Additional Information to the Story of James Teer's Watch


By kind permission of Derek Torrens 


Richard Gould


The earliest known picture of Richard Gould 

 Richard Gould fortunately kept meticulous records of all his communications with the authorities during the period in which he was attempting to recover the watch from China. He copied all of the letters into five volumes of notebooks. Shown below:


 The Five Volumes of Letters                                       Sample Page



Sample of Richard Gould's Handwriting 


                     The Letters of Richard Gould


 We are greatly indebted to his descendants for not only keeping the records in such great condition but also to Derek Torrens for transcribing all his records which are now safe for all time.

To his family and researchers like myself it makes descendants reading. But to the average interested reader, they would no doubt appear repetitive and a little boring as many of the letters were repeated almost identically to various interested parties. I will therefore be limiting the publication of letters to those which are most important.

To give you an idea of the amount of letters sent and received by Richard Gould, the five volumes reduced to Ariel 12 pt script filled 100 - A4 sheets of paper.

I begin by publishing Derek Torrens notes, followed by the first two letters sent out by Richard Gould, after hearing a report that the watch had been found. It gives a real feel for how articulate he was, how correct in his manner and, meticulous in his presentation of the facts. 

This is the first of five notebooks written by Richard Gould between September 1908 and December 1910 copying the correspondence related to the story of the loss of James Teer's watch. This notebook ends with the early letters between Gould and Teer's brother-in-law, William Bishop. 
gould's writing is generally very legible but, inevitably there are a few indecipherable words but not enough to disturb the narrative. Some of the Chinese place names are unclear and some have changed. Foochow is Fuzhou and Pagoda Anchorage is now called Mawei. The town Foo-Chin I think is now Fuqing. The wreck site on "Cust Island" (now called Dasong) is off a larger Island and is about 30 miles from Foochow. This, larger island has a village in the interior called Pintang which, I feel must be "Bintang". 

i am Richard Gould's Great Grandson. Derek Torrens, Norwich June 2011] 


Letters relating to the wreck and plunder of the "Tartar" in Oct 1871 in the Hai-Tan straits , China, written when I heard a rumour that J. Teer had received a letter from New Zealand stating that news came down from China that his uncle James Teer's gold watch had been found there.... 

Letter 1

Newcastle, Co. Down 7th September 1908. 

Dear Sir, 
A rumour has been spread in this place a few days ago relative to a gold watch and chain as follows; that a Chinaman in the vicinity of Foo-Chow had turned Christian and that he had announced to either the missionaries or British authorities that he had found, in his father's effects this watch and chain which bore an inscription: "presented to James Teer with regard to his services on the occasion of the wreck of the American ship "General Grant" on the Auckland Islands in the sixties". (I can't remember the exact wording of the inscription on the watch but the above is the purport of it) and that the missionaries or Authorities had written to you making enquiries as to the whereabouts of Teer or his relatives and that you had been given the name of John Teer, a nephew of James and residing here at present. 
I have therefore taken the liberty of writing this to you as being interested very deeply in the matter, and trust you will excuse my thus trespassing on your valuable time whilst I relate my part in the matter. 
In the year 1870, I was chief mate of the ship "Tartar" of London, G. W. Bush, Master. We sailed from London to Melbourne via Drammen (Norway), and arrived at Melbourne early in 1871. Whilst there, the watch was sent up to New Zealand by Teer to me that I might carry it home and deliver it to his sister, Mrs. Margaret Bishop, 5 Union Square, Islington, London. 
We sailed from Melbourne bound for Shanghai via Freemantle and on discharging cargo at Shanghai, we were chartered to Foo-Chow with a general cargo and from thence back to Shanghai with timber, but we were caught in a typhoon and on the 19th October 1871, the ship went ashore on a rock close to an island named Tung Sha , one of the Hai-Tan islands in the Pescadore channel, China. 
After she struck I called a crew of volunteers to man the cutter to go ashore to communicate with the authorities, but before doing so, not knowing what might happen, I brought the second mate, Mr. Herbert Gardner into my room and gave him charge of all my effects, including in particular this watch. I then left the ship and on approaching the shore, saw that the natives (who had gathered in great numbers) were armed. We decided not to land and, in turning our boat to reach the ship again, broke three out of four oars, and were driven on to another island some miles distant, named Bintang (?). Here we were kindly received by the Mandarin and after stopping for 10 days were joined by the captain and remainder of the crew who had been ransomed from the islanders by the Mandarin but who only saved what they stood up in - the ship having meanwhile been boarded and plundered by the natives. 
We all then went up to Foo-Chow - the captain and crew returned to England, I alone going down to Melbourne in a Barque, named the "Hanna Nicholson". 
Previous to my leaving Foo-Chow I wrote a letter detailing the loss of the watch to Mrs. Bishop and entrusted the delivery of it to Gardner, the second mate, whom I requested to call on her and explain any & everything connected with it. 
I returned to Ireland in 1873 and was astounded to learn that this man Teer's relatives had circulated a report that I had stolen the watch and had sold it. This has been careful kept up, but in such a way that I have been unable to charge them with slander and thus I am most anxious that my good name may be cleared for the sake of my wife and family. 
I may say that this man, John Teer, of this place has no claim whatever on the watch, but it was entrusted to me for Mrs. Bishop, whose descendants it belongs to righteously and I am prepared to substantiate this on oath. If you require any further information from me I shall be glad to give all in my power and will be more than thankful if you will give me the names and addresses of those in China with whom I can correspond regarding the matter. 
Thanking you in anticipation, 
I beg to remain, Dear Sir, 
Yours most respectfully. 
Richard T. Gould 


The Chief Inspector of Police 
New Zealand 
Letter 2


Newcastle, Co. Down, Ireland. 12th September 1908 


A rumour having been circulated last week regarding a gold watch which has been discovered in the vicinity of Foo-Chow foo, and that enquiries are being made as to the owner or his relatives' whereabouts. I take the liberty of addressing you with reference to the matter as I am deeply interested in it, and that through me only does the fact of the watch being in China arise. May I beg you most careful attention to the following circumstances which is necessary to explain my connection with the watch. 
In the year 1870, I was chief mate of the ship "Tartar" of London, owner by Messers. Oliver and Wilson, Leadenhall Street and commanded by Captain G. W. Bush - chartered from London to Drammen in Norway to load a cargo of timber for Melbourne. Before leaving London I visited a lady named Bishop, who, with her husband and family lived at 5 Union Square, Islington North. Her brother James Teer, was one of the survivors from the wreck of the American ship , "General Grant", which was wrecked on the Auckland Islands in the sixties, and on the survivors (who were rescued by a whaler after living on the Aucklands for a year and 9 months) arriving at New Zealand, it was decided to present Teer with a gold watch bearing a suitable inscription. Mrs. Bishop asked me if I would bring this watch home to her. I assented and she wrote to her brother with that effect. 
Arriving at Melbourne in due course the watch was sent up by messenger from New Zealand, handed to me, and I gave a receipt for it to the bearer. My ship was chartered to load a cargo of sandalwood at Freemantle for Shanghai and from thence to London with a cargo of tea but we arrived at Shanghai in July 1871 between the first and last season's tea crop and so had to wait for cargo. The captain was anxious to obtain a local charter in the interval and was successful in getting a general cargo down to Foo-Chow foo and a cargo of timber back to Shanghai. We arrived at Foo-Chow, discharged cargo and loaded for Shanghai, but the change of monsoons had taken place and we were detained through bad weather and adverse winds but at last we sailed from the Min, and after a week's endeavour to get to windward off Formosa we lost our canvas and put back for shelter and repairs to the White Dogs anchorage on Sunday evening 2nd October 1871. 
The next day we effected repairs, but the weather became worse, and on the Wednesday following we parted one of our cables, thereby drifting out of shelter all that day and night, to find ourselves when morning broke to be in a perilous position close to the "Wurming (?) Rocks). After consultation, our captain decided to slip the remaining cable and endeavour to reach some of the southern ports, but the wind which was then favourable quickly changed and we found ourselves on a lee shore, our sails torn to shreds, and humanly speaking, no hope of being saved. However, we succeeded in getting into shelter to leeward of the island of Tung-sha, one of the Hai-tan group. The ship struck on a sunken rock about half a mile from shore and there remained. 
I called for a boat's crew of volunteers to go ashore to open up communications with the British Authorities at Foo-Chow, through the natives whom we saw gathering in great numbers on the shore opposite the ship. But, before I left, I brought the second mate, Mr. Herbert Gardner, into my room (not knowing what might happen) and gave him charge of all my effects, particularly calling his attention to the watch, telling him that if anything happened to me he was to forward my things to Newcastle, Co. Down. 
I then left the ship in the cutter having, besides my boat's crew, our super cargo (a China man) and two native passengers. On nearing the shore I saw the natives were all armed with small choppers and such like and decided not to land but after turning the boat and endeavouring to return to the ship three out of four of our oars were broken, compelling us to seek safety by running before the gale, eventually getting ashore on the island of Bintang some seven miles from where the ship was wrecked. Here the natives searched and stripped us, cutting up our boat but we escaped with our lives and at nightfall arrived at the village of Bintang where we were kindly received by the Mandarin. A few days afterwards we were joined by the Captain and remainder of the crew who had been ransomed from the natives of Tung-sha at a price of 500 taels and who informed me that the ship had been plundered of everything and they were virtually prisoners. After waiting for 10 days, hoping to recover something, the only result was an empty chronometer case (the instrument being wrenched out of it), the ship's papers and the captain's certificate, we were sent under an escort of 5 soldiers to Pagoda Anchorage. The day after leaving Bintang, we entered the city of Foo-Chow. We were fortunate in meeting two members of the American (Baptist) missionary society one of who was named Williams or Williamson. They were more than kind to us, seeing after our welfare in every way and the next morning stood at the gate of the city, bidding us farewell and seeing us off. We arrived next day at Pagoda Anchorage where we remained, being clothed by the European and American residents there and lodged by the British Vice Consul. 
We remained until after the enquiry into the loss of the ship when the Captain and crew (I accepted) were sent to England as shipwrecked mariners but before they left I wrote a letter to Mrs. Bishop detailing the loss of the watch (her brother's) and entrusted it to the second mate, requesting and our carpenter Stephen Meek to deliver it personally to her and explain every circumstance connected with the loss. I sailed from Pagoda anchorage to Melbourne from thence to Hong Kong, thence to San Francisco, finally from there to United Kingdom where I arrived in June 1873. On visiting my parents herethen (sic) I was astounded that I was charged with stealing and selling the watch and which has been kept up ever since. 
In 1875 settled down in this place to live and in 1876 I learned that an enquiry into the plunder of the "Tartar" in the Hai-Tan straits in 1871 was instituted by the Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Station (British) in China. 
I communicated with the Board of Trade London and in due course received the result of the enquiry, which was that the wreck had been plundered, "that the head man of the village had been beaten and fined 100 dollars for a gold watch and chain which they acknowledged had been taken by a relative of one of them who had since disappeared". 
The rumour I refer to in my opening statement is that a native China man in the vicinity of Foo-Chow-foo has turned Christian and that he has informed the missionaries that amongst his father's effects is a gold watch bearing an inscription "presented to James Teer in connection of the loss of the "General Grant"" and that communications had been made to New Zealand to trace James Teer or his relatives and that the New Zealand Authorities have written here to Teer's relatives, he being dead. 
I have thus given a short resume and would most earnestly beg you dear Sir, if this rumour be founded on fact to be good enough to get a statement from the China man as to where his father got the watch and how, thus tracing the matter with the aid of this letter and so confirming my statement, clearing my character, enabling me to leave to my children the priceless legacy of an untarnished name. 
I feel sure that in the records of the American (Baptist) Missionary Society of China the report of Mr. Williamson of meeting and succouring the crew of the British ship "Tartar" at Foo-Chow in the beginning of October 1871, finds a place, and if your Society has not been the instrument of this China-man's conversion perhaps it is not too much of me to ask you if you will make enquiry amongst the various Christian Societies at Foo-Chow-foo and with the British Consulate to verify this my statement and so to add to the solace and comfort of the few remaining days of my life. I may add that no person whatsoever in Newcastle has the slightest claim on the watch but it was entrusted to me to deliver to Mrs. Margaret Bishop whose descendants are the rightful owners. This I am prepared to prove on oath. Trusting you will thus favour me with the results of your enquiry and any expense incurred I shall be glad to pay and wishing your reply at your earliest convenience. 
I beg to remain, Sir 
Yours most respectfully 
Richard T. Gould 
ex mate of the "Tartar" 


The Secretary 
American Baptist or other Missionary Society 


Richard Gould in latter life