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A Voyage On The "Quetta"

The following are extracts taken as they were written from the diary of Benjamin Holdsworth, before and during the journey to Australia from England with his family in 1884 aboard the steamship "Quetta".  Benjamins great granddaughter, Mrs Jill Gra ves, 26 Heywood Road, Brooklands, Sale, Cheshire M33 3wb has kindly given us permission to reproduce them with the hope that an Australian member of the family may read, remember and get in touch.  The notes give some idea of the conditions experienced on board the immigrant ships of that era.


The family on that journey consisted of:

Benjamin Holdsworth    age 37

Mary Holdsworth        age 42

Annie                    age 11

Mary                    age 8

Eliza                    age 7

Percy                    age 3


Monday 14th April 1884

Received letter from Mary Jane signifying that our nomination papers were posted at the same time.

Tuesday 29th April 1884

Today we received our nomination papers from Mary Jane.

Wednesday 7th May 1884

Sent Mary Jane a letter acknowledging the receipt of nomination papers.  Received a letter from Mr. Rose explaining cause of depression in Queensland.

Friday 25th July 1884

left Barrow at 7.55pm for Camforth, then took the train to Euston at 10.25, arrived there at six on Saturday morning.

                        Entry at back of diary - Fares

                        Barrow to Carnforth    11s 8d

                        Carnford to Euston, London €3 18s 8d

                        Euston to Blackwall for bus 12s 0d

Monday 26th July 1884

On our arrival at Euston I was advised to hire a small bus to convey ourselves and luggage to the Emigration Depot at Blackwall which took us right into the Depot and whatever people may say against the depot me and my family were satisfied with it in every sense, it was clean and comfortable and the food was as good as anyone could wish for, in fact the home was far more comfortable than most of the emigrants were accustomed to.

On arrival at the depot we were very fortunate in securing the position of caretakers for one of the homes as I must not omit to mention that there were two homes but they were both in one square and as soon as one is full they have then to go to the one we had charge of, and for our services at the depot we received 5/-d.

There is about 360 Emigrants to go composed of English, Irish, Scots, Germans and Danes.  We are all busy making preparations for going abroad tomorrow.

Tuesday 29th July 1884

We were early astir this morning washing ourselves and children and dressing preparatory to going on board the tender which is to convey us to the S.S.Quetta which is to be our home for at least seven weeks.  8.00am we had breakfast, after that we all commenced preparing to leave the depot each and every one getting their bags packed with whatever they think they will require for the first fortnight as the boxes may not be brought up for that time.

Wednesday 30th July 1884

Distance first day 232 miles.  The morning opened fine with a smooth sea and the ship making about 12 miles an hour, but as the day wore on and we began to near the Bay of Biscay the sea began to roll and people began to fall sick one after another, the pilot left the ship at 8.00am but they gave us such a short notice that he would take letters to post that we had not time to write a letter to anyone, but we received a letter from Mr. Buckley which greatly cheered us, it was brought to us by the men who came in a small boat for the pilot when just off the Isle of Wight.

At 11.00am we passed out of the English channel towards the dreaded Bay of Biscay which we are expected to enter at ten tonight.  None on us have been sick yet it is now half past seven, but that is accounted for by being berthed in the centre of the ship consequently we do not rock quarter as much as they do at each end of the ship.

Thursday 31st July 1884

Today we have travelled 262 miles since leaving Gravesend, the day has been beautiful and fine but as is always the case in crossing the Bay of Biscay in fine weather there is always a heavy swell on the sea so it is at the present time, sea sickness among the passengers is gradually increasing especially among the single girls who are placed in the afterpart of the ship, and also among the single men and a number of other married people have been fortunate in warding off the sickness up to this morning when a number of them  were compelled to give way, amongst them my wife and three of the children and when  I went to the Cookhouse for the coffee for breakfast  that unpleasant sensation that people call sea-sickness began to creep over me.  I was glad to return without anything and give up the mess utensils to my partner for the time being, but by dinner time, I was able to resume my duties, nothing of importance occurred from dinner time till 10pm when a severe fog set in which caused a great sensation among the passengers as the fog horn was kept continually blowing every minute throughout the whole night with repeated stoppages, one vessel passed close under the bows of our ship while we were stopped, but as daylight appeared the fog cleared away.  About 8iam we passed Cape St Vincent which was not more than a mile or so distance from us, as it is now going dark we made preparations for going below.

Friday 1st August 1884

The morning opened beautiful and fine after the fog and about 12 o'clock we passed Cape Finestre in Portugal,  and thankful we were all to get out of the Bay of Biscay and not withstanding the fog and the stoppages we travelled since yesterday at noon 236 miles up to noon today, the time and distance is always taken at noon each day by the Captain or Ships Officer. It is now dusk and while I am writing this my wife is sat close by crotcheting and singing and so are all the children,  all on board seem as merry as crickets. 

Saturday 2nd August 1884

Our distance today is 280 miles.  There is and has been ever since we started scarcely any wind at all, sea sickness is fast disappearing among the passengers, they are beginning to get more accustomed to the motion of the vessel.  Early this morning we passed what appeared to be rocks at a distance of 10 or 12 miles which I considered to be Lisbon or somewhere near it, but after a short time we lost sight of it.

Sunday 3rd August 1884

Our distance today was 261 miles the morning opened fine but with rather a stiff breeze and for my own part I was glad it did not spring up while we were in the Bay of Biscay for had it done so no doubt I should have been one of many to feel its influence.  This morning has been rather a lively one although it has been Sunday, just after breakfast the ships crew which is composed of mainly blacks with the exception of the Officers were all mustered for drill in case of fire, a number of them  attended to the hose while the remainder ran for the water buckets from the place where they are kept, after that the lowering of the boats were gone through, then the service commenced, it was read by the Surgeon, by the time that was over it was dinner time.  For our dinner we had raisen pudding, carrot and Australian mutton,


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