Belfast Telegraph

Ship's pass signed by king on show

An extremely rare ship's pass signed by King James II and famous diarist Samuel Pepys will go on public display in Ireland.

The 323-year-old document, which has been in the hands of the Dublin Port Company since 1924, was designed to secure safe passage for a merchant ship. Researchers believe it is the only known example of a ship's pass from the 17th century signed by King James II.

Three similar examples held in the National Archives in Kew, London, the British Library and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich date from a different reign.

The pass will be on view to the public after being donated to the National Library of Ireland by the Dublin Port Company.

Emma Saunders, of the library's Department of Manuscripts, said the document was unique. "From my research into all the obvious places where one would be held, this appears to be the only known example signed by King James II and also by Samuel Pepys," she said. "I contacted the Pepys Museum and they don't seem to know of any either."

The manuscript would have been used as a de facto passport to ensure the vessel could travel free of interference from British warships or the ships of their allies.

It was issued to The Mary of Cork ship at the Court of Whitehall on September 29 1687. King James II signed it as Lord High Admiral at the time with Pepys the co-signature in his capacity as Secretary to the Admiralty. It is thought the pass was obtained to help safe passage of the vessel and its crew of five - captained by a Zachary Peebuchet - from Dublin port to the Canary Islands in late 1687. At the time, the Canaries were major exporters of sugar and Malvasia, a fortified white wine which travelled well and was extremely popular in Britain.

Ms Saunders believes The Mary of Cork may have been trading these in return for products such as salted Irish beef. The ship's pass was returned to Ireland almost a year later on April 18 1688 where it was entered into the registry of the High Court of Admiralty of Ireland by Thomas Williamson.

While it was acquired by the Dublin Port and Docks Board in 1924, there are no records to shed any light on where the port authorities came by the document. It had been framed and mounted in an office at the port in recent years before the company decided to hand it over to the National Library.

Enda Connellan, chief executive of Dublin Port, said he was delighted to donate the pass. "This will ensure that it is appropriately conserved and displayed," he said. "In its new home it will also be more accessible to the public."

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