Heather and I recently published a short article on some of our research in the first edition of the Annual Journal of the St Hildeburgh’s Parish Church Hoylake, published by Marine and Cannon Books. “The Christian and the Hero: A study in the contrasting church and community service of Edward Pellew and Thomas Groube” is about Sir Edward Pellew and former Indefatigable midshipman, Thomas Groube, who later served with Pellew in the East Indies. The focus is not on their naval laurels however, but on their later lives and outward practice of the Christian faith they both professed. Sir Edward’s Christian beliefs were expressed in a traditional Anglican context, where he leaned gradually towards the evangelical end of the spectrum. Groube, on the other hand, expressed his belief through the Independent or Congregational tradition with its alliance to more radical ways of thinking.
Pellew very much overturned the stereotype of evangelical Christians current at the time. Both evangelical faith and radical thinking were perceived as potential dangers, fomenting revolution and making men pious, weak or cynical, ill suited to military and naval service. Edward Pellew confounded this image, manifestly a man of strong Christian faith, he was dashing, heroic, fearless and successful. He also took joy in the good things in life, principally his happy marriage and adored children, but also in keeping a hospitable table and well stocked cellar. Here was evidence that dedication to faith did not render one unfit for service and society.
Both Pellew and Groube lived active and fulfilling civilian lives during the long peace that followed the end of the Napoleonic wars and the causes they championed illustrate different approaches to their life and faith. Pellew was a staunch suporter of the Naval and Marine Bible Society, the Liverpool Seamen’s Friend Society and the Bethel Union. Groube was much engaged with local and church politics and gained a reputation as a radical aldermen, campaigning on issues such as income tax and opposition to the Corn Laws.
Despite the differences in their politics and faith, it seems likely that Sir Edward and Thomas remained on friendly terms, as Lord Exmouth is continually referred to in contemporary documents as Groube’s friend. The lives of these two men are a fitting reminder that friendship can transcend politics, creed and stereotypes.