Sherlock Holmes and the Gloria Scott as depicted on a commemorative coin, part of the "Famous Ships that Never Sailed" series, issued by the Perth Mint of Australia in 2014.

"The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was first published in the issue of the magazine The Strand for April 1893. It would be republished in December of that year as part of the anthology The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Although the story is presented as having been written by Holmes' friend Dr. John Watson, unusually for a Sherlock Holmes story, the main narrator of "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" is not Watson but Holmes himself.[1] The story begins with Holmes showing Watson some papers which he thinks might be of interest to him. Holmes says that the papers relate to the first case that he ever investigated as a detective.

The majority of the story takes place during Sherlock Holmes' time as a university student. While Holmes is visiting the home of his friend Victor Trevor, a sinister looking man called Hudson appears and asks to speak to Victor Trevor's father. It becomes clear that Hudson knows something which gives him a great deal of power over Mr. Trevor. It is ultimately revealed that Mr. Trevor has a dark secret related to events which took place on a ship called the Gloria Scott some thirty years earlier.

The story has been adapted for television and radio.


Sherlock Holmes makes only one friend at university, a young man named Victor Trevor. During the summer vacation, Holmes visits Victor Trevor's home in Donnthorpe, Norfolk. Victor Trevor shares the home with his father, his mother and one sister having both died. Victor Trevor's father is a wealthy man and a justice of the peace.

After dinner one evening, Victor Trevor begins talking to his father about the amazing powers of deduction which Sherlock Holmes has already begun to demonstrate. Mr. Trevor thinks that his son is exaggerating and asks Holmes what he can deduce about him. Holmes makes several deductions about Mr. Trevor, all of which are correct. He then says that Mr. Trevor once had a strong connection to someone whose initials were J.A. but has tried to forget about that person. When he hears this, Mr. Trevor collapses face down on the table and has to be revived by being splashed with water. Mr. Trevor asks Holmes how he knew that. Holmes replies that he saw the initials J.A. tattooed in the bend of Mr. Trevor's elbow and saw that an unsuccessful attempt had been made to remove the tattoo. Mr. Trevor tells Holmes that he must use his amazing ability to make a living as a detective. However, after that evening, Mr. Trevor appears to be uncomfortable around Holmes. As a result, Holmes decides to cut his stay with Victor Trevor short.


Hudson arrives at the Trevors' home. 1893 illustration by Sidney Paget.

On the day before Holmes is due to leave, Mr. Trevor is told that a man wants to see him. Mr. Trevor sees the man, who is obviously an old sailor, approaching from a distance. He needs to drink some brandy before he can face talking to the man. Although the man does not give his name, Mr. Trevor recognizes him as Hudson whom he has not seen for thirty years. Hudson says that he was thinking of getting a job with either Mr. Trevor or Mr. Beddoes. Mr. Trevor is surprised that Hudson knows where Mr. Beddoes is. With an unpleasant look on his face, Hudson says, "I know where all my old friends are." Mr. Trevor tells Hudson that he will give him a job. He also says some other things to the man which cannot be heard. An hour later, Holmes and Victor Trevor find Mr. Trevor lying on the sofa in a drunken stupor.

Holmes returns to London. Seven weeks later, he receives a telegram from Victor Trevor. In his telegram, Victor Trevor asks Holmes to come back to Donnthorpe because he needs his help and advice.

At the train station, Holmes is met by Victor Trevor. Victor Trevor explains that his father is dying and that Hudson appears to be the cause of it. Hudson was given a job as the gardener at the Trevors' house but was not satisfied with that and had to be promoted to butler. The maids complained about Hudson getting drunk and swearing. However, instead of disciplining Hudson, Mr. Trevor increased the maids' salaries in order to get them to stay. Hudson appeared to be able to do whatever he pleased and appeared to be constantly sneering at Mr. Trevor. One day, Hudson said something to Mr. Trevor which made Victor Trevor very angry. Victor Trevor grabbed Hudson and pushed him out of the room. The following day, Mr. Trevor told his son that he should apologize to Hudson but Victor Trevor refused. That evening, Hudson announced that he was leaving and would go to see Mr. Beddoes in Hampshire. Victor Trevor was asked again to apologize to Hudson. When Victor Trevor refused again, Hudson made a vague threat before leaving the house.

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott 03

Hudson announces that he is leaving and going to Hampshire. 1893 illustration by Sidney Paget.

After Hudson left, Mr. Trevor became more nervous than before. After he read a letter which was postmarked Fordingbridge, Mr. Trevor had a stroke.

When Holmes and Victor Trevor arrive at the Trevors' house, they find out that Mr. Trevor has already died. The only message that Mr. Trevor left for his son before dying was that the papers are in the back drawer of the Japanese cabinet.

Sherlock Holmes is shown the letter which Mr. Trevor read before suffering a stroke. It reads:

"The supply of game for London is going steadily up. Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to reserve all orders for fly-paper and for preservation of your hen-pheasant's life."

Holmes realizes that the letter is a coded message. He eventually works out that the first word and then every third word communicate the true message, which reads:

"The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your life."

Knowing that Fordingbridge is in Hampshire, where Mr. Beddoes lives, and having been told by Victor Trevor that Beddoes is fond of hunting, which explains the references to pheasants and gamekeepers, Holmes deduces that Mr. Beddoes wrote the letter.

Victor Trevor finds the papers in the Japanese cabinet and Holmes reads them. They take the form of a confession by Mr. Trevor, who feared that he would either die or be arrested soon.

Sherlock Holmes Museum The Adventure of the Gloria Scott

The convict James Armitage in the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Baker Street, London.

Mr. Trevor says that his real name is James Armitage. In 1855, when he was a young man, he worked at a bank from which he stole money. For his crime, he was sentenced to be transported to Australia. The Crimean War was being fought at that time, which meant that ships normally used to transport convicts to Australia were being used instead to carry soldiers to the Black Sea. Consequently, the ship on which James Armitage was to be transported, the Gloria Scott, was an old one which had been used to bring tea from China before newer and faster ships replaced it. When it set sail, there were about one hundred people on board the ship, the captain and three mates, a crew of twenty-six sailors, eighteen soldiers, four warders, a doctor and a chaplain as well as the convicts.

The wooden walls of the ship's cells were unusually thin. The man in the cell next to James Armitage was ale to make a small hole in the wall and spoke to him through it. He revealed that he was Jack Prendergast who swindled people out of almost two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. None of that money was recovered. Prendergast said that his accomplice, a man called Wilson, had the money. He went on to say that Wilson was on board the ship posing as the chaplain. Wilson had already bribed some of the warders and sailors and, consequently, the convicts would be able to mutiny and take control of the Gloria Scott. Armitage was told to pass on the news about the mutiny to the convict in the next cell, a young man called Evans.

In his guise as the chaplain, Wilson was able to secretly distribute pistols to the convicts. The mutiny started earlier than expected when the doctor discovered pistols in the bed of one of the convicts. The doctor was taken prisoner and gagged. The convicts rushed through the door which the doctor had left unlocked. Although Wilson and eight other mutineers were killed, the mutineers took control of the ship. The captain and all of the soldiers were killed, most of them from being thrown overboard.


The mutineers rescue Hudson. 1893 illustration by Sidney Paget.

To prevent them from talking, Prendergast also wanted to kill the unarmed doctor, mates and warders. James Armitage, Evans and six other mutineers disagreed, thinking that, unlike killing the armed soldiers, killing those unarmed men would be murder. Prendergast gave those eight mutineers the option of leaving. They were given sailor's uniforms and placed in a boat with food, water, a chart and a compass. Shortly after the eight mutineers were placed in the boat, the Gloria Scott exploded. The eight mutineers returned to the wreck of the Gloria Scott. They found one survivor, a sailor called Hudson. Hudson said that, although he had been tied up. the first mate managed to escape and went to a part of the ship where gunpowder was stored. The first mate held a match over an open barrel of gunpowder and said that he would light it if the mutineers tried to do anything to him. According to Hudson, the explosion was probably caused by a bullet fired by the mutineers instead of the first mate's match.

A ship going to Australia picked up James Armitage, Evans and the other men in the boat. On arrival in Australia, Armitage changed his name to Trevor and Evans changed his name to Beddoes. Both men made their fortunes in Australia and returned to England as wealthy and respectable men.

Mr. Trevor ends his confession by saying that he fears that all is lost because Beddoes has told him that Hudson has revealed everything. However it is later revealed that Hudson never told the police what he knew about Hudson and Beddoes.

After finding out the terrible truth about his father, Victor Trevor leaves England and makes a new life for himself in Asia. Hudson and Beddoes are never seen again. Holmes thinks that Beddoes wrongly believed that Hudson went to the police, killed Hudson and fled the country.


Ronald Howard 1967

1967 photograph of Ronald Howard.

"The Case of the Blind Man's Bluff", the eighth episode of the TV series Sherlock Holmes starring Ronald Howard as Holmes and Howard Marion Crawford as Watson, is a loose adaptation of "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott". It first aired in the United States in syndication on December 6, 1954. In the episode, a man called Vickers murders crew members and former crew members of a cargo ship called the Gloria North. The Gloria North had been used to smuggle people from Trinidad to England. Believing that a patrol ship was about to intercept them off the English coast, the captain of the Gloria North ordered that all the Trinidadians be thrown overboard. Vickers' wife and son were among those who were thrown overboard and drowned. Before they are killed, two of Vickers' victims are sent a chicken's foot with a black ribbon tied around it, said to be a traditional Trinidadian warning of death. When a third man, Dr. Jonas, receives a chicken's foot, Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard go to question him. Dr. Jonas denies ever having been on board the Gloria North. Holmes knows that he is lying because Dr. Jonas has a tattoo on his wrist, which he has tried unsuccessfully to remove, of an anchor and the initials G.N.

In 1979, "The Case of the Blind Man's Bluff" was remade as the seventh episode of the Polish-American TV series Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, starring Geoffrey Whitehead as Holmes and Donald Pickering as Watson.

"The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" was adapted as an episode of the American radio series CBS Radio Mystery Theater. The episode stars Kevin McCarthy as Holmes, It was first broadcast in the United States on November 14, 1977. The action takes place at a time when Holmes has already become a famous detective, Watson refers to his recently published work The Hound of the Baskervilles. At the beginning of the program, Holmes' friend Victor Trevor sends him a box which contains the coded message. Holmes and Watson then travel to Trevor's home to continue the investigation.

An adaptation of "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" starring Clive Merrison as Holmes first aired on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom on January 29, 1992.

See also


  1. This is also the case in the 1893 story "The Musgrave Ritual" which, like "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" deals with events which took place before Holmes met Watson.

External links

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