Richard Riley and Tristan da Cunha

          Story of Richard Riley on Tristan da Chuna.

Richard Riley was born in the parish of St. John's at Wapping in London England about 1793 and died on the 25th March 1868. He was buried in the parish of St. Peter's, Mossel Bay Cape, South Africa.

Richard married Sarah Bassett-Snipe on Tristan da Cunah. Sarah was born about 1804 at St. Helena she was buried the same place as Richard on 14th October 1884.

They were formally married by mutural consent on Tristan da Cunha about 1827, and later at a cermony on 6th January 1852 at Tristan.

Riley saw service in the Royal Navy aboard the "Minotaur" "Boy 3rd class" which mean he was under 15 years of age and earned a limit of seven British pounds per annum.  He received the Naval General Service (NGS) Medal, and then sailed as a cook on a small sloop from London on an unsuccessful sealing expedition to the Pacific.  Before the voyal was completed the vessel was seized by an army Argentinian Repudlican cruised off South America. He was forced to serve as a dragoon in the army of Beunos Airies.
Adventually he escaping on the "Sarah" only to be wrecked on Tristan da Cunha in December 1820.

Augustus Earle - artist, world traveller, distant cousin to Charles Darwin and for a while artist on the Beagle - was accidentally stranded on Tristan da Cunha for eight months in 1824. He speaks of Richard Riley as being "a dapper little fellow" with intimate knowledge of south East London's docks - including well known places such as Deptford and Bugsby's hole. (Richard is sitting on a stool in the corner of the kitchen in the drawing by Augustus Earle that was later made into a stamp)

One captain of the R.N. ship taking on water at Tristan da Cunha told Richard that he had just come from London and that Richard's mother and sisters sent him their regards.

In 1827 Richard and four other island's batchlors petitioned Captain Amm of the visiting schooner, "Duke of Glouchester" to find wives for them on the island of St. Helena. With the assistance of Governor Walker of St. Helena one negress and four mulatto volunteers of good character and health were found for the captain's petitioners.

The visiting American sailing ship "Antarctica" reported in 1829 that all were well and happy with the people of Tristan da Cunha.  This is how Richard came to marry his wife Sarah Bassett-Snipe. 

By 1857, conditions on Tristan da Cunha had deteriorated considerable and, in response to an appeal by Bishop Gray to the British Government to assist in the evacuation of the starving population, Richard Riley, his wife and family (including two grandchildren) together with several of the other islanders, accompanied by the Rev.W.F.Taylor (who had ministered to the island for 6 years) aboard the H.M.S. Geyser to settle in the Cape Colony - notable at Riversdale and Aliwal (later renamed Mossel Bay)

I would like to thank Michael Irwin of Jonannesburgh South Africa for sending me this story.  I have written about Richard Riley from in my book 'The Sea Shall not have Them" and Michael's research has added more to the story and now we know more about another interesting adventurer who lived on Tristan da Cunha.
(Michael's wife is the great-great, great-grant, great-great grand daughter of Richard Riley)