17th September 1768
Moored in Funchal Road, Madeira
Little wind, and fine Clear weather. Issued to the whole Ship's Company 20 pounds of Onions per Man. Employed as Yesterday. Wind Westerly.
Joseph Banks Journal
The town of Fonchiale is situated at the Bottom of the Bay, very ill Built, tho larger than the size of the Island seems to deserve. The houses of the bettermost people are in general large but those of the poorer sort very small, and the streets very narrow and uncommonly ill pavd. The Churches here have abundance of ornaments, cheifly bad pictures and figures of their favourite saints in lac'd cloaths; the Convent of the Franciscans indeed which we went to See had very little ornament; but the neatness with which those fathers kept everything was well worthy of commendation, especialy their infirmary, the contrivance of which deserves to be taken particular notice of; it was a long room, on one side of which were windows, and an altar for the convenience of administering the sacrament to the sick; on the other were the wards, each just capable of containing a bed, and lind with white duch tiles; to every one of these was a door communicating with a gallery which ran paralel to the great room, so that any of the sick might be supplied with whatever they wanted without disturbing their neighbours.
In this Convent was a curiosity of a very singular nature; a small chapel whose whole lining, wainscote, and ceiling, was intirely compos'd of human bones, two large thigh bones across, and a skull in each of the openings. Among these was a very singular anatomical curiosity, a skull in which one side of the Lower jaw was perfectly and very firmly fastned to the upper by an ossification, so that the man whoever he was must have livd some time without being able to open his mouth, indeed it was plain on the other side that a hole had been made by beating out his teeth, and in some measure damaging his Jaw bone, by which alone he must have receivd his nourishment.
I must not leave these good fathers without mentioning a thing which does great credit to their civility, and at the same time shews that they are not bigots to their religion: we visited them on Thursday Even just before their supper time; they made many apologies that they could not ask us to sup, not being prepard; but said they, if you will come tomorrow, notwithstanding it is fast with us, we will have a turkey roasted for you.
There are here, beside friarys, 3 or 4 houses of nunns. To one of these (Sa'nta Clara) we went, and indeed the ladies did us the honour to express great pleasure in seeing us there; they had heard that we were great Philosophers, and expected much from us, one of the first questions that they askd was, when it would thunder; they then desird to know if we could put them in a way of finding water in their convent, which it seems they were in want of; but notwishstanding our answers to these questions were not quite so much to the purpose as they expected, they did not at all cease their civilities, for while we stayd, which was about half an hour, I am sure there was not the fraction of a second in which their tongues did not go at an uncommonly nimble rate.
It remains now that I should say something of the Island in general, and then take my leave of Madeira till some other opportunity offers of visiting it again, for the climate is so fine that any man might wish it was in his power to live here under the benefits of English laws and liberty.
The hills here are very high, much higher than any one would imagine, Pico Ruevo the highest is 5068 ft which is much higher than any land that has been measured in Great Britain; indeed as I hinted before the whole Island has probably been the production of a Volcano, notwishstanding which its fertility is amazing, all the sides of the hills are coverd with vines to a certain hight, above which are woods of chestnut and pine of immense extent; and above them forests of wild timber of kinds not known in Europe, which amply supply the inhabitants with whatever they may want. Among these some there were whose flowers we were not able to procure and consequently could not settle their Genera, particularly those calld by the Portugese Mirmulano and Pao branco, both which, and especialy the first, from the Beauty of their leaves promise to be a great ornament to our European gardens.
The inhabitants here are supposd to be about 80,000; and from the town of Fonchiale (its custom house I mean) the King of Portugal receives 20000 pounds a year, after having paid the Governor and all expences of every kind, which may serve to shew in some degree the consequence which this little Island is of to the crown of Portugal; was it in the hands of any other people in the world its value might easily be doubled, from the excellence of its climate capable of bearing any kind of crop, a circumstance which the Portugese do not make the least advantage of.
The Coin current here is intirely Spanish, for the Balance of trade with Lisbon being in disfavour of this Island all the Portugese money naturaly goes there, to prevent which Spanish money is allowd to pass: it is of three denominations, Pistereens, Bitts, and ½ bitts; the first worth about 1 shilling, the 2nd 6 pence, the third 3 pence; they have also Portugese money of Copper, but so scarce that I did not in my stay there see a single peice.
Posted by Arborfield at 20:32