Journal and Remark Book of James B. Hay

James B. Hay watercolor of St. Sebastian from the Sea

Special Collections recently acquired a "Journal and Remark Book" kept by James B. Hay from 1867-1872. At the time he wrote the volume, Hay was a Midshipman in the Royal Navy. He served on the HMS Terrible, HMS Martin, HMS Gladiator, HMS Speedwell, and HMS Duke of Wellington. You can find him listed as the Midshipman of the Gladiator in The Navy List, Corrected to the 20th June, 1871.

A drawing of the holds of the H.M.S. Gladiator by James B. Hay.

The journal Hay wrote in was especially made for members of the Her Majesty's Navy by Bookseller Griffin & Co. of Portsmouth, Hampshire. Log books and remark books such as these were a common part of naval service, and there were even rules about their usage. In the 1851 issue of the "Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle," the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty noted that Lieutenants, unlike Captains, did not need to forward their log books to the Lords Commissioners (a certificate saying one was kept would suffice) and instead suggested, "My Lords do not wish the lieutenant's log book to be a mere transcript of the ship's log; they consider that when an officer is aware that the log book is to be retained by him for his future information, he would wish to make it a general remark book of professional observations on the various places visited in the course of service, besides containing the usual astronomical and other observations, with the daily position of the ship, winds, currents, with track charts, and plans, as well as sketches of harbours; in all such cases the captain is to consider such a remark book or journal, as a log book, and to grant the certificate before named.”

Drawing of a ship by James B. Hay

More strict rules applied to ship Captains and Masters. The 1862 volume of The Queen’s Regulations and the Admiralty Instructions for the Government of Her Majesty’s Naval Service states, "The Captain is to keep a Remark Book, in the form in the Appendix, in which he is to note every useful information regarding the places he may visit, stating, in separate paragraphs, — i. The latitude and longitude ; ii. The variation of the compass ; iii. The prevailing winds and currents ; — specifying whether the currents are permanent, or due to periodical winds, and the direction of the prevalent or strongest wind ; iv. The time of high water, full and change, and especially the rise of tide at springs and neaps ; v. The aspect or appearance of the Coast in making the land, and in the vicinity of the port, describing the conspicuous objects. Where Pilots are to be obtained, and their charges. Lighthouses and Lights, — form, colour, height above the sea, &c ; leading marks, — form and colour, — with a sketch of each, if possible ; vi. The dangers in approaching the various anchorages, and the means for avoiding such dangers. The depth of water at each anchorage, and the nature of the bottom. The bear ings from the anchorage, which are always to be taken at right angles, or as nearly so as possible ; vii. The supplies of water, provisions, coal, wood for fuel, and spars ; Vlll. The facilities for all repairs the places can afford for ships or fleets ; mentioning where there are docks or patent slips, their length, width of gates, and depth over sill ; ix. Inaccuracies that may be discovered in the charts supplied to the ship ; x. Directions, applicable to the place, for sailing, or steaming, — and for working by day, by night, and in a fog ; and, xi. Every other information regarding the places visited, and their inhabitants, which may be deserving of notice, and useful in compiling new sailing directions, or revising those already published."


For the Master, the instructions are not quite as detailed, but the requirement is still there: "Besides the log-book, he is to keep a remark-book, in which all the hydrographic information he can obtain is to be carefully inserted, as well as a description of the instruments he may employ in any of the observations hereafter mentioned. He is to determine, as accurately as he can, the various particulars relating to navigation of every place which the Ship may visit, entering the results in his remark-book under the following heads : — 1. Latitude. 2. Longitude. 3. Variation of the Compass. 4. Time of high water immediately following new and full moon. 5. Rise and fall of the Tide at springs and neaps. 6. Prevailing winds. 7. Periods of the year at which the wet and dry seasons prevail, if any."


Weather logs by James B. Hay

As a Midshipman, Hay had more freedom in what to record in his remark book, and since he also was not required to turn his remark book in to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, he was able to keep it as one continuous record of his journeys even as he moved from ship to ship. His “Journal and Remark Book” is divided into two distinct sections. In the first part of the volume Hay records wind and weather, barometer readings, and the daily high and low temperatures. The later section of the volume consists of notes jotted down about his ship’s travels and sailing speeds. Throughout this latter portion Hay has tipped in pen and ink drawings and watercolors of different ships and coastlines, as well as one drawing of the holds of the H.M.S. Gladiator. 

Ship log by James B. Hay


This volume provides a detailed look at a British Naval officer’s experience over the course of several years and several different assignments. We are fortunate, as well, that one could potentially follow James B. Hay’s journey even further, as The National Library of Australia has another of his remark books, from a few years later: Journal and remark book of Lt. James B. Hay, 1880-1883. By this time Hay had risen to the rank of Lieutenant, and he records his journeys on the HMS Raleigh, HMS Emerald, HMS Garnet, and finally back on the HMS Duke of Wellington in 1883.