NELSON ENTERTAINS FAMILY HISTORIANS
Volunteers from the Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth were the guest entertainers at the October meeting of the Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group. Debra Taylor, Bertie Patterson and Sue and Ivan Pearce set up a mini exhibition of pictures and artefacts about Lord Nelson, including a cat-o'-nine-tails whip and a bosun’s whistle, and Sue Pearce gave us a colourful account of Nelson’s life.
We learnt that Nelson went to sea at the age of twelve on his uncle’s ship, and that he suffered from chronic seasickness all his life, and was scared of heights – not helpful attributes for a sailor boy – and that he lied about his age in order to join an expedition to the Arctic to look for the north West Passage.
We heard about his chaotic love-life, how he proposed elopement to Mary Simpson in Quebec, married Fanny Nisbet in the Caribbean, and pursued a scandalous affair with Lady Hamilton, wife of the British Ambassador in Naples.
Returning home to Norfolk in 1800 he was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Great Yarmouth, and, on being asked for his right hand to take the oath, he replied “That is in Tenerife!”: his arm had been shot off by a musket ball and amputated – without anaesthetic of course (it was said that a good surgeon could do an amputation in 1½ minutes).
In 1794 Nelson had lost an eye at the Siege of Calvi, and it was at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 that Nelson famously put his telescope to his blind eye, claiming that he could not see his commander’s signal to retreat – the origin of the saying “to turn a blind eye”.
The evening concluded with a hilarious dialogue sketch performed by Ivan and Bertie.
It is hoped that a group visit to the museum might be arranged sometime next year.