Jack Crawford, was a sailor who was born in Sunderland on 22nd March 1775. This was in a house on Thornhill Bank, (now Pottery Bank) in the East End. He was a keelman, at a very young age. Keelmen worked on large keel boats which took coal to to the waiting colliers ships that couldn’t sail up the shallow River Wear.
Then at the age of 11 or 12, he joined the crew of the Peggy at South Shields as an apprentice. However, around the age of 20, and under pressure, he joined the Royal Navy. In effect, he was press-ganged into serving on the HMS Venerable under Admiral Duncan, the Royal Navy Commander-in-Chief of the North Seas.
Hero of Camperdown
Jack, despite being under intense gunfire, climbed the mast and nailed the colours to the top using his pistol as a hammer. As a result, they went on to win the battle. In the following victory parade in London, Jack met the King. In recognition of his heroic act, he received a silver medal by the people of Sunderland. He also received a pension of £30 a year.
Jack also became the second victim of the cholera epidemic and died in 1831. Being broke, they buried him in an unmarked pauper’s grave. However, towards the end of the nineteenth century, people renewed their interest in the ‘Hero of Camperdown’.
Two years later, they erected a monument in Mowbray Park, opposite Sunderland Civic Centre.
The Jack Crawford
A pub in Monkwearmouth, named after him, called The Jack Crawford, had a carved figure of him on the side of the building. However, German bombs destroyed the pub so they removed the figure. Indeed, you can now see this on display in the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. His medal is also in the same museum.