Ann “The Man Killer” Indeed Was Unfortunate


Nancy, the “packet ship” that carried beautiful, very rich yet unfortunate opera singer Ann Cargill to her doom nearly 234 years ago, has been found lying helplessly under the blue sea in the Isles of Scilly.

Nancy, the ship, one of the vitally important pages of the international maritime history, left the shores of Bombay for London in 1784 carrying Ann, the “Man Killer” and her child. About 47 more passengers were there in the ship.

This discovery of Nancy by Todd Stevens and Ed Cumming, two divers, has suddenly created massive interests among the Britons and Indians living in UK and in India, particularly in Mumbai and Kolkata, as such historical characters like Ann, her lover Capt. John Haldane and the then British prime minister William Pitt, the Younger, are associated with the tragic end of the sea journey of that ship.

Ann, however, is the pivot round which most of the enquiries are revolving. Soon after the news of location of Nancy’s wreckage was flashed, people started making hot enquiries about the historical facts of 18th century India, particularly her maritime activities and socio-political patterns. People also are taking now very keen interest on the “packet ships” of the past. “Packet ships, in the olden days, were used to carry mail packet from different British colonies of the world, including India, to England. It also used to carry private people, bullion and other merchandise.

Ann, whose ghost is still said to be haunting the place where her body, clutching to her child, was found, has a silky-musical-voice. Ann’s unmatched beauty helped her to become an opera singer when she was just 11-years old in 1771 in England. She soon turned the highest paid opera singer of those by gone days. Ann was a daring lover and had a thrilling sex life, so much so, that she became a major flutter in London’s contemporary society and an embarrassment for the British parliament as she was often discussed there.

Ann’s frequent elopements with men, sometimes much older to her, made her extremely infamous despite the fact that she had gained massive fame, enormous wealth and popularity as an opera singer. Known as “Man Killer” because she attracted the society men massively, Ann first fled with a gunpowder maker Miles Peter Andrews when she was only around 14.

This elopement created a sensation in contemporary British press as Ann’s father went to court for an order of her confinement in the house because she was a “child”. A rebellious character by nature, Ann resolutely fought against this to again elope with another man named Doyle. She even married Doyle.

Earning a princely sum of 10 pounds (British starling pound) a week, Ann suddenly fell in love with Capt. John Haldane of East India Company and came to Mumbai with him deserting her husband. In Mumbai and Calcutta, she soon became so much a craze among the officers of East India Company, British merchants and native Rajas and Maharajas that they showered money and jewellry on her. Ann made several opera appearances to earn massive sums of money.

In one her appearances in Bombay, she charged Rs. 10,000: an astronomical amount in those days. It was also in Mumbai that her first child through Capt. Haldane, an illegitimate one, was born.

But her extremely daring act as a “Man Killer” was not liked by the British Parliament and the then prime minister, William Pitt, the Younger. He ordered Ann’s deportment from India to England as the British parliament did not liked her activities in Bombay and Calcutta.

Forced to leave India, Ann sailed in Nancy captained by her lover Haldane. Destruction of Nancy raises a strange question. Does ill-fate really follow some sea captains? Let us have a look at Capt. Haldane’s trail of sea disasters culminating in Nancy’s doom.

Known as the “child of misfortune”, Haldane faced ill luck whenever he commanded a ship. He commanded the first voyage of a brand new ship Fairford on September 11, 1782 from Portsmouth to Mumbai. But on reaching Mumbai harbour on June 15, 1783, Fairford caught fire and was destroyed.
Ann and Haldane had a very narrow escape in that fire. They were in that ship.

In December, 1783 Capt. Haldane took command of Nancy to sail from Mumbai with his lover Ann and their child. Though the passage had been very smooth all through, a tempest took place when Nancy was almost in England. On February 5, 1784, Nancy was torn into pieces at the Isles of Scilly: the wreckage was scattered over 300 sq meters.

Ann’s body, clutching her child, was found but Capt. Haldane’s could not be. Ann was carrying a fabulous 200,000 British starling pound and several boxes of jewelry and diamonds.

Her body was completely naked. Why? Nobody knows. Another very strange fact was that the bodies of most of the passengers and crew of Nancy were mutilated as the ship had dashed against the rocks, but that of Ann with her child were not. The local people buried her at St. Mary’s Church at Isles of Scilly.

Punch-line of this heart-touching tragedy of a daring opera singer is really very surprising. When news of Ann’s end reached London, the Parliament ordered a national mourning. Pitt, the Younger, had blamed Ann as an “infamous actress” and ordered her deportation yet ordered a national mourning.

Interesting… not it? Can somebody answer why Pitt, the Younger, ordered a national mourning for the opera singer whom he detested most?


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