AN ENGLISH OFFICER'S VIEW OF ALDERNEY IN 1810
GRIGBY, George (1772-1811), army officer. Autograph leter signed, addresed to John Ireland Blackburne MP, No.40 Bond Street, London (with oval Weymouth frank, and seal), 4 sides of a 4to bifolium, Island of Alderney, 23 June 1810, thanking him for the introduction provided to General Heron ‘He arrived at Guernsey 2 days before me. I got there on the 10th just in time to be included in the returns. My stay was very short in that Island, having been ordered to proceed hither on the 13th. From General H I received the greatest attention & civility’, and graphically describing life on Alderney ‘Sir John Doyle informed me that he did not consider ours as a permanent banishment to Siberia - Alderney, the secluded, but but in some parts, interesting Alderney is so denominated , by the Cocknies of Port de St. Pierre in Guernsey. One of our officers, writing from hence, signed himself, I understand, "the unfortunate officer, on the island of Sombrero." It is not so bad as that; but here certainly there is a trial of what resources a man possesses within himself. In summer it will do very well for those who like myself, admire bold & romantic prospects. A part only of the island is cultivated - the rest is in common, but the soil where it is broken up is very rich & productive; altho' sandy. There is no medium between that & the rock. Property is divided infinitely; the law of Gavelkind as they tell me being here being enforced. There are no squalid poor, or beggars, every cottage has a piece of land, a cow or two & a serviceable horse that grazes upon the common, when not employed in agriculture or the conveyance of Gin, or other comfortable productions. What think you of the virtue of sobriety, when the best brandy is to be bought for 4/6d, or 5/ a gallon! Gin to be infinitely cheaper. Our "Irish-Boys" therefore feel themselves perfectly at home in that respect’. With vertical and horizontal folds, and a fragment of the margin of leaf two torn away by the seal affecting two words of the text.
George Grigby (1772-1811) was the youngest son of the lawyer Joshua Grigby (c1731-1798, whose portrait was painted by Thomas Gainsborough) and Jane Bird (1736-1789) of Drinkstone, Suffolk. Educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, George Grigby proceeded to BA in 1793, MA in 1797, and was ordained a deacon but soon elected to follow a military career. He became a captain in the Suffolk Militia in 1803, lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Dragoons in 1806, and in 1808 became captain. By 1811 Grigby had obtained a captaincy in the 11th Regiment of Foot, when he became victim to a fatal disaster. On the night of 21st February Grigby was on board the transport ship John & Jane in charge of a contingent of the 11th Regiment bound for Cadiz when in stormy weather off Falmouth they were hit by the frigate Franchise. The damage to the transport was so severe that most 197 of the troops including Grigby died, as well as 15 women, six children, and six seamen; leaving just 20 soldiers and eight seamen who survived.
Grigby published in 1807 a book entitled: A Memoir containing a Description of the Construction and Use of some Instruments designed to ascertain the Heights and Distances of inaccessible Objects without the Necessity of Reference to logarithmic Tables By George Grigby Lieutenant in his Majesty's first Regiment of Dragoons.
Grigby’s correspondent John Ireland Blackburne, was MP for Newton from 1807-1818, and MP for Warrington 1835-1847, was a strong defender of the established church, and supported the improvement of working conditions. His silhouette portrait can be found amongst a collection of family portraits for sale in the Miniatures section of this website.
The reference to General Heron is probably Lt-general Peter Heron (1770-1848) of Moor Hall, Warrington. Sir John Doyle(1756-1834) mentioned in the letter was an army officer who served with distinction in the American War of Independence and in the French Revolutionary Wars, and was Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey from 1803 to1813.