BERLEY (Barley, Barlow), GEORGE, HBC captain; d. 1720?
Berley’s date and place of birth are unknown but he was certainly an Englishman, and presumably he was a young man when he joined the HBC in 1708 as a gunner at £50 a year for three years. He served his term in the bay and then returned from Fort Albany to England in the ship Hudson’s Bay [II] (Capt. Joseph Davis) in 1711.
It is not known what he did for the next 5 years. Probably he went to sea as a mate, for in 1716 he was given command of the HBC’s new frigate Albany. She was a small vessel of about 80 tons designed especially “to go into Albany River,” built by James Taylor, and launched early in 1716.
Berley was obviously a competent seaman who enjoyed the confidence of his superiors and peers. He took the Albany on her first voyage to Fort Albany in 1716 and Thomas McCliesh*, chief at the fort, wrote on 12 September that 5 to 9 September was spent getting the Albany frigate into Fort Albany; “Had not Captain Berley been a brisk hardy man the ship had been lost before he arrived in this road, off the Bay of Vapuska.” McCliesh at the same time referred his superiors to Berley for a character reference for himself.
Berley made two more voyages in the Albany, to Fort Albany in 1717 and to Churchill in 1718. In 1719 as a successful and experienced HBC captain he and his ship were selected to join James Knight’s expedition. She sailed with the Discovery (Capt. David Vaughan) from the Thames to seek minerals and the northwest passage and was wrecked on Marble Island in 1719 or 1720, where everyone on the expedition perished.
A later George Berley, who distinguished himself as a gunner defending Fort Albany in 1739, may have been his son.