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JACKMAN, ARTHUR, sealing captain and ice navigator; b. 1843 in Renews, Nfld, second son of Captain Thomas Jackman; married, with one daughter; d. 31 Jan. 1907 in St John’s.

Arthur Jackman, like his celebrated elder brother William*, the hero of the rescue at Spotted Island, Labrador, in 1867, was raised to the sea by his father. He fished as a boy for cod in local waters and as a young man of 22 in the days of sail commanded schooners at the seal fishery. His particularly successful command of the Fanny Bloomer established him as a sealing master marked for distinction in the era of steam navigation in the last three decades of the 19th century and the opening years of the 20th.

A versatile seaman and splendid navigator, Jackman commanded the Narwhal out of Dundee, Scotland, in 1880 and the Resolute, also from Dundee, between 1881 and 1886. His voyages with them were dual enterprises: in sequent seasons he prosecuted the whale fishery in Greenland waters and made sealing trips to the ice off Newfoundland and Labrador. It was in this latter enterprise, amid the ice floes, that Jackman became one of the leading captains, and the fleet superintendent, of the St John’s–Liverpool merchant house of Bowring Brothers, a firm which with Job Brothers and Company and Baine, Johnston and Company dominated the Newfoundland sealing industry. He had commanded its vessels the Hawk (1871–76) and the Falcon (1877–79), and he went on to command the Eagle (1887–93), the Aurora (1894–97), the Terra Nova (1898–1903), and the Eagle II (1904–6). Outside the sealing season Bowring vessels often engaged in alternative ventures, such as the whale fishery or special charter voyages. In 1886, for example, Jackman took the explorer Robert Edwin Peary to Greenland, combining this commission with a whaling expedition. Jackman also, in off seasons, commanded coastal mail-and-passenger boats in the Newfoundland service; but principally he was a sealing captain. When he returned to port for the last time, flags flying as always, he had landed well over half a million seals with a value of more than a million dollars. He had commanded 8,000 men at sea and could boast that, though he had had ships sink under him in perilous voyages, he had never lost a man.

Among the men who sailed with him and his formidable boatswain Michael “Ruffian” Maddigan, Jackman’s own telling nickname was Old Scorcher, and his reputation stood as high as any in the first rank of sealing captains of his time. Another sobriquet, Viking Arthur, survives undiminished and not without a slightly piratical ring: in 1906, his last year at the ice, he was convicted in magistrate’s court at St John’s of sending his men out to take seals on the sabbath (and fined $2,000 for this breach of Newfoundland sealing regulations), though, it was explained, he had done so only after morning prayers. A memorialist, Alexander James Whiteford McNeily*, writing in 1907, attributed Jackman’s celebrity to his combination of iron nerve “in straits or crisis” and “the strange faculty which, for want of a better word, we call ‘magnetic’ of communicating to others his confidence in himself.” His last words were characteristic and were addressed to his nephew the Reverend William Jackman, who had administered the last rites of the Catholic Church and shriven him: “Put the flags on her, Billy boy, and let her go.” And then: “Give my clothes to Mick Maddigan.”

G. M. Story

A photograph of Arthur Jackman is reproduced in R. E. Peary, Northward over thegreat ice: a narrative of life and work along the shores and upon the interior ice-cap of northern Greenland in the years 1886 and 1891–1897 . . . (2v., New York, 1898), 1: 34. The famous David Blackwood print of him, in “The icefields” series, faces p.148 in Farley Mowat, Wake of the great sealers (Toronto, 1973), but is much better reproduced in The art of David Blackwood, text by William Gough (Toronto and Montreal, 1988), plate 41.

B. C. Busch, The war against the seals: a history of the North American seal fishery (Kingston, Ont., and Montreal, 1985), 85. Peter Cashin, My life and times, 1890–1919 (Portugal Cove, Nfld, 1976), 44–45. L. G. Chafe, Chafe’s sealing book: a statistical record of the Newfoundland steamer seal fishery, 1863–1941 (4th ed., St John’s, 1989), 48–49, 135. M. E. Condon, The fisheries and resources of Newfoundland . . . (St John’s, 1925), 106–17. [A southern shore author, Condon gives a good account of the Jackmans, and reprints poems and McNeily’s memorial piece originally published in the Nfld Quarterly, 6 (1906–7), no.4: 8, 24.  g.m.s.] W. H. Greene, The wooden walls among the ice floes: telling the romance of the Newfoundland seal fishery (London, 1933), 50–51, 105. David Keir, The Bowring story (London, 1962). [A.] B. Lubbock, The Arctic whalers (Glasgow, 1937; repr. 1968), 410–53. When was that? (Mosdell).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

G. M. Story, “JACKMAN, ARTHUR,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 1, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jackman_arthur_13E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jackman_arthur_13E.html
Author of Article: G. M. Story
Title of Article: JACKMAN, ARTHUR
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1994
Year of revision: 1994
Access Date: August 1, 2014