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The Voyage of the "Strathallan"

Morris continued ‘TIMARU AT LAST Five houses in sight’.
Life on an Immigrant Ship Bound for New Zealand

page 5

23/12 The Roaring Forties

  17th December The Strathallan sailed eastward across the Southern Ocean on its journey to New Zealand. As would be expected the westerly winds carried them onwards through rough seas. ‘Awful weather all night the sea breaking right up the rigging,’ wrote John Morris. After ‘rain in the morning’ he was ‘wet through from hauling ropes on the deck’ which suggests he must have been assisting the sailors in their work. There must have been problems with the crew as, ‘the first mate was going to put Cameron the sailor in irons’.
On Saturday the 18th the ‘wind was right aft. Ship rolling heavily all day.’ Morris also recorded there were patches of seaweed floating past during the day and there were ‘porpoises about’.
    19th December For the second Sunday in a row the rough weather meant that the ‘service was held in the cuddy in the morning and under the main hatch in the evening’. In a reference to the argument between the Captain and the doctor the Reverend Alabaster wrote ‘the doctor’s matter is on the point of completion yet seems likely to remain unsettled. Although everything material has been conceded on both sides.’ It appears that even though things should by now be settled there wasn’t a final resolution to the argument, and he doesn’t explain what had caused the problems Judging by his diary entries Alabaster saw himself as the negotiator and peace maker.
John Morris more concerned about the weather than the squabbling among the gentlemen passengers recorded ‘cold, rain and snow’. On deck they were keeping a lookout for land and sighted ‘Kerguelan’s Land (or Crozets) half past three on the starboard side. There is a doubt as to which it is’. There were ‘heavy squalls of wind and rain by the E and N. It was hard work to keep the ship off the rocks’. Morris noticed lots of ducks flying off the island. They were ‘ragged little fellows’.
In reference to the sighting of land Alabaster recorded ‘this was a great relief to the Captain for it was the first land he had seen for certain since leaving England and enabled him to test his reckoning’. He also made note of the weather, it being ‘bitterly cold and damp. Our own little cabin is the only really comfortable place to sit in’.
    20th December Rough weather the day before had carried away the flying jib. After it was replaced the ‘starboard fore stun’sail boom carried away’. It was not unusual for sails and yards to be blown away or damaged and sailors had to be prepared to work in the rigging in all weathers. More sea weed was seen and they were still keeping a look out for land presumably other islands in the Crozet archipelago. There are a total of 20 small windswept islands in the group where it rains on about 300 days each year and the wind blows over 100km/hr on 100 or more days a year. They pose a danger to ships crossing the Southern Ocean.
    21st December Morris noted ‘longest day for us’ referring to the longest day of the year. It was a ‘fine morning, then storm of snow and hail’. The strong wind continued and ‘the boom rigged yesterday snapped off in the middle’. John Morris ‘mended (his) concertina’ probably preparing for the ‘band again’ later in the day.
    22nd December ‘A barrel of flour and box of raisins given to the passengers for their Christmas box on the quarter deck.’ With December the 25th approaching it was time for the emigrants to make their Christmas puddings. The only other entry for the day is ‘ship going well’.
    23rd December Morris recorded ‘ship going splendidly, and from 10 to above 14 knots an hour. 72 east at midday’. By now the Strathallan would have been about half way across the Southern Ocean.

Going Down 

   At least 30 ships foundered on the journey to Australia and New Zealand in the 19th century - most with serious loss of life. For the emigrants fire on the ship or sinking was not something to dwell on. The few lifeboats carried were only able to accommodate the paying passengers, steerage passengers were expected to swim or cling to wreckage.
Some vessels just disappeared and were never seen or heard of again. The Guiding Star left Liverpool in 1855 with 556 emigrants on board. She was never seen again. It is thought it may have collided with an iceberg. The Piako was luckier. In 1878 she was carrying 281 immigrants bound for Timaru and Lyttelton when fire broke out while they were 2100 miles off the coast of Brazil. Fortunately a passing ship was able to take all the passengers off the ship.
    In 1875 the Strathmore was crossing the Southern Ocean when it was wrecked on one of the Crozet islands. The captain and 37 people were drowned. The 50 survivors reached the island and managed to salvage some items from the wreck including gunpowder, wine, spirits, and tins of preserves as well as cutlery and some blankets. There was also a consignment of women’s boots but they were of little use because there was only one woman. After living for seven months on seabirds and a moss found growing on the island they were eventually rescued. By then a further five of the survivors had died.
    One of the worst tragedies occurred in 1874 off the Cape of Good Hope when the Cospatrick caught fire. The ship was bound for Auckland and was carrying 429 emigrants. The fire quickly spread through the ship. Two boats were launched and carried about 62 people including the paying passengers and some of the crew. The remainder were left on the burning ship and it is recorded that husbands threw their wives overboard and then jumped themselves. Drowning was preferable to being burnt to death. There were only three survivors.

The Cospatrick burns and sinks in 1874 Alexander Turnbull Library

30/12 Christmas Day

   24th December To the ‘relief of all,’ according to the Strathallan diarist Charles Alabaster the ‘doctor and the captain shook hands’. For some time there had been ill feeling between the two and the concerned Reverend had been trying to reconcile the two antagonists. Steerage assisted emigrant John Morris recorded, ‘another stormy day’ which was not a reference to the doctor and captain disagreement but the weather, which had the vessel, ‘shipping water every moment’. At one stage, ‘one sea filled the whole belly of the mainsail and then plumped down the main hatchway’.
Morris also recorded ‘Mr Double’s child died this afternoon and was buried directly afterwards’. The sad event is also noted by the Reverend Alabaster. ‘On Friday Mrs Double lost her baby after a long illness; the same afternoon I committed it to the deep.’ William Double and his wife Sarah were bringing their six children to Timaru. Eliza Ann the baby was recorded on the passenger list as being four months old when the family boarded the ship.
The death of so many babies on immigrant ships was partly attributable to the lack of suitable food. With 23 children dying on the Lancashire Witch on its voyage to Timaru, diarist David Carr recorded in 1863 the following lines;
Another child is dead
Another spirit fled
Another body overboard
To mingle with the dead
In the evening John Morris noted ‘southern lights or Aurora Australis very plain after dark’. Alabaster thought ‘it was hardly possible to realise that it was Christmas Eve. When it grew dark I retired to my own cabin and consoled myself with the Homily on the Nativity’. The emigrants thoughts regarding the approaching festival have not been recorded.
    25th December ‘The sea moderated and we woke to as glorious a Christmas morning as could well be desired.’ The Reverend ‘read the morning service in the cuddy, churched Mrs Paget and Isabella Hayes and afterwards christened the two boys William Strathallan Paget and Strathallan Hayes. The ship gave us a good dinner; a walk on deck prepared us for tea and then with the dark came a tureen of snapdragon. Here endeth the legitimate amusements of the day. Before this we had learnt that one of the cuddy passengers who had in the morning acted as godfather was drinking below with the christening party and it soon became painfully apparent that the doctor had put his hand to orders of beer and spirits to a dangerous amount. No little of it found its way into the forecastle.’ So for the Reverend Alabaster it was ‘a Christmas day whose like I care not to see again’. As one might expect John Morris had different views on the day. ‘Fine day. Splendid weather. Shiny cool and pleasant’, he recorded. ‘Two children christened this morning. One called William Strathallan Padget and the other Strathallan Hayes. Plenty of plum duffs on board. Sailors all drunk and fighting. Blue murder. Hurrah!’
    The 26th December was a Sunday and John Morris after the incident filled day noted, ‘Queer. No how. All wrong. Too soon after Christmas’. The Reverend conducted his service and was not about to let the behaviour of the previous day pass without comment as ‘the events of the preceding day called for notice. The offending cuddy passenger (he had been drinking with the christening party) I called to account publicly but apparently with little effect. Base and silly as his acts are he glories in them when away from those who would not permit such indeceny’.
    27th December The day was fine but there was ‘snow at midday’. A stun’sail boom had been carried away during the night and then another boom was carried away in the afternoon. There was ‘heavy hail and snow at intervals during the night,’ and ‘Manchester’s phot. (perhaps photograph) Stolen’. George and John Manchester were two single men who were to disembark at Timaru. They became well known residents in Waimate.
    28th December ‘Snow this morning. Bitter cold. More heavy snow and hail. The boatswain groggy.’ John Morris’s weather notes are to be expected as the ship reached 47 degrees S. latitude as it worked its way eastwards to New Zealand.
The next day similar weather continued and Morris was occupied ‘clearing out under the forecastle’.
    30th December A welcome break to the bitterly cold weather occurred. ‘Nearly a calm. Curious piece of seaweed floated past. Good breeze in the evening and all night.’ The end of the journey was now in sight. Another two weeks of good sailing and the Strathallan would be off the eastern coast of the South Island.

Leisure and Amusements

  With the journey taking about three months emigrants had to keep themselves amused. Music and dancing were popular. Groups formed bands - Morris refers to the ‘single mens band’. Dancing for the single men depended on the captain giving permission for the single women to participate. Other deck activities included games and competitions. Leaping competitions and walking contests are mentioned. William Jewell recorded ‘jumping of rope’ games, a wrestling match that almost ‘came to blows’ and the cabin passengers played ‘Quarts’ (presumbably quoits). Dominoes was a popular game. Cards, and board games like draughts and chess were played. For many the daily observation of fish and birds was of interest. Emigrants are also recorded as reading the Bible but whether this was by choice or because there was no other material available is not recorded. Women spent time cleaning, washing, sewing and organising the preparation of meals. School lessons were organized for children and frequent religious services helped pass the time.
    At Christmas Charles Alabaster refers to being treated to a ‘tureen of snapdragon’. It is not a soup but a parlour game popular in those times. Heated brandy was poured into a shallow dish and then raisins were added. The brandy was set alight and the idea was to pick the raisins out
and eat them without getting burnt.

Isabella Boggis (Hayes) while living at Arowhenua Bush asks Bishop Harper to christen Strathallan Hayes again because she doesn’t like his name. Reference: J W Stack Through Canterbury and Otago with Bishop Harper







6/1 New Year Celebrations

   31st December The strong westerly winds must have been carrying the Strathallan further eastwards as the diarist John Morris recorded ‘ship going tremendously all day’. The wind was strong enough that at ‘half-past 6 p.m. main-topmast stun’sail carried away’. He also noted it was ‘the last day of the year’. The Reverend Alabaster did not record the advent of the new year but Morris tells us that ‘ at midnight the ship’s bells rang for a quarter of an hour, after which a concert of pots and pans kept up a chorus until the captain brought out the rum bottle’.
    1st January There was a ‘strong wind all day. Sea rising’. The assisted emigrant ‘Mrs Brightmore, the mad woman brought down to the single men’s hospital’. This is one of the few diary entries where John Morris expresses an opinion regarding the character of a person. Another incident caused ‘mutiny and rebellion. The ladder taken down and the devil to pay’. Unfortunately Morris does not record what the incident was all about. While we can’t be sure it would appear that there was a problem within the emigrant ranks and they had been confined to steerage or perhaps to the deck. There are records in other shipboard diaries where if individuals or groups misbehaved they were confined below decks.
Sunday 2nd January It was ‘another stormy day, Wind blowing, sea rolling’ and the ‘main topgallant sheet chain carried away’. Besides recording the weather for the day Morris also records a ‘child died this afternoon’. And then the ‘wind fell about 8 p.m.’ with the ‘ship rolling all night’.
    3rd January Charles Alabaster noted, ‘I buried the child of Mr and Mrs Davidson’. The burial is recorded by John Morris who also made a diary entry that it was a ‘beautiful morning’ with a ‘smooth sea’ and ‘very little wind’. William and Jane Davison (spelling as in the passenger list) were from Surrey. The passenger list records their only child was William who was nine months old when the family embarked on the ship. Emigrants destined for Timaru were kept well occupied during the day as with the end of the journey approaching ‘all hands looking out boxes for Timaru’.
‘The light winds all day’ on Tuesday the 4th were noted by Morris as was a ‘row between Pickles and young Everett’. Pickles was a sailor and young Everett was William Everett, a 20 year old emigrant from Surrey in England. He was a porter and was going to disembark at Lyttelton.
    5th January There was a ‘breeze all day’ and John Morris after noting that he was ‘wakeful last night’ recorded that he went on deck and there were ‘curious appearance like balls of fire floating past every moment in the dark’.
    6th January It was a dreadfully rough day with the sea breaking over the ship from early in the morning and right through out the day. John Morris noted that during the day ‘Mrs Brightmore died in the afternoon and was buried directly afterwards’. The Rev Alabaster also noted his record of the funeral. ‘I committed to the deep Mrs Brightmore an imbecile.’ The unfortunate Mrs Brightmore was Louisa the 34 year old wife of William Brightmore a bricklayer from London. They had two children with them James aged 11 and Louisa aged three years.
    Morris also observed that he was ‘wet through in the afternoon from two seas that came on board,’ but perhaps more significantly that there are ‘land birds about the ship’. For Morris this would be a sign that the journey was nearly over.

Timaru’s Immigrant Ships

 While the Strathallan was the first immigrant ship to sail directly to Timaru she was followed by a few others. The open roadstead was later recognised as a hazard to safe landing and as coastal shipping services had developed there were very few direct sailings after 1864.
    The Echunga was the second of the ships. At 1007 tons she was twice as big as the Strathallan. The Echunga arrived here from London on the 16 December 1861 after a passage of 102 days. Of the 310 immigrants 121 landed at Timaru. There was disappointment when the ship arrived because the accommodation barracks were not ready for occupation. Some of the prospective settlers refused to land and when the threats of the officials had no effect they were taken on to Lyttelton.
    On the 13 October 1863 the 1574 ton Lancashire Witch anchored in the roadstead. A total of 125 immigrants landed at Timaru after the 96 day passage. The journey was one Doctor Duncan McLean the ships doctor and who later was a doctor in Timaru would not forget. Seven adults and 23 children died during the voyage.
    The Victory a 579 ton ship arrived on the 16 October 1863. She had departed from Southampton on 14 June and had a ‘favourable passage’ with one infant death and four births on board. 101 immigrants landed on the beach at Timaru.
One of the last ships to bring immigrants on a direct sailing was the 1044 ton Ivanhoe. The ship arrived in 1864 and 25 passengers had died on the voyage. When the boatmen rowed out to meet the ship they discovered there were cases of typhoid fever among the passengers. Consequently the ship and the boatmen were put into quarantine and the Ivanhoe sailed to anchor in isolation at Camp Bay in Lyttelton harbour. Later everybody disembarked at Lyttelton. Among the cabin passengers were Charles and Ellen Tripp with their three children and a servant. Mr Tripp a barrister and of Orari Gorge Station had 14 sheets of foolscap paper listing his complaints regarding the captain of the ship. A few days after their arrival at Lyttelton the captain fell into the harbour and was drowned.
    These early immigrants were followed by many others but like the Ivanhoe immigrants most of them did not sail direct to Timaru. Some arrived overland while others arrived by the coastal shipping service that was by then well established.

The immigrants included families with children as well as single men and women. James and Margaret Gibson were one of the families. Their daughter Rebecca Gibson was three years old when she arrived on the Strathallan. She married James Campbell had 12 children and lived at Kingsdown south of Timaru. She is pictured with James and 11 of her children – the boy in the front holds a photograph of his deceased brother. M Fairbrother

 14/1 Timaru at Last

  7th January On the Strathallan the ships company was busy with the serving out of stores to the mess groups with ‘half the usual quantity for those going to Timaru’. Although land had not been sighted the emigrants would be very aware that their long journey was nearly over. Perhaps this did not help to ease tensions on board the ship as John Morris the assisted emigrant recorded several further incidences before they anchored off Timaru.
    8th January ‘Both anchor chains up and bent one’ recorded Morris. He also noted the mysterious phrase ‘the steward knocked off by the captain’s orders one day this week.’ The Reverend Alabaster observed that he had seen ‘brown and white porpoises’. This was of interest to him because any others he had seen had been black. ‘A pistol was discharged at them and when alarmed they sped through the water at a wonderful pace not less than ten or twelve miles an hour.’ Other diarists have recorded that for sport passengers would discharge firearms at anything in the sea that took their fancy. The entries are of interest too because at one time regulations required ‘any fire-arms, gunpowder, lucifer matches, or combustible material of any kind discovered in the possession of passengers will be immediately taken away from them by the captain’. Like many of the rules set for the conduct of passengers it appears they weren’t necessarily enforced.
    9th January There were ‘light winds’ and ‘very little progress’ but the excitement for the emigrants for the day was when there was a ‘row between B. and R’. Apparently one of the emigrants tried to cut the other down with a ‘scraper’. The incident caused so much concern that a watch was kept all night in case R. tried to assault B. in his sleep. Whether B. actually managed to have any sleep that night is not noted by Morris.
    10th January After yesterdays excitement down in steerage there were ‘light winds’ with ‘the ship going no how’. John Morris noted they ‘were looking out for land’, but with a breeze right ahead he also noted the ship was ‘seven points off her course’.
At a time when all of the ship’s passengers were hoping for good sailing winds the next day the Strathallan faced a head wind with heavy fog. According to Morris there was ‘no seeing above half a mile’. During the day ‘half week’s allowances of rations for Timaru people’ were distributed and somebody ‘caught a large mowhawk, as large as a fine goose, and turned it loose on the deck’. In preparation for anchorage they ‘got the anchors over the side and got more chain up’.
    12th January Morris recorded a ‘cold, misty, wet morning’ with ‘all hands looking out for land’. During the day at different times there were faint appearances of land.
Later in the day the wind dropped and there was a dead calm.
    13th January The 13th became an important day for the emigrants because after the ‘studding sails were set again’ land was sighted on the port bow at about 11 a.m. ‘NEW ZEALAND’ recorded John Morris and they were ‘35 miles from land at noon’. Aside of the sighting of land the tension between the passengers and crew continued with Morris recording that ‘Long drew a knife and threatened Little Jimmy the sailor’.
    14th January Suddenly John Morris finds reason to give more detail to his notes. ‘Ten thousand mountains towering far above the clouds, some of them covered in eternal snow, but all barren and desolate, not a sign of human being or human works.’ The Reverend Alabaster also recorded his first long awaited sighting of New Zealand. ‘Up on deck a little before six. The hills on the coast full in view; and in the distance far above them the peaks of the snowy mountains. The glories of the landscape made me wish for either the pencil of the artist or the pen of the poet.’ John Morris adds a final note regarding the problems they faced during the voyage ‘our cake stolen’.
Morris continued ‘TIMARU AT LAST Five houses in sight’. The Strathallan anchored about three miles off Timaru and a boat came out with six men. There was a gale of a wind blowing and John Morris recorded that there was ‘no accommodation for the immigrants. A queer look out’. Because there was no accommodation for the immigrants the Provincial government had arranged for the Rhodes wool shed to be available for temporary shelter. Although not recorded by the diarists there are records to suggest that many of the immigrants were disappointed with what they saw from the ship. They had been lead to believe that Timaru was an established town but from what they could see that was not the case.
    The next day the 15th of January ‘the ship rolling all day in the ground swell’. 16th January John Morris recorded it was ‘a beautiful morning, warm sun’ and that the ship had made sail and stood further in and anchored in 6 fathoms. Despite their arrival and the end of the voyage for many of the passengers tensions still arose when ‘old Jimmy pitched into the black cook and the boatswain followed suit’. Then there was a final act of misbehaviour - the ‘boatswain went on to the poop and made a noise and got put in irons’. What kind of noise the boatswain made that justified his being put in irons is not recorded and must be left to the reader’s imagination. On a cheerful note Morris noted that they ‘had fresh mutton for dinner in the forecastle’ and that ‘radishes and potatoes (were) brought on board’. And much to the relief of the immigrants they ‘commenced landing passengers’. Alabaster had noted that the landing of the immigrants did not start when planned as ‘the boatmen at first had the impudence to ask £130 for landing 115 persons young and old with their baggage, but ultimately accepted £45 and their rations’.
The landing of the passengers on the beach continued during the day and was completed on Monday 17th January. The Strathallan then weighed anchor and sailed for Lyttelton.
    On shore the immigrants sheltered in the woolshed making themselves as comfortable as possible among the stored bales of wool. Conditions must have been cramped as James Blyth one of the immigrants recalled that when he arrived on shore he was forced to spend his first nights under the shelter of a flax bush. The Strathallan continued north to Lyttelton where the remainder of the immigrants and the Reverend Alabaster disembarked. While the immigrants were sheltering in the woolshed the Alabasters on their arrival in Christchurch were offered the use of Dr Donald’s house for accommodation the ‘hotels not being fit for ladies’

Where to Now?

   About 110 Strathallan assisted immigrants landed on the beach at Timaru on the 16th and 17th of January 1859. Later they were joined by a few of the immigrants (including John Morris) who had disembarked at Lyttelton but then decided to settle in Timaru. Their story as the founders of Timaru is recorded in; Timaru at Last! South Canterbury’s Strathallan Immigrants. The book to mark the 150th anniversary of the ships arrival has been published in 2008 by and is for sale at the South Canterbury Museum. cover

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