A story by John Helm Gibson from Scarborough Sea Dogs by G Forest Frank.
Captain John Helm Gibson comes of a long line of seafarers - masters and owners - whose names will frequently crop up as the chronicles of Scarborough Ships and shipman proceed. Sufficient for it here to be stated that his father was Captain Thomas Gibson, a well known shipmaster of his day who commanded in succession the brigs Hebden, Llewellyn, and Cactus. The Hebden was one of the largest vessels of her rig registered in Scarborough; some 260 tons, with an overall length of 95 feet, and a bellied beam below the water line of 24 feet 8.5 inches. She was specially built for Mr Bartholomew Fowler by Messrs Tindalls, and was launched on 4th July, 1826. After much voyaging she was lost forty years later at Gofle.
The Llewelynn, into which Captain Gibson's father passed, was a constant West Indies trader belonging to Mr William Mosey, of Longwestgate, and for years she brought cotton from Bermuda to Liverpool. This Captain Gibson was either the second or third Scarborough master to get his position by certificate - all previous masters getting their service by service. Prior to attending command he had seen much service in America, a connection springing from the loss of the Scarborough barque Trusty, on which he was a seaman, in the Gulf of St Lawrence. It was not alone, however, from his father's side that the Captain Gibson of today inherited his sea instinct. His maternal grandfather, from whom he also derived his eminently seaman like name of "Helm," a native of Scarborough, was boatswain of H.M. Ship Bellerophon off Rochefort, when Bonaparte boarded her at daybreak on July 15th, 1815, and surrendered to Captain Maitland with the words:
" I am come to claim the protection of your prince and country."
It is on record in Clarke's monumental "History of the War" that shortly after making this announcement the Emperor, with his usual quickness, said: "Come, Captain Maitland, suppose we walk over your ship." To this the Captain replied by saying that the decks were then washing (the boatswain's duty), and that the ship was occasionally not in a state to be inspected, and that he had better wait an hour or so. To this Bonaparte rejoined:
"No, no, Captain Maitland, let us go now; I have been accustomed to wet and dry and confusion for upwards of twenty years, and I must see her in her present state."
He did so, and inspected her with all the alacrity, minuteness, and curiosity so characteristic of him, walking several times over the ship, and expressing himself highly delighted with the admirable economy of a British Man of war. He was (proceeds the History, Vol II, page 1*64) but a very short time on board, when he asked that the boatswain might be sent for, in order that he might look at him, and was very inquisitive as to the nature of his duty." With the coming of peace the boatswain of the Bellerophen, like many other gallant old tar, went into the Merchant Service and became master and part owner of the Scarborough brig Mary and Ellen, which, like other local vessels of her class, used to lay up for the winter, refitting and being out of insurance till the 1st day of May. All went well for a number of years till once tempted out on the last day of March, the day before she came into insurance, by a southerly wind, wishing to proceed north, the wind increased, and suddenly chopped round to the north east, blowing a gale, thus surprised, the good craft managed to work to the north of Whitby, but was there driven ashore and pounded to pieces. All hands were saved, but the exposure and financial loss told so upon Captain Helm that he failed to recover his strength and shortly afterwards died and was buried in St Marys churchyard. Though possibly the only Scarborough seaman lying there who had a personal interview with Napoleon, he is among a goodly company of fellow tars who helped to smash the Corsican's bid for the domination of the sea.