30 June 2017

Cook

In my estimation, the greatest Yorkshireman who ever lived was James Cook.

When Shirley and I were in New Zealand in 2012, we visited the town of Gisborne. It was here on October 8th 1769 that "The Endeavour", skippered by Captain Cook, made its first landfall, anchoring just off-shore in what Cook later called Poverty Bay.  Today there's a monument there - paid for by New Zealand schoolchildren back in 1906. Once it stood proudly on the shoreline but today this "landing monument" is  rather hemmed in by trees and dockside buildings.
Cook's Landing Monument
Gisborne, New Zealand
Cook's Cove near Tolaga Bay
Further up the coast, near Tolaga Bay, we also had a magical walk to unspoilt Cook's Cove where "The Endeavour" anchored for a couple of days. The botanist, Joseph Banks, collected many previously unknown plant specimens here and to Cook's great relief contact with local Maori people was happy and peaceful. Down in Poverty Bay several Maori men had been killed during an angry skirmish.

Oh dear - this blogpost has gone off in a direction I never intended. Let me get back on track, back to our recent visit to the North Yorkshire coast. This is sometimes known as Cook Country.
Cook Monument on Easby Moor, North Yorkshire
Cook was born in Marton near Middlesbrough on November 7th 1728. Soon afterwards his family moved to the village of Great Ayton with which my own family has historic links. On the moor above the village, a great stone monument was erected in 1827 in memory of Captain Cook. Down in the village itself there's another much smaller monument erected on the site of Cook's childhood home. This humble cottage was dismantled and shipped to Melbourne, Australia in the 1930's. It was carefully re-erected there and is now a popular tourist destination.
Captain Cook birthplace monument
in Great Ayton, Yorkshire
In Great Ayton there's also a little museum dedicated to Cook and there's another one in the coastal village of Staithes which is where Cook's seafaring career began. It was funny when Shirley and I went in there. We were the only visitors but in the upstairs section the elderly proprietor was sound asleep in his armchair surrounded by a mass of pictures, books, souvenirs and artefacts -  all to do with Captain Cook.

Of course I have known about James Cook all my life but visiting the places he knew as a youth was like completing the dots we had made down in New Zealand. There we also stayed on The South Island's Banks Peninsula (named after Joseph Banks) and over on the west coast we spotted the snowy summit of New Zealand's tallest peak which is perhaps predictably called Mount Cook even though the Maori have a different name for it - Aurangi - which means something like "cloud piercer".

23 comments:

  1. They dismantled his cottage and shipped it to Melbourne? That is bizarre.

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    1. Be wary in case Aussies arrive with tape measures outside your property!

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  2. A very important name and person in Australia's history, too.

    http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/on-this-day/2011/08/on-this-day-captain-james-cook-sets-sail/

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    1. Cook's birthplace monument in Great Ayton is built from Australian stone - sourced in Victoria.

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  3. James Cook was a man who sailed to many places; Hawkes Bay in Newfoundland was named by James Cook and he used another town Cook's Harbour, (neither places would set the world on fire as tourist destinations)as a base for surveying the coastline. He also spent some time on the west coast of Canada.

    Into the Blue; Boldly Going where Captain Cook has Gone Before, a book written by Tony Horwitz tells of Cook's Journey around the Pacific in conjunction with modern day travels in the same areas.
    Howitz, when gathering material for the book, was accompanied by his friend Roger, another Yorkshire man who added quite a humourous turn to the book. It's not your usual serious history recount, but I found it highly entertaining.

    Alphie

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    1. Thanks for the heads up on that book Alphie. I will look out for it or maybe order it from Amazon.

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  4. I think there is also a museum on the outskirts of Middlesbrough YP - I have been but it is some years ago. I only remember it because it is where the turning to the James Cook Hospital is and I went there so often when the farmer was ill.

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    1. I researched it just now. I believe you are referring to the James Cook Birthplace Museum at Marton - just off the A174. I should have gone there!

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    2. It is in Stewart Park... I walk in the park every Monday and Friday.

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  5. Interesting history about his early days and life. Those are lovely monuments indeed. Greetings!

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    1. I am happy to have told you a bit more bout Captain Cook Mr B.

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  6. I would have to disagree with you on Cook. He was involved with the colonization thing and we know where that went. Cook was a great navigator and daring explorer. Now the plants. The Chinese were there in about 1500 and discovered most of the plants and took samples back to China! There is a theory that Cook had the Chinese charts to find his way.

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    1. I didn't know that the Chinese had been to New Zealand already. One learns something new every day. Cook was an employee of the British Crown and was doing his duty to the best of his ability. He was also a wise manager of other men and of challenging situations. The term "colonisation" isn't automatically negative.

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    2. Check out these two books. 1421 the year china discovered the world by Gavin Menzies and 1434 the year a magnificent fleet sailed to Italy. Now this guy has many critics but these two books are very interesting reads.

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  7. Yes YP - it is the one at Marton I am referring to - I leave the A174 at the Marton turn off and right by the Marton Hotel - I remember going round the museum some years ago and it was most impressive.

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    1. If I am up that way again I shall visit it.

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    2. It is just up the road from me.. A lovely park. The museum was under threat of closure last year... thankfully it was reprieved.

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    3. Christ! When government cutbacks threaten a museum like that we know we are in a bad place.

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  9. I also used to think Cook was one of the greatest Yorkshireman until I saw what he represented to the Australian people living in the land he 'discovered'. Cook planted his flag on Australian soil and rendered the people who were living there persona non grata. In his wake, more British arrived and threw the Australian people off their land, gave them horrible, fatal diseases and enslaved them - killed them. The few remaining descendents of the people Cook first met now live on the margins of Australian society and (unlike the Maori) they have no claim to their own birthright. After Cook, Australia was declared Terra Nullus (empty land). The original Australians call the day that Cook arrived Invasion Day. They are still waiting for justice.

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    1. Lots of food for thought there Michael. Thank you. It is interesting how modern New Zealanders cherish their Maori heritage and yet over in Australia many white Australians seem to scorn aboriginal people - almost as if they judged them to be sub-human. James Cook was not responsible for the bad stuff that followed in his wake.

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  10. Interesting post. Michael predicted my question with his comment above. I recently read a book re-assessing the teaching of U.S. history, which demanded that we reconsider treating Columbus as a hero, since he ushered in an era of genocide against the native inhabitants of the lands he "discovered." So I wondered if a similar re-evaluation of Cook's legacy is called for. (Perhaps unlike Cook, Columbus stayed and WAS responsible for some of the initial oppression of the Caribbean natives.)

    Still, we have to consider people as products of their time, and by any standard it was incredibly brave to venture off into the unknown and do what Cook and Columbus did. (Cook was killed by some natives on one of his island stopovers, wasn't he?)

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  11. Obviously having lived in Hawkes Bay for a decade as a part-time Kiwi I've been to Gisborne and even, I think, blogged on the Captain. Just a minor point: Mt Cook is now usually referred to in NZ as Aoraki(sic)/Mount Cook.

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