The Voyage of the "Strathallan"

There was a ‘large shark swimming around the ship’
Life on an Immigrant Ship Bound for New Zealand

page 3

11/11 Trade Winds

   5th November ‘The trades at last, at 2 in the afternoon’ was recorded by John Morris in his diary, after slow sailing the week before. ‘Going well. Saw flying fish.’
The next day Saturday there were lots of flying fish and there was a dance on deck. Saturday also saw the issue of the second issue of the shipboard newspaper. According to the Rev Charles Alabaster the leading topic of the paper was ‘an unpleasant subject’. Written by a cabin passenger it complained of ‘the neglect of the charterers in packing the stores so that rum and brandy were the only spirits available.’ A few days later Alabaster recorded that, ‘some of our gentlemen passengers got drunk and a disgraceful scene ensued.’ There were to be several occasions when the Reverend commented on the excessive consumption of alcohol.
   7th November Being Sunday the usual services were held. During the day a flying fish landed on the poop deck and then the Morris diary notes, ‘several nautilus seen.’ The nautilus is often described as one of the living fossils of the world. It lives in a coiled shell and rises near the sea surface to feed using its tentacles to capture its food. Morris continued with; ‘At four o’clock in the afternoon passed the Pierre Grande of Dunkeyen from Bordeaux for the Brazils.’ Passing ships were of interest to the emigrants and sometimes contact was made these vessels. A final Morris note for the day recorded, ‘the ship very lousy’.
Meanwhile the Rev Alabaster was experiencing some problems with his religious instruction. He ‘had a Bible class on the main deck very well attended. Towards the end and during the concluding hymn the sailors began to pump ship and attempted to sing us down to the great indignation of the passengers. Next time we are to have our service to ourselves between decks’.
The next day the emigrants ‘aired bedding’ and had a ‘dance on deck’. There were set timetables for each day and duties to be carried out that including regularly airing bedding from steerage.
   9th and 10th November. At first there was a ‘squall of wind and rain’ then ‘much lightening at night’. On the 10th they were becalmed but the entertainment for the steerage passengers was provided when ‘Buckley and Tobin fought’. Assisted emigrant Daniel Buckley was a 21 year old labourer from Ireland as was Thomas Tobin. Both were destined for Lyttelton.
   11th November During the day they were becalmed. ‘A large ship in sight all day and yesterday.’
At regular intervals during the voyage provisions were retrieved from storage in the hold ready for use. The emigrants were required to assist with this work and John Morris recorded; ‘Breaking out stores all day – the hottest job I ever had.’

Daily Routines

   Regulations for preserving ‘order and promoting health’ were observed while the emigrant ships were at sea. Unfortunately it appears that a few people weren’t always concerned about either personal hygiene or willing to co operate.
Passengers were required ‘to rise not later than 7a.m.’ and breakfast was ‘from 8 to 9 a.m. dinner at 1 p.m. and supper at 6p.m’. They were required ‘to be in their beds at 10 p.m’.
    In the morning all emigrants were required ‘to roll up their beds, to sweep the deck (including the space under the bottom of the berths) and to throw the dirt overboard’. Breakfast was not to be served till this was done. After breakfast the deck was to be dry holystoned or scraped.
‘Weather permitting’ beds were to be shaken, and aired on deck at least twice a week. ‘The bottom boards of the berths if not fixed were to be removed and dry scrubbed and taken on deck at least twice a week.’
    Two days a week were appointed as washing days but no clothes were to be dried between decks. A roster was organised and turns were taken as ‘sweepers and cleaners’. Men were required ‘to keep watch between decks at night’ to assist any person becoming ill or to follow directions from the ship’s officer on watch. There are diary records of emigrants who were reprimanded for both their lack of personal hygiene and the state of their clothing and bedding.
    To maintain order among the emigrants Constables were appointed and a Matron was in charge of the single women who were accommodated separately.
Despite the regulations problems did arise. Morris recorded ‘ship very lousy’. William Jewell on the 1862 voyage of the
Echunga was a little more descriptive in his recorded comments when he wrote in his diary ‘thousands of lice aboard the dirty itchy Irish and Scotch are to be seen picking them off their cloths and neck’. His ship also had problems with rats. ‘While we were sitting up in bed a large one walked across the pillow into the next berth we had no sleep that night the rats were running over our faces and the child. They are of enormous size.’ William took a number of complaints to the Captain about conditions on board the Echunga. He had a copy of the Government Rules and used it on several occasions to justify his arguments including one time when he refused to take a turn cleaning the privies. One can imagine the Captain was glad to see him disembark at Lyttelton.
    Sometimes it was the husbands who set the rules. Arthur Price on the Lancashire Witch’s voyage to Timaru in 1863 recorded; ‘turned the Mrs out of bed and made her have a good was (wash) all over with sea water. Mean to do so every morning.’ It must have been good for his wife Lissy as he wrote when they arrived at Lyttelton after the sea voyage ‘Lissy quite fat and saucy’.


Immigrants on deck. London Illustrated News

18/11 Crossing the Line

   12th November The weather must have been very changeable as John Morris noted in his diary the Strathallan was, ‘becalmed all day’ with the ship they had seen yesterday ‘still in sight’. At 7 p.m. in the evening there was,‘ a squall of wind and rain’ then they were becalmed again. During the night there was, ‘dreadful rain all night; the ship flooded’.
    The next day Saturday was much the same with the ship still in sight and ‘fish jumping all around,’ no wind and ‘rain at intervals’. Up in his cabin the Reverend Alabaster was finding the tropical heat a bit much. He was forced to have his, ‘cabin door open and hang a thin shawl across by way of a curtain’. Down below in steerage the emigrants sweated it out while the Reverend recorded, ‘the time between meals rather tells on me’. He thought that a paying passenger should bring with him, ‘a small store of biscuits, jams and similar comforts’.
    14th November The ship was still becalmed with very hot weather. ‘Sharks fin in sight’ records Morris then, ‘a shark came on the port side and went away aft, after smelling the bait, (it) went away ahead. The first mate got down on the guys of the martingale, and dropping the bait the shark presently came back and took it. Landed it on the main deck and cut it up. It proved to be about one year old’.
    15th November The next day the cabin passengers had shark steak for breakfast. Alabaster noted with rare humour that, ‘but for suspicions of man eating feats it was relishing enough’. Morris recorded that they had ‘shark for breakfast fried in butter’ and ‘shark for tea stewed in vinegar’. There were light winds during the day and the ship they had seen several days ago was still in sight. There was a ‘breeze in the evening’.
The next day there must have been problems as ‘Pickles was sent to prison for 12 hours’. Both crew and passengers on the ships caused trouble. On the Echunga in 1862, ‘two young women were ordered below for a week for being on (the) forecastle eating soup with the sailors’. Then later, ‘a scotch girl is confined for a fortnight for threatening and offering to fight another girl. Both girls have been confined before for going to the forecastle with the sailors’. On the Strathallan even the cabin passengers caused problems with the ever observant Reverend Alabaster recording, ‘the pleasure of the last fortnight has been greatly marred and the attention of all more or less taken up with the drinking propensities and consequent ill behaviour of some of the cuddy (cabin) passengers’.
John Morris notes that it was ‘the 30th day since we saw land’. ‘The ship was going better’ and there was ‘leaping and games on deck’. Emigrants had to amuse themselves and on one ship are recorded as playing Oranges and Lemons with the sailors. That evening some of the emigrants ‘lay on the forecastle at night until rain caused a retreat’.
    17th November Now in the south east trades Morris noted the ‘ship going well at last’. With the warm tropical weather there was ‘dancing and singing at night’.
    18th November ‘Ship going well.’ At 2 o’clock in the afternoon a school of whales was sighted and then the ship ‘crossed the line (equator) between 2 and 3. Neptune came on board in the evening’. Neither diarist on the ship describes the ceremony of crossing the line although Morris noted that there was ‘plenty of grog in the forecastle with the sailors all singing and jolly’. It was often an opportunity for the sailors to extract money from passengers or face the indignity of a mock shaving which usually involved tar soap or molasses and soot and plenty of water. There were times when captains forbade the ceremony. On the earlier voyage of the Strathallan one young woman was caught in the ‘water battle’ and was later taken to the ship’s hospital. ‘Matters grew daily more serious until she passed away.’

Provisions on the Ship

   Food allowances for the assisted passengers were set by regulation with more generous allowances for paying passengers. Considering contemporary reports of life in rural England recorded a very meagre diet for rural labourers, the weekly food allowances seem relatively generous.
    Each adult was allocated 3¼lb of preserved meats and salted beef and pork. Ham and fish was reserved for paying passengers. Cereals included ships biscuit 3½lb, flour 3lb, oatmeal 1pt and rice ½lb. Vegetables were in short supply with an allocation of dried peas ½pt and potatoes 3½lb. Other items included sugar, lime juice, tea, coffee, butter, cheese, raisins, suet, pickles, mustard, pepper and salt. A three quart allowance of water was provided daily. Examples of the total provisions carried by an immigrant ship on the voyage include beef 2500lbs, pork 2600lbs, flour 6500lbs, ship’s biscuits 10 700lbs and smaller amounts of things like 70lbs of mustard.
    Provisions were issued every few days to the mess groups who prepared their group meals with the assistance of the ship’s cook. William Smaill recalled that provisions on the earlier voyage of the Strathallan were ‘both good and plentiful but the cooking was wretched’. On some other voyages emigrants complained regarding the quantity and state of the provisions. John Morris’s only comment was ‘poor grub’ but others provided a little more detail. On the ship
Echunga ‘twelve of the young men carried their piece of beef to the Captain’. It was for two days but there was not ½lb of meat it being all bone. William Smaill remembered that one day the cook was short of soda for dissolving the peas for soup so used soap instead and usually the pork was boiled in the pea soup, but when the pork had maggots, there was ‘fresh meat’ in the soup that day.

25/11 A Birth on Board

   19th November The Strathallan continued southwards with good sailing winds. John Morris’s complete diary entry for the day is; ‘Ship going well. Ten knots an hour. Fine day and all well’.
    20th November ‘Mrs Kohn’s child died this morning. Funeral at half past four.’ Frederick Kohn a 31 year old farm labourer was born in Germany and had married Katherine Sohnitker in London. Their daughter Catherine Mary (the child that died) was born in June 1858 and does not appear on the passenger list. Infants under the age of 12 months travelled free on the ships and were sometimes omitted from the list.
Morris observed ‘a ship right ahead of us at half past 11 in the morning. We are in chase of her’.
The next day he recorded that the ship was still ahead of them but by noon they had gained a few miles on her. He records the sails set were ‘fore stun’sail set and main top gallant’. He also records the speed of the ship as ‘going from 10 to 12 knots’.
    22nd November The Morris diary entry for the day records ‘lost the ship in the dark last night, after chasing her between four and five hundred miles’. The Reverend Alabaster recorded in his diary that now that the ship was moving out of the tropics the ‘weather is sensibly cooler’ but notes that their course is now ‘too near the American coast.’ The long days aboard ship appear to be having their effect on the Reverend. He records ‘fast as the time has passed, that to come, looks long in anticipation’. He then adds that they have ‘everything except privacy’ but he thinks that is impossible on a crowded ship. While he had his own cabin over 200 assisted emigrants were living communally in steerage.
    23rd November John Morris’s first entry for the day; ‘Mrs Padget had a child at 3 this morning’. William Padget was a tailor from Yorkshire and had married mariner’s daughter Martha Clapham in 1856. William is recorded as being 22 years old on the passenger list with his occupation being recorded as a gardener/labourer. With the couple on the ship, was their first child Martha who had only been recorded on the passenger list as ‘infant’. By this time the Strathallan was ‘abreast of St Helena at mid-day’ and between 15 and 16 degrees south of the equator. Things didn’t improve for the Reverend Alabaster because he records ‘the other gentlemen passengers except Mr Watson have instituted a club for convivial purposes,’ and he had not been invited to join. And it didn’t end there for the Reverend because as he noted, ‘when it is too cold or wet for the deck we must retire to our cabin 6 x 5, which to make matters worse is never quite free from the effluvia of the commode’.
    24th November Emigrants were allowed access to their luggage on occasions and John Morris noted that ‘4 doz. shirts, 18 pair of trousers, etc., etc., lost. A general search among the boxes, but no result’. The quantity of clothing is surprising as 18 pairs of trousers is a lot of trousers even if you are travelling to the other side of the world. There is also the possibility that the clothes were stolen. With the communal living situation in steerage there are records of opportunist stealing taking place.
Morris records the position of the ship as 20 degrees south at 12 and then goes on to record ‘looking out all night for Trinidad’. The tiny island of Trindade off the coast of Brazil was known as South Trinidad.
    25th November Two entries in the John Morris diary for Thursday. There was a ‘large shark swimming around the ship’ and he also notes there was a ‘stiff breeze’. The Reverend Alabaster had nothing to record during the last two days.

Assisted Passenger Tickets

   In 1858 a passage on the Strathallan cost £17. 0. 0 for a steerage berth and of course more for a cabin passage.
The Canterbury Provincial Government subsidized the fare for emigrants of certain occupations who were prepared to take up work in the colony. If the emigrant paid £8. 10. 0 the government gave the same amount as a subsidy, but if the person only paid £5. 0. 0 towards his fare then the subsidy was for the same amount. The emigrant then had to take out a promissory note (due for repayment later) for £7. 0. 0 the remainder of the fare. To ensure they qualified for the subsidy some applicants temporarily changed their occupations.
    The scheme to bring workers to New Zealand was designed by persons of wealth to bring workers here at the cheapest cost so the subsidy was related to the need for workers in New Zealand and later free passage was offered to women and then to any suitable applicant. The worry was that as the cost of passage was lowered so might the class of person who could now afford to apply. And so it was to prove. In the 1870’s when free passage was introduced it is recorded that girls off the London streets with occupation listed as ‘servant’ were accepted for passage. Immigrants arrived in Waimate and E C Studholme recorded ‘they were not of a good type and had been recruited from the poorhouses and even the prisons’. In Timaru, immigrants arriving on the Peeress were housed in hastily erected cob and sod houses at Patiti Point on the quarantine and fortification reserve. It became known as a ‘plague spot both materially and morally’. Its residents often unemployed frequently appeared in the Magistrate’s Court. Later it was reported that it had ‘afforded shelter to some of the worst characters that ever infected the town’.
Fortunately most of the applicants for passage to New Zealand were people who were prepared to work to make a better life for themselves in the new colony.


Assisted Immigrant Passenger ticket for the Strathallan originally from B. Hollier .
Included a list of provisions to be provided to immigrants. There was a different schedule for paying cabin passengers.

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