James Spens – Dutch Republic VOC – ca. 1630

James Spens was the son of James Spens and Agnes Walker. James Spens served as a soldier in the Dutch Republic from 1617 to 1621 in the capacity of drummer in William Brog’s [SSNE 7842] regiment. He then served in the Swedish army from at least 1624 when he was a drummer in Colonel James Spens’ regiment alongside compatriot D. Manson, and leaving Swedish service in 1631. His father, also James Spens, was servitor to the Lord Privy Seal. Spens has been previously confused with Sir James Spens of Wormiston. He was clearly not this man, although he did know him and even served in his regiment for a time. In one of his letter witten from Riga on 29 May 1629 he even noted that his wife had encountered Sir James while tavelling through Sweden to join him in Riga. She had told her husband “I com to Stockholm I had not so much as my sark to put upone my back not nothing to live upon war not my Lord Wormiston and his son Lieutenant James Spens gave me money”. James served in Riga between October 1628 and early 1631. In a letter written from Amsterdam on 12 November 1631, “I taking my pass from me Lord of Wormistoun and hes left the King of Swadin service”. He lamented the passing of his wife whom he swore to remember for the rest of his life. It was probably her death that prompted him to leave Swedish service and try for a new life in Dutch service. Spens met up with a friend in Amsterdam, one George Borthwick. He was clearly known to him from Scotland as he asked his parents to greet Borthwick’s wife and their mutual friends at home in Edinburgh. The men continued on from Amsterdam to Sierra Leone on the Guinea Coast and then to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies in service of the VOC. It was from there that he wrote his last surviving letter on 23 February 1632. Spens was married to Elizabeth Baillie (d.1631) and with her had his ‘bairne’ William.

Sources:

National Archives of Scotland, RH9/2/231-242, 12 letters of James Spens to his father 1617-1632; T. Fischer, The Scots in Sweden (Edinburgh, 1907), p.218; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.9, 76, 234, 349, 358.

Slight adjustments made by Mr Jack Abernethy.

Service record:

THE DUTCH REPUBLICDOESBURGHGELDERLANDTHE SCOTS BRIGADECOL. BROG
Arrived 1617-08-01, as DRUMMER
Departed 1621-12-31, as DRUMMER
Capacity DRUMMERMUSICIAN, purpose MILITARY
SWEDENRIGAJAMES SPENS
Arrived 1624-10-01, as DRUMMER
Departed 1631-04-30, as DRUMMER MAJOR
Capacity OFFICERDRUMMER MAJORMUSICIAN, purpose MILITARY
THE DUTCH REPUBLICAMSTERDAM
Arrived 1631-11-12, as DRUMMER MAJOR
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
THE DUTCH REPUBLICSIERRA LEONEGUINEAVOC
Arrived 1631-11-12
Departed 1632-02-23, as DRUMMER MAJOR
Capacity VOC DRUMMER, purpose MILITARY
THE DUTCH REPUBLICBATAVIA DUTCH EAST INDIES
Arrived 1632-04-01, as DRUMMER MAJOR
Capacity VOC DRUMMER, purpose MILITARY

Source: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/ssne/item.php?id=6860