Born in Fowey, the son of a local bargeman, Robert Jeffrey later moved to Polperro and was educated at a school in Looe. He joined a privateer The Lord Nelson in 1808, but with other crew members, he was pressed into the navy. While serving on board HMS Recruit he was punished for petty theft by Captain Lake. He was marooned on the barren Caribbean island of Sombrero without food or water and left to starve. He was rescued eight days later by a passing American schooner. Meanwhile Captain Lake had been court-martialled and dismissed from the navy. It was almost three years before Jeffrey was found living in Massachusetts and news got back to the Admiralty in England and to his family. Robert returned to Polperro and married a local girl at Lansallos church in 1818. He published a pamphlet of his story entitled A Narrative of his Life and Suffering.
Research Helen Luther
Sources: R. Jeffrey, ‘Authentic Narrative of Jeffrey the Seaman’ in La Belle Assemblée; or Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine (London), Thursday, 1st August 1811; James Derriman, Marooned, (Polperro Heritage Press, 2006)