January 22nd Robert Jeffery of Polperro (Birth)  

The Fowey – born Robert Jeffery, educated in Looe but living in Polperro, joined as crewman of a privateer, The Lord Nelson but was press-ganged on to the HMS Recruit in 1807 commanded by Captain Warwick Lake. 

On a voyage to the West Indies, Jeffery was caught stealing midshipmens’ beer and was set ashore on the uninhabited island of Sombrero without any food or water.  News of Lake’s actions soon reached the Admiralty who ordered Lake to return to collect the sailor.  The event became a matter of public concern, leading to questions being raised in Parliament and letters written to The Times newspaper.  

On return to Sombrero, two months after Jeffery had been marooned, there was no sign or trace of Jeffery.  In fact, after nine days without food or water, Jeffery had been rescued by an American schooner who took him to Massachusetts where he lived for the next three years. In 1810, he was brought back to England, landing at Portsmouth where he was met by Samuel Whitbread, MP for Bedford, and briefly became a celebrity known as ‘The Governor Sombrero’.  Lake was court-martialled and dismissed the Navy with Disgrace.

A year later, Jeffery published his experiences in a pamphlet titled ‘A Narrative of his Life, Suffering and Endurance of Robert Jeffery’ but then returned to Polperro and a quiet life as a fisherman until his death in 1820.



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