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The Sailing Ship "Utopia"


949t. Wooden 3 Mast Ship

Built by J. Johnston, St. John, New Brunswich, 1853

Acquired by the Black Ball Line in 1857

MASTER of Ship: George Stewart

Surgeon-Superintendent: F. W. Johnson

Schoolmaster: David Andrews

Matron: Mary A. North


The 1st Immigrant Ship to sail directly from Plymouth, England 23 July 1862 to

Keppel Bay, Queensland on 6 November 1862

Rockhampton, Queensland on 11 November 1862

with 324 "hand-picked" immigrants


The immigrants were primarily of English and Scottish descent with a few from Ireland.


There had been great eagerness within the small community in Central Queensland to attract people to the area-"The arrival of a shipload of immigrants in this district would be indeed a great boon. Labour is very much in request for up-country employments, and 200 or 300 immigrants would be speedily taken up by our settlers." appeared in the first issue of the Rockhampton Bulletin, dated 29 July 1861.


27 September 1862 A report in the Rockhampton Bulletin that the Emigration Commissioners in England had chartered the 'UTOPIA' to convey emigrants from Plymouth to Keppel Bay and that it had departed from Plymouth on 23rd July.

After the appearance of this article, There was a question as to whether the ship,

'UTOPIA' would actually arrive at Keppel Bay, but would in fact, dock at Moreton Bay. It was pointed out after all, that with the exception of the "Persia" that arrived at Port Curtis in 1861 and the "Ariadne," which was shortly expected to arrive at Wide Bay, the immigrant vessels had all been chartered for Moreton Bay. In the Morning Bulletin of October 4, 1862, John Jardine, P.M., in a letter to the editor wrote, 

"As it is of importance that the employers and others in the Northern Districts should have no doubt on the subject, I beg to inform you that officers to form a sub-immigration have been nominated, and that I have received instructions from the Government to make all necessary preparations for the reception of the "UTOPIA' and her freight of immigrants."

"The ship may be expected to arrive in Keppel Bay about the 1st of November next, and it shall be my special care to make the arrangements best suited to the interests and convenience of the people of this district, in the disposal of the expected immigrants."

15 October 1862 First advertisement in Morning Bulletin of immigrants and goods arriving on the 'UTOPIA'.


25 October 1862 In the Rockhampton Bulletin, the following was noted: "The" "UTOPIA will be due in another week, and employers would do well to make their arrangements in anticipation of her arrival. The article also stated "We understand a Sub-Immigration Board has been constituted for Rockhampton, consisting of Mr. Jardine, PM; Mr. Brown, WPM, Mr. Wood, District Surveyor. Dr. Callaghan has been appointed Health Officer. , The Survey Office is now being prepared for the reception of the immigrants."


Among those on board were 3 Butchers, 55 Farm & Ag. Labourers, 1 Shoemaker, 1 Sawyer,14 Shepherds, 2 Carters, 25 Ploughmen, 3 Gardeners, 1 Weaver, 1 Bricklayer, 2 Brick-makers, 1 Iron Fitter, 3 Grooms, 5 Carpenters, 1 Quarryman, 2 Wheelwrights, 1 Millwright, 1 Miner, 1 Mason, 1 Engine Driver, 1 Miller and 1 Lad. Among the single women, there were 10 House Maids 17 General Servants, 8 Cooks, 2 Needle-women, 11 Nurse Maids, 4 Farm Servants.


8 of November 1862 "GLORIOUS NEWS!!! The Arrival of the "UTOPIA" IMMIGRANT Vessel in Keppel Bay-its arrival being the most exciting topic of the hour!


5 November 1912 Fifty Years Ago-Arrival of First Immigrant Ship: Mr. A Small of Clermont, requests all persons who arrived in Central Queensland by the ship "UTOPIA," which left Plymouth on the 23rd July and reached Keppel Bay on the 6th of November, 1862, to meet at Stenlake's rooms at eleven o'clock tomorrow.


7 November 1912 First Immigrants' Jubilee "Fifty years ago yesterday, the sailing vessel, 'UTOPIA' of 949 tons with 324 immigrants on board, anchored in Keppel Bay after having been 106 days on the voyage from Plymouth. Within less than a week of the landing of the passengers, more than half of the number had found employment in the town and district, and the 'Bulletin' of the day, referring to them, said: Taking the number engaged within 48 hours, from the time that they were open for selection, and coupling with it the quality of those disengaged and the fact that many of the more eligible are merely weighing offers that have been made to them, we must pronounce the result of the trial as to our demand for labour a perfect success and calculated to ensure a continuation of immigration to this port. A similar shipment every three months would be eagerly snapped up."

"It would appear that not quite half of those who came out in the 'UTOPIA' and who are still living in the district, were able to attend the jubilee reunion, some being too advanced in years, others living out too great a distance"


Those present were: Mesdames McFadyen, Davis, Gay, Bannon, Talbot, Royes, Robertson, Barry, D. Bailey, Vaughan, Wisher, Hanson and Messrs: A. Small, J. Diamond, J. Conachan (Conaghan), Talbot, H. Diamond, R. Bond, P. Crawley, Bates.


"For a couple of hours they remained together partaking of refreshments and recalling their days together aboard ship. Towards the close of the proceedings, a few brief speeches were made by Messrs Small, Conachan and H. Diamond. Those present then proceeded to the Lynn Studio and were photographed.


(Photo of 'UTOPIA' Celebrants)



50TH Anniversary of Arrival of Immigrants to Rockhampton"


Inserts: L-R: Margaret (Stewart) York, William Conaghan (?), Sarah Brewer.

3rd Row: L-R: Sarah Crowley, Mary Royes, ______. ______, Richard Bond.

2nd Row: L-R: Mary Hansen, Charles Bates, Laura (Bates) Davis , ______, ______, ______, Mary  (Quirk) Gay, Martha Hannah (Norton) Vaughan.

1st Row: (seated) Mary Ann Talbot, George Talbot, ______, Edward Bates Jnr, Andrew Small (?), John Conachan (Conaghan), ______, ______.

Front: L-R: ______, ______.

Anyone who can identify their ancestor in the above photo or has information about this trip of so long ago, is asked to contact:


Sylvia Conaghan

PO Box 1582

Rockhampton, Qld, 4700

4921 3225


A book is also available:
The 1862 Voyage of the ship, Utopia to Queensland
published in 2012 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of of its arrival in
Keppel Bay. Cost $35 + postage. Interest may be directed to the author, Sylvia Conaghan.


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