nailed the colours to the top.

After the victory procession in London he was formally presented to the King and was given a government pension of £30 a year, and later a silver medal from the people of Sunderland. However, Crawford fell on hard times and drunkenness, and had to sell his medal. He became the second victim of the cholera epidemic of 1831 and was buried in an unmarked "pauper's" grave.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century interest in the 'Hero of Camperdown' was renewed, which resulted in the erection of a headstone in Holy Trinity, Sunderland churchyard in 1888. Two years later a monument was erected in Mowbray Park, opposite what is now the Civic Centre.

A pub in Monkwearmouth was named the Jack Crawford and sported a carved figure of him on the side of the building. After the pub was destroyed during World War II, the figure was removed and is now on display in the Sunderland Museum. The medal is also now in the museum.

Outside Sunderland doubt has been raised about Crawford's heroics. Nevertheless, possible evidence that Crawford was not a volunteer, that he was forced to climb the mast, or that he was drunk is ignored by the people of his hometown. One book, written by the American Sheri Holman, attracted criticism from the City's Mayor. However, local historian William Corder had already made the criticism in the 1890s; Corder thought little of Crawford. He claimed that it was reported by reliable witnesses that Crawford was "drunk, acted without orders, and should have been court-martialled". Furthermore, Corder dismissed as a "deplorable monument" what others called the "fine headstone" of 1888.


A folk song about and entitled "Jack Crawford" is frequently on British folk singer, Bob Fox's, set list.

External links

* [http://www.sunderland.gov.uk/public/editable/themes/lifelong-learning/Leaflets/Jack%20Crawford.pdf Sunderland Council Information]

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