Captain A E Sykes: memoirs

"Autobiography of a Mariner" by Captain A E Sykes 1837 - 1928. A retpye and edit. Because of the various copyings, there are some errors, which need to be edited. I am working on a recent digital copy made by Kathy Davidson nee Sykes, comparing it to the copy I have. Notification of errors and suggestions would be gratefully accepted. If anyone has any relevant pictures I would love to include them. Jocelyn Geraghty (jocg@ozemail.com.au)

Friday, September 30, 2005

Autobiography of a Mariner
by
Captain Albert Edward Sykes. 1837-1928

I was born at Enfield, in the county of Middlessex in England. My father was a Timber Merchant and had several places of business in London at one time.

At ten years of age, I was placed at a boarding school at Ipswich in Suffolk and many of my school fellows were sons of ship owners and masters of that port. Now and again as a recognition of good behaviour, I, as well as others of the boarders, were permitted to spend the Wednesday and Saturday half holidays with one of the day scholars. Instead of going with the former en masse, walking or playing cricket, I used to work hard for this concession and always chose for a comrade, a boy whose father’s vessel was at the time in dock, so that when we were released from school we could make our way to that vessel and spend the afternoon on board her, going all over her from cabin to forecastle and from deck to masthead. Sometimes we were allowed to have the vessel's jolly boat to pull about in, and this was where I learned to go aloft and became acquainted with the various hatches and the manner of getting below into the ship’s holds and to pull an oar and scull. The knowledge of these things served me well later on. In common with the majority of the boys, I was enamoured of sea life. A day scholar from time to time brought me one of Captain Marryatt’s novels and these were absolutely devoured and all things were subordinate to the reading of Peter Simple’s Midshipman Easy and other books of that great naval novelist, with the result that several of us made up our minds to run away from school and secrete ourselves on board one of the brigs or schooners which were the only class of vessel at that time frequenting or trading from the port of Ipswich, under the British Flag, although an occasional visit was paid by a laden barque flying the Norwegian Ensign.

The vessels belonging to the port, traded mostly to the northern ports for coal together with a few smart schooners in the fruit trade to St. Michal’s and the Mediterranean; (there was no steam employed in the fruit trade at that time) and a few brigs in the Baltic timber trade during the summer months.

One night we held a council of war and came to the conclusion that one of us, as favourable conditions offered, should slip away from school and stow away on board some vessel bound for the Mediterranean. We favoured this voyage as it offered a chance of being taken by the Barbary Pirates as was Robinson Crusoe and we agreed to celebrate the occasion by a sea fight in the dormitory. So after we had retired to bed and the ushers had left us, we placed the wooden bedsteads about five feet apart and an attack on the French ships commenced with pillows and bolsters and boarding without much noise for a time. But getting excited, two boys would meet midway when springing from bed to bed in boarding and fall heavily on the floor. Then they would engage in fisticuffs yelling at each other in utter abandon. Then came the climax (which was always referred to afterwards as the blowing up of the Orient,) by a bolster breaking in half and the feathers and down being scattered over the dormitory. There was a silence that could be felt immediately, for we knew that nothing could save us from detection and it was ominously broken by the opening of a door and the voice of the senior master saying, “The young gentlemen will go in the other dormitory and wait further orders.” We all knew what this ultra politeness meant. Had he said, ‘the boys,’ we would have anticipated perhaps a hundred Latin roots or a couple of Perin’s French fables to translate during the ordinary recess, but ‘young gentlemen’ were entitled to Birch and probably Coventry preliminaries. We filed into the other dormitory in our long white night shirts (pyjamas were not thought of then) a sorry lot. After the maids had cleaned up the wreck and remade the beds, we were called in and prayers were again read in which some direct reference was made to our iniquity. We were then turned in again and all dreaded the coming morning. At breakfast we were given porridge without milk or sugar. At the commencement of school we were given Birch and French fables and a months Coventry. The latter meant no conversation or playing with other boys and the wearing of a placard with ‘coventry’ printed on it. I was the youngest of the boys implicated, but I felt of the Birch very acutely and I made up my mind to run away the coming night if possible.

The master or principal of the school with his mother and sister, who was a pretty girl of thirteen or fourteen, lived on the premises. These ladies took breakfast and tea with the boarders, but the latter dined by themselves, with an assistant. All the boarders were in love with the sister Ida, and the cruelest factor in the punishment by Birch was that she invariably expressed her sympathy with, and, to the boys she had heard yelling during school hours. The day following the punishment I have related, I met her in the passage and she consoled me, putting her arms around me and kissing me as doubtless she would do with all those who had suffered, as opportunity offered. This prompted me to ask her to get me some short cakes and put them in a certain place in the dormitory and this she promised to do.

When night came I undressed and went to bed with the other boys as usual at nine p.m. Waiting till I thought everyone was asleep, I crept out of bed and found the cakes where Ida had left them. I then carefully opened my box and selected my best suit, dressed and waited till I heard the assistants go to their dormitory. Then I pinned a strip of paper to the pillow on my bed with ‘gone home’ written on it. I crept out of the dormitory and went down and out into the playground and ran to the gate which I found locked, but climbing over it I was in the street and quickly made my way to the docks. I intended to make my way to a brig named Bure belonging to a school fellow’s father, who also sailed her—as I intended to stow away on board her. I went to the yard of Ransome & May’s Foundry and getting into an old covered vehicle I sat sleeping and waking until daylight.

I then sauntered down to the brig, finding no one on board but the cabin boy, who told me that the vessel was to be towed to Harwich at one a.m. When the boy went ashore for his breakfast, I went down in the cabin and tried to raise the lazaret hatch, intending to settle beneath it, but I could not move it, so I went forward into the forecastle and as there was a ring in the little hatch over the fore peak, I easily raised it and looking down, I saw there was a considerable fall to reach the vessel’s ceiling and from whence I could not replace the little hatch. But fearing the crew could come on board and find me I dropped from the forecastle floor and fell on a heap of coal. Until my eyes became accustomed to the gloom, I could see nothing.

Presently I heard swearing and then the hatch dropped into its place and was fixed down. Later, there were sounds of men moving about the deck and a tug took hold of the boat and I judged by the motion she was being towed down the river Ornell. I now found I could get elsewhere about the hold by crawling over a great heap of silt balls and right aft sat and ate my short cakes which Ida had given me and which I had fortunately brought in my handkerchief. I had taken a drink of water when I first came on board, still I was thirsty but I comforted myself with the knowledge that the vessel would presently be on her voyage to the Mediterranean, and once outside I would make my presence known to the Captain.

Towards evening the brig commenced a lively motion and I knew she must be at Harwich. I then became very sick and was anxious to get up into the fresh air, and as the vessel began to lay over on her side I knew how sails were set, and I considered I was safe to make known my presence on board. As I could not reach the hatch by which I had come into the hold, I commenced knocking on the ship’s side with a piece of coal. I continued doing this at intervals all through the night without attracting any attention. I was dreadfully seasick and thirsty and was frequently thrown off my feet when standing up to knock.

The smell of the bilge water when it became disturbed by the motion was dreadful and I began to feel very bad and weak and had to keep remembering the ignominy of the Birch to prevent wishing myself snug in the school dormitory. In this way another day passed and all through the following night and day similar until I lost count of time.

Being unable to attract attention I crawled over a heap of ballast amidships and commenced knocking under the forecastle and I threw pieces of coal up at the little hatch through which I had got into the hold. At last I saw the hatch cover removed and a shaft of dull light projected downwards and then a bucket was thrown down and a man followed it dropping from his hands on a heap of coal. He lifted a short ladder which, in the darkness I had not seen and placed it against the opening in the deck He filled the bucket with coal and started up the ladder with it. I then came forward and caught him by the leg. Before I could speak he swore a fearful oath and dropped the bucket. He got off the ladder and while I was saying “please let me up” he struck a match and looked at me and called out, “On deck! Why, there’s a G-dam boy here.” The man, who was the brig’s cook, sent me up the ladder before him and after being pushed up a second ladder on to the main deck. On coming suddenly into the broad daylight, weak from seasickness and darkness and want of water, I fainted and fell on the deck. I was carried aft and on coming to, I saw Captain Harmer and his chief mate bending over me as I lay on the locker of the brig’s cabin. The Captain recognised me as his son’s playmate and as I was no longer seasick, a good meal and a wash quite set me up. I then told Captain Harmer truthfully the circumstances leading up to my stowing away on board his vessel.

I was greatly chagrined to learn that the Brue, instead of the Mediterranean, was bound for Shields for coal for London. I remember nothing of Shields excepting a very high bridge where vessels passed under with their top-gallant masts on end.

After taking in a cargo of coal we sailed for London, where on arrival I was taken home and whence after a week’s stay, I was returned to the same school, and there I remained until I was between twelve and thirteen years of age, [about 1850] when the old Domine wrote my people that I was too unsettled to learn, and recommended I should be sent on a long voyage, which would doubtless dispel my desire for a sea life, and on my return would not be too old to pick up a good commercial education. And this advice was followed by my father, who came to a decision to send me as a midshipman on board a merchant ship on a twelve months voyage; and later an arrangement was come to with the Dumbarton firm of R. & R. that for the sum of £70 I should sail as midshipman on board one of their full rigged ships bound to Sydney N.S.W.

At this time, every seaman or boy in whatever capacity was registered by the Government and a parchment register ticket on which was a minute personal description of the recipient was given him.

As soon as it was settled that I was to sail in the Dumbarton ship I was taken to a Government office in lower Thames Street to obtain my registered ticket; and after the lapse of sixty-six years I can say that I have never been so elated as I was on that day.

The next step was to get my sea outfit for the voyage, and I was taken by my father’s head clerk to an outfitters in the minories and they undertook for the sum of £65 to fit me out well and sufficiently for a period at sea of eighteen months, and a list of articles was given which being approved of were put into a sea chest and placed on board. A day or two later came the ship’s sailing day, and I was taken by my father in his business brougham to the London dock gates and there bidding him “Goodbye”, I went on board the ship and reported myself to Captain R.M. Miller, who at once said “Better change into more suitable clothing”, and being shown my sea-chest by the steward who handed me a key, I was soon trying to select a fitting suit.

This I found very difficult, for although every article that appeared in a list tacked on the inside of the lid was there, the things were so abominabley shoddy, I was ashamed to put them on, and, with the exception of a suit of blue cloth with gilt buttons, and a cap with a gold lace band, everything was absurdly to large for me, and of the shoddiest material. However, I had to change out of my shore clothes and presently I put in an appearance among the men and boys of the crew, in white canvas pants with a roll of a foot at each ankle and a blue jacket described in the inventory as a “blue cloth reefer” but one of the crew later on called a Midshipman cut of ‘bullswool and oakum’ and said it was an admirable fit, like a 'purser's jacket on a hand spike'.

The ship was unmoored from the quay and then was warped to the dock heads to await a tug to tow her to Gravesend, where the crew came on board and the lumpers left, most of the former were three sheets in the wind, others suffering from the previous nights debauch; with them were some boarding house keepers and pimps, together with men with hand trucks on which was the seamen’s effects, which generally comprised a sea chest and a donkey’s breakfast and with the more provident, a pair of sea boots and a suit of oilskins. As soon as the seamen were on board the lodging house keepers drew the chief officer’s attention to the fact and left. They were then sure of getting the ‘advance notes’ they held, cashed, which would not be the case if the men did not join.

The ship was towed to Gravesend and the next day took on board a quantity of powder. Here also our passengers came aboard, of which eight were cuddy (or saloon as we now say) and thirty- two intermediate. We went to sea next day in the charge of a channel pilot. Off Beechy Head we met strong weather from the Sou’West and for several days we were batterfanging about under three double reefed topsails in the channel, with snow and sleet which froze on the shroud as it fell and the ship was constantly shipping weather water. I, like everyone else was continually wet to the skin and half frozen and at that I reflected that Captain Marryatt had not put me on a very soft thing. Then I was awfully seasick and always sleepy, but the 2nd mate whose watch I was in, would not allow me to leave the poop during my watch on deck except to assist with the watch to trim sail, and the smell of the boatswains stores which were kept in the berth that I shared with the 2nd officer, made me dread to go below.

One night we shipped a heavy body of water which broke all the skylights and found its way into the poop cabins nearly suffocating the ladies and children and drenching all the clothes and bedding: and I have never forgotten the abominable perfume of my new shoddy blankets when wet with sea water, and for days in our watch below we turned in shivering and turned out steaming, and I must confess that my enthusiasm for sea life was at a very low ebb in those days.

When the weather cleared up we sighted Start (Start point) and later on a Hobblers yawl was seen to windward, and a signal being made with a whift Ensign at the mizzen peak, she ran down for us. The gale had lulled by this, but there was still a heavy sea running; our helm was put alee and the main yard laid to the mast, we were under three double reefed topsails, the pilot after taking leave of the Captain and officers, got over the rail and into the main channels and waited. It was a sight to see the Yawl with her reefed main lug and whole mizzen coming swooping down off the curling seas and completely hidden in the hollows, then climbing up and appearing again on the snowy crest of the next, and making one wonder what would take place when she approached the ship, but before there was time for speculation she was nearing us, her helm put down and her main lug dropping as she gained head to the gale and the sea, and sweeping round within a couple of feet of ship’s chains the pilot threw in his bag sprang into the boat himself, and in a moment she was standing away clear of us under her mizzen. Then up went her main lug, the pilot turned and waved his hand in final farewell to us and the Yawl continued on her stretch for the Start, which was dimly visible. Our main yard being filled we stood away to the Sou’west.

The expert mannor in which the Hobbler handles his open boat and embarks or dis-embarks a pilot in almost all weathers is only equalled by the expert and plucky way in which pilots take advantage of the boat’s approach to the ship’s side as rounds to but never stops, but falls away on the opposite tack. Of course the ships of the day of which I am writing, with their wide channels under their rigging and standing out from their sides like shelves, lent themselves to the pilot’s activity but made it additionally difficult for the boats for as in a seaway a ship might roll her channels on the boat.

I had now quite got over sea sickness, and had an appetite like a porker but I still suffered in common with the others from the cold.

After the pilot left us we got into better weather and getting clear of the English Channel and soundings, we carried a fair wind and made Southing and warmer weather rapidly, and one morning came the order, “You boys loose the Royal Standards”. These had never been set since leaving. I saw two apprentices going up to the fore main, and being on the poop I took the initiative and went up to the mizzen, and getting to the yard I watched the boy on the main. I watched his action and when I had loosed my sail like his I sang out, “Sheet home the mizzen royal,” and I was very proud when on gaining the deck, the Captain asked me if I had been to sea before. Of course the climbing of the brigs and schooners in Ipswich dock served me well now.

We picked up the North East Trades, and later we lay in the stark calm ‘on the lap of the line’ and then the inevitable ceremony of entertaining Father Neptune was gone through, but everyone is too conversant of its detail to make it expedient to recall here.

I will here mention that as soon as we got into the North East Trades Captain Miller had the apprentices and myself every afternoon watch, aft in his cabin and taught us navigation. I have always all through life felt a deep debt of gratitude to him for his kindness.

After crossing the Equator and passing through the South East Trades without incident of interest we picked up a strong westerly wind with dense thick atmosphere, and one morning the Island Inaccessible, one of the Tristan da Cuna group, loomed out through the haze right ahead of us and pretty close. The ship was running under single reefed topsails and fore course and she was hauled on a wind to clear the group under the same canvas, with the addition of the jib, main course, a spanker and foretopmast staysail, and she made bad weather of it and as a consequence, the order came to “haul up the mainsail and haul down the jib.” Presently the haze cleared and the sun shone out and the whole of this lonely group was visible and in close proximity, and the Captain took advantage of so excellent an opportunity of getting sights and proving his chronometers and while thus occupied with his sextant, the chief officers being below and taking the line and recording the angles, the third officer was in charge of the deck. When the jib was hauled down, the ship was plunging into the head sea and the men stood at the knight heads waiting for the ship to be kept away, but instead of this the third mate told the man at the wheel to “ail her close” then the partially losing her way stopped diving into the head seas and the men (4) laid out on the jibboom and began picking up the jib. The helmsman (a Dutchman) allowed the ship to come ‘too high’ and she nearly took aback and having entirely lost her ‘way’ fell off into the trough of the sea; then gathering way and coming to, she made a heavy plunge into the head sea and came up without the jib and flying jibboom, and the four men who were stowing the jib were in the water. I saw them altogether on the white crest of the sea, a tablecloth would have covered the four. The helm was put down and the ship came to the wind and getting flat aback gathered stern way and the unfortunate men were last seen to windward and ahead of the ship. After considerable delay in cutting gripes etc., one of the quarter boats was ready for lowering, but the men could not be seen from aloft and as all four had sea boots and heavy clothing on, it was considered unwise to risk lowering a boat in such a sea and jeopardising five other lives on what was morally certain to be a fruitless enterprise, more especially as the jibboom held by chain martingale and backropes was thundering against her bows, threatening to knock a hole in her. So the boat was griped again and with the main topsail to the mast, all hands assisted by some of the passengers, got the broken spars inboard and the fore-topgallant and royal mast secured and about night fall the vessel was again on her course running down her easting.

The poor chaps had gone to their swift doom through an error of judgement of the officer in temporary charge. There was no hiding the fact and everyone on board was impressed with it; no one more so than the officer himself who, unfortunate man, carried the conviction that had the ship been ‘kept away’ there would have been no tragedy. There was now a shortage of two wheels in each watch and I soon became an expert helmsman.

How vividly I can in thought recall the incidents of that Sabbath morning off Tristan da Cunah. At early morning nearly all the passengers with some little extra care of toilet and change of dress which in respect of the Sabbath under all conditions is so thoroughly English, were on deck expectantly waiting and watching, having been told the previous evening that the group would be sighted at daylight; then the excited curiosity when it was reported from aloft that Inaccessible Island could be seen, followed by a little apprehension at the density of the atmosphere; then the elation which was apparent on every countenance when the sun shone out gloriously, sweeping away in a moment the thick mist which had as with a drop scene, obscured the lofty precipitious islands and revealing them in a moment in their majestic isolation, their base encircled by snowy breakers in this in inhospitabel and icy sea, showing up the golden hues of their basaltic rocky ridges and a thousand little canyons and valleys in every shade of verdure.

On board the ship interested passengers thronged the poop, cheerful in the brilliant sunshine in which the decks showed almost as snowy as the bosoms of the topsails which overhead were bellying out with their utmost filling of the crisp westerly gale that was driving the good ship towards her destination.

On the poop Captain Miller was standing, bracing himself with legs wide apart against the motion of the ship, sextant to eye and his clear cheery voice calling out the angles as he took them, to the officer below at the chronometers, who in rasping tones repeated as he wrote them on the log slate. The third officer doubtless enjoying his temporary command of the ship and briskly giving orders for reducing the sails; and then the choice of three little words out of six cost the lives of five good seamen in their prime, for everyone knew that if the order to the helmsman had been ‘keep her away’ in place of ‘sail her close’ in all human probability there would not have been that awful tragedy which on that bright morning of sunshine plunged every soul into the deepest sorrow and depression. After this sad occurrence, we encountered strong gales of fair westerly winds and sometimes the ship was taking on board large quantities of water amidships. Some of both crew and passengers gave utterance from time to time in strong language of their dislike and contempt for the third officer in consideration of his unfortunate mistake, and he became morose and brooding. More than once I heard Captain Miller urge him to dispel the gloom, which had evidently obsessed him, but without effect, and he would frequently pass a whole watch without addressing anything to anyone.

On the Sunday night next after the accident we were scudding before a very heavy westerly gale with nothing on the ship but a close reefed main topsail and fore topmast staysail and at midnight the captain came on the poop and was standing in converse with the chief mate, the third officer also came up and I heard the Captain say something to him about watching and steering and he came aft and looked into the binnacle, but made no reply to the Captain. After the lapse of a few seconds he threw his cap down on the deck and running aft sprang upon the taffrail and calling out, “Goodbye Captain Miller, my pockets are full of shot.” and turning, dived into the front of a mountainous wave which at that moment was piling up with a white phosphorescent crest over the ship’s stern where it broke and carrying the ship on it like a boat running in front of broken water on a beach and curled over both rails at the chess-tree and filled the decks. The whole occurrence, tragic as it was, did not occupy fifteen seconds. Nothing was seen of him although it seemed probable that he would be hurled against the ship by the over running sea, and, but for his cap lying on the deck beside the binnacle, it might have been the phantasy of a distorted fancy. For a day or two previously it had been thought that his mind was affected, if so the method in his aberration was apparent by his telling the Captain that his pockets were laden with shot as convincing that it would be useless to attempt rescue; but under the conditions no human aid was possible, as to have attempted to round the ship to, in the sea that was running would have been fatal and no boat could have been lowered or lived.

Next day the helmsman, the chief officer and myself signed an entry that was made of the tragic occurrence in the log book. I don’t think we had official log books in those days and in the morning when the other watch and the passengers were told of what had happened the effect was similar to what I have experienced when a corpse on board ship is awaiting burial ….no one swears very loudly.

The westerlies stuck to us and we made a good landfall off Cape Ottway and passed through Bass Straits carrying light variable winds and rounding Gabo arrived off Sydney Heads with a Jack flying for a pilot on the one hundred and second day from Gravesend. Pilot Gibson came on board and sailed the ship up and anchored us near Pinchgut, then an unimproved rock, with an old dismantled gun lying on its surface.

The next day Mud Pilot Crook came on board and after receiving pratique the ship was sailed into the cove and moored at Circular Quay. Here the passengers landed and after discharging the inward cargo of about one thousand tons, which was worked by the ship's crew occupied fully six weeks, she loaded tallow wool and hides and we again sailed for London by way of Cape Horn.

Having shipped four seamen in place of those lost off Tristan da Cunah, we made a good passage home, encountering without mishaps some very heavy N.W. gales in the southern latitudes and a weeks calm and doldrums on the Equator, and eventually berthed on the 101st day from Sydney in the London docks.

As soon as the ship was fast Captain Miller called me to him and asked if I had sufficient funds to pay my expenses home. During the whole voyage nothing could exceed his kindness and forethought for the welfare of the apprentices and myself. At the same time we were kept to our work and every opportunity was given us to become expert seamen. These were the last days of hemp rigging and there was much to learn by way of fitting new, repairing old rigging and gear and sailmaking, chafing gear and the majority of which work, now under the rein of iron and steel wire rigging and spars is obsolete and useless and also through the voyage he insisted on our attendance in his after cabin with slates and epitome to work out the ship’s position each day and this at the sacrifice of his own leisure and convenience. The result of his kindness was that four of us became shipmasters early in life and inspired with the confidence which is given by the knowledge that we were conversant with every move of the Nautical Board. There was in these days much to learn beyond the legal requirements for an A.B. of ‘hand, reef steer and heave the lead’.

Bidding Captain Miller ‘goodbye’ and with an effort to thank him for his goodness to me, I took a hansom patent safety (as they were then called) and giving John instructions for 3 Hyde Park Place and drive quickly for an extra fare, I was so elated and overjoyed at the near prospect of being home again and meeting with my mother and sisters that I could hardly contain myself. It is a long drive from London Docks to Hyde Park and it seemed I should never get there and when at last the cabby drew up in front of the familiar iron gates with their bronze facings, I sprang out of the vehicle forgetful of the cabby and his fare, ran up the broad steps and gave an energetic tug at the bell pull. The door was promptly opened by a man in livery whose face was quite unfamiliar; but without speaking I marched into the hall and was making towards the door of a room where I expected to meet my mother, but the man in livery hurriedly intercepted me and I asked, “Is Mr. Sykes at home?” he replied, “He does not live here now, but I think if you are his son from sea you are to please wait”. And leaving me in the hall he presently returned with a letter addressed to myself in my mother’s handwriting. I opened it where I stood. It informed me that my family was residing at St. Peters on the Isle of Guernsey and I was to put myself in communication with my father’s solicitor N&Co., Bishopgate Street. It was the worst set back I had had in my life and I question if after years brought much worse. I had been so full of happy anticipation of home return from the time we had made soundings.

From Mr. N., I soon learned that my father, having failed in business and liquidated, had for economy gone with all the family to reside in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands and a free port. I was advised that the sum of 100 pounds was available for further fee for my next voyage and necessary personal outfit.

After some consideration I told the lawyer I should bind myself apprentice to the same owners, and ship for four years, which would economise the 70 pound fee; but I took 25 pound for pocket money and outfit and for 20 pound of it I got a much superior stock of clothing than previously. Messrs R&R readily accepted me as an apprentice for four years and I remained in the same ship.

The ship, after the discharge of the Sydney cargo, was laid up for some time, only a ship keeper and the apprentices being kept by her. Afterwards she was towed to Limehouse and put into Fletcher’s dry dock – her bottom sighted and some repairs affected. During all this recess I attended three nights a week Mrs. Janet Taylor’s navigation school in the Minories. I, with the other apprentices was boarding at an eating house opposite the London Dock gates, the owners of the ship paying for us.

At this time the locality of the London Docks, Ratcliffe Highway, Old and New Revel Lane was the most squalid and of the worst repute of any purlieu in London and sea faring lads domiciled as we were, were subject to great temptations and few came off unscathed.

I remember one Sabbath morning, my chums and I were walking along Ratcliffe Highway when we met an old man dressed like a seaman except for his white neck-cloth and short stove pipe hat, while behind him in pairs were about a dozen little boys all dressed as sailors and soldiers and now and again the old gentleman would stop on his way and would address a few words of exhortation for a better life to the passers by, with frequent invitations to attend his floating church in the evening. Our curiosity was arroused and after tea Jemmy Waite and I found our way to the waterman stairs alongside the Tower of London wall, where we found a boat ready to convey to an old hulk with the word Bethel painted on her side. It was moored in the stream and any persons so desiring, could attend the evening service held on board her. She was a sheer hulk except for a flag staff on which during the day a blue flag having a Dove and Olive Branch and the word Bethel in relief, was flown. Getting alongside we saw an aperture had been cut in her side and a door fitted and through this we, stepping from the boat, found ourselves on a floor or deck which was laid fore and aft of the ship’s hold, making a very capacious apartment in the centre of which was a low pulpit with a little table or platform at the top. At it was the stout old gentleman who had invited us in the highway. He was reading a chapter from the Bible, which told of the vision of Jacob and the origin of the word ‘Bethel.’ There were about seventy persons present and the dingy was coming with more every few minutes. Most of them, by their dress, were seamen and sprinkled amongst them were women, chiefly of the Magdalin class from the highway. Most of the men were smoking, everyone perforce inhaling tobacco smoke and the little boys who were the orphans of sailors and soldiers as indicated by their dress were showing incomers to seats on the forms, snuffing the candles and catching the dingy’s boathook as she came alongside. After the reading of the chapter was finished, “Let us pray,” was literally hurled at us, and keeping our seats Jemmy and I bent forward and covered our eyes. “Down on your knees you boys, on your knees! Bill, Harry, Sal, Tom and Susan!” came rasping, and obedience followed as promptly as to the ‘way aloft’ of the hardest boatswain afloat and then such a prayer, such an outpouring of the old seaman’s sincere but appalling and peculiar convictions. On his knees, with his head thrown back; his eyes from which big tears were falling, strained upwards; his arms exteneded with clenched fists, he implored the “Great Boatswain, Captain, Admiral of our salvation” to save the “old shells from the blasting and everlasting fire of Hell, before they sail again, and let all Thy waves go o’er them that they return not to these women again”. The extempore pleading was followed by ‘Our Father’, repeated by all hands and then ‘Rock of Ages’ sung with tremendous verve, but the effect was spoiled by the words being given out every two lines. The hymn having been sung, everyone settled themselves in their seats, conversed in a murmur and cut up tobacco, filled and lit their pipes – the pastor not excepted. After a few minutes smoke the old gentleman gave out a text from the Revelations. ‘And whosoever’s name was not found in The Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.’ He read it over twice, then picked up his pipe, which he had laid down to take up his Bible, took a few draws, then laying it down, took his Bible in his hand again, read his text again then leaning forward and in a small distinct voice asked, “How many of you men have been logged?” No response. Again he repeated in a tense voice, “How many of you men have been logged, I ask you?” There was a general murmur, which the preacher seemed to understand and then he asked, “How many of you men and women have your names written in The Book of Life?” No response. Then he hurled at them, “There is hell fire waiting for you!” and he again exhorted, pleaded and threatened, in a voice like thunder and then dropping off in a small and indistinct voice, asked, while every now and then big tears would course down his weather worn cheeks. He concluded by describing a ship in fine weather all canvas set sailing along a coast with fair wind, and by and by, the wind hauled and the ship broke off; the wind freshened into a gale and the ship on a dead lee shore with a projecting point of rocks on the lee bow. Once on those rocks nothing could save her. “What shall we do to save us from destruction, from going to hell through salt water?” he roared. Then holding his hand out as if feeling for the wind, again he roared, “The wind’s fleeig luff! Luff God dam you! Luff and weather hell!” Then with tears running down his cheeks he fell on his knees and asked forgiveness, and half the men and women were crying too, and smoking their hardest. Coming out of the little pulpit he passed among his audience, and addressed them individually as they passed into the dingy.

I afterwards learned that he was known all over the Eastern part of London as ‘Smith of Penzance’; that he was a seaman and had for years been master in the coasting trade; had lived an evil and dissipated life until he saw a vision and had then given up the sea and taken to itinerant preaching to seamen. He supported a number of orphan boys, and that he had a small private income – and had done and was doing good amongst the east-end people – that he never took up a collection or asked for pecuniary aid. It would be interesting to know if the late General Booth took his initiative from Smith of Penzance, as their methods were very similar.

After the ship’s repairs were completed the ship was towed to dock again and placed on the berth for Sydney, our loading soon being completed. Under other conditions, I should have dreaded the time coming for leaving home and my mother. As it was, I was only too anxious to get to sea again. Reading between the lines of my mother’s letters from Guernsey, I was sure she was experiencing a time of unhappiness which no efforts of mine could relieve.

Eventually we sailed for Sydney with thirty passengers. It was rather a sharp ordeal to be domiciled in the forecastle (one side of which was occupied by the apprentices) and the meals for a time, in spite of a boy’s healthy appetite, were, well I’ll saying – trying. But I had accepted the position voluntarily rather than use the one hundred pounds which I considered at the time, would further embarrass my people. As I had told this to Jemmy Waite. I think it obtained for me a measure of respect, and I was not subjected to the innuendo and chaff which I had expected and feared – for I was very sensitive.

We left Gravesend in charge of the same pilot as the previous voyage and he left us off Beachy, as there was a fine fair wind and we met with no difficulty in the English Channel. and by the time we got out of soundings I had become quite satisfied with my surroundings. Though I was not so well fed and lodged, I was much better and more suitably clothed, and on one third of the amount of outlay. I was then a good helmsman and good use aloft. Still, I was of course, one of the ‘damn boys’.

We had an average passage to the Cape of Good Hope. Having picked up the South East Trades in 2 degrees north of the Equator, we sighted no land from Start Point in the English Channel until Tristan da Cunah was made, and from this lonely group (where at that time Governor Young dominated) until Pedra Blanca was sighted, whence the eastern coast of Tasmania and New South Wales was more or less kept aboard. On the one hundred and second day from Gravesend, we were hauling up for Sydney Heads. The next day Captain Crook the pilot came on board, sailed the ship into the cove and moored her at the wharf just ahead of a crane with a galvanised roof over it, that then stood opposite to the Bon Accord Bridge gates. Our passengers all left us. One of them I remember, opened a hotel named ‘Observer Tavern’ in Lower George Street near the entrance to Campbell’s wharf. He kept this hotel for many years and transferred to the Sussex Arms, Paddington.

The work of discharging the cargo by the crew was carried out fairly well at first, but gold was being found at Bendigo, Ballarat, Turon, Araluen and other places and the gold escort, starting from and arriving in Barrack Square, created much excitement with everybody. One after another the crew absconded, some to travel at once to the diggings, others to smuggle on board coasting vessels, where the monthly pay was ten pounds and infinitely better food, as against two pounds, five shillings and semi starvation. Shore labour was both scarce and expensive and it was six weeks before the ship was ready for her stiffening, eighty tons of which she had to take in to give her stability before all the inward cargo could be discharged. At last, after two months since our arrival the ship was ready for her outward cargo of tallow, wool and hides, for which she was chartered by Messrs Gilchrist and Alexander of London.

Mr. Hunter was the contracting stevedore to load the ship. The wool used first to be screwed into dumps on a platform erected on the wharf by hand labour and afterward screwed into the ship’s hold. I remember one night while laying at the wharf a fire broke out in Mr. Kemp’s sail loft, which stood on the flat by the Tank stream, where Hoffnung’s is now. H.M.S. Calliope, Captain Hume, was in Farm Cove and two of her boats were filled with blue jackets and the ship’s fire engine, in command of Lieutenants Stanley and Heath (the latter late Port Master of Queensland and now residing in London) came ashore. When they got to the Bon Accord Bridge, the gate was, as usual after sundown, closed and locked. During the day a toll of a penny was charged, but, instructed by the officers, the men charged at the gate and broke it open. The engine, worked by the seamen, was quickly playing on the fire. There were two or three wooden structures in close proximity. To prevent the flames from spreading, a rope was taken round these and Jack and all the bystanders, with a one, two, three, h-a-u-l! soon had them all down. Jack was in his glory; he would soon have cleared the flat given his own way. However the sail loft was completely destroyed. The proprietor afterwards carried on an extensive business as a storekeeper in Nowra, Shoalhaven. The Calliope referred to, was the old wooded sailing ship commanded by Captain Hume, who died while in Sydney and was buried in the old cemetery.

The ship did not complete her loading until the end of February and she was then taken to anchorage off Garden Island. We had now three mates, a carpenter, four apprentices, a steward, a cook and four A.B’s of the original crew. The rest had absconded to the diggings and it needed the utmost care and watchfulness to prevent the others from following suit. The ship’s boats with one exception were left at the wharf. The one kept in case of accident was always in the davits with gripes on and falls racked.

The butcher’s boat, which used to come off daily to us at our anchorage belonged to Mr. Chapman, who kept a hotel at the corner of Argyle Street. Mary Dunn keeping the opposite corner. Chapman had a butcher’s shop next door and served the ships at three quarter pence per pound all round. This boat was attended by the officers only. The Captain used to be taken backwards and forwards by a waterman named Alexander, known by everyone as ‘Old Boomer’. He had lost one leg while employed in blasting the Argyle cut.

One day Dunn’s water tank came alongside and filled up our casks which were lashed on each side of the deck and also four tanks which were stowed in the ‘tween decks. One of our seamen secreted himself on board her and was not missed until the tank had left. We saw no more of him.

One night the third mate had the watch. He was proverbial on board as being able to sleep with his head in a bucket of water and on this occasion he was asleep on the poop skylight and was only awakened when, after cutting the gripes and lowering the only boat, two of our remaining three seamen were pulling away from the ship. They landed at Lady Macquarie’s Chair and cast the boat adrift. Before the men had got far from the ship’s side Captain Miller came up. “Come back,” he called out “or I’ll shoot you.” “Shoot away Captain,” was the reply, and the Captain fired his little flint lock pistol; but Captain Miller would not have hit them for the world and the men knew it. At this time between the corner of Argyle Street and Birch’s Observer Tavern, Lower George Street, there were four or five so called shipping offices kept by persons who undertook to engage seamen for the many ships lying ready for sea all over the harbour, but were unable to get crews. Many shipmasters might be seen promenading up and down all day in front of these offices, accosting every working man that passed with “Do you want a ship?” Jack would probably reply, “Yes.” “Do you have a character from your last crew?” Some of the ships that had evil reputations for leakage, bad steering or bullying officers lay from three to six months waiting crews. The masters and perhaps the mates only remaining by them.

While we were lying off Garden Island a heavy E.S.E. gale caused us to drag our anchors and when the gale subsided, we had to get the assistance of the mates and apprentices of the Glenbervie belonging to the same firm as our ship, to purchase our anchors and the services of a tug and the pilot, to get back to our original anchorage. This being accomplished, all of us went to dinner, after which the mates and pilot came on deck to find both the Glenbervie’s and our own boats gone with all the former ship’s apprentices and our cook. All the rest of the day we lay with the flag for the water police flying and no means of landing the pilot, until the captain came off in ‘Old Boomer’s’ boat in the evening.

This state of things continued for some weeks, for men would not ship for overseas ports. Every issue of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Empire, (the contemporary paper), told of more alluvial gold discoveries, and wages were ever increasing for work about the wharves. But at last came a morning when Captain Miller did not go ashore as usual, and about 10 a.m. two boats in charge of Sergeant [….] came alongside with seven of our original crew who had absconded, and had been arrested and placed in Wooloomooloo Gaol. They were clean shaven, with close cropped heads, and had irons on their wrists. With faces blanched from confinement, they looked miserable and crestfallen. In addition, there were nine others who were engaged for the run home for lump sums of from seventy-five to one hundred pounds. After they were on board each man of the old crew was asked by the Captain “Will you turn to, my lad?” and each replied in the negative. Sergeant [….] made some unnecessary and exasperating remark to the men, and a Kircaldy man named Alec Wills replied to him. Instantly two of the water police threw him on the deck, ironed as he was and Sergeant [….] kneeled on his chest and struck him with his clenched fist in the face, breaking the flesh and drawing blood at each blow. When the Sergeant stood up again a man named George Fairs, unable to control himself, ran at him with his ironed wrists. The life was nearly beaten out of Fairs by the police and. strange to say, all water police were seamen, who had run away from their ships, and either served time in Wooloomooloo, or had gone scot free. I watched this incident and it is as fresh in my mind to-day as then. The Captain now interfered and the police boat was about to leave the ship when one of the runners, addressing the Captain said, “We would like our money now.” “As soon as the ship is under way,” replied the Captain. “No,” said the man, “our agreement is, before the anchor is tripped.” Then all the runners stepped up and said, “Yes, we must be paid now.” The Captain then said to Sergeant [….] “Please stay till these men are paid.” So each man received his money in gold, and signed a receipt for it, the last being a boy named Badderly, who had never before been afloat. He received thirty-five pounds. The runners having been paid, walked to the forecastle with their money and traps and presently the chief mate gave the order, “Man the windlass.” the members of the old crew did not respond and the runners went aft and said the ship was shorthanded, and they refused to trip the anchor. Captain Miller, who I think was sorry for the men who had spent so much time in gaol, told them that if they would turn to, and behave well on the passage, he would undertake that they should be paid continuously London to London instead of having their pay stopped during the time they were in gaol. The men agreed to this and at once walked forward to the windlass and soon the cable was coming in, to the shanty of ‘Bully in the Alley’. Presently the mate reported “Anchor short, Sir ,” and the men were sent aloft to loose the sail and masthead topsail yards. This was done. No further orders were given. We all wondered what we were waiting for but later a little steamer named Angenoria came alongside and the mates and apprentices were soon employed carrying little cedar boxes of gold, altogether fifty-three thousand ounces, into the Captain’s cabin, where it was passed down into the lazarette. Two iron bars were then screwed down over the little hatch. The police boat and the little steamer then left us, and the pilot boat brought Pilot Christianson on board.

We were soon outside the Heads. The pilot then left us. We carried strong south west winds and passed south of Stewart Island under double reefed topsails and scudded towards Cape Horn with ever increasing gales, which northered as we made easting. We made bad weather of it, shipping heavy water frequently and the crew were allowed to use as much fresh water from the casks lashed on the decks as they liked, as we had our four tanks in the ‘tween decks. As we approached the longitude of Cape Horn the gales became so heavy that the ship had either to ‘hove to’ or run dead before it and we were making much more southing than we should have done if it had been safe to run with the sea and wind on the quarter.

One night we were scudding under the close reefed main topsail and reefed forecourse. It was as dark as pitch, with fierce squalls of wind, hail and snow and there were great mountains of water, with snowy phosphorescent combs, following the little ship. In the hollow of these seas between the squalls, the forecourse would fall into the foremast and then as she rose on the next comber, it would bang out with a report of a piece of ordinance. She always steered well, and although there was a second hand at the wheel, it was only a precautionary measure.

At two o’clock one morning there was a lull after an exceptionally heavy squall and a sea topped up, and the comb of it broke over our stern and smashed everything on the poop, washed one man overboard from the wheel, broke the arm of the other and carried the Captain and the second mate along the poop and forward to the forecastle, severly bruising both. The watches were at the pumps but fortunately none of the men were hurt, although the steward and mate, who slept in the poop berths, were nearly suffocated before the water ran off. If a second sea had overrun her, she must have foundered. Instead a heavy snow storm set in. At noon that day we were in 62 degrees 32 minutes south… some degrees further southwards than the track the Captain intended taking had the wind not northered. Eventually the snow ceased and the weather became clear. Very fortunate it was, for there were seven icebergs in sight! The wind had southered and moderated, and we were carrying all plain sail. In the afternoon we raised more ice and at dusk there were thirteen bergs in sight. By ten o’clock that night the weather had become very hazy, and snow began to fall. The lookout was doubled on the forecastle and a man was kept on the foreyard, but it was impossible to see any distance. At midnight ice on the starboard bow close on board, was reported from the foreyard and directly afterwards the forecastle lookout called out, “Ice right ahead.” “Call all hands save ship.” roared the mate, while the captain ran up on the forecastle head. At the same time a third berg hove in sight through the gloom on the port bow, and close to us. The wind was light and we were going about three knots, and the crew were standing by the braces. The Captain conned the ship between the two bergs first seen, a small one and an immense one as high as our royal masthead and about one third of a mile long. To clear the smaller one we had to approach the larger one very closely and after clearing the first, the wind hauled on us and it seemed inevitable that we should drop along side it. The royals and light sails that had not been on the ship for weeks were set but we were slowly getting closer to the berg, and its length seemed interminable! At last came the order “Get the quarter boats ready for lowering.” What a prospect ! In a boat in these stormy southern seas, a race for death by starvation or freezing. We soon got the boats ready and then turned again to the tense watching of the ship gradually closing with the ice. Then the wind failed us altogether and the sails just flapped against the masts and the end of the berg seemed still without definition. Looking backward, I think we were set round two sides of it. Then when conviction had come to all of us that nothing could save us from destruction, the carpenter exclaimed, “She’s setting off, Sir.” In a few moments the berg was astern of us, and right in our wake. Everyone asked himself, “Was it years or minutes we had trailed alongside that berg?”

As soon as we were well clear we got the wind again and we were hardly more than a couple of cables from it when we heard a tremendous crash! A swell of the displaced water reached us, for the berg had capsized—the lower and immersed portions having melted or worn away until it had become top heavy. Now we were still among a number of bergs, but the weather was clear and as the ship had good steerage way, we had no difficulty in keeping clear of them. But we had some in sight all the next day. The wind now southward and making northing, we left the ice astern off Cape Horn.

Hitherto the weather had been so heavy and exacting in other directions that little attention had been given to the numerous and various sea birds which had followed the ship since she had been in the high latitudes but now that the wind was moderate and at times light, Jack’s attention was directed to the opportunity offering for securing curios, by way of tobacco pouches, pipe stems, muffs etc., and fishing lines were trailed astern with the object of catching albatrosses. Cape hens, mollyhawks, cape pigeons, whale birds, ice birds, stormy petrels (Mother Carey’s chickens) and any of the bird species which apparently made their habitation the stormy latitudes between, I may say, fifty-eight degrees and sisty-eight degrees south—approximately the belt between Cape Horn and the Antartic. But where the majestic albatros, the sooty cape hen, the white iceberg, the slate coloured whale bird, the stupid grey and white molly, and the beautifully
marked black and white cape pidgeon, and the stormy petrel repair to deposit and incubate their eggs, I cannot tell, for in the records of Antarctic exploration, while much interesting information is given of the penguin tribe, nothing is said of the numerous species of sea birds which swarm between the Horn and the northern limit of the Antarctic Circle . Probably the desolate and isolated rocks in the Falkland Islands and the precipitous inhospitable shores of Terra del Fuego, which doubtless provide both protection and isolation, may be the resort for depositing their eggs and rearing their young.

For some days the crew, boys excepted, had been permitted to fish over the taffrail and albatrosses, with an expansion of wing of thirteen feet and eleven feet from tip to tip, were caught and turned loose on the main deck until finally slaughtered, for none of the sea birds can rise from the deck and all are sea sick immediately they are hauled on board. The men used to take off the skin and endeavour to preserve it with the beautiful plumage on, but they were seldom successful. The feet were skinned the claws being left on and tobacco pouches made of them. The long thin bones of the wings were cleaned, bleached and dried for pipe stems. Such were the sordid objectives for slaughtering the most majestic of all the feathered tribe that are denizens of the lonely southern seas. Too much cannot be said of these beautiful birds. Allow that you are ‘hove to’ in a gale under a close reefed main topsail, making seven points leeway. There is a little smooth area to windward maintained by the drift of the ship nearly broadside on before the gale and between the mountainous seas which are constantly rolling down on her. On this comparatively smooth space are hundreds of Cape pigeons and all the other smaller sea birds, swimming here and there, catching particles of marine growth detached from the ship’s bottom by the unusual progression of the ship broadside on. Over the weather quarter, poised mid-air in the face of the hurricane, as rigid as if modeled in
ivory, is an albatross, only the beautiful eyes indicating vitality and these, earnestly observant, note a portion of food probably concealing a hook thrown from the drifting ship. A quick turn of the head, a droop of the outer joint of the immense pinions and it has swooped downward over the coveted morsel. When close to the seething water the ruddy feet drop out from the snowy under plumage, the head and neck are extended towards the prize and with a hoarse cry, the creature is floating as gracefully on the mountainous sea as the moment it had hovered in space and looked into the eye of the hurricane. The marvelous control the feathered denizens of the southern seas, are able to exert over their every feather in the fiercest storms, and their ability to fly dead in the wind’s eye with the same grace and ease as in a calm, is miraculous and inconceivable. Quite a number of albatrosses were caught by the crew, much to the disgust of Captain Miller, who was a very humane man, but with the majority of his crew runners, with their wages in their pocket and who, if ruffled, would refuse to do anything beyond trimming sail and steering, it was in the interests of his owners not to protest, especially with so much gold on board. For at that time several ships with gold form Australia were missing and the general feeling concerning them was that crews had mutinied, and destroyed the ships off the Brazilian coast after the bullion had been taken.

To return to our voyage home, we were now making a northerly course with moderate winds and a rising temperature, although we had occasional snow northward of the Falkland Islands. After that, the weather became fine and much warmer every day. About this time the whole of the fresh water which had been carried in casks on deck, as was then customary, was with the exception of one cask, consumed. This remaining cask was fortunately lashed aft near the steward’s pantry, so it was left for his convenience and orders were given to broach one of the ‘tween deck tanks, of which there were four. This was accordingly done and the day’s allowance of five pints for each man was served out and put into the scuttle butt. At tea time however, the tea was salt and it was quickly discovered that the water in the broached tank was salt. Considering that the brass pump connection in the deck had leaked, and as the other tanks were sufficient to take us home, it was not regarded as serious. But the second and third tanks also proved salt,—not brackish—but as salt as the sea. The Captain and officers and every one of us stood round in grave anxiety, while the carpenter split out the wooden dowel of the remaining tank and screwed in the pump. The Captain, with a very anxious look on his kindly weather-rugged face, held a cup under the pump while a few strokes were given, and then raising the cup to his lips, expectorated and in a quiet tense voice, said to the chief officer, “It’s as salt as the water alongside, Mr. Brown.” Then he ordered the crew to unlash the after cask and secure it in the after cabin. The position was serious enough but it would have been infinitely worse had that last cask of about sixty gallons, been consumed, as it would certainly have been had it not been lashed close to the pantry. Twenty-nine souls a thousand miles from any port, and not a drop of water, or rather, ‘water water everywhere but not a drop to drink’, as with the ancient mariner. That evening we ate our salt horse and pantiles without tea or water. There was a conference held in the cuddy during the second dog watch by the Captain and mates and carpenter and boatswain, with the result that a pint of water was served out to each of us. At seven bells the next morning the Captain explained that the next port was Montevideo. He also advised each of us to take our allowance of water in a bottle the steward would supply us with, and we all did this, forgoing tea and coffee, so the cook had a good time. During the next day or two a condenser was rigged up in the following manner. The two large coppers which had been used on a previous trip with emigrants were fixed on the caboose stove and a wooden lid, fitting tightly put on them. In this two holes were bored. Then a leaden pipe was cut from one of the poop water closets. One end of this was inserted in one of the holes in the wooden lid and then bent over and passed through a cask, the end just projecting. Under this a tub was placed. The cask was kept filled with cold sea water. The second hole in the wooden lid was for the insertion of a funnel by which to fill the copper with sea water and a wooden plug was inserted at other times. Then, the boilers being filled and a fire kept up the steam became condensed and dripped quickly and sometimes ran into the receiving tub. From two and a half to three gallons in twenty-four hours was the result.

The Captain now called all hands aft and said he was prepared to give an undertaking to pay each of them ten pounds in addition to their wages, if they agreed to proceed without calling at Montevideo or other port, pointing to the fact that we should be able to fill up every thing from the equatorial downpours as we approached the line. The members of the original crew agreed readily but the runners objected. This latter, doubtless confirmed Captain Miller’s determination not to approach the Brazilian coast. The next morning the crew came aft and stated that they would all agree if two pints of water per day were served instead of one. A compromise was come to for a pint and a half and an agreement was signed in the cuddy and witnessed by the apprentices. The weather was still cool and little inconvenience was felt, but when we picked up the Trades and the weather became hot, we were all a very bad tempered lot. We had albatross quills passed through our water bottle corks and only that it was such dry work, it would have been ludicrously enjoyable to watch all these hirsute fellows in the forecastle at meal times sucking at their bottles. Flour was served out every day as the duff (or pudding) of flour and fat could be boiled in the sea water, the canvas duff bag not allowing it to penetrate. In this connection I may remark, that duff days, namely Sunday and Thursday, were in the old times red-letter days with Jack. He was allowed half a pound of flour, which with fat, was made into a duff. As showing how tight a dietary scale ruled in deep water ships in those days, the duff used to be ‘cried.’ That meant that if there were ten men in the forecastle, the duff when it was bought from the galley, was divided by the bully of the crew into ten as nearly equal portions as he could cut it. Then a man went on the forecastle head, and the man at the duff kit held one of the pieces on a fork and called out “Who shall have this?” and the other replied Jem or Jack as might be, until the ten pieces were allotted, one piece slightly larger than the rest being placed on a tin plate and left in the galley for the man at the wheel. This latter was an unvarying point of honour. In some English ships molasses or raisins were given, but this was unknown in the Scottish ships.

We were in the south east Trades, when one day a ship hove in sight. She was steering to the westwards across our course and we manoeuvred so that we should pass close to her. We first signaled, “Short of water. Can you spare any?” To this she did not reply, but showed Brazilian colours. We hove to and she passed close under our stern and called out, “We are very short ourselves.” She was an extreme clipper with lines like a yacht, as pretty and graceful a thing as could be constructed of wood, and snowy white cotton canvas. Her hull bore about the same comparison to the cloud of canvas about it as the car does to the balloon. She was carrying royal staysails, and it was the first and only time I have seen anything above sky-sails set, but this little clipper had two moon sails. There was a peculiarly unpleasant smell apparent while she was passing us and our officers said she was a slaver, a white sepulchre indeed.

We were now nearing the Equator and with anxious expectation of thunder squalls and rain, but there was nothing but clear sky. This was serious, for we were in 2 degrees south and losing the south east Trades. On the evening it fell clock calm and at mid-night it was ‘pump ship’ as usual, but the watch failed to suck her, so when the other watch came up the carpenter was called to sound the well. He found 23 inches in her. It took both watches a long time to dry her. In the morning watch the apprentices and officers were in the carpenter’s after cabin taking up the gold from the lazarette and placing it in another cabin, as the water could be heard rushing in at a seam. A piece of hoop iron was driven from the inside through the ceiling and plank. Then a boat was got out and it was seen that the leak was a few inches behind the immersion line, so the carpenter was slung in a bowline, and between swells he managed to get some oakum in the seam. There had been no sharks seen about the ship, but as a precaution, a boy had been sent to watch from the taffrail. Just as the carpenter had finished a fowl got out of the coop and flew away from the ship and dropped into the sea. There was immediate commotion. The water was churned up by sharks and the fowl disappeared. “Bear a hand Chips,” said the mate, “They’ll be here directly.” “It’s all right,” replied Chips and was leisurely casting off the guy rope that had been keeping him under the quarter, when in a moment up came an enormous shark right under him as he hung in his bowlines up to his buttocks in the water. “Haul! Haul!” shouted the mate and the men at the guy, who could not see what was the matter, hauled and the men at the bowline at the taffrail, who could see hauled, with the result that Chips was jammed up under the ship’s counter. In a moment we could see that the shark had caught him, for he was now naked below the waist. The guy was slackened and Chips was lowered into the quarter boat from the bowline and the boat being taken to the davit tackles, was pulled up. The Captain said when he saw Chips simply stripped but unhurt, “You had a close shave, Chips.” “Ma good breeks,” said Chips. “But you had a very narrow escape,” said the Mate. Chips replied, “Its na a escape. My twa-sheiling rule’s gane.” He had a rule pocket in his pants, but Chips was a Montrose man and he deplored his good breeks and twa-sheiling rule for the rest of the voyage. It was really a marvelous escape. But the ship made very little water after this and the gold was replaced in the lazerette by the officers and screwed down.

We carried light variable airs of wind, having lost the south east Trades in 2 degrees 30 minutes south and one day at noon we were 1 degree 30 minutes south, a mile and a half south of the line becalmed. ‘Stark calm on the lap of the line’, and huge masses of dark rain clouds hung all round the horizon. We thirsty souls were jubilant, but nothing culminated till about mid-night as far as weather went. During the day there had been some trouble between the men and the cook about fat for the forecastle lamp. The oil had run short and the remainder was kept for the cabin and binnacle lamps. At mid-night ‘All hands shorten sail,’ was the order. The watch had clewed up the light canvas. There was no response from the watch below. After a short interval the mate went to the forecastle and shouted, “Turn out men smartly if you don’t want the sticks taken out of her.” The bully man replied, “The ship’s too Scotch to carry oil and the …… cook’s stopped the …… slush and we can’t find our duds.” There was a rush of the squall over the ship, which lay over scuppers in the water. The light sails, hanging in the gear, blew to ribbons, while the mates and apprentices let go the topsail halyards and the sails banged and slatted like ordinance. The men of the watch on deck had gone with their mates into the forecastle and although it was imminent that either the sails would blow to pieces or the masts would be taken out of the ship, not a man budged. As is usual with tropical squalls, it was fierce but short lived and it was soon clock calm again. Then the officers, apprentices and the after-guard got the reef tackles hauled out. Then came a peel of thunder and then a few drops of rain, followed by a fall as from a cloud burst and in a moment every man was on deck with the poop buckets catching water as it ran off the poop. The four cringles of a lower studding sail was quickly fixed up to the rigging for catchment. The shower lasted only half an hour or so and really only served to wash the salt off the rigging and decks. What was caught was – or would have been under more favourable circumstances – undrinkable, but everybody got a good bath, for even the mates were stripped to the skin while passing the buckets about. This was all the rain we got on the Equator. We had filled the casks, but in three days the water was a bluish black tint and stank like a sewer, but we drank it, holding the dipper with one hand and our noses with the other to prevent smelling. The deep sea sounding leads were hung in the casks – Jack’s idea of purifying water. The day after the squall we crossed the Equator three times in twenty-four hours in variable airs and then picked up the north east Trades. In the northern limit of the north east Trades we sighted a vessel, which proved on near approach, to be a derelict. We lay with the main yard to the mast and lowered a quarterboat and the mate and the four apprentices boarded her. She was a timber laden barque. Her decks were awash and bulging off the beams and grass and oakum, bleached white, were hanging from her seams as she rolled in the long north east swell. Her topsail yards were on the caps and the reefed portion of the sails was still on the yards. There were no boats. In a house on the after deck was a mass of clothing just recognizable as such and a cloak hanging, which did not appear to be damaged, which we took with us. On her stern was New Bedford, but her name was undecipherable. We could not sink her and she was a grave danger to shipping. She was, as Kipling puts it,
‘Whipped forth by night to meet
My sister’s careless feet
And with a kiss,
betray her to her master.”

On the passage, night and day, the fire had been kept going for condensing. We consumed the last of our coal in the north east Trades and then cut up all our spare spars. We had stripped and burnt the topgallant bulwarks. Several attempts had been made to get at the casks of tallow in the lower holds, but without success. Losing the north east trades we met a succession of easterly gales and we were in 37 degrees west before we got a change. Then it came from the westwards and we got into soundings and then the chops of the Channel. The allowance of water was increased to two pints a day and I may here say that Captain Miller had served out all the malt liquors and fresh provisions on board, and intended for the cabin, equally to all hands (apprentices excepted) from the time the water was short.

We were running up channel with a fleet of vessels that had been detained by the easterly winds and when off the Start Point one night, we ran into a schooner and carried away our jibboom and main yard, so that in the morning the first tug which came along was engaged, ultimately leaving us at the London dock heads. Between these heads lumpers came on board and the crew were released until pay day, when the runners were looking for 10 pounds only and the others of the original crew their wages in addition.

As soon as the ship was between the dock head crimps, touts for boarding houses and pimps from the lowest places of resort in Ratcliffe highway and the purlieus of old and new Gravel lanes swarmed aboard. They would seize on the men’s chests, lash them up, carry them on the quay and the seamen would have to follow willy nilly. It frequently occurred that the men lost everything belonging to them, or if Jack followed, getting to these low boarding houses, an advance would be made to the penniless seamen and an order given by him to the tout to receive his wages and pay himself. Sometimes after attending the pay table and receiving his pay after a two or three year’s cruise, he would fall into bad hands and lose his money and his clothes and have to don a brown paper suit, left for that purpose by the miscreants who had robbed him, to return to his boarding house, where a small amount of cash would be given to him, on the advance note which, after twenty-four hours on shore and three years at sea, Jack would probably receive the next day on his wages for another voyage. But a few years later this abominable business was done away with. Constables were at hand to prevent crimps and touts boarding the ships on arrival. There were instead of these scum, representatives of reputable licensed boarding houses, and the Wells Street Sailor’s Home, and every protection and facility were given these men to avoid low disreputable lodgings. Seamen in those days indeed earned their money like horses, and spent it like asses.

Payday for our crew came and the men, with one or two exceptions of the runners, came to the cuddy table, where sat Captain Miller and a heap of gold and silver and the writer beside him checking each amount paid. The original crew were paid first, without any deductions for the time they were in Wooloomooloo Gaol. Then the Captain said. “Men, I regret to tell you that the owners repudiate my arrangement with you for 10 pounds in consideration of your proceeding on the small quantity of water.” The men all started to protest, but the captain, holding up his hand said, “Wait men. I am leaving the ship and tomorrow, when I shall receive my salary, I will divide two-thirds of it amongst you. That is all I can do for you.” It seemed to sober the men and they went ashore. Shortly after most of them returned and, meeting Captain Miller at the gangway,” said, “Thank-you for your kindness. We won’t take your money, but we’ll pull those Scotch ------ the owners.” And they did. The case was called and the apprentices were called as witnesses, but the morning the case came on, as the managing owner was stepping from his brougham at the Court of Requests, he fell dead and the firm paid every penny as well as the lawyer’s fees, the case not being heard.

When the crew was finally paid off we saw no more of them and lumpers were employed discharging the cargo. The gold had been taken away by the bank officials while the ship was between the Dock Heads. At the first opportunity, I went up to Mr. Norton’s private residence and from him I learned that my father’s private affairs were far from hopeless. Everything had realised well, and his creditors had dealt with him generously, recognising that in liquidating he had acted solely in their interests. I also learnt that my two brothers had been placed as boarders in the same school at Ipswich that I had run away from, and that I was not to go to Guernsey to visit my family as it was probable my parents would be returning to England before I again sailed. All this was encouraging but I was very miserable in London after a few days. I, with the other apprentices, was living at the ship’s expense at a boarding house in Jamaica Square, close the London docks, kept by a Scotch lady—a Mistress Sinclaire. She was Scotch in accent and very Scotch in her cooking and the latter, we boys could not appreciate. We used to make a point of asking when we were leaving after breakfast to go to the ship, “What will you have for dinner today Mrs. Sinclaire?” although we knew the answer would be “Braw kail and fish, laddie fish,” and day after day it was ‘fesh laddie, fesh’, except on Sundays when an alternative of boiled fresh beef would be on the table – fancy brisket or ribs of beef boiled fresh. There were a few Scotch mates boarding there too but the cooking suited them and an appreciative remark was frequently elicited from them of, “Them’s fine kail, Mistress.” Why the Scotch spoke of soup in the plural always puzzled us.
One day an inspiration came to me that I would ask for leave from the owner and if granted I would visit my brothers at school in Ipswich. The Captain had gone to Scotland to visit his people. A week was grudgingly granted and without a word to anyone I took a second class ticket in a parliamentary train at Uston Station for Ipswich – 69 miles from London and three and a half hours occupied by the journey were whiled away in pleasant anticipation of meeting my brothers, and old school fellows and especially Ida. I had dressed carefully in the uniform of sea apprentices of that time – short cloth jacket with silk facings and buttons in a curve on each side and the cuffs slashed with six buttons. I wore a vest of the same cloth with snowy duck pants and a cap of blue cloth with an embroidered band round it. With a white frilled shirt front turned down over a black silk neckerchief tied in a sailor knot, a very neat uniform it was. I have often regretted its becoming obsolete for apprentices in the merchant service but it gradually became evanescent as steam began to dominate the white wings. On arrival at the railway station in the quiet sleepy ancient town of Ipswich, I took a hansom and was driven to the school from which I had been so glad to leave. Discharging the cab, I rang the bell at the private residence of my old dominie and in a few minutes was sitting in the keeping room conversing with Ida and her mother. I was much surprised to see the alteration in Ida since I last saw her. It was evident to me that from a frolicking hoyden she had become a quite impressive young lady and I was not nearly so much at ease with her as I had been when she would throw her arms round the boys and sympathise with them for their birchings. I found myself under much restraint and almost tongue tied, while she seemed perfectly self possessed. Presently I received an invitation to go into the school where I met my two brothers and paid my respects to my old master and then returned to the ladies with a view of taking my leave and going to an hotel. This however they would not permit, informing me that the Dominie had stipulated that I was to domicile with the family during my visit. This kindness I was only too ready to accept as it gave me better opportunities of seeing my brothers and renewing my acquaintance with Ida and this latter came about quickly, after her mother began questioning me about the voyage I had just returned from. When evening came I found Mr. K had invited some of the old school boys to meet me and I spent a very pleasant time, the only drawback being that they all seemed so much better acquainted and more at their ease with Ida than I could be. The next day my brothers were granted a weeks recess, so I hired a fowling piece and day after day we three went all over the places which had once been so familiar. I found many changes had taken place in my absence. Brick and mortar had marred some of the prettiest and most secluded rural spots in the suburbs, and there was very little sport to be had until I got permission to shoot over Sir W. Brook’s and Squire Tomlin’s grounds and we then got very respectable bags of partridges and rabbits—the pheasant being taboo—and a keeper was always sent with us. We trudged all day taking a lunch with us and we were so tired by the time we returned that we were glad to retire early. Looking backward, I can see that this helped me with Ida of whom I saw very little during these days.

Ida’s mother was the widow of a sea Captain who had owned several vessels sailing out of the port of Ipswich in the Baltic and Mediterranean trade, one of which he had always sailed himself and used frequently to carry his wife with him. She used to tell us some very interesting stories of trips to the Baltic and Mediterranean ports, and her description of sea life was very graphic. One evening she very pathetically described how her husband had left her on his last voyage in a new brig he had just purchased. She had she wished to accompany him but he had refused to take her because he had no knowledge of the new vessel. Even when he had been away long enough to have made the voyage, however, he did not return. Week after week elapsed, her nights being passed sleeplessly and in prayer, the days in listening for his knock and his cheery voice. After many months of awful weary suspense, Lloyds had reported the ship missing, another mystery of the seas and the insurance claims were paid. She alone clung to the hope of his return and three years passed over her, turning her hair, black as a raven’s wing, to snow. She believed all the time that he was in the hands of the Algerian pirates and would eventually make his escape, as had happened to many other seamen of that time. Then she sent a chill through Ida and myself by describing how her husband had come to her bedside and placed an ice cold hand on her forehead. She then knew he was dead but she had not experienced the least fear, and as soon as he had left her, she had risen from her bed, knelt down and thanked God for the token He had granted for her prayers. The next day she put on Widow’s weeds which she would not wear previously, but would now wear to her life’s end. She had three sons, one of whom was my old Dominie, and one daughter, Ida.

The owners had granted me a weeks leave but when it had expired, I had become so enamoured of Ida I recklessly stayed on. My brothers had returned to their classes, so one morning I asked her to accompany my shooting and getting her mother’s permission, she readily consented. We started early and carrying our lunch with us, walked to Hog Island on the banks of the Orwell. Here we agreed to light a fire and have our lunch, so I laid my gun and ammunition flask carefully by. We sat on a little mound and watched the gulls as they hovered over the river. I wanted to sit close to Ida and presently the opportunity came for she complained of cold hands and what was there to do but put my gloves on hers. While so engaged, her pretty face was so close to mine I could not resist the temptation to kiss her sweet lips, and all at once the world became a lovely place to live in, and the river and the ancient oaks and all nature round us was smiling. Putting her little hand with my big glove hanging to it on my shoulder, she returned my kiss and then—ah they were halcyon moments, and we were only awakened from loves young dream by a suspicion that I was sitting on something damp. This proved to be the lunch. The three hard boiled eggs and the apple turnover formed an appetising conglomerate which we ate while we laughed, kissed and picked out the pieces of shell. What a happy day it was! We loved and we were young and although doubtless,Ida had kissed and been in love with half the boys in school, I, with the exception of the little Scotch lassie at the boarding house in London, a little passenger angel on the voyage and two sweet little things who used to come aboard with the washing in Sydney, had had nothing so serious and nice as this. After lunch I cut our initials in an oak tree and we agreed that Hog Island was a misnomer and to refer in future to it, as Love Island. We left in just enough time to get home by dusk and when nearly home it occurred to us we had left the gun behind. I discreetly sent Ida on home and went back to look for my powder flask, which I supposed I had dropped. After securing the gun, I turned into St. Clements Fore Street, went in to a poulterers and purchased a partridge and a brace of snipe which I handed in as a result of the day’s sport. The next day Ida told me the cook had said that the birds must have been dead when I shot them as they were quite high. I was now fully seized with the fact that I was exceeding my leave but I was so hopelessly in love that I was reckless of consequences and day after day passed. If Ida could not accompany me shooting I would stay home. In the evenings I would go with her and her mother to weekday service in St. Helen’s or St.Clement’s church. How well I remember those quaint old churches with their blue flint and cement outer walls and the many ‘In Memoriam’ slabs which covered the walls inside. The inscriptions recorded the name and manifold virtues of many who had passed through life’s fitful fever centuries past, and who, if they read their epitaph would be much surprised to see how good they had been. Even the stone slabs which composed the floor of the aisle of these ancient buildings bore inscriptions, many partially obliterated by the footfalls of past generations. Some of the churches, notably St. Helens and St. Stephens dated back as far as the remains of the Roman Wall which had circled the townand which could still be seen in the early fifties. All the churches had originally belonged to the Roman Catholics. When Ida could accompany me, we would, after getting away from the immediate vicinity of the town, secrete my gun and flask behind a hedge and go on the Woodbridge Road, cross Rushmere Heath and return by the Foxhall Road and Nottages Lane, with many little love episodes beguiling us on the way. These happy and innocent days passed so quickly, idylls that never returned, and, thank God were never regretted. As memory carries me back to those halcyon times I remember also the vile tuition that boys received in the depraving contact of the ship’s forecastle and I am astounded by the super influence of purity over vice, which enabled me to pass through this episode in my life so that I can look back on it through the mists of three score years and ten, as an idyll and without regret. All this time I am sure the Dominie never suspected there was more than boy and girl camaraderie which he must always have known existed between Ida and the boys—her fellow pupils, until I, with much embarrassment, told him of my love for her and he discreetly replied, ‘that when I returned from my next voyage he would be pleased to offer me further hospitality’. The next day however, he asked me if I had an extension of leave granted from the owners and when I replied in the negative, I saw by his expressive face that he considered that I should return to London. In the evening I told Ida and her mother that I should leave them the following day. Next morning I took leave of my brothers and the Dominie, who, giving me his blessing and exhibiting much emotion, I drove to the railway station accompanied by Ida and her mother and after a short episode of sweet sorrow in the waiting room I boarded my train and left those two tearful women whom I was never again to meet on this side of the Great Divide.

On arrival in London, I was driven first to Mr. Norton’s, the lawyer, who handed me a letter from my mother telling me the family would not return to England before I sailed and enclosing a note for ten pounds and although bitterly disappointed at having to leave without seeing my mother and sisters, after leaving Mr. Norton I went straight to a jewelers in King William Street and purchased a ring for Ida, and posted it to her within the hour.

The next day I went on board the ship and reported myself to the managing owner. The Captain was still in Scotland visiting his people and the owner evidently did not remember I had exceeded my leave. I started work immediately with the other apprentices and again domiciled with them at Mistress Sinclair’s at St. James Square. Three evenings a week I attended Mrs. Janet Taylor’s school for navigation and before I sailed I could, if I had been of age, passed a second or only mate’s examination.

The ship was on the berth for Port Adelaide and cargo was received and lumpers were stowing it and the utmost vigilance of the ship’s officers failed to prevent the broaching and pilfering of the cargo although ostensibly there was a rigid personal search of every employee who passed through the dock gates outwards. What with the defection of the lumpers and the utterly reckless handling and peculation of the crew on seas of that time, I should say the consignees suffered badly. Lying in both St.Catherines and London dock I remember day after day seeing the lumpers in the hold three sheets in the wind at their work.

It was in the year 1851 and the first international exhibition opened on 1st May of that year, and London swarmed with foreigners from every town in Europe and all other parts of the civilized world. It was a wonderful gathering together of representatives of every nation of the world and of the products, manufactures and the industries of all the people of the earth. At this time the Great Eastern was on the stocks and the Great Britain was lying in the Thames with her six masts, and in all the docks were lying loading or discharging cargoes from or to China, America and Australia, many of the most beautiful clipper ships that man’s brain had conceived and his hand fashioned, to be propelled by the winds of heaven only, for it was the year of the clipper era.

The ship was now fully loaded with the exception of a quantity of explosives, which as usual were to be taken in at Gravesend. At knock off time one evening we apprentices were told that the ship would be towed to Gravesend the following day. We took leave of Mistress Sinclaire and her fesh (fish) that evening, and I squared up my account with Mrs. Janet Taylor for my tuition in navigation, and wrote to my mother and Ida. Then we apprentices engaged a conveyance for our chests to the ship. The morning came cold, dull and repellant and directly we had got our effects in the dirty forecastle, we were turned to the work of getting the ship ready for towing. Meanwhile the lumpers were warping the ship to the dock heads where she waited the coming of the tug, and while there, a lady in widow’s weeds came with a pale faced, rather puny lad. With them was a man with a trunk with a chest and mattress on it, which he took on board the ship and we were told by the mate that the lad was a new apprentice. The lady and the boy remained on the quay in converse—she holding the boy’s hands, and he looking tearfully in her face. Some of the crew came down at this time accompanied by some women, all three sheets in the wind. Presently I was sent ashore to make fast a line and in passing I lifted my cap to the lady, who bowed and came toward me and asked, “Are you one of the apprentices?” I replied “Yes.” “Have you made a voyage?” “Yes, two, “ I replied. “My boy Ernest, is going with you. This is his first time of leaving home and he has lately lost his father. Will you be kind to him if you can?” I promised to be his friend so far as I could. “Will he sleep in the same place as you?” she asked. I replied in the affirmative. She then looked towards the group of seamen and women on the quay—a look which I interpreted, and said, “ The apprentices don’t sleep amongst the seamen.” Then taking my dirty hand in hers she said, “Goodbye, your promise has comforted me. God bless you and enable you to keep it.”

I had too lately felt the clinging embrace and tearful parting kisses of my own dear mother, to be able to see this sweet motherly woman’s emotion unmoved and to my great disgust and dread of ridicule, do all that I could, I was not able to keep the tears from my eyes. Two years at sea and sniveling. The little boy followed me closely on board, his eyes streaming, but I noticed as old Jack Sutherland, the boatswain, came along, the little chap turned his face from him and tried to conceal his wet cheeks. The kind gruff old Fifeshire seaman said, “Dinna be ashamed of greeting laddie. Ye’ll hae but ae mither.” Then came along Rory Anderson the second mate, and seeing the new youngster, says, “Now youngster, stop greeting and get some working togs on.” Then, catching sight of my watery eyes, he exclaimed, “Well I’m ----.” Then he roared, “Here boatswain, get the end of the towline over the bows. Here’s all these ----- boys piping their eyes because they can’t get to sea.”

Presently a tug came and the end of the towline was passed to her and we were soon clear of the docks and in the river. Looking astern I could see the boy’s mother waving her handkerchief to him. Dick Corderoy, also an apprentice and myself were sent to the wheel and we had to steer after the tug. Those of the crew who had come on board were sprawling on their still lashed up chests, or in the bunks of the forecastle in their go ashore togs, and there were only the three mates, the boatswain and we three apprentices available for work. The tug had hardly got good away on us before she had to slow down to clear, on one hand a big coal lighter whose propelling power was two immense sweeps, each worked by a man, and, on the other, a red, blue and green stripped sailing barge with brown tanned sails, (a London river barge.) A woman was at the tiller of the barge and a man forward. The latter seemingly perfectly oblivious of surroundings, and especially so of the proximity of our ship, and her tug, for he was looking over the Rotherhithe side filling his pipe with his back to us. Having slowed his tug, her master seemed to have given up all responsibility and it appeared to me that he was not seized of the fact that he and his tug were ahead of us for any special purpose. The man at her wheel reclining on it, chewing tobacco and appearing to be examining something in an elevated position in the direction of the Tower. The tug’s paddles were just revolving, and the towline lay in a bight under our bows, while our ship carried her way, and would it seemed, run over and annihilated the little tug, except for a miracle. Then the men on the coal barge stopped working their sweeps, and leaning their shoulders against them, began to blaspheme the master of the tug and advised him to get home quickly as his grandfather wanted his spittoon (referring to the tug) and that his mother could not have her breakfast until he returned her coffee pot (indicating the tug’s boiler.) Then the skipper of the tug blasphemed the men in the coal barge, and if their language was atrocious, that of the skipper of the tug was appalling. All this time the coal barge was drifting right on to us, but at the right moment, a movement of the sweeps took her clear. Meantime the sailing barge, with a fresh breeze shaped right for the tug’s paddle box, which the woman at the tiller seemed intent on hitting as hard as she could, while the man forward was perfectly satisfied with everything. The master of the tug having shut up the coal barge men, walked quickly over to the other side of his vessel, and, leaning over the rail, watched the sailing barge, which kept her stretch until it seemed a collision was inevitable. The woman then walked to leeward with her long tiller, and the barge’s head flew up in the wind. The man forward woke up and let something go that was not his pipe, and away went the barge on the other tack, but not a word said the skipper of the tug. I learned afterwards that had he opened his mouth, the woman taking a lone hand, would have obliterated him in a single sentence, while her husband forward would have refilled his pipe during the process. The power of vituperative and recherche blasphemy, yet, in spite of its atrociousness and smart repartee, these lightermen and tugmen on the Thames possess, is only equalled by the expertness with which they handled their apparently unwieldy craft. The foregoing happened in far less time than I have taken to relate it. Being clear of obstruction, and just as I expected to feel the shock of the tug under our bows, her paddle revolved at full speed, the man at the wheel finished surveying the Tower, the towline toughened out, and off we went again. All went smoothly until we got past the Isle of Dogs, when in trying to avoid several north country brigs that were ‘backing and filling’ up river, we touched the ground, and although we did not stick, the towline parted and before we could get it to the tug again, we nearly fouled a large Sunderland brig. Then the old thing began, the brig master and crew seeming to leave everything to the brig as far as clearing us was concerned. Every man of them from the Captain standing in the companion way in a black Elsinor dig-skin cap, to the cook at the galley door, knife in one hand and a potato in the other, seemed impressed with the necessity of exhaling as much blasphemous chaff as he could. While the ‘…………sou’spainer and sulphur bottom’, as they called our ship was within hail, beyond expressing an anxiety to know if they stopped all night in that elegant hooker, the tug Captain did not rise to the occasion, as in the former case of the barge. In spite of the apparent apathy, the right thing was done at the right moment. The brig cleared us and we proceeded, anchoring off Gravesend and the little tug left us. The night was fine and the mate went to the forecastle and told the men they must keep anchor watch. Ostensibly one was kept, the men tumbling out of their bunks to sleep on their chests or lockers.

Next day we took in some powder. The Captain came on board bringing the rest of the crew with him, all more or lass tipsy or suffering from a recovery from excesses. During the day the long boat was taken in and griped, and the pigs and sheep were put into her, the tacks and sheets put on the courses and the vegetables slung in the quarter boats after the fashion of those days. Some of the better class amongst the crew turned to and the mates, having less to do, got better tempered. The new boy Earnest Wood and another boy were sent to grease down the foremast spars, and I noticed that Wood seemed very nervous about going aloft. and could not be persuaded to negotiate the futtock rigging. I went up to him and tried to get him on the foreyard, and so on to the top, but I did not succeed and I had to leave him and go on deck. I heard the second mate rating him afterwards for being frightened. The next day we left Gravesend in charge of a pilot, with a fair wind. The following morning the pilot was taken out of us by a Deal Boat. Most of our crew had now turned to, and to a man they were all from Fifeshire including the officers and Captain, except the carpenter who hailed from Montrose. The apprentices were all English and the cook was a native of Barbados. We carried our fair wind to the Eddystone and then got it right in our teeth from the westward and for two or three days we were under the double-reefed topsails.

At that time sailing vessels carried no side lights and one night while plunging into the westerly sea the lookout on the forecastle head sang out, “Sail right ahead,” and before the second officer, who had the watch could give an order, she crashed into us. Our jibboom was carried away and our foretop gallant and royal mast and yard came down by the run. The other vessel, a large French lugger apparently of about 100 tons came tearing and crashing down along our port side, taking away our cathead and causing our port anchor, which was on the bow, to drop until the cable brought it up. As there were eight or ten seamen’s chests lashed to the cable in the forecastle and several of the watch (who should have been on deck) sleeping on them, things were very much mixed. When the jerk of the anchor falling some thirty feet came on the cable it sent the chests up to the beams, throwing the sleeping men away stunned, extinguishing the lamp and creating ‘confusion worse confounded’. The lugger drifted clear of us but what her state was we made no effort to ascertain, and she was soon lost sight of in the darkness. She gave us plenty of employment in the next few days.

Happily the westerly wind blew itself out and we had light fair winds and smooth seas until we had everything right. These were followed by a calm, which lasted all one night and until noon the next day when a small squall came away from west-northwest with a shower, and orders were given to furl the fore-main and mizzen royals and haul down the flying jib. I went to the former. Two other apprentices went to the main and little Wood and another boy, were sent to the mizzen royal. I had stowed my sail and was coming down the topmast rigging when I heard the mate call to the boy on the mizzen royal yard to stop there and show Wood, who was in the topmast cross trees, how to furl the sail. The wind had gone, the squall being tropical, sudden and short. Wood could not be induced to attempt the ascent of the topgallant rigging, which of course was not rattled. The mate was angry and sent a seaman up to insist on the boy going to the royal yard. The man, as it appeared afterwards, chaffed the boy and said, “If your mother could see you now, she would not cry over you. She’d laugh at you for being a coward.” This seemed to overcome the lad and he scrambled up the topgallant rigging and got onto the royal yard. I had got on deck and was employed in some way when I heard a sharp agonised cry of ‘Mother’ and a moment later a dull thud as of something falling on the deck. Involuntarily I looked up to the mizzen royal yard and then , running aft, I saw between the capstan and the break of the poop, poor Wood on his back, his blue eyes wide open and round his nose and mouth a line almost as blue, but nothing else to indicate that he was injured. I knelt down and spoke to him. Although his eyes were open he did not seem to see me, and he did not speak. The Captain, mates and watch were soon round him but he was evidently unconscious. A tablecloth was brought from the cuddy and carefully drawn under him and as he was lifted I saw him smile and then utter the word ‘Mother’ in a sort of ecstatic manner, and the Captain relieved me very much by saying, “Thank God he is not much hurt. He is only suffering from the shock.” The man who was aloft with him said that he shinned up the topgallant rigging and got on the royal yard, but immediately pitched right over the yard, and in falling, struck the mizzen stay before striking the deck. We took him into the cabin state room and put him to bed. Strange to say he had no bones broken and no bruises except a slight abrasion across the back. He continued unconscious and except bathing his head and hands, no remedies were applied. At 8 p.m. it being my watch on deck, I asked the Captain’s permission to go in and out to him. He granted it and told me to call him immediately if the boy regained consciousness. I mentioned that I had promised his mother to look after him and then he told me to stay in the spare bunk in the same berth with Wood in my watch below. I went in and out several times between 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock and there was no change except that his eyes closed and he breathed a little harder. At 10 o’clock the Captain paid him a visit and applied friction with a hair glove but with no effect. I asked him if he could recover and he replied that it was doubtful as he thought the spine was injured. Then he told me not to leave the boy until midnight when I should be relieved. I sat on the closed up washing stand at his head thinking what a blow it would be to the mother if the little chap died, and wondering if I should have to write to her or if the Captain would do so. I nodded so deeply that I nearly dislocated my neck, so after glancing at Wood and seeing no change, I leaned back and was soon asleep and was awakened by the bell striking 8 o’clock and the mate calling out, “Heave the log.” I went to the Captain’s cabin and waking him, told him there was no change. He came and looked at Wood, applied friction and ammonia for some time and said he thought he would pass away unconscious. Before he left the berth the steward entered and told the captain he would watch the boy till 8 am. I went and got my pillow and blanket to sleep in the bunk opposite but the steward did not wish this and said I would sleep better in my own bunk and he would call me if he became conscious. However I could not be persuaded and I turned in and in a few minutes was asleep. How long I slept I cannot say but I was awakened, not by a start or by a shock, but with the consciousness of hearing the boy say in quite a strong voice, “Mother! Mother! I knew you would come.” I was lying on my right side with my face turned towards Wood, whose face was turned towards me and distant from me the width between two bunks, say 4 feet. But I could not see his face because between the lad and myself and bending over him, was a woman dressed in black. I could see obliquely the side of her face and a frill of a widow’s cap. I recognised her immediately as the boy’s mother I had spoken to on the dock heads on the day of our departure. I have said I was awakened without a shock. I seemed to wake by simply opening my eyes, induced by some subtle influence which I could not then or now define. At first I was not startled at what I saw but for a few seconds accepted it as a natural sequence that the boy should be attended by his mother. Then the second mate on the poop over my head called, “Trim the binnacle light,” and in a moment I realised what was by my side, and an overwhelming fear flooded me, and my first instinct was to escape from the berth. To get out of my bunk I had to turn half round and, however rapid was my movement, when my foot touched the deck of the berth the woman disappeared. I had heard no sound or movement but I saw as I flew out of the berth that Wood was conscious. I made straight for the door of the Captain’s berth and had it been locked or fast, I believe I should have fallen in a fit. As it was the Captain just opened it as I got to it, with the result that I hit him about the belt with the force of an Armstrong projectile. He was rather stout and puffed. “What in God’s name is the matter with the boy?” I could not answer and he went quickly to Wood. I followed him as I could not get on deck the other way and then ran to the forecastle and told my chum. Explaining to Waite what I had seen, he dressed and went with me to the poop. I then told the second mate about it. He told me I had dreamt it. Just then I heard the Captain calling me and I, with Waite, went to him beside the sick lad, whom I found, as I had noticed in my flight, conscious. He was looking steadfastly towards the Captain but it did not seem to me that he saw him, but seemed to be looking beyond him. In reply to the Captain’s question, he said he had no pain. I asked him if he knew me and he replied in the affirmative. Then presently he said, “I wasn’t afraid but my head went round.” Then just as the skipper was telling the steward (who had come in looking as white as a sheet as if he had seen something too) that some hot water would be required for a warm bath, the little fellow stretched himself and then put up his arms, curved as if he was pulling someone down to him and muttered, “Mother! Mother!” His arms then sank gradually down on his chest and with a little sigh he left us. The bell on the poop struck two and the other on the forecastle repeated it, for it was 5 a.m. and the boatswain roared, “Port forebrace! Let go the fore tack and bowline and slack the foresheet.” and daylight broke with what is called high dawn. The wind freshened and the sea got up rapidly, and at 10 a.m. when four bells struck, all hands were called to shorten sail (the topgallant sails were already stowed.) Two reefs were put in the topsails, the steward called, “Grog ho.” and the watch went below again. At 2 p.m. we furled the mizzen topsail and maincourse and close reefed the fore and main topsails. There was a nasty cross sea and we were shipping big lumps of water at times. Captain Smith very reluctantly postponed the burial of poor little Wood until next day. Seamen were then intensely superstitious and it was always advisable, even at the expense of sentiment, to bury the dead at sea as soon as possible.

The story I had told of seeing the boy’s mother was at this time believed to be a dream. Still, its effect was apparent as soon as evening closed in. Both watches had supper together in the dingy topgallant forecastle, imperfectly lighted by the foul smelling, smoking black oil lamp hanging from a beam, swinging and swooping with every lurch and send of the ship. The roar of the wind out of the foot of the forecourse, the swash and thump of the sea striking her under the bluff of the bow, the creaking of the bulkheads, the men looking weird and grim with their unshaven faces, now lit up and then in darkest shade as the lamp jerked and swung wildly, all added to the atmosphere. They were sitting on their chests, knife in hand, and a small tub called a ‘kid’ at their feet, with a piece of salt horse in it resembling fibrous mahogany. Each man also had a small box with a bar across it called a ‘barge’, filled with coarse biscuit and a hook pot for each man containing tea. They were just beginning their meal when the ship gave an extra lurch and the big bell on the forecastle head struck out dolefully, partially smothered by the roar of the wind and sea. “One!” then as she rolled back in the hollow of the sea, it again tolled out “One!” “The kirk knell, by God!” exclaimed old Beckford the sailmaker, and all these hirsute kail-suppers of Fife, who would have sat, with the utmost complacency, at the weather earring of the main topsail and squirted tobacco juice and blasphemed with ship nearly on her beam ends and the masts expected to go out of her, now turned and looked at each other as scared as boys crossing a church yard at midnight. An ominous silence was broken again by Beckford, who roared out “One of you boys go and make fast the lanyard of that bell.” Of course had this been done at first the bell would have been silent. Then they went on with their tea, everyone having a yarn to tell about ghosts, wraiths and death lights.

During the day the corpse had laid in the bunk the boy had died in. His best clothes had been put on him by the steward and at eight bells all the apprentices asked permission to give a last look at him, for we heard the sail maker told to have a canvas ready to sew him up in, in the morning watch. He was to be buried at 8 a.m. whatever the weather. Well we all went in and saw him. There was a small bracket lamp burning in the berth. He was much altered and I wished I had not gone in. We were all more or less affected although each tried to hide his feelings. Jemmy Waite and I were in the mate’s watch below. I slept in the forecastle. At midnight it was my wheel and when I went on to the poop I saw the weather was moderating and the Captain went below, telling the mate to call him before making more sail. Wind and sea fell rapidly and when I was relieved from the wheel at 2 a.m. the mate told me to call the Captain and tell him the ship wanted more sail to steady her. To reach the Captain’s cabin I had to pass the cuddy or saloon (as it is now called) and go between the state rooms, in one of which the corpse lay, so I asked Jemmy Waite to come with me and call the Captain. We entered the cuddy which was dimly lighted, the swinging lamp being turned so low, that the light in the berth where the corpse lay, threw quite a bright ray from the open door across the passage. Nearly opposite was the steward’s room where he slept and kept all the cuddy stores, casks, cases and jars. We were pretty nervous. I was slightly in advance of my chum and I kept my eyes straight in front of me to avoid seeing the corpse and had got nearly past the open door and through the streak of light, when Waite made some exclamation and ran back. Turning, I faced the door and in a momentary glance, I saw standing at the head of the corpse and bending over it, Mrs. Wood. She was touching or doing something to the face. Of course I followed Jemmy Waite pretty quickly and at the cuddy door, we both fell one on top of the other and I hurt my ankle. How we scrambled on to the poop I cannot tell but the first thing I remember was both of us trying to make the mate believe what we had seen. He called us “------- fools,” but he did not hurry down and when at last he entered the cuddy, he at once turned up the lamp and called the steward, who came out of his berth as white as a ghost. His black whiskers and mustache were in such strong relief as to make him look ghastly. I said immediately “You have seen her, steward?” He replied “Seen whom? There was no woman there.” he added. This made us all doubt him. At this juncture the Captain came out of his state room and he was told what we had seen. He sent first Jemmy, and then me out of the cabin and heard each of us relate separately. I thought he was convinced this time. However he told the steward to give us half a tot of grog and send us below, telling us we had been deceived by our overwrought nerves. The carpenter was called and told to sit up and watch the body until daylight. The steward volunteered to keep him company, or I do not think Chips would have sat in that berth alone for a kingdom.

All hands were employed in making sail and at 6 a.m. the sail maker was called and he sewed the poor little chap up in new canvas and put some shackles to his feet to sink it. Both watches went to breakfast at seven bells. At 8 a.m. the Captain called out from the break of the poop, “Haul up the mainsail and lay the mainyard to the mast, Mr. Brown.” Then the cluegarnets and buntlines being manned, the tack and sheet started, the sail slats for a minute or so and the gear is up and the sail is snugged. Then, “Port main brace.” and the heavy yards swing square and aback and counter acting the head yards, the ship is nearly stationary, the helm being put down. Then the bell on the pinnacle begins to toll slowly and all hands stand in the starboard waist, and the red ensign is at a dip from the mizzen gaff. The sailmaker and steward come out of the cuddy carrying the corpse, followed by the Captain with a Church of England prayer book in his hand. The gangway in the topgallant bulwarks being opened, the corpse on one of the poop gratings is laid in the opening held by two apprentices. Then Captain Smith began to read the burial service for the dead at sea. He started fairly but he spoke lower and more indistinctly as he read on and I saw that his eyes were suffused and a big drop coursed down one and the other of his rugged cheeks. I knew that he was ashamed to wipe his eyes and he could not see the words and in a moment he made us all jump by calling out as if he were ordering the topsail halyards to be let go in a squall “Come here, you boy Sykes. I can’t see this print” but giving me a look he read on a bit and then a big lump came in his throat and he got blind and held out the book to Jemmy Waite who took it and got on to, “We therefore commit his body to the deep.” Then with streaming eyes and a sob he turned his face to the main rigging from the crew and the corpse and then another collapse. Then old Jack Sutherland, the boatswain said “Let the puir wee laddie go. He’ll be alright.” A cant of the grating —a splash—and little Wood had ‘all ocean for his grave.’ Then came, “Starboard main brace. “Well of all”. “Jump, you boy, and overhaul the gear of the mainsail.” The yards fill and the main tack is boarded and the ship gathers headway and begins to plump into the westerly sea. Some of us wondered then what the dickens we piped our eyes for but the fact is, our nerves had been a good deal shaken the previous night by the wraith of the boy’s mother. There was a great amount of sympathy amongst the crew considering the short time the lad had been with us. Were these the same men Mrs. Woods had seen on the dock the day we left?

Things went on in the usual way for some time and we had crossed the line and got to the westward of the Cape of Good Hope. About 11.30 o’clock one night we were scudding under a close reefed fore and main topsail and forecourse, the Captain and mate were standing close to me at the wheel discussing the weather and the advisability of taking in the foresail at eight bells. The Captain said he would go down and look at the glass. As soon as he left the poop the mate took the wheel from me, telling me to call the second mate and, “Tell him we are to take the foresail off her.” I had just got to the front of the poop when up ran the Captain and in an agitated whisper said, “By God Brown, I’ve seen the ghost, standing just inside the cabin door.” I was about the mate’s height and had on a similar pilot’s overcoat and the Captain had, in his excitement, mistaken me for the mate. Then, seeing his mistake, he said angrily, “What are you doing here? Where’s the mate?” “At the wheel, sir.” “You go and take it and send him here.” I did as I was told, and the two stood in earnest conversation for some minutes. Then Mr. Brown went below and returned with the second mate. The three then talked together until the first mate came aft and struck eight bells and hove the log. When the man from the other watch came to relieve me I did not give up the wheel but told him the foresail was coming in, so he went forward. The Captain and mate left the poop and returned but gave no orders about the foresail, so I presumed the barometer was rising. They stood in the after part of the mizzen rigging and I heard the Captain say, “……. That boy. He heard what I said, I’m sure. You had better call him here at once.” The mate walked to the front of the poop and called out, “Boy.” I answered from the wheel. Mr. Brown said, “Why aren’t you relieved?” I replied that I thought the foresail was being hauled up. The Captain said, “I was startled by the mate’s oil coat hanging up in the alleyway and was foolish enough to take it for the ghost you wretched boys have been talking about. When I left the wheel I told my chum Jemmy and two other apprentices that the Captain had seen Mrs. Wood, for I was not a bit taken in by the Captain’s subterfuge of the oil coat, and Jemmy was as convinced as I was. The crew, of course, heard of the Captain’s having seen it and the effect on them was most depressing and at the same time ludicrous. Every old seaman knows the constant topic of conversation at meal times on long voyages was women, but from this night nothing was talked about but wraiths, death lights. and the supernatural generally and what such things foreboded. A man would not go aloft after dark, but on regaining the deck, would describe some figure in black he had seen pass to leeward etc…etc. One morning just after midnight, a boy was called to oil the wheel blocks which were squeaking and he was just getting up from the after side of the monkey poop which covered the steering gear, when the Captain who had just come up on the poop, seeing the unexpected figure rising up in the gloom, jumped away uttering an exclamation. The man at the wheel dropped it and ran to the skipper and the boy seeing them jump, dropped the oil feeder and sprang up alongside them. The Captain made himself ridiculous by cursing them both, especially the man for leaving the wheel. On another occasion a man was relieved by the mate from the wheel and sent to call the Captain, as the wind was freshening, and he returned without reaching the Captain's room, swearing he had seen a woman in black cross the cabin, and enter or vanish at the steward's berth.

We were now in the Roaring Forties, running down our easting and one forenoon it fell calm and continued so all day and there was a large barque, homeward bound, a very unusual thing to see between Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. Towards sundown the two vessels had drifted near enough (as vessels invariably do in a calm as under some attractive influence) to signal. We found she was the Maitland of London, Captain Henry from Adelaide, with wheat and copper oar. In a sudden squall she had been thrown on her beam ends. The cargo had shifted and she had to be kept on the starboard tack until the cargo was trimmed, which accounted for her being so far south. Next day it was still calm and the westerly swell had gone down. The Maitland was about a mile from us and one of our quarter boats was lowered away and four of us pulled the Captain to her. She was one of the old style ships with immense quarter galleries and one could have wheeled a barrow in her main channels. Her heavy stern offered as much surface as her main topsail and as she rolled lazily on the long westerly undulations, the barnacles six inches long could be seen under her run and the grass floated in and out from her side like a green silken fringe. Her courses hung in the gear her mizzen was brailed in and the head sails hung down under the jibboom to save the chafe as the ship rolled. Besides her crew there were a few ladies and gentlemen, evidently passengers, looking over the rail at us as we approached. On getting alongside, her commander received ours at the gangway. “How are you, Smith?” and the answer, “All right, old man,” indicated that they had met otherwise than in mid ocean. Our boat was veered astern and “Grog, ho!” put the seamen on good terms with each other and of course Jack was soon comparing and discussing the old hooker, old man, their duff days and their treatment generally. Presently I was called aft and sent with a message to our mate to tell the steward to prepare a berth for a lady. The mate, on receiving the message, tried to satisfy his curiosity by plying me with questions, but I did not know weather she was young, good looking, married or single, or why she was coming to us. Returning to the Maitland, we received into the boat some trunks and luggage and presently, sitting on the gangway, I saw our Captain and Captain Henry and a lady in hat and gloves come along the deck. Captain Henry was talking the lady and was evidently trying to persuade her to do something, for I heard her say, “Please Captain Henry, do not speak of it any more. I am only leaving your ship at the earnest solicitation and desire of my husband and I need not remind you of the wretched life I have led since we left port. At the same time I thank you from my heart for all you have done for me. Were my husband to kneel to me I would not stay.” The lady had hardly finished speaking when they were joined by a tall handsome man, whose face however, had a haggard expression. “Laura my dear,” he said, “Return to the cabin a moment with me.” She did not hesitate a moment. “No Rob, no good can come of it and I have delayed Captain Smith too long already.” “Then Laura,” he said, “I must speak here.” (then the Captain turned away."Do not I entreat you leave me. Let us try once more. If it fails, we can separate on arriving at London.” “No Rob.” “I beg, I entreat you, Laura.” “Never again Rob. You spent half the night in persuading me to go to the vessel if it chanced to be near at daylight and I agreed to accede to your wishes. Having once made up my mind, you know I do not readily change it.” “Will nothing move you?” “No Rob.” “Well then go to ------. If you meet me there you must not expect a cool reception.” This was the parting of husband and wife. “Steward, give the boat’s crew a glass of grog,” said Captain Henry. Then the two skippers shook hands. “Good-bye old man, fair winds and fair weather to you.” “Good-bye and the same to you,” and they laughed because they were bound in opposite directions and a fair wind to one meant ‘more wind in the other’s jib.’ Then down into the boat came the lady, taking her place on the stern benches and we shoved off for our own ship. As we were leaving, all the passengers and Captain Henry and his officers came to the side and said and “Goodbye, goodbye, Mrs. Voysey,” was heard on all sides. The little woman looked up and waved her hand and said goodbye. I did not see her husband and I do not think she looked for him. There was a hard stubborn look in her eyes, in spite of a little quiver and nervous contraction of the lips, showed that she was not relenting. Pulling the after oar, I had a good opportunity of observing her. She was under the usual height, with a well shaped rounded figure, dark expressive eyes, a great coil of dark brown hair, a very pretty mouth and perfect teeth. On her upper lip was a suspicion of black down and between the chin and the under lip a mole half the size of a threepenny bit, I thought, but it was the last time I saw it for weeks. I took her age to be from twenty-eight to thirty. Getting alongside our ship, the hard look left her eyes and she talked vivaciously to the Captain. I thought her the prettiest little woman I had ever seen and lost my seventeen year old heart to her at once. Some of our own crew came to the gangway to pull up the luggage. The Captain went up the ladder and stood with his hands to assist Mrs. Voysey, who was standing in the stern sheets steadying herself by placing one hand lightly on my shoulder as I held the boat to. A seaman named Harris said something to the mate about the luggage and put his head over the side and I felt the lady’s hand grasp my shoulder spasmodically and a shiver seemed to pass over her. The next moment her hand relaxed and she went up the side. The boat was pulled up in the davits and griped and less than an hour later the wind came from the westward and at sundown the Maitland was hull down on the port tack. Mrs. Voysey was domiciled in the berth on our ship on which Wood, the little apprentice who had fallen from aloft had died and as the days went by we wondered if she knew anything about the ghost. I heard the steward tell the mate that the lady cried and sobbed all the first night she was on board and requested Captain Smith to put her on board the Maitland again if it were possible, but of course it was not. The Captain and officers appeared quite devoted to her. They sat longer at meals and when she left the deck after dark one of them always accompanied her to the door of her berth. To a certain extent she was a godsend to us boys. Somehow she gave us confidence in going in and out of the cuddy at night. The fear however had not entirely died out, as was proved by the carpenter remarking that Mrs. Voysey had sent him to tell the Captain to come up and see a lovely sunset, but he said, “if she wants him to see the moon rise she can call him herself.” She had never spoken to me until one day she accosted me at the wheel by saying, “you are the boy who saw the ghost?” She did not seem to be the least impressed by the matter but, patting me on the shoulder said, “If ever you see it again you may run right into my berth and tell me, but don’t tell the Captain or mates. Will you promise me this?” I promised readily and she still further impressed my susceptible boy’s heart by her kind manner. A few days before we made the Ottway, the steward was not very well and the Captain insisted on his having one of the apprentices to help him at meal time in the cabin. We took it in turns. I think the other boys liked it but I felt the menial position before the lady acutely, although I did not mind her seeing me smothered in the tar and grease of sailor’s work. One day I was removing the tureen and soup plates and the steward entered the cabin with a large flat dish on which was a leg of mutton, when the Captain said in a sharp angry voice, “Steward, bring your wife here instantly.” We all looked at him, thinking he had suddenly gone mad but the gravity of the position was destroyed by the pose of the steward and the second mate. The former appeared paralysed. He stood with his eyes dilated, his mouth open, his knees bending, while the dish in his hands tilted and the leg of mutton slipped off it onto the deck and the gravy poured after it. The second mate at the time the Captain spoke, was in the act of drinking some rum and water, their usual dinner beverage. It obviously went down the wrong way and he was gasping and spouting it over Mrs. Voysey, who sat next to him. All the time he was trying to look at the Captain and steward to ascertain which most needed a straight jacket. The lady with both hands stretched out was trying to keep him off. “Don’t stand there like a baboon. Put that dish down and do what I tell you, now,” roared the Captain. The dish was laid down and the steward disappeared into his berth and presently, to our intense astonishment, reappeared accompanied by a poor, delicate looking woman, in a black dress, who curtised to the skipper and then began to cry. “Call all hands aft, Mr. Brown and go out on the main deck steward and take your wife with you,” said the skipper. Then we all followed and the crew being all aft round the Captain, the latter said, “You have all been making fools of yourselves about a ghost. (He seemed to forget he had participated in the folly.) There is your ghost. You can go forward and in future it won’t take two of you ---boys to shove a topgallant studding sail out of the top at night. You needn’t expect to see old reekie in the doublings. This was rather rough on us boys as we knew he shared our fear. He then returned to the table where the mutton had undergone a recovery. The Captain apologised to Mrs. Voysey for not waiting until the meal was over for the denouement. He explained that he had seen in the little mirror which Mrs. Voysey had hung on the mizzen mast, which was close to the Captain’s table, a woman in black flit past and enter the steward’s room. It instantly occurred to him that the steward’s wife had been stowed away in his berth amongst the stores and had impersonated Mrs. Wood. It appeared that the steward had solicited a passage for his wife, but the Captain thinking he would run away in the colonies if he had his wife, refused him. Then the woman was smuggled away behind the casks and cases in his berth. A few weeks previously they had lost their only child, a boy about the same age as young Wood. Her maternal feelings would not allow her to see the little chap attended by the rough hands of the seamen. She had worn her mourning without any intention of impersonating Mrs. Wood at first, but afterwards, finding the confinement intolerable, she extemporised a widow’s cap as a safeguard against discovery. We learnt afterwards that she had made a confidant of Mrs. Voysey directly the latter came on board and her secret was kept and this no doubt accounted for her words to me. After this the steward and his wife worked together and it was astonishing to see how quickly the woman threw off her delicate appearance when the feeling of restraint was removed. We made a good landfall off Cape Otway and were quickly clear of Bass Strait and we received our pilot off Sydney Heads the fifth day after making the Otway. Getting inside the Heads the wind died away and we anchored in North Harbour. The rendezvous flag was then hoisted for a tug, which Pilot Hawkes said would not be got until next morning. The Man Harris, whose name I have mentioned as looking over the side the moment of Mrs. Voysey’s advent on board, had the first anchor watch from 8 p.m. till 10 p.m. with orders to keep it on the poop and about 9 p.m. Mrs. Voysey came up and got into conversation with him, eliciting that he (Harris) had a wife and two children residing in Sydney and that he was on half wages with the understanding that he should be discharged there when the cargo was out. I heard her bid him goodnight and he touched his cap and responded as she went below and she presently sent him up a glass of grog by the steward. I relieved him at 10 p.m. and he was very profuse in his praise of her but summed up by saying, “I think she’s a bit of a high flyer,” which qualified his praise. We were turned to at 5 a.m. the next day and washed down, sent down the studding sail booms and gear etc. A yarn got up amongst us that Mrs. Voysey had been robbed of some jewelry and that the police were to come on board. Harris at once concluded that it was the steward’s wife if indeed she was his wife. At about 10 a.m. the tug Breadalbin came alongside and towed us to Pinchgut, where we anchored. The flag was then run up for the police boat and presently it came alongside with Sergeant Teddy Cowell and two of his men, who came on board. Cowell stood for some time talking to Captain Smith and then Mr. Brown called all hands aft. We mustered in front of the poop and presently the captain said, “Go and give my compliments to Mrs. Voysey and say the water police are waiting. In a few minutes Mrs. Voysey came out of the cuddy with the steward’s wife, who did not look a bit like a guilty person. “Mrs. Voysey,” said Captain Smith, “this gentleman is in charge of the police.” She made a slight inclination of the head and I saw to my surprise that the mole under her lip was there again and was very noticeable. She walked over to the group of seamen and stopped in front of Harris and then turning towards the police, she said clearly and without the least appearance of excitement (except the hard look in her eyes and the little muscular contraction of the lips I had observed when she left her husband on board the Maitland,) “Sergeant, I give this man (touching Harris on the shoulder without turning herself towards him)
in custody for bigamy and robbery. His name is Williams alias Harris.” Cowell motioned to his men to attach Harris. It came like a thunderbolt to us all, even to the captain and officers who had been simply told by Mrs.Voysey that she had been robbed. Suspicion had naturally fallen on the steward and his wife as the only people having access to her belongings. Harris turned as white as a sheet. He evidently never had the slightest recollection who Mrs. Voysey was. “You are quite mistaken marm, you are indeed,” he exclaimed. The lady quickly passed into the cabin without even turning her head to him. Just as she entered the cabin Sergeant Cowell said, “One moment, madam. Who did this man rob?” “Myself,” was the reply. Harris, handcuffed was taken away in the police boat. It was a puzzle to us all how Mrs. Voysey, who had left Adelaide while Harris was in London, could be in a position to bring such a charge as bigamy against the latter. I was, I believe the only person who knew she recognised him from the first and it accounted for the disappearance of the mole on her chin, which was very effectively painted out in order that the recognition would not be mutual. During the day we rigged in the jibboom and topped the lower yards and otherwise prepared to go alongside the wharf. In the evening the captain sent for me. Mrs. Voysey had not landed and I found both of them at the cuddy table. The captain said that as I had promised Mrs. Wood to look after her son, he would like me to write her a letter describing the accident. This would be enclosed with a letter from himself. He said I could take the following morning to write it and I could do it in the cuddy. He dismissed me and the lady held out her hand to me and bade me goodnight and I went forward. Jemmy Waite and I lay on the forecastle head talking of home until midnight. We were both rather romantically inclined boys and both found keen enjoyment in nature and this night was a lovely one and the surroundings were beautiful. The moon was nearly at full and there was not a cloud and the sky was of that beautiful blend of pale and grey (which so many books tell us is only seen in Italy) with myriads of stars (the ‘silver islands in a sapphire sea.’) We could see the somber heights of Woolloomooloo in strong relief against the sky, the white palaces of Potts Point and Shark Bay framed by the dark foliage of their cultivated grounds. The sheen of the moon made a softly brilliant and ever expanding causeway up the centre of the harbour as she rose over the precipitous cliffs of South Head. Pinchgut, then a bare rock with a single dismounted gun on it, was lying ambushed in the deepest shade until touched by the lovely lunar streak to turn its rough sandstone into alabaster. Then came the rattle of the kettle drums, the shrill whistle of the boatswain’s pipe and the notes of the cornets, all rendered musical by the distance and then the bang! Bang! Of the sentries’ muskets as the men went to quarters on board the Queen’s ships in Farm Cove. The bells of the ships scattered all over the harbour struck two and the churches of the city took up the refrain and tolled out nine. It is at least a good harmless topic Max O’Rell not withstanding and will always hold its own on a good basis with the Sydney people. The next morning Captain Crook the pilot came on board and took us alongside Campbells Wharf and inside a barque names Ganges (afterwards for many years a hulk at Bott’s Wharf, Miller’s Point.) Her commander, Captain Allen the late harbour master at Newcastle, had held a Bethel service on board every Sunday and this was transferred to our ship in order to avoid the inconvenience of ladies climbing over one ship to get to another. The late Rev. Mr. Threcleld used to officiate and he always came accompanied by his daughter. While the ship was mooring, I was in the cuddy writing to Mrs. Wood. Mrs. Voysey was sitting at the table and when I had finished I showed her the letter. She read it and said it was very nicely worded and suggested a postscript to which I readily acquiesed.
I then handed it to her for the Captain. I think that she had seen all along that I liked her and before I left the cabin she asked me about my people at home and then whether I had noticed any difference in her appearance. I replied “Oh yes. The little mole on your chin has returned.” “Yes,” she replied, “isn’t it a pity?” I replied “Oh no, I like you ever so much better with it.” She blushed with pleasure at my candour and looked altogether so nice that I could feel the blood in my face and, stammering an awkward “good morning” tried to get away. However she called me back and telling me that I should not probably see her again as she was leaving the ship during the day, she gave me some motherly advice and a little silk purse which she had made herself. She then bent over me and kissed me on the forehead and I took my leave. It was twenty seven years before we met again but I wore that kiss on my forehead for a long time. It is now necessary to explain the relative positions of Mrs. Voysey and Harris and how the former came to be a passenger on board the Maitland. Mrs. Voysey, or Williams as we may now call her, whose maiden name was Trevor, was a orphen having lost her parents when quite young. At their death there was just sufficient means left to educate their only child and she was placed at a boarding school near London when she was fifteen years of age. These means being expended, she was to have occupied the position of junior governess in the same school but unfortunately she was attacked by smallpox of a virulent type and she was at once isolated in an adjoining cottage and attended by Nurse Williams who afterwards was her mother in law. This nurse had a son about twenty-two years of age, who in the temporary absence of his mother used to sit by the patient and go backwards and forwards as necessary, unknown to the school mistress. He was a smart good looking fellow and the patient, in her isolation, naturally looked forward to his visits and in her convalescent days became attached. to him. The mother, hearing from the servants that the girl was an heiress, encouraged the intimacy. As soon as the girl was sufficiently recovered, she was with her own sanction, removed in a cab and Mrs. Williams reported to the school mistress that she had eloped with her son during her temporary absence. She pretended to be ignorant of the complication and to be much incensed. A few days afterwards the young pair was married by a dissenting minister. Mrs. Williams called on the school and produced the certificate of marriage and the school mistress, considering it too late to do anything, told Mrs. Williams the position Miss Trevor had held with her and handed her some articles of jewelry of considerable value which had belonged to Miss Trevor’s mother. Then, taking a receipt for the jewelry she washed her hands of the girl. Young Williams had never seen his wife except while actually suffering from and disfigured by the smallpox. Her head was shaved and she had neither eyelashes nor brows and although she had partly recovered her health, she was very much disfigured at the time of her marriage. He had never cared for her, much less loved her and as soon as he found out from his mother that she was penniless, he got the jewelry into his possession and shipped in a vessel to Sydney without telling his wife. In justice to his mother it must be told that she kept her son’s wife until she recovered her health and she was fast regaining her strength and getting over the shock she received at finding herself deserted by her husband of a few days. Any doubts she had as to his continued absence were set aside by his mother informing her that he would never return. She then replied to an advertisement and obtained a situation as a governess in a private family, where she remained until she heard that her husband had gone as a seaman in a ship bound for Australia. At this time the ardent attentions of the son of the family she was domiciled with became so pressing and annoying that she made up her mind to make an attempt
To follow her husband. She then obtained a situation as travelling companion to a lady proceeding to Sydney. It was with mutual regret that she left her employers for they had become attached to her and had no knowledge of the annoyance she had suffered at the hands of their son. She left London with her new employer in the clipper ship Phoenician, Captain Sproal. Before leaving she unfortunately called on her mother in law who, knowing that her son had no desire to live with his wife, wrote to him warning him of her coming and the letter was received by him on the very day his wife landed in Sydney. Probably it travelled by the same vessel. He was master of a little vessel called ‘The Sisters’ trading between Sydney and the Macleay River and singular to say, his wife actually saw and recognised him on board of her from her position on the Phoenician’s poop, as the latter vessel was being berthed at Campbell’s Wharf, Sydney. Immediately Mrs. Williams could get away from her duties to the lady she had travelled with, she landed and made inquiries for the little vessel and to her intense chagrin, found that it had sailed for the Macleay River that afternoon and would probably be away for three weeks. There was no alternative, as there was no steam communication then, but to wait for her return. Her husband however did not leave in The Sisters but on receiving his mother’s letter, left her and shipped as bos’un in the Scotia for London. He sailed before The Sisters return but it was only on that vessel’s arrival that Mrs. Williams discovered this. She also found that he went by the name of Harris and had gone through the ceremony of marriage with another woman residing in Sydney, whose house she soon discovered. Calling on the woman, ostensibly to get lodgings, she found that like herself she had only found out that Harris had not sailed in The Sisters when the vessel returned and she was in great trouble, being entirely without means. She gladly let a furnished bedroom to Mrs. Williams. The two wives of this despicable ruffian thus became domiciled under the same roof.
In conversation Mrs. Williams soon discovered that the unfortunate creature thought that she was Harris’s wife and that the man had ill treated her from the day of their marriage and Mrs. Williams felt convinced that Harris intended to desert them both. Therefore she at once made up her mind to follow him and the next day she heard of the wife of a clergyman who wanted a companion for the voyage home. She presented her testimonials and obtained the situation and in due time arrived in London again. Taking a hackney, she drove straight to the house of her mother in law who at first did not recognise her so much had she improved. Her face showed no sign of the pitting, her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows had grown, her figure was well rounded. She was a very different person to what she had been when leaving London. The mother denied all knowledge of her son or his whereabouts. This Mrs. Williams did not believe and leaving she domiciled at a private boarding house. The next few days she visited the sailors’ homes, the shipping offices and even the sailors’ boarding houses but heard nothing of her husband. One day however, returning home in a hansom there was a temporary block in the wheel traffic (as often occurred in London) and while her cab was stationary, she saw her husband with another man dressed like a sailor pass on the footpath within a few feet of her. She called out his name and he turned without stopping, his eyes even meeting hers, but without recognition. The next moment he was absorbed in the crowd of passers. Some days afterwards she heard by accident that Williams had shipped in the Shomberg, Captain Forbes, to work his passage from Liverpool to Melbourne. Although from the moment she heard this she knew she would follow him, it was a terrible disappointment, for she had felt sure she would meet him in London sooner or later. She was greatly depressed and her funds were insufficient to pay her fare to Melbourne. Later however, she obtained an engagement to chaperone two young ladies who were returning to their parents after schooling at a Strasberg convent and eventually she, with her charges left London for Melbourne in the Isabella Watson, Captain Fullerton (afterwards lost on Point Nepean.) Arriving safely at her destination, she obtained an engagement with the parents of the young charges she had travelled with and she embraced every opportunity of making enquiries for her husband. She heard the Shomberg had been lost close to Melbourne Heads but she could not trace anyone that fitted the description of her husband. Saving her earnings she left her place at the end of six months. She devoted some weeks entirely to enquiry. Utterly unsuccessful, she paid her passage to Sydney, visiting Mrs. Harris whom she found earning her own and her child’s living at laundry work and who had heard nothing of Harris. She then took a situation as bar maid at the Observer Tavern, kept by a Mr. Birch in Lower George Street, much frequented by seamen. Although she frequently saw men who knew her husband, none had met him later than herself. While in this hotel, who should stroll in but the son of her old employer in London, who had so persecuted her with his attentions. He instantly recognised her and from that day became a constant caller. He took the first opportunity of telling her his feelings for her had not changed and offered to marry her immediately or wait any reasonable time if she would hold out any hope to him. She told him she did not love him but that did not rebuff him. He said he would take his chance of that coming later if she would marry him. He had an income of 750 pounds a year, was thirty years of age, tall, gentlemanly and good looking. She had to acknowledge to herself he was a very eligible party for any girl in her position if free. What gave her real uneasiness was that she had begun to watch for his coming each evening but because she was so busy at her work, had little chance to speak with him. As time went on she realised that she loved this man who she could never marry and who had not the least idea that she was already a wife – a deserted wife from no fault of her own and imbued with a stubborn determination to follow and track her renegade husband, if she spent her life travelling from one end of the universe to the other. She had already followed him once around the globe and had crossed the Equator three times and now what could this other man’s love be to her? The next morning she gave notice to her employers who at once offered to raise her salary but this did not alter her determination. She replied to an advertisement in an Adelaide paper and enclosing her references, succeeded in obtaining a situation in one of the best hotels in Hindley Street in the city. She was able to keep her intended departure from her lover until the evening previous to her leaving. He then tried everything in his power to make her give up her journey and marry him and at last threatened both her and himself until she became terrified and he left her almost raving. The next day she left for Adelaide in the old London via Melbourne. The few hours she was in Melbourne she devoted to her quest, visiting sailors’ homes and shipping offices, but learned nothing. On arrival in Port Adelaide in the S.S. Burra Burra she made further inquiries without result before going to her situation in the city, which is seven miles from the port and shipping. She had been domiciled only a month in her new situation in Hindley Street, when one morning Mr. Voysey walked in. He had never been absent from her thoughts and she found it impossible to receive him coldly. He offered no explanation for being there but simply dropped into the old habit of calling every day and she could not bring herself to refuse his escort during the hours of recess she was allowed every evening and which she always spent in walking in the beautiful public gardens. At last she felt that in justice to him, she should make him acquainted with her true position. Up to this time Voysey had believed her to be perfectly indifferent to him, so during one evening’s promenade she told him of her history. He never interrupted her and at the close of her narrative, so far from its making any difference in his feelings for her, he at once assured her that he should devote himself to the quest of her renegade husband, never appearing to think of his own position relative to her if he was successful. His disinterestedness quite overcame her caution and she warmly expressed her gratitude and wept. The next day Voysey inserted advertisements in every newspaper of note in Australia and actually visited nearly every goldfield , being absent three months, but learned nothing of Williams alias Harris. Had he found him he would have either bought him to assist in the divorce or killed him. From what developed later I think there is little doubt of the latter. Having done all he could he returned to Hindley Street. The old routine of life commenced again but after a week or two became intolerable and knowing he was loved, he used every persuasion to induce her to domicile with him. He pointed out that to go through the marriage ceremony would place them at William’s mercy if he turned up and he would surely blackmail them or worse. True, Williams had married another woman in Sydney but two wrongs would not make a right, whereas if they kept themselves within the law, although at the expense of morality, there would be little difficulty with Williams by way of divorce , if it was made worth his while. She had to admit all this but she would not entertain domiciling with him. One day he was thrown from his horse receiving severe injuries. She left her situation and nursed him. When he was convalescent, acceding to his earnest desire, she engaged a companion and kept his house for him at Glen Osmond, calling herself Mrs. Voysey. These conditions continued for two or three years when Voysey began to develop a most violent temper. However, the woman remained his housekeeper for eight years, when in constant fear that in one of his ungovernable fits of temper he would take her life or his own, she made up her mind to leave him, which would not be difficult if she could only get away without his knowledge. By the assistance of a friend in a shipping firm in the port, she took a saloon passage in the Maitland for London. She managed to get her luggage on board and leaving a farewell letter, arranged so as to get herself on board a few minutes before the tug took the Maitland in tow. The tug let the ship go in Holdfast Bay. It was calm and the anchor was let go. The next morning just as the yards were abox and the anchor apeak for sailing, the tug came alongside with Mr. Voysey and his luggage. He had traced Mrs. Voysey to the shipping company’s office, taken his passage and engaged the tug to put him on board. For some time their friendly relations continued, then Voysey’s temper again asserted itself and led to the final resolve of Mrs. Voysey to leave the ship mid ocean. The day Mrs. Voysey kissed me she left our ship and as I have said, I did not meet her again for many years. Harris was not brought to trial, as while at large on bail, he was killed on Bott’s Wharf, being crushed between two drays. Mr. Voysey left the Maitland when she called at The Cape of Good Hope for supplies and returned to Australia where he met Mrs. Williams (as she may now be called) again and they were married in St. James Church, King Street. I next met her on board the Eastern and Australian Company’s steamer Brisbane, a wealthy widow bound to London via China and Japan. The name Voysey is of course fictitious.
At this time there were no deep water berths alongside any of the wharves in Sydney Cove. All vessels required a long staging from their gangways to the wharf to admit of their lying afloat and after we had so rigged a stage, the discharge of cargo was carried on from day to day, occupying as on the previous voyage about six weeks. Very exciting and favourable news appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and Empire from the gold diggings at the Turon, Bendigo, Ballarat and other places and the crew as usual, made up their minds to abscond from the ship on the first opportunity. For my part, I had a good time while in port. On Saturday evening the crew used to receive ten shillings on account of their wages and the apprentices, five shillings. My chum Jemmy Waite and I used for a shilling get into the gallery of the Victoria Theatre which then stood in Pitt Street mid way between King and Market Streets. We had much appreciation for Frank Howson, Mrs. Gibbs (with her lisp) and Julia Matthews with whom all the boys were in love. Then there were Lola Montez, Madam Sarah Fowler, Mary Provost and other theatricals of the day. After the play we would purchase saveloys which were excellent so far as quantity went for a penny (meat was only three farthings per pound) and a loaf of soft tack. This would provide a merry and satisfactory supper on board before turning in. Jemmy Waite and I made the acquaintance of some very hospitable people who kept a fruiterer’s shop in George Street opposite Jannisons Street and we frequently spent our evenings with them and would go to old Saint Phillip’s Church on Sabbath evenings with the three daughters and we were keenly disappointed that all three were devout. (handwriting here I can’t understand) About this time I received a letter from my mother informing me the family was again domiciled at Woodford in England and that my father would soon be engaged in London in business. I was to stick to my ship and that as soon as I was able to obtain a master’s certificate he would purchase an interest in a vessel for me to command. I also received a letter from Ida asking me to write to her about the voyage out but containing nothing indicative of sentiment. Although I felt I had cause to complain it gave me no disappointment but I may here say that before we left Sydney I received a letter from my elder brother of the two at school, telling me of the sweet companionship that existed between Ida and himself and of their intention to marry when older, which explained matters. After all she was just a little hoyden who kissed every boy after his birching by her brother. One day, while the cargo was discharging, a pilot moored a schooner named Nancy alongside of us, (the Ganges having sailed.) She was originally from Leith, Scotland, in command of a Captain Peebles, father of the present Torres Straits pilot of that name. She made a long passage and called into Monte Video for provisions and water and later at the Cape of Good Hope and thence on to Sydney. When about to sail from Leith Heads the chronometer was dropped from the rail into the boat which had brought it to the ship but Captain Peebles refused to delay sailing until another could be obtained. He brought the vessel to Sydney calling at the ports of Oporto, Monte Video and Cape of Good Hope and making good landfalls on dead reckoning only. Every evening the Nancy lay alongside us her crew would pass bucketsful of Port Wine on board with the result that little work was done by our men. Captain Peebles was a Kircaldy man and a school mate of our captain and he eventually shipped as boatswain on our ship. When the cargo was about half discharged four of our able seamen absconded. A reward equivalent to the wages due to them was at once offered by the captain. The result was that they were captured by the Water Police, and being brought before the magistrates, were sentenced to three months imprisonment or to be put on board the ship when ready for sea. The rest of the crew, taking warning by their fate, made it up to ask the captain for liberty when the cargo was out and having a clear day’s start, get right away. When the cargo was about half out, they all went to the captain when he made an appearance at the after capstan and civilly asked if he would give them a day’s liberty when the cargo was out. To this he replied in the affirmative and promised each man forty shillings on account of wages. The men were satisfied, returned to their work and from that day commenced to get their clothes ashore to the different friends they had made since arriving. These friends, in nearly every instance, were crimps of the worst description who had placed themselves in Jack’s way making advances towards acquaintance while intending to stow him away until a reward was offered and then sell him to the water police. At this time there were numbers of these wretches both in Sydney and in Melbourne. Well the cargo began to look small in the hold and the ship got tender and at last there was nothing left but eighty tons of coal on the floor. Then there came on of Billy’s Blue’s lighters full of ballast alongside to stiffen her. Some little consultation took place in the forecastle as to whether it should be taken in but as the vessel would not stand if the coal was discharged without first taking in the ballast, the crew agreed to load it. The stiffening being in, tubs were slung and whips got up to discharge the coal. All being ready, in the evening Jack landed the rest of his traps except what he stood in and his best suit for liberty day. Next morning brought the second mate forward as usual with his “Turn to, men.” Out they came and before they had time to hitch their pants they hear a voice which could not possibly be mistaken for anyone but Mr. Mud-pilot Crook’s saying, “lay aft and haul in the stern moorings.” The men looked at one another and then at the shore. On the wharf they see that the moorings have been cast off by the pilot’s crew, that tackles are on the stage so it may fall from the rail and they observe Teddy Cowell and four Water Policemen chatting carelessly alongside the ship. The men see that they are sold and go about like sheep, hauling in the mooring hawsers and finally man the windlass and sheer the ship off to her anchor in dead ominous silence, for in those days Jack loved to shanty at his work. Presently, a wretched little tug came under the bows and the anchor being away, the old Duke was towed down to Garden Island and moored. As soon as the weather bits were on the cable, aft to the captain go the crew and directly he appears at the cuddy door they begin to accuse him of breach of faith in no measured terms. He listens to them looking straight in their eyes and as soon as there is a pause he says quietly, “What are you making a fuss about men? I promised you liberty when the cargo was out and as soon as the last tub of coal is over the side you shall have it. I pledge you my word.” The men roughly apologised for their mistake and went forward jubilant and Blue’s lighter came alongside in the afternoon. They worked so cheerfully and well that at four o’clock the next afternoon the coal was out of the ship. Then having washed and had supper they made preparations for liberty, taking a final farewell of the ship the next day for with twenty – four hours start, they considered capture out of the question. At this time every man’s chest and hammock was in the forecastle. The former containing some stones or rubbish to give it the appearance of containing clothes if an officer happened to step in and the latter being destitute of blankets – the men having landed all their effects while at the wharf. Early the following morning one of the blue’s lighters with ballast came alongside and presently to the men’s surprise the order “turn to men, rig the stages for ballast.” was heard. The men tell the mate it is liberty day. He wants them to turn to until the skipper is up but the men are suspicious and refuse. Presently the mate comes forward again with “Lay aft to the captain.” This they quickly do and the captain speaks first. “Well men the cargo is all out and now
You can have your liberty. I suppose none of you will run away from the ship?” All smiled scornfully – it would break their hearts to leave the old Duke. “Very well men, I will keep my word. See that you keep yours.” Any two of you can go ashore today and return tomorrow morning at eight o’clock and so on each day until all have had their liberty. Of course, the first man who does not return stops the liberty of the rest.” You could see in every man’s face “Sold, by jingo.” They walked forward without a word and after a warm discussion amongst themselves it was finally settled that two of the crew, one a married man whose wife was in London and the other a very delicate consumptive man (who had both declared that they intended to go away with the ship) should be the first to go on liberty. So these two, having received their forty shillings liberty money, went ashore with the captain in old Boomer, the waterman’s boat. The remainder of the crew took in ballast the rest of the day. That night two of the crew got ashore on a stage the carpenter had been working on during the day and no more was seen of them. The next morning to the crew’s great disgust, neither of the liberty men put in an appearance so of course no more were allowed to go ashore. The captain said he would wait till noon. Meanwhile the rest of the crew refused to turn to. During the dinner the cook and one seaman got over the bows into the water without attracting attention and swam ashore. They were not missed for some time even by some of the crew. We had only four A.B’s left and during the afternoon the officers and the apprentices swung the ship’s boats inboard and lashed and secured them as for sea, in case of the men rushing them. The captain then went ashore in old Boomer’s boat and later on returned in the Water Police boat with Teddy Cowell and took the remaining four A.B’s away to the lock up. The next morning they were sentenced to lie in Woolloomooloo Jail until the vessel was ready for sea, for refusing duty. The four men who deserted when the vessel arrived being there already, the captain was thus sure of eight of his crew. Well, the ship was ballasted by the officers and apprentices and sometimes we had the assistance of the apprentices and carpenter of the old ‘Glenbervie’ a barque owned by the same firm, also lying without a crew. When ready for sea we heard we were bound for Singapore, through Torres Straits. A little country wallah barque called the ‘Tenasserim’ was to be our consort, for at time vessels never went the Torres Straits route alone but sailed together for mutual assistance and protection in case of wreck or attack from the Malay or Chinese pirates. At that time I little thought how conversant with and what experience I should have in after life, in the then imperfectly known and much dreaded Torres Straits. The sailing day came and early in the morning (the ship had been unmoored the previous day and was riding to a single anchor) off came the captain with four seamen in place of those who had got away clear. Then came the Water Police boat in charge of Mr. Cowell, bringing the eight men who had been in Woolloomooloo Jail for desertion and refusing duty. These men had left the ship fine, hearty, brown, big whiskered fellows. It was difficult to recognise them with blanched whiskerless faces, close cropped hair and darbies on their wrists. They scrambled up the ship’s side and greeted the officers and apprentices with furtive chagrined looks. Teddy Cowell and his myrimidons followed them on board and being mustered on the main deck in front of the poop, where stood the captain and mate, the men were asked each one separately, if he would turn to if the irons were removed. Each man sullenly refused. Then the difficulty arose that the new men would not sign the articles with the ship shorthanded. The captain told Cowell that he would take the men to sea in irons and the third mate (Mr. Staig) was sent for the ship’s irons to substitute for those belonging to the Water Police. The men, seeing that they would be taken to sea, made virtue of necessity and expressed willingness to turn to. Accordingly the irons were taken off all with the exception of a man named William Perry, a native of Dover. He was a man of some education and of good extraction but who still refused to turn to. The men having turned to, Perry sat on the spare spars in the gangway. The windlass manned and the old pump-wind pump-thunder machine brought the cable slowly in to the shanty of ‘Fare you well my bonny young girl, Britannia rules the waves’ from the throats of all, as heartily as if they had been dining on turtle and champagne instead of supping skilly and submitting to tonsorial manipulation at the expense of her most Gracious Majesty for the previous six weeks, in Wooloomooloo jail and had no aspiration in life but navigating the old hooker to Singapore. “Anchor’s short, Pilot.” “Then loose the sails and let fall the bunts and sheet home.” The yards were laid abox, the windlass again manned and the anchor hove away to ‘Bully in the Alley.’ Then the main yard fills, the ‘Old Duke’s’ head falls off and gathering away with a fresh southerly wind she is soon past Bradley’s Head and Sow and Pigs and when between South Reef and North Head, in whose contour the 'Old Duke' is again repeated in profile, the main yard is laid to the mast, the pilot boat (a fine whale boat with a Maori crew) is hauled up and pilot Gibson, wishing us bon voyage leaves the ship. “Fill the main yard and dip the Ensign and then all hands to the cat-fall.” The anchor is coming to the cathead to the strains of “Cheerily men, haul, hold on the fall, cook steward and all,” when “Fare you well lads, tell them at Dover,” rings out loud and clear and our attention is drawn off just in time to see Perry, clothed and ironed, spring from the swinging boom just abaft the fore rigging into the sea. The Captain roars “Down helm, port main brace.” The vessel comes to the wind and the mainyard to the mast, the courses were not on her and all hands are cutting and slashing at the seizings on the boat’s falls and gripes and throwing out pumpkins, cabbages, carrots etc. etc. of which quarter boats were always full, some going overboard and some on the poop. In the midst of all the hubbub I could not help noticing that the steward was gesticulating and singing out to the men to throw his vegetables inboard. Well, at last the boat was in the water and the second mate, Rory Anderson and four seamen in her, but in spite of the risk of what we all supposed was a drowning man in irons, the captain himself stood by the mate who held the boat’s painter and insisted on the seamen coming up on deck out of the boat and four apprentices taking their places. “Cut the painter,” roars the man in the boat and out comes a knife. Out comes the captain’s hand from his pocket with a rusty old flint lock pistol. “Cut and by God I’ll shoot you,” he says “Do you want to drown your shipmate?” At this moment the lad Badderly sang out “I see him.” The men came up the falls into the channels in a moment, down slid the four apprentices and away went the boat. I heard the captain remark to the mate, “Better lose one than four. These brutes would have taken the boat and cleared.” We lay to for them for two to four hours waiting for the boat and during this time the little barque, our would be consort, came out, passed close to us, called out something to us we could not understand and then under all sail, steered to the northward and that was the last we ever saw of her. The boat, after leaving the ship in charge of the second mate, was steered right in the direction it was thought the man would be. He was known to be an expert and powerful swimmer, but with hand cuffs on and his system reduced by six weeks of gaol diet and discipline, it seemed impossible he could keep afloat for any length of time. On board the ship we watched for the boat, hove round and stood in and watched and watched, until the captain lost his temper and swore the second mate and apprentices had cleared out boat and all and the order had been given to run the Jack up for a pilot boat to take the ship in, when we saw the boat coming round the south reef. At last she was alongside and to our great surprise Perry was lying in the bottom of her to all appearances dead. The boat was pulled up to the davits and the man lifted out, much exhausted but evidently not seriously so. However, he was taken below and out in one of the cabin state rooms and the yards being filled, we steered to the northward after our consort who was now more than a hull down. Perry, having drunk a glass of rum and changed his clothes, seemed very little the worse for his long immersion. It appears he knew he could get his handcuffs off before he jumped overboard and he could with free hands undress himself in the water. He had not the least anxiety about swimming ashore. His mistake had been in bidding the men farewell. He had supposed the ship, being between the Heads would not be rounded to as the pilot had left her. Once in the water, he quickly slipped the handcuffs, then his coat and vest, but in spite of every effort he could not get off his half Wellington boots and these together with his reduced system knocked him up. The boat pulled past him and around him and past him again, then finally gave him up. When returning, they actually struck him without the men seeing him, so entirely had they given him up. The next day on being asked to turn to in the mate’s watch, he refused, swearing he would never do a hand’s turn on board the ship if she were sinking and I don’t think he would. The first thing was to get ward of our consort and during the night the wind freshened and we cracked on to the Old Duke getting nine, sometimes nine and a half out of her with the topgallant sail set over single reefed topsails. We burnt blue lights and fired rockets but without any response. When daylight came she was not in sight from the royal yard. Our skipper was very much concerned, for he had never been through Torres Straits and the master of the Tenasserim was an old trader. His vessel also was much better armed than ours. She had given us the slip for the present but hopes were entertained of picking her up at the entrance to the Straits. We carried fine weather and moderate winds for some days and we were nearing Wreck Reef which we expected to pass 5 degrees to the eastward, about noon. About 11.50 we were all on the poop with our sextants and I noticed that the captain kept working up his altitude on his thumb nail as was his wont when anxious about his latitude. Presently he said, “A hand aloft. Lookout for reef on starboard bow.” A man on the fore topsail yard reported, “Nothing in sight.” The sun dipped and we all went below with our sextants. A few minutes afterwards, the captain went into the mizzen rigging but he hardly got on the fair leader when he sang out “Down helm!” However, before it could be brought over there came a ‘scurr! scurr!’ and she went on Wreck Reef. The sea was smooth as a lake. At once the yards were thrown aback and as soon as we had time to look around us we saw she had struck on a narrow projecting spur of the reef, composed of dead coral which was almost awash just ahead. One of the quarter boats was lowered and a kedge anchor and hawser were laid astern of the ship. It was flood tide and before the hawser was taut to the capstan the ship backed off into deep water. The hawser was at once cut away. The filled after yards were braced up on the starboard tack and the vessel hauled to eastward until she was clear of the main portion of the reef. The boat was hoisted up to the davits and the pumps sounded but she had made no water and it was presumed we had escaped with the loss of the kedge and hawser. This was a bad beginning and I think it depressed the captain for some time. However, it made us doubly vigilant in watching our chronometers and the current. Not a night passed without lunars or stars being worked to verify our day’s reckoning. The wind continued light with a smooth sea and fine weather. A lookout was kept both night and day on the forecastle. The fourth day after grounding, the vessel’s position was computed at 4 p.m. to be 25 miles east of Raine Island Passage and the vessel was brought to the wind and stood off and on until daybreak. A cast of the deep sea lead being taken every hour. When day broke the next morning, the ship was kept away under all sail and a little later as it got light, no less than the sails of five vessels were seen about five miles ahead, steering the same course as ourselves. This was of course, very gratifying to all of us and we fully expected that our consort, the Tanasserim, would be one of them. As soon as the sun was above the horizon the ‘Old Duke’ showed the signal at her spanker gaff. ”I wish to communicate.” This was quickly replied to by the nearest of the ships, which hoisted her ensign and Marryatt’s code pennant. We then had the satisfaction of seeing her lay her mainyard to the mast and wait for us to close. The other four vessels followed suit and we were uickly alongside of them. They proved to be, a full rigged ship belonging to Messrs Wigram & Co. of London named ‘Prince Alfred,’ three Dutch barques named respectively the ‘Hendrick’, ‘Pictura’ and ‘Bulverstein’ and a Bremen brig ‘Louisa Fredrika.’ Our boat was lowered and the captain went on board the Prince Alfred and presently all the other captains followed, where they examined the chart, mutually agreed on the tract to take during the day. After a glass of wine each returned to his ship and all filling away steered the same course towards the opening. All the six vessels were within the radius of a mole, the Hendrick keeping the lead. The wind gradually fell lighter as the day got older. It was noon before the Hendrick signalled the Raine Island Beacon in sight and altered her course a point to the northward. All the vessels steered after her and about 2.30 we were nearly abreast of Raine Island. By this time the winds was so light and the current so strong setting to the northward, that we had all to steer right across the channel and very great apprehensions were felt that we might not be able to clear the broken water on the port hand. However, the wind freshened about 3 o’clock. Two hours after, the sun was getting too far ahead for a lookout of any value to be depended on and presently the commodore, as we had already dubbed the Hendrick, signalled ‘come to’ and her topgallant sails and royals being clewed up she soon after fired a gun at her starboard gangway and down went her anchor. We were only about half a mile astern. “Clew up and haul down light sails,” was the order of the day and it was easy to see that our fellows and the crew of the other English ship, the Prince Alfred, were on their mettle to show the Dutchmen how to take in sail and I never saw it done smarter before or since on board a merchant ship. Well each ship picked her berth and anchored, furled sails and then lowered a boat. Each with their captain pulled towards Raine Island, which was two and a half miles to the eastwards of the ships. All met on the little island and the skippers walked up to the beacon together. This was a little tower in three sections of concrete and iron and in addition of serving the purpose of a beacon, it served as a water tank, the rain falling on the top surface running into the midship section. However, it was in disrepair and there was no water except in a small tank standing alongside. The tower was erected by the crew of one of Her Majesty’s ships under orders from the Admiralty. In a box was a book containing the names of two ships that had passed onwards a few days previously. One of these had been ashore on a detached reef south of Raine Island but had got off without damage. I have forgotten the names of these vessels. Towards sundown we left the island and pulled towards the Hendrick where a track was picked off for the next day. (87)After a little conviviality gone in for in the cabin and a little schnapps and cheese (the latter as salt as Lot’s wife’s elbow) with black bread given to the boat’s crew, each boat pulled for its respective ship. Then, a double watch anchor being set, nothing further occurred until sunrise the next morning. Canvas set and anchors short (we were anchored in very deep water) bang went the gun from the Hendrick and all were under way following her lead in a few moments. There was about a four knot breeze and the Commodore was not doing quite so well as on the previous day, so that at 8 a.m. we were all close to her except the brig. All could carry a conversation, one ship with her neighbour and we had to lower down the royals and main top-gallant sail, to restrain the old Duke's ardour, or we should have very soon been leading. Presently, “reef ahead” was sung out by the lookout on our topsail yard and luffing up quickly, our jibboom was in a moment right across the Pictura’s poop. It passed under the topping lift of her mizzen boom carrying it away and we shot across her wake as she struck on the coral forward and then swung around with her stern in deep water. We touched very lightly but did not stop. The brig was astern and seeing the Pictura’s head to the southward with her yards aback, put her helm starboard and presently she stuck fast on the weather side of the patch. Had she ported, leaving the Pictura to port and followed us, who were afloat, she would have cleared. We at once lay to and the Hedrick took in her light sails and anchored and lowering a boat, her master, with kedge and warp, passed close to us calling out “ its young flood, proceed and anchor off Mount Adolphus, we will soon join you.” So we filled away the main yard and in company of the Bulverstein and Prince Alfred, steered to the northward. About noon the wind fell very light and the sky was overcast, so that false alarms were continually being given from all the mastheads and the vessels were within speaking distance of each other. “Discoloured water on the port bow.” “Reef on starboard bow.” Were continually reported, but always proved to be the shades of the clouds passing. It, however seemed to make the skippers nervous and presently the master of the Bulverstein called out “bad water, bad water, anchor! anchor!” In less than a minute both ours and the Prince Alfred’s helm were down and long before the vessels had come to the wind both anchors run out in twelve fathoms, our windlass being on fire and the forecastle full of smoke from the friction, the anchor having been let go before the carpenter could get his buckets of water, which in those days of wooden welped windlasses were necessarily dashed on the body of the windlass before or while the cable was running out, to prevent ignition from the friction. Well, the anchors down, the vessel swung head to the wind which was very light. The sky cleared the sun came out and everyone looked around for the danger we had anchored in such a hurry to avoid. “What water?” “Twelve fathoms Sir,” Then a pause and the captain and mate looked at the chart spread on the skylight . “so there ought to be.” “Can you see any reef from the crosstrees?” “No Sir, Only a small sandbank on the starboard quarter.” Another look at the chart. “So there ought to be.” Then “what the h--- did that d----- Dutchman fancy he saw?” said the captain. The leadsman going forward amongst the rest of the crewtells them there was “no bad water, no reef.” Then Jack bowses up his jawing tackle, “what was the b----- Dutchman frightened of etc etc.” Presently the captain of the Prince Alfred came alongside. “Ain’t we a pair of B---- idiots to anchor because of that God D------ yah for yes sung out for bad water.” It was the most sensible remark made up to that time. The captain went below and had grog,cheese and biscuits and in a few minutes the Bulverstein captain came on board, being met at the gangway by the two English captains and at once being taken below. He was a little round fat man with a smiling red face that looked as if it was just french polished and his breechers were like those worn by the Greek, very baggy and full, as if he expected his already ample proportions to gain in rotundity. Amongst our ship’s company he was after this always referred to as “Bags” and “Bad Water.” After the lapse of about half an hour the three skippers came on deck, all looking as Schooner Bill said, as if they had a very tough job over the chart. “Bags” and the captain of the Prince Alfred returned to their ships and presently nothing was heard but the shanty songs of the tars, accompanied by the clank, clank of the windlasses of the three vessels and they purchased their anchors with their yards abox. “Anchors away, Sir” “Up jib and fill away foreyard,” and we were off again. We soon saw the Pictura and the Hendrick following. The brig was afloat and swung head to the wind, but had to pick up her kedge anchor. The wind was dead aft and with royals clewed up and topgallant yards on the cap, we were quickly overhauled by the vessels astern. About 6 p.m. bang went the Hedrick’s gun and we were soon all safely anchored under Mount Adolphus. Double anchor watch was set, an old Brown Bess (tower musket) with flint being laid on the poop skylight, with instructions to the watch to fire it in case of seeing canoes close to the ship, but we could see the Dutchman’s boats going backward and forwards.
The night passed quietly and at 4.30 a.m. we roused out and commenced mast heading topsail yards and hove short and at 5 a.m. we were all under way with a light south easter. Every rag was set and the six vessels were close together so that each was conversing with the other and presently our men commenced throwing biscuits on board our neighbour, the Pictura, and her people threw cheese sewed up in canvas in return. This however, was stopped by our boatswain Phillip Peebles, who with his usual expletive “speer and pocato men” went on to the forecastle head and with an iron bolt bent on to some spun yarn, soon had direct communication with the Pictura and the men filled a sail bag with biscuits and were making it fast to the bight of the spun yarn, when “haul the courses up, clew up the royals and lower topgallant yards on the cap,” came from our poop and by the time this was done, the old Duke was fast dropping astern. The Bulverstein and the brig very soon followed our movements and at eight bells the Hendrick was leading and we again made all sail and gradually drew up to her. The wind kept very light and with the tide setting strong to the north east, we made but little headway and everyone was anxious about getting to a good anchorage for the night. At noon as the Prince Alfred and the Pictura were within speaking distance of us and the three skippers were talking to each other, the Hendrick being about a quarter of a mile ahead.
Our crew had just gone below to their beef and ‘strike me blind’ (rice) and there was only the helmsman, captain and the second mate on deck, when bang went the Hendrick’s gun and up she came to the wind with everything aback. Down went our helm and in a crack we were foul of the Prince Alfred, our bowsprit being over her port bow and the Pictura rove in between us, both abaft the brig and the Bulverstein. Both hauled on the wind on that starboard tack. It was fortunately as smooth as a river and neither of the vessels had received serious injury by the first contact, but it was quite a different matter to get clear. Of course, all supposed that the Hendrick had struck or was close on a reef, but we were too much occupied at first to take notice of her, but presently she hoisted a signal ‘man overboard,’ and our skipper saw he had been too precipitate. In spite of the ships being still in collision, a boat from each of the three vessels was quickly lowered and sent to where the Hendrick’s boat was seen and the rest of us did all that we could to extricate (91) the vessel. Our jibboom was run under the Prince’s fore-stays and her wide channels at her fore rigging projecting about eighteen inches from her sides, were tearing up the bluff of our starboard bow. Our boatswain, Peebles was out on our jibboom with two or three of our crew, tomahawk in hand (which he always kept in his berth) and there was one of the Prince’s youngsters, a stout lump of a chap, upon our boon also. They were shoving and bearing off but doing no good. Presently says Peebles, “Shove lads” and them pushing the axe into the Prince’s chap’s hands, he said “now chop, laddie, chop quick,” and the laddie was just going to chop at our port jib guys. “Nae, nae, laddie. The stays,” and in a few minutes the youngster had his ship’s fore stays cut nearly through when the strain parted the rest. The jerk shook Peebles and the boy off the boom onto the Prince Alfred’s forecastle. The old Duke’s boom being released, she commenced dropping square alongside the Prince, but the flying boom caught her topmast stays and it carried away, bringing down our fore royal and topgallant masts. The rest of the crew with the captain and mate had been getting the Pictura free and when we dropped off the Prince Alfred, the Pictura was immediately astern of us but clear. We had just got to the braces to trim the yards when our boat returned in charge of the second mate, who stated that they had not recovered the man, who it was supposed had struck the main yard arm in falling.
A minute or two afterwards the Bulverstein boat pulled alongside and before he had got to the ladder the captain sang out, “bad vater, bad vater, hein rock, vot you got?” When he got on deck he was given to understand what the mistake had been – that there was only bad water for one as Geordie Jack said. He was going to return to his ship, which was now half a mile distant, hove to. Although we were very busy with our topgallant mast hanging over the side, our captain signaled for the Bulverstein to run down on her boat, but unfortunately her steerman ( mate) read the signal “Let go your anchor,” (92) and presently it want down in twenty- three fathoms of water and about fifty fathoms of cable ran out. The brig seeing her anchor stood close over to her and let go also. ‘Bad vater ‘ then got into his boat in high dungeon (I think he was under the misapprehension that we had made the signal) and made for his ship. We, with the Pictura and the Prince Alfred filled our yards and followed the Hendrick, which had the Dutch ensign half mast for the drowned man, who it appeared fell from the main topsail yard while pointing a top gallnat studding sail boom through the boom iron. Her skipper growing anxious lest, if the wind did not freshen, an anchorage would not be reached before night, having resolved contrary to the arrangement come to at Raine Island by all the captains to set his studding sails. About 3.30 p.m. the wind freshened, but as it was dead aft the loss of our fore-topgallant sail, royal and flying jib made no difference to the sailing. No notice was taken of the two vessels lying astern to an anchor. We were too well employed clearing away our wreck forward and could see the Prince Alfred people getting up a tackle to the foremast head to secure the mast, in place of the fore stays which Peebles had made her own apprentice chop away. The Pictura’s crew were also smartly engaged, for she had two men slung over the side in the wake of the main channels. The wind was freshening all the time and two of our people were sent into the head to come up the flying jib and topgallant stays. They had scarcely got over the bows before they jumped up again, roaring out frantically, “back the main yard and put helm down. ”Down went the helm. The men ran down from aloft and everything was flat aback. The Prince Alfred just in our wake astern, rounded to also and the Pictura which was astern of and on the port quarter of the Prince, almost immediately followed suit and struck the Prince’s stern in the quarter gallery, carrying away the topping lift of the Prince’s (93) mizzen boom, which dropping on the wheel, smashed it and narrowly missed killing the man. Well it turned out there was no bad water for anyone this time. Our men, on going into the head saw a man hanging to the lower bobstay shackle. As he had no hold except with his hands, they considered very correctly that the way should be taken off the ship immediately. However, as the wind was right aft, the yards could only be backed by putting the helm down. Of course the matter was soon understood and one of our people went over the bow with a bowline and pulled the exhausted man up on board. Then, the yards being filled, we steered for the Hendrick which was a distance ahead, with her courses up and top gallant yards on the caps. The man we had picked up was presumed to be the Hendrick’s man, for whom her ensign was flying half mast. He could not speak a word although interrogated by a Dutch seaman of our crew. We were all standing by him while his countryman asked him did he belong to the Hendrick, but not a word did he, or could he utter. Then the carpenter stepped forward and gave him a piece of chalk and a board. The man took it and sitting down on the deck, squared himself up for writing. The captain then says, “now ask him Jack if he belongs to the Hendrick?” We all stood around him breathlessly. The mate looking down from the poop breaks the silence by calling to the helmsman, “keep the Hendrick dead ahead.” Then the man commenced to write. He was about three minutes with his face bent down close to the board and then raised it to show a very unmistakable but badly formed S. The Dutchman had told us to expect a Y. Then down to it again for another spell and then another exhibit and so on, until at last he had perpertrated “schnapps” and one of our hands exclaimed “schnapps! By God.” “Bring another glass of grog, steward,” said the skipper, who had given the man brandy as soon as he was got aboard. As no information could be got from him he was put into one of the cabin berths and was soon asleep. There was quite a fresh breeze and we were rapidly approaching (94) Wednesday Island and South Torres Reef and quickly came up to the Hendrick who still had her courses up. Presently, his little Dutch skipper asks through his speaking trumpet, “vat is the matter? Vat you stop? Vat you see?” Then, referring to the collisions, “Mein Gott, the zee is too little for the ships. Dere is always two ships in the one place.” ‘Shall we get to Goode Island before dark?” asks our skipper. “Yah, yes, we cannot wait for zee ship,” and down came his fore course and up went his topgallant and royal sails and we were soon bowling along at seven knots, past and close to Wednesday, Hammond and Goode Islands. With our captain along with the lookout on the fore topgallant yards, all the crew at their stations and braces and the chief officer on the poop, we ran for about an hour or so. Everybody was on the alert and orders came quick and clear. “Port,” “Starboard,” “Starboard main brace,” “Port jack brace,” etc, etc. The sun wqas dipped right ahead of us and the wind freshened. The Prince and Pictura with everything set, were bringing up the wind with them and everyone seemed anxious. Although we were dead in the wake of the Hendrick, our skipper roars “Port” to the helmsman. “Port main braces, starboard cross jack braces,” orders the mate and then we see some ugly black rocks just above the water, which look close alongside us but must have been much closer to the Hendrick. Presently we see the Hendrick’s mizzen set and then she clews up royals and topgallants, hauls up her courses and comes gradually to the wind on her starboard helm. Down goes her anchor and bang goes her gun, with her top sails to the mast head and her yards abox. We follow her as closely as possible, but take all our canvas in before putting the helm down and get a rather leeward berth which gave the skipper some anxiety. Then, as soon as the weather bit is on the windlass, up tear our tars to stow the sails, better and quicker than the Hendrick’s crew who have the start, but they have the top sails to clew up and both crews are in the rigging simultaneously. Our boys go clawing up to the royals, the men singing (95) out to them “Snug-in-a-cloth and smart, you wretches, or the Dutchman will laugh at you!” Both topsails are furled at once and the men go hand over hand on the tween stays to the courses. All the square sails are furled and the men have just slid in from the jibboom when the Hendrick’s are laying out, but then we had no fore royal or topgallant sail, so it was called a tie. The old Duke however, was much heavier than the Hendrick and not so well manned. The fun was to see the Prince Alfred and the Pictura come to anchor and the same struggle between the crews and when it finished some minutes later in favour of the Prince our fellows on the fo’csle head hurrahed, but all that was heard on board the Pictura when the men were done, was the voice of the steerman calling out, “Schnapps! Schnapps!” and we could see the men walking aft with their pannikins . This did not make our fellows feel any better. It was very seldom the cry of “Grog oh” was heard on our craft. After tea the after was given to lower the quarter boat and our skipper was pulled to the Hendrick. Then the mate of the Hendrick came over in her boat to our vessel and took away the men we had picked up, who was still unable to speak. (96) As soon as he was over the gangway of the Hendrick, somebody called “Schnapps!” giving him the first swig and passing it around to one and all the crew, including our fellows in the boat. This was followed by a cheer for the Duke of Wellington, I suppose for picking the man up. We stayed till midnight, the captains of the Prince Alfred and the Pictura having come on board and after the day’s casualties and mistakes had been discussed and the work laid out for the morrow, brandy, schnapps and tobacco were the order. What with the two English and the two Dutch captains and the two Dutch steersmen (mates), the cuddy was like a beche-de-mer smoking room and all were talking so loudly and fast in round Dutch and plain English, that it was quite a little pandemonium. However when the anchor watch struck eight bells, all came up and went to their respective ships. Both the skippers and the boat crew were in a state to be reminded that they had heads on when morning came, for some sleepy individual had come out of the deck house to the gangway and called “Schnapps!” about every ten minutes during the whole time we were on board and every soul on the ship, whether asleep or on deck, responded by personal appearance within ten seconds after “schnapps!” was uttered. I can only account for our men keeping their feet, from the fact that they were eating salt cheese and very dark coloured bread during the intervals. On getting alongside our ship, the captain’s attention was at once directed by the mate to two fires on the island on our starboard hand ( Friday Island) and which had not been noticed by us while on board the Hendrick. Muskets were given to the double anchor watch and vigilance enjoined. However, nothing transpired during the night to disturb us. At daylight we saw three canoes full of natives close in under the island but they did not approach us. All hands were called early and a spare topgallant mast was got ready for sending up. By half past five o’clock all sail was set and the anchors ‘short’ waiting for a breeze, it being calm under the island. About six o’clock the Bulverstein passed and shortly afterwards the Bremen brig. They had a nice little breeze outside but it did not reach us. As it continued calm after breakfast (91 Mal’s book)) our skipper went to the Pictura. Her people were all busy repairing damage from the previous day’s collision and we got alongside without anyone seeing us. As there was no ladder and the ship was in light ballast, it was difficult to get on board, but our bowman got up by a rope that was hanging over the side. Immediately his head appeared above the rail there was an exclamation of “Steerman” and immediately afterwards another of “Schnapps” and before our fellow could get his legs over the rail, he had to take a little tin-tot full of schnapps in one hand and hold on with the other, until he emptied it. As soon as our skipper was on board all the boat’s crew were schnapped and this was repeated just before the captain returned to us. A few minutes after we got back to our ship the wind sprang up and the cable was coming to the tune of “You Shanandoah, I long to see you.” We all got out and away very nicely and were pleased to see the old Duke leave the other three ships astern. Captain Smith going to the topsail yard himself let her take the van, the Bulverstein and the Louise Frederick (sic) being some four miles ahead, but in about two hours we passed the latter, we were rapidly overhauling the barque. The captain came down to consult the chart and a few minutes afterwards the lookout on the topsail yard reported “island ahead.” This was Booby Island and a very welcome sight for we knew the arrival meant all the dangers of Torres Straits were astern of us. We all arrived at the island within an hour of each other. Two English full rigged ships, the Prince Alfred and the Duke of Wellington, three Dutch barques the Pictura, Hendrick and Bulverstein, and a Bremen brig, the Louisa Fredrica (sic) – quite a squadron.
As we shall be taking our next departure off Booby Island, a few words concerning it may not be out of place. Booby Island, on which now stands a lighthouse and lightkeeper’s domiciles, is eighteen miles W.S.W. from Thursday Island. In 1850 it was uninhabited and its conditions were approximately the same as when natural forces erupted and raised it 60 feet (92) above sea level, for it is of volcanic origin. It has very little soil and is sparsely vegetated by scrubby growth. For many years it was utilised as an ocean post office and as such, was an important factor in navigation of Torres Straits, as at the present day its beacon light is one of the most useful and important in the Australian seas, standing as it does, sentinel and guide to shipping from all parts of the world through the Arafura Sea as well as that bound westward from Torres Straits. In past years every vessel passing westward through these imperfectly surveyed and known straits hove to, or dropped anchor at Booby Island, for in a cave was kept a store of provisions and water and these were renewed by contributions from passing vessels for the relief of shipwrecked mariners. There was also an old sea chest in which a log book and pens and ink were kept and in it letters were deposited. Every calling ship left a record in the book of her name, port sailed from and bound to and what was of supreme importance, the position of any reef, rock or sandbar sighted or struck, which was uncharted. Looking backward over the years which have given me an intimate knowledge of localities and natives, I cannot solve the problem of why the natives of the Prince of Wales group, with their superior physique and good outrigger canoes, did not in the old days visit the island and raid the cave, for in the early seventies they, to my personal observation, made frequent visits to the island without the incentive existing earlier as the store of provisions was not then maintained.
The Dutchman and the brig anchored but the Prince and ourselves ‘hove to’. All lowered boats and landed and Captain Van Hest of the Hendrick led the way to the cave. There were two flagstaffs outside it on which were portions of an English and Dutch ensign. In the cave were two or three casks of pork and beef (all in bad order) some tins of soup and boulli, three casks of water, several bags of mouldy biscuits and an old sea chest containing a log book, pens pencils and ink and five letters. A great many entries were in the log book of ships which had passes through the straits. (93) some of whom, like ourselves safely and some detailing the striking and stranding of others on reefs and sandbanks. The last entry was of the Sydney brigs Scotia and Venus. Both had stranded on Cockburn Reef and had been attacked by the natives of the mainland in seven canoes. The brig’s swivels had beaten them off without casualty to the vessels. Letters were left by most of us as well as some tinned soup and boulli, candles, biscuits, matches and a little tobacco, from each ship and a dozen of long clays, some bottles of schnapps from the Dutchmen. Then all the boat’s crews, mustering in the little landing nook, and a bottle of brandy being produced from the English boats and Schnapps ad libitum from the others, our Captain Smith said “With hearty thankfulness to Almighty God for bringing us safely through the Straits, I now propose the health of Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen of England.” The King of Holland then had his turn.
There was a little conversation amongst the skippers about the passage and then good-bye was said and all got away in their respective boats and soon our boat was in the davits. Then it was “Fill the main yard,” and away we all went before the wind, the Dutchman bound for Batavia, the Bremen brig for Surabaya and the Prince Alfred for Calcutta and our Duke for Singapore. “Up studding sail booms and gear,” was the order of the day and by four o’clock in the afternoon every vessel was carrying lower topmast and topgallant studding sails. The wind blew steadily all night and at daylight next morning the other vessels were hull down. The weather continued fine and the wind E.S.E. light. We were now in the Arafura Sea and lost sight of all our late consorts, but had seen one or two junks and prahus. These always seemed to be taking up Captain Smith’s attention. We knew that piratical junks and prahus were frequent in the seas and with light winds there would be small chance for us with our wretched armament of four four pounders, ten flintlock muskets and double that number of cutlasses and flint lock pistols. One day at sunset a native craft of considerable size was in sight of our starboard quarter. (94) We could not make her out to be junk or prahu, but she was certainly not of European rig and she seemed to be nearing us when we lost sight of her at dark. At this time Chinese and Malay pirates were supposed to be plentiful as bonitos in these waters and bloof curdling yarns of their doings were current with the seamen. The captain seemed very fidgety about her and at four bells all hands were called aft and two guns were taken from the main deck and placed aft on the poop and tackles and breechings put on. The anxiety of the captain relative to the character of the prahu or junk was equally shared by the whole crew and all the watch were on the quivive keeping a bright look out. When day broke the stranger was visible in the starboard quarter and when fully light we made her out a large prahu with two huge lantern sails and showing no colours. We had five a knot breeze dead aft and by 10 a.m. it was evident the prahu was nearing us fast. Our captain watched her through his telescope constantly and said she was full of men. At 4 p.m. and eight bells struck, the watch was told not to go below. All hands being aft, the captain told them he believed the stranger was a Malay pirate and if attacked they must do their best to beat her off, for if they took the ship they would certainly murder us all and loot and scuttle the ship for fear of detection by the Dutch. Then all the old flintlock muskets, with bayonets fixed and horse pistols, were loaded and primed and laid in the quarter boats and a cutlass was given to each man. The four four pounder guns were loaded with a bag of musket ball and a 4 lb shot. The cook’s coppers were also filled with water and fat and kept boiling and a lot of the largest ballast stones were piled in the waists. Tarpaulins were nailed to the fore and main guard boards and stretched up tight to the fair leaders to prevent boarding. This done, the men went to tea. We were all fully impressed with the seriousness of the position, but it did not spoil our appetites. At 8 p.m. it was very dark. “Grog ho!” was called and the men were told to remain on deck and the muskets and pistols (95) and some cartridges were served out to them. The carpenter and the second mate were in charge of the big guns on the poop and main deck and a boy was to run with a red hot iron rod for firing them. The crew were instructed not to fire until the captain gave the signal by discharging his pistol. At 10 p.m. was close to us and sailing a little faster than we were and presently she sheered alongside at our fore rigging. In a moment our wide guard boards had caught her rattan rigging. At the same time Captain Smith fired his pistol and then all our old brown flintlock bessies blazed away over our side into her. Peebles, the boatswain and his gang threw ballast stones and buckets of boiling fat and water into her. The Malays were hampered in their efforts to board us by our swinging boom and triced up tarpaulins. Fortunately the prahu’s rigging carried away and she dropped astern until our main channels caught her aft rigging and she swung right around. The rigging again parting, she dropped astern. Then Bang! Bang! Went both our gung on the poop and we saw both her sails come down and we were clear of her and leaving her astern in the darkness. Three of her men were on board of us. One jumped overboard before he could be secured, but the other two were in the hands of our crew and were receiving rough usage when the officers interfered and soon had irons on them. They were secured to the rail for the night. At daybreak next morning nothing could be seen of the prahu and we were all much elated at having got rid of her so easily. During the day we were told that the captain intended to call at Batavia and hand over the two pirates to the Dutch authorities.
We carried fine weather and fair winds and some days later we anchored off a little village on the western side of Balli (sic) Straits. There we filled our tanks and casks with fresh water and some of us had a good run ashore. We purchased bananas, pineapples, coconuts, eggs and fowls very cheaply. The only currency appeared to be the Dutch East India Company’s cents and British East India Company’s rupees and the latter were very difficult to get in change. Some of us had a day’s leave and (96) as soon as we got away from the beach we were accosted by a little Malay chap, who in a jargon of English, Dutch and Malay, urged the men to follow him to a little Malay village and they, knowing from previous experience that he would lead them to Bacchus or Venus or both, hitched up their pants and started and soon found themselves in a pretty Malay (sic) village, the houses being built of bamboo thatched with a kind of palm frond secured by rattan. The houses had wide verandahs and earthen floors. Bananas, coconut palms, sweet potatoes, yams and arrowroot were under cultivation and growing luxuriantly. All the people, including women and big children carried long knives and creeses for protection against tigers. Our guide took us to where a Chinaman dispensed square bottles of gin at a rupee a bottle and the men finally left cleaned out of every cent, the guide like his type the world over, leaving them to find their way to the ship as best they could. However, they managed to get on board and turned in to sleep off the fumes of the Chinaman’s gin.
The next morning we finished taking in water and a native boat brought off plenty of fowls, yams, eggs and many kinds of tropical fruit. We then got under way and with a fair wind were soon running through the Straits of Lombok piloted by a little Malay Dutchman, who left us at the other end of the Straits in a little canoe that had towed astern. The winds continuing fair, a few days later we were anchored in Batavia roads. There were a number of Dutch merchant vessels anchored with a Dutch man o’war riding guard ship. As soon as the sea breeze started to get sick about 4 p.m., a number of native boats came off, some as bumboats, with every kind of tropical fruit, fowls and eggs, others as dobey wallahs for washing clothes, but especially to be mentioned are the beebee boats. The beebee boats were the large Malay boats in charge of two Malay men, carrying a sail made of alternate cloth of blue dungaree and white drill. On benches which extended from end to end of the boat were seated from twenty to thirty Malay girls, bibbys or beebees. These girls were all candidates for and anxious to be sharers in Jack’s joys and sorrows from dewy eve till sunrise (97) and for the consideration of half a rupee, to mend and make his clothes, darn his socks, smoke his tobacco and administer to his little wants and comforts, and in a general way do all that could be reasonably expected of Mrs. Jack, even to certain lectures in a mixture of Malay, Dutch and English. At sunrise Jack, with tender forethought, would allow her to relieve herself of all domestic care by clearing out in the same boat (when it called for her) that had put her on board the previous evening. These boats together with the girls were all licensed by the Dutch authorities and were regularly received on board the Dutch vessels, not excepting the guard ship, where I used to see Jack’s camp rigged between the guns. Nearly all these women were exceedingly expert with the needle and could embroider with thread or silk very nicely. The beebee boats were, however, never allowed alongside the Duke or the other English ships. Of course our tars thought they were very hardly done by, for their socks wanted darning badly. The day after our arrival the surveyers came out and examined our ship, with the result that she was charted to load sugar and spices for Hobart and Sydney and Malay go-downs came off taking our ballast away and bringing cargo off. From the bumboat we used to buy fruit, fowl and eggs marvelously cheap, but except our boys who were the boat’s crew, no one got ashore. There were no wharves or jetties at Batavia at this time and we used to land the captain up a little canal amongst numbers of lighters and native craft and Captain Smith used to frequently send one of us boys to a little cottage with little things from the ship’s stores. The only inmates of the cottage were a young Italian or Portuguese lady and her mother or elderly friend. On several occasions the ladies came off to dinner or tea with the captain and it was usually expected by the officers and crew that there should be a wedding before we left Batavia.Expectation was intensified when the carpenter, with two Malay assistants was known to be occupied in fitting up the captain’s cabin with drawers and shelves and a double folding bed place. At last all the (98) Batavian cargo, consisting of sugar and pepper, was in and we were to leave in the evening, when the sea breeze was done and the wind came off the land, for Surabaya. It was also current that the younger lady of the two was to accompany us, wedding or no wedding. Well as the breeze got light, off came the shore boats with vegetables, fruit, birds, monkeys etc. and in our boat came off the captain and the lady. She took tea in the cuddy with the captain and the officers and afterwards promenaded the poop on the captain’s arm and Jack in the fore castle, drew his own conclusions and expressed his ideas in the elegant and forcible language of his kind. We hove short and mastheaded the topsail yards and lay waiting for the first puff of land breeze to start, when a boat came alongside pulled by Malays, but having two Europeans, apparently Spaniards or Portuguese, in the stern. They were respectably dressed and a ladder was put over the side. One of them, before getting onto it, blew a whistle and the little lady ran from the captain to the side and, looking down into the boat, cried out, “Jose!Jose!Is that you? I was afraid you would be late. Come up. Come up.” The captain who evidently did not expect visitors, was apparently asking Angela who they were. However, this curiosity was soon satisfied, for as soon as the strangers got on deck Angela ran and embraced the taller (a fellow about 6 foot 2 inches high) and he, stooping down, kissed her full on the lips. She turned to the captain saying, ”Captain this is my dear husband and my dear brother. You will permit them to keep me company to Surabaya?” Captain Smith was thoroughly nonplussed and looked it, but he caught sight of the officers and crew watching him, so pulling himself together, he lifted his hat and said “I am happy to see you aboard the Duke of Wellington gentleman.” He then invited them to his cabin and as the wind came off the land a short time after, we got under way, taking the strangers with us. We carried the land breeze all night and at daybreak we were about seven miles off land. As the sun rose the wind died away and at 8 a.m. we were becalmed, with the sea as smooth as a river. At eight bells the captain came on deck and soon after him came our two Portuguese passengers, but there was no appearance of Angela. At about 11 a.m. the wind began to come in from the sea and there were shoals of bonito and dolphins all around the ship. One was struck by the second mate from the main brace bumpkin and while it was splattering about on the poop, Angela came up and placing herself alongside the captain, she watched the fish and kept on chattering. Presently the order to brace the yards and board the fore and main tack was given and while the men were so occupied, Captain Smith sent the man from the wheel to let go the starboard main lift. Simultaneously with the man leaving the poop, Jose, Angela’s husband got over the rail onto a piece of plank laid across from the poop to the bumpkin, where the second mate had struck the dolphin and calling for the captain, told him to come and see the beautiful fish. The captain got over the rail and a moment afterwards there was a splash, then a shriek from Angela, an exclamation of “caramba!” from her reputed brother and then “Man overboard” from the man who was returning from the wheel. “Let go the fore tack and sheet the bowline and lee fore braces and let the yards run square back again.” All hands then ran to the quarter boat and in a few minutes she was in the water and with five men and the captain in her, she was soon alongside Angela’s husband who was swimming towards the ship, seemingly perfectly at ease. However, on the captain’s reaching over to catch hold of him, he appeared frightened and sang out to the men to protect him. The men soon got him into the boat, but he refused to go into the stern sheets and we could see that he had a large bowie knife in his hand. On getting alongside the ship the boat was pulled up into the davits and Jose, having called the first and second officers and Angela and her brother to him, accused Captain Smith of deliberately shoving or knocking him overboard. He was not demonstrative or noisy, but on the contrary, seemed desirous of confining himself to the four persons he had called round him, but Captain Smith became very excited and denied point blank in very forcible language (100) that he had not touched him or contributed in any way to his immersion. Angels endeavoured as far as possible to prevent the captain replying and her brother, placing the forefinger of his left hand on his closed lips, stuck the thumb of the other hand under his jaw and jerked his head over on his shoulder in a most significant way, clearly indicating that if not silent, he would hang. At this juncture, the chief mate, Mr. Brown, went up to the captain and in an undertone, said something to him about conspiracy, which seemed to have the effect of pacifying the captain. Then he called the steward and told him to go below with Jose and give him a change of clothes and for a time Jose disappeared. I noticed that neither Angela nor her brother exhibited the slightest anxiety or sympathy after their first exclamation on hearing the splash in the water. The wind was quite fresh by this time and the yards being filled and braced up, with the port tacks on board, we were soon bowling off our nine knots. During the forenoon the first and second mates were taken into the cabin and Jose, in the presence of the captain, stated that while he was standing on the main brace bumpkin looking at the dolphins, the captain had given him a push and caused him to fall overboard and that he believed that it was done intentionally and he requested the mates to make note of his statement. He also stated that he was in fear of his life at the time he was speaking and asked the mates to protect him until the ship arrived at Surabaya. We were off the entrance of Surabaya Strait two days later and a proa came off with a pilot- a little half breed Dutch and Malay – who was called a ‘piar Dutchman” by our fellows. The wind was right out of the Straits and our yards being braced up short, we stood across to the starboard shore. Our pilot called out “Ready, ‘bout ship,” and in the same breath “Helms alee,” but it was not alee and the mate who was working the forecastle, eased up the head and fore sheets before the helm was put down and before the square sails were aback, the little fellow sang out “Topsail haul.” As a natural consequence the ship refused stays, but made a stern board and ran on a mud- (101) bank and only floated on the next day’s tide. We anchored the same day in Surabaya and were surrounded by the boats of the port officials as well as beebee and bumboats. Captain Smith landed with Angela, her brother and her reputed husband in the ship’s boat and later two Dutch gentlemen came to the boat and were taken on board the ship, where after talking to the chief officer they examined two of the boys in reference to Jose going overboard. Jose having laid an information against the captain to the effect that he had tried to abduct his wife and then drown him. The boys declared on oath that they were on the mizzen topsail yard and San Jose had got over on to the bumpkin and dropped into the water feet first and that the captain did not touch him. It also transpired that Jose was not unknown to the Dutch police and further, he could not prove Angela to be his wife. It was clearly a conspiracy to extort money from the captain and to which Angela was a consenting party. However, we saw no more of them in Surabaya.
We were taking in cargo at Surabaya from godowns rapidly. One morning a small Dutch man-of-war arrived with three large piratical prahus in tow and a few days later there were nine Malay pirates dangling from the yardarm of the guardship and the next day fifteen more. The prahus were taken up a little creek and burned. Every night we lay in Sourabaya there was a thunderstorm more or less severe. Immediately the sun set it was dark and if there was no moon by 8 p.m. it was intensely so and on these nights the luminosity from the phosphorescence in the water was marvelous, the movement of the fish being indicated by flashes and streaks of fire. Then passing rapidly over the surface of the water, making the darkness more intensely apparent, were to be seen small canoes containing two natives. A long stick with a torch on the end of it was fixed at the bow close to the water. One Malay propelled the canoe, while the other with a spear, transfixed the fish which were attracted to the surface by the light of the torch. Every evening following the sun’s dipping came a cloud, small at (102) first, charged with electricity, emitting faint but frequent flashed of lightning, which gradually grew sharper and more brilliant as the cloud gained altitude. It rose very slowly until about midnight, when it had usually gained about twenty five degrees altitude. Then the flashes would occur momentarily, illuminating everything, defining the rigging and spars of the shipping against the sky as rigid as steel, bathing everything for a few moments in an intensely penetrating light and then enveloping all in a darkness that could be felt. Then a little later would come a peel of thunder and a heavy gust of wind and in a few seconds, the cloud which had taken four or five hours to gain an altitude of twenty five degrees would reach the zenith and dispel itself in a smart shower. A few minutes later the sky would be perfectly clear, with stars twinkling as if they knew nothing of the late commotion and the land breeze would come away. With the coming of the squall and shower there would be a fall of the thermometer of from ten to twenty degrees, making the small hours very enjoyable after the day’s heat. Our lower hold was now filled and we left Surabaya and went to Samarang to complete our cargo. We took in a Portuguese seaman named Josef Mudee to work his passage to Hobart. At Samarang we were anchored about half a mile off the shore and except for the cargo boats and a solitary bumboat, nothing came near us. We spent Good Friday here and Josef Mudee asked permission to go ashore to see a priest. On being refused, he became very insolent and taking his knife from his belt, he hurled it into the deck at the captain’s feet. The officers, after a severe tussle, put the handcuffs on him and placed him on the poop. When the captain was leaving the ship in the shore boat, shortly after, Mudee jumped overboard with handcuffs on and by diving repeatedly under the boat, eluded the men who tried to capture him, but the second officer calling out “Shark! Shark!” he was soon on deck and made fast. At anchor in Samarang in the evenings there would be millions of small horse mackerel right on the surface and the men used to catch more than we could eat. Some (102) fine fish were caught from the bottom also. One of the boys got a bite one dark evening and, pulling up his line in the uncertain light, thought he had a fish and was peering at it to see what it was like,when the large water snake which was on his hook passed itself around his neck. In his terror he dropped his line and ran for the cabin door where there was a light and soon had the snake, line, hooks and sinker so tightly round his throat that his cry for help was intelligible. The other end of the line being fast, it tightened up and nearly strangled him as well as cutting his throat. The snake had sharp interlocking teeth as long as a rabbit’s and it was only by cutting its head off that the boy could be released. We did not know if the reptile was venomous but the wound was cauterised and treated with ammonia and the boy was made to drink about half a pint of neat brandy, which intoxicated him at once. However the wound soon healed, but we were pretty cautious in handling fish after dark in future. All through the China and Java Seas, sea snakes are met with continually on the surface of the water. Some are very beautifully marked in brilliant colours. Natural history tells us that some of them are very venomous. We completed our loading in Samarang and we were ready for sea. The bumboat came and Jack paid his debts honourably. When the captain came on board he bought with him a young fellow (a dago the crew called him) to assist the steward, who had been ailing for some time. We sailed and fine fair winds and anchored in Batavia roads a day or so later. The captain landed, but returned in a few hours, bringing a boat load of fruit, vegetables and fowls and as soon as the wind came off the land in the evening, we got under way and proceeded towards Aujer Straits. (The earthquake that obliterated Aujer had not then occurred.) Two days later we hove to, as was then normal with all ships passing, off Aujer and lots of bumboats came off with every kind of fruit (including bananas, plantains, soursops, pineapples, rus balls and tuck tucks) monkeys of all kinds from thirty inches to little marmosets no bigger than one’s thumb, as well as beautiful little mouse deer, (104) cockatoos, Java sparrows, pigeons, doves and all kinds of parrots, beautiful little lividly green snakes no thicker than whip cord and 6 foot long and Jack parted with everything he was not actually wearing, ignoring future necessities for colder weather.
Then came the order “Fill the main yard!” and we were off for Hobart round Cape Leewin. I may mention that the little chap that was assisting the steward and whom the men said was a dago of some kind, soon ingratiated himself with everyone by his civility and readiness to assist with anything that was doing and when the steward was laid up he nursed him as well as performing his duties cleverly. His pronunciation was so like Angela’s that he frequently was called by the name. After leaving Aujer we carried fair winds and weather until we were about two degrees north of Cape Leewin, where we were becalmed. There was a very heavy westerly swell and we were rolling gunwale and gunwale without steerage way and about a mile away was a little barque flying the Italian ensign, but the captain was evidently worried about the rolling of the ship. At 8 p.m. it became evident that we were nearing the barque and all hands were turned to, to send down the royal yards to ease the ship. This took some time on account of the rolling. The Portuguese seaman Josef was with the boy up at the main royal yard and appeared frightened at the way the ship was rolling. The boy, who was a smart lad, chaffed him and as the yard was being lowered, Josef ran out on the main topsail yardarm and without comment, jumped off into the sea. “------ the Portuguese lubber” roared the mate. “Lower away the yard,” and he did not allow the men to leave it until it was on deck, in spite of the cry of “man overboard.” The the port quarter boat was lowered and before she touched the water the boatswain (Peebles) and four men got into her, but the ship was rolling so heavily that the man at the after tackle could not unhook it. The fore tackle being unhooked and the painter not being fast, the next roll of the ship twisted the boat half around and in a moment, instead of one, we had six men in the water and the ship crunching up the boat under her quarter. Then over went the lifebouys and then two (105) hen coops fowl and all. Fortunately all the men could swim and all were soon on board by ropes and bowlines thrown to them. Luckily the ship had no way through the water. The boat, of course, partially filled and the ringbolt parted the boat was adrift. In it all no one thought of Josef until the second mate exclaimed “There’s that ----- dago alongside the barque.” Sure enough he was hanging on to a rope and apparently talking to the officers of the barque. The vessel was now within a hundred yards of us. Captain Smith called up our little cabin boy and he, speaking Italian was told to hail the barque. The little chap sang out “Ca Bastemento?” and a reply in good English came back. “This is the Italian barque Don Quienx,” so the boy was sent down. Meantime we had lost a quarter boat, three lifebuoys and two coops of fowls, for we would not risk lowering another boat as the ship was rolling so heavily. Captain Smith called out to the barque “If we foul we shall sink each other.” We then got a fore course and fastened a light anchor to it and veered it fast to a light hawser over the stern and to our great relief, the barque drifted ahead of us, but so close that it was doubtful for some minutes weather she would take the jibboom out of us. When she was clear the Italian asked if we wanted Josef and getting an affirmative reply, Josef was sent away and he swam alongside us and clambered on board by the main chain plates.
During the afternoon the swell continued, but not a breath of wind. The sky was dull and leaden and low down on the western horizon, now and then came flashes of lightning out of a little electrical cloud. The mercury had been falling since the previous midnight until 10 a.m. and then remained stationary, but at noon it commenced falling again. We then reduced the canvas to close reefed fore and main topsails. The westerly swell still gained in both volume and velocity. The sea was as black as ink around us, but faded to a dull leaden colour towards the horizon so like the sky that it was difficult to tell where the water ended. The little electrical cloud now emitted flashes and coruscations every (106) moment. It had gained an altitude of about twenty degrees. Presently little catspaws began to come from the eastwards. We were over sixty miles from the Western Australian coast and the little puffs brought the small of land with them. Later the breeze freshened, but so was the westerly swell that looking to leeward when the ship was in the trough of the sea it appeared that it must overwhelm and annihilate her. At eight bells came “Gug ho!” and the ship was pumped dry. At 10 p.m. there was no change. Nothing to be heard but the flapping and bellying of the close reefed topsails as the ship rolled the wind out of them, the squeaking of the wheel chains and the wash of the water in the scuppers as she rolled covering board in. The little cloud alone appeared busy, increasing in altitude and luminosity. Presently the captain came on deck and told the mate that the glass was rising and directed him the clew up and furl the fore topsail, but before the watch got on deck, the easterly breeze died away and the clock was calm. Before the fore topsail could be made fast, a cold chill was felt in the atmosphere, as if an iceberg had come alongside and then a blast of wind of irresistible force, with an enormous wave – a black mountain of water with a ghastly white crest, bourn as it were on the face of the wind, dead from the westward – which, taking the ship by the lee, hurled her down into the seething water until the port topgallant bulwarks were in the sea. Then came a flash of lightning, that for a moment every spar and rope appeared like rigid steel bathed in ghastly white flame, followed by a peal of thunder so appalling that we all felt the ‘crack of doom’ was imminent and that in a moment there would be a rift in the dense black clouds and the great white throne would appear. We were paralysed for some seconds. We got the ship round on the starboard tack, put the helm down and coming to the wind under the close reefed main topsail, headed the sea and righted her a little. The fore topsail had blown to ribbons. Then, unfortunately, the yardarm of the fore sail got adrift and before we could get up to it, it blew out (107) of the quarter and bunt gaskets. There were seventeen of us on the yard trying to mitten the sail, but it slatted and tore from our hands time after time. The officers came up with carrings and we were getting them passed, when a terrific squall came on us, with hail the size of walnuts, driven with such velocity by the furious wind, that the men let the sail go and sat on the foot ropes, that the foreyard might protect their faces. The sail was a new one and it flapped and banged like a piece of ordinance and we expected the yard to go at every moment. Then the chief mate made a slit in it with his knife and it burst and flew from the yard like a piece of thistledown and we were glad to get on deck. The ship was behaving fairly well hove to with a hurricane at west and a mountainous but true sea. At midnight the weather main topsail sheet carried away, but we managed to get it made fast and she had only the goose - winged main topsail on her. Toward daylight the wind began to norther and the mercury was falling. At 6 a.m. after a terrific squall, followed by a lull to nearly calm for a few minutes, it blew as hard as ever at due north. The sea became pyramidal, confused and dangerous and we commenced at once to ship heavy water. Presently she shipped a sea over the port bow, which filled her up to her rails. She hardly recovered from it, when a heavier one came on board over the weather chestree, tearing away the bulwarks, filling the poop cabins, hurling all the spare spars, water casks and long boat down to leeward and causing the ship to take a heavy list. Luckily no one was hurt. To get her round on the other tack was the captain’s resolve at once and the smallest boy knew what a risk that manoeuvre was. “Men,” said the captain, “we must wear her round on the other tack or she will founder.” I will not go into detail, but simply tell you that pluck and good seamanship got the vessel before the wind and it was thought it was safer to run before it than to risk bringing her to the wind. We had to get more sail on her and a fore topsail was reefed, tied up and got aloft and bent and set close reefed. We then started to get the weather clew to the main (108) topsail sheeted home and while so occupied, an enormous sea came after her and she was hurled along on the face of it like a boat beaching in surf. She shipped none of it over the stern but it closed right over her from both sides just before the main rigging, smashing the caboose to matchwood. It filled and gutted the topgallant forecastle and before we had time to do anything, another followed as high as the mizzen ----(?). Right over the stern it came, crashing up hen coops, skylights, monkey poop, binnacle and steering wheel and the ship from the rigging where we sprang, looked completely under water and lay like a log. One of the men near me sang out. “She’s gone! She’s foundering!” Then we heard the captain’s voice from the mizzen rigging “Aft to the relieving tackle smart for God’s sake, men.” These had been hooked on earlier in the day and soon four men were steering the ship with them, the wheel having been swept away. When we had time to look around us, we saw the helmsman, old Jack Sutherland, lying at the foot of the mizzen mast hanging on to the mizzen topsail sheets, both legs and his left arm broken and a spoke of the wheel sticking out of his bosom. Nearly all the bulwarks and stanchions between the main rigging and forecastle were gone and the latter was blockaded up with water casks and the wreck of everything that had been on deck, Not a vestige of the longboat, with its menagerie of pigs, monkeys, parrots and other live things we had got at Aujer, was left and a heavy teak spar was rove out between the chain plates of the fore rigging for fully 10 feet. “Leave Sutherland, men. We cannot help him now but we can save the ship if you get more sail on her. “ It was only when we mustered at the topsail halliards that we missed an able seaman (Jim Read) and an ordinary seaman (Bill Wilks). They had been swept overboard. With four men steering and two men drowned, we were very short handed making sail. Providentially we shipped no more heavy water and the weather appeared to moderate suddenly and with the increased canvas, she cleared the sea. Sutherland was carried down into the cabin. For the time we could (109) do nothing for him, but the little dago attended to his immediate wants. The fore-hatches were stove in and tons of water went down amongst the sugar. After securing these we all went to the pumps and except when we had to pump up on the skids, or shin up the topsail sheets to avoid a sea, we pumped for seven hours before we got a suck and then the spear of the pump box broke and it took hours to draw it. We were exhausted and as there could be no cooking, we were all taken into the cuddy and given beer, tinned meat and biscuit. At midnight the mercury began to rise. The sea was falling and we were making better weather. All hands were clearing up the wreckage around the decks, bending a fore course etc. and the carpenter and cook rigged up a caboose with a cask and some spare chain. Then the former set to work making a steering wheel out of the heads of two casks and before night closed in we were able to discard the relieving tackles. The ship continued to make a lot of water, but by the colour of it and the way it black-leaded everything, we knew that the lower tiers of sugar were being pumped up. We never saw the Italian barque again, but we heard of her safe arrival, dismasted, at Swan River. Looking backwards through the years, I still marvel that the little ship, deep as a sand barge with sugar, her decks lumbered with longboat, spare spars, water casks, etc. etc. as was the fashion of the day, lived through that awful time. Also, one cannot but realise that it is in such strenuous times on the now heaped up contumely windjammer, that a man may justly feel he is a seaman and master of his ship absolutely with no intervening cranks, crossheads and propellers. In later years I made several voyages in command west about the Australian coast from the northward, but I never experienced more of the violent cyclone or hurricane weather that everyone knows the western coast is subjected to and which periodically decimates the pearling craft and recently was responsible for the wreck of the Mombana.
Continuing our voyage to Hobart with moderate and fine weather we arrived without further incident beyond that one day I went (110) to the steward’s pantry where the little dago was in charge, the steward being laid up and asked for a little sugar for our duff. He said “Yes, come into the pantry and I’ll give you some,” and I entered, when to my great disgust, he quickly took my face in his hands and kissed me and I knocked him over sugar and all. I lived to regret it, as will be seen. We arrived safely in Storm Bay and received our pilot (Lucas) from Mount Louis and a few hours later moored at the commissary’s wharf in Hobartown. As we had expected, nearly two tiers of sugar had washed out and a large quantity of the cargo generally had been damaged. On arrival, the Portuguese seaman and the little cabin dago were discharged. About a fortnight after our arrival the chief officer told me and another apprentice named Waite, to put on our best clothes and go up to the Anglican Church, where we should meet the captain. Much mystified, we obeyed him and were waiting when along came Captain Smith, dressed up quite a swell and said, “I want you two boys (he didn’t say ----- boys as usual and we both felt a bit ill used) to go into church and remain until I come to you.” We accordingly went into the church and presently a person came and stood at the altar rails. Then up the aisle came our skipper and the prettiest little brunette of a woman we had ever seen. Then it dawned on us that it was a wedding. There were two other gentlemen at the rails, friends of the captain. It was soon over and the skipper and the little woman came to us boys from the vestry. Before the captain could speak the bride held out both hands to us and then, bending over me, she said “Are you sorry?” Sorry did not express it. To think I had knocked this pretty little thing over when she would have kissed me, for it was the little dago: but in male attire and the black moustache, which was only nailed on with glue, what would one? “Now” said the captain, “you can tell all the crew what you have seen and here (giving me a soverign) you can stay on shore all evening.” We went to a fruit garden, then in the centre of the town, near Tench, where for a shilling one could fill up with gooseberries, currents, cherries (111) and other fruits which you picked off the trees and ate.
We lay in Hobart some weeks, for there was much trouble with the damaged cargo. All had to be discharged and the Sydney portions reshipped. At this time convicts dressed in black and yellow and others in grey, were every day to be seen working in the streets. Warders in uniform and carrying loaded carbines guarding them and although strictly forbidden, most people endeavoured to drop bits of tobacco so that these wretched men might pick it up. Seamen belonging to the vessels in the port were arrested and locked up if found in the streets or pubs after nine p.m. One day there were four men hanged at the Tench in Murray Street. They had been carrying on ‘robbery under arms’ for a considerable time before capture. One man named Donohen made a speech on the scaffold. I heard a portion of it. He, speaking in a loud bitter voice said, “I never killed a man in my life, but if I had my time over again I’d shoot ye’s down like rats.” The four men fell almost simultaneously, but the drop was insufficient to kill one of them and the only one who needed support to the scaffold. An awful scene occurred before he was finally strangled.
Early one morning two whales were blowing about amongst the shipping in the harbour. There were several whale ships at the wharves refitting and in a very short time several boats were manned and went in pursuit. Avery unusual and interesting spectacle was viewed by thousands of the towns people who congregated on the wharves and approaches. Two boats quickly got fast to one fish, but had to cut adrift again as the whale doubles short round a barque at anchor. The second whale was also struck by two boats. One of which fixed an explosive shell into it but which did not explode. Neither whale seemed inclined to make a run probably being confused by the restriction of the wharves and shipping. One boat while hauling up to lance was thrown clear out of the water and nearly cut in two by an upper stroke from the cachelot’s flukes and one of her crew fatally injured, although all were picked up by another boat. Both fish were eventually killed by boats belonging to the whaling (112) barque ‘Orfle’ the property of Dr. Crouther and the tug boat Venus towed them to Watson’s slip where they were cut in. When ready for sea we all expected to see the captain’s bride come on board but were disappointed and we sailed for Sydney without again seeing her. We also left the man Perry who it will be remembered jumped overboard at the commencement of the voyage. He had not done a hand’s turn of work from the time he was brought on board between Sydney Heads, but it was rumoured amongst the crew that he obtained his wages in full by some stratagem. In his place a seaman named Bond was shipped to work his passage to Sydney. The first day he was on board he pulled me out of the water when I fell overboard under peculiar circumstances with a ship’s bucket in my hand and which I did not let go although unable then as now to swim. Bond on arrival in Sydney became master of the steamer ‘Victoria’ belonging to Messrs. Mannings Coy. And in 1863 he came out from Glasgow Chief Officer of the Queensland Steam Navigation Company’s first steamer Queensland with Captain Patulla and later, they both went home again and bought out the P.S. ‘Lady Young’ for the same company. Bond’s daughter Mary became the wife of the late Inspector Lewis of Brisbane. I think Bond was lost in the barque ‘Fury’ belonging to Messrs. Robert Towns & Coy. On her passage to Frisco in about 1865. He was a very fine seaman and a gentleman.
Leaving Hobart for Sydney we had a protracted passage, calm and north easters prevailing, but eventually we were moored at Campbell’s Wharf where we discharged the rest of the Java cargo. There was still no appearance of the captain’s bride and we boys thought he must have sent her to his home in Scotland.
My chum Jemmy Waite and I obtained three day’s leave and as we had raised the wind by selling some Java curios and had each a pound on account of wages, we meant to have a good time and hire a horse and trap and drive out to see the bush we had heard and read of so often. The first day of our leave, I, being dressed first, arranged to go to the post office to see if there were any letters for us. Jemmy was to meet me at Bath’s corner of Bridge Street (113) and while waiting and wondering what kept him, a hansom cab pulled up abreast of me and I saw a lady beckoning to me, or someone in my direction for I did not think it could possibly be me. As the driver called me I went to the side of the cab, when to my unbounded astonishment, dressed in the height of fashion and extending to me two perfectly gloved little hands, with her pretty piquant face wreathed in smiling welcome, was the little dago – the captain’s wife. “Come in! come in! you dam boy,” she cried. I was thunder struck, confused and hesitating what to do, when she repeated “come in! come in! Don’t you want some sugar for your duff?” showing she had forgotten nothing of the days when she was the little dago in the pantry. I got in beside her and she told the driver to proceed. I was very young and her chatter and familiar mannerisms so entirely fascinated me, that for a time I forgot the awful possibility of meeting the captain or of the spoiling of Jemmy Waite’s holiday by my non appearance at Bridge Street. When I at last spoke of it she said “Poor Jemmy” and taking my face in her hands she kissed me saying “Today is today – those others are tomorrow. We will enjoy today” and I resigned myself to the goods the Gods had sent me.
We were driven to an hotel at Chippingdale where the hansom was discharged and after some refreshment we started in a four wheeler belonging to the hotel, with a boy to drive. We went to Botany and lunched at an hotel (Banks possibly.)
We left the hotel in time to get to town before dark. During the drive back my companion’s manner was more repressed. I made an attempt to talk of the captain, her husband, but she immediately placed her hand on my lips and I knew the subject was taboo. The day had been a happy one, but in spite of her tender manner and the fascination she exercised over me, I had become convinced that she was much older than her looks and mannerisms indicated. I remembered the advent of her fictitious husband on board the ship the night we left Batavia Roads and his kissing her mouth in greeting. Then there was the infatuation of that hardheaded Scot, the captain, who had married her although after his experience at Samarang must (114) have known that her career had been, to say the least, a checkered one. She put me down on Church Hill and promised to take Jemmy Waite for a day’s drive on the morrow if he was at Bath’s corner at 9.30 a.m. and taking a tender leave of me drove away. Away for ever out of my life for I never saw her again.
We both waited for her the next day expecting her to come as she promised, but she did not. Looking backward over the years, I can have no doubt that she was a Circe and the captain her Ulysses. But to me she is the memory of a pleasant little Dago, that impulsively made me happy for a day. Doubtless she was buffeted by her surroundings in Batavia in her youthful days.
When I reached the ship after leaving Angela, I found Jemmy Waite had been on board all day, in consequence of it being discovered just as he was going ashore, that the steward, who was a Spaniard, but an efficient and inoffensive man, had cut his throat after an altercation with the men and Jemmy had been put in temporary charge of the cuddy. I told him how I had spent the day and we were both much puzzled as to where the captain came in. We were taking in stone ballast from Billy Blue’s boats and we learned that the ship was chartered by Messrs. Gilchrist, Watt & Coy to go to and load at Colombo. Some of the crew who had been there said that large dogs fetched a big price there and this proved to be correct later on. Consequently we boys, as well as the men, endeavoured to entice on board every big dog we saw in the town in the evenings. One night a seaman tied a dog up at the foot of the gangway stage and he bit the second officer as he passed and there was a prohibitory order given next morning about dogs. But the next night the sailmaker induced a big vicious looking brute to follow him into the forecastle where he tied him up to the grommet of a seaman'’ chest, all hands being ashore. About midnight the men came on board, some of them well ‘sprung’ and the first man to enter the forecastle was ‘Sails’ to remove the dog. But the animal sprang at him like a tiger, straining at his tether and barking furiously. Sails sprang back, knocking over some of his tipsy shipmates and the (115) man to whose chest the dog was tied roused on Sails and they were at fisticuffs in a moment and others interfering there was a free fight of nearly all hands. Meanwhile the big dog continued to bark furiously. The uproar brought the three mates and carpenter forward and this quieted the men and Sails, to the enquiries of the chief officer, stated that the big dog had got into the forecastle and wouldn’t allow the men to go to bed. The carpenter, who was a Hielandman added, “and tied herself up!” Then the third officer, who was an Englishman interjected, “and on board a Scotch ship!” Then Mr. Brown the first mate called out “come here one of you dam boys and untie that dog and put him ashore,” Jemmy Waite stepped up and saying “He’ll eat me Mr. Brown (to what base uses we may return Horatio) deliberately walked up to the dog which fawned on him and licked his hands while he was casting off the tether from the seaman’s chest, which being done, the dog went with the rope trailing him through the officers and the seamen , out the forecastle down over the gangway and on shore like an electric flash. The carpenter remarked, “she’s got one of the earrings of the main topsail with her whatever.” In discussing the incident the next morning Jemmy and I came to the conclusion that one of the questions put to a candidate for a master’s certificate by the Board of Trade examiner should be, “In whom should you rely in time of stress or danger?” The answer being “THE DAM BOY.”
When we had taken in over three hundred tons of Sydney sand stone ballast, the ship was taken to Pinchgut and after lying there for a few days Pilot Christianson came and took us to sea. We had not lost one of our crew except the steward whom we left in the hospital and had a very inefficient substitute for him.
(116) After leaving Port Jackson we steered southwards, passed through Bass Straits and then northwards, leaving Cape Leewin some sixty miles to the east in passing it. We had a fine uneventful passage, a few days calm on the Equator and them picking up the S.W. monsoon one morning we saw the high land of Ceylon looming up ahead and later in the day a little brown sail was seen, which as we approached nearer, proved to be a catamaran with two natives (naked except for turbans) on it, who were gesticulating wildly and our main yard was laid to the mast and the little craft came alongside. The man (the other occupant was a boy of some ten or twelve years) threw up a small line attached to a joint of bamboo having a lid, which being unscrewed was found to contain a letter or document. Then the bamboo box with some biscuit and tobacco was given to the natives and they again set their three cornered sail and were off towards the rapidly rising land. About dusk we entered the outer waters of Point de Galle without a pilot and anchored. A native boat came off and took Captain Smith ashore. A quiet night was passed on board the ship. No boats coming off, we had no communication with the shore which was very disappointing to everyone and especially so to Jemmy Waite and myself, for we were very curious about Ceylon.
Next morning the topsail yards were mast headed and the anchor hove short and the captain being brought on board we got under way and later it transpired that we were to go to Colombo and then two days later we anchored. There were several vessels in the port, most of them country wallahs, one or two flying the Arabian flag. The captains of these latter were the most picturesque figures, in their flowing white robes and parti – coloured turbans. Their fine dark features and tall commanding figures, that I had not before of after seen on a quarter deck. But one could not help speculating on what the effect of bad weather would be on such flimsy magnificance, which drenched with rain or sea water would be limp and clinging if nothing worse to the wearer. We lay at Colombo five days taking on board from godowns empty casks, (117) filling up the hold on top of the ballast as well as some hundreds on deck. None of us got ashore, our boats being in the davits all the time. A Cingalese canoe was employed to bring the captain off and on. These canoes were very narrow at the bottom which was made from a single piece of timber dug out, top sides being seized on with rattan. They had outriggers on one side and carried a large sail of shield like shape, the apex being at the foot of the mast. They were very fast with the wind free and are never known to capsize. The paddles were nearly round in shape and were attached to their shafts by rattan seizings. I have not been in Ceylon for a decade and doubtless the motor boat has long since rendered these native canoes obsolete. Every morning while lying at Colombo, bumboats came off to us with delicious fruit. Limes, green coconuts, plantains, bananas, soursops etc. etc. as well as nice little loaves of bread, plenty of eggs and a variety of vegetables. Also some jewelers and filigree workers, tailors and manicurers. The working jewelers were very expert and it was marvellous how quickly an English sovereign would be transformed under their blow pipe into a number of pretty ornaments. Yet it was understood that they always managed to retain a portion of the gold given them to work up, watch them ever so closely. The tailor, differing to all other trades people affected European dress but he was a most remarkable man. He told us (Jemmy and I) that his mother was a cingalese and his father a moor. His height was six feet seven and a half inches, well proportioned even to feet and hands and carried himself with the dignity of a sultan. He took orders from the officers and seamen for white drill suits and jumpers and pants for we boys. For the former he charged one and a half rupees and for the latter a rupee. Then he went on shore and returned with two little sewing chaps, who, sitting under the break of the poop put the garments together almost as quickly as the big tailor measured the men and cut out. It transpired later that the two little (118) chaps, were of the feminine gender, discretely dressed as men for the times they were on board ships. On Sunday morning the captain and a gentleman whom we afterwards knew as Mr. Outerson as the managing partner of the firm Outerson & Coy. Of Cochin, came on board and we at once hove up and made sail for the port of Cochin on the Malabar coast, where we anchored on the fifth day after leaving Colombo. We anchored in the inner harbour of Cochin and commenced discharging our ballast into godowns which were brought off by natives. To the great satisfaction of we boys our own boats were used for communicating with the shore. . Jemmy and myself made up the captain’s boat crew. The firm of Outerson & Coy to whom the ship was chartered had extensive works, where they expressed coconut oil and manufactured coir junk. The manner of loading was that empty casks were first stored in the hold and a large wooden tub, with an aperture in the bottom, to which a long leather hose was attached and slung in the main hatchway. The casks of oil came alongside in the native godowns and the casks, being picked up bung down by the ship’s tackles, were slung over the tub and the bung being started, out ran the oil into the tub. The hose led it into the empty casks in the hold, which when filled, were securely bunged and so, tier upon tier until the ship was laden. Every Sunday the crew were allowed to go ashore with three rupees in their pockets, advanced by the captain on account of their wages. The hotels appeared to be kept by Portuguese and Spaniards and if we purchased a bottle of spirits – arrack or gin – there would always be an invitation to sit down at a table, on which were little loaves, fruit and dried fish and to which we readily did justice. It was a puzzle where the profit of the transaction came in. If we ever referred to it, the proprietor would spread out his hands, throw (119) his head on one side and say “My country fashion” and we did not object.
Tropical fruits of all kinds, cigars, nice mats etc. were all incredibly cheap as compard with the present cost. The ship supplied the crew with fowls and buffalo beef on alternate days, with plenty of yams and sweet potatoes. We all ran an account with the debash for fruit, eggs and soft bread and so lived like fighting cocks. The debash also arranged to supply the men with arrack and they would often be unfit for work. When the ship became immersed to her fifteen feet draught, she was taken outside the bar and anchored in the roads and later came a little French barque that anchored close to us. Among her crew were two English seamen and our crew fratenised to the extent of exchanging sugar for two cases of eau de cologne, both items being pilfered from the cargoes. Later the French crew would visit our people in the evenings and a bucket would be brought into the forecastle and a number of bottles of our eau de cologne emptied into it and hot water and sugar added and it would be served round in a pannikin. Songs in English and French would be sung until the men became too intoxicated and when the songs ceased there would be --- “Dagoes, French and Englishmen acussing altogether in the forecastle of the homeward bound.” And the mate would come forward and order the French crew to their own ship. The eau de cologne used to give our fellows dreadful heads in the morning. All the winch and deck work connected with the cargo was done by thirty native labourers and about every fourth man of them was afflicted with elephantiasis, one of their legs being perhaps as thick as their bodies. After a few days the French barque sailed for Colombo and as the debash man had been forbidden to bring on board intoxicants of any kind, Jack had to keep sober for some time. One day however, everybody forward was more or less ‘screwed’ and when the debash’s boat came as usual in the morning, down went the mate into her and turned out everything, but no grog was found. Then (120) all the green coconuts were passed up and chopped open, with the same result. No other shore boats came alongside except the little catamarans that would call as they came in from the sea with fish. All the same everybody was drunk that day except the officers and apprentices. It was the same the next day although the boat was again exhaustively searched. On the succeeding day the first catamaran came sweeping in from the sea under her big lateen sail and rounded up alongside as usual and our cook and the labourer’s bandaddy that cooked for them, went to the gangway with their baskets for their fish. No one appeared to be paying any attention, but as soon as they pulled up their baskets, down from the poop came the mate and collared both and took them into the cuddy. In every fish was found some kind of bottle, according to the size of the fish, containing arrack. Someone gave the catamaran warning and she cleared off. Later in the day two more came close to us but the lascars evidently gave them the signal to stand off. After this there was no more trouble in this direction.
When all the Cochin cargo was in and we were ready to sail for Alleppo the next day, the debash came on board and complained that some of us had stolen the book which we had every day signed for our daily indebtedness to him. So the men were called aft and the captain put the question to each man “What do you owe the debash?” Everyone had been getting bread, eggs, fruit, cigars etc. and most of the arrack for it was all the debash’s property.
Probably a sovereign would not have covered any of our debts, but no one acknowledged more than two or three rupees and off course the could pay no more. Jack was content to pay the balance with the fore topsail sheets. But what was astonishing, although the debash protested most emphatically that each man owed him much more than was acknowledged, was that after his business with the ship was all transacted and before he left the vessel, he gave all the fruit, bread, eggs etc. that was in his canoe to the men and shook hands with each, saying, “Bime, bime, you come (121)back. Me serve you again.” And left us apparently satisfied. It was coals of fire on Jack’s head all right.
We sailed next morning taking Mr. Outerson, our charterer with us and a day or two afterwards we anchored at Alleppo. Here we took in a few godowns of coffee and rice and seventy-six lascars, mixed nationalities of Hindus, Cedyboys and Arabs, a crew for Tindall’s ship Persia (then lying at Colombo.) The ship was paid 20s. per head and they brought their own rice and other food. We all expected to be in Colombo in a few days, though we were to call in at Toticorin. After leaving Alleppo we had very light winds and calms for a day or two and then a dead calm day after day. Then we last sight if the land so we knew there was a current. Then we had frequent little squalls, in which would be a few drops of rain and a puff of wind from everywhere, but of no service to the ship. Presently the lascars food ran out and the ship had to supply them with rice from the Alleppo cargo. Conditions continued the same day after day and excert by the current, the ship’s position was unaltered. We were too late for the season and in the doldrums, which always precede the changing of monsoons.
One morning the serangs of the Persia’s crew were called aft and, after a confab with the captain, all our four boats were got into the water and manned by the lascars, four and a steerman in each, and a line attached to the end of the flying jibboom was taken as a towline. The four boats were towed night and day, their crews being relieved by the usual watches. The sea was as smooth as glass, there not being the least undulation and in the early morning it would be an unbroken surface of yellow spawn, whale feed as it was called. Whether of animal or vegetable production, I have never learned. All the Australian coasts are subject to it and it is often very offensive when driven on the beaches at Yeppoon and Emu Park.
The calm continuing, one day a Hindu fell sick. His own people were attending to him and none of us took any notice of him until I happened to hear one of his countrymen say he was dead. (122) I got onto the water casks and looked over into the long boat which, as customary then, was stowed amidships where the man had lain sick and there was the dreadful corpse, eyes open, hands clenched and arms bent from the elbow and drawn against the chest. The legs were bent from the knees and drawn up to the abdomen. I received a shock and at once told the chief mate and he and Mr. Outerson went to the long boat. I followed. I heard the latter say, “By God! Its cholera. If we don’t get wind it will go through the ship.” Then the captain came and afterwards all the Hindus that were nopt in the boats took the corpse under the break of the poop and laid it on some boards and a couple of boxes. While this matter was engaging everyone’s attention a little squall was brewing. There had been nothing in the squalls previously beyond a puff and a few drops of rain, but this one brought a strong gust, filling the topsails and giving the ship such way that she ran upon the four boats towing ahead, before the towing could be let go. It was a miracle the boats were not capsized. As it was, five of the men jumped overboard and dived under the ship and they and the boats were left half a mile astern. In a few minutes however, it was clock calm again and the boats came alongside safely. As soon as they heard of the dead man they refused to remain in the boats and the men and boats were taken on board. All of them went and looked at the corpse and a Hindu, who was an assistant bandaddy, was left in charge of it, sitting close by its side on the platform. The rest went to their supper.
At eight bells of the second dog watch our European crew were called aft and cautioned not to have any contact with the Persia’s crew or their belongings. Then a tot of brandy was given to each of us and we were told that no more arrack would be served out. The man watching the corpse was lame on the left side, the tendons of his leg being drawn up by burning. He had also last the sight of one eye and the centre of the socket was white, giving him a very peculiar and repellant (123) appearance. But of tis anon. After having the brandy, our people were all sitting in the forecastle head discussing cholera and two other apprentices and myself were stealing green mangoes from the bow of the long boat. It was still clock calm and the ship lay in the bright moonlight, with headsails down, courses hauled up and topgallant sails and royals on the caps, like a painted ship on a painted sea, motionless, when a loud cry or scream was heard by everyone. We all ran aft in the direction it came from and there was the little lame watcher bouncing about the deck in a fit. His countrymen at first would not touch him, but when the first paroxysm had passed, they took him to the gangway and poured water on him and rubbed his hands and feet. However at midnight he was dead and they laid him alongside the other corpse. At two o’clock in the morning the mate called out, “Boy, trim the binnacle light. The vessel is not steering.” The man at the wheel was half asleep and, after I had trimmed the binnacle light, the mate told me to prick up the main deck light. This was the light hanging over the dead man. A few minutes afterwards I gave a yell and ran to the cuddy and sang out “The man is not dead!” The captain and Mr. Outerson came out and it was at once apparent that the man who had died first had straightened out his legs and one arm and it was the latter movement I had seen while trimming the light. “The man’s as dead as Pharoah,” said Outerson. “I have seen the relaxation of muscles after death by cholera in natives before. It usually takes place when decomposition sets in and doubtless it was the sudden movement of the legs that frightened the other man into a fit. I do not think he died of cholera.”
The next morning the serangs were told to bury the corpses and some canvas and iron were placed at their disposal for this purpose. Later the serangs told the captain that the Hindus would not bury them because they were short of something that was necessary to put around the necks of the corpses, by which I think they were lifted into their heaven. Later in the day they (124) absolutely refused to bury them and the bodies were taken by them and placed in the quarter boats. About noon that day two more Hindus were ill and would not take medicine from the captain. Two of their countrymen rubbed their abdomens, their hands and the soles of their feet. At four bells of the first dog watch, our men were told to throw overboard the bodies from the quarter boat, but as soon as the Hindus heard this, they carried the corpses to the gangways, washed them, rolled them up in canvas, attached some iron to them and dropped them overboard. About ten o’clock that night another man died and shortly after midnight, another. It was still dead calm and about every two hours one of us boys used to have to trim the light that hung over the sick and dead men. There was no kerosene then and the course black whale oil then in use required constant attention. All our crew, including the boys, received two tots of brandy a day and all the camphor in the medicine chest was given us. We made bags for it and wore it around our necks. However, we never missed a chance of sneaking the green mangoes. At six o’clock the next morning the other two corpses were dropped over the side. There was still not a breath of wind. The crew were not given any work other than cleaning the ship in order that they might not come into contact with the lascars. During the fore noon another if the Hindus was on his back and when I was going to the wheel at one bell after my dinner, when I saw a big Cedyboy named Abdulla lying on the deck with two of his countrymen attending him. These men were Muhammadan , fine men, jet black, good seamen and intelligent. Abdulla took all the medicine that was given by the captain and Mr. Outerson and very brisk friction at the hands of his nurses, but he and the two Hindus were dead at midnight.
I shall never forget that night, for a very strange thing occurred and I can recall it as vividly now after a lapse of sixty years as the night of its happening. No interim experiences have lad me to be doubtful of it as absolute fact. After the man Abdulla, who as I said, was a Mahommadan, got sick, one of his co-religionists was, in a low monotonous tone, repeating from what we supposed to be the Koran. Now and again, breaking the (125) dead silence that hung over the ship would come a response from the others, who were lying about apparently asleep, of “Allah, Allah, Allah resoul.” It was startling and awe inspiring under the circumstances. As soon as these last two were dead (all since the first had died nearly straight) they were laid on the after hatch and before daylight three more men were ill on the platform. But previous to this and just after midnight, the second mate called out from the poop, “One of you boys trim the main deck light.” This was the sick bay light. I was asleep on the fore hatch, but I heard him and responding “aye aye sir!” I hurried into the boy’s side of the forecastle and got the oil feeder and pricker and was hastening along the starboard side of the deck, when I saw a lascar standing abaft the chestree between the water casks and the bulwarks. I thought, “I won’t touch you in passing, as you must be attending the sick,” and to say something when I got to him, I said “Salaam,” and was passing on but he neither spoke nor moved. But I looked in his face and saw his white eye socket and then noticed that he was all one side with a contracted leg. I recognised him at once as the little assistant bandaddy, but I did not realise for a moment that two days previously I had seen him stiff and stark and being scrubbed and launched overboard. When I did I dropped the oil feeder and ran back into the men’s forecastle, where there was a light and some of the watch sitting on their chests smoking. I hurriedly told them what I had seen and they appeared as frightened as I was. Everyone, I think, was nervous at night that horrible time. But a man who we had nicknamed Faversham jumped up and said “I’m not frightened of a live nigger and much less a dead one. Come on boy.”I followed him as far as the galley and then stood until Faversham got up to the man, who I could see distinctly standing just as I had seen him before, until Faversham’s figure hid him from me and then I turned and went into the forecastle again. The second mate was calling out “Trim the light. Where is that ---- boy?” (126) In a few minutes Faversham entered the forecastle looking frozen. He did not speak at first, but sat down on his sea chest. Presently he said “By God, it was a little scary.” “Is he there now?” was asked. “No. He cleared out while I was looking at him.” Was the reply. Then the second mate came forward and seeing the light asked “Where’s that ---- boy?” Faversham, without saying I was there, went to the door and told him what had occurred, but he simply said of course that “It was one of those ---- niggers.” But as Faversham protested he said “Well if the black ------- don’t know when they are dead, I can’t help it. Send that boy to trim the light.” It was as light as day out of the shadows, a full moon and a cloudless sky and we had both seen the man as clearly as if it had been noon. Anyway, I was not going with the oil feeder amongst two dead men, three more dying and another standing about not knowing he was dead, so Faversham went with me and when we returned forward again we were both taken with violent vomiting and the boatswain went aft and told the second mate. Presently the captain and Mr. Outerson came forward and gave us brandy and probably tincture of opium and poured nearly scalding water on our feet. The next I remember was finding myself in one of the cuddy berths at noon the following day, for I had slept till then and being alright except for a dreadful headache, I was bundled forward again, feeling rather ashamed I was not dead after the fuss. I was very glad to see Faversham was all right too. The other boys informed me that five men had been buried during the fore noon.
To abbreviate, we lost nineteen of the Persia’s crew, and the first day there were no deaths or sick men there was a light adulation on the sea. Towards there was quite a swell on, and everyone was anxiously expecting wind. About ten o’clock it came a dark streak on the water heralded its coming. Then there was a little shuddering through the light sails, which had been hanging in the gear for a fortnight. Next the topsails filled their white bosoms and bellied out. Then came the incisive voice of the captain to the man at the wheel. “East by south, half south.” (127) Then followed “Board the foretack, Mr. Brown, and sheet home the topgallant sails and royals.” Quickly came the swish of the water along the ship’s sides as she gathered more headway as the white wings were spread, and the feeling of thankfulness and exhilaration which one always feels when the blessed wind comes after a prolonged calm and its attendant inactivity and monotony, even under ordinary conditions, it is very sincere; but with us, after these weeks of calm, disease, and death, it would take a much abler pen than I can wield to approach description of. Up to this time not a European of our crew of twenty-seven all told had had a cramp or an ache; and doubtless Faversham and myself gave the captain a fright when we lost our stomachs over trimming the lantern. However, it was productive of good, for after it oil was issued to the lascars, and they trimmed for themselves. Our calling at Toticorin was given up, and the wind carried us to our anchorage in Colombo.
Fortunately there were no more cases of sickness, and two hours after anchoring a godown came and took the remainder of the Persia’s crew from us. We, of course, expected to have been quarantined and this would have been most disastrous so near the monsoonal change. We landed Mr. Outerson, who I never saw again. I may remark that he and the captain were utterly sceptical of the reappearance of scanny. At Colombo we took in a few godowns of coffee and spice, and two days after our arrival, after having the decks full of Cingalese filagree workers, tailors, manicurers barbers, hat sellers and makers, chaps with monkeys, parrots, green snakes, pigeons, etc., conjurers, who grew mango trees on the deck while you waited, others with ebony and ivory elephant’s walking sticks, chessmen, and also beautiful and useful coromandel woodwriting desks and dressing cases, to say nothing of fruit of all kinds, fowls, eggs and vegetables, we mastheaded the topsail yards, hove the anchor short, and were aloft dasting off yardarm gaskets and standing by to let fall the bunts for the homeward voyage. Just then a boat came alongside with some officials, and the captain was taken ashore. As he did not return that day, (128) the cable was veered again that the sails make fast; but the next day he came on board, and it was rumoured that he had feen fined 300 pound for suppressing the fact of having had cholera on board. Probably the fine was preferable to detention with lascars on board. So the cable came in once more to the rattling chorus of “Do let me go, girl. Do let me go. Hurrah, my yellow girl, do let me go. Good-bye, farewell you well. Good-bye”
Etc.
After leaving Colombo we carried fair winds and weather until in two degrees north of the equator. Soon after leaving, our hard bread, Liverpool pantiles as Jack called biscuit ran short. It had for some time been full of live stock weevil and maggots and the forecastle door used to be drawn to shut out the daylight that we should not see what we were eating. If a biscuit was broken and dropped into a Hookpot of tea or coffee the insect being drowned floated and could be removed with a spoon, but the only nutritious element in the ancient biscuit was lost. Looking backward, it is, to me, amusing how the generally splendid physique of seamen seventy years ago was gained and maintained when consideration is given the quality of food supplied. Take the ship I am writing of as a criterion of the dietary scale of most ships of the time. The week was divided into – two duff days, two rice days, and three pea soup days. On the former days half-pound of flour per man was issued to the cook, this being mixed with water and fat from the salt beef and pork was poured into a conical-shaped canvas bag and boiled in sea water and eaten as boiled – without currant or molasses, yet, a duff day was always a red letter day with the forecastle. In addition to the half-pound of flour there would be one and a half pounds of salt beef, which, in our case, had been on board the two years of the current voyage and was probably casked in brine, years before it came to us. In boiling, it shrunk to half its size when taken from the tieree and every item of fatty matter disappeared while in the coppers, the remainder resembled fibrous mahogany. The daily allowance of biscuit was a pound, this whether good or bad was ample, for I never knew a man who habitually consumed his pound of bread. On rice, or, as it was usually (129) named “strike me blind” days a third of a pound of rice per man was issued, but with no trimmings such as sugar or molasses. Few seamen ate their rice, for in addition to its insipidity eaten alone, seamen had a fixed conviction that it deteriorated their eyesight and if a man on the lookout failed to see an object before the officers, his excuse was that “d---- strike me blind”.
The pea soup, in common with every food that passed through the ship’s galley or caboose was brought into the forecastle in a little wooden tub called a “kid”, and in appearance it was two thirds clear yellow fluid with an inch of precipitation of peas at the bottom of the “kid”.
When a ship had been ten (10) days at sea and the crew on salt provisions, an act of parliament enforced the issue of half an ounce of lime juice and the same quantity of sugar daily per man as a preventative to scurvy – hence the term of “limejuicer” or what was allowed to be an equivalent the men could be given a “fresh moss” every tenth day and this generally consisted of soup and bouilli, and in my boyhood it was the only tinned provisions carried in Scotch ships. Jack used to tell a yarn of an illiterate scotsman owner to whom the act was explained and who immediately instructed his captain to give the b-s (meaning the seamen) a feed of “Burgoo (oatmeal porritch) every ten days – and so save the lime-juice. Our biscuit being nearly all consumed, flour was issued in lieu of it, and as the flour was brown in colour and full of weavils the apprentices were allowed as much of as they could use, and we used to make duff and use plenty of the salt fat from the pork in mixing it with the result that we were all covered with boils. Just north of the equator we fell into a hurricane before which we scudded under a close reefed main topsail with a very dangerous sea racing after us, and it was apparent to us all that the captain and mates were anxious. We had been in heavy gales and seas of the Capes Leeuwin and Horn, but we had never experienced anything to nearly equal the force of the wind or velocity of the waves that were they following us (130) during the time that we were scudding before this hurricane. As night closed in it became pitch dark with vivid flashes of forked lightning. Driven by wind and hurled along by the sea we made a speed of thirteen knots. Great mountains of water raced after us astern and on each side of us and then blending ahead their combs broke and crashed across the ship’s course in a broad belt of phosphorescence till it was easy to believe that she was racing to annihilation on the weather edge of a coral reef, and so she ran from 6 p.m. till 3 a.m. when the wind began to haul to the southward and moderate, and the sea became pyramidal and all hands were called. The wind quickly fell light but the sea was in pyramids and the ship’s motion was so violent that we expected the masts to go out of her every moment, she would drop off a sea aft until one would expect her counter to be lifted off her, and then plunge into a short hollow sea forward and bury herself to the knighthead. Chips, our carpenter, had always shown himself a plucky chap under all previous conditions but at this time he went on the poop to the captain and said, “she’ll no stand it, captain, she’ll no stand it!” “Well”, said the captain, who was perfectly calm (though I thought he had the face of an old man just then), “What can you suggest doing – the ship is not steering and is unmanageable.” We were in a calm in the centre of a hurricane. On each mast head and on every yardarm there was what seamen then called compenants. About daybreak the wind came away as strong as before and we have her to under a goose-winged maintopsail. While all hands were hauling on the lee main brace as she came head to wind there came a blinding flash of lightning with a deafening peel of thunder simultaneously and the whole nineteen of us were thrown violently on the lock and against each other and we all lost perception of surroundings for some seconds, but no damage was apparent to us or the ship and it was only when lying anchored at St. Helena that it was discovered that two of the main chain plates were fused and the lignum vites dead eye was carbonised, with this exception we made through a very strenuous time soathless. Two days after the hurricanes we made out an object ahead which on nearer (131) approach proved to be a dismasted barque named Givalior. The wind was light and it was sundown when we got within signalling distance and receiving no response to our first hoist of flags, a boat was lowered and with the first mate in charge and four apprentices, which included Jerry Waite and myself, went along side of her. It was evident that her distressful condition was of earlier date than the recent hurricane; her three masts were gone, her mizzen at the poop deck, the main about fifteen feet above the main deck, and the foremast just at the base of the mainstays; her foreyard lay across the forecastle head – the canvas of the foresail frayed out and knotted up with the water laid fore sheets and chain tacks hanging over the side. She was in ballast, which we considered to be Sydney stone, there were no boats with the exception of the long boat which store and foul with the stench of rotting carcases of pigs and sheep, was lying on the one side of the main deck to where it had been washed from the chocks off the main hatch. The cuddy, or saloon as it is now named, was strewn with seamen’s clothing of all kinds, as well as decaying provisions. In the captain’s after cabin there were cells for three chronometers, two of which were still in their places, but run down, the third had doubtless been taken in the boats when they abandoned the ship. A cat evidently but recently dead, lay coiled round on the cabin table, quite likely she had survived some time after the crew left. In every part of the ship, there was the most intolerable and sickening stench. She was evidently making little or no water for although it was a foot over the ceiling, it was black and stinking. We pulled back to our ship and the mate reported, and taking the carpenter and his mate back, they bored several holes with a large auger and we left her. We heard afterwards, that the crew, after suffering much hardship was picked up by a passing vessel. Vessels are so frequently abandoned prematurely. We now carried find weather until crossing the Aqulhus banks and while in bad weather there sprung a leak, and it kept us half of every watch at the pumps, and the coconut oil that had in a liquid (132) state been spilt in the hold while loading, now that the weather was cold solidified and the morabliu nuts rolling about the bilge picked up the oil and would come up into the pump boxes and choke the valves every minute. However, after hauling up for Fort Natal and making the land, we kept away again and ultimately pumped our wretched way to St. Helena, where we anchored, and getting some lighters (the razed hulls of slavers captured by H.M.S.), alongside discharged some casks of oil into them. This enabled us to reach and stop the leak from the inside. While lying at St. Helena, Jemmy and I went with the captain up to Napoleon’s tomb; the body had been removed to France long before. We used to have a large bag of watercress, or at Jack called it “scurvy grass” brought off every morning as also lots of flying fish, both of value to us for their antiscarbutic qualities especially the former, and what was a dire necessity to us, some fairly good bread (biscuit). The day after our arrival, the Black Ball ship Bloomer stood in for the anchorage but let go her anchor off the bank and a hundred fathoms of cable ran out without reaching the bottom, and making sail again she attempted to purchase for anchor but failing had to "slip it".
We lay at St. Helena six days, and then having stopped the leak and restowed the oil and purchased what stores we required, we left and proceeded on our voyage.
As we approached the Equator, we were kept employed tarrying down the hemp rigging, (it was previous to wire), and painting the ship as was usual at the time. We were short of linseed oil and the white lead used to be mixed with rum instead, and during the night the lead would precipitate leaving the rum on top, and this was always poured off and drank by the seamen. We met no calms on the equator, but carried the S.E. into the N.E. trade winds. We were in about twenty deg. north when one morning, we sighted an object which on nearer approach, we saw was a dismasted hull flying an English ensign Union down as a signal of distress. On nearing her, our mainyard was laid to the mast and a boat lowered, and with the second mate in charge and Jerry and myself and two (133) seamen pulling, we went alongside her. It was the full of a beautiful clipper scooner mamed “Electric Flash” and hailing from Brixham, engaged in the St. Michael orange trade and as it transpired on her maiden voyage, and her low symetrical black hull with its narrow gilt streak just below the covering board, and as she rolled to the long regular swell her new metal sheathing reflected the sun’s rays until it blazed like burnished gold. She was still a thing of beauty although despoiled of her power of propulsion. She was fruit laden from St.Michals and had lost both masts short off at the deck in a squall, which her master stated did not last ten minutes. Beyond the loss of her masts she had sustained no damage. These had been cut adrift when they went over the side to avoid injury to the hull. She had a crew of eleven all told, and the master had “taken his little daughter to bear him company”, a pretty girl of seventeen, and at his request we took him to our ship, and after some converse with Captain Smith, we returned with him to the schooner, and brought away every soul, including the girl, and the vessel was abandoned. Immediately, the strangers were on board our ship, the schooner mate went up on the poop and asked Captain Smith, if it was intended to abandon the schooner. He replied, "that was her master’s intention". Then said the mate. “I protest against such action. Will you give me one of the spare spars from your main deck and put me on board with two men, for I have no doubt but I can carry her into port.” Then turning to the crew who were grouped behind him, he asked, “Will two, or any of you go back to the schooner with me? It will pay you well”, - but there was no response from the men. Then he asked Captain Smith, “Will you permit your boat to put me on board alone? The reply was, “The master has abandoned the vessel. I cannot assume the responsibility of leaving you on board, where in all probability you would perish before you would be picked up.” Then said the mate, “Goodbye, Miss Dora! Goodbye all!” - and before anyone had realised his intention, he had thrown off his coat and plunged into the sea from the gangway, striking out vigorously for the schooner. (134) Our boat had been pulled up to the davits, but she was again lowered and by Captain Smith’s instructions, followed the mate, keeping close to him until he had clambered on board the hull by the fore chain plates. “Have you food and water”, he was asked. “Plenty I’m alright.” “Will you return with me”, asked our offer. “No thanks”. “Then goodbye and good luck.” - and we left him and returned to our ship. Directly we left, the distress signal on the schooner was hauled down from where it was flying on the sprest lashed to the pump. Our boat being secured, the mainyard was filled and we proceeded on our own northward. We learned later on, that a few hours after we left her, a barque spoke to the schooner and gave her a couple of studding sail booms and three shipwrecked seamen which the barque had picked up in the Bight of Benin, volunteered to go in her, with the sequel that she was navigated to the Port of Dieppe in France, where the cargo was sold much of it proving marketable. Salvage claims were settled without litigation, the mate’s share being 900 pound. After the schooner was refitted, he sailed her as master in the St. Michals trade successfully. After leaving the schooner we carried fair weather into soundings and through the English Channel, and picked up a tug off Beachy Head that towed us to the London Dock Heads.
From a letter I had received from my mother I was fully prepared to find the family again residing in England, as my father was again in business, and was therefore expectant of seeing some familiar face on the dock to welcome me, after an absence of over two years. In this, however, I was disappointed, although Jemmy Waite’s parents and sister were there and welcomed us both.
Differing from our last return to London all the evil crew of pimps, low boarding house touts and women of the most vicious class which overrun ships immediately on their arrival at the dock heads previously, were now conspicuous by their absence. Only accredited representatives of the Well-street sailor’s home, and of one or two private boarding houses were permitted by constables whose special duty it was to attend the arrival of every oversea ship.
(135)Between the dock heads, the services of the crew were dispensed with. A gang of wharf lumpers took their place and warped the ship to and moored her in her discharging berth. The officers and apprentices were however retained.
It was nearly dark when Jemmy Waite and I got away to go home. Mr. Waite was waiting for Jimmy at the dock gates in Shadwell Street, and hearing that like his son, I was penniless, he handed me a sovereign and drove me to Mr. Norton’s, my father’s solicitors, and waited until I had ascertained the latter was at home and then took a kindly leave of me.
Mr. Norton was very kind and handed me a letter from my mother which told me the family were living at Grove House, Woodford, some miles away from London, and as the only conveyance was by coach leaving at early morning, I accepted Mr. Norton'’ off of hospitality and remained, with his family being absent, until the coach left next morning, and it was only when taking leave of him I learned that he no longer transacted my father’s business. By the Woodford coach, I reached my new home by mid-day, the meeting with my mother was pathetic and painful. The acute physical and mental change in her was difficult for me to understand untill, when later I became conversant with the drastic alteration in my father’s temperament and habits. I returned to my ship next day and with Jemmy Waite arranged to take up lodgings at an eating house opposite the dock gates. I also called on Mrs. Janet Taylor in the Minories and arranged to attend her navigation school thrice a week.

It is now necessary to say something about the master of the schooner “Electric Flash”, which we spoke of dismasted and his daughter Dora. Captain Mitchell as I must call him was owner as well as master of the Electric Flash. He was a gentlemanly and well educated man and had only followed the sea late in life, having, strange to say, in his younger days held a commission in the 15th Hussars (Prince Albert’s own), and as I learned later was a good navigator but anything but a practical seaman. Both he and Dora were very sociable and pleasant to Jemm and myself during the (136) time they were on board the ship, and we both fell deeply in love with Dora – a fact of which I am quite certain she was perfectly unconscious of, and treated us with equal favour and camaraderie. I from the first thought that Captain Mitchell had a favourable feeling towards myself, but I was not siezed of the fact that such feeling had not the remotest relation to Dora. When taking leave of these pleasant people, Captain Mitchell asked me for my future address, and as I was then uncertain of it I gave him Mrs. Janet Taylor’s, as I quite intended studying under her. The captain said he intended taking Dora to her home at Weymouth at once, but intended returning to London in a few days and he would probably look me up. This raised hopes that I might meet Dora again.

Waite and myself in common with the other two apprentices and 1st and 2nd mates were employed on board the ship from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. except on Saturdays when we knocked off at 1 p.m. and we spent the weekend at our homes. I attended Mrs. Janet Taylor’s three nights a week regularly, and was confident that I could pass successfully the Board of Trade Examination for Master had I been of the complete age. One evening, while at school, Captain Mitchell called. He had arrived from Weymouth that day and his looking me up so promptly rather surprised me. At his request, I gave up school for that evening and placed myself at his disposal. At Aldgate, he hailed a cab and we were driven to Drury Lane Theatre. During the performance, the captain told me he intended purchasing a small vessel to engage in a trade between Hong Kong and the South Sea Islands, but he was very desirous that his intentions should be kept secret for the time and that he had mentioned them to no person but myself. Now, I had always a great desire to sail in the South Seas. My imagination had always invested the South Pacific with what every romance there was in a seaman’s life, and I must admit that my after experiences confirmed rather than dispelled the imaginings. After the theatre, we entered a restaurant where we had an excellent oyster supper, and afterwards the captain drove me to my lodgings and left me with the promise of seeing me again shortly. After retiring, I lay awake wondering (137) why Captain Mitchell had told me, a youngster, of his intended enterprise which he said he was desirous of keeping secret. With the folly and egotism of youth, I associated his confidence in connection with his daughter Dora, and me, still an apprentice with an income of seven pounds a year. Well it is amusing to look back on now. At this time, my weekends spent at home were very strenuous times – my father was so irritable and exacting, and it was only for my mother’s sake, I went near the home. These conditions were more deplorable, as we had a very fine establishment with a staff of several servants – including a gardener, coachman, and a resident governess for my younger sisters. After the rough life at sea, it would have been a very welcome recess for me especially, but my father’s eccentricities made anything approaching happiness impossible. The whole family was frightened of him. All my sympathies were with my mother and sisters, who had to be perpetually domiciled with him while at home. Fortunately his business kept him in London a portion of each day except Sunday. The ship had discharged the inward and was now receiving her outward cargo for Port Adelaide, when one day Captain Mitchell came on board to see Captain Smith and afterwards had some conversation with Jemmy and myself. He had arranged to call for me in the evening, and when evening came we went to a hotel in the Minories and in a private room Captain Mitchell conversed of his intended enterprise. He said he had purchased a brig named Maud but she required extensive repairs and refitting, all of which he would have effected in Bombay or Cochin where labour and teak timber was 70 per cent cheaper than in England and that he would take metal for fastenings and sheathing out with him. He impressed on me that the conversation was absolutely confidential and asked me if I would go with him as mate and navigator. He went on to say that the brig after finishing her repairs would go direct to the South Seas where she would be engaged in an inter-island trade in Beche-de-mer and pearl shell, and whatever else would find sale in European markets. Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to have been able to give an unqualified assent but there was every prohibitable condition in the way. In the first (138) place, I had no certificate and although I was confident of being able to pass the Board of Trade examination, I was not twenty-one and if a certificate was granted, it would be endorsed as ineffective until I was of age. Also my father had told me that when I could get a Masters Certificate, he would purchase a ship or interest in one, for my command, and there were other lions in the way – all of which I put before the captain. He appeared much disappointed and offered to engage a mate for the run to a repairing port, and visit my father and obtain his consent. A few days later, without telling me, he went to my father’s counting-house and broached the matter and was called a pirate for his pains. At the weekend I went home as usual, knowing nothing of the captain’s interview with my father, until I met him in the evening and then so warm a passage of arms took place between us, that after a heartbreaking parting with my mother, I left the house and never met either of my parents again. A few days after, a clerk who had been with us many years came to the ship with a cheque for the purchase of an outfit for the next voyage, but as he brought no word from my father, to whom I had written a very humble and affectionate letter after our fracas, I, in spite of Mr. Slee’s arguments refused to take the cheque. I have always regretted it since. Captain Mitchell visited my father from the best motives doubtless, but it proved disastrous to me, how much so I was unable to realise until my father’s demise.
I left London in the old ship bound for Port Adelaide, and my five years apprenticeship and eighteen months I had served as Midshipman would expire before we would reach that port, so I was entered on the ship’s articles as 3rd mate to prevent my leaving ship in Adelaide, where the wages for a substitute in my place would be treble what was current in London. Captain Mitchell whom I saw every evening before we left informed me he had purchased two hundred tons of cardiff coal and had freighted for the Colonial Government five locomotives and was bound to Melbourne, and the “Maud” sailed about the same time we did. I was very anxious to know if his daughter Dora sailed with him. We had an uneventful passage and (138) made anchorage in Holdfast Bay on the hundred and sixteenth day pilot to pilot. I remember an amusing episode which happened during some rough weather in the English Channel. We had some twenty-five cuddy passengers for Adelaide and amongst them two recently married your couples. They had berths on one side of the alleyway aft of the cuddy (soloon as it is now called) adjoining each other. The doors being exactly similar. Both ladies had retired early in the evening and both husbands had remained on the poop with the officer of the watch until 10 p.m., when both went below and also retired, and nothing further transpired until the steward’s assistant knocked at the doors with the early cup of coffee. The wrong hubbies responded at the respective doors. Doubtless, when retiring they entered the wrong berths. It was soon known all over the ship and Jack, in the forecastle, improvised and suggested in the vivid manner of his kind, and the unfortunate bridge’s suffered roasting for the rest of the voyage. We had also a French family, a Monsieur and Madame Duvard and their daughter, a very Frenchy and pretty girl as Jemmy and I thought about eighteen. As usual we were much impressed, and it became the usual role for either of us having the first watch, (we were not in the same watches), to stand under the break of the poop with her and watch the roll of the ship for an excuse to put an arm around her waist and support her, and to keep it there in anticipation of the next roll, and this she never resented and usually if it was dark enough kissed us goodnight when she was called to retire by her mother. The ship’s Doctor Edmunds had with him his son who had just finished his term in a French University and always wore the uniform of his college, and although he spoke French like a Parisian, he never carried on conversation with Mademoiselle Celeste which Jemmy and I were very thankful for. On arriving at Port Adelaide Celeste made an opportunity of taking a French and very affectionate leave of Jemmy and myself separately, and each of us pitied the other. The passengers all left as soon as we moored at the wharf, but next day Celeste and the young student Edmunds came on board and took wine with the captain in the cuddy, and afterwards they both came to Jemmy and Me, and the college bloke (as we always called him), introduced Celeste to us as Mrs. Edmunds and she laughing (140) kissed her fingers to us and told us to be bon garcons and left us to comfort each other. They had been married the previous day.
We had been in Port Adelaide a week when I received a letter from Captain Mitchell by which I learned that the brig had arrived in Melbourne, and suggesting that I should try to get my discharge from the ship and join him, and promising to send me a draft for my expenses by the following mail. At the same time I received a letter from Ipswich telling of the marriage of my one time sweetheart Ida, to one of her uncle’s school assistants and of course I was heartbroken. I quickly made up my mind that I would join Captain Mitchell but I felt certain that Captain Smith would not give me my discharge, as he would have to pay current wages 10pound per month for an A.B. To have asked him would have been to let him know I was desirous of leaving and I should then have been watched.
I told Jemmy I intended leaving the ship, and he tried his best to dissuade me from doing so. I could not tell him about my intended arrangement with Captain Mitchell without breaking faith with the captain, but I let him think it was the unhappy relations with my father which influenced me, and this really was so, for had things been smooth at the home I should not have entertained absconding from the old ship for a moment. Jemmy then assisted me to get my clothing, sextant and books ashore and deposited with a resident in the port whom I considered trustworthy. I received some money from Captain Mitchell by post, and one Sunday morning putting on a tweed suit to less sailor-like than the blue uniform generally worn by the merchant seamen at that time, I paid two shillings for a passage to the city by one of the tandem carts which, before the railway was build, was the only public conveyance over the seven miles between the port and the city of Adelaide. Arriving in the city at noon I had a good meal at a restaurant and started at once to take the first road which led out of the town, and before dark I was quite in the country, and I entered the first bit of thick scrub and sitting at the foot of a large tree, I camped for the night. I had no luggage but my pocket handkerchief and (141) tying this over my face and putting my hands in my pockets, I did my best to dodge the mosquitoes until midnight, when a short thunderstorm with a heavy shower which drenched me to the skin occurred. I remained in the scrub with my clothes spread out to dry a bit until about 8 a.m. and then took to a track with Mount Lefty ahead, and presently, I saw a man following with a carpenter’s basked of tools on his shoulders. I slowed down until he came up, and with a good morning he asked “are you going to Glen Osborn?” I replied in the affirmative (it was the first time I had heard of such a place), and I asked him if there was a lodging house or hotel there. He said “no, but there’s a little store”, and he asked looking at my London cut tweed suit, “you don’t want work I suppose? I am a carpenter and I want a labourer?” The result being that at the end of a five mile tramp, I started as assisting to lay flooring boards in a new cottage at eight shillings a day. At night we slept in the cottage which he was building for a German named Starkey who kept a little store where we purchased our tucker and a bottle of beer too, if we were discreet with it. There were only two or three cottages, but many bullock teams passed. After a day or two during which I had become quite expert and useful to my carpenter, Starkey wanted me to dig up some garden ground at the rear of the cottage, and the carpenter said I had better go, so I started digging at one shilling per rod, and I found I had to work very hard to make eight shilling per day. The unusual work affected my back so much that it was torture for a while when starting in the morning, and I was glad when Starkey came and told me I wasn’t keeping my trench clear or going deep enough, and knew almost as much about digging as his cow. I told him I quite agreed with him and started helping my carpenter again. I continued with him for a fortnight longer and was very anxious to know if the ship had sailed. I was saving nearly all the money I earned as the carpenter found the tucker for both. At last Starkey received a newspaper from town which he lent us and in it the ship’s clearance was reported, and my face must have reflected the pleasure I felt, for my carpenter, to my astonishment, asked “has your ship gone?” and before I had time to reply he said, “Oh, I knew you were a runnaway sailor before you had been with me (142) a day 0 they’re always handy coves.” So I made a clean breast of it. He was a real good straight chap and I had taken to him mightly.
Next day I collected the money due to me and buying a blue serge shirt, a felt hat with a girdle and tassel, and a pair of moleskin pants from Starkey, discarding those I had been working in, made up a swag of my tweeds, a towel and some brushes, took leave of my carpenter and started for Adelaide. I slept at a Temperance Hotel in Hindly Street and went to the port in a port cart, where, after making sure the ship had sailed, I took a steerage passage for Melbourne in the SS Burra Burra. I did not go to the people with whom I had left my clothes before leaving, concluding it would be more discreet to sent for them from Melbourne and as I afterwards learned there was a reward of 20 pound for my detention, and instructions left to send me to London by another ship, I felt I had acted discreetly.
On arriving the Burra Burra moored at Sandridge Jetty and I at once proceeded to Melbourne by cab, and discharging it at Flinders Street, I made my way towards the shipping lying alongside the Yarra banks; and it was not long before I stood alongside the brig Maud. I recongnised her at once as a country wallah (i.e. a vessel built in India) round in bows and sides, coir lower rigging – a good sea boat but slow – was the opinion I formed of her. There was only one man visible on board of her and after waiting awhile I accosted this man who said Captain Mitchell was on shore, but would be on board at noon. I made up my mind I’d wait in the vicinity. I did not fall in love with the brig. It was past midday when I saw Captain Mitchell coming towards me and nothing could have been more assuring that his manner of meeting me. We went straight to Scott’s Hotel and had an appetising lunch and then went towards the brig. On the way, in reply to his query of what I thought of her, I replied that “I had not been on board of her, but I should say that she was slow and sure, judging by her lines.” He seemed quite nettled and said, “You’ll alter your opinion later”. Going on board we went below and I was agreeably surprised at the commodious and handsomely fitted cabins, which were pannelled in polished (143) mahogany and teak with moldings. There were four nice comfortable state rooms, opening into the cabins fitted with lavatories, lounges and everything necessary to comfort found generally in vessels of much heavier tonnage.
In the South Sea Island trade it was not expected at any time to have the opportunity to fill the ship with cargo and it therefore admitted of good space for cabin and personal accommodation for both officers and crew. There were four arm racks but with the exception of a couple of fowling pieces and as many swords and horse pistols, they were not filled. I remarked that at some time she must have had a large armory. To which the Captain replied, “Yes, and will again before leaving our repairing port.”
The crew with the excepting of the cook (a West Indian), were paid off as soon as the cargo had been discharged. After a short stay on board, we went to Scott’s Hotel and dined, and afterwards Captain Mitchell told me in detail what his future projects were. I was to sail with him as mate and navigator, and when I expressed doubt as to whether my youthful appearance would not raise a difficulty at the shipping office, he replied that he had already arranged that matter, which he had foreseen.
The next day we both took up our quarters on board the brig, and during the day three Swedes and nine coloured men as seamen and a new chum Scotchman as 2nd mate and carpenter were shipped and same on board, as also a Cingalese steward. In the days that followed I was fully occupied in overhauling the brig from Kelson to trucks, and noting the capabilities of the crew, I formed a good opinion of the 2nd mate and carpenter, and two of the Swedes. The third seemed morose and sulky, and, I thought, would make trouble. The calashes were as good and cheerful as they invariably are if treated fairly and the climate warm.
We received a number of cases of stores for South Sea Island trade, and fifty stand of arms viz. fifty muskets, horse pistols and cutlasses. The muskets were flintlock tower weapons which Captain Mitchell had purchased and had had altered to percussion locks. He shipped as ordinary seamen two young Englishmen, who although not (144) seamen were fine upstanding pleasant-looking chaps, and would be useful in the Island trade.
One day I went with Captain Mitchell to the shipping office and signed articles as chief mate; no questions being asked by the shipping master. The next day we next day we left the Yarra in charge of a pilot and in tow of a little tug, and was taken to sea. The brig being cleared at the customs for Guam, as was then the custom with ships seeking charter, and their next port undecided. Dropping out pilot out side the rip, we squared away to the westward before a fresh E.S.E. wind. We took sights for the chronometers off Cape Otway and later off Cape Northumberland and Leuwin and then left the land. Until we reached the Equator Captain Mitchell had not come to any conclusion regarding our port of destination, Cochin or Bombay, for the brig’s new topsides and necessary repairs.
We had every reason to be satisfied with the crew until one day when near the Equator, the Swede I have before said I expected trouble with (and was really a German), came aft with the other two Swedes and complained of a nuisance arising from the proximity of the berthing of the coloured men of the crew. It was my watch below and from my cabin, I heard the Captain say very quietly, that as the calashes were domiciled on one side of the forecastle, the Europeans in the other, he did not see any ground for complaint. The man then became abusive, and his manner threatening, but the other two Swedes did not say a word. The captain, not wishing the coloured men to hear what the man was saying, told him to follow him into the cabin and he would talk it over with them. In the cabin further talk took place and the man, evidently mistaking the captain’s quiet manner for fear, commenced bullying and using bad language. When Captain Mitchell got up from his chair and said quietly – “get out of my cabin” – the man shouted “You’re a ----------- pirate and I have known it all along and so has that dam fool of a boy you have got for a mate. The ship’s half full of firearms and I’ll denounce you in Bombay.” Turning to the little arm rack, he took a horse pistol from it and said, “I will take this for my own protection.” He turned to go up the companion. I instantly drew the door of my berth (145) back and pointing my pistol (unloaded) at him I said. “That pistol is empty. Lay it down or I’ll drill a hole in you!” (I had read of this threat in Fenmore Cooper). “Don’t shoot!” exclaimed the Captain. “He’ll lay it down.” With an ugly scowl the fellow said “Take you ----- pistol.” He threw it down on the cabin deck and to my intense surprise it exploded as it struck the boards.
“Now clear forward,” said the Captain, calmly, and as the man turned to go up the companion Mitchell gave him a kick on the soft part of his anatomy. As he turned to see what had lifted him, he received the Captain’s two fists on his countenance, and met the two Swedes and the man from the wheel hurrying down to see what the explosion was. It was an incident that Captain and myself deplored much and in the afternoon watch we had the Europeans, two Swedes, two English chaps, Highland carpenter and 2nd Mate aft and questioned them on the matter of the coloured men’s annoyance of them. The Swedes stated that they had been induced by the man (Emil) to accompany him aft without any knowledge of his object. So with the conviction that we had five Europeans loyal, we considered that there was no cause for anxiety. Later Captain Mitchell had Emil aft and told him he intended to prosecute him at the first port for mutinous conduct and attempt to steal firearms, but in such action he, the captain, would be guided by his, Emil’s conduct in the interim.
He gave no further trouble although always sulky and morose and I was anxious for the captain’s safety; but immediately on our arrival at Cochin which port Mitchell ultimately chose for the brigs repairs, he was discharged. Arriving at Cochin we brought in the inner anchorage and discharged all with the exception of three tons of our ballast, and then docked and had a hundred native shipwrights at work and in six weeks we had new topsides, her metal sheathing repaired, decks caulked and was launched and ready for sea, all at a cost of 50% less than what it would have been if done on the Tyne or Thames. Cholera was prevalent in Cochin during our stay, and men were taken from the brigs stages with their tools in their hands to be underground in a few hours later. In the absence of any sanitary precaution and general system of cleanliness and sewerage with the lower cast of Hindoo’s population, what could be expected. The days were fairly pleasant after the sea breeze set in. but the nights were simply steaming. The captain and myself always had a late dinner and slept at a hotel kept by a Portugese man, and according to custom a native girl to fan each of us until we slept. On our cane lounges, the only furniture being a very hard rattan pillow, but anything was preferable to sleeping bathed in perspiration on board. The crew had an easy time while we were repairing, but it was impossible to keep them from going into town, and a few days before we launched the brig, three of the lascars succumbed to the cholera. We kept the brig fumigated with chloride constantly, and all wore bags of camphor. Our Europeans kept healthy all the time, as was the case when I visited the port previously. Before leaving, Emil, the Austrian offered himself for re-employment, and but for my earnest protest Captain Mitchell would have shipped him again. After taking in ballast again and some stores, we made sail from the inner anchorage and left Cochin. After my earlier experience, I was for a few days anxious, fearing Cholera would make its appearance, but in a few days, we anchored in Colombo all well.
Captain Mitchell had business to transact and we remained three days, and took in a great stock of poultry, and a large quantity of rice and other stores which could be purchased here cheaply - especially cotton fabrics of brilliant colours for trade with the south-sea folks, hoop iron, beads, small mirrors and other Birmingham goods had been bought in England. (147)
At Colomba, we shipped nine Singalese, two of whom the captain instructed were to be employed as cabin servants, and until we left Singapore and the vessel actually engaged in the island trade. We had many more hands than was necessary for working the ship. I looked forward with numb pleasure to the passage across the Bay of Bengal and through the Straits of Malacca to Singapore, knowing the Captain with his habitual indolence at sea, would leave the navigation to me, (and I was only a boy). This was the first intimation I had of calling at Singapore, but I was careful to ask no questions having implicit confidence in the Captain’s honesty of purpose and that he had a legitimate reason for not discussing his intention in this connection. I, however, took the precaution of ascertaining if we had the necessary charts, and drew his attention to some of the old Bluebacks that were very old surveys, and he got some of later date.
From Colomba we steered crossing the Bay of Bengal and towards the southern extreme of the Malay Peninsular. It was in the middle of the S.W. Monsoon and we had a deal of rough squally weather. The brig proved a comfortable sea boat and also sailed fast and very weatherly. We had a crew of sixteen lascars, two Swedes, seven cingalese, two English chaps, a Scottish 2nd mate and carpenter, besides the Captain and myself – thirty all told. We kept three watches. One Sunday, we had frequent squalls, none had been heavy but the top gallant sail and royals had been taken in several times during the day. At sundown, a little cloud rose and for a time looked threatening and then seemed to dispel. We kept all sail on the brig, when without further warning wind of hurricane force struck her and laid her over on her beamends, the water being up to the main hatch combings. Before anything could be let go the jibboom carried away at the cap, and the fore top gallant and royal mast went over the side. The wind only lasted a few minutes fortunately, and we quickly got the wreakage of the spars cleared away as we had plenty of hands. When the work was finished, I went below to tell the cabin steward to mix and give the crew a glass of grog, and as I threw the door of the sail-room where they slept back, I saw one of them was a woman. After telling them what to do I returned on deck and remarked to the captain that one of those cingalese has (148) his wife with him! He seemed intensely amused and replied, “Oh! They are both women and I have been expecting you to make the discovery every day since we left Colombo. I was anxious to oblige Mr. ------ by taking the girls to Singapore to his family, but with the mixed crowd we have forward I stipulated they should live in the cabin and dress as men, and hold no converse with the crew.” I had named one boy Susie from the first, recognising the feminine cast of the features, but without the slightest suspicion of sex. They were both pleasant looking people and clean capable servants, and their constant attention made us very comfortable aft, and they never attempted to go forward or converse with the crew.
By the time we made the land of the Malay Peninsular, (I made an excellent landfall), we had a new jibboom and fore-topgallant-mast in place of the spare we lost in the Bay of Bengal. We had also got up from the hold six brass carronades and secured their standards to the main rail, two on each side, and two on the taffrail. They had originally belonged to Sir Phillip Brooks’ yacht and were very handsome little guns, carrying a four-pound shot, and we had plenty of grape cartridges to fit them. We had on the main deck four old guns on wooden carriages of the period. These were six pounders and in addition plenty of Tower flint-lock (but converted to percussion) muskets besides horse pistols and cutlasses.
We had entered the Straits of Malacca and were about fifty miles south-west of Penang, and at early morning there were three junks in sight ahead apparently bound through the Straits like ourselves. I had been telling the Captain about our affray with the Malay proa in the Timor Sea and he hauled the brig up a bit to pass well clear of the junks ahead, but it was quickly evident they were steering to keep directly ahead of us. Captain Mitchell at first would not entertain that their intentions were hostile, but let me put the two port and two taff-rail carronades in their swivels and load them and some muskets. There was a fresh wind in the starboard quarter, and we were doing about nine knots, while the junks apparently not more than six. We steered to pass the westermost one on our port side, but the three of them close together were steering to cross (149) our bows. As we kept hauling up to pass clear of them when presently a round cloud of yellow smoke and a report issued from the side of the middle junk, and a shot of some kind plumped into the water near us. Quickly after, another from the junk near us and right ahead of us. “Couldn’t hit a farm yard,” said Captain Mitchell and then, “Lee braces! Brace sharp up!”, then to the helmsman “By the wind! Keep good full!” and the brig shot across the junk’s bows as though she were anchored and as we passed her the Captain fired the two port carronades, but I think both shots missed her and the distance was too great for our smooth bore muskets. Having passed them we kept away on our course again as though they were not there, and as the Captain remarked with our speed, we could have maneuvered and beaten the three of them but we were not out for fighting. Doubtless, the junk people would estimate our crew at most at ten persons, which would be correct if the brig had not been intended for South Sea trading. Late in the evening we were ‘brought to’ by a Dutch patrol schooner carrying a long fun amidships. She lowered a boat and an officer boarded and examined our papers, but left hurriedly on hearing about the junks.
We arrived at Singapore without any further excitement. We anchored on the eastern side of the Harbour, outside the shipping but just inside the inner bank, and here we took in fresh water and a quantity of firewood for smoking Beche-de-mer later. Here we also landed our pleasant cingalese servants. They had made things very comfortable for us in the cabin by their constant attention to our table detail and washing and mending, and they cried bitterly when leaving us. We, however, gave them presents as a solatiune. I thought their sex had not been suspected by any of our people, but when the scotch carpenter was told to get the windlass ready for leaving he asked, “Are the brown lasses nae coming on board?” adding, “A man they were braw – were they no sae brown.” (150)
Leaving Singapore, Captain Mitchell took the track through the Timor Sea between Goode Island and North Torres Reef, as he was desirous of leaving despatches at Booby Island, and I may remark that I had lately been seized of the fact that he was a wealthy man and that the voyage we were undertaking was more to satisfy his crave for enterprise than for any profit commercially.
We had beautiful weather all through the Arafura Sea and Timor Seas and hove to off Booby Island on the ------- day from Singapore. The Captain landed and left our letters as well as a good lot of stores of all descriptions. I could not leave the ship but I asked the Captain to turn back the Log Book in the cave till he found the entry made by Captain Smith in the Duke of Wellington when I was an apprentice, and this he did and noted that most of the subsequent entries were of Dutch Ships.
Leaving Booby Island we carried a fresh wind past Wednesday and Thursday Islands and anchored under Bet Island (one of the three sisters) a lettle after sundown. I had carried on the navigation from Singapore to this anchorage. Directly the canvas was fast and the anchor watch (a double one) set, fishing lines were over the side and a fine lot of fish of many varieties were soon flapping on the deck. We had parrot fish for supper after which Captain Mitchell informed me that he intended visiting the Murray and Darnley Islands. I suggested that while the weather was favourable we should get clear of the Straits by Bramble Cay route – but he remarked, “There is plenty of time”. The next morning we got underweigh and the Captain from the fore topsail yard took the brig through the imperfectly delineated coral reefs as the charts of that time showed them, in a masterly manner and anchored her snugly under Maer Island of the Murray Group about sundown. Three canoes and some natives, who appeared friendly disposed, came aft and held up fish, but we indicated by gestures that they should return on shore and come off when the sun rose. We kept sea watch all night, knowing the natives were not to be trusted; but we had a quiet night and the people caught plenty of fish. After an early breakfast the next morning the captain taking a double crew well armed went ashore in the gig taking some trade with him, while (151) I remained on board with the guns loaded and trained on the island. He returned later with the boat half laden with sweet potatoes, three turtles, some turtle shell and several bivalves of the pearl oyster of both golden and blue lipped variety. The captain seemed supremely pleased with three mumified drieds and evil smelling niggers which their relatives had sold for turkey red and tobacco. Also some masks cunningly fabricated of turtle and pearl shell, and ornamented with the skin of the flying fox. In most instances they were the most hideous caricatures of the human face, and pigs and flying fox heads the imagination could conjure up, and at corroborees natives, when painted up and wearing these masks in the gloom of a dark night, partially illuminated by a circle of small fires, their swiftly moving and gesticulating forms make a scene that one can only imagine taken from Dante’s inferno. Some canoes same off later to the brig and although we gave them some tobacco and small articles, we did not allow them to come on board. From Maer we got underway for Darnley Island, the Captain again conning and working the brig through the reefs from the fore topsail yard, and these last day’s work since leaving our anchorage under Bet Island was my first initiation in navigating among unsurveyed or imperfectly surveyed coral areas, and in which in after years I should become so familiar with. The sun had dipped when the anchor ran down under Darnley Island, and as at the Murrays, the natives came off in their capable canoes, with a broad platform across their gunwales and a sail and outriggers, but we parried these off until morning. During the night our cable swept under a coral rock and on the making tide we had to pay out cable or it would have parted. Before the Captain went on shore in the morning we hove in until the cable was vertical and could purchase no more. There were several canoes round the brig and the natives evidently understood what the trouble was, and about a dozen of them dived from their canoes, and after staying down so long that I was apprehensive they were not coming up again, they reappeared spluttering the water out of their mouths and motioning with their hands for us to slacken away cable. This being done down they went again, and presently came up all laughing (152) and chattering and scrambling into their canoe beckoned to us to heave up and we found the cable was clear. Of course, we amply rewarded them with trade articles. The captain landed as at Mair armed, and returned bringing another mumified nigger, two little red pigs and a number of coconuts. The captain was much elated at getting the dried niggers and he now informed me that it was the hope of getting these that induced him to follow the Torres Straits route from Singapore. The next day we passed out of Torres Straits by Bligh’s Channel taking our departure from Bramble Cay, and from thence set a course for New Caledonia. But a few days later Captain Mitchell changed his mind and we steered for the New Georgia Islands off the Solomon Group approximately 1000 miles from Bramble Cay. We had some adverse weather and we were some seventeen days before sighting the island. We worked amongst the Solomons for some two months, but although we obtained a lot of sandlewood and some turtle shell the quantity was not satisfactory. There was plenty of wood and Beche-de-mer to have been got but the natives on all the islands were treacherous and all trading was done at great risk. Theft and murder were first principles with them and I was extremely anxious for the safety of the captain, who, with no previous knowledge of the ways of these savages was careless of his own and his boat crew’s lives. Yet although he did not like the boating work he would not let me undertake it. We gave Solomons best and sailed for the Loyalties. We wanted an island where we could erect a smokehouse for Beche-de-mer and cure it with some degree of safety.
At the Loyalties we did better, but the natives were bloodthirsty cannibals and would steal the eye out of one’s head. We, however, started a smokehouse on a little atoll near the Brittania Islands, but we had to boat the wood for the fires nearly two miles and it was difficult to get the wood cut by the natives as, after working for a few hours, they would clear out with the axes. However they worked better getting fish (beche-de-mer) for us for which we paid them well, but we had also to pay two chiefs to allow them to work for us. It was very wearying work for the captain and the shore gang for they had to be constantly watching the natives. They were always pilfering. One day an American whaler anchored near us. She proved to be the Martha Casey of New Bedford, Captain Rogers, twenty-two months out with 1700 barrels being nearly a full ship was homeward bound after she had called at Tahita. We of course fraternised and gave them the latest European news we had from Singapore and Captain Mitchell, when the whaling captain left us after a social evening, said that he would like to embrace the opportunity of taking a passage to Tahita by the whaler and I would remain and finish the voyage in command of the brig. He said he would be able to return (154) in one of the many Tahitian schooners which were in the Island trade after he had concluded his business. I was at first much elated at the idea of being in command, but later I pointed out that if a French or English Man-o’-war inspected the brig’s papers and not finding my name endorces as master on the Register, might put an officer on board and carry her to Tahiti or other port and so ruin the voyage. Then I had no master’s certificate to produce and I had personally a very boyish appearance.
When next evening Captain Rogers came on board he was taken into consultation and he offered about sixty tons of space in his ship to Tahiuti. This would accommodate all the Sandlewood, Pearl Shell, Ginger Turtle Shell and Beche-de-mer we had on board the brig and not least though last, the mummified niggers. This was a very tempting offer to Captain Mitchell, for if he went, besides transacting his other business, it would give him the opportunity of realising on the Sandlewood and other stuff he had gathered while at Tahiti or ship it to the Hong Kong market from thence, and I was the only difficulty. Captain Rogers said his chief officer would gladly take command of the brig if Captain Mitchell approved. The captain did not want this, nor did I and , rather than serve under a stranger I agreed to take charge . A document was drawn up and witnessed by Captain Rogers and his mates and another witnessed by all the Europeans in our crew. Then Captain Mitchell calling all hands aft gave them formal notice that I was master of the brig and at my request appointed one of the two young Englishmen that were shipped in Melbourne as mate, and a very smart loyal chap he proved to be. We then warped the brig alongside the whaleship and put all our stuff into her. We also shipped three of her hands that were desirous of staying in the island trade and the whaler being a full ship had many more hands than she required.
My agreement with Captain Mitchell was to continue trading amongst certain specified groups for six months and if at the expiration of that time, I did not receive definite orders otherwise, I was at liberty to proceed to Tahiti or Hong Kong, or continue (155) trading until my trade was exhausted and then proceed to the latter port and put the cargo in the hands of Jardine, Calley & Co. his agents.
Captain Mitchell passed the evening with me on board the brig and then, as the whaler was leaving at dawn if there be wind, I put him on board her at midnight. I felt parting with him very acutely, but I was surprised at the emotion he exhibited. His parting words were, “don’t worry if you are not successful, I know you will do your best. Do it discretely and don’t risk your own or the lives of your crew for remember if you do you are risking the whole adventure.” I had no answer for him, but I wished I were his son that I could have been more demonstrative of the affectionate regard I held him in and in all our close companionship his daughter Dora’s name had never transpired. Doubtless I was much attached to Captain Mitchell. I was also much impressed with the responsibility which I could not help feeling. I was also too young and inexperienced to entertain successfully. The Martha Carey sailed and we dipped sails in final leave taking. A profound depression seemed to overwhelm me. I allowed the rest of the day to pass inactive, but in the evening, I had an interesting conversation with the young man Mathers whom I had taken as mate. He was my senior by two years. He gave me in confidence all his antecedents and also assured me of his gratitude and loyality and on my side, I promised that if his promises were verified by his conduct, I would teach him practical navigation. Indeed he had little to learn from me, for later I learned he knew much more of mathematics, especially geometry, than I did. I rose the morning after the captain left us feeling very fit. Manning two boats, the men being well armed and leaving Mathers in charge of the brig, I landed, but kept one boat afloat all the time. The natives were friendly and I made an arrangement with an old chief or King who seemed to have much influence, to get me ginger and beche-de-mer and I looked round for a suitable place to put up a smoke house for curing the latter. The little curing house I had on board would only accommodate small quantities and the fish spoiled before I could cure it. (156) However there was no suitable place on shore that offered natural conditions favourable for protection from surprise by the natives. Had there been, I intended landing two of the guns from the main deck and then with their small arms the men and myself would have been fairly safe in the case of an attack --- and I may here remark that with all my after dealings with the natives, I found that danger invariably came from their islands or part of an island where the natives became most friendly. As they came to know the white man and they realised first that individually he was not stronger than themselves, that his gun unlike their arms, was not always ready, that after it discharged it had to be refilled and was harmless during that operation, that it sometimes failed to go off and often missed its aim when it did, then there was the eternal trouble with their women. One could hardly have any trade transactions without the men, the chief principally soliciting the prostituting of very young girls for some coveted article of trade. While trading at the Brittanias there was a powerful chief or King who was very friendly and useful to me. One day I went with him all through his village. I took a seaman with me, both of us unarmed, for any attack from their people would surely come from behind and what use would be one shot from a horse pistol? At that time there were no revolvers excepting a six barrelled tool appropiately named ‘pepper pot’ for it was as likely to pepper the firer as the object fired at. At the village I met a white man who had lived on the island for several years and had two very comely native wives. I arranged with this man to take all the ginger the natives could get and clean, for which I was to pay in money and trade on delivery alongside the brig. The man, who said his name was Higgenson, tried hard to make the delivery on the beach but it occurred to me that it might not be allowed to get to the ship after I had paid for it. The majority of the white beach combers on the islands at that time were much more dangerous than the savages over whom they managed to obtain influence in certain matters. Higgenson offered me hospitality in the shape of Hollands Gin although he stated that my (157) brig and the whaler were the only vessels that had called at the island during his domicile.
He also offered me a very pleasant looking native girl who was very desirous of going on board with me for certain articles of trade, but in this we failed to deal. I excused myself on the grounds that I might not return to the island. After a fortnight stay and getting a quantity of turtle shell, ginger and beche-de-mer the latter being of the larger pink teat variety and very fine and for which I had to pay both Higgenson and the King, I left my anchorage and went to another on the N.W. side of the same island. A powerful old chief came on board from a canoe with only three men and two girls besides himself. He was very friendly and told me through dandy that his people wished to trade with the ship and begged my acceptance of the two girls that were in the canoe. I replied that I wanted to trade for sandlewood and turtle shell but had no accommodation for a brace of king’s daughters just then but the old chap got, or pretended to be in a (158) towering rage and as I could not afford to make him an enemy, I agreed to the girls coming on board. When they came on the quarter deck both of them were laughing and showing their white teeth and rolling their eyes rougishly. Utterly innocent of lingerie, they came to me touching me and saying “alika,alika.” I asked Mathers to take them away and give them some turkey-red for petticoats but although they were in great glee while Mathers tied it round their waists, a few minutes afterwards they came laughing and dancing round where I was, with Dandy’s assistance making trade with the king, with the turkey-red round their heads but not a shred on their bodies. On these islands as a rule, women and girls after they reach puberty, wear a kind of fringed girdle round their waists which extends to their thighs.
The two girls, Betty and Suzie as we named them, were the happiest creatures under the sun, always laughing and rollicking and withal as vain as women can be. They would sit on the deck or perch on the companion or skylight with a little trade mirror, thrusting a twelve inch fish bone through the cartilage of their noses, hanging shells from the lobes of their ears, tying strips of turkey-red and trade calico round their arms and legs, look at themselves in the mirror and then at each other and then burst into peels of laughter in utter abandon. Nothing in the wide world to look back on with regret. Nothing in the future for apprehension. Their always approaching joy whilst on board the brig, the coming meal. In form they were as perfect as Venus and of vice as innocent as Eve before the serpent bamboozelled her.After a meal of which they would eat to repletion, they would lay on the deck transom and sleep and the intimation one would getof their awakening would be a splash quickly followed by a second and they would desport themselves in the sea alongside the brig for a time but never attempt to swim towards the shore. Nor if the natives came on board would they accost or hold intercourse or converse with them. It was amazing how quickly they picked up the meaning of the English spoken by the lascar members of the crew and they (159) soon learned to speak a kind of pigeon which made them of great value to me in trading with the various islands of the groups when Dandy would be utterly at fault. When in a few days after the girl’s advent on board, I was getting underweigh to go to Ascention, the old chief (to oblige whom I took the girls) came on board with a farewell present of a little red pig and some green coconuts for which I gave him double the value in tobacco, pipes and matches etc. and which he received with much condescension and passed to his people in the canoes alongside. I wanted to get away but he showed no sign of going, so I got Dandy to tell him I was going away but he laughed and said he wanted paying for the girls again. As I had paid for them when they came and I certainly did not want them then, His claim irritated me and I told him they should go ashore with him. As soon as Dandy told him this he shouted to the girls and they came crying and howling and clinging round me, while I repulsed them and ordered them over the side into the canoe. But they would not go near the gangway. The King then told Dandy that if I took them away he would not require payment for them till I returned to the island. I agreed to this, for I could see that they would be very useful in bargaining with the people of the group in case Dandy who was a pleasant island boy failed to understand. For it was amazing how quickly they grasped what was wanted. So I told Mathers to set the square canvas and lay the yards abox. Dandy told Betty and Suzie that the crisis had passed and they had already fixed themselves on the after transom with their little mirrors and were what Mathers called bedevilling themselves. As I intended returning to the island I was desirous of leaving the King in an amiable mood so while the mate was setting the square canvas, I took the King below and gave him a present of some trade articles which seemed to please him very much and on returning on deck I told dandy to get him away, when to my disgust he again said he wanted payment for the girls. “Tell him I’ll throw the girls overboard and send a gun after him if he doesn’t go,”I told dandy and calling for a man to the helm, I told Mathers to “heave away,” and beyond seeing the canoe

(162) should reach the brig well ahead and did not show a musket and I was certain Mathers had watched us closely and would have his carronades in readiness. We got alongside and the boats pulled up in the davits but about a score of natives were getting close to the brig and just then seven big war canoes full of men came round a point of the island about a quarter of a mile away. Seeing this I told five of my men to point their muskets at the men in the water but not to fire unless I gave the word. Unfortunately one man’s musket was fired by accident and this drew fire from the other four. I did not at the time, or since, think anyone was hit. I deplored the accident as I did not wish to be the first aggressor. The swimmers turned and were picked up by the approaching canoe who were paddling directly for the brig. I got a spring on the cable and the two main deck guns brought to bear on them and when they were about one hundred yards distant, I told Dandy to warn them off. I also wanted Betty and Suzie to call to them but Mathers said he thought they must have swum ashore as he had failed to find them all the morning, although he had had a search made. He was of the opinion that they had taken a message from the old King at Brittania and hence the hostilities. The canoes continued to approach and were dividing, evidently to attack on both sides and although very loath I had to make up my mind very quickly. To fire over their heads would simply mean loss of prestige and they would come on more confidently, so I laid one of the main deck guns and one of the canoes was apparently knocked in pieces. The others stopped paddling and then turned for the beach yelling, brandishing their clubs and calling out as usual with them under similar circumstances, that they would come back and take the ship and eat us. It was no use remaining here for trading, so when the wind came away I got underweigh and went to sea feeling very sorry to leave Betty and Suzie, just as they were likely to be of use as interpreters. As we rounded the southern point of the island a whaling barque came in sight. The wind was light and we both hove to. Her boat came bringing her master Captain George P. Simes, the barque being the ‘Maria J. Rogers’ of New Bedford, seven months out with three hundred and seventy-four barrels. She was going to the island for fresh water (163) but hearing of my experience, he hauled his wind for the Isle of Pines. My English papers were later than his.
I now set course for Ascension. It is not my intention to follow my sixteen month trading experience amongst these islands but I must admit those months were congested with the adventures and episodes through which a constant vein of risk and personal danger from the natives and of stranding or wreck of the brig ran, the detailed narrative of which in my early boyhood would have held me enthralled. We recognised while engaged in the island trade in those days that we carried our lives in our palms while on a beach, even on the most apparently friendly islands, but one received an unexpected shock when going through the water perhaps seven or eight knots over ground on which a Blue Black or Admiralty chart showed fifty or a hundred fathoms water and casually looking over the side in the bright sunshine one saw huge coral and black rocks with only a few inches of water between the ship’s bottom and absolute destruction and how often this was experienced, the elaborate surveys of today leave it hard for me to realise, or the Navigators of the present time to believe or credit.
I will however, before closing with my island experiences relate one or two of my narrower escapes from tragedy which, if obtained would have ended in massacre of the whole of us and the destruction of the brig, the only mementos of which would have been a few blackened futtocks and floors on the bottom of one of the lagoons in whose transparent waters we had anchored. For, after the massacre of the crew, the pillage and then the burning of the island trader to the water’s edge would quickly be followed, her bottom sinking to the bottom of the lagoon she was anchored in.
To be engaged in the South Sea Island trade in my youthful days was generally considered to be on the high road to fortune, but although one might be successful in making trade with the various islands it was not necessarily profitable. China markets for both sandlewood and beche-de-mer fluctuated greatly and the produce was very subject to deterioration from damp and mildew, arising from (164) imperfect cooking or smoking.
Very much depended on tact or temperament in dealing with the natives. Some white men are simply invaluable for their ability at all times to conciliate and work amicably with island natives, while others will ruin prospects directly they land. Personally, I was one of the latter, too impulsive and always in a hurry and nigger never valued time and cannot be taught to do so. In dealing with natives I always preferred those islands where the people were least acquainted with white men and their modes. You never knew where you stood when trading at an island where a white man was domiciled or a native or two who like Dandy had been on board ship for a time. Dandy ate with his knife and fork (chiefly knife) and cleaned his head, but if landed on his native island of Pleasant he would on the instant be an original savage with an appetite craving for picking your ribs nicely browned in a stone oven, unimpaired by his temporary knowledge or civilization; but he knew when a musket was fired it was temporarily innocuous and at its best could misfire and miss its objective oftener than did their clubs and spears and could estimate its range fairly.
To return to my log I made a fair passage to Ascension and anchored in Kohan Kitty Harbour in Lat. 6.49 deg. N. and Long. 159.12 deg. East. I found six white men domiciled on the island. The natives appeared friendly. The white men came off to the brig as soon as the anchor was down. I was hospitable to them but wanted none of them. They seemed thunderstruck when I introduced myself as master of the brig, and later, when I had refused all their offers of negotiating with the local King and natives on my behalf and they had imbibed all the rum I had thought it discrete to put before them, they left me with assurances that they would make it alright with the King and chiefs for me. They kept their word, as I discovered when I went amongst the natives they had been told that I had come to take possession of the island for the French, for whom they had the strongest antipathy. However, I reassured the King by giving him a present and paying him well for as much land as I should require for the erection of a smoke house for beche-de-mer and drying ginger. (165)

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(167) natives incited by the whites intended coming at night to kill me and steal my goods and burn my smoke house. I took no notice of this until late in the afternoon when I brought fifteen men on shore from the brig and we kept watch all night. I had half a ton of fish on the platforms about half cured and I was not going to lose this without a fight. However the night passed without incident and to my gratification all the natives returned and went to work on the reef as usual. They said they had been feasting a strange chief who had come from another island. For several days, it being calm, they brought in a good quantity of Teat and red fish and the second mate’s party secured a great lot of ginger and turtle shell and several hundreds of cocoanuts. The white men had not been in evidence often since the murder of the Portuguese and I landed all hands and employed them in cleaning ginger and getting the cured beche-de-mer on board the brig. Later on the natives again left me to feast the King and some chiefs from the other side of the island and this continued for some days. I was desirous of being away from the island before a Man-o’-war visited in case of detention to give evidence on the murder case. I got the guns and other property on board and when the wind came away I went to sea. The fact of my name not appearing on the ship’s register as master by H.M. Customs was a constant source of anxiety to me since Captain Mitchell left me in charge. The day previous to my leaving Ascension the whaling barque Samuel and Eliza of New Bedford from Woapoa seven weeks out with three hundred and fifty barrels arrived and her captain assured me that a French Man-o’-war was on her way to take possession of the island.
As I have already said, I cannot follow all my work amongst the islands but will relate one or two incidents the narratives of which were published earlier in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin. Lying at anchor under one of the Loyalty group one morning, I saw a number of war canoes on the beach and a quantity of sandlewood spread out in little heaps and a native came off and beckoned me to come on shore. I had intended to land, so I manned two boats (168) and putting the men’s muskets and cutlasses into them with some trade, I landed. The King met me at the beach and took me to the talking house inside a bamboo stockade or native fort, within which there were a number of little heaps of coconuts and yams and two little pigs and fifty or sixty natives amongst whom were several chiefs all sitting on the ground. I was given to understand the pigs etc. were a present from the chiefs of the island. I had one boat’s crew with me like myself unarmed and there was no appearance of any arms amongst the natives. We sat with the King opposite the natives. The chief presently commenced to make speeches and appeared to be much excited and I felt very uncomfortable and wished I was on board behind the carronades. They presently began to interrupt each other and apparently quarrel, then the King got up and they were silent. The King seemed in a great rage and after talking very emphatically for some time he took me by the hand and we went to the beach – my boat’s crew following. He had the coconuts, yams and pigs put into my boat and then ordered me off to the brig and made me understand I was not to land again until he had sent for me. Dandy found out later that the chiefs had conspired to get me on the shore murder me and take the brig. (169) If it was to be avoided, it depended on us getting the boat into the water at once. By gestures I tried to induce them to drag the boat to the water, but they took no notice, but kept calling to the other natives who were standing on the edge of the jungle interrogatively I thought, but Dandy was in the other boat. I quietly told my men to get the boat afloat if the natives let her go, keep close in and four of them to stand by with the muskets while two lay on their oars ready to pull off if I got to her. Then assuming a complacent manner, I took my pipe from my pocket and as I filled it, I took a few steps from the boat and looking upwards to the sun took out a Burning Glass I always carried and focused it on the tobacco in my pipe. Watching me intently as a little column of smoke arose they let go the boat and crowded around me, apparently amazed. As soon as I had got the pipe in full blast, I shoved the stem into at first one and then another of their mouths and each took a whiff or two and I saw my men had got the boat to the water. I saw also the natives noticed it as well and some of them left me and went to it. I then, to gain time took hold of a fellow’s hand and focused the rays on it until he would snatch it away and kept edging towards the boat, all the time fearing the men would take up their muskets before I got to her, in which case it was certain I would be butchered on the beach. I was convinced from the time we landed that they meant to murder us but were waiting for some chief or king to come.
I was in the water and filling my pipe again and focusing the burning glass when the boat Dandy was in backed in and as I foresaw the natives grabbed hold of her. Just then there was a great calling out from the scrub and nearly all the natives left me and I ran up the long flat beach towards it. I said to Dandy, “tell them we are going for pipes and tobacco and coming back” and then to my crew “pull like……….” And jumped into the stern sheets. The first stroke pulled the fellows holding on to her off their feet and they let go, otherwise I should have had to make them. Simultaneously with our start for the brig, fifty or sixty bucks came racing down to the water, all armed with clubs and spears yelling like bulls. They took to the water and commenced swimming after us, but I saw we (170) would not allow as, if once alongside they would soon get on the deck and by their numbers so hamper our movements that might overpower us. However, Dandy convinced them that any movement contrary to my orders would bring the guns on them and so one came up alongside the other three remaining some distance off. I kept the men at the swivels with matches ready to fire and the rest drawn up across the quarter deck with their muskets. I stood at one side of the gangway and Dandy and Mathers at the other. I kept a pistol in my hand while they took the sandlewood. I handed beads and hoop iron for each lot. At first they seemed very frightened and suspicious, but they soon got bold and although I kept pointing my pistol at their heads they tried to get on board. During a slight distraction caused by me dropping a piece of hoop iron overboard and two natives diving to recover it, they nearly all got up the side and on deck and by the time I had all their sandlewood there were about twenty natives on the main deck pilfering everything they could lay their hands on and brandishing their clubs, but kept from further aggressive action by sight of the men on the quarter deck with their muskets and bayonets.
Neither Dandy’s threats nor my gestures would make them return to their canoes, so I ordered the men to charge them with their muskets and bayonets but not to fire or too seriously prod them. The men advanced along the main deck and first the beggars showed fight with their clubs but after a few of them had been wounded, they jumped overboard and cleared off in their canoe. Then another was allowed alongside and so on until I had purchased all their wood. Each lot had to be charged with the bayonets before they could be got off the deck.
They were so eager for plunder that they did not mind light bayonet wounds provided they could steal anything (of course we always kept nearly everything portable below.) We had all their wood and they were paid for every stick, they then paddled off dancing their war dance and commenced slinging stones at us and telling dandy they would come with twenty canoes and take the ship and eat us. Later on a large war canoe with about fifty men got along- (171) side while we were at work and off guard. They came like wild bulls and were on deck before we could stop them. They had a little sandlewood but were not eager to sell it. I got the men as usual across the quarter deck with their guns two deep while I bought their wood and after allowing them to remain on deck for some time I was obliged to drive them overboard with a bayonet charge. They fought hard but had to give way. They seemed determined to take us in spite of several lessons they had had from us; but it is simply marvellous how little they care for, or suffer from flesh wounds and how quickly what I consider quite serious injuries heal with them.
We had to keep strict watch at night for they would certainly board us if we were off guard. A few days after the above incident I sent the launch to a chief place at the head of the bay to trade for sandlewood and after the natives had got all the trade that was in the boat and loading her with wood, they tried to take her as the crew were shoving her afloat, by making a rush and hauling her up the beach, again attempting to club the men. One of them was knocked insensible. Our people had to fire on them in defence of their lives. On another occasion when working at the Loyalties some natives who were very friendly had stolen the glass lid off one of the compasses, the binnacle lamps and the log ship and on the chief coming on board I told him of it and requested him to get them back. The next day he came on board and asked me to go on shore with him. As the vessel was lying close to the beach I went with him, taking two men in the jolly boat. As soon as the boat touched the beach the chief jumped out telling me to stay in the boat until he came back. Some fifty or sixty natives were sitting a short distance from where the boat landed. The chief went up to them club in hand as usual and after a short talk with some of them, he struck one poor beggar on the head and killed him instantly. After giving orders to prepare an oven and cook him, he came down to the boat and went on board the brig with me, bringing the things which had been stolen with him, as apparently as unconcerned as if he had killed a dog. He told me he had killed the (172) chief and hoped I would give him a tomahawk for doing so, although doubtless he was as great a thief as any of his people, but human life was held very cheaply with any of the South Pacific Islanders and a piece of iron hoop or a few beads would purchase the head of any of them.
The natives of Lifou were great thieves and they were constantly at war with each other as well as with the neighbouring islands and invariably ate their prisoners as well as the bodies of their own people who were killed in their internecine fighting. At one time I was at anchor under Yap and trading for sandlewood and the natives, a very treacherous and warlike tribe were very friendly. The chief named Houlah, remained on board one night by his own particular request, but much against my wish, but I wished to keep friendly. I gave him a mat to sleep upon in my cabin, but before turning in I locked the door of the cabin and took the key with me. After a while asleep something woke me and I saw Houlah was up and trying to open the door. Finding he could not he laid down again on the mat. He appeared uneasy and no longer inclined for sleep so I watched him. Every now and again he would get up and try to open the door, all the time he was evidently watching me. At last he came to my side and said “Aliki, Aliki, pago numba merculadu congazee merculada panasadu sapi hae giveeath troami turra da hae nuba chelleda chelleda,” which is chief, chief (or captain) do not you go to sleep …. No good sleep …. By and by all the chiefs Giveeaths war canoes are coming here to fight your ship, get up, get up. I asked him how many canoes were coming and at what time. He replied, “Thabum troanu da hae asahia truminan troaun long abu Macuny Giveeath da Dohn Masheepalua da hae nuba, “ or twelve war canoes full of men are coming tonight and are commanded by Giveeath’s son. They will kill your ship. The first thing I did was to lock the chief Houlah up in the cabin, as it was evident he was in conspiracy and only remained on board as a spy, and when he saw all was quiet would have swum ashore and given the signal; but finding himself locked in with me naturally supposed I would shoot him when the attack was made on the vessel, and he was perfectly correct in such premises. After locking him up I went on deck (173) called all hands and at once got springs on the cable and led them through the port to the after capstan. I then placed the crew so that the two foremost guns should be worked from the forecastle head, the two after guns from the quarter-deck and the remaining two from amidships. While the canoes would be approaching, if they succeeded in boarding us in overpowering numbers the forward and after guns were to be run inboard, the amidship guns left and their crew to get on quarter-deck and forecastle and keep up a fire with their muskets, which, with the fore and aft guns turned in board should clear the main deck. My main anxiety was that we should in all probability injure our boats and the standing rigging. The guns and muskets were all loaded and plenty of cartridges kept at hand. We kept watch and watch and about 2a.m. some lights showed intermittently ahead and a murmur of muffled voices was heard, and I at once commenced slacking away cable and heaving in on our starboard spring until she was broadside on for the beach. Then the men returned to their stations at the guns, expecting an immediate attack. However, they did not attempt it and at daylight there was not a canoe in sight. We learned later from some temporarily friendly natives that eighteen canoes full of natives left the beach in two divisions intending to board us on both sides, thinking we would be asleep, but hearing our cable rattling through the hause pipes they thought we were prepared for them.
We were really sorry they did not attack, for it was a moral certainty that we should have given them a drubbing, which would have probably deterred them from attacking another vessel perhaps less armed. Houlah doubtless passed a bad night and he showed it when I let him up in the morning by leaping over-board and swimming ashore without saying good-bye. Later during the day some natives told Dandy that Giveeath intended to make another attempt to take us that night, so we got everything in readiness before dark. About nine o’clock, the watch reported a large canoe on the port quarter approaching the brig. It was very dark and at first I thought it a false alarm but she was soon plainly visible. The crew were under arms immediately and I asked what they wanted. They replied (174) they were coming on board. I told them to keep off but they still paddled towards us. I had some muskets fired over their heads, but they still came on. Not knowing but there might be others coming behind them, I told Dandy to tell them I was going to fire and ordered Mathers to give them one of the carronades and by the crash it made it must have been well directed, almost simultaneously with the report. A second canoe came in sight and as it passed our starboard quarter, I gave them a second swivel and by their hideous yells they must have got a grueling. I was then very sorry I had let Houlah leave the vessel, as he might have been useful as a hostage. We heard that there were a number of canoes close to us when we fired and that several men were killed and wounded and they became frightened to attack. I will relate one more of our risky experiences, (an account which was published in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin in about 1912.) The island of Leefou or Lifpu is situated in Lat. S and Long. E. It is about fifty miles in length from N. to S. and twenty-five miles in breadth east to west. It has no harbours but it has a large bay with indifferent anchorage at the head of it, at its north west end close to the shore and amongst coral patches on a bottom of coral and sand. It is safe during the south east monsoon, but ships are liable to lose their anchors and they should always be ready for slipping in case of an attack from the natives or the wind coming in. There are no soundings in the bay until you come within say four cables of the shore where there is a coral fringing reef with dangerous coral patches with from ten to fifteen fathoms in clear places where one may anchor. The other coast of this island presents an iron bound shore and perpendicular cliffs, with no soundings within a hundred yards of the breakers. Its structure appears to be mostly petrified coral. It is quite level on its summit and densely wooded. It has two kings who are constantly at war. The natives who are of middle height go completely naked. They subsist on yams, taro, coconuts, bananas, fish and human flesh. There is a coral patch in the mouth of the bay above referred to, three miles off its South Head, (175) otherwise the bay is clear. Lifou may be seen seventeen to twenty miles distant. A dangerous reef lies off the Nor’ west end of the island bearing nor’nor’west eight miles and on this the sea generally breaks. There is a little place on the South east end of Leefou where I anchored, but noone inexperienced in coral waters should attempt it. The passage it leads through is a network of coral rocks that are only discernable from the masthead in the morning when the sun is in the eastward. The anchorage is formed by a small reef which breaks the sea off with the wind from the eastward, but affords no shelter from the nor’east. The place is so small that a vessel has hardly room to swing and must therefore moor. I first attempted to get in with the brig, but although I buoyed all the patches as I thought and had a boat ahead with the lead, I struck on a coral rock just as I was hauling round the end of the reef. I threw the yards aback and she slipped off and wore round, but how I got out again still puzzles me. It was just hard up and hard down --- instead of waiting for the morning I attempted entering with the sun ahead. The natives appeared joyful when we struck and no doubt had we got wrecked they would have eaten us. We afterwards got in safely and moored and several double canoes came off. The natives in them were unarmed and seemed friendly, but frightened to come alongside. I wanted to gain their confidence by kindness and convince them we were friendly that we might trade. After a display of white cloth and some gaudy pocket handkerchiefs on our part and a waving of tapas on theirs, they came alongside and after I had given each of them a piece of hoop iron a few of them came on board, amongst them two chiefs, who, on getting on board asked for the ‘Aliki ‘ and on being introduced to me the presented me with their tapas as a token of friendship which I graciously received and in return gave them some hoop iron and beads and a piece of white calico as a similar token on my part. Seeing no warlike preparations on deck, they soon gained confidence and began coming on deck in considerable numbers each chief presenting me with his tapas and receiving a present from me in return. About five o’clock in the afternoon there were more than a hundred natives on board. The chiefs told their men to sit down on deck (176) and commenced making speeches to them. When they finished I showed them some of my trade and some beche-de-mer and tried to make them understand I wanted them to get me plenty of the latter; but they would not admit they understood. The head chief made me sit near him on the quarter-deck and appeared much interested in me, directing the attention of his brother savages to me and kindly patting me on the shoulders every now and then while he was making a speech.
The members of the crew he also pointed to occasionally during his speech, but they appeared to interest them much less than myself. It was getting dusk and time they left the ship, as it was evident to me they were planning to take her. I therefore gave the chief to understand that they must go ashore, but they gave me to understand they would sleep on board. That, of course, I would not entertain, but as my only chance of getting sandalwood and beche-de-mer was by keeping friendly with them I determined not to be the aggressor. I therefore gave the chief some presents and after a great deal of talk they left the ship with the exception of thirteen --- these absolutely refused to leave the ship. I then armed a dozen of the crew with their muskets and bayonets and threatened them, but they flourished their clubs over our heads and became very insolent in their gestures, so I had to charge them but avoided hurting them seriously and at last they jumped overboard and swam ashore.About midnight the natives made fires on the shore abreast of where we were lying, these were answered by others all along the coast from hill to hill before daylight.
The next day, there being no signs of any natives or canoes we commenced getting the chain cables from the lockers and turning them end for end, and I also took the whaler with a well armed crew to sound and find a passage through the reef that I could take the brig through into more sheltered anchorage. In my absence. And the mate (Mr Mathers) with his people being absorbed in the work of the cables a number of natives quite unarmed swam off and were on board before any attempt to stop them could be made and following close on these, four large war canoes got along side and their (177)crew also got on board, so that when I returned there were at least a hundred natives on deck. They had no arms and were friendly and indicated by their gestures and by the little Dandy understood of their language, that they wanted the vessel taken through the reef when they would work and get me sandalwood and beche-de-mer. When I got on board the chief who had been on board the previous day came round me and wanted presents and evidently was trying to divert my attention from other natives who were still swimming off and each had a club and a bundle of spears which they were handing to the natives who were already on board. The four war canoes were lying about forty yards distant on each side of the brig, fully armed with clubs, spears and slings that had swam off. I was very anxious and got our boats pulled up and finished getting the cables in their lockers as quickly as possible. They had brought no trade, and I tried to purchase clubs and spears but they would not part with one. They commenced stealing everything they could lay hands on and passing them over the side they got hold of the iron windlass levers but I gave prompt orders to prevent them passing them over the side and doing this I quite expected would cause a rupture, but with a tact worthy of all praise Mathers got them away, and passed them into the half deck. I was on the quarter deck surrounded by the chiefs and I told the crew to get close to the half deck hatch abaft the main mast. We were all unarmed as I had made my boat’s crew leave their arms in the boat, now in the davits, as I did not wish to make the natives suspicious. I saw our only chance of saving our lives and ship was by getting down into the cabin where the arms were. I had much difficulty in restraining the men who thoroughly realised our danger, from rushing down, in which case the chief would have clubbed me immediately. I felt they had the ship and us except by a miracle, but I knew they were delaying the attack until more war canoes came. Looking in an opposite direction to Mathers I kept laughing but told him to get the men down to the half deck hatch one or two at a time and arm themselves and wait till I could join them, and to make the natives think I had no suspicion of their intentions, I kept laughing and kept the chiefs in play until I saw all the men were below except Mathers and the second mate. (178) Quietly telling them to go also, I made a step or two in the opposite direction as a blind. The chiefs kept close to me and then I, as if unconsciously, moved towards the hatch. Then pointing to the chief’s tapas I made them understand I would go and get them some cloth. They allowed me to go some steps, but closed round me again and talked with animation amongst themselves. I was now close to the half deck hatch and knowing I had not a moment to lose and my anxiety was so great I could hardly breathe (how vividly it all recurs to me as I write) I suddenly pushed between the chiefs and in a moment was down in the half deck without touching the ladder but unhurt. The natives, seeing I had got out of their clutches, gave a blood curdling yell or war whoop, which I have never forgotten. I found the men all loading muskets and pistols as quickly as they could from their catouche leathers. I at once explained the danger of our position ( although from previous experiences with me I believed they had already grasped it) and the necessity of retaking the ship without loss of time as they would in all probability cut away the masts to get the sails and rigging, and after stripping her of everything would probably set fire to her or so disable her, that although they would not venture to attack us while down below, it would be impossible to get her to sea again and they would be sure to take the boats. It would be impossible for us to escape being murdered and eaten --- Mathers and myself considered we had a chance if we could get a footing on deck while discharging a musket or two and then getting back to back and after firing the muskets to charge with the bayonets but not attempt to reload. I made the men leave their cutlasses, for although when a musket is beaten from a man’s hands by a club they were useful, they always hampered one’s movements when not in the hands. Wwe all had heavy horse pistols carrying a three quarter inch ball. These would be dropped after being fired. We rushed up the half deck ladder. We could only get two abreast, but the firing of the first two muskets cleared a footing. The balls must have passed through the bodies of the first two savages and caused a temporary fall back which enabled us to get up and from back to back as far as surroundings would admit of. The crowd was so great that they had not (179) room to use their clubs effectively before the bayonets were at them. Most of my men were facing and charging forward and for a moment the natives were driven towards the end of the brig, but they quickly turned and faced us fighting with clubs and spears and made a furious rush, and yelling like fiends they tried to strike the bayonets off our muskets with their clubs. But our fellows were very plucky and every now and again a musket would be fired into them from the hip, and if a man’s musket was knocked away he fired his horse pistol. But the bayonet was very effective as indeed we had always found it when clearing the decks. Blood soon made our decks slippery and several of our men were down and being trodden on. The yells of the natives fighting and the screams of those bayoneted with the groans of our poor chaps who were speared or clubbed, doubtless made pandemonium but we never heard it. The quarter deck was cleared of the savages first and one or two of our men remained on it reloading muskets and pistols, and keeping them from boarding canoes. The rest joined the other division in driving the beggars over the bows. Some of them behind the caboose, foremast and windlass were fighting viciously, but we soon drove them into the eyes of her, and they being full of the bayonet jumped overboard and swam to the canoes. At this time four or five savages had got on board over the quarter deck in spite of the three men who had been left to guard the quarter deck, and a seaman named Kimmance, after having his musket and pistol clubbed out of his hands was trying to keep them at bay with his cutlass. They had got him on his knees by a blow from a club, and would have dispatched him but for three men of the forward division rushing to his assistance. Meantime some more natives had got on the quarter deck, and it was very sharp work for a few minutes before we got rid of them with the bayonets. If at this juncture they had returned and boarded us forward or in the waist, we should certainly have lost the ship and we should all have been massacred.
I noticed all through my experiences with the South Sea Islanders that they have taken surprisingly little notice of cutlass wounds, but appear to have a holy horror of the bayonet.
We had now cleared the decks of the natives, and it was of the (180) utmost importance that we should get her to sea as quickly as possible before they became reinforced by canoes full of warriors from the whole coast line of the island. So, after getting our wounded and dead (there were nine badly hurt and a white man and a lascar dead) below and the bodies of the dead savages thrown over the side, we commenced getting the canvas set and the anchor hove short ready to get away --- but it was stock calm. There were canoes full of men between us and the shore and while waiting for the wind we got our big guns loaded and run out, and the least wounded seamen were employed making cartridges for the muskets, for we had expended all we had. Presently the wind came away which took us to sea out of the reach of the treacherous people. The canoes came within two hundred yards of us while we were getting under weigh, but did not come nearer and I was too anxious to get away to train the big guns on them, but we fired two starboard carronades over them and they turned their backs to us and slapped their buttocks with their hands at us in derision. Had they made a rush on us while we were at the windlass getting the anchor and loosing, setting and trimming the sails, they would probably have overpowered us, for not only was it necessary to pay close attention to the ship while getting out through the narrow gateways in the coral, but we were thoroughly exhausted with fighting and anxiety. One thing that told very much in our favour was that of the five chiefs that were on board, four of them were killed or severely wounded when we first gained the deck, and the fifth was hit in the neck by a ball from a horse pistol and when he was dropped into the sea, at first did not attempt to swim, but after coughing up a lot of blood, struck out quite strongly for the canoes. I have no doubt he reached them for it is astonishing with what dreadful wounds these people will swim even long distances. There was another of the chiefs who rushed me with his club and for some cause missed me and the club coming down on the ship’s rail with a great force flew out of his hand and over his head. Being then unarmed and seeing me point my pistol, he rushed forward. I could have shot him, but as his back was towards me I did not. However, he ran right into our men forward and was wounded before (181) he sprang overboard. I have no doubt in my mind that it was the absence of these chiefs that prevented the canoes full of men that were round us from renewing their attack. It was 10a.m. before we were underweigh and the wind continued light and variable so that we did not get clear of the reefs until six in the evening. I was at the masthead all day working the ship with hardly steerage way on her through dangerous coral patches exposed to a burning sun and with the knowledge that if I stuck her, that at low water the natives would simply swarm over us, massacre every man and burn the ship. I was sick and exhausted when I came down from aloft but very thankful for our almost miraculous escape.
After getting clear of the reefs I shaped a course for the Isle of Pines to get our water supply filled up and where I expected the natives to be friendly. I remained at the Isle of Pines till I could get no more trade from the natives who were friendly thoughout, and we filled up our water supply. I got a good deal of turtle shell while at this island, and some very fine specimens of the Golden or Orange Cowry. Our stay was a pleasant one throughout. Among the natives I saw some very fine specimens of both sexes of the Genus Homo, and generally found them more intelligent than the natives of the neighbouring groups.

We next sailed for the Brittanias to pick up anything that the white man Higgensen might have collected for me and then to proceed direct to Hong Kong or Tahiti, for I was craving for a glimpse of civilization and my enthusiasm for the South Seas which earlier had enthralled me was sated in great measure, and the responsibility and continuous anxiety was acting in a deleterious way on my nervous system. Looking backwards through the mists of sixty years I recognise I was “too young for the job”. We made a smart run and anchored at Brittania Island just where we lay when Captain Mitchell left us in the whaler. It was sun down when we “came to” and no canoes came off from the shore, nor could we see any signs of life on the little beach. I was not sanguine of finding the people friendly, or of the white man Higgensen having to any extent kept his agreement in getting beche-de-mer and ginger for me. A strict (182) watch was kept during the night, but we were not disturbed, but soon after daylight next morning a canoe came alongside quite confidently with the old king, Higgensen, Betty and Suzie and some natives. The king was gushingly friendly and gave me his tappa and the girls after hanging around me with the “Aliki! Aliki! Good good” just roosted on the companion and commenced cajoling Mathers for Turkey red and mirrors as if they had never left the brig. According to the king there was plenty of everything waiting for my acceptance on shore, but what ever I took I was quite sure I would have to pay the fraudulent old savage as well as the natives that the stuff belonged to. However, I gave him a present and then entertained Higgensen hospitably, and from him I was pleased to hear that he had a good quantity of beche-de-mer and ginger for which he wanted payment in tobacco, flour and rum. The latter I could not give him but he agreed to take Kummul (after sampling it). I had a quantity which Captain Mitchell purchased in bond with all faults at auction in Melbourne.
I got these people away as soon as I could and then armed and manned two boats, intending to take all precaution against treachery for I was quite sure both the white man and the king were capable of the deepest. Leaving Mathers in charge as usual I landed keeping one boat afloat. There were but few natives, and half of these were women, so I knew there was no immediate need for apprehension. I examined the beche-de-mer and found it all cured as well as the ginger which was dry and good. I made arrangements for getting the lot on board at once before more natives came along; but would only pay for each lot as it came over the rail, or for all in one transaction when it was on board, and this latter was accepted by Higgensen.
Our boats brought all the stuff on board in a few hours and meantime, I sent Mathers with the dingy and four lascar seamen to purchase yams, cocoanuts and pigs and he successfully accomplished this, and then everything being on board and everyone being paid, we were by evening ready for sea. But although I had quite made up my mind that I had finished the enterprise so far as trading went, I was leaving it until at sea to decide whether Hong Kong or Tahiti should be the next port. I intended, if there was wind (183) to make a start at daybreak, but man proposes and God disposes and about 2 a.m. the watch reported a vessel was in sight in the offing and at daylight there was a brigantine standing in towards the anchorage. The wind was very light and it was midday before she came to where we were lying with sails loosed waiting to see what we could obtain from her before we sailed. Both Mathers and myself were watching her through the binoculars but we could not see a familiar face among those on her deck. As she swung to her anchor we read on her stern, Sydney. I had the dingy lowered and went alongside her, and as I got over her rail I saw two hands held out in front of me. I could not have had a greater or happier surprise than when after some hesitation I recognised that the clean shaven lean face over there was that of Captain Mitchell who, when I last took leave of him on board the whaler ‘ Martha Carey’ had a very hirsute physiogamy. The pleasure and thankfulness I felt at our meeting I saw was reciprocated by the captain. After he had introduced me to the master of the schooner and we had chin chinned over a bottle of Bass, I sent orders to Mathers to furl the brig’s sail and veer away cable again. I cannot now remember the name of the brigantine, but many years later she was wrecked on the beach at Townsville while in the command of the late Captain Winthrop Ellis, afterwards commodore of the E&A Company service.
Captain Mitchell had taken passage in her from Tahiti, with a forlorn hope of finding me at the Brittanias where we had arranged I should be in August, but from Tahiti, where he had left the Martha Carey, he later went to Hong Kong where he stayed longer than he had planned and it being now November, he had almost despaired of finding me still in the South Pacific. Had I not been he had no alternative to remaining on the schooner until opportunity offered for getting to some port. I was intensely relieved, for I was as I have said previously, quite sated of the island trade, and my anxiety fearing to be boarded by either an English or French man-o‘war while my name as master was not endorsed on the ship’s register would very probably have resulted in an officer being put in command and the brig taken to the nearest English port while I should be (184) under arrest and probably imprisoned until I could prove the conditions under which I held command. Since the fracas with the natives this anxiety was intensified. Traders at the time I am writing of suffered from some very high handed and arbitrary treatment from the cruisers in the South Seas. The next day Captain Mitchell’s traps being transferred to the brig, he came on board himself, and as soon as I could make opportunity I approached the subject of my future movements, and then I told him that I wished to be relieved of my command and take the first opportunity of getting to some Australian or New Zealand port. He took it very badly. I told him my nervous system had suffered – that I was too young for the responsibility that had constantly been on my shoulders during his absence—that my natural temperament unfitted me for dealing successfully with the natives, although I was gratified to be able to tell him that I had been financially successful in trading during his absence. He made every effort to get me to remain and offered me very generous terms, saying that he would personally do all the transactions with the natives and other shore work as indeed he did previous to his leaving for Tahiti. But it was a conviction with me, that the life was demoralizing both mentally and physically. One quickly became apathetic to the loss of human life and suffering, and carrying one’s life in one’s hands – constantly entertaining the risk of being murdered and eaten and not doing it for honour or honourable purpose – and then again for most there was the Betty and Suzie temptation. No! I would take the first opportunity of getting back to civilization, and the captain, seeing I was determined, treated me as kindly and generously as he had always done. I gave him a manifest of the trade that was on board. With this he was much pleased and at first thouhght he would proceed to Hong Kong abd find a market, but did not decide up to the time I left him, which came quicker than either of us expected, and little dreamed that these were the last hours we should ever spend together. We sat talking till long after midnight, and when we turned in we both slept in later than was usual and Mathers would not have us disturbed knowing we had retired late. But we were both awakened by the rattle of a cable as an anchor was (185) let go, and coming on deck we saw a whaling barque just swinging to her anchor. She looked thoroughly what she was – a weather worn old middle ground blubber hunter – her sides streaked with iron rust where it had dribbled from her chain plates and fastenings, her bleached wooden davits from which six whale boats hung – fine boats but innocent of paint – her standing rigging nearly covered with great paunch mats and other chafeing gear. On her main deck abaft the foremast stood a great ugly brick erection in which her huge trypots were set, with their furnace and red rusty smoke stack – the sails on her yards a fine latitude cruising suit showed patch upon patch and their leech and foot ropes were stoppered with pieces of rope with the inevitable Matthew Walker. Between her masts hung the huge three and four fold blocks and falls of the cutting in purchases and altogether she was the most uncomely specimen of the windjammer whaler that could be imagined even at that time of floating ruggedness viewing her from where we were lying with the brig. Nor, when Captain Mitchell and I boarded her, did we find her less unlovely. Indeed, it was only when we got on her decks that we realised what a floating old horror she was. But the warm welcome we received from her Master and his continuous bon homme and hospitality made us in a measure forget the unlovely surroundings and even the peculiar noxious stench of oil and side products of whale which permeated everything on board her. She proved to be the whaling barque ‘Pacific’ of Hobarton Tasmania, Captain Amos Jones, twenty three months out with seventeen hundred barrels of mostly sperm, and after getting what anti-scorbutic produce she could, was bound direct to her home port, and within an hour of boarding her an arrangement was come to with Captain Jones that I would have a passage with him. We returned to the brig and the necessary settlements between us had to be dealt with. As in all transactions with Captain Mitchell he persisted in settling with my services as mate and master of the brig with great generosity. We recognised that we had arrived at the parting of the ways and we both felt the impending severance very acutely. I got my traps on board the barque during the day. A spare state-room was assigned (186) for my accommodation when I soon recognised that I should only be tolerated by a few thousand cockroaches in consideration of the sacrifice of my finger and toe nails and any dead tissue on the palms of my hands and soles of my feet.
I recommended Captain Jones to arrange with Higgensen the white resident on the island for supplies. This he did and obtained a fair quantity of yams, sweet potatoes, plantains and cocoanuts and as water could only be obtained by long carriage the whaler got under weigh and put to sea, the brig being still anchored. The first day out I was much depressed and was not satisified with myself for leaving Captain Mitchell. This soon wore off knowing the South Sea Island trade would demoralize me as it did everyone I knew and have known in it then or since. We called at the Isle of Pines where the barque and Captain Jones were well known to the natives and they really did all the labor in connection with procuring water and all the produce they offered was purchased for fair value. Numbers of natives came on board but did not attempt to pilfer anything.
We took our departure form the Isle of Pines with a fair wind and weather and the first few days the officers and seamen were busy unbending the old cruising rags of sails and bending a more reliable suit in their stead. She had a nondescript crew of thirty-seven all told – most of them rating as pulling hands. These were quite efficient in the whale boats when lowered for a fish. These were on the one hundred and fiftieth lay. Then there were five good seamen. These performed all the duties in connection with the ship’s gear and standing rigging and were on the one hundredth lay. There were four boat steerers on the ninetieth lay and then there were the cook and steward and officers on small salaries and a lay. The majority of the pulling men were still under Government control and would have to report to the police on their return to Hobarton. I think they were designated assigned servants. They were generally carried in the Hobarton whalers, especially in those ships fishing permanently off the Sou’west Cape, but less frequently in the middle ground whalers as in the Pacific. The barque was a very dull sailer and the worst steerage ship I have ever known before or since and when running before a moderate gale, half the watch would be at the relieving tackle (187) besides the seaman at the wheel --- and then she would yaw four or five points either way, and making seven knots with a white breach across her bows a hundred feet wide that would lead me to estimate she was going seventeen and pushing half the South Pacific Ocean in front of her.
Captain Jones, good man, appeared perfectly oblivious to her failings, always serenely cheerful and satisfied, being seized of the fact that she was full of whale oil, mostly sperm, and was homeward bound and that she would get there some day. If she steered badly he would comfort us by telling that she could not get far out of her southerly course fenced in as she was by the eastern coast of Australia to starboard and the west coast of the American continent to port. One dirty night when she was scudding hard by the compass with four men at the relieving tackles and two at the wheel, I made the indiscrete remark “she is a brute to steer.” “Yes” said the captain, “she don’t steer too well running, but she makes up for it when she’s hove to.” Now hove to, she would be under a close reefed main topsail and perhaps a balanced reefed mizzen – the helm being lashed or kept hard-a-lee. She would be making no headway, but her head would be coming up and falling off seven points, and I was not a bit anxious to see her on her good points. Doubtless good enough in whaling, but unappreciated if one wanted to get anywhere. All the island traders I have known were infested with cockroaches, even the brig had her share in spite of the constant crusade we kept up against them had her share, but in the Pacific they were simply apalling. When the door of a cupboard or locker where food stores were kept was opened, the woodwork of the sides and top could be seen studded with the insects and had a most peculiar appearance. At dusk in the evenings they would swarm in the cabins, flying in all directions and alighting and running about swiftly for a time and then disappear in a moment. When I first domiciled on board her the odour of the disgusting insects seemed unbearable and everything that came to table appeared to be flavoured by them but in a very short time I was not sensitive of it. While (188) sleeping they worked insidiously at ones finger and toe- nails. A pair of new boots I had kept since leaving Melbourne when I got them out at Hobart were brown leather – every particle of surface eaten away so that it was difficult to believe that they had ever been dressed black. At meal time one or two would drop onto the soup tureen or one’s plate or cup and the officers would jerk them out and go on eating to my intense disgust. Captain Jones comforted me by saying that there was no room for any more on board.
During the day a lookout for whales was kept in the crows nest and a couple of boats were always in readiness in case of a sighting and one morning the lookout cried “there she blows!” and shortly afterwards “there again!” and the mate’s query of “where away?” was unnecessary for there was a spout close to the ship. Now there was nothing I wanted to see so much as a whale killed, and I quickly realised that I held this desire in common with every soul on board. The watch below came up with their clothes in their hands and were pulling them on alongside their respective boats. The topgallant sails were clewed up, the head sails hauled down, the yards were laid abox and all seemed to be done without orders. At the same time two boats were manned and in the water and all within a few minutes of the “blow” being repeated. The boats pulled in the direction that the whales were last seen but he never showed again and after a while they returned to the ship and were pulled up in the davits and the sails being set and the yards being trimmed we proceeded on our course again. Captain Jones consoled himself by saying it was a sulphur bottom and not worth “trying” if we had taken it. We carried fair northerly winds until we reached the latitude of Sandy Cape off which we were some sixty miles to the eastward. We then fell in with a heavy sou’east gale veering easterly with dense atmosphere and the old blubber hunter had the opportunity of showing what Captain Jones had described as her good points. It blew what “Jack” called a “living gale” and this punctuated by squalls of hurricane force with a very heavy sea, made dangerous by its breaker like overfalls caused by a strong SSE current which as every coaster knows prevails off the eastern littoral from Breaksea Spit to Cape Howe nine months of the twelve. The helm was put alee and the ship (189) ‘lay to’ under a close reefed main topsail, making seven points of leeway and the mountainous breaking sea which rolled down on her weather beam when she ‘fell off’ was disquieting. All her six boats were taken in board and she had shipped heavy water. There would have been confusion worse confounded on her main deck. I had a dim recollection of having read of oil being used with good effect on a liner crossing the western ocean and although the Captain did not appear anxious about shipping water, I was and I suggested that it would be a good opportunity of trying the oil measures. But he simply replied “you know we are all on the lay and cannot afford to waste oil” to which I remarked “a gallon would hardly be missed with the ship full of it.” The chief officer was as anxious to make the experiment as myself and finally we got permission to use some residue which remained in the ‘trypots’. This was thick and dirty and full of pieces of scrap. A canvas bag was quickly made and oil being put into it, it was streamed on a small line from the fore part of the fore rigging. The effect was prompt and marvelous. Instead of a continuous line of white breaking combers crashing down on our weather side the top of which carried off by the wind kept up a constant shower of spume and spray across the decks. There was to windward a narrow lane of sea without break or crests, and when another bag was streamed from the main rigging there was a broad smooth riband without a curl in which any of our boats could have ridden to a sea anchor with safety. There was now no menace of shipping water and the spray and spume which, before using the oil, was constantly driven across her, drenching us and cutting the face like shot, was reduced to a minimum. Captain Jones expressed his appreciation of its effect and continued wasting oil until the gale moderated. The gale lasted four days and no sun or stars had been visible so there was much speculation regarding our position by the officers. As we had been making seven points of leeway while she was ‘hove to,’ it seemed inevitable that she must have drifted a long way northward. When we succeeded in getting an observation, we were agreeably surprised to find we were in the latitude of Cape Morton. The SSE current under lee having carried her dead to windward and it is easily understood that with (190) such a current sitting right in the wind’s eye, a very dangerous sea would be knocked up.
Later we made the land at Cape Howe. At this time the only lights on the eastern coast of Australia were Cape Morton, Nobby’s (Newcastle,) Sydney South Head and Gabo Island. Nobby’s was I think a coal fire. From Cape Howe crossing Bass Strait, Captain Jones kept the Tasmanian coast close on board and falling in with a strong sou’wester he anchored in the Bay of Fires until it moderated. This was followed by a fine norther which carried us into Storm Bay where we were boarded by Pilot Lucas (Nobby Lucas he was usually called.) The same day we moored at the wharf at Hobartown (as it was then called) opposite to a hotel called The Whaler’s Return, kept by a namesake of my own and where I at once took up lodgings. I had some of Captain Mitchell’s paper which at the first opportunity I presented at the bank and which I found could not be honoured until the return of the mail from Melbourne. I had, however, sufficient cash from him to serve my purpose meantime. I was very anxious to get employment as quickly as possible, but after the most strenuous endeavours I failed to get any consideration as mate or second mate and I began to realise that although I had commanded a brig of 400 tons in the most difficult navigation in the world for sixteen months, it appeared highly probable that I should be unable to get employment even as an A.B. The fact that I was a boy and looked one, with a perfectly smooth face I looked even younger than I was, and having no Board of Trade certificate, I was under a serious disadvantage. At the same time half the masters sailing out of Australian ports were uncertificated. I reluctantly came to the conclusion that there was no alternative but to go to England or Calcutta and pass the Board of Trade examination or give up the sea and seek employment on the shore. I had been five weeks in the port without the remotest prospect of employment. The bank negotiated Captain Mitchell’s credit note so I had no anxiety financially. In conversing with an old coasting master one day, who frequented the hotel I was living at, he told me he knew an island where there was a deposit of Guano and that if he had the means to charter a small vessel he (191) could make a payable enterprise by taking a cargo of the guano to the East coast farmers. This led me to renting an old cutter named ‘Royal William’ but generally referred to as the ‘Old Billy’ from a publican named Wright who kept a public house called The Hope and Anchor, near the little dock I paid a month’s rent in advance, purchased stores and bags, picks shovels and sieves, engaged a crew of sixteen men, taking the old skipper as mate, pilot and general advisor. He was a native of Ipswich by the name of Smith. Having only one eye he was generally known in the port as ‘Cockeye Smith.’ He was very hard to beat as a seaman and coaster so long as one could keep him sober. Leaving Hobart, Smith piloted me to a little island called Doughboy Island,in what I see is now called Norfolk Bay. Anchoring the Billy close to the island all hands except the cook used to land, then dig sift and bag the subsoil (which was said to be heavily charged with phospate and hence a valuable manure) and boat off what had been the day’s work. We so continued until the vessel was laden and then we sailed to find a market for the stuff. Under Smith’s piloting, we went into the S.W. passage and up the river Huon and here I could easily have disposed of the whole cargo, had I been in a position to wait awhile for my money, but as I thought of going to England, I wanted cash on delivery, so sold only fifteen tons at four pounds ten shillings a ton, to the farmers of Castle Forbes Bay. These people were most kind and hospitable. Although the majority of the older folk had done time, most of them had prisoner assigned servants working for them. Having done all the business we could on the Huon, Smith advised me to go to the farming districts of the eastern coast. This I did, calling at Spring Bay, Little and Great Swanport, and Maria Island (where the Irish patriot Smith O’Brien was incarcerated and an attempt was made to effect his escape by a vessel that could be sunk during daylight.) From the picturesque Maria Island we went to the Schoatons Islands where there were two schooners loading coal from a mine which was being worked on the island. From the Schoatons, after lying there a day and visiting the mine manager, a Mr. Crockett, we went to Little Swanport, an open roadstead exposed to the south, south east. Here, I sold nearly all my guano, but had some trouble landing it from the (192) surf on the beach. A short time previous to my visit a cutter named ‘Resolution’ anchored off the beach. She had a family named Large, consisting of father, mother and seven children on board. The master of the cutter with two of his three seamen and Mr. Large, landed in a boat and stayed at a hotel which stood close to the beach for some time, and during the day the wind from the south east caused so much heavy surf on the beach, that the boat could not be got off, and the cutter went down to her anchors drowning the mother, her seven children and the seaman. All the bodies were recovered and buried in the little cemetery near the beach where a memorial stone stands, erected by the settlers of the district.
I also called at Great Swanport and there I sold the residue of the cargo excepting a few tons I retained to ballast the cutter. From this place I turned southwards, calling at Spring Bay, where I purchased fifty bags of oysters. Spring Bay oysters, I believe, were the finest soft shelled drift oysters in the Southern Hemisphere. They resemble the ‘Colchester native’ of the old country. I have lately learned that failing Government supervision or control they have become extinct, they having been dredged to the last bivalve.
On the return journey I again went into the South West passage and up the Huon and there sold for cash the last few tons of guano, and left and arrived at Hobart the same day. I was doubtful how the enterprise would turn out financially, but after paying Smith and the crew and for stores and tools and exactly a month’s rent for the ‘Royal William’ I was highly satisfied to find that I had made a profit of 22 pounds and I hastened while I entertained a benevolent feeling to give Smith a bonus which probably meant a week’s ‘sheoak’ for him. De Graves brew ‘she oak’ as it was called, being the popular fluid to get drunk on in Tasmania at that time.
Mr. Wright offered me a further rental of the Billy at a reduced figure, but I did not think there would be demand for more guano that season and declined taking her on again. The work had done me good and I had learned a bit of the east coast. I now shifted my lodging from The Whaler’s Return to the New York Tavern in Brisbane Street, kept by Mr. Charlie Billings, an old man-o-war’s man who had been brought to Van Dieman’s Land in the late twenties (193) as a convict indeed as a lifer. His history is that as Captain of the H.M.S. Indies. He with others was on leave in London and one night he was with some shipmates walking in the Strand and having had a convivial evening, were singing songs as they went, when a policeman, attempting to arrest them, in the melee fell and struck his head against the base of an iron lamp post and never moved afterwards. Billing and only one other, stayed and endeavoured to raise the constable and while so occupied they were both assailed by other constables and eventually brought to trial on a charge of murder and sentenced to be hanged. This was later commuted to transportation for life. Billings always maintained that the policeman was not attacked or struck, but that he fell and struck the iron base of the lamp post which caused his death.
Billing arrived in Hobartown with two hundred more convicts. His good conduct and being a good seaman brought him under notice and he was made coxswain of the Governor’s gig. Later he obtained a ticket of leave and went in the whalers that cruised off the South west Cape, became an expert and fearless boat steerer and harpooner and was in much request amongst the whaling Captains. He was always sober and of good conduct and at last having saved money, he was permitted to hold a license and keep a tavern. This he did for years and when I boarded at his house he was a reliable and much respected citizen.
On shore again, I tried to obtain a berth as mate or second mate in the coasters. Being still unsuccessful I made up my mind to ship as an A.B. (able seaman) and as I knew that a barque the ‘Eucalyptus’ was about to engage a crew, I went to the shipping office which was then close to Gaylor’s corner and asked the shipping master Mr. Hawthorne to give me assistance. This he promised to do and I paid his fee of 5/- (there was then no government shipping master.) When the captain of the barque came to the office, Hawthorne told him I was desirious of shipping with him. The shipper looked me over and asked me ‘are you an A.B.?” “Yes sir,” I replied. “You’re very young and besides I have engaged all my crew.” He said. This was the last straw. After commanding a 400 ton brig amongst the islands (194) of the North Pacific and navigating her from Cochin to New Caledonia Island I should have to accept boy’s or ordinary seaman’s billet because I had a youthful appearance.
I had some two hundred pounds to my credit and became a little reckless and made an indiscrete acquaintance, but pulled up in time and took to going passenger in the little ketches called ‘she oakers’ trading to the Huon and other adjacent places and in this way I gained a good local knowledge of the South West Passage, Huon River, Port Davy, Port Arthur, Macquarie Harbour and other places. Nearly all the men who sailed and owned these little hookers had ‘done time’ and few were seamen, but they sailed their ketches cleverly and they lived like fighting cocks on the best of plain food. There was always a cask of De Graves beer (called she oak) on board for general use of everyone. They never kept their vessels at night. The coast from Mount Louis to Macquarie Harbour is so indented with snug bays and harbours that a good anchorage could always be gained at close of day and whenever the anchor was let go there was always plenty of fish and generally crayfish.
To those of my readers who have not visited Tasmania a brief description of South West or D’eutrecasteaux Passage and its vicinities may be interesting. The passage is a deep water one. Its narrowest pass being approximately a mile in width and is formed on the south by the northern shore of Bruni island (named after the Dutch navigator) and on the north by the southern coast of the island of Tasmania. It is entered by the river Derwent, between Mount Louis on which stands the pilot station and Cape Delarsorte the northern extreme of Bruni Island. The channel or passage trends forty miles to its south western extreme, where it meets the ocean between Tasman Head and South Cape. Fourteen miles from the pilot station at its northern entrance is Mount Royal under which is the township of Gordon and the mouth of the Huon River, one, if not the best navigable rivers in Tasmania. (The Derwent resembles more an arm of the sea than a river.) On the Huon are the towns of Adelaide, Franklin, Gordon and others, where there is much timber getting and agriculture and great quantities of timber, fruit, potatoes and other farm produce are exported.
The scenery on the Huon is delightfully picturesque. In the early fifties a great number of small vessels, ketches and little fore and aft schooners were constantly and profitably employed between the Huon and Horbarton. These vessels were always referred to as she oakers and many of them were owned and sailed by men who had done time or were still under the control of the police, having to report themselves periodically, and their movement restricted to certain areas. There was a large saw-mill on the river bank at a place named Castle Forbes Bay and the fibrous stringy bark was met with everywhere, of enormous girth and height, and from which came all the millions of Hobarton palings which were found in the early days, absolutely necessary in building and fencing at the genesis of Queensland northern towns, but which now one never interviews. When pioneering in the north, if we were short of a bedroom or a stable for a horse, the Hobarton palings were the first, last and only resource.steam has long ago rubbed out all the little Huon sailing traders as well as the demand for stringy bark palings and shingles.
Proceeding westward through the South West Passage after passing the mouth of the river Huon, on the starboard hand we come to the port of Esperence, where in ’54 the emigrant ship ‘Catherine Sharer’ blew up. This ship with emigrants from Gravesend bound to Sydney was also carrying thirteen tons of gunpowder on freight, caught fire after making land, and being unable to keep it under or extinguish it, the captain ran her into Sou’west passage and anchoring her at Port Esperance landed his passengers in the ship’s boats and they had hardly got to a safe distance when she blew up, much of the decks falling amongst the passengers. Leaving Port Esperance and passing the coastal towns of Dover and Folkstone, and further on the same hand Actean Reef and Tombstone Point whereon the convict ship Actean was wrecked and the bodies of the drowned buried. Just to the northward of the Actean is the fine harbour of Southport. Immediately to the southward of it is (196) Recherche Bay a favourite place in years gone by for whalers to tow their catch into and ‘cut in’ at their anchors. Three miles south of Recherche is Whale Head a precipitous rocky headland and about a mile to the westward is South Cape, dark and sterile the most southerly projection of Tasmania. On the other side of the South West Passage is Bruni Island twenty miles in length by a maximum breadth of nine miles. It almost divided at mid length, only a very narrow isthmus connecting North with South Bruni. Much of the island is fertile and cultivated. Its littoral is indented and configurated in fantastic outlines, forming a great many useful sheltering bays and coves (one of which is named after the writer.) Amongst the larger and more frequented by shipping, are Barnes, Taylor, Cloudy and Adventure Bays. Although the definitions of some English towns are repeated round the southern coast of Tasmania, the names of the great Dutch and French navigators are in many instances perpetuated, as indeed they well deserve to be, for they preceded us in these waters. The coasts hereabouts bristle with the names of Tasman, Bruni, D’Entrecasteaux, Maatainykers, La Peruse, Frederic Henry. Esperence, Recherche, Dolomona and many others equally unenglish. Storm Bay which forms the estuary of the Derwent, is bounded on its western limit by the eastern shores of South Bruni Island, on which standing sentinel like are the bold headlands of the Fluted Capes and Tasman’s Head, and on the north by Bruni Island from Cape Frederic Henry to Cape Delasorte; while its eastern boundaries are the western shores of Tasman Peninsula whose southern and eastern projections are Cape Raoul and Cape Pillar respectively; and between their dark frowning headlands, lies Port Arthur. Port Arthur, where in earlier days stood great Government buildings and jails. Here it was that the most dangerous and worst criminals were domiciled and suffered. Here also were special and separate prisons for the incarceration of boys and youthful criminals. These latter were erected on Point Pure (at one time the greatest misnomer in the English language) in the inner waters of Port Arthur. A boy or youth who had done time there was always referred to or pointed out by old convicts as a ‘pure pup.’ Point Pure enjoyed the most evil reputation of any place for convict detention in the southern (hemisphere.) There are coal measures on Tasman Peninsula, which in the early fifties were still mined by convict labour, and a schooner named ‘Native Youths’ was employed conveying the coal to Hobarton. The Government steamer Derwent visited with stores and for the transfer of prisoners periodically. Tasman Peninsula is almost detached from the main island; its connection being by a very narrow isthmus and in convict days across this isthmus fierce mastiff dogs were so placed and chained that it was impossible for a prisoner to escape from the peninsuls even if he succeeded in breaking gaol. The lofty precipitous cliffs of black rock rising vertically from the sea, with the white fringe of surf at their base on both sides of Storm bay give the entrance to the port of Hobart a most gloomy, somber and forbidding appearance, especially under the dull grey skies which usually prevail with southerly weather, and those entering this appropriately named Storm Bay for the first time, if they be well read in the traditions and records of Port Arthur and convict days can hardly avoid being impressed with the eternal fitness of things in the nature of these gloomy frowning battalions of basaltic cliffs, inhospitable, repellant, inaccessible, offering no foothold for shipwrecked ones.
In the days that have passed, the warning to the entrance to Dante’s inferno might well have been inscribed on the cliffs of Port Arthur. Entering Storm Bay passing Cape Raoul and further on Quoin Island, North Bay and Betsy Island and the Iron Pot Lighthouse, the shore is less precipitous and more cheerful, and is timbered and grassed, while on the opposite shore is Mount Louis and the Pilot Station and the settlement of George River, and on both sides of the spacious waterway are picturesque homesteads and cultivation. These conditions obtain past the landlocked and placid waters of Ralph Bay, and Bellivive is reached from whence on the opposite shore nestling under the snowy summit of Mount Wellington lies the city of Hobart. The Derwent here takes an easterly curve flowing onwards to Risdon and, passing Bridgewater takes a northerly reach round the Dromedery.
To return to my life in Hobart …….. Whilst a passenger amongst others from the Huon I made the acquaintance of a Mr. Quested the owner of two schooners of about one hundred and fifty tons burden named Boomerang and Boiende respectively. The former was for some years (198) ? schooner at Port Phillip Heads before the famous ‘Rip’ was on the station. This gentleman, to whom I spoke of the difficulty of obtaining suitable employment, invited me to take a trip with him in the ‘Boiende’ up the east coast and I gratefully accepted, provided no berth offered on arrival in town, and this proving so when the vessel was ready for sea I went on board. At this time no vessel left the harbour without being thoroughly searched for stowaways (probable convicts) and when the anchor was short and the canvas loosed, a police boat crew boarded us and searched every nook and corner having long steel rods exactly like fencing foils without a button. These they poked everywhere abd into everything. Then the crew were mustered and closely scrutinised and when the police left we made sail bound for Diamond Harbour or as it was designated by the coastal men ‘Wabb’s Boat Harbour and the Gulchway’ where there was a coal mine working. Meeting with strong south east winds when off the Schoutens Islands we ran back and anchored inside Maria Island in the water as smooth as a ditch. A small dingy was lowered and Quested and myself and a young fellow of the crew went fishing. We went to the edge of the Bull Kelp, picked up a stalk or tendril of it, secured the boat by hanging it over the stem head. Wonderful stuff, this Bull Kelp, rooted at the bottom of six fathoms water and its stems from two to four inches in diameter of a vandyke brown colour, with the consistency and elasticity (199) of rubber, its broad leaves or fronds lying flat on the surface of the water. The presence of bull kelp has a marvellous effect of keeping the sea from rising. This obtains even on a lee shore and where there are large fields of kelp in bays, such for instance as Lacepede Bay on the west coast of Australia, ships have been known after carrying on a dangerous press of canvas in endeavour to claw off a lee shore and finally driven and embayed and expecting wreck and disaster, to have gradually drifted into smooth water although there was no abatement of the gale and the contour of the coast offered no shelter. Such instances are doubtless infrequent, but in my experience of sea life I can immunerate one of them.
Lying on the edge of the kelp we caught Trumpeter, Flathead and Rock Cod as quickly as we could pull them up for some time, and then the crayfish intervened and continually took our baits and so we returned to the ‘Boiende’. Leaving early next morning we anchored in Peggy’s Bay in the evening, and at daylight next day commenced warping into a narrow strait (called the Gulchway) between a little rocky ridge of an island and the mainland of Tasmania. This strait or channel, not more than one hundred and twenty feet in width, is quite open to the northward and eastward but patrially closed by some detached rocks at its southern opening. At short intervals there were iron ring bolts drilled into the rocky side of the island and the same on the opposite shore, and the warping lines from the vessel being attached to and shifted from ring to ring kept her mid channel while progressing towards the coal straith which was erected at the southern end of the Gulchway and from this straith the Douglas River Coal Mining Company shipped their coal. It was a very risky position in which to moor and load a vessel even of such small tonnage as the Boiende, and the enormous coir hawsers that were in use for the purpose would have held a two thousand ton ship under ordinary conditions. If the wind came in from the northward and the vessel could not get out she must hang on or go on the rocks. With the wind from the southward, if a gale and a heavy sea was running there would be a great range (200) in the position under the straith … the vessel rising and falling six or eight feet vertically and straining her great coir hawsers until they were like fiddle strings, the next moment to be slack as water. Lying under the straith the bottom under the vessel was plainly visible the water being very clear, and hundreds of crayfish could be seen and a gunny bag stretched on an iron hoop with a piece of beef in it attracted them at once and many more than could be eaten were taken in this way. I may here mention that amongst the six seamen was a young pleasant looking chap who was always ready to do any little thing for Quested or myself. We had been drawn to him from the beginning. It was apparent from his conversation that he was a well educated chap though it was quite evident that he was not what I should call a seaman. When with us in the boat fishing Quested had led him to speak of himself, and we learned from him that he had a mother and sister in Victoria and when referring to them he evinced much emotion. He admitted that he had been educated at a university and that his father was or had been in difficult circumstances, but he was so reticent and emotional that the conversation dropped.
The coal was not ready for us and the next day, after visiting the mine with Mr. Quested, I went for a stroll in the bush and followed a little stream in which to my surprise there was plenty of fine water cress and to my astonishment in a little scrubby bend I saw the recumbent figure of a man. On a nearer approach I recognised our young seaman on his knees with his face uplifted and clasped hands, evidently praying very earnestly. I saw that he was not aware of my proximity and I turned and walked in another direction. That the chap was in some trouble I was convinced and I intended to make an effort for his confidence. The next day the coal came down and the vessel was soon laden and we were to leave the straith at daylight the next morning. During the evening the mate had said that the young seaman had gone ashore and up till a late hour had not returned and we sailed the next morning without him. We thought he had absconded for the purpose of reaching some agricultural area as he had told us that farming had attractions for him. It was regretted that he had (201) not asked for his discharge which Quested would have given him as well as a fortnight’s wages which was due to him. I saw him once again under the following circumstances. Some time after my return form my trip to the Douglas River I was, with others, standing on the Dock Heads at Hobart watching the placing on board the government steamer Derwent a batch of convicts for Port Arthur. There were about twenty and they had just been shackled to an iron rod which extended on each side of the Kelson the length of the main hatch, and the warders or Tench constables as they were generally called were standing before the convicts and dropping ball cartridge down the barrels of their carbines, presumably that the prisoners should know what an attempt to escape would result in. Most of the convicts were looking at us bystanders quite unconcernedly, others did not life their heads. One of the latter looked up furtively caught my eyes and for a moment held them, and I instantly felt that I was familiar with the expression of that prisoner’s face. I watched intently and presently he looked again and I felt certain that I was in a way being interrogated by those pleading pathetic eyes. But although I watched until the steamer left I was unable to recall any circumstances that led me to the identity of that convict and for two or three days the incident was a bee in my bonnet. One day I visited Mr. Quested and in talking of the vessel we drifted to the young chap that had absconded and it flashed on me that the convict that looked at me at the Dock Heads was the man. Captain Quested was much impressed and made every possible inquiry of the police but could not elucidate anything beyond that while he was with us he was an escapee. About this time the ship Morayshire arrived after having transferred the Pitcairn Islanders (the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty) to Norfolk Isalnd, and it was on board of her that I met Charles Haynes, who was one of her crew and became in after years pilot at the Port of Rockhampton (before and during the time I was Harbour Master there.) I was again endeavouring to find suitable employment but without success and I was becoming apathetic to the fact that my money was gradually dwindling away, but intended reserving sufficeint to pay my passage to Melbourne and thence to Singapore or Calcutta, as at either place I could pass my examination. I quite gave up the idea of returning to London unless I (202) could take a master’s certificate with me. I had become acquainted with a man called Frank Rolfe. He was the son of a London regent Street tailor and he came to stay at the hotel. He had just been paid for a three year’s voyage as second mate in a ship called Wellesly. He was my senior by ten years and together we persued quite a gay life frequenting the cafes and casinos. Of the former there were two both very popular, especially with the seafaring people and both were kept by women who were expatriated, but whose term had expired. One was known as Gypsy Poll. She was wealthy and besides a hotel and café she owned a fine brigantine who held the sobriquet of ‘Long Tom the Bullocker’ the vessel being always engaged in cattle trade from Port Albert. Gipsy, in spite of her checkered career, was a very benevolent woman, and held the reputation of helping everyone who solicited her charity, without enquiry as to their conditions, doubtless in many instances from a pervading fellow feeling, and inevitably was much imposed upon. She was a very fine figure of a woman and perfectly fearless where men were concerned and customers who were wanting in respect to her girls serving in the bar, required sympathy very promptly after Gypsy took on herself to mind their manners. Man might give the Oliver and get a Roland with Gypsy, but she was very jealous for her maids. What had originally brought her under the operation of the law I never heard but innately I think she was in many respects a good woman. The other hotel very popular as a sing song house was the White Swan in Elizabeth Street kept by a widow, a Mrs. Barnes. Its habitues always referred to it as the Paddy’s Goose and Mother Barnes. The antecedents of the proprietress were similar to Gypsy Poll’s and possibly there may have been the same redeeming features. The casino was kept by a German Jew named Metzgar. Dancing was by a special license allowed till 11.30 five nights a week. It was frequented by trades people and their women folk and by the more exclusive class of demi-monde. There was a hotel adjoining and under the same proprietary with every species of accommodation. (203) Although my evenings were given to pleasure, I was watching and applying for any vacant berth occurring on board any vessel not bound for the United Kingdom and through the shipping master, Mr. Hawthorn I made the acquaintance of a very eccentric and notorious seaman’s boarding house keeper, whose name was Mr. Johnson. He had lost one of his legs and walked with the assistance of a single crutch and was known by every seaman who sailed out of, or visited Hobarton, as Peg-Leg Johnson. Men seldom boarded with him if they were in funds, but he never refused quarters and board to the penniless seamen and he frequently boasted that he had never lost a pound by a seaman in his life. He was the most profane man in his utterances I have ever encountered in all my experiences including Hobart where profanity was practised as a fine art. It was always more or less difficult in those days where rushes were of every day occurrence to new gold fields, to get seamen for homeward bound ships and Peg-Leg was always the last resort of shipmasters and he would supply seamen from those whom he had taken in when they were penniless.
The seamen supplied by Peg-Leg Johnson would frequently abscond before the ship sailed by mutual arrangement, and be arrested and be again sold to the shipmasters.
Johnson, while driving a transaction, would make the most grotesque grimaces and gertures and when referring to seamen he was offering to furnish, would recommend as the best b……. bonepolishers or b…….. climbers in Australia and emphatically express that he was very anxious to be struck blind and stiff if he was not telling the truth. He was in affluent circumstances and had a fine brick building erected purposely for boarding seamen with whom he enjoyed a very extensive notoriety in every port in Australia. For some reason he showed a desire to befriend me after he had heard of the difficulties I had met in obtaining suitable employment, and he quickly offered me a berth as 2nd mate on board a fore and aft schooner of about four hundred tons belonging to Dr. Crouther. She was a very fine vessel and had just arrived from the U.S.A. where she was built and purchased by the late Captain Butcher and brought to Hobart under his command on account of the doctor. I was not anxious to be drawn into Johnson’s (204) net, still I thought I would go, round to the vessel and have a talk with the master and this I did with the result that I agreed to go with him as 2nd mate at five shillings advance on able seamen’s wages, which as I had no certificate, was all he could give me.
We loaded about four hundred tons of sugar from a barque to take to Adelaide. We had eight A.B’s before the mast and the chief mate, myself, a cook, a steward and a supercargo named Garside and the captain. As I have already said she was a very fine vessel of her class. Fore and aft rigged. Very taut with beautifully white cotton canvas sails. She had a tremendous main boom extending some thirty feet outside her traffail. With the wind abeam or close hauled she was very handy and easily worked, but with the wind right aft and blowing hard she was a terror to men accustomed to square rig only. Our skipper was of the latter class and when scudding was always anxious to get the main sail off her and run under the foresail and square sail, the latter being a very large powerful sail. But the supercargo who was a relative of the owner and appeared to influence the captain had been conversant with the fore and aft rig on the American Lakes, always opposed the main sail being taken off her.
One middle watch we were running dead before a heavy souther off Cape Bridgewater, a Dutchman being at the wheel. The captain was standing in the cockpit close to the wheel and in the squalls he would give directions to the Dutchman to keep her away and in the same breath say “mind the mainsail its by the lee” and at last the Dutchman got confused, put the helm up instead of down and the mainsail came by the lee. It was a sight not easily forgotten. The tremendous main boom reared right over end held by the guy pennant and tackle until it carried away, when it crashed over the lee side, and as it went over the vessel lurched down on her side and filled her decks to the top of her unusually high bulwarks. The main gaff parted about mid length. The heavy fore boom unshipped at the goose neck and had driven right through the deck house, which accommodated the cook and steward, both of whom had a very narrow escape from being killed. We all expected she would founder as she came right up in the wind. The main gaff having parted in the middle the halyards would not overhaul and the captain called out lay aloft and cut the peak halyards (205) but no-one responded. It meant being thrown from the rigging into the sea. Or, if one could hang on long enough, having one’s brains beaten out by the heavy iron bound peak halyard blocks. Presently he sang out “where’s the second mate, take a hand with you and cut the peak halyard!” I got into the main rigging and sang out “one of you men come with me.” I was glad that no-one obeyed and forgetting for the moment my subordinate position, called get the fore staysail on her and stream the coir hawser over the lee quarter, and this seemed to wake up the chief officer who immediately called out “hoist the fore staysail men!” This was a very large sail with a boom on its foot. As soon as it was set the vessel paid off but a heavy sea struck her on the quarter and she ‘came to’ again. A big coir hawser which was on deck was paid out from the lee quarter and as soon as it tautened the ship paid off before the wind and the main boom swung across the deck, sweeping skylights and every other projection off the deck before it could be secured. She was then run under the square sail until she entered Backstairs passage and the weather moderated in St. Vincents Gulf. We discharged the cargo in Port Adelaide and ballasted and went to Willunga to load grain from a Mr. White, a wheat farmer of that district. There was a long and very substantial jetty, which projected well outside and beyond the surf. The wheat was loaded into boats from the end of the jetty and taken alongside (206) the vessel which laid at anchor some distance off. The roadstead is quite exposed to the North and Nor’west and while we were lying there a big yankee fore and after like ourselves, named ‘Alice Martin’ and the brigantine ‘Geneda’ were driven from their anchors and became total wrecks on the beach close to the jetty
We were riding bows under all one night in the same gale, dragging both anchors and at daylight were in the drawback just outside the surf and at low water her keel struck the ground heavily, but we hung out until the glass moderated and a steam tug came from Adelaide and towed us to the semaphore in Holdfast Bay, from whence we sailed for Hobart. With only a thousand bags of wheat, our supercargo considered Willinga as too risky an anchorage. The prison at Hobart at this time had the old fashioned treadmill and this, worked by the prisoners ground the wheat into flour.
While lying off the semaphore, Mr. Garside the supercargo, came to me and said “The captain tells me you have no certificate.” I replied, “that is so.” and I told him of my having command in the Island trade. He said, ” Well I am of the opinion that your suggestion about streaming the hawser was of much use in the night we jibed and I shall be glad to be of assistance to get you a better berth on one of Dr. Crowther’s ships when we get to Hobart.” I thanked him and intended to avail myself of his kindness.
During the time we were lying at Willinga a ship named ‘Bathwark’ with six hundred and fifty emigrants on board ran on a reef off Onkaparinka and became a total wreck but without a single loss of life. While on the passage to Hobart and off the South West Cape we spoke a whaling barque the ‘Orphale’ belonging to the same owners as ourselves. She reported losing two boats and six men while engaged lancing a whale and consequently she was short handed. Our captain called all hands aft and asked if any of us would transfer to the whaler. I at once offered to go if I was paid at the rate of wages I was receiving on the schooner and not by the ‘lay’ as (a line or so missing here) (207) learned why.
The captain of the ‘Orphle’ was one of the most expert and successful whalers out of the port of Hobart, but he knew nothing of navigation and Mr. Garside the supercargo had told him I had been in command and during the first dog watch the captain of the ‘Orphle’ asked me if I could undertake to teach him navigation and I willingly acceded. I soon discovered that I had a very apt pupil and before I left the ship he was competent to take his vessel to fish on the middle ground instead of, as he had had to do previously, carry a nurse to navigate, or else stay whaling of the South West Cape. We did not kill a whale during the three months I was on board the Orphle, so it was fortunate that I had stipulated I should be paid wages and not by results. When the whaler was taken to Hobart to refit I took my discharge. Beside the pay due to me I was given five pounds by the captain of the latter for the tuition I had given him and he was very anxious for me to go with him as mate on his next cruise, but I had had enough of whalers to last me the rest of my sojourn.
A few days after I had left the whaler news came that a gold field had been discovered at the Rocky River in New South Wales and a rush had set in from all parts of Australia. Much excitement was prevalent in Hobart and the steamers ‘City of Hobart’ and ‘Tasmania’ both left for Sydney crowded with intended diggers. I caught the gold fever also and drawing what money I had from the bank, I paid a fore cabin passage by the S.S. Tasmania for which I paid five pounds ten shillings. We left Hobart for Sydney with about four hundred steerage passengers amongst whom were all classes – business men, workers, seamen and many old Victorian diggers. There were no bunks or sleeping accommodation of any kind for half of those on board and the people did not seem to expect it. For the first night they just camped on the deck, most of them having rugs in their swags and much fun and amusement was caused by those who had no bunks watching for the rising of those who had, for immediately they vacated them another chap would take possession to be ousted out in a like manner when he left it. Good humour reigned supreme and the women and children were looked after and taken care of by all. (208) At meal time there was not sitting nor indeed standing room below in the fore cabin, but the tables were laid for as many as could be accommodated but as soon as the stewards commenced to convey food for a meal from the galley, the fellows on deck would surround them and before they could reach the fore cabin, take every particle of food from the dishes and the stewards would return to the galley with empty dishes. Potatoes cooked in their jackets and roasted beef were the only articles of food served, and the men would take four or five potatoes and pocket them and a large roast would be taken out and cut into chunks and handed round and eaten from the fingers and later the steward would call out “These are for the women and children,” and a digger would respond “alright, come on steward, we’ll see they get it alright,” and the women would get a comparatively comfortable meal. The sanitary accommodation was inadequate for even half the persons on board, so that the conditions in this direction were simply appalling and rendered a recumbent position on deck after night fall impossible, and yet all these people had paid five pound ten shillings for the passage of four days. Fortunately the weather for the first two days was fine and the sea smooth. During the whole time, both night and day, in the liquor bar of the fore cabin there was unceasing activity and a large quantity of spiritous liquor was sold. In the day time the alley way to the bar was so blocked by persons waiting their turn to be served the engineers could not get to their berths.
During the afternoon of the day previous to arrival in Sydney a man was sitting with his wife on the fore castle head, and a number of other men, when he suddenly arose to his feet and made a clean jump into the sea and almost simultaneously his wife made a similar jump, followed by another man, who it was immediately apparent was a powerful swimmer. The woman however, was saved by being caught by her clothing by a man sitting near her as she was falling and who with great difficulty held her until assistance came and she was drawn inboard again. Meantime the cry of “man overboard” was raised and the ship’s engines were stopped and reversed and a boat was lowered after a considerable delay, and a search was made for some time unsuccessfully and she was returning to the ship (209) when she came on tne body of the man who first jumped overboard, floating face upwards, apparently dead; but, being brought on board, after continual exertion came round, and was put to bed in one of the cabin berths. At the time everyone thought that he was the man who jumped into the sea to rescue the woman’s husband who jumped in first, and the woman who had been kept under restraint since she was pulled inboard was under the same belief. Just before the ship got to the wharf, the man being quite recovered from the effects of his immersion, went forward to his wife. To her and everyone’s unbounded astonishment the man himself was under the hallucination that he jumped into the sea to rescue another man. On arrival at the wharf, before a gangway was attached, the police were sent for and the woman and her husband were placed in their charge, and a general inquiry was made of the passengers with the object of establishing the identity of the man who was drowned in the attempt to save the other.
Landing from the steamer I went to some friends in Glouster Street whom I had known when visiting Sydney in the Duke of Wellington and I finally arranged to board with them for the time. I had some hope that Captain Mitchell and the brig might be in the port, but on consulting the newspapers this was dispelled. I had latterly keenly regretted that I had left the brig and this regret was now intensified. The news was not good from the gold field, and I could not get a Board of Trade Certificate either as mate or master in Sydney at the time or for years after. I found, however, that the majority of masters of coasters were uncertificated, but were, of course, men of local experience and knowledge of the coast, but I had neither. I was one day on what was then called the flour companies’ wharf when I saw a placard in the main rigging of a brig named Palamo “wanted a mate” and I went on board, saw the captain whose name was Wyborn (afterwards for many years Harbour Master for Brisbane) and offered myself for the berth. His manner was not encouraging, but he made no reference to certificates but as usual he said “you’re very young, could you handle men?” I told him of the command I had held and I was quite convinced that he did not believe me. However, he told me to come to see him the next morning. This (210) I did and found the wharf full of general cargo, and Captain Wyborn with the cargo book and calipers receiving and measuring it. These he at once handed to me and I was quite jubilant. I found she was loading for Littleton in N.Z. She had no crew and lumpers were stowing her. The captain put on his long hat and telling me he was going to the shipping office, which was then in Lower George Street, left. At dinner hour he did not come. I hurried home changed my clothes and had my lunch and got back by 2 p.m. but the captain was there and commenced growling that I had left the ship, and kept nagging more or less all afternoon. However, I kept my temper, and in the evening I took the cargo book home and during the evening worked up all the measurements and inserted the cubic content. The next day no cargo came down and I got the main top gallant sail aloft and bent it by myself and had got down on deck again and was pruning myself on the job, when the captain came on board and told me he thought I was too young for a mate and colonial seamen were difficult to deal with. I at once without speaking a word walked away from the ship, the captain saying as I got on the wharf you can go to the office for your day and a half pay. I next met him in 1865 in Brisbane when he was Harbour master. I was much depressed over this incident and made up my mind to ship for England in the old ‘Scotia’ that was loading wool at Circular Quay and wanted seven A.B’s. I saw her chief officer who told me I should find the captain at the shipping office at 3 p.m. I did and arranged with him to sign the ship’s articles the next morning at eleven o’clock. So, after all my struggle, I was going back to London in a lime juicer in a worse position than when I left, for I was on the old ship’s articles as 3rd mate although my apprenticeship had not quite expired.
During the day I purchased some suitable clothing for the voyage at Caldwells in Lower George Street, and in the evening I was much depressed and a bit reckless. But it happened that the girl from the opposite house to where I lived came to see the daughter of my friends, and shortly after an introduction I asked them both to accompany me to the Victoria Theatre. They were delighted but the (211) leave was obtained on the condition that they were chaperoned by one of their mothers, and this being arranged we went to the old Victoria Theatre which then stood in Pitt Street between King and Market Streets. There was crush entering and I was successful in my efforts to get the little girl from over the way and myself separated from the other two, after handing them the tickets, and until half time we were in a stall by ourselves and mutually satisfied with each other. After the play we all went to Mrs. Horne’s restaurant and had supper. I was much impressed with my companion and little dreamed how dear she would become to me in after years.
The next morning I had to meet the captain of the Scotia to sign for articles for the voyage to London, but I was not keen on it. I wanted to know more of the little girl. But taking myself to task for much egregious folly, I made my way to the shipping office in Lower George Street and there waited the coming of the Scotia captain … then a trifling incident altered the whole tenor of my life. While I waited a man named Harry Skinner who I had last seen in London when he left the Duke of Wellington on her return from what was my first voyage, came up to me and after our first greeting he asked “what are you doing here?” I told him and he said “do you want to return to London?” I replied “not if I could get other employment.” “Well, will you go in a small coaster?” I thought of the girl and replied “yes, if she is not in the South Sea Trade.” “Come on then,” he said “before the Scotia man comes,” and we walked to the Fortune of War Hotel and there Skinner introduced me to a Captain Black who, it appeared, wanted a seaman for a schooner he was master of, and in a few minutes it was agreed that I should go in the schooner. He however put the usual query “are you an able seaman? You are very young.” (the misfortune of youth still pursued me) adding “but there’s not much sailoring on my vessel, but can you hump four bushels of maize?” I replied that I had never tried but if any of his crew did it I reckoned I could. I didn’t ask but I thought his coasting schooner would be about two hundred tons. The skipper said he was at the Albion Wharf (where the Pyrmont Bridge was built in after years) and her name was Echo and I was to be on board next morning. (212) I then left him as I had a desire to go and tell the ‘over the way’ girl all about it. I then made a beeline for my lodgings and while I was searching for an excuse for going over to her home, she came in to see my landlady’s daughter, Annie. She evinced great surprise in seeing me, although she told me in after time she had seen me enter, and I watched her face when I told her I was going away the next day, and I saw she was making an effort to appear unconscious. But when I said not to London but only to Shoalhaven and to return in a fortnight, her eyes expressed the pleasure she felt, and then she very quietly said “I’m glad.” And then blushing she added, “ you are such good company for Annie while her brother is away” When morning came I started early for the schooner at the Albion Wharf, where on arrival, to my surprise there was no vessel except a little fore-and-after, a little larger than a long boat and I came to the conclusion that the Echo had sailed without me. Very crestfallen, I was returning along Sussex Street towards my lodging when I met Captain Black. “You’re going to breakfast?” he asked. “Well I was going home as the Echo is not at the wharf” I replied. “She was there last night” he said. “there’s nothing there except a little fore-and-after.” “That’s the Echo. I told you she was a small schooner. Come back with me and we’ll breakfast at Bob Cox’s ( Bob kept the Darling Harbour Hotel at the foot of Market Street. The Pyrmont Bridge was not built.) We first went to the fore-and-after and sure enough there was Echo painted on her stern. I had some experience with small vessels in Hobart, but the Echo ‘took the cake’. As we stepped on board she politely careened over to us fully a strake. The skipper explained that two seamen lived at the forecastle and one aft with him and added “you will have to live my end.” We then went to Cox’s and breakfasted. I liked Black and when he told me he had been sailing in Cornish luggers in the English Channel I knew the little Echo was in good hands. During the day we sailed from the wharf and beat down the harbour against a Nor’easter which carried us off Port Hacking and fell calm and towards morning a fresh Souther came away. Black put up the helm and slacked away the main sheet and steered for Botony as if we were bound there instead of Shoalhaven and we anchored where (213) I could see the hotel that two years previously I had spent so happy a day with the little Dago. We lay four days in Botony. One day the skipper and I landed on the southern shore where we found a camp and a dozen aboriginals.
The food on board was very plain but good. Plenty of potatoes, flour and raisins, good corn beef and butter cooked by one of the seamen who received five shillings extra a month. Seamen’s wages in the coasters was nine pounds per month and the skipper’s twelve pounds which was all the skippers of the big limejuicers were getting out of Scotland. The chief officer’s rate being five pounds ten shillings at the time. We went to sea at the tail of the southeaster and when it fell calm we drifted to the southward with the current until a nor’easter came away which ran us to Crookhaven Heads and into the river as far as Numba flats, where we grounded and lay till high water before we could cross. At one time Shoalhaven and Crookhaven were separated by an isthmus but as Crookhaven was the deepest water entrance, vessels always used it, and the cedar of which there was plenty had to be bought to the vessels by bullock teams across the isthmus, which was low lying and swampy. However the Berry’s of Coolangatta ( Sholehaven) set a gang of their assigned government prisoner servants to cut a gutter through the isthmus just sufficient to float a cedar log through. The logs were then rafted and taken down to Crookhaven to the vessels. The occurring flood in the Shoalhaven River scoured the little cutting to a considerable width and finally the major portion of the ebb tide was diverted from the Shoalhaven through it to the Crookhaven River, and the latter became the most used by vessels frequenting Shoalhaven bringing stores to and carrying away cedar and farmer’s produce. The Berry’s of Coolangatta, who had the cutting made, resented the navigation of it and extended a heavy chain across it. The coasters, however, removed it and continued the use of the channel and the Shoalhaven entrance which was over a shoal and exposed bar fell into entire disuse. (214) We crossed the Numba Flats at high water and the following course of the river some twenty miles anchored at what was then the very small village of Nowra, where the owner of the Echo, a Jew named Hyam kept a store and a hotel and here we landed some merchandise. We then proceeded up through the winding and picturesque reaches of the river flowing round the foot of the Gooddog Mountains and on upward to a little township named Burrier. Here the owner’s two sons Saul and David had a farm and they straightaway started loading the Echo with potatoes. These were brought alongside in bullock drays in bags tied at the mouth, and each being untied a seaman would grasp the mouth with his right hand and the bottom of the bag in his left and carrying it thus across his shoulders would walk a plank to reach the vessel’s hatch. Then loosing the mouth and retaining the grip of his left hand, empty the contents into the vessel’s hold and so on until the vessel was filled and fully laden with potatoes for Sydney. We commenced getting down the river in which we made fair progress until we reached Numba Flats where we were hung up three days waiting the tide to make to admit of our crossing. Three days later we reached Sydney and our cargo of potatoes were sold for twenty five shillings per ton which just cleared the freight and left nothing for the grower. I left the Echo and obtained charge of a ketch maned Annie and ran her in the Shoalhaven and McLeay rivers trade successfully and became known to ths shipping agents of the Exchange and presently got command of a brigantine owned by Messrs. Kirchen (215) who had a sawmill and soap and candle works on the Clarence River and I took a cargo of hard wood to Rockhampton and went afterwards to Brisbane. From the latter port I left in ballast and in a heavy southerly gale when off Cape Byron we were struck by a heavy sea and thrown on our beam ends. The stone ballast shifting, I cut the main mast away and steamed a hawser over the stern and got the vessel before the wind and eventually got back to Moreton Bay and Brisbane where I got nessessary repairs effected and employed the vessel lightering from Moreton Bay to Brisbane. I afterwards took the vessel to Sydney, where on arrival, I found great excitement over an alluvial goldfield reported to have been discovered at Port Curtis.
Meantime, during my visits to Sydney while in the coasting trade in the Annie, my acquaintance with the little girl over the way had progressed and mutual attachment had developed and we agreed to marry as soon as I had a permanent command. The furniture was purchased and stored. Meantime a great rush had been worked up for the Port Curtis gold field and everybody was going to it. Vessels of all kinds, schooners, cutters, brigs barques and steamers were laid on for conveying passengers to the newly reported field. I caught gold fever and gave up charge of the brigant and paid my passage in a Black Ball ship named ‘Grand Trianon’ of 1600 tons. I chose her in preference to the smaller vessels thinking she would keep well off the land and make a passage to the eastward of the S.E. coast current against the prevailing N.East winds, it being the early summer months.
We left Sydney with 700 passengers and experienced strong N.E. winds the first few days at sea. There was no discipline on board and the officers had the greatest trouble in getting the ship worked, the crew being for the most part down in the t’ween decks playing cards with the passengers. Fortunately there were twenty-three coasters amongst the passengers and these on their own behalf trimmed the sails and yards. At last we picked up a southerly wind and this ran us up to the vicinity of Breaksea Spit on which the ship was nearly run, breakers only (216) being seen when almost under the bows. This brought the captain on deck, otherwise he spent his time below in the saloon with two ladies of the demi monde. With the assistance of the coasting passengers the ship was hauled out and she cleared the broken water. About a week after she anchored at Hummocky Island and the government pilot came on board and took her further into Keppel Bay where there were a number of vessels of all classes anchored.
The news was brought by the pilot and his crew that no gold was being got on the diggings and that stores were very scarce and dear. Most of the passengers took alarm and told the captain they would not leave the ship. “Why? What did you come for?” he asked. “We came to a goldfield” they answered, “not to a duffer to starve.” “Oh,” he said “you won’t starve anyway while your damper lasts and none of you can deny that you have one.” To sum up he offered to take them back for forty shillings per head and they were to be satisfied with what food he could give them. Eventually they agreed to pay thirty shillings per head but there were lots of them who had not thirty pence.
Then I went on the poop and told the captain that a few of us wanted to go ashore and a show of hands being called for, one hundred and seventy-six of us elected to go in a little ketch named ‘Courier’ which had come alongside and offered for a consideration to land such passengers who desired to. The captain tried to show that we should pay our passages up the river. We, however, satisfied him on that point pretty quickly and after persisting in having three bags of biscuits and two hundred and seven pound tins of soup and bouille put on board, we boarded the Courier and she sailed away from the Grand Trianon. The master of the Courier was named Sullivan and he had his brother and a man named Red Ned from the Trianon as crew. The ketch sailed to Sea Hill where she anchored for the night. The next day we were under weigh with the flood and got nearly as far as Rocky Point where she grounded on Egg Sand. There were several vessels going both up and down and some of them were aground. We were eight days from the time we left the ship until we got abreast of where (217) Messrs. Walter Reid & Coy. Warehouse now stands.
There was a barque, a brig, a schooner, a cutter or a steamer on every sandbank in the river but there was always plenty of accommodation for the Courier and she never hesitated to avail herself of it. The Sullivan’s knew absolutely nothing of the river and to make matters worse there was a thunder squall with rain every night when there was nothing for it but to stay on deck and be soaked with rain, or go into the hold and sit on a nice soft Sydney ballast stone and be soaked with perspiration.
One day we were aground on a sand bank opposite to where Number 4 beacon now stands, and some of the passengers asked the Sullivans to land them to have a look around. So seven of them were landed and soon disappeared amongst the timber. When the vessel floated they had not returned so we got under weigh without them. On our arrival at the town they had not been heard of and the Police Magistrate (Mr. Wiseman) would not allow the Courier to be moved until a search was made and the people brought in. It turned out that they had had a fight with the blacks and it was fortunate that three of them had revolvers and another had a shot gun. Of the female passengers aboard the Trianon one only, the late Mrs. Schmidt came up in the Courier.
On getting alongside the bank at what is now Derby Street a few mangroves were cut down and by a plank across the mud bank we soon landed and our swags being ready for humping, we were soon absorbed in the hundreds of people swarming the bank. There were a good many stalls where stores of groceries and clothing as well as intoxicants could be purchased. Of course everyone was living under calico, but there was a timber and bark store for wool at the opposite corner to the Criterion Hotel of today.
At the last minute before leaving Sydney my intending mate had backed out, so I landed without a chum. As I was always a bad bush traveler I was a little uneasy about starting a (to my idea) long tramp on my own and, wanting to get on the road at once, I took up a sailor man who had sailed with me out of Sydney and had landed as many thousands had with only a few shillings. We started about 4 o’clock in the morning en route to Canoona (218) We had pretty heavy swags, two shovels, two picks, tent and blankets, the material for a cradle, a bucket, spare moles, a singlet, about twenty pounds of flour, tea and sugar, a tomahawk and other things. Getting to Gracemere about dusk we camped on the left side of the lagoon and Jerry my mate, went and bought some mutton. I had a fire by the time he returned and we soon sat down to a good meal of Johnny cakes, tea and mutton.
The mosquitos were troublesome but we slept till daylight when we started again on our tramp. The track was plain enough and there were plenty of little water holes everywhere. We walked on until 10 a.m. meeting very few people, then camped for breakfast. By this time I found my mate had another disadvantage besides having no money. He was, if possible, a worse bushman than myself. While I lighted a fire he went back a few hundred yards to a little waterhole we had passed to fill the billy, and he was so long away that I went to look for him. I could not find the waterhole and after wandering about for a long time I heard him answer my call and found him. It took us about an hour to find our camp and when we found if neither of us believed that the things were where we left them. In fact, if any fellow had been sitting near them we should have though it was his camp and would be looking for our own still. We had breakfast and walked until nearly sundown. The flies were very troublesome during the day and the mosquitos at night. We got through the night and started at daybreak. About 11 a.m. we came to the river Fitzroy and after paying two shillings to be ferried over in a sort of catamaran we walked into the diggings about 4 p.m.
As far as my memory serves me, we had a look around and at last picked a spot a little apart from the workings and in the morning pegged out a claim. We found it difficult to get clean water for the billy as it was all yellow from the cradling and pan washing. Everyone near was simply stripping the surface never going deeper than three feet. In fact, we used to get colours in the tussocks of grass roots shaken into the dish. (219)
We worked for a fortnight and got 10 dwt of gold. Then we heard of several parties who were going prospecting and one Sunday morning a man came round with a horse and cart, put his billy on our fire and smoked and talked, telling us he was selling his horse and cart and going away. Now it occurred to me that the horse would be very handy to us and I offered to buy it if the price was not too high. He wanted to sell the cart as well, but we did not see how we could get up hills and into gullies with the cart. Neither of us had any experience of horses and although I did not know the good from the bad ones, I saw that this animal had points all over him, and there were plenty of places to hang things which would be very handy. Anyway, I bought the horse to Jerry’s delight. So the man took the horse and cart somewhere and returned in the evening with the horse. I also bought hobbles and a few fathoms of small manilla rope, a couple of three bushell bags, a bridle, some packing needles and some twine. Not another good night’s rest or an hour’s content by day, did we have after becoming proprietors of that wretched horse.
We occupied one wet Monday making two bags to hang over his back with our gear. We made a very good job of it tying them on the horse, then we put him on the tether as the man had told us he was used to it and would not foul it, and we walked into the store to purchase some groceries for the prospecting trip. We were returning to our camp with out purchases, but neither of us could see the tent and I thought we were lost again. Presently, we saw the horse looking, as I thought, very funny. Of course we were not used to him then. On nearer approach we saw that he had walked round with the tether and pulled the tent down. He had his nose driven right down into our new billy in an attempt to get the sugar and tea leaves and had Jerry’s wash dish hove on one of his four legs. Jerry had put it over an old post hole close to the tent and the horse had stepped on it. When we got up Jerry seemed a bit nonplused and stood looking the animal in the eyes, then he said “ ain’t you a giddy, gay and gallivanting old rouster, you only want a bell (220) topper and a paper collar to fit you for a fancy dress ball,” and taking off his felt hat he stuck it on the horse’s head. When I said “don’t Jerry, it gives him a hostile appearance,” he swore and said he was thankful he had not shares in a blooming old camel and as long as we were together he every day sheeted it home to me that the horse was solely my concern and unlimited liability and responsibility.
It took an hour to get the wash dish off his hoof, cutting it with a sheath knife. In the process the horse lifted his foreleg and struck Jerry in the face, knocking him backwards into the fire. Jerry had knocked the billy about so, in getting it off the horses nose that it leaked so we had to return to the store for another billy, which cost two and sixpence and a dish which cost seven shillings and sixpence. Nearly every day dishes had been offered to us for sixpence to one shilling, by men who were going back. We did not set up out tent again but slept under the fly. In the morning we boiled the billy first thing, having moored The Fop, as Jerry named the horse, to a tree well clear of the fly, and we had breakfast.
The Fop wound himself up close to the tree and Jerry came back with him saying he had a foul horse again. We dressed him up in the bags and put all the gear into them except our picks and shovels which we carried ourselves. We had no compass and our arms were a pepper box revolver and an old double barreled pistol, which I had bought from Red Ned in the Courier.
We spent five or six weeks prospecting but did not see a colour after we got beyond five or six miles from Canoona. We came across several parties who reported the same results. We were frequently lost but as we invariably came across other prospecting chaps, we were not anxious. The Fop was also giving less trouble and had become so partial to damper that when we let him go off the tether, we could always catch him again with a piece. One day we were prospecting some gullies on the side of a hill and we left it too late before we got water. We had enough in our water bag for our tea but none for The Fop. So the next morning we got the pack on early and started, keeping a lookout for water, (221) but we got none a had a dry breakfast, after which, leaving the horse we went to look for water. Again we failed to find any. When we went to get the horse, he had left the tether having pulled his leg through the bowline I suppose, and cleared out. I went up a bit of a rise to look round and there heard a peculiar noise, and going in its direction came on a little deep rocky gorge. At the bottom was a small cavity in the rock with water in it. The Fop was standing with his forefeet in it pawing it with one foot. He had, as Jerry expressed it, filled his blooming tripes and with kindly aforethought was mixing up the rest for us, and Jerry reckoned he was glad he had no share in the blooming moke. How the animal got down into what was smooth rocky gully, the sides of which were nearly perpendicular, was a miracle and we were just wondering how we were going to get him out when he screwed himself together shot round and came up with a rush, burst the belly band which held the pack on him and all our belongings slid over his tail and into the water from which we had to draw our breakfast tea, if we wanted any. We soon got our things out of the water and after that got on a bit over very broken country.
In the afternoon we came across a party of five who were trying a little watercourse and from their evident desire to assure us they had not met a colour, we thought they were on gold and we camped. The next two or three days we worked every little gully in tmne vicinity, there being nice little pools of water here and there. We thought we had given it a fair trial. In the evening I sauntered over to the other fellow’s camp and saw they had been working a cradle, but as they left next day they could not have done much, if anything.
However, we went over the ground they had worked and saw quite a number of little potholes they had worked, none of them being over seven feet deep. I saw pipe clay in one of them and this induced me to stay a couple of days. We went down twenty-one feet and bottomed on smooth phosporite rock without seeing a colour, although we tried the stuff every foot.
After camping that evening, Jerry and I discussed ways and means and came to the conclusion that we would give prospecting best. (222) The next morning we loaded up The Fop and trekked for Canoona. We camped early and while Jerry was getting the billy under weigh I shot a wallaby in a gully with my pistol. We tried some of it on the coals but it was tougher than our salt horse, although not so dirty. Jerry tried the horse with some but he refused it much to our surprise, as he had eaten Jerry’s straw hat and masticated one of his socks. Next morning with an early start, we got into Canoona about noon. We found a great many people had left and half those on the ground were not working. Two or three parties were working along a narrow gully or dry creek and were getting gold, flaky waterworn gold, but all the water holes were drying up and the water left was like pea soup.
I saw no prospect of doing anything and of course I had not heard from Sydney since leaving, so telling Jerry I intended to go back, I sent him round with the horse to try and sell him. Jerry hawked him all round the diggings but returned in the evening unsuccessful, tired and in an evil temper, which he shared with Fop as he put him on the tether. However while we were at tea, a man whose name I think was Hallagen bought him for ninety shillings and we saw him packed the next day bound for Gladstone. I fixed matters up with Jerry, leaving him the tent, tools and half the proceeds of the Fop and started alone for the river Fitzroy. The next evening I camped at a tree about the present intersection of Stanley and Bolsover Streets I bought a loaf for a shilling from a Harry Schmidt who had a mud oven and then went to the butchers and bought a steak and was carrying it back on a skewer when a chap called out “pan”. “Yes” I replied and he fried the steak and he had his tea with me. Quite a number of fellows were getting their tucker by having a frying pan.
The next day I agreed with Captain Sugden of the ‘Lightning’ for my passage to Sydney and we sailed the same day. We got to Sea Hill the next evening and anchored as it was blowing strong from the S.E. There was a large fleet of vessels lying in Keppel Bay. I counted twenty –three masted vessels besides brigs, schooners, cutters and vessels of every rig including H.M.S. Iris and the (223) Victorian Steamer ‘Victoria’.
Stranded on the bank which now bears her name was the ‘Timandra’ and there she left her bones. When the south easter moderated we proceeded on our passage southwards through Great Sandy Straits and I ultimately arrived in Sydney alright.
Arrived in Sydney again I at once sought employment and I was fortunate enough to obtain command of a new brigantine named ‘Pat the Rover’. She was under charter to a firm in the Clarence to convey machinery and boiling down plant to Baffle Creek in North Queensland. I made the voyage successfully, delivered my cargo and ballasted , left Baffle Creek intending to call at the Richmond River for a cargo of cedar. However, after leaving Baffle Creek I fell in with bad weather off Breaksea Spit, and the cap working off my foremast head, I bore up for Keppel Bay where I stripped the mast head and secured the cap and going to sea again I eventually reached the Richmond River. I crossed the bar and anchored at Blackwell where I got a raft alongside and loaded a complete cargo of cedar including a deck load. I was bar bound for a few days and then put to sea, but unfortunately grounded on the South Spit going out and here the deck cargo had to be jettisoned and the vessel received very rough usage. Eventually I got her afloat and hove into the channel from whence I succeeded in getting her into the sea and without further mishap arrived at Newcastle where the cargo was consigned to a Mr. Hughs. The vessel was put on the slip at Stockton and her metal sheathing repaired where it had been damaged on the Richmond Bar. From Newcastle I went with the vessel to Sydney and while there the vessel was sold to a Captain Stevens of Invercargil and as I had a recess I embraced the opportunity to get married. After a short honeymoon we started housekeeping in Happy Valley, Balmain.
About this time I got command of a schooner named ‘Sarah Barr’ and for a couple of years ran her in the Manning River trade. While in this trade a terrible tragedy happened in the Manning River Bar. I was anchored inside the bar with three other vessels ready to take to first opportunity to cross outwards. There had been a strong South Easterly and East South Easterly wind for some days with a very heavy sea on the bar and doubtless there had been an easterly gale in the (224) offing. On a Sunday, I with the three masters of the other vessels went on shore to pay a visit to the pilot, Mr. Bradley, whom I may mention was the grandson of the man whom Bradley’s Head in Sydney Harbour is named after and with him we all walked up on the Signal Hill over the painted rocks, where on arriving, the lookout drew our attention to three vessels that were running down towards the entrance. We soon recognized them as two brigantines the ‘Mary’ and the ‘Flying Fish’ and a fore and aft schooner belonging to a Mr. John Booth of Balmain. All these were Manning River traders. The tide was about half ebb and the usual tide signal was made with the additional one of ‘Stand off too much sea on the bar.’ None of us dreamt that the vessels would attempt the bar for there were huge green rollers half a mile outside the bar breakers. The Mary ahead of the other two was furling her light sails as she ran down past the river mouth. We could see her master on her topsail yard watching the bar and then she hauled her wind and she stood off to sea. The Flying Fish following her did the same and the Fore and After not far astern did the same following the other two. We sat smoking and chatting and were just going on board our vessels again when the lookout man said “The Mary has hove round and is standing in,” and presently we saw her topgallant sail being set. We all knew what that meant. She was intending to take the bar and if so there would be trouble. Pilot Bradley at once sent word to launch the whaler and the men to don their cork jackets and wait for further instructions. Presently the Flying Fish hove round and was setting her topgallant sail. It was now young flood and the Mary with as much wind dead aft as she could stagger under, with her square canvas and her mainsail candalized was now getting into comparatively shallow water and the massive blind combers were hurling her before them and then passing her, joining the white breakers on the bar ahead. When she was in the hollow of the seas we could not see foreyard. Her master, the late John Wettington we could see on the topsail yard conning her as she approached the bar. The first sea topped up, a mountain of green water carrying the vessel on its face with her jibboom pointing to the bottom (just as one sees a small boat landing (225) through a beach surf) then passing her leaving her in the hollow, broke crashing white ahead. Then quickly followed another which broke just astern and she looked like a black spot on the turmoil of white seething water. She was then just on the inner edge of the bar when a third sea overran her and broke right over her taff-rail, filled her up, swept the man from the helm together with boats and everything on her deck and she broached to and went ashore on the South Spit. Her crew, excepting the helmsman who was drowned, was in the rigging. She struck a narrow spit of sand over which she beat in a few minutes into smooth water.
To avoid tedious repetition of detail I will say that the Flying Fish passed through similar conditions losing two of her crew, broached to, and struck the North Spit from which she was ultimately floated off. Both these vessels received extensive damage but it was miraculous they escaped annihilation. Now our serious attention was given to the Fore and After which was now at standing in. She was smaller than either of the other vessels of a very light draught and had three center boards and with fore and aft sails and the wind dead aft she had not nearly so good a chance as the other two with their square canvas. She ran down carrying her booms on the starboard side. Her master, David Harkness was standing about half way up her fore rigging. Presently she got into the blind rollers. Pale and breathless we watched her. All the pilot crews’ wives were with us on the hill and presently we saw a huge green mountain race after her and before it broke it simply covered her half way up her masts and sails being hurled towards the break. Then as she got into the hollow her foresail jibed and pinned poor Harkness in the rigging and in a few seconds she entirely disappeared and not a vestige of vessel or crew came ashore inside the bar. It was difficult for us onlookers to realize what had happened in a few moments. Vessel and crew had simply raced to annihilation and beneath us the cruel breakers continued to race with sphinx like aspect and, unsatisfied (226) with their prey as they will be unto the end of time when there shall be no more sea.
There was a very strong current setting to the northward along the beach and at low water next day we found a heap of her cables under Crowdy Head five miles north of the bar and at high water in the sand a human leg which from its size we judged to be the captain’s, who was a very little man. We buried it on Crowdy Head placing a cairn of stones over it. The Manning River Bar is very exposed and a number of vessels have been lost on it from time to time. Soon after this occurrence I gave up command of the ‘Sarah Bar’ and took charge of the ‘Cagnes’ in the Sydney to Duneden Trade, and then transferred to a small steamer the ‘New Moon’ and ran her in the McLeay River trade and for a long time she was the only steamer trading in that river, the navigation of which was very difficult from the numerous shallow places in it and the alterations in the channel made by the floods which so frequently occurred. I experienced some very bad weather and strenuous times while in the McLeay trade. On one occasion especially, I narrowly escaped coming to grief in Trial Bay. It happened in this way. I was lying with the steamer at Kempsea and had nearly taken in a cargo of maize and general farm produce when heavy rain set in with a heavy south easterly blow. The rain prevented me from taking in any more cargo so I concluded to go with what I had before the sea got too heavy for me to get out over the bar, so I left at daylight with thirty miles steaming to the bar but there was a good current running down. I was at Double Corner just inside the bar about 11a.m. but I had to slow down and dodge while a steamer named ‘Grafton’ (Captain Maides) and a brigantine named ‘Jessie’ crossed the bar inwards. The latter was in the command of Mr. Fred Markham, now in the employ of the Posts and Harbours, Brisbane. When these vessels where clear inwards I crossed the bar outwards and went pegging away into the south easterly sea until I had passed south of Smoky Cape when I could make little headway. I had the old side lever engines and when an extra lump came along she would (227) almost stop on the center, and as the wind veered to due south I went under Hat Head and anchored. Later in the evening the wind chopped into the south east and a heavy roll came in so I hove up and ran back to Trial Bay under Smoky Cape, and picking up a good berth anchored. There were four other vessels lying there for shelter. At 10p.m. the wind was south east blowing a heavy gale, but a very heavy sea from the E.N.E. was rolling into the roadstead with a falling glass and blinding rain which, driven by the wind cut like hail. I was convinced it was no ordinary polar blow, the E.N.E. sea sheeted home. Too plainly it was cyclonic and I got a good head of steam on and tried her going ahead but she never slacked her cables so we could not go to sea. Presently the blind rollers began to carry phosphorescent combs and they now and again bundled in over the bows carrying everything off the deck and making it dangerous to be anywhere before the bridge. About 11p.m. two of the other vessels loomed up through the dense rain close to us, broadside on rolling fearfully, their cables having parted, they were driving onto the beach. One of these, the ‘Woolomooloo’, when she struck the ground, rolled over knocking the masts out of her and taking two turns of her chain cables round her hull. All her crew perished. The other, a very old and light draught vessel named ‘Gazelle’ was carried by a heavy breaker so far up the beach that all but one of her crew were saved, but within an hour as her master Mr. Dawson told me, the vessel was so smashed up that he could not point out where she first stranded.
In the night the other two vessels parted their cables and drove ashore, both becoming total wrecks, but I did not see them pass me – it was too dense. Now, to return to my own position. About midnight the sea was coming on board in such lumps that I was afraid she would founder at her anchors. How her cables held was a miracle. Both boats were washed away and the combings round the engine room were started and the skylights were all broken and the water which was getting below freely, was ankle deep in the stove hold as the men fired. Although the engines were going their best the roses (228) were chocked with small coal in the bilges and the pumps were no good. I had only two passengers – a man and a woman – both of them had been farm servants but of these anon. About 2a.m. on the 4th June came vivid lightning from the north east and the wind chopped into that point simultaneously bring a sea combing down on us so that one had to make up ones mind what to do without any tiddlewinking. If she missed one of these seas she certainly would not a second. So it was jamb down the safety valve throw into the furnaces a bucket of oil and a side of bacon and then both cables being slipped simultaneously (they were all ready for a blow with a hammer) and she was on her own. If her head fell off she must off course go for the beach broadside on but she, unlike them with her broken skylights and started combings, was hardly a decked vessel, and had not a shadow of a chance as she would fill before she struck. However she kept her head on and, relieved of the weight of her cables she did not slip such heavy water. Then she began to draw on end, and just before daylight she slipped a sea which took my deck cabin with all my gear away, together with the starboard paddle box. But the wind was hauling more northerly all the time and I was soon able to weather Laggers Point and release the safety valve and ease the steam and later on we arrived in Sydney looking as if we had encountered “The heave and the haft and the hurl, And the crash of the breaker wind hounded,” and come off second best. With reference to my two passengers, when the pumps choked it was evident that the water would get to the furnaces if not relieved, so I had the salon floor broken up and the water bailed out with buckets. But the buckets would not dip from their lanyards the motion was so violent. As my crew were nailing canvas over and otherwise stopping the leakage from the deck, I told the mate to insist on the male passenger, who was kneeling and praying, dipping one of the buckets, but nothing would induce him to do anything but say his prayers. But he handed the mate a cheque that had been given him by the farmer for his wages payable in Sydney.
The woman, however, volunteered at once and she sat for hours (229) dipping a bucket with her long hair streaming down to her waist. A portion of every bucketful would be spilt over her saturating and drenching her to the skin, until we were able to relieve her. Most unfortunately this plucky woman left the vessel on her arrival at the wharf in Sydney without anyone seeing her and although advertised for she made no sign. The day I got to sea, the McLeay pilot Captain McKenzie, Captain Markham and Mr. Capehorn walked from inside the river to the scene of the wrecks in Trial Bay, succoured the survivors and finding, with the ship’s name on them the sterns of my boats and my clothes marked with my name on the beach, concluded the vessel had gone down to her anchors and a great fuss was made when news of my arrival in Sydney came to hand. I may here state that a stone obelisk was erected on the shore of Trial Bay in memory of those who perished on the night I have described. A chronometer was presented to me by the owners of the vessel in recognition of my services on this occasion. It is in the hands of my grandson, H.A. Foster, who by the way, is an Anzac, and was a member of the original ‘Famous Fifteenth’ who landed on Gallipoli on that April morn 1915. He wears a glass eye in memory of his services. (230) I arrived in Sydney in very crippled condition and the vessel was put into Messrs. Young and Mathers, hands for repairs and after a complete overhaul I left again for the McLeay River early the following July. Leaving Sydney Heads with a fresh south easter and a following sea, by the time Port Stephens was abeam the wind and sea had increased considerably and was accompanied by dense driving rain which obscured the land and made things uncomfortable for my passengers, of whom there were far too many for comfort in the little saloon, even with fine weather. However, the mercury stood very high and I did not expect anything beyond a south east blow and I hoped to be on the smooth side of the McLeay Bar before the wind could easter. My expectations were realised for I crossed the bar at half flood the next day. The bar was breaking heavily but watching the race go in, I followed on the last sea and shipped no heavy water. We steamed up the river, the rain pelting down and the south east gale increasing in violence, landing the passengers and cargo at the different townships, I finally arrived at the principle town of Kempsea with an empty ship. Here the farmers and store keepers came begging me to take their produce, for it was manifest to everyone that a flood was inevitable and they might lose everything, so I very quickly had a full ship. When we left Kempsea the river was rising rapidly. I anchored at night at Fetorina Island out of the current, the rain continuing to pour down. At daylight next morning I could hardly recognize where I was anchored, only the tops of the trees being visible and the river miles wide. All that day we were employed in removing people from the tops of their houses and barns and taking them to townships and stations further down the river, where of course the rise was not so great. It was risky work for we could hardly stem the current in the channel and on the banks we could not see the stumps and fences. However, after finishing the work we got down to the anchorage about a mile inside the bar. Just below us was a schooner the ‘Janet’ Captain Van Fleet belonging to Sydney. She was riding to both her anchors. During the night it blew very hard and the current was always increasing in velocity. About (231) two o’clock in the morning one of the watch came to my room and told me he could not see the ‘Janet’. I went on the bridge but could not make her out, but the rain was driving so thickly and fiercely in our faces that it thought it was obscuring the schooner. About 4 a.m. the rain ceased and I saw that the schooner was gone. I had been slowly steaming to my anchors all night and I now got a full head of steam, hove up my anchors, and keeping head upstream, dropped down and across the stream to the north side of the river, where I anchored close to the steep bank and passed a hawser ashore to a tree. I then landed and walked to Double Corner where my owner had two vessels building and I presently meet him. He told me the ‘Janet’ had parted her cables and had drifted out over the bar. A little later we met her master Van Fleet who informed us that his vessel had parted her cables and all the lines he had out on his three kedges and drifted down toward the bar, that she struck the rocks under the north head and he and his crew had a difficult job to get out of her in the boat before she got into the break on the bar and that she was laden to the scuppers and could not keep afloat long and would soon founder. My owner Mr. Marshall went with me to the steamer and we breakfasted and then landed and walked up to the summit of the North Head where we could look over the lower curve of the river as well as the bar over which wreckage of all kinds was sweeping – sheep, oxen, horses, portions of houses and barns and trees. There was an ugly break on the bar and all the debris after crossing the bar drifted to the northward. About five miles in the offing there was the ‘Janet’ rolling heavily in the trough of the sou’east sea. She appeared to be well out of the water and I doubted whether she had touched the rocks drifting out as the skipper had said. I remarked to Mr. Marshall there’s 1000 pounds for the fetching. “Yes,” he replied “but you could not get through that break or steer in that current.” I replied “Well the ‘Janet’ got out without steering.” Just at that time an enormous cedar tree trunk came along. I said “that tree draws more than the steamer, we’ll watch it.” It (232) kept mid channel and passed over the bar. I said ‘There’s no doubt after that we could keep the channel.” “Yes,” he replied “ but on the bar she would sweep her decks and put out her fires, she has so many deck openings.” I replied “I don’t think she would.” “Do you feel confident of getting out?” Mr. Marshall asked. “Yes” I replied, “if you give me a free hand.” “Well you can do as you like” was the answer ‘but you know” he continued ‘there’s no insurance on her and her earnings are building the other two vessels.” This was all I wanted. I hurried down the hill and in passing I called the men from the building vessels to assist me. I hauled the steamer alongside the bank, landed one hundred and fifty bags of maize to give her a little more freeboard and her passengers and got the hatches battened down and swung up my boats inboard and was ready. Then to my surprise Mr. Marshall said “I’ll go with you captain.” I didn’t want him a bit, but after arranging with his builders about the cargo and passengers I’d landed, he came on board as he stood. I unmoored and was off in the seething current. I was not a bit anxious. We could do as well as the tree inside the bar. I saw all the shipwrights and pilot men and their wonen and children running up to the North Head to see us go out. We were hardly underway when Mr. Marshall said “I ought not to have come, there’s so much to look after ashore.” “I couldn’t land you for a kingdom” I said shortly, and I could not. By the time they had got the lifeline round the helmsman and every other soul excepting the mate on the bridge and me below, we were at the bar. One massive comber which looked as if it would annihilate us and we were outside the break, but everything was gone off the decks, unfortunately including the boats. A cloud of steam was coming up a broken skylight and the engines were stopped, but to my great relief I found it was the sea which stopped her on the center and the steam was from the water touching the furnaces and ------? before it leveled off in the bilges.
After getting the engines started I got time to look around (233) and I saw one of my boats drifting clear of the break. Without a boat all the risk and loss went for nothing, as the derelict could not be boarded and I steamed in near enough to drop a small kedge into the boat with a long line and gradually towed her out to where I could get her into the davits. This being successfully done I set a course which I considered would fetch the ‘Janet’. It was now between 5 and 6p.m. and I sent a man to the masthead to report where we were heading for the Janet. To my surprise he reported he could not see her and presently a squall from the south east explained why. The rain continuing, I went to the masthead myself and remained there hoping against hope, but the rain was driving in one’s eyes and the sea getting heavier, that I had grave doubts of being able to board the Janet even if we found her. How bad I felt I can even now realize. I had had a free hand, risked the vessel, landed considerable freight and passengers and lost one boat, all for nothing. It was now as dark as pitch with heavy rain falling. I was wet to the skin and shivering at her wretched little sooty masthead. MR. Marshall the owner had repeatedly called me to come down. “It is no use, Captain” he said “you couldn’t board her if you found her, you’ve done all you could.” At last, utterly broken up, I slid down the rigging to the deck and sent a man up named Edward Menmuir (afterwards drowned in her) to continue the lookout. He had hardly got up when he called out “ vessel close on the starboard bow.” And sure enough the Janet was close on board of us. I laid the steamer in the best position for lowering the boat and getting clear of her. I had arranged with the mate and the owners as to what was to be done in case of boarding the Janet. I was to go in her and the mate was to on to Sydney with the steamer. Two of the steamers crew, Johnson and Johnson were to go with me. So as soon as I stopped the engines the mate relieved me on the bridge. But Mr. Marshall came running to me. “Captain, there’s too much sea on to lower the boat, I won’t permit it.” And he followed me to the boat’s davits where the men were standing ready.
(234) Then telling the two Johnson chaps to jump in as soon as she touched the water I called out to lower. As she rolled the toggles came out releasing the tackles and either the boat forged ahead or the steamer came astern for she rolled the sponsons right on top of us and made everything crack again. Then the opposite roll cleared us and the sea threw the boat right against the schooner bulwarks and Johnson and myself scrambled on board but Johnson missed it but caught the main rigging and stood with us. We had got on board without touching an oar. The next moment, looking at the steamer, I saw she was coning on top of us and I sang out “Go astern.” I wondered if she was on the center, if so I knew we should go down together, and the three of us stood holding on to the main rigging, straining our arms as if by doing so we could pull the schooner ahead, forgetting everything in the world except whether the steamer would get astern of us without contact. She just did it but it was a close shave. A few feet nearer she would have rolled her paddle box on the Janet’s deck. When she cleared our stern one felt for the moment nothing else in the world mattered. Relaxing my grasp of the rigging, I called out goodnight to Mr. Marshall “Get hold of Smokey Cape as soon as you can.” For a few moments I knew nothing only that she had cleared us. Then came the reaction, we were on board a strange vessel wallowing in the sea which would tumble over the one rail to roll over the other. There was heavy rain driven by half a gale of wind and it was intensely dark and each of us was drenched to the skin. We never saw the boat after Johnson scrambled out of her. I had had an ensign, some bread, brandy and a keg of water put into her but it had all gone with the boat. We could do nothing by way of saving her and our attention was fixed on the steamer menacing us. I went aft and found the schooner’s rudder and steering gear was all right and I sent a man forward to see what water was in the forecastle. I went into the cabin myself and stepped into water before I left the last step of the stairs. It was washing from side to side as she rolled but it was no more ( 235)
(236) since I left ----------------------------------- not know this until we both met in Sydney some months later.
At daylight I slipped the Vernon’s hawser and sailed into Brisbane River and at Breakfast Creek picked up a small tug which towed us to Harris’s wharf. I wired my arrival to Sydney and got a prompt reply from Mr. Marshall telling me that all procedure was left to myself. I placed the cargo in the hands of Mr. Mc Mahon (?) and I made arrangements for salvage with the owners of the Janet and I ballasted her and took her to Sydney where I handed her over to her owners. In the meantime a master was put in the steamer until my return and she was on her passage back from the McLeay when she fell in with a heavy south west gale during which she went ashore at Newcastle Light and all hands with the exception of one fireman were drowned. While in Brisbane litigating on the salvage of the Janet, I received a telegram telling me of the birth of my first hostage to fortune – a daughter. By the lass of the steamer I was out of a birth but after a few days I was given the command of a little barque by Messrs. John Frazer and Coy. Of Barrack Street and I ran her in the New Zealand trade and some interesting experiences while so engaged. On one occasion I loaded animal produce for Auckland. I arrived there just at the conclusion of the Maori Wars and while we were lying discharging in Auckland the jetty was all
(237) offered me a charter to load junk Kauri at Wangaroa for Melbourne which I closed with, and the day following the firm sent for me and strongly urged the advisability of taking a pilot which they said strangers going round to the port always did. Ascertaining that there was no pilot station at Wangaroa and that I should have to take one from Auckland at a cost of twenty pounds and his passage to the Bay Of Islands, I demurred. I was advised that the entrance was extremely difficult to find and enter. I decided to go alone. Looking at the chart as an experienced coaster, I could see nothing to indicate difficulty with the exception that an island named Maheniapa lay across the entrance. I left Auckland with a southerly wind. I ran my distance down and at once saw that it was the island that made the entrance to Wangaroa difficult to find. The island had a steep cliffy face to seaward of the same strata and colour as the coast of the main island behind it, so that a short distance off the coast appeared unbroken and the narrow gap in the vertical cliffs, which formed the entrance to the beautiful picturesque harbour of Wangaroa was completely masked. The wind had eastered during the night and I, with a commanding breeze, hauled in shore until I had opened out the island clear of the mainland island. Then running on, the opening in the lofty cliffs presently opened out and I had to acknowledge it looked just a hole in the wall. However there was nothing worse to be done than to put the helm up, square the fore and main yards, trail in the spanker, man the main clue garnets and shoot her through the gap in the precipitous cliffs, to enter one of the best sheltered and most commodious and picturesque harbours in Australasia. Given a fair wind in and out, no pilotage could be easier. I may mention that the Maori’s have a legend that H.M.S. Fantome or Phantom, beat out through the gap to sea with an easterly wind. After passing inwards through the gap the harbour opened out at once, disclosing on the north side a mountain with a cone shaped top, appropriately named St. Peter’s, and another on the south side with a dome like summit, named St. Paul’s, standing (238) sentinel like and imposing. With their cowl of clouds they have a very severe and remarkable appearance. About a mile inside the entrance of the island is Peach Island. Deserving of its name for in common with every island in sheltered positions on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand, the peach grows like a weed. Near this island the water shoals abruptly, and I took in canvas and came to an anchor, quite satisfied with the pilot. Later, I manned a boat and pulled up to a little bay where I saw a cottage and from the occupant I learned where the raft of kauri pine was moored from which I was to load my cargo, and of which he was in charge until I took delivery. Returning to the ship and getting underway, we were soon anchored in deep water in close proximity to the raft of kauri in a pretty little bay at the foot of St. Paul’s. On shore at the heart of the bay stood the cottage I have before mentioned, owned and occupied by Mr.-------, who with his maori wife had resided there from early life and brought up a large family of robust boys and girls, the maori strain being more apparent in the boys than in the girls. Mr. ---- was the only European resident on the shores of Wangaroa at the time and no other ship besides our own called during our stay. Mr.------ informed me that there was a small settlement at the head of a little river running in from the head of the harbour.
It was winter and the nights and early mornings were very cold. Water in any shallow vessel left on deck froze during the night, but as I had a nice brass bogey (ship’s fireplace) in the cabin and had my wife and little girl with me and two very agreeable, smart officers, the evenings were very enjoyable. The first night we lay there our attention was drawn by our cat, to myriads of young mackeral swarming round the raft, on a log of which pussy was sitting trying, with her claws to hook the fish which were crowding to the surface amongst the logs in their endeavour to escape capture by the kawai and other gigantic and matured individuals of their own species and (239) family. The men had found that the mackeral could be taken with an improvised scoop of bagging and wire on the end of a boat hook and breakfast of them for all the hands was the result. None of those caught exceeded seven to nine inches in length and eight ounces in weight. They were a nice relish but they did not figure on the table after the first morning, for during the day, while I was measuring the logs and the crew were getting up the derrick and purchases, my wife caught a number of fine schnapper, garnet, squire and other fish. Amongst them were two specimens of the garnet family with circular fins and dark blue spots on a yellowish background. Very handsome fish and at the table as good as they looked. The next day I shifted my anchorage to a deep hole on the other side of the bay where I threw over my ballast, then returned to my former anchorage alongside the raft. In the evenings it would be too cold to stay on deck fishing, so the mates would extend a rope from the mizzen rigging to the topgallant rail aft and attach a small table bell to it. Then, fastening our fishing lines to the rope, we would sit comfortably below talking or reading before the bogey fire until the jingle of the bell would bring us all scrambling on deck to our respective lines and then thee would presently be a big schnapper, salmon or other fish flapping on deck until it was unhooked and thrown into a tub to wait the attention of the cook. The crew forward would be similarly occupied. There was always much more fish caught than was consumed by all hands on the following day. After we had been here a few days some Maoris, both men and women in canoes, paid us a visit and brought kits of oysters, turkeys (European) and plenty of the large blue pigeon peculiar to the north island of New Zealand. The pigeons were very fat and as large as a small capon and when hung for a day or two were delicious as were also the oysters for which they asked only two pence per kit. The kit or basket, nicely plaited in the native flax, was alone worth the money. For the fine fat turkeys they asked from one and sixpence to two shillings (240) and the fat pigeons, two shillings per dozen. With the addition of plenty of fresh fish from our own lines, we were able to live like lords. I soon discovered that the Maoris preferred percussion caps to cash. It was amazing what they would offer for a few caps or a canister of powder, which was of course never sold to them. They were reliably honest in any other connection but if they could not purchase it they would pilfer any bits of lead or pewter they saw about the decks. A woman managed to filch a sheet of sheet lead the carpenter was using on the coat (?) of the mizzen mast almost from his hands and get away with it. Although the Maori Wars were over the government had not relaxed its vigilance in the prevention of the sale of firearms and ammunition to the natives and it was a serious offence to sell or give, however small a quantity, to a native. When I entered at the customs at Auckland I had to give notice on and describe every firearm on board, together with the exact quantity of ammunition. In addition, the ship was searched exhaustively. No one, even if he were a well known citizen, could purchase a half pound canister of powder or a box of percussion caps without a magistrate’s permit. Doubtless this drastic supervision was necessary when it is remembered how well the Maoris were supplied with firearms and ammunition during the war, and it is also certain that these supplies were obtained from miscreants who, in small vessels and boats, in obscure bays and at little practicable landing places on the eastern coast, followed gun running – a trade that was as lucrative as it was villainous and risky. Theses munitions were bought by ostensibly non combatant natives and then secretly conveyed to the fighting --- and bodies. Many of these collections of war materials were, in the more isolated coastal areas, unaware for some time of the termination of the war. Even as late as the time I writing of, there was evidence of the eagerness to obtain powder and shot. For example, I was practicing with an old long 13 Enfield rifle, using the paper cartridge and percussion cap (muzzle loading.) There were some Maoris on deck watching me fire. A cap misfired, and as I jerked it from the nipple (241) and it fell on deck. Afterwards, I noticed a native secreting something on his person and thinking he had pilfered something I insisted on seeing it. It proved to be the faulty cap. He became very angry when I made him throw it over the rail. He then watched if it fell on the raft. That night I was awakened by the logs bumping against the ship’s side, and going on deck, I found strong gusts of wind coming off from St. Paul making the vessel uneasy, and I went forward into the eyes of her to see how the cables were streaming. In returning aft I saw indistinctly (the night was very dark) something by the main winch with which I was not familiar and stooping, I put my hand on what I discovered to be the head of a native crouching under the winch. He rose up, held out his hand to me and whispered “Pakeha, pooh, other” (white man gun shot.) I was startled and expected trouble, and being barefoot and unarmed, I recoiled from him. “How you get on board my ship?” He replied, “Waikha” (canoe). I was about to tell the mates when the man said in good English “Don’t call! Here’s plenty money. You give me old gun and powder, shoot pigeons.” As I backed from the man towards the main rigging in which a lantern was hanging, a gleam from it showed up what was evidently sovereigns in his palm. I recovered from my surprise and said “Yes, wait a bit,” and walked aft to call the mates quietly without alarming my wife and child. As I turned at the companion door I missed the man from the deck, and looking over the rail, I saw him running across the raft and then entering the water and disappearing in the shadows. Hitherto, I had set no anchor watch as the sheltered position of the vessel made it unnecessary. But this covert visit made it needful for the future.
We were now taking in Kauri logs and spars. The short (junk) logs were taken in over-all and stuck down the hatchways. The long spars were received threw the bow ports. I had a good freight and it paid to take time for a good stowage. One morning two white men, timber getters, came alongside in the boat and told me that they had a number of kauri rickers lying about five miles from us which they wanted to dispose of. (242) Ricker is the mane given to long straight kauri saplings. They make excellent light spars, as topgallent and royal masts, flying jibbooms etc. and generally found a ready market in Melbourne and Sydney. I managed to get up next day and inspect them with a view to purchase, and the two men after a meal left, but not before they had initiated me into the method of kawal fishing, of which I had no previous knowledge. In conversation they assured me that the natives were quite trustworthy and that their eagerness to obtain ammunition and guns was born for their love of sporting and pigeons. I took this cum grano salis. The men admitted that the Maori War had ceased some time before they heard of its cessation. The next day, the mast and sails being put into the gig, and taking my wife and daughter, a lad from the crew and a good stout coil line for kawai, I left the ship to look for rickers. There was a nice little breeze which freshened as we got out in the harbour. Giving my wife the tiller, I streamed the towing line with a good stout Limerick hook secreted in red and white bunting. Some time elapsed with no fish showing, I hauled in and, taking off the bunting, I put on a piece of muntz metal polished and shaped like a fish, with side wings angled so that when streamed it kept rising from the water. The carpenter made it the previous night as we had not the pearl shell recommended by the ricker men. I streamed all the line except a fathom or two, and taking the line in my hand, my wife being at the tiller, I sat down prepared to take it easy and smoke. Instantly there was a feeling of red hot wire tearing through my hand and my hat went over the side, while there was a tug that in my listless attitude, nearly took me over the stern. I was just in time to see an outline of dark blue and silver sparkling in the sun as a fish which looked as big as a porpoise breached out of the water at the end of the line. I had no hope of getting the first from the first. The strain was too great for my hook. Letting go the main sheet, I told the boy to brail the sail. My wife at the tiller with her daughter at her feet kept cool and I knew was deploring the loss (243) of my bait. Directly the sail was off and the boat lost her way, the line slacked, and I easily hauled about half of it. I thought the fish was gone when it tore through my hands (caught -----ing again) until it brought up on the ring bolt it was fastened to. I then sent my wife and daughter forward and the lad and I began to haul in. Presently the line relaxed and the line came in fast. My wife said, “I can see it . It’s on its side on top of the water.” Presently I could see it too and I was amazed that the hook had held it. It wsaq on its side and we hauled it nearly up to the stern. I judged it was nearly 60 pounds. I told the lad to get the end of the mainsheet ready to slip over the tail, and I passed the bight of the line to the lad amidships where we would take it in. I then saw to my surprise that the fish was caught outside. It had not bitten at the bait and as it lay on its side alongside the boat, I thought I would slip the bowline over it and remove the hook so that the muntz metal wings would not be bent. Both the boy and myself were leaning over the side, when slap splash went the tail, filling both our eyes and mouth with salt water. The line went out like an electric flash and the boy and I stood looking at each other until we were told not to stand like images when anybody could have seen the fish was only foxing. That reminded me that the ricker man had said “Look out for the big fish. They are beggars for foxing.” You would think they were dead and they go in a flurry and tear everything before them. This chap had foxed and we were the geese. It was an awful take down and I have not got over it yet.
(244) I had been too much engrossed by the fishing to pay attention to the passing of the points and little bays in the direction the ricker men had given me for the finding of the -------, and I continued running on trying to recognize my position. I only realized I had overrun my distance when I saw a piece of cloth being waved some distance astern. So I had to make a few tacks to get to the place where the two men stood on a little pebbly beach. They caught the boat as her stern grounded at the head of the prettiest little nook of a bay that can be imagined. The water was as blue, salt and transparent as it would be fifty miles in the offing. The land rising gradually to precipitous heights gave the easy gradient foreshore covered with the somber looking kauri the bright green foliaged totara (?) and between them the broad flags of the ever present and useful New Zealand flax. The rickers were lying aground at half tide. There were more than I required for broken stowage, but the men would sell all or none. They were beautiful spars, some of them 60 feet long, as straight as a gun barrel and under 12 inches in diameter at the butt. The price was 6 pence per lineal foot. The ricker men were the kindest and most hospitable chaps one could meet. When purchase was off they took us to their hut, gave us tea damper and whatever their larder supplied, and took it in turn to carry the child about while showing us the best scenic points of view. And they did not let us see they were disappointed at no deal, but pressed me to take the only kawai line they possessed to fish on the way back to the ship. There were plenty of pigeons cooing in the trees near the hut, but I had only a muzzle loading saloon rifle and after dropping a couple which the bullet had spoiled, I gave them best. We were in the boat taking leave when one of them said, “Will you take the rickers at four and a half pence?” I replied that I would sooner take half at six pence. I got the reply “That would keep us here and we want to shift.” “Take the lot at four and a half pence and we’ll deliver them alongside your vessel on tomorrow night’s ebb.” I agreed and left them. We had a smart thrash back to the ship, getting alongside about mid-night. The mates were just getting ready to look for us. We had rather enjoyed the beat home.
(245) The child slept soundly all the time and I knew my wife would not refer to the lost fish while I let her stay at the tiller. The next night the men came alongside with the rickers, and in the forenoon I went ashore with one of them to a little scrubby pocket and with my single barreled Joe Manton, got seventeen lovely blue pigeons. They afforded no sport, it was just pot shooting. They would not wing they were so fat and lazy, with their craws full of blue plum like a quandong, which fairly rolled from their beaks when they reached the ground. They were simply delicious at table. The timber was now coming in fast, the raft already showing the drafts made on it. Fish in great variety were flapping about the decks every hour of the day, caught by the cook and crew in their dinner hour and by my wife who reveled in fishing.
Sunday, at the pleasant picturesque anchorage came, and on the previous night while enjoying our Saturday night’s peg to the time honoured toast at sea of “Sweethearts and wives” it was suggested that we should ask the men if they would like to join us in a climb to the top of Mount St. Paul (at the foot of which we were anchored) and it being proposed to them by the second mate, they concurred readily. I may here remark that they were smart, well behaved young fellows and in common with all seamen I have carried, kept bridle on tongue and behaviour in consideration of the presence of women. So on Sunday morning, a bright and lovely one, we all with the exception of a shipkeeper landed, including my wife and daughter, and everyone in the best of humour, crossed the little plateau of the foreshore and then commenced the ascent of St. Paul’s. One of the men took the child from me and from start to return passed her from one to another. Indeed, when at sea they loved to get her to sleep in the evenings. The temperature at starting (7a.m.) was below 40 degrees, but after an hours climbing most of us were perspiring. New Zealand flax grew on the plateau from which there was an enchanting view of the upper reaches of the harbour and foreshores and Mount St. Peter’s on the other side. Stunted totara and redwood and a little trickle of ice cold clear water came from under (146) an enormous vertical faced mass of granite rock, which after taking its narrow course across the little plateau, was lost amongst the boulders of the lower levels, appearing again at Mr. -----‘s cottage in far greater volume and from which the cottage and also visiting vessels obtained supply. At this spot we spelled half an hour. The kettle wsa boiled and tea made for those who preferred it to Bass’ and with substantial sandwiches of turkey and corned beef and pigeon and bacon, we were like giants refreshed. Before starting again two of the men sang a very funny song which they fitted very cleverly and whimsically to the tune of the Old Hundred in consideration of the day. I offered to remain here with my wife while the rest went to the summit but she would not hear of it. So we started upward again, ultimately reaching the summit about 1 p.m. We had been six hours on the ascent, including the recess at the plateau, but it was confidently assumed that we should get down in half the time (as easy as fat Jack said.) So we did not hurry over our refreshment. The view across from the summit was disappointing, another mountain to the southward obstructing the outlook in that direction. We could not see the Bay of Islands as I had expected but we could see the sea in the offing. The summit was bare rock not in the least dome like as it appeared below. In the stunted scrub below the top, there was a very luxuriant vine bearing clusters of yellow berries, feeding on which were numbers of black and white birds the size of a bronze wing pigeon and so tame that they did not fly until we were within an arms length of them. After our meal we lighted our pipes and commenced the downward journey, and it did not take long to convince us that we had reckoned without our host, and that going down was not quite as smooth as grease as we had expected it would be. I soon became very anxious for my wife as daylight began to recede, and she in her turn, was continually watching the man who was carrying the child, and missing her footing. As daylight died out I made up my mind that on reaching the plateau I would get what cover I could make of our clothing and with the cook and (247) the tea kettle, remain with my wife and child until daylight, letting the rest go on. There was plenty of dead wood for a good fore that I had seen in the morning and it would be preferable to slipping and starting boulders rolling and perhaps sustaining injured or broken legs. Strange to say I saw no boulders on the way up that could be dislodged. Amongst the trees it was now pitch dark and we continued slipping and groping our way down, expecting every minute to come to the plateau. But we never came to it or saw it again. Finally after a very rough time we reached the foot of the mountain a long way to seaward to where we had started our ascent. The latter had been strenuous, but the coming down was perilous from darkness and loose boulders. Still, but for my wife and child it would have been simply annoying. It was 3 a.m. before we had stumbled threw the undergrowth and boulders at the foot of the hill and found our landing place, and it was a long time before we could rouse the shipkeeper to bring the boat. The kind fellows who had carried our little girl by turns, while I had given what assistance I could to her mother said she slept through the descent. We were very glad to get on board and work was not commenced till 2 p.m.
In the evening a small cutter came into the cove from the Bay of Islands and two gentlemen came on board us from her and joined us at the evening meal. Afterwards they asked for private conversation with myself and my wife. After some enquires, the drift of which I could not understand, they stated that the object of their visit was to negotiate a passage to Melbourne for a lady and her husband. I at once said it was impossible, that I had no accommodation or attendance. They however, urged every possible argument and even took a tone of entreaty, to all of which I gave a decided negative. I thought the matter settled. Our visitors remained late, one walking the deck with and entertaining me with a graphic and interesting description of his life and labours during the stressful and exciting time of the Maori War. Meantime his friend was in the cabin conversing with Mrs. ----- and the mates. Presently a dingy came from the cutter for them, and just as they were preparing to leave my wife came to me and earnesrly begged me to accede to the men’s (248) request and take the passengers. The visitor in the cabin had told her how the pair who wished to travel with us were only a few weeks married, since which event the lady had been in delicate health and the doctors had told her that a short sea voyage would in all probability reinstate it. Of course my wife carried her point, though I was intensely annoyed, for I knew the pleasant comradeship which had hitherto existed between us and the officers would have to cease to an extent.
The next morning our visitors came to us again and arrangements were made that the passengers should be brought to us on a date I named and that before leaving the Bay of Islands they should be given to clearly understand what accommodation we could afford them, together with the dietary scale, which I handed to our visitors. I also said that they should be told that we had no doctor and that our medicine chest was limited. The matter of passage money was hardly a question. I named a sum hoping it would be prohibitive but if I had asked double the amount, the cheque would have been filled in as readily, it seemed to me. I arranged that the cheque should be handed to me by the passengers on their arrival on board in order that I might be free to sail if they were not to hand on the day agreed to, and this I devoutly desired should obtain. At this time heavy rain set in, with strong southerly winds, stopping the work of loading, and my wife occupied the time in making preparation for our interesting passengers. We were using the only spare berth we had as a sail room, making curtains etc. and a lad was set to scrubbing and cleaning for the sweet little bride of two weeks as she put it, and both the mates and myself anticipated we were to have an interesting addition to our little circle in the cabin.
One day accompanied by my wife and daughter, I visited Mr. ----- the only resident those days of the lower part of the harbour. We found him in his comfortable cottage of several large rooms and its wide verandahs. I knew he was married to a maori woman, and like all Europeans married to natives, he was very chary of his wife and children being in evidence, but at my wife’s solicitation, he took us to the keeping room, where, squatting on rugs on the floor were mother and nine fine boys and girls, composing the family.
(249) The mother, a full blooded Maori, had a pleasant motherly expression and talked vivaciously and intelligently about her family. I was surprised to see that the boys showed the Maori strain more pronounced than the girls, the elder of whom had been educated in Auckland, and among other accomplishments, played the piano, harp and violin and spoke grammatically. But her mother seemed pleased when telling us how the girl immediately she returned from school, went back to her old life and habits paddling and fishing, making flax kits and nets, again adapting herself to the one and only garment, a skirt from neck to ankles. All the children could read and write. The Maori strain was hardly perceptible in the features and expression of the elder girl. Bidding goodbye to those kind people, we were taking our way to the ship, but Mr. ----- intercepted us and insisted on our partaking some refreshment before we left, and to our surprise took us to a well furnished dining room where there was a table with roast pig, kumeras, yams, milk, water and stone bottles of kummel. At the request of our hosts we took our seats, when to our astonishment, telling us to ring if we required anything further, he left us closing the door after him. He told us later that this was customary in households of mixed marriages when entertaining Europeans.
Our cargo was coming in fast and I wanted to have another day’s fishing, so early one morning, leaving our little girl with the family on shore, we left the ship in the gig with the sprit sail and no jib for handiness and, having a nice fresh breeze as soon as we got in mid stream, I veered away a line with a very strong hook and a pearl shell bait. Soon I was fast to a 10 pound fish of the mackeral tribe but not kawai. It gave no sport but it was welcome as a beginning. For some time we sailed backwards and forwards across the channel without a show, so I hauled in, took off the pearl shell and put on another brightmuntz metal fish and it was not long before the line tightened out as rigid as a steel. Then a splendid fish breached out of the water at the end of it leaving the line fast to the ringbolt. I took the sprit out of (250) the sail, and telling my wife to keep the boat before the wind, I commenced to haul on the line. It would come in quite slack and then the fish would tighten it out, making a semi circle and then break out of the water and then slack it up. I quite expected to lose it, as I did not believe the hook ( the strongest I had) could stand the strain. I worked the fish up nearly to the boat’s stern, and then it went into a flurry, drenching us with salt water. Fearing the hook I slacked the line and the captive was away again. I hauled the mainsheet aft again and towed until the strain of the line ceased, and then commenced to haul in. I got the fish close up to the stern again, and taking a turn with the line, I got a chain hook, which I had got the carpenter to trim up until the hook was a foot deep, with a stout lanyard to fit, and fast to the after thwart, succeeded in hooking it under the gills.Then, with the assistance of my wife I got the fish safely over the gunwale. I never saw a more handsome fish, with its dark blue back and bright blue silvery belly and sides, its graceful curves as it tapered away towards the head and tail from the dorsal fin. It went quiet for some little time and then went into a final flurry, working with head and tail with surprising vigour. On getting to the ship they put the captive on the steelyards and it weighed 57 and a half pounds. This was my first and only kawai.
We had now nearly completed our cargo. The Maoris seemed to know this and three large canoes came round to us with turkeys, oysters, pigeons and pigs together with kumeras, yams and potatoes. I purchased a dozen turkeys and would have been glad to have taken more, but had nowhere to put them until the longboat was in the chock, for they were as cheap as beef. I also bought all the pigeons, oysters, kumaras and yams they offered, and three pigs. All were very reasonable. As previously, they would have preferred powder, shot and guns to cash, but of course this was not allowed, or they would have readily taken rum. However, they went away satisfied. Nearly all of those natives appeared to be suffering more or less from pulmonary or bronchial complaint. Both sexes were largely framed, but all showed emaciation.
(251) Most of them when they can obtain rum, go in for an orgie. A number of them meet together, and hauling their canoes up on the beach, light a fire and sit around drinking until the intoxicant is all consumed or they are helplessly intoxicated and them lie and sleep off the effects, exposed to the heavy dews or rains and thus contract chest troubles. This is how Mr. ----- at the cottage accounted for the prevalence of these diseases in an otherwise stalwart, robust people. I am writing of course of fifty years ago. When I had a full ship I had a number of rickers left. These I left with Mr. ---- to dispose of if opportunity offered. The date I had given my intending passengers to come was close at hand, and I secretly hoped they would not arrive. On the other hand my wife was most anxious for the “sweet young thing’s” advent with us. We went ashore and said goodbye to the interesting kind family at the cottage, and in the afternoon unmoored and dropped the barque out into the stream for an early fitting in the morning if the wind favoured us. About 9 am we were having a rubber in the cabin when the anchor watch reported a small vessel coming in. This brought us quickly on deck, and shortly after a smart cutter anchored, and a dingy from her with her master came alongside us. He informed me that our two passengers had retired, expressing a wish that they should not be disturbed until morning. This was a disappointment to my wife. Early next morning I sent a boat to the cutter for the luggage, and then the gig with the second officer for the people which, after some delay returned with them. My wife and myself stood at the gangway to receive them. A little breeze from the land now sprang up and the crew were chanting at the windlass “Goodbye, fare you well, goodbye, fare you well!” until the mate sang out “Fifteen fathoms at the hawse, sir.” Then it was “Away aloft and stand by, bunt gaskets,” and then “Let fall.” And the cheery rattle of the topsail sheets through the yardarms and jewel blocks, and the yards are braced abox and the windlass is again manned and the cable comes in to a rousing chorus of “Fare you well my bonny bonny girl, Britiania rules the waves.” Then from the mate comes “Anchor’s short, sir” and “Lay aft a hand to the wheel.” Then from the skipper (252) came “Heave away, MR> Rich.” Then “Anchor’s away sir.” Now it was “Hoist the jib,” and the barque’s head pays off and the main yard fills, and presently the fore yard is swung and fills also, and with a little breeze right out of the harbour, her head is pointing to the ‘hole in the wall’ with square yards and every rag we can pack on her. I think it occurred to all of us that we had had a pleasant busy time in the cosy picturesque harbour of Wangaroa. As she neared the gap in the precipitous cliffs through which she had to pass to get to the open sea, the little land breeze nearly failed us, but there was a drain of ebb tide and I got two boats ahead of her, and with a light line from the flying jibboom end to keep her straight. There was a little easterly swell coming in and the close vicinity of the vertical basaltic cliffs gave me rather a bad quarter of an hour. However, another little puff came along, shoved us through and out clear of everything.
And now s we were outside with the anchors catted and the boats in the davits, the watches picked and the course set, and the steward has sang out “Grog-ho” you and I will return to the advent of our two passengers. As I have previously said , myself and my wife received them at the gangway, and as they reached the deck we were both taken aback, and my wife’s words of welcome to the “sweet young thing” (as she had always referred to the lady) were rather confused. The lady came up first – a tall large framed woman, with long features, expressionless eyes, her dark hair brought flatly down each side of her face and turned up over her ears, as I remember the fashion was once upon a time. Until her husband came on deck she was easily the tallest person on board. She at once without speaking a reply to either of us handed me a letter, which I knew was from Messrs. -----who had negotiated their passages, introducing them and enclosing a cheque. She was a most remarkable and stately woman in appearance, and I judged her age to be between forty-five and fifty. At first glance I thought the husband was 7 feet. Really he was 6 feet 5 inches. In build, features and absence of expression he was so like his wife that momentarily I placed them in my mind as brother and sister. Both were similarly (253) dressed as to colour, a dark grey. Seen alone the wife looked as tall as the husband because it seemed no one could be any taller, but side by side it was easily seen that there was a hand difference. We were hardly clear of the island of Mahincapa when a fresh south easterly wind came along and we were soon falling off eight knots an hour with two royals on the ship. At lunch came my first opportunity of fraternising with the strangers and introducing my officers to them. They however, vouchsafed no reply other than a curt nod. As usual with us soup was served from a tureen on the table, and Mr. Tall ( as we will call him) stood up and said Grace for about ten minutes, and as he finished his wife let an amen with a report to shock us as of a piece of ordinance. It was irresistibly funny and neither the mates nor myself dared attempt to touch our soup for some time. To have caught my wife’s eyes would have been disastrous. As soon as I could control my risible nerves I attempted conversation with Mrs. Tall , but I might have well as addressed the sphinx. She absolutely ignored me, and appeared to be absorbed in watching her husband who was taking his soup with his dessert spoon. She snatched it from him and shoved a tablespoon into his hand and he went on taking his soup as if hypnotized. Mrs. Tall emptied her plate with two or three movements of her spoon and then sat concentrating her eyes on me until I felt as if under the gaze of a basilisk. Then, in a voice like a boatswain’s she said, “Was the soup in your dietary scale limited to one helping?” “I beg a thousand pardons madam,” was my reply “ permit me to assist you.” She took up her husband’s plate and passed it by the mate to me. Meantime Mr. Tall sat holding the spoon over the place where his plate had been, apparently unconscious. Later in the meal I asked him if he would partake of the dish I was helping or that in front of the chief officer. Without replying to me, he turned to his wife and meekly asked “What’ll I have, Birdie dear?” This settled the mate who jumped up, and singing out “Ay,Ay,” as if he had heard a call, went on deck. My wife and I passed through the ordeal with these peculiar people alone. It was ludicrous but tragic, for (254) it was the death of that pleasant companionship which had obtained with us for several short voyages. There was a long thanksgiving from Mr. Tall which I evaded by going on deck, and which drew from the lady the remark to my wife “I fear your husband is utterly ungodly.” We were now with a fair wind running along the north east coast, intending to round Cape Reinga Reinga and pass between that cape and the Three Kings. The Maoris have a superstition about Cape Reinga Reinga, to the effect that bad spirits, after having left Sheol for a time, and persuing a malignant crusade amongst the natives, return whence they came by way of this gloomy, foreboding looking cape, diving off it as the sun dips into the abyss beneath. Off Parenga-renga the wind fell off lighter and we were all interested in the view of the passing coastline, when a man employed on the main topsail yard called out that he could see some object ahead and on the port bow. Telling him to watch and report again he presently said it looked like a boat capsized. Steering for it I soon saw that this was correct, and also that there was a man clinging to the wreck. When near to it I put the helm down and laid the main yard to the mast and lowered the boat with the second in charge. Presently he returned with the man who had been clinging to the boat He appeared nothing the worse for his immersion and refused some stimulant. He told us he had left Parenga-renga in the early part of the day alone for fishing and had been capsized while getting his line ready, by a sudden puff of wind and that he and his family lived in Parenga. I did not like to take him on and I was about only four miles from the entrance to that place, so I sent a boat with a number of lines and, attaching the end to the capsized boat, heaved her alongside. She was on her side and the sheet being fast. The resistance offered by the mainsail prevented her turning bottom up. We soon righted her and baled her out. She was practically undamaged. I took her in tow, filled the main yard and hauled in towards Parenga-renga. Then, ‘laying to’ I sent the man away in his boat, one of our oars with the second officer, accompanying her until inside the entrance. Then our boat (255) being picked up, the main yard filled and we pursued our coarse again. It was some years after, before I saw the Parenga-renga boatman again.
Pursuing our coarse from Parenga-renga northward, the wind carried us to North Cape and then left us and we were drifting backwards and forwards for several days between that cape and Cape Reinga. It was a very monotonous time, relieved only by schools of porpoises, a number of which we harpooned, stripped off their blubber and dried out on the caboose stove. There is a small quantity of very fine oil to be obtained from a cavity in the jawbone of a porpoise and of this I got a bottle full from a number of them. Seamen sometimes eat the heart and liver, which resemble to a marked degree the same organs of the pig. At last a little breeze came away and we passed under the frowning capes of Reinga and Maria Van Dieman. The wind being steady and the water smooth, I hauled up the vessel over the Pandora five fathom bank under the latter cape, and laying the main yard to the mast, had an hour’s fishing amongst the schnapper, the only fish I have seen caught on this bank, but they are more plentiful there than any ground I know of on the Australian coasts, Flat Rock, the popular fishing ground of Brisbane not excepted. Our baits would be taken before they would reach the bottom, and when hauling up a fish, dozens would follow it to the surface. This continued after we had drifted across the bank and were fishing in thirty fathoms. But we soon had sufficient for immediate use as well as splitting and drying. We then filled and set a course for Cape Howe. The wind was slight and we were a long time losing sight of the land. Our two passengers were unsociable and seldom left their rooms except for meals. Fortunately neither of them suffered from sea sickness. On Saturday evening I invited them to join us in the usual glass of grog and toast, but met a curt refusal and horrified look from the lady. On Sunday morning however, Tall asked permission to read the Anglican prayers for sea on deck to the hands. I gave ready leave. The weather was fine and the men all came aft and sat along the covering board while Mr. Tall standing at the sky- (256) light, his wife being alongside him, read portions of scripture and portions of the church service. Then, turning to prayers to be used at sea, he commenced and got half way through the prayer to be used for battle. As soon as his wife perceived this she snatched the prayer book from his hand, rasped out “Who are we going to fight?” and found and pointed out the suitable collect. But the men laughed and I’m afraid I joined in it, for it was so very funny to see this 6ft 5ins of manhood so absolutely subservient. Mrs. Tall then took the book from her husband’s hand, and saying “That’s enough” turned to me, called me an ungodly man and accused me of ridiculing sacred things. At lunch too, she things very unpleasant and I exceedingly regretted that I had taken her and her husband. Tall was a big lumbering inoffensive fellow and doubtless educated, but was utterly subservient to his wife’s moods. He always appeared preoccupied.
At midnight on that Sunday night I saw the mercury had fallen considerably after the daily wave and by four o’clock in the morning it had fallen still further. At ten o’clock it was so low that I felt certain that we were in for a blow from the west or north-west and I watched for a clearing of the sky in that direction. I was quite taken aback, when about noon, the atmosphere became dense and a long swell came in from the east northeast with a still falling glass. I knew then that we wee in for something more than the ordinary from the eastward. At four o’clock in the afternoon we were under two double reefed topsails and fore course, with the wind east northeast and a heavy swell from that quarter, with a dense atmosphere and drops of rain. At eight o’clock that night I close reefed both topsails and at midnight I took the forecourse off her, being anxious about the fore yard which had a defect under the slingband. At six o’clock the next morning the main topsail burst in a heavy squall and we were dead before it. The squall was accompanied by heavy rain, which driven by the wind cut like shot when one looked aft. We got a new main topsail on deck and close reefed it, sent it aloft and got it bent successfully.
The men were laying from the yard when a young fellow named Smart, after getting into the topmost rigging, noticed a gasket (257) adrift on the starboard yard arm. He laid out again to make it up and this he had succeeded in doing when the buntlines carried away. The sail filled and bellied above the yard and Smart was either knocked backwards by the sail or he lost his grip of the becket, and fell from the yard into the sea. The horrible conviction seized me that I should have to abandon him, for I knew that no boat we carried could be lowered or live in the sea that was running; while to bring the vessel to the wind in the attempt, would be to sweep everything and everybody off her decks even if she did not founder. I lived ages in a few seconds, as falls to the lot of many a shipmaster under similar circumstances. I remember , with the rapidity that thought is capable of, that there passed through my mind the case of a very popular young coasting master trading from Sydney who fell or was washed overboard from a new brigantine owned by himself and his two brothers, he being on his first trip after his recent marriage. The vessel was scudding before a heavy polar storm and heavy seas. The man who was a powerful swimmer and who had taken many trophies at matches, was seen by the crew after he got overboard, with his head well up swimming on the front of a mountainous sea astern. The mate, a foreigner, did not put down the helm and round to, doubtless being convinced that in doing so he would lose the vessel and all on board. Now, with the knowledge that this captain would be able to swim for hours with his mental faculties acute and his muscles strong, and be able to reach the vessel if she could have been brought into the wind, what must have been the state of that mate’s mind when, prompted by his judgement as a seaman, he abandoned the one life for the preservation of the greater number? It is the direst position a man can be placed in and it is not exceptional in the annals of the sea. When that brigantine got back to Sydney the mate was blamed and branded as a coward by the dead man’s relatives. This tragedy crossed my mind as I saw Smart falling into the sea and I knew I should not round the ship into the sea; but thank God I was spared acting on this awful decision. Miraculous as it may seem, Smart fell into the crest of a sea careering along the vessel’s side, which broke amidships and which threw (258) Smart against the top gallant rail at the after part of the main rigging. Smart clutched the royal backstay and got inboard before anyone saw him and all were coming down the rigging and looking astern for him and crying out “Man overboard.” Smart did not appear injured but he was dazed and it was only when he staggered to the men at the maintop sail sheets that he realized that his left arm was broken below the elbow. I have been thankful all my life that I was saved the abandonment of the young fellow, who only a few days previously had so kindly carried my little daughter during our Sunday excursion. Beyond sending Smart and his broken arm below, nothing could be done for him until we had a new main topsail on her, for if the fore one had split, the vessel would have been unable to clear the heavy following sea. However, in the comparative lull between the squalls, the sheets were got home and I then went to the forecastle to attend to Smart. To my utter astonishment I found Tall stripping the wet clothing off the man and looking alert and interested. His tall figure was bent to avoid the smoky beams above his head and he was keeping his feet in spite of the exaggerated motion of the vessel. “Have you splints in your medicine chest?” he asked. “Yes, three sets.” I replied and I went aft and sent the splints and bandages. When he saw me watching, Tall said, “It’s all right, I have studied medicine>” Later I visited Smart and found his arm in splints and neatly bandaged. Tall however, appeared to have drawn within himself again and in the few minutes I was below I did not meet him.
The weather continued as dense and thick as pea soup, with sheets of ice cold rain driven by the wind horizontally cutting like shot, with occasional muffled flashes of lightning and peals of thunder and a very ugly sea running, the white crested tops of which were at intervals wind driven over the taff rail in sufficient volumes to make me anxious for the man at the wheel. Looking astern all that could be seen was a huge white crested mountain of water racing after the little barque, and she with an ever ready (258) welcome, would raise her stern and simultaneously bury her bows in the dark hollow of the preceding wave with its ghastly phosphorescent comb, until its successor swept past and took its place. And so on all through the black night, with only the little gleam from the binnacle light on the helmsman’s oilskins to indicate the control of man and that the ship was not in itself a sentient thing goaded by white horses of Neptune’s troop. It would have become monotonous but for the excitement of watching how much of each successive wave would tumble on board the gangway and take a run around the decks before escaping by the ports and scuppers. We had five days of this sort of fun, with never a glimpse of sky, sun, moon or star. But clear of the land, while the main topsail stood and the vessel steered well, there was nothing to grumble about. On a Wednesday morning the mercury began to rise and I confidently hoped the atmosphere would clear, but I was mistaken. It simply confirmed the legend, “First rise after very low signifies a harder blow.” And with increased wind and sea I became anxious about the steering, for with the sea that was racing after us, a yaw of a couple of points might mean utter disaster. Sometimes the crash of a comber close astern would cause the helmsman to look behind him, and I never liked that. Personally I was not having a good time, for to myself I had to admit that I had erred in running the ship too long and I dared not now “heave her to” and I daresay I made resolutions to refuse all future requests of my wife to bring her to sea. From this until we made Gabo she was steered during darkness by three persons only – an A.B. named Christian Forrest, a Dane; the second mate a recent superintendent of Cape Capricorn; and an ordinary seaman who I think is still watchman at the South Brisbane dry dock. Tall would thrice a day go forward and have a look at Smart, generally getting drenched by salt and fresh water before he got below again, but never appearing to take any notice of his surroundings after leaving his patient.
This blow has lasted long enough for my readers and I will just say that on Sunday morning I calculated we were near Cape Howe. We had seen nothing of the heaven above us since losing sight of the Three (260) Kings, and I was very anxious for it to clear. About 9 a.m. I went below for a few minutes, when the second mate called down the companion “It looks like a break overhead, sir.” I snatched up my sextant and telling the mate to stand by the chronometer, I went on deck. I at once realized that there was a drastic change and I saw that the sun was likely to break through. I called out to the mate to be ready at the watch but it was not required. The rain had ceased and the dense haze had rolled back in the form of an arch to the westward, and in its center was Gabo Island lighthouse white and shining, with a ray of sun caressing it from above the heavy strata of haze which rolled back from the land. Had the stormy weather continued, we should have just about cleared it and passed on into the Straits. During the whole of the blow the wind had veered from east-north-east to east-south-east, and the vessel had been kept dead before it and made a compensating course, but made more distance than I allowed her. Two hours after sighting Gabo we were under all plain sail crossing Ninety Mile Beach, with a moderate wind which gradually died out, leaving us becalmed a little to the eastward of the promontory. As soon as the weather cleared up the ladies came on deck. Mrs. Tall, who had told my wife several times during the bad weather, when she had sat down very heavily and unintentionally, that the captain ought to be ashamed of himself (evidently crediting me with arranging the movement of the vessel) replied to my “Good morning” in a voice which clearly intimated “Don’t do it again Captain.” Then turning to her husband she snorted “Go and change your slippers. You will get cold.” Now it was very probable that Tall had nothing dry belonging to him as he had visited Smart thrice a day and generally got drenched in both salt and sea water on his journey; but he went meekly down as he was ordered. It came to my knowledge later that he had taken a B.A. degree and had also studied medicine, and doubtless lay his vocation as evidenced by the complete waking up of himself over Smart’s broken arm.
As I have said, we lost the easterly wind and were becalmed by Wilson’s Promontory. The next change was a cruel one, for we got (261) a succession of west-south-westerly gales, and from Wilson’s Promontory to Point Nepean, a distance of only seventy-eight miles, we were seventeen days. The greater part of that time we were anchored in Sealers Cove in company of a barque named Monarch, a big fore and aft schooner called Gulnare and the steamer Victoria. We would go to sea under double reefs and fetch Sea Elephant Rocks on one tack, and to the lee of Cape Liptrap on the other and run back to our anchorage in the cove. Mrs. Tall nearly drove us mad. When a change did come we got through the rip at Port Phillip Heads and up to the Swan Spit. I took the first tug that came along and soon got tied up just below Princess Bridge. I at once got away with my wife and child in order not to have any last words with Mrs. Tall The newspapers told us what we knew, that the late easterly gale had been an exceptionally severe one and that a low glass had prevailed during the blow , whereas the rule is that the barometer stands at a very high level during easterly and south-easterly gales. The abnormal density of the atmosphere probably caused the low reading. We also heard that during the gale four pilots had been drowned at Sydney Heads by the swamping of a boat.
I contracted for the discharge of the timber, paying the crew off as I was instructed to sell the vessel if I could find a buyer, which I failed to do. After three months pleasant residence in Melbourne I chartered again to load at Tasmanian ports for Brisbane.
The Yarra at that time presented a very different sight to what it does at the present day. Nothing but sailing vessels of small tonnage and a few small steamers used the Melbourne wharves. The heavy ships, steam and sail, moored at Sandridge and Williamston wharves and jetties. The sailing vessels were all towed up the Yarra. A tug would perhaps have four or five brigs, barques and schooners astern of her, and it was marvelous with what dexterity she would drop them one after the other in their respective berths on the side of this narrow canal like watercourse, so narrow that even the tug would have to get to the swinging (?) close up to the bridge before she could turn around. On the left hand side of the Yarra below the gasworks there were a number of wool washing enter-(262) prises, where all day long men and women could be seen up to their knees in the trough or vats, which were moored to or built into the side of the Yarra, scouring and washing the fleeces. The ellwood(?) swamp on the opposite side was as nature formed it. No attempt at raising or draining had been made, but there was a narrow wooden gangway on which one could cross on foot and so shorten the distance to Sandridge. At the Sandridge jetties all the largest ships trading to Australia were berthed and at intervals, conspicuous amongst the largest, would be the Great Britain, the Titanic of her day and a very successful and popular ship she became in both the Melbourne and Sydney trade. She was then running under auxilary steam and rig of a four masted square rigged ship. Her commander, the late Captain Grey was as popular as his ship. The Great Britain when I first saw her lying in the Thames had six masts all fore and aft rigged. She afterwards got stranded at Dundrum Bay on the coast of Ireland, but was floated again at enormous expense. There was quite as much fuss and curiosity exhibited in connection with the building and launching of this ship as there was a few years afterwards about the Great eastern.
As I could not sell my vessel in Melbourne, I chartered with Messrs. Woodhouse and Sons to load, at the Tasmanian ports of the Mersey and Don, produce for Brisbane. I was insured in the ----- Company, but I was not aware that there was a clause in the policy exempting the Company of risk at these rivers, and after signing the charter party, they sent their surveyor down to look at the vessel, with the result that I received notice that the sum the ship was covered for was reduced by 700 pounds and conditional on me taking a pilot at both ports. I had, of course, to accept these conditions but I covered with the Derwent and Tamar Company for 500 pounds. Then I was towed to Footscray where I took in 80 tons of blue metal ballast. I may here say that whilst in Melbourne, I passed an examination for pilotage exemption before the late Captain Arthur Devlin and of course a 20 pound fee. Entering the port I had as pilot Captain J. Traguertha, a relative of our townsman of that name. Leaving Port Phillip Head with a fair wind we had a pleasant run (263) across Bass Straits and daylight found us on the Tasmanian coast. It was a lovely morning. The sea was as smooth as a river and the sun was just touching ridge and hollow bringing out different tints of verdure on the primeval forest and cultivated fields where the apple and the potato flourished. My wife was delighted and was longing to pull apples from the trees on her own, and I rashly promised that she should do so before the day was gone.
But man proposes and God disposes. I was soon off the mouth of the Don with the Jack at the fore for a pilot, and after waiting some time, I lowered a boat and sent the mate in to see if a pilot was obtainable. He returned with the information that the pilot was to be got at the river Forth five miles to the westward. He also said that the entrance to the Don was nearly dry when he passed out. It was a soldier’s wind along the coast and I soon hove to off the Forth and sent the boat in as at the Don. She presently returned with a pilot, a tall cadaverous looking chap without a coat and his hands looked as if he had been grubbing out potatoes without a fork. “Good morning, you are the pilot for the Don,” I said. “Yes” he replied. I waited for him to give the order to fill the main yard. I was surprised that he did not ask the ship’s draught but thought he might have seen her marks from the boat. One never likes to interfere with a pilot, but at last I said, “In case the wind fails had we better run down off the Don?” He replied, “Yes, I think it will be as well.” As he gave no order, I did and filled the main yard and trimmed sail and stood to the eastward. When off the Don, he still stood on and at last, getting anxious I said, “What time will the tide serve, Pilot?” “It’s just about high water now.” He replied. “Why, we’ll lose the tide, won’t we?” I said. “Yes,” he answered “ I thought you were not going in today.” I thought the man was mad. We were three miles from the entrance and I hove round at once. But the wind got lighter and westered and we could not lay our course by points. I saw that the tide had been lost by this idiotic pilot who, by the conditions of my insurance I had to employ and I lost my temper utterly. It transpired afterwards that the man was not even a seaman, but he was in the habit of going on board vessels (264) and simply pointing out the channels to masters. If he had told me this at first we should have been moored inside the tide we had lost. That night a heavy west-south-west wind sprang up and being in light ballast trim, we could hardly carry closer reefed topsails. The wind as is usually the case in Bass Straits, continued for three days. I was horsed down in the vicinity of Hummock Island. I need hardly say that the pilot had a bad time both from the crew and myself. He was dreadfully seasick, lost his hat and had no coat and he had not washed himself since coming on board. The men put a long soldier’s coat on him and the steward gave him an old white stove pipe hat of mine, which was retained on his head by ropes tied under his chin. He looked a very forlorn and picturesque pilot indeed.
It was five days before we were on the Don again and dodging until high water and sending the pilot below, I ran in over the shingly bar and alongside the jetty, where there wee a number of men standing by to catch our lines. We were tied up to the wharf in a few minutes. Three hours afterwards however, there was not enough water in the river to fill a teacup. The vessel sat on a shingle bottom upright, kept in that position by the lines to the wharf, until she floated again on the incoming tide. I had to take in 100 tons of potatoes here and had four lay days. The spuds, as Jack called them, were shipped by Messrs. Cumming and Raymond and came alongside in lighters on the flood tide. My wife had a good time in the apple orchards, the farmers being the most hospitable people in the world. After the pilot got home again, he went for his revenge on us by sending me a debit note for 10 pounds for pilotage and detention on board and, on my protest he sent me a lawyer’s letter. I compromised for half the sum as cheaper than defending an action while the cargo would be rotting in the hold. Mr. Raymond kindly lent me a trap and my and I drove over to the Mersey and brought back with us the pilot of that place, this time a man who knew his work and, having taken on board our full freight, the pilot took us out of the Don and into the Mersey and moored us at Stewart’s wharf, a very dilapidated structure, but the only one in the port at that time. (265)
At low tide we lay dry on a soft bottom, but the vessel lay over very much and I was afraid she would strain. I tried one tide to keep her up to the wharf, but she nearly pulled it on top of her. We were filled up with flour and as we could only work while the vessel was upright, it came in very slowly. All the time I was obsessed with the ship straining. My wife and daughter lived ashore all the time, and strange to saywith relatives of the man we saved out of the capsized boat of Parenga-renga, the day we left Wangaroa. My wife, relating the incident, found she was domiciled with the man’s brother and his wife. I filled up with flour and had to take on deck 33,000 she-oak shingles in bundles of 100, tied up with wattle bark.
The pilot took us to sea and I was very glad to get out, but directly we got out into the seaway the vessel leaked like a basket and I saw I would have to put into Launceston. The weather, however, came on thick and I had to get off the land. The men were half the watches at the pumps and they all came aft and requested me to run back to Melbourne. I promised I would do so if there was no change by midday the next day. Fortunately there was a change and we ran northward up the coast with a fine south-easterly wind, but with pumps going continually. However, we arrived safely in Moreton Bay and the late Captain Davis, in response to my wire came with his little tug – I have forgotten the name – and towed us to Raff’s wharf. The cargo was consigned to George Raff and Co. and E. Goertz and Co. It was nearly all damaged by the leaky deck and covering boards and it looked awful and smelled worse. Mr. Goertz looking at a stack of it on the wharf, remarked to me “I suppose you know which is flour and which is potatoes.” Indeed, both were just in the condition to make a nice ‘dog’s body’ breakfast for the crew of the old time lime juices. (266)
I remained in the barque for some two years in the inter-colonial trade, during which time my second daughter was born, and then I left her to go into the service of my old employer, Mr. Marshall, in command of his steamer ‘Fire king’ in the Manning River trade. Occasionally the ‘Fire king’ was employed running excursion trips to San Souci or Clontarf, and returning one night from the latter place with some seven hundred passengers on board, I ran foul of a barque that was getting underweigh in Darling Harbour and the Fire king’s mizzen mast was carried away and a passenger had his leg broken. There was first a marine board inquiry and a recommendation that I, and the master of the tug that was towing the barque should be prosecuted in the water police court, and at that court a verdict was given against me. This put all the expense and responsibility of the casualty on the shoulders of Mr. Marshall and in consequence of this I gave up command of the Fire King.
Shortly afterwards I took command of a brigantine named Pacific and was engaged in the Bowen, Townsville and Cardwell trade, and in this I was very successful making the vessel pay well. I was however, caught in a cyclone off Cape Upstart, in which I lost my sails and was eventually driven on a lee shore in Upstart Bay, where I anchored and rode out the gale during which the steamer Black Prince drove ashore in Cleveland Bay and became a total wreck. I remained in the Pacific trade between Sydney and northern ports of Queensland some two years. Giving up charge of the Pacific, I took an interest in a vessel named Countess of Belmore from Sydney , and took a cargo of base ---? And after discharging my cargo in Brisbane I charted with the Government to convey telegraph buildings and materials for Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I had also four ------employees passengers. These were the late Mr. And Mrs. ------, Mr. Mullins, Mr. Sholl and Mr. McCullough. The former was telegraph master at Normanton, Mr. Mullins took charge at Kimb-----, Mr. McCullough at Creen Creek where he died from malaiial fever at his instrument a few weeks after he arrived (267) at his station. There was very little trade or traffic in the Norman River at this time and it was only on spring tides that a vessel could get up to what was called the town landing. Alligators were numerous and were to be seen on every flat at low water. Wild fowl were also very plentiful especially ducks of every species, but whistlers in particular. They would stand along the edge of the river bank in thousands, acres of them with their heads up, their long necks extended as at attention without a movement in the flock --- as quiet and motionless as if fossilized, or intently watching for something to come or happen, and if not disturbed by man’s too near approach (cattle will feed along the serried edge of the flock without their taking alarm) they will remain thus for hours. I remember I was lying at One Island waiting for the flood tide when the now Honourable Bartley Fahey, then sub-collector of customs at Sweers Island, rode down abreast of the vessel, and hailing her asked “have you a gun S---“ and I sent him my double barreled greener and a couple of cartridges by the dingy and a minute or two later came a double report and then the boat returned with Fahey and seventeen whistling ducks and besides these several more wounded dropped in the long grass and river and were not retrieved. He had fired just as they rose from the ground and probably dropped twenty five with the two barrels.
One morning while lying at the Normanton landing (there was no wharf then) the cook was missing and thinking that he had levanted to the Western Creek diggings, Mr. Hardy of the firm of Harvy & Nelson and myself rode to the nine mile lagoon where Mr. Police Inspector Isley and his troopers were camped, to ask him to intercept the man at a creek that he would have to cross. It was the end of the wet season and although the plains were dry the creeks and water-holes were full and swollen. On the plains were a number of plain turkeys (bustards). I had a small rifle (268) with me and was very desirous of getting a turkey and, handing my horse’s brible to Mr. Hardy I tried stalking five that kept circling round a little flat, fringed with bushes, but they always kept beyond the range of my gun. Returning to my companion he said, “if you keep on your horse you’ll get within fifty yards of them.” “What then?” I asked. “Why, shoot off him!” “That’s a foregone conclusion.” I replied. Anyhow, I tried it and I think I could have got within ten yards of them if I had made no movement, but immediately I raised my rifle they were off. I fired and was off too – on my head, but I got my first turkey. My nag, after relieving himself of me cantered snorting over to Hardy, who caught his bridle and then hanging the bird in front of him, we presently reached the police camp at the nine mile creek which our horses had to swim. Unfortunately my mare’s girth broke and at first I could not understand what had happened but someone sang out “hold onto her tail” but I caught hold of her mane and was soon on the ground. Inspector Isley treated us like lords, gave us dry clothing while the troopers dried our own by the fire. While we were lunching it commenced raining, falling as from a cloud burst. The Inspector with whom was Mr. Smart of the Lands Department urged us to stay for the night but I was anxious to get back to the ship, and the rain ceasing we decided to return at once. So the troopers swam our horses across the creek and then ferried us across on some logs and leaving our turkey at the camp we made tracks for Normanton.
For a time we kept the track easily, but the country already surcharged by the rains of the wet season was like a sea once we were off the ridges and Hardy had the utmost difficulty in finding tracks and I was utterly useless in the job. It became very dark, as dark as it can become amongst timber of genuine bush scrub and I advised camping on the first spot we found clear of water until daylight. From sundown the mosquitos and sandflies were maddening to both us and the horses. My companion said the horses ought to take us home although they originally came from the Flinders station, so we gave them their heads, keeping a lookout (269) for our own amongst the timber, and just about midnight we saw a light which proved to be McKimmon’s Hotel. The horses had brought us by a circuitous route and Hardy thought they were heading for the Flinders, but they brought us home. I stayed at Hardy’s until daylight and then walked down to the vessel, passing within a few yards of the corpse of my cook where he lay in the reeds that fringed the town water hole, stripped naked, with a hole through his head by which a spear had passed and been withdrawn. Death had intercepted him previous to my journey for the same purpose, but I did not learn this until I called at Townsville on my homeward journey.
(270) I made several voyages to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Countess of Belmore. On one occasion of which, I picked up the master and the chief officer of the Crown brig which was lost in the Timor Sea and took them to Sydney. On another trip we lay windbound in Albany Pass abreast of Somerset where Mr. Frank Jardine was Government resident. H.M.S. Sloop of War “Rosarie” – Captain Challis – was lying there also. She was short of coal and was restricted to a speed of four knots and when we left, she left also with fresh S.E. monsoon and she anchored at sundown every evening, but I kept underweigh all night with the result that we kept company down south as far as the Endeavour River, where I anchord for a night leaving the next morning. At this time the brigantine “Black Dog” lay stranded on a reef, her crew being on Rocky Islet from whence Captain Challis took them to Townsville, but I passed the reef during the night and did not see the wreck or I might have salved her cargo. Later I gave the Countess of Belmore up and took command of the Hannah Bloomfield. This vessel had been stranded on North Reef for 52 days. At the time she had a full general cargo for the Gulf of Carpentaria. The cargo was salved and the vessel floated off the reef and taken to Rockhampton by Captain Cornelius Norris of that city and I at the request of Messrs. John Frazer & Co. of Barrack Street Sydney, took passage in the S.S. “Egmont” and took charge of the Hannah Bloomfield as she lay at the corporation wharf in Rockhampton. I left for Sydney with har the following day, where on arrival she was placed on the slip at the foot of King Street. I ran in the Gulf of Carpentatia with her for some considerable time in the interests of Messrs. Cliften Aplin Bros. Of Townsville and then made a trip to Colombo on account of Messrs. John Frazer & Co. and then entered the gulf trade again. While on a last trip the Palmer rush took place and I loaded in Townsville for the Endeavour River horses and drays and general cargo and a number of diggers and their wives passengers. Leaving Townsville with these I carried (271) fair winds until off what is now Port Douglas, when we saw a barque high and dry on the Barrier Reef to the eastward of the Low Islands. I hauled my wind and stood over to the edge of the reef on which she was stranded and anchored, lowered a boat and boarded her. She proved to be the Thomas Brown from Brisbane with one hundred and fifty horses and a number of passengers. None of her boats would swim and therefore she could not carry out her anchor to heave her afloat and my boats were too small. However, I presently saw a steamer’s smoke coming from the northward along the mainland and getting underweigh I stood across and intercepted her. I found her to be the Wonga Wonga ,Captain T. Lake and I spoke to her , describing the position of the barque and telling Lake he could get close to the edge of the reef. He went to her and passing a hawser on board of the barque at high water, he towed her afloat and she arrived safely in Cooktown a few hours after I did. The A.U.S.N.Co. to whom the Wonga Wonga belonged collected 500 pounds as cost of the assistance.
For a long time my wife had urged me to give up the sea and get some occupation on shore and seeing that the Endeavour River could be the sea port for the Palmer River goldfield I put in an application to the late Port Master Captain G.P. heath for the position of pilot for the Endeavour River or Cooktown as it was called then, with the result that I obtained the appointment, but I had to take the Hannah Bloomfield back to Townsville where her owners Messrs. Cliften, Aplin resided and had an extensive business. All my crew left and went to the diggings and I had to gather a scratch crew for the run to Townsville and I left the Endeavour. It was in the month of December and during the N.West season and doldrumsand thunder squalls prevailed. There were several other vessels in company with us, amongst others the Young Australian, Currumbene, Royal Duke and the I.O. We all made little progress during the day and anchored on the edge of the fringing reef at night. It was a most miserable time for me. I had the sand ballast floor in, on which the horses had been boxed on the passage to Cooktown and these generated countless myriads of flies from the (272) excreta and they were everywhere in the vessel from the deck to the royal yard, on every article of food, in one’s eyes, nose and mouth and the roasting weather between the little thunder squalls and showers which occurred during the day, aggravated conditions. We made a long passage to Townsville having light winds and doldrums the whole passage. The crew were all diggers returned from the Palmer and cared for nothing but to get south again and an amusing episode happened one day on the passage. A very stormy appearance one day led me to furl the flying jib and fore topgallant sail and when the latter was clewed up none of the watch offered to go aloft and furl it, which caused the mate Mr. Pavey to order a man to go aloft. The man got into the fore rigging with a long handled shovel in his hand. I called to Mr. Pavey “What’s that man going to do with the shovel?” The man in the rigging replied “Stow the fore topgallant sail. I’m a digger and I can do nothing without a shovel.” Now the fact of his being able to go aloft with a long handled shovel proved him to be a seaman. I noticed he left his shovel between the doublings on getting into the fore top and went up and stowed the topgallant sail quite snugly. I met this man whose name was Biss twenty-five years afterwards. On arrival in Townsville I gave my owners notice that I was appointed pilotand there handed the vessel over to the mate Mr. Pavey, who held a master’s certificate. Accordingly a full cargo of horses and general merchandise was put on board of her and we all sailed again for Cooktown, where we arrived in due course and I delivered the horses and cargo and then gave up the charge to Mr. Pavey.
The government had made no provision for accommodation for a pilot and I therefore put up at a hotel for a time, but in the course of a few days the Leichardt brought three tents and a dingy and her sails and oars and I received instructions to engage a boat’s crew. This I had no difficulty in doing, there being plenty of seaman who had come down from the diggings hard up. Having engaged my crew and got the boat rigged and ballasted I boarded each incoming vessel and piloted her to the wharves or to wharf sites, for there were no erections at that time. I had the three tents (273) put up on the slope of Grassy Hill and had a lookout man on its summit who was instructed to blow a whistle when a vessel hove in sight. Mr. Thomas Hamilton was the police magistrate, Mr. McManus sub-collector of customs and Mr. Allen was postmaster in Cooktown at this time. There were a good number of vessels coming into the port , both steam and sailing ships and when a strong south east monsoon set in I realized that the pilot boat I was working with was altogether too small for the work and this was accentuated one day when I was outside to board an incoming vessel with a strong wind and chopping sea. She capsized and left me and four men in the water and we were hanging onto the boat for an hour until we were rescued by the S.S. Alexandra. The report of this casualty induced the department to ask me what kind of boat would be efficient and I forwarded the draft of a center- board whaler which later on was built in Brisbane and forwarded to me.
The A.S.N. Company’s S.S. Leichardt and Florence Irvine were trading alternate trips to Cooktown. Captain McLean and Captain Phillips were in command and without receiving any previous notice, my wife and daughters arrived by the former steamer. I had two of the three large tents floored and like everyone else in Cooktown at the time my family were housed under calico.
There were a great many men in the port, hundreds indeed who had come down from the Palmer and were hard up and penniless And the A.S.N. Company who had made a lot of money taking the people there were charging full fares to convey them south again, and one day about a hundred men rushed the company’s office with a view to get cheaper passages beck. The Florence Irvine, Captain Phillips, was lying alongside the river bank and Phillips was mobbed by the crowd and roughly handled while a great quantity of stones were thrown on board the steamer, breaking the skylight windows. Captain Phillips was unpopular from his practice of carrying a number of pigs on the foredeck amongst the steerage passengers. Later on passages were provided by the Government for destitute diggers. In spite of so much destitution amongst (274) the returning diggers, the consumption of spirits was much indulged in and every night would be seen tow or three men chained by the ankle to a big log lying outside the police camp. Employment was given by the Police Magistrate to men who were destitute and a rate of pay of five shillings per day and a number of them were employed excavating a little plateau on the side of Grassy Hill on which to erect a pilot’s cottage. This was accomplished some three months after the arrival of my wife and child (?) and the cottage is still occupied by the Harbour Master and Pilot. Notwithstanding so many men came down decrying the Palmer and adjacent goldfields, large quantities of gold were daily coming down to the banks and substantial wooden buildings were quickly taking the place of calico shelters. The Custom House and Post Office, the Hospital and Police Barracks were built and twelve months after the opening of the port there was a large influx of Chinese ships arriving with from seven hundred to a thousand coolies every week. The greater number of those were opium smugglers, some of whom were arrested by the Customs but the greater number doubtless got away scot free.
I had been in Cooktown about twelve months when my wife went to Sydney for her accouchement and returned to me with my first- born son in her arms. She traveled both ways with Captain T.A. Lake, in the S.S. Victoria. About this time Mr. Howard St. George was appointed Police Magistrate and Mr. Bartley Fahey was sub-collector of Customs.
It was in 1875 that the schooner (?) arrived from Normanton and her master Captain Pearn reported to the magistrate the late Mr. Howard St. George, that at Cape Melville he had sent a boat ashore in charge of his mate for the purpose of filling some casks with fresh water and that on the return of the boat to the vessel, the mate and men stated that they had seen some native blacks and that there was a white woman amongst them. Mr. St. George at once communicated with the authorities in Brisbane, with the result that instructions were wired through that I was to proceed to Cape Melville in the pilot schooner Spitfire to ascertain what if any basis there was, for the report and , if any to use (274) every endeavour to rescue the woman. Later in the day, at his solicitation, Mr. St. George received permission to accompany me and take charge of the expedition. This arrangement gave me comfort as mutual regard existed between the Police Magistrate and myself and I knew him to much better fitted for undertaking a search on shore and dealing with the natives, which might prove necessary, from his long experience in pastoral pursuits than I was, besides relieving me of much responsibility. From my knowledge of the country at Cape Grenville, I knew it to be difficult and I strongly advised taking with us a couple of black trackers. The Police Magistrate made every effort to get the men of the neighbourhood, but could not and a wire was sent to Brisbane to send them up by the S.S. Leichardt which was leaving that port the next day. However a wire came saying that the trackers were not procurable. So there was no choice but to leave without them. An order was therefore placed with the late Mr. William Hartley (then a merchant in Cooktown) for stored for the vessel and trade for the natives and I got a crew and left Cooktown the next evening (Tuesday) with a moderate south easter, which however fell very light later and it was the following Monday before Cape Grenville was in sight. Mr. St. George and myself were much impressed with the disadvantage we would be at without the trackers, if it should be necessary to go any distance into the bush or scrub and at daylight that morning, as there was a ketch under sail in sight in the direction of Sir Charles Hardy Islands, and being pretty sure she was a beche-de-mer fisher and would in all probability have some mainland natives employed, after consulting Mr. St. George I hauled up for her. As she was presently anchored under the reef she was fishing, we got alongside her about 10 a.m. She proved to be the Sydney Spray, owned and sailed by Messrs. ---- & -----. They had about twenty aborigines from the mainland working for them and fortunately for us, were short of some lines of provisions and medical comforts. We soon arranged to supply them with some stores and get the loan of two of the most intelligent blacks, a Norman River native and a Restoration boy, both of whom spoke fairly good English, with the understanding that we would return them when we had finished our work.
(276) It was nearly sundown when the boys returned from the reef with their tide’s work of beche-de-mer and the two boys mentioned, having been spoken to and provided with tobacco and plenty of tucker, expressed their readiness to accompany us.
So, taking leave of the Spray, I got underweigh and at 6p.m. anchored under Sir Charles Hardy Island for the night. Directly the anchor was down a canoe came off with eleven natives. I did not let them come on board, but gave them some pipes and tobacco and one of them who could speak fairly well said he had been fishing with Captain Walton in the brig Freak; that he had lately been at Cape Grenville and that he had heard “bingbis there yabba white fella Mary sit down longa there.” When Asked by Mr. St. George how long it was since he was at Cape Grenville, he first replied yesterday and afterwards “long time.” However, when I asked him if he would come along with me, he came on board at once and I dismissed the canoe and set a double anchor watch with instructions to keep the blacks we had on board under strict surveillance.
At four o’clock the next morning we got under way and steered for Cape Grenville fourteen miles distant, where I anchored close to the beach abreast of a little waterhole where I had often filled up water when coasting. We went to breakfast and before we had finished five canoes came off with about fifty blacks. The canoes north of Fair Cape are made from hollow nettle tree logs with outriggers. The wood is very easily worked, but very porous endways, so the canoes are never dry. They are very narrow but their outriggers give them the necessary stability. As soon as the canoes got alongside, I asked the bucks by gestures to come on board, which they did, tumbling over the rail with greatest confidence and soon spread themselves over the deck as they always do, watching and looking at everything. After a while we gave them some tobacco and a pipe apiece and soon found that the Norman boy Dandy did not understand a word of their language and that the Restoration boy was little better. The boy I got from Sir Charles Hardy Island appeared to converse with them, although he maintained he could not; but he presently brought aft to us a big buck who had like himself been (277) with Captain Walton in the Freak and could speak and understand very well. We had cautioned our crew not to let our black boy know what business we were on. We took this last boy down the cabin and showed him turkey red, tobacco, pipes, mirrors and other things to excite his cupidity and he, looking around the cabin and seeing the carbines and revolvers said, “This fella schooner all the same fight ship.” Then, taking him on deck, Mr. St. George gradually introduced the matter of the white woman and the following dialogue too place.
“You been see um white fella Mary sit down alonga this place?” “Yes, me been see um white Mary, blong that fella.”(pointing to one of the binghis forward) “Where white Mary sit down now?” “Way alonga camp.” (pointing to a hill bearing northwards from us.) At this the fellow our man had pointed to called to him and then a very animated yabba took place, several speaking and apparently declaiming at one time, but our three boys said they did not understand what was going on. Presently our fellows came aft again and, without a question from us, began to explain that “Mary longa camp all a same binghi-black-baal white fella Mary.” Just after this two bucks dropped over the side and disappeared in the scrub. “Gone to the camp.” I said to Mr. St. George. “I am afraid so.” he replied.
The rest of the bucks on board seemed to get suspicious and sulky, but they had nothing but fishing spears in their canoes and Mr. St. George and I discussed the propriety of getting them into the hold and detaining them while we could try to find their camp. But as two men had got ashore, we concluded the woman if there, would be removed by them immediately they got to the camp. So we gave each of the blacks a fig of tobacco and they were over the side and into their canoes in a moment and out of sight round a (278) little point of land to the northward.
From what I had noticed while these binghis were on board, I could not divest myself of the impression that all our three boys understood their language to a certain extent and Mr. St. George was of the same opinion. So we felt it well to be very cautious with them, especially later, when we had to put Sniders in their hands.
Later in the day Mr.St. George and myself, taking our revolvers in our shirts, landed and walked to the water hole intending to have a bathe. But we hardly reached it when a mob of natives, consisting of thirty three fine bucks with spears and woomeras, and one or two with tomahawks, came round us and asked for tobacco of which we had none. They stood all around us and close to us and we felt we were not so dirty as we thought we were and would not bathe and turned and walked slowly (although I was in a devil of a hurry) towards the ship. Arriving abreast of her, I blew a whistle for the boat and both of us sat don on the sand. The bucks sat around us and kept up the yabba and I rather expected they would haul the boat up when she came. But they never molested us and I made them understand I would send them tobacco, which I did, returning in the boat myself and giving each one a piece. I recognized that the most of them had been on board this morning. In the evening I put our three boys in the hold and then put the hatches on. I then got under way and got to Sunday Island about four miles to the northward and anchored, setting a double anchor watch.
In the morning I shifted and went into Margaret Bay close to the beach and, after taking breakfast, Mr. St. George, myself and Dandy (the Norman Black) landed. Mr. St. George carried his revolver. I had the same and a double barreled fowling piece while Dandy had a Snider. I had taken the bearings of the hill the man had said was the site of the camp and had a prismatic compass with me and I reckoned we were about six miles from it. Leaving the beach we found a deep fringe of dense low mangroves of a kind I had never seen before, but following some naked foot tracks we came to a track running through them (more like a tunnel than anything else) about 3 feet wide. But the bushes meeting overhead, we had to go in a (279) stooping position. It did not look very seductive and we made Dandy go first, preferring not to have him with his carbine behind us. We emerged from the mangrove track in about three quarters of a mile, to find ourselves in a mob of bucks, all carrying spears, woomeras and helemons. They were evidently making for the beach by the same track as we had left. They simply gathered around us and stood yabbering. Dandy was talking in his language as energetically as they were, but he still maintained he did not understand a word, or they him. Mr. St. George agreed that we should follow a well beaten track that led from the mangroves into forest country and as the blacks turned back with us, we tried to get them to go on first. But not a bit of it. They kept close to us but always behind, practically driving us ahead. We could not even get Dandy to lead and we wished he had not his Snider. We followed the track until it spread out at a little belt of scrub and there were some remains of old gunyahs and fires, but none recent. I saw by my compass that we had traveled fairly in the direction of the camp hill and I judged that we were from three to four miles from the beach we had left and some five miles from the water hole. Every time I stood to look at my compass the bucks would gather round me and Mr. St. George would shove them apart in front. From the little scrub there was no defined track as we expected there would be if the camp lay in this direction, for coast blacks are never long from the beaches and we could not get any assistance from Dandy, who would not even look for a track, but kept amongst the mob. We considered it would be prudent to return, so we turned about. Then the mob stood in front of us and began to yabber. Then two of them commenced to dance, caper and sing, the others standing on each side. I think both Mr. St. George and myself thought things were going to be a bit mixed and our hands went to our left bosoms. There was no elbowroom for my fowling piece. We had police revolvers and I remember I was not sure whether they were double action or not. In speaking of the episode afterwards I learned that Mr. St. George had the same uncertainty. To have produced them would, I am sure, have brought disaster. It occurred (280) to me to call out to Dandy “You run along beach, get boat, bring tobacco ashore.” Dandy responded to the order and went back, three or four of the bucks going with him. The other bucks stopped dancing and came round us saying, “Tobac, Tobac,” and we walked on smartly, they behind us. When we got to the mangrove track we tried to get the bucks to enter first, but not a bit of it. So on we went and presently we met the fellows that had gone with Dandy coming back. I concluded they had speared him from behind before he had time to fire his Snider. These fellows tried to pass us, but we would not permit this and on they had to go in front of us and I kept my fowling piece ready if the fellows behind (Mr. St. George was between me and them) played up. At last we were through and on the beach and there sat Dandy with his Snider and the boat half way between the Spitfire and the shore. We sent her back for some pipes and tobacco which we distributed and then got into the boat. But the blacks all came and stood around. Some of them held on to the gunwale and two of them began to dance and sing again. Then Mr. St. George picked up Dandy’s gun and I raised my revolver, but they let go the boat and we kept them covered until we were clear. They did not throw a spear but when we were a little way off they all turned round and, slapping their posteriors with their hand, a custom I had frequently noticed with the coast blacks from Fair Cape to Cape York and which is expressive of a challenge and ill will. Looking backwards I think we narrowly escaped a scrimmage in which, from our cramped surroundings, we should not have scored. I think the promise of tobacco saved the situation.
After dark that night I got underweigh and went to Shelbourne Bay and came to an anchor in three fathoms of water close to the beach. The next morning Mr. St. George, myself and one of the crew (Fred Miller by name, afterwards murdered by the New Guinea natives) and my three niggers landed, all carrying Sniders except Mr.St. George and myself, who had revolvers. We also carried some tobacco, matched and pipes and some pieces of turkey red. We found plenty of foot tracks and following them up, Dandy found a well defined track leading in the direction I thought the main camp lay. We followed (281) the track up until it cut our track of yesterday, although neither of us had noticed the intersecting path then. Following our yesterday’s track we again came to the little scrub and through or from which there appeared no track. So we skirted it along its southern edge and got into open country with cypress pines, but no large trees and presently we saw a little rise which I thought was the camp hill. Dandy said “Me been see um smoke.” We sent Jerry up the first large tree to have a look. He also told us, “Me been see um smoke, sit down.” We then went on quickly and presently came to a belt of scrub close to the other side of which we thought the camp must be. Before entering the scrub we divided, Mr. St. George taking Dandy, Miller taking Michel, and myself Jerry. Putting about a hundred yards between each pair of us, we cautiously got through the scrub which was only a narrow belt and then we saw the camp. There were seven mimis and we could see some gins beating something with yam sticks, but no bucks or dogs. But there was no cover once we emerged from the scrub, so getting together again we piled the carbines where we stood and telling the blackboys to catch any light coloured gin they saw, and Mr. St. George taking his station with a pair of binoculars, Miller and I with the boys walked towards the camp. It was surprising how far we got before the gins took the alarm. But once they saw us off they ran screeching, some with dillybags and others with picanninies in the camp. I went through each mimi carefully and saw nothing in the way of clothes or rags or pieces of paper or anything indicative of the recent presence of a white woman. We examined the bark of the trees for writing or marks but found nothing. Mr. St. George had seen them all through his glasses as gins. We left some tobacco and a pipe in each mimi and gave some pieces of turkey red to the old people, who seemed horribly frightened. We then sent Jerry up a tall tree to look out for some more smoke and he seeing none, we turned for the beach again in double quick time, expecting the gins would bring the bucks on us. We saw none until we were just leaving the mangroves, where we met a mob of thirty odd, all (282) with spears and woomeras and carrying some fine fish, which accounted for their absence. Hauled up clear of the water were four canoes. The blacks gathered around us and we offered to buy their fish. They were very sulky and they jabbered amongst themselves, probably guessing we had been to their camp. However, they returned and squatted on the beach while the dingy returned to the ship for tobacco which we gave them for the fish. They also started to launch their canoes to come off with us, but we gave them to understand we did not want them alongside. We were glad to get on board again and all hands had a good meal of the fish which was excellent.
Later in the day we got under way and about an hour before sundown we anchored under a reef to the westward of the McAuthur Islets. I landed two of our boys on the reef, it being low water, with their little fishing spears about 4 foot long and used for fishing in the pot holes and miniature lagoons in the reef. Before sundown they had transfixed as many fish as would last all hands a day. One of the boys had a bit of bad luck. He was picking up a fish he had killed in a hole when a large eel jerked his head out from under a little shelf of coral and caught the boy’s thumb, making its formidable teeth meet. The boy had dropped his spear when starting to catch the wounded fish and having no knife, could not free his thumb until his mate called out to the vessel to bring an axe. Then the coral being chopped away and the eel, which was about 6 pounds in weight and marked with alternate black and white stripes being dispatched and decapitated, with some difficulty the teeth were got out of the boy’s thumb. About midnight we left our anchorage and stood over to Round Point and anchored close in. Just before dawn Mr. St. George, myself, Miller and two boys landed and walked inland until about 10 a.m. without seeing natives or smoke or any tracks. But we came across two emus in the middle of a little plain. We could have stalked them out, but we did not want to let the natives know of our being there. We ascended a sand hill on an elevation of about 100 feet but saw no smoke and then returned to the ship, which we reached about 2 p.m. The coast here resembles Frazer Island (283) being all high sand hills and some cliffs with some pine trees (Cunninghams’s Glacus I think) and water near the surface of the sand hills at this season. Now and then we saw some stunted cypress pines.
For several days we coasted along, landing in the daytime and shifting anchorage during the night that the natives should have no warnings of our proximity, sometimes meeting natives and coming out and examining their camps, the binghis always sulky and jealous or suspicious, without our seeing anything indicative of our quest. By this time Mr. St. George and I had come to the conclusion that Orford ness should be our objective, considering it useless to go further north and we were confirmed in this, when one morning (having anchored before dawn under the ness) nine young bucks swam off and came on board with empty hands laughing and jabbering and not even seeming to covet tobacco. One of them was given a biscuit and he put it in his hair not recognizing it as eatable. There was a mob on the beach and after breakfast, taking our pistols with us, we landed and found some dreadful looking gins and some old bucks, one of whom was the tallest man, black or white, I ever saw. He was evidently the king or chief. He was a most demonstratively friendly chappie and he smelt like some cheese I once interviewed at Memet. He insisted on introducing Mr. St. George and myself to about a dozen of the ugliest gins I ever saw and made, by gesture, the most extraordinary proposals to us. They were carrying no fire so we knew their camp was in the vicinity, so we walked to the top of the sand ridgeand from it we saw the mimis. We walked over the big black going with us and the others remaining with our people at the boat. At the camp were two very old gins, dreadful to look at. It was difficult to believe they were human. They were roasting on top of a little fire, a wallaby with the skin off and another all ready cooked and black as coal, was lying beside the fire. We gave them a bit of tobacco and a pipe and box of matches, but I did not think they knew the use of them. Not one of this mob offered to smoke and I am of the opinion they had little if any communication with whites previously. We sent the dingy off for some sugar and turkey red. They were delighted with the strips of red we (284) tied round them, but they dropped half the sugar in eating it and then put handfuls of sand and sugar in their mouths in recovering it.
Leaving them we went on board, hove up, made sail and began our homeward journey. We had had, since leaving Cooktown lovely and favourable weather and wind for our work but the mercury continued to rise this morning and I knew the south east monsoon would freshen soon. However that night I anchored under Boydong Cays and the men were very successful with their fishing lines. About 3 p.m. the S.S. City of Exeter passed us bound south and would probably anchor under Bird Island. We got underweigh at 4 o’clock the next morning with a fresh east south easterly breeze which northered as the day got older. We anchored in Margaret Bay about 8 p.m. having determined to again visit the camps in the vicinity before finally giving up our search. Shortly before daybreak the next day six of us landed – the three boys, Miller, Mr. St. George and myself. We pressed through the mangrove tunnel before described and met natives close to their camps. They were very friendly and went with us and let us examine the mimis and then returned with us to the beach, where we gave them some tobacco, pipes and matches. They then left us and we went on board, got under sail and anchored northward of a little creek. We landed there and found a mob of about thirty natives waiting for us on shore, which was flat and muddy and which would have been difficult in case of trouble. We soon recognized amongst the mob the boy we had had on board the first day at Cape Grenville, who spoke some English and had been with Captain Walton in the Freak. We told him that we would like to see their camp and after he had had a little talk with the other blacks and we had promised shirts and tobacco on our return, he with the rest started for the camp and on this occasion we were well satisfied that the bucks went ahead of us. We were a long time before we reached the camp and as the day was getting spent we were a bit anxious. However, we finally reached it. None of the blacks had left us on the way. On getting near they sang out something which caused the gins , who were on their feet ready to clear out, to remain. We recognized that we had visited this camp before, but had approached it from a different anchorage. We considered it a favourable sign that the camp had not (285) been shifted in our absence, for even if the white woman had been conveyed inland, the blacks would have been frightened to remain so near the coast. After looking through the camp we returned to the beach, most of the natives accompanying us. We thought them much more amiable than on our previous visit and we gave them some presents as we had promised and then, being ready to go off, we found one of our black boys missing.
We whistled and coo-ed. The Freak nigger said, “That fella alonga Mary, bime by come.” We waited for some time and at last he made his appearance. “Where have you been, Bobby?” said Mr. St. George. “Alonga scrub,” he replied. After we had had tea Bobby came aft and said to me, “Mine went longa camp see um Mary, bime by come back.” I replied , “No my gay lothario, you don’t leave the ship tonight.” But he afterward went to Mr. St. George who came to me and said, “Let the boy go ashore if you intend lying here all night.” I may diverge a bit here and say Mr. St. George was always very kind and sympathetic with the men black or white. A man would go to him and say he was unwell. Perhaps he would feel a man’s pulse, and say “Ah, yes. Well, my man science has a remedy. I must ask you to take a dose of eau de vie aqua pura.” Then he would go below, make up a second mate’s nip of brandy and water in a graduated measure and say, “Now, hold your nose with one hand and try and swallow this and then fill your mouth with sugar.” The man would go forward and tell the other fellows it tasted like grog. In all matters with the men he was considerate and kind and now although I was strongly opposed to bobby’s landing, he was allowed to do so. The other two black boys took him ashore and the boat was taken in the davits. Then setting the anchor watch I gave instructions that when Bobby coo-ed to be taken on board, I was to be called before lowering the boat. At midnight he had not coo-ed and I was anxious about him. Just before dawn I went on deck and sent the watch below and I walked backwards and forwards waiting for daylight much put out, as I had intended to make an early start. Presently, I thought I saw with the binoculars, the boy on the beach and as the day broke I was convinced I did see him but wondered why he did not come to the water’s edge and coo-ee. Then it came on me like a flash what had happened (for I had had a similar experience before) and (286) calling Mr. St. George I told him what I feared and advised that we two should land alone. Taking our revolvers we quietly lowered the dingy. When we had got half way to the beach it was evident that poor Bobby had paid the penalty of his indiscretion. We landed and found him with his arms bent backward over a branch of a stunted red mangrove that stood apart from the scrub, quite dead with five spear holes in him and otherwise mutilated. There were plenty of foot tracks all round him. We took him down (he was not yet rigid) and dragged him up under the sand cliffs and laying our cocked revolvers down close to us, with our arms we pulled the sand over his body until it was well covered and then hurried back to the boat. I had walked through the mud bare footed when landing, but carried my boots in my hand and when leaving the sand cliffs, forgot them; but we were so frightened of being cut off by the blacks that I did not go back for them, and it was as well for before we reached the vessel the mob came down and shouted and danced. Then all turned their backs and stooped down in a contemptuous position. We both agreed that there could be no good purpose served by any retaliatory action we could take, or in reporting the occurrence, as any later punitive measure might be, as so frequently used to happen, carried against another mob of natives who knew nothing of the tragedy. It was never referred to on board and I suppose it was concluded that I would not wait for Bobby.
We then got underweigh and went to Messrs. Robertson and English’s vessel which was anchored under Haggerstone Island and gave them their two black boys, paying them in stores for their services and giving the boys a lot of trade. We left Haggerstone Island with a fresh easterly monsoon. Mr. St. George was now very anxious to get back to Cooktown as we had been away already longer than he had in good faith represented the work would occupy us when asking permission to go. As the south easterly wind increased in strength until it was a moderate gale, the Spitfire as well as her crew had a lively time of it. We drove her at it, taking advantage of every little smooth water there was to be had close under the reefs, standing over into the unsurveyed and doubtful areas and keeping a lookout from the (287) rigging. Altogether it was very exciting and jolly. Mr. St. George enjoyed it as much as I did. I remember one day the wind freed a bit and I indiscreetly kept my stretch to windward of the reef and then the wind headed us again and I was horsed down so close to the coral that I was frightened to tack in case she would make a stern board and her heel touch. I was in the rigging and could see the bottom under us as plain as the deck, and happening to look astern I saw a tremendous fish on the fishing line we always had towing when there was a wind; but I did not speak of it until we had cleared the reef, which we did only by a streak. And then I said, “Haul that fish in.” It took three of them to get it up to the stern. Of course the small line used to slip through their hands and I felt certain we should lose it. But our luck was in and getting our big landing hook (which we always had on a sprit) into the gills, got it on deck. It measured 5 feet 3 inches and weighed on the steel yards 54 pounds. Think on it ye deciples of Izaak Walton, this fish would take a spinning bait. It was a kind of fish quite new to me both then and since and was excellent eating. It had no brown flesh like the mackeral tribe we catch all along the coast. The late Mr. Saville Kent was much interested in my description of it and while away with me amongst the coral was very anxious to get a specimen as he thought it was new to science.
Well we hammered the Spitfire down a dead beat, keeping underway at night and taking risks. We had the best of canvas and gear but a very old ship. I was getting knocked out for want of sleep and the continual drying of spray on our faces under a bright sun made us as rosy as tomatoes and took the skin off our noses. Mr. St. George who fully recognized that we were driving on his behalf , used to ask for permission several time a day to administer to the crew the “remedy science had for them.” Well we got down as far as Bathurst Bay and anchored to get some fresh water, bend another mainsail and get some sleep. Directly we had the anchor down we went ashore for water. Mr. St. George and myself took rifles. I had landed for water before and had seen no natives and I did not expect to see any now. There was very little water and it took a long time to fill a bucket. It was evident it would be a long job filling the two casks, so (288) telling the men we would keep a lookout for the blacks, we walked up a hill and had a look around and then sat down and yarned, watching the men going backward and forwards with the buckets to the boat. We utterly forgot about the natives and as a result my attention was drawn to two of our men running to the boat without the buckets (the other two being in the boat emptying their buckets into the casks) and the next instant we both saw two spears strike the sand close to the running men. To jump up and get our rifles to our shoulders was of course the natural impulse, but for a few seconds no natives were visible. Then three came into our focal plane from under the hill, running towards the boat and both MR. St. George and myself fired simultaneously and then commenced running down the hill, shoving fresh cartridges into our Sniders as we went. I saw my bullet strike the sand close to one of the blacks and Mr. St. George said afterwards, that he saw his also turn up the sand. The beggars turned at once. Evidently they had not seen Mr. St. George and myself before. Then as we scrambled down the hill we saw a little mob of about ten blacks in a little ravine towards whom the other three were now running. We fired again but without hitting any of them (we were glad to see) as they all came out on the beach and cleared northward. None of our people saw them until they were nearly at the water hole and fortunately the spears did no harm except one, which perforated the top strake of the boat, the point breaking off in the cedar. We went off to the vessel at once and landed after dinner, each man taking a carbine and shovels to clear out the well. Then gathering the water quickly we got off with full casks about 3 p.m.
Whilst going off we saw a boat coming round Cape Melville, sailing under two standing lugs and on getting on board and examining her with the telescope, I recognized her as my pilot lugger, and at once hoisted a signal for her to come to us, which she did. I found her in charge of Billy Atwater, who informed us that he had been sent out by Mr. B. Fahey, the Sub-Collector of Customs at Cooktown, to look for a man called Purdie, who had been in a cutter that had been blown away from her anchorage under Lizard Island some ten or twelve (289) days previously. He showed me his instructions which were excellent if adhered to and also a statement of the wind and weather as they had been observed at Grassy Hill, Cooktown, for the previous fortnight, which was a most valuable factor in prosecuting a search. After studying the weather report I remarked to Atwater “In my opinion you are to the northward of the man now.” But he would not entertain this for a moment and soon after left us, running to the northward before a strong south-easter. I had, however copied the weather report. I then went below and worked up a probable traverse on the chart for the drifting boat from the Lizard, under the wind that prevailed and, allowing for tides I then explained my theory to Mr. St. George and remarked, “If the man is alive we must find him, except the boat passed over or through the outer edge of the Barrier.” Anyway I was very sanguine and I think I carried Mr. St. George with me. We left Bathurst Bay at 4 a.m. the next day. I was as fresh as paint with a good eight hours sleep. It blew very fresh from south east and when we opened Cape Melville there was a very distressing tidal sea. Although I kept at the mast head all day and stood over all the unsurveyed ground to the eastward to get smoother water, it was dusk when I got under what is now named No.1 sandbank, where I anchored in three fathoms and laid very snug. I may say that in the early part of the day I had hopes of finding our man on this slightly vegetated sandbank. As soon as it was good daylight we were under way, I taking my post at the masthead, looking out for the patches of coral which were everywhere and I also had a man up keeping a lookout for anything like wreckage on dry sandbanks and I turned her along the inner patches of the Barrier until 4 p.m.. when the man up with me said,”There are two trees on a reef.” I knew there were no trees or bushes 3 feet high anywhere within our scope of vision and said, “Watch closely.” We had the tide under our lee and were going fast to windward. Presently the man said, “There’s a sandbank rising, Sir.” As soon as I could take my attention off the bottom I got on the other side of the foresail and had a look with the binoculars. I hailed Mr. St. George and said,” Someone has been recently on a sandbank ahead of us.” (It was dipped from the deck.) It was too late now to anything but (290) look for an anchorage for the night and passing between two little coral patches to get under a big reef to anchor, a cloud passed over and I could not see the bottom until I was over the reef and in stays. Her keel caught the coral and I had to lower the peak of the mainsail and she floated off and then we could barely get it up again in time to stay on the other reef. But luck was with us and in a few minutes the anchor was down in four fathoms and everything snug. Mr. St. George said “It has been an exhausting day for everyone, but science has a remedy.” And called the men aft. We were about three and a half miles from the sandbank on which the poles were visible. I was not too sanguine because, as everyone acquainted with coral knows, there is always when the sun is out, a more or less mirage over coral reefs and a little stick a foot above the reef will appear as tall as a boat’s mast, or a lump of coral of a hundredweight will loom up as big as a ship. Still, I was very hopeful and remarked to Mr. St. George, “If we get the man the government will not think you too long away.
At broad daylight next morning we were under way and in an hour everyone could see there was something unusual on the little sandbank. There were two poles with some kind of cloth flying from them. It was a most difficult job to get to the sandbank, the coral patches being so numerous and it was past noon when we anchored. Then the boat being lowered, we landed on the bank and a smart cleanly dressed man came to the boat to greet us. Said he, “How are you Mr. St. George? Will you introduce me to your friend?” Purdie had known Mr. St. George on the Hodgkinson, where he was storekeeping and Mr. St. George gold commissioner, but he had never met me. “Come up to my humpy and take a little refreshment,” he said and we did. It fairly knocked us out. This was the man whom we expected to have to collect and take home in a basket, clean and shaved and neatly dressed, in quite a comfortable humpy of timber and with plenty to eat and drink on a sandbank with not nearly the area of a twenty perch allotment, with an elevation above spring tides of perhaps twelve inches. He received us as one would expect him to do asif he had received a note on the previous day informing him of our (291) intending visit. We told him that a boat had gone north looking for him, to which he simply said, ”Oh!” Then he asked, ”Are you going to Cooktown?” and being answered in the affirmative, he asked, ”Could you make it convenient to take me?” Then Mr. St. George said,” Great heavens man, what the ___ else do you suppose we are in this coral infernal maze for?” Well we got all hands ashore and took everything he had on board. There was nothing left of the cutter except her anchors, chains sails and mast, but every particle of her cargo was there. The sandbank was on a patch of coral on the inner edge of the main Barrier Reef and bore about west by north twenty two miles from Cape Melville and at that time it was not on the chart.
By the time we had got all of Purdie’s goods on board it was too late to move away amongst the coral patches, so we lay all night. The men literally filled the decks with fish and crayfish. The latter came up on the bait in the first instance and then on worsted hung round the bait. In the morning as soon as it was light enough to see the bottom, we got under way and after lightly touching coral twice with her keel, we got into clear water and the next day at noon arrived at Cooktown. On the way Purdie gave me the following narrative.
“With Messrs. ----- and ------ I left Cooktown in the cutter ------- bound to New Guinea where we intended to settle and carry on beche-de-mer fishing and curing, or do anything else we could see money in. We had a full cargo of galvanized iron and timber for constructing a cottage and wire netting for curing beche-de-mer on and a good supply of flour, tea, sugar and other necessities. We left with a fresh south easterly wind and squally weather and B_____ who was the sailor and navigator, considered it advisable to anchor under Lizard Island until the weather moderated, before passing through the Barrier Reef, as we intended to do by the Lizard opening. We accordingly came to anchor in the evening of the day we left Cooktown. It blew hard all the next day and as we were very cramped for room on board, the following day we landed the cooking utensils and cooked ashore. We had not the slighted idea of any natives on the island from the mainland and saw no canoes or tracks (292) on the beach. Nevertheless the next morning all our cooking gear was gone and we saw tracks of niggers in the sand. We had firearms and F---- and B---- taking the repeating rifles and revolvers, went in search of the natives to recover the cooking utensils, without which we would be much inconvenienced. I was left on board the cutter. We had no dinghy and the cutter lay with her bow anchor down and a line to another anchor in the beach from the stern, and it being very ‘steep to’ we used to haul her in the stern line, get ashore and then slack her off. After my mates left I lay down on the deck and read and fell asleep and was awakened by a four pronged fishing spear sticking in my arm. Of course I was soon on my feet and I saw about a dozen blacks on the beach and several spears on the cutter’s deck. B---- had my revolver so I could do nothing but drop on my stomach and, dragging myself aft, let go the shore line. The cutter swung round with the strong wind off the island to her anchor. Plenty of spears came on board but I dropped into the cabin as soon as the shore line was gone. When she straightened to her anchor I came on deck, but I found the niggers could still through spears on board. So I went forward and pulled up the anchor and let her blow off further and then let it go again. But I found she still drifted off so I let all the chain out. But it did not reach the bottom of course. You know, if there’s anything in the world I know nothing of, it is boats and the sea. She continued to drift, but I felt it would be alright, because I could see the patrol schooner ‘Renard’ quite plainly and it never occurred to me that, being so much smaller, my vessel would be below the horizon to her. Anyway, she made no attempt to communicate and I saw it was hopeless to expect it. The cutter commenced rolling as she drifted further from the shelter of Lizard Island and I pulled up the jib which I found kept her steadier.I still had some hope that the ‘Renard’ would come to my assistance until I saw she was getting further away. I did not steer because after I set the jib she went straight herself. I boiled a billy with kerosene and rag on a piece of galvanized iron and would have felt quite jolly if those poor chaps ashore had more food with them. But I knew they had good fishing (293) tackle if they only found the -------. All the night and the next day it blew strong and the cutter was going quite fast sometimes. I read and slept but kept on deck all the time. I saw plenty of islands but not near and at about eight o’clock the second night I was ‘on my own’ a big sea came rolling after the cutter and she ran very fast in the white breaker of it. Then another like it came and a lot of water came on board and I thought things were being rather mixed. Then a third sea came and she ran on it and then turning half round she went thump on the rocks. I did not think much of this so I pulled my clothes off quickly and got out on the coral and I tried to shove her off, when a sea came along flinging me down and carrying the cutter away so that I had a job to catch her. When I did I got on board again ----------------- sea threw her onward. It must have been flood tide. When the moon rose I could see a white sand bank. The cutter bumped -------- until the tide fell. Then I got off hr and walked to the sandbank. At daylight I commenced carrying all the loading on to the sandbank but she could not get on it. I had the longest job with the water. I had to lose a lot to get one cask on shore and then filled it up from the other. I was two days getting everything out of her. I found the sea was smoother at high water on the other side of the sandbank and with a great deal of trouble succeeded in getting her round. But I could not get her close to the sand and she bumped a good deal on the rising of the tide. I now started to make things comfortable. I built a humpy and spread out some sheets of iron to catch water in,in case it should rain, curving them and leading them to the empty tank. A few nights afterwards a thunder squall came with rain that filled the cask and everything else I had. It blew very hard on the cutter and smashed her to pieces. I was of course very sorry but I was jolly glad I had good shelter. I saw the sea would not wash over my sandbank. I had plenty to eat and drink and read and plenty of water for a long time, even without more rain and no one called for rent and I had not my funk for the 4th of the month and indeed, if I had only known my mates were safe, I could have been quite happy. I was watching the ‘Spitfire’ (294) the day before you came, but I thought she was a beche-de-mer vessel. I twice exploded some loose powder to attract your attention but I was quite sure you would come close to my sandbank for your station if you were beche-de-mer fishing, because there was nothing else above water.”
This is very nearly verbatim as I took it down from Purdie’s dictation. He really appeared to have enjoyed his twenty –three days on that sandbank. His two friends who were left on Lizard Island were taken off and brought to Cooktown by some vessel, but I have forgotten her name. Hence the search for Purdie. Purdie was afterwards murdered by the Papuans in New Guinea on board, I think, the ‘Annie Books’. The cutter that was looking for Purdie returned to Cooktown about three weeks after our arrival.
The Lizard Island is the island from which poor Mrs. Watson and a chinaman escaped in part of a 4ft. by 4ft. tank when the blacks, during the absence of Mr. Watson and party, raided the island. Mrs. Watson and the chinaman perished miserably of starvation on one of the Howick Group, where the tank, which is preserved in the Brisbane Museum, drifted. To me it is the most pathetic, tragic incident in the long history of disasters in the annuls of the Torres Straits.
At this time the aboriginal blacks in the northern vicinity of Cooktown were full of fight and troublesome. I have good cause to remember on one occasion the late William Hartley and myself taking a small skiff and some tools, went over to the north beach between Cape Bedford and St. Patrick’s Point, to recover a big cedar log that was stranded at high water mark. Before landing we saw smoke from a blackfellow’s fire and on landing we both went up the sandy cliffs which formed the background to the sea beach and located the smoke some half a mile from the beach. We went to work screwing the log down towards the water and after working for some time I went up and looked to see if there were any blacks in sight. Seeing none we continued our work, when a few minutes later an exclamation from Mr. Hartley and a slap on the sand, drew my attention to a thirteen foot spear lying (295) on the beach and another sticking in Hartley’s thigh and before I had time to do anything, another struck me in the back. To get on our feet and pick up our revolvers was the work of a moment and facing the overhanging cliffs, we walked backward towards our boat. With my pocket knife I cut and broke off Hartley’s spear close to his leg and he in turn cut mine off a foot from my back. When we got near the boat about twenty-five bucks came down the sandy cliff and commenced collaring the tools we had left on the log. On reaching the boat, Hartley dropped his revolver in the water and as it was a skin cartridge trantor it was rendered useless. From the side of the boat, I took a shot at the Binghis with my bulldog, but without hitting them. We got into the boat and then I found I could not pull, but I found I could stand up and scull. With Hartley pulling and I sculling we were five hours getting over to Cooktown. Dr. Kortuum cut the spear from Hartley’s thigh without too much trouble, but mine as it had entered with the barb embedded in the flesh, I had to be cut open in the groin and the barb cut off the spear and have it pulled out the way it had gone in. We were both laid up for some time. Meanwhile, Leiutenant Conner with his black troopers made a punitive raid on the binghis to Rockhampton where they exhibited their skills with spears and boomerang and Messrs S.W. Hartley was accosted by one of these blacks as follows. “You been know me Mr. Hartley. I been spear your brother up alonga Cooktown.” (While pilot at Cooktown) I and my boat’s crew had been frequently to search the coast line for considerable distances for persons lost from wrecks and the method I always observed on these trips was to anchor about sundown and have supper and after dark get under weigh and proceed four or five miles further and so put the binghis off the scent. I would then back the boat in and land on the beach and camp at high tide mark in the warm sand, taking my little terrier with me. The men would anchor and camp aboard the boat sleeping on planks laid on the thwarts and at daybreak we would be underweigh again By instructions from Captain Heath, who was then Portmaster I took out the positions and (296) elevations for the Leading Light on Rocky Island and Walker Point. These lights show a clearing line for A reef and Hope Islands.
At this time the Eastern and Australian Company steamers from Hong Kong with mail and cargo were calling at Cooktown on their way to southern ports. There were also two regular traders from China direct – the S.S. Charlton and the City of Exeter – the latter vessel was later lost on Ipili reef in Torres Straits. There were a good many vessels out of the port engaged in beche-de-mer fishing and curing and a Chinese firm built two junks on St. Patrick’s Point and put them in the New Guinea beche-de-mer trade. They were manned wholly by Chinese and their masters had to pass the Marine Board Examination for master of a coasting vessel before they could leave the port in command and as examiner for the Marine Board, I became acquainted with some of the idiosyncrasies of the would be Chinese commanders. For instance, a first candidate for a master’s certificate was one Ah Gim and I soon found that Ah Gim was quite ignorant of the use of a chart. He pointed out the elevations marked on the mountainous coast range as the depths of the water and did not know the configurations of the Barrier reef from the coast line. As I knew this man had made many passages to and from New Guinea I remarked to him, “ How do you take your junk to New Guinea, Ah Gim?” “Oh” he replied and pulling down his eye, “me look see.” “But in a dark or thick night you can’t look see.” “Oh” he replied “ ’spose can’t look see, let go anchor.” But said I “ suppose there’s a hundred fathoms of water?” “Oh” said he “ no watche bottom, spose bottom he come up anchor he hold, spose no bottom, ship all ly.” There was no getting over such logic as this and I wrote and informed the Marine Board coupled with the fact that the two junls had made many hundreds of trips from New Guinea, with the result that the Board granted the two Chinese skippers coasting certificates. During the six years I was piloting in Cooktown, my eldest son and two daughters were born, my wife going to Sydney for her accouchement with the boy, the girls being born in Cooktown.
After piloting for six years I was offered by the then Portmaster (297) Captain G.P. Heath, the position of Harbour Master of Rockhampton, which I at once accepted. As soon as it was known by the townspeople that I was leaving, a movement was got up to give me a send off, and I was given a banquet and a purse of sovereigns together with an illuminated valedictory address nicely framed.
I auctioned all my furniture and household material and took passage for myselfand family by the S.S. Alexandra, Captain Hill, arriving in Keppel Bay on 12th February 1880 and was taken up the river Fitzroy and to Rockhampton by Captain Dunlop in the tender ‘Bunyip.’
Before leaving Cooktown and accepting the transfer I consulted the civil list and ascertained that the salary of the offered position of Harbour Master of Rockhampton and saw it was -----pounds and that there was a clerical assistant in the harbour office. But on taking charge I was told that the salary had been reduced by 30 pounds per annum and that the services of the clerical assistant were to be dispensed with. This was a jar to me who had never had experience in office work beyond keeping vessel accounts between master and owner. The clerical was the more embarrassing in that I was perfectly ignorant of the local conditions and characteristics of the port, never having been in it but twice. However, I did most of the clerical work at night and never allowed the pilot and buoy steamer Fitzroy to leave without I was on board and in this way I soon made myself intimate with the peculiarities and requirements of the navigation of the port and as additional office facility I got a copying press. I had hitherto, like my predecessor, copied all correspondence by hand.
I was financially worse off than in Cooktown where I had a salary and magazine keeper and a liberal allowance for making up a press telegram from the Home News, as soon as it was to hand by the China mail steamer. I had also residence and firewood supplied by the government in Cooktown. However, I accepted the transfer and had to make the best of it.
In addition to the pilotage and attention to the buoys, beacons and lights, the steamer belonging to the harbour department did all (298) the towing and the conveyance of Emmigrants from vessels in Keppel Bay to town and so it turned out that my hands were very fully occupied. I had to visit and assist at any wreck or casuality happening in anything like local waters and coastline and indeed the years I was Harbour Master in Rockhampton were full of strong incidents afloat and on shore. One of the first occurring was the wreck of the ‘Noumea’ on Samaurez Reef and here I will quote from an account which appeared in the Morning Bulletin.
It was in May 1880 and I was a bit of a new chum at my job -- having commenced in the previous February only -- that standing on the Government wharf, I saw a weather beaten looking whale boat with four seamen at the oars and a fifth at the tiller. In a few minutes I had learned the circumstances which had necessitated his visiting the port in a whale boat, which briefly were these. As master of a sailing vessel named Noumea, he had voyaged from Port Mackay to the Solomons, new Hebrides, and other groups in the South Seas and recuited some ninety odd natives for services on Queensland plantations, and this being his legal complement, he was homeward bound to the point of his departure, Mackay. He intended entering the Barrier Reef by the passage between Wreck and Samarez Reefs, a broad clean channel of about ninety miles in width. With a fair fresh wind and every rag drawing and making nine knots, he expected to be in Mackay within the next forty-eight hours. However, about midnight all at once a big comber came racing up astern and passed ahead, quickly followed by another which broke just astern of the vessel. By this time of course everyone was on the alert, but what could be done? To attempt to alter the course by bringing the ship to the wind would have meant that the next sea would crash on her broadside and sweep her decks and fill her. But there was neither time nor opportunity for action, for a third sea came along, with its snowy phosphorescent front, towering over the ship’s stern, breaking on board, hurling her forward with a velocity only gained (299) by the sea’s undulations when reaching the higher levels of reef or sands, throwing her up in the wind and crashing her down broadside on to the solid madrepore of what later proved to be the Samarez reef. The mainmast went over the side as her bilge struck the coral. Every succeeding sea fortunately, drove her further on the reef (until high water) and beyond the reach of the more massive breakers. Then the foremast was cut away to ease her with the hope that the hull would hold together till daybreak.
Now, perhaps it would act as a tonic to some of dissatisfied ones – who, sitting with newspaper or novel in hand, pipe in mouth digesting a good dinner, with a sweet faced woman vis-à-vis long needles clicking in the interests of our smoking cap, with her foot on the rocker of the bassinet congratulating herself that there is no lodge to call us to Kent street – to try to realize the situation on board the Noumea that fateful night, and with the additional facts that there were seven white men and ninety islanders, nearly all the provisions and water spoilt by the sea water, one boat of the four carried laft (?), all the arms and ammunition wet and useless, and the certainty that all the natives were cannibals and would prefer long pig to roast lamb, and all this to obtain even if what everyone was praying happened and she held together until daylight.
I may here say that an error of the chronometer and an unknown current caused the loss of the ship.
The captain went on to say – “Contrary to my expectation, the ship held together until daylight, and the wind dying away, the surf ceased to reach the hull, I put some provisions and a top-gallant sail into the whaler that would float, and landed the cook and officers on a little sandy islet about five miles from the wreck. While this was being done, I repaired another boat with canvas and tacks. When the whaler returned I victualled her and put a compass and chronometer into her, and, with the remaining four white men, and taking the repaired boat in tow, I left her with the officers on the sandy islet. Then with a light fair wind (300)I set course for Rockhampton as the nearest port.
Necessary action now developed on myself, and I at once sent an urgent telegram to the acting Port Master, who unfortunately was absent. I waited an hour but it was no time for red tape. The Government steamer was then a paddle boat and would not carry the necessary coal, so I approached the late Mr. A.T. Wood who was agent for the then A.S.N. Company, with an office and a dwelling in Quay Street, on the present site of Walter Reid and Co’s warehouse , with the result that I chartered the S.S.Leichardt on my own responsibility, she being the only steamer in port. The late captain Darrell was in command of her. She eventually left the wharf at 7 p.m. Captain W.C.Thompson, now in command of the S.S. Levuka, was the chief officer and Mr. G. Moran, our late Sub-Collector of Customs then in knickerbockers, and had just joined the Customs, was sent by Mr. Kilner, the then Sub-Collector, ostensibly to represent the customs but really to give the youngster a trip, while I went as coral pilot. We pushed the old Leichardt along all night and passed North Reef before daybreak next morning. We had then one hundred and twenty miles run to the wreck. We got amongst the coral patches (on a very imperfect survey at that time) late in the afternoon, and Captain Durrell who had had no experience of coral waters, became anxious about the safety of his ship when he saw the bottom and insisted on slowing the engines. I pointed out that at the reduced speed we should not get an anchorage before nightfall, and probably lose the ship, and the chief officer supported me. A compromise was struck, namely that the Leichardt should be stopped while a cast of lead was taken. This giving thirteen fathoms (78 feet) although the bottom was plainly visible, I was to go on the topsail yard (the Leichardt was square rigged then) to keep a lookout and con her, and the ship was to be kept at full speed. So up I went clean and decent and came down when the anchor was let go as black and sooty as if I had come through the smoke stack.
(301) The night was fine and at daybreak the boats were lowered and manned. The chief officer (Captain W.C.Thompson) the boatswain and myself went across the reef to the wreck. It was low water and a vast field of coral nearly dry was exposed, fringed by white breakers on its south-eastern edge. The wreck was lying on the crown or highest elevated part. What a forlorn, desolate, object she presented, lying on her starboard side at an acute angle, her bilge bulged inward, her masts gone, their stumps stark and protruding and reminding one of the wreck of the Hesperous, the wire rigging still attached to the chain plates streaming out its length on the coral, her hemp gear with yards of white frayed tassels hanging about her decks and over her sides, her rudder at right angles with her keel, hanging by the stock in the trunk only; and the climax of this particular devastation and desolation was only arrived at when, getting over what was left of her rail on to her decks, we saw hanging to the stumps of her masts, her pumps, to the windlass, and every projection that hands could grasp and cling to the ninety odd natives that at this time represented the enterprise of the Noumea’s voyage. Yes, they were clutching and hanging on with the same despairing apathetic energy, with the blistering their salty encrusted hides as they had of necessity been doing when, at the approach of high water, the surf was breaking over them. They all had an infinitely more horrible appearance than dead men for they had the rigidity of corpses, with eyes that rolled, staring and blinking at us, encrusted with salt, which every sea precipitated and the sun dried on their naked bodies. Wherever any portion of their anatomy had been in contact with the rail of stanchion they had clung to, that portion was of a dead white like the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. They exhibited perfect apathy to their surroundings, and the seamen had to forcibly draw them away otherwise they would have remained and died where they were with deliverance in sight and at hand.
“On the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
Where the ghastly blue lights flare.”
(302) after much trouble they were got off the wreck on to the reef and in to the boats, and so on board the Leichardt, where, after eating about a hundred weight of rice each, they were soon laughing and talking together apparently utterly oblivious of all they had suffered. We next got the officers on board from the little sandy cay, and then purchased the anchor and set the course for Cape Capricorn eventually arriving in town. As I expected there was a letter of censure awaiting me in the office for acting without authority but on receipt of my explanatory letter received comforting approval.
(303) In addition to the lights that were in connection with the port of Rockhampton I had the supervision and buoying and beaconing of the ports of Broadsound and Gladstone and the monthly visit with the stores and oil to the lighthouse on Bustard Island and Pine Islet and I always found these duties interesting and congenial as may be gathered by the description of a visit paid to Bustard Head in the company of Bishop Dawes of the Anglican Church. At that time as now the people living at the isolated light and pilot stations connected with the port were quite unable by any effort of their own to bring themselves within the reach of church or clergy, and in religious matters they were simply ignored by all denominations, always excepting the Lighthouse Mission, which supplies religious literature to all Australian light stations. I brought these facts to the notice of Bishop Dawes, and he expressed himself desirious of removing this reproach, and one Tuesday morning twenty-five years ago he left town in the then Government steamer the Fitzroy, with myself, I, being on my monthly visit to the light stations. The Bishop’s primary purpose was to hold a confirmation service at Bustard head. (This station was at the time under my supervision.) Calling at the Keppel Bay stations, the Bishop made himself known to the employees explaining that on this trip the vessel could not delay or he would have held a service at the station, but promised that on his return he would make arrangements for better attention to their spiritual requirements. We went on to cape Capricorn, arriving in the late afternoon, and thence to North Reef, anchoring there at midnight. At that time the sea was encroaching on the northern side of the little sand bank on which stands the lighthouse and at high water there was a considerable depth right round its base.
North Reef was left at five o’clock next (Wednesday) and a course steered for Bustard Head, the anchor being let go at noon in Pancake Creek. On the beach to meet the Bishop were Rev. A.H.Julius (then incumbent of the Anglican Church at Gladstone and Mr. Rooksby, the superintendent of the station and a little shoal of juveniles of both sexes. A start was (304) made for the lighthouse, which is three miles from the landing over a very soft sandy road. It is very fatiguing for a pedestrian. There is also a stiff climb of four hundred feet. On arrival the Bishop was met by Mrs. and Miss. Grace Rooksby and the families of the first and second assistants, and after paying a short visit to each cottage he and members of the party lunched at the superintendent’s house. Everything had been arranged for a confirmation service by Mrs. Rooksby under the guidance of Mr. Julius, who had arrived a few hours previous. At three o’clock in the afternoon the school bell rang, and in a few minutes, the room which was nicely decorated with ferns and wattle, was filled with those connected with the station and the Fitzroy’s crew, together numbering some forty persons. In front of the improvised altar, were seated as usual the candidates for confirmation, consisting of the daughters of the lighthouse keepers. At the other end of the room stood an American organ, resided over by Miss Rooksby. The service was most picturesque and impressive, both from the way it was rendered and the surroundings. Through the open door of the room, built within a few feet of a vertical cliff, with the ocean booming on its base four hundred feet below, could be seen the deep blue water line at the horizon cutting off sharp and clear, yet harmonizing with the lighter blue of the cloudless sky; the coast mail boat passing northward in the offing belching out great volumes of black smoke and leaving a snowy track on the waters astern of her; the telltale white light tower rearing its massive column against the clear firmament, the white breakers, crashing on the outlying rocks with the sea birds darting and shrieking over them. (From the open windows could be seen the lofty peaks of the Owen Stanley Range and at their base the placid waters of Rodd’s Harbour lay shimmering in the sun, and a few yards to the right of the building stretched ‘God’s Acre,’ with white gravestones marking where the children of some of those in the room lay at rest overshadowed by the wattle and the eucalyptus.?????) With all this in view and listening to the beautiful words of the confirmation ritual, so earnestly and sonorously delivered, the service was one not readily to be effaced from the memory of those whose privilege it was to be present.
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In the evening a full service was held in the main building, the Bishop and Mr. Julius officiating. Bishop Dawes preached from the first verses of the 63rd psalm – “O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek thee.” He commenced his discourse by asking his hearers what was their religion. “I can understand,” said he “the man who hates religion. I can respect the man who loves religion, and I can respect a mwn who, following the tenets and living up to the principles, believing that he is right, of a religion which we may call superstition or idolatry – a Mahommedan or a Budhist perhaps (although I repudiate his belief with indignation) because he is guided by his convictions. But what I cannot understand or respect is the half and half man who, calling himself a Christian, and allowing himself to be nominated a member of the Church of Christ, leads a life utterly at variance with its tenets, and the life his saviour set before him.” “A great many men,” the preacher said a little later “are of the opinion that religion is fitted well enough for women and children, whose temperament is more emotional than men’s, but I tell you that the fear of God is the most manly thing in the world, and that man has only attained to the dignity of perfect manhood when he fears his God and fears neither man nor the devil besides.” The service which was followed most attentively closed about nine o’clock. Then Mr. Rooksby adjusted his fine telescope and attention was directed to the heavens, contemplating –
“System on system – countless stars and suns,
The silver islands of a sapphire sea,
Shoreless, unfathomed, undiminished,
Measureless unto speech.”
The clergy were accommodated on the station for the night and next morning, at seven o’clock, Holy Communion was celebrated. The whole community attended the service, and eleven partook of the Sacrament. After the service the Bishop and Mr. Julius, accompanied by every member of the station, proceeded to the beach, where after a very cordial leave taking they were taken on board the Fitzroy and she left immediately for Gladstone. It was very gratifying and reflected much credit on those in charge of the station at Bustard (306) Head in those days to see how reverently and heartily every member of the little community joined in the service. Everyone could sins and did sing well, especially the children, who seemed as well versed in the grand old ritual of the Church of England as if they had been brought up under the shadow of a cathedral instead of being born and bred on a bleak headland nearly surrounded by the Pacific, and had never seen a consecrated place of worship in their lives.
I thought at the time that the visit of the Bishop would be productive of some system of periodical attention to the spiritual wants and welfare of a community who, up till that time had been out off from all the ordinances of the church. Even then for fourteen years there had been but one visit of a clergyman to any of the outside stations, including Keppel Bay, connected with this port. Cape Capricorn was then visited and a service held and three children christened. Then, after fourteen years as I have said, came Bishop Dawes’ visit, and we had one visit afterwards by the Rev. Father Battle to Port Alma only. Bustard Head has not for some time been under this port’s supervision, but occasional visits I know, were paid to that station by the incumbent from Gladstone, but there are so many stations that are utterly ignored by all our religious bodies. Lightkeepers of course, are entitled to leave every year, but there are many who cannot avail themselves of it. The man with a large family who requires the ministration or offices of a clergyman, most probably cannot afford to take his leave every year.
Well before we left Bustard Head I telegraphed to Gladstone that the Bishop would arrive there at three o’clock in the afternoon and we were up to time. There was a blackfellow fishing on Friend’s Wharf, but not another soul in sight. In bidding the Bishop goodbye. I said something about it being a pleasant and instructive episode, and he replied “Yes, and I think you have had a unique experience.” And pausing, he said,” Had you ever seen a Bishop aground by the stern before Tuesday night?” What he referred to was this: When we arrived at North Reef at midnight on Tuesday, after lying down, I saw the Bishop could not (307) sleep and presently he remarked “We have brought some mosquitoes with us.” Then getting up he reached for and opened his umbrella and then form his portmanteau he brought out a piece of netting and quickly fixed it on the umbrella, lay down and drew the net over his face and said, “This is what I do when camping under the buggy when on my visits to the western districts.” However he could not rest so I proposed he should sleep in my hammock on the bridge, and I soon rigged it up and got him comfortably in it. Later I went up on the bridge and found his weight had so stretched the hammock lanyards that the Bishop’s rotundity was touching the deck as the vessel rolled on the swell, and seeing he was awake I said, “ You had better turn out for a minute while I tighten you up a bit, you are aground by the stern.” “Dear me, am I really?” said he and he not refer to it again until he was leaving, but he had a keen sense of humour always. On the was down the river, at the start he remarked, “Your engine does not seem very sociable.” “Well,” I replied, he is a typical Scotch engineer and a dour Presbyterian.” “Well,” he replied “We are going to be friendly within the next half hour.” I wondered and I had my doubts. Presently I saw the Bishop walk to the door of the engine room pipe in mouth (he smoked when he first came here) and as I expected, down below went the engineer, but the Bishop waited smoking contentedly until the engineer came up. Then I heard, “She’s got a knock, its from the thrust blocks isn’t it engineer?” That was sufficient. Of course everyone knows that Bishop Dawes was an engineer and was in a responsible position at the building of the Forth Bridge. It was, as the Bishop had said and the Bishop and the engineer were very friendly from that time. The Bishop was a delightful companion to be afloat with, so sympathetic and wide in his views from a religious point of view and a brilliant and entertaining conversationalist. My regret is that this was the only opportunity I had of carrying him as passenger for the comfort and edification of the Marine department’s isolated employees as well as my own. Another little episode I may relate. After leaving Bustard Head I was writing a paragraph for the Gladstone newspaper descriptive of this trip, and I wanted to quote the sentence from the Bible “And (308) there shall be no more sea.” But I could not remember the chapter it occurs in so I asked Mr. Julius and handed him the Bible. Well, he could not find it and at last he said, “We’ll ask the Bishop.” He went on deck and returned with him and he turned the leaves over and over and still could not find it, when all at once it occurred to me, and then I said “Will you kindly turn to the twenty-first chapter of Revelations and read the first verse.” “Well captain, you have taught us both.” “Out of the mouths of babes etc.” This was twenty-five years ago, and from that time the isolated families at our light stations have been ignored by all religious bodies.
(309) During my service in Rockhampton some very disastrous wrecks and casualties occurred on the immediate coast. Notably the full rigged ship ‘Eastminster’. This ship left Maryborough in ballast bound for Bangkok. There had been trouble with her crew in Maryborough and most of the seamen absconded or got paid off, and a scratch and very inefficient lot of men had been shipped in their stead. The ship was ballasted with sand which she took in at the White Cliffs, Frazer Island. The morning her ballast was completed a very heavy south easter was blowing, but her Jack was hoisted for the services of a pilot and Pilot Mason boarded her and took charge. Her ballast was not trimmed and it stood in a pyramid under her main hatchesand one side of her fore lower rigging was adrift. Pilot Mason endeavoured to induce the captain not to go to sea the weather being very threatening but his persuasions were in vain and the ship was taken to sea. That afternoon the south easter increased to a heavy gale with dense rain and thick atmosphere and these conditions continued for some days, meantime some wreckage of life buoys with Eastminster on them were picked up at Emu Park and it was feared the ship had come to grief. I left in the Fitzroy, the pilot steamer, and made a search of the Keppel Islands. I found more life buoys bearing her name and also her sparboard with her name in raised letters together with some stanchions and other wreckage which left no doubt of the loss of the ship and this was ultimately proved by the non arrival of the ship at her destination. From some reports spread by a French fisherman it was surmised that the Eastminster had been lost on Swain Reefs. These reefs are extensive fields of coral forming the southern projection of the Great Barrier Reef proper. Their nearest point lies approximately 100 miles north east of Cape Capricorn, or sixty miles north east of North Reef (on which stands a lighthouse) and trend away to the north west, following the contour of the coastline. From their southern extreme to about the latitude of the Percy Islands, their western edge is very broken, with small patches of coral intersected by deep channels, but form the Percys the reefs are less broken and more continuous (310) and passages between them are lass frequently met with. Several large vessels have been wrecked on these southern patches of the Barrier during recent years, notably the French ship ‘Guichen’ the master and crew of which, after suffering much hardship, reached Pine Islet, on which is a light station, in two of the ship’s boats, and were hospitably entertained by the superintendent and his assistants, and by whom they were finally put on board a passing steamer. I remember about the same time a London ship named ‘Vanda’ becoming a total wreck, her crew being picked up by a passing ship. Then there was a fine iron barque on her maiden voyage run high and dry on the westernmost patch of the Swains, Belle Cay and there are others whose names I cannot recall.
In February 1889, the Government instructed me to search the swains for the wreck of the Eastminster, and in pursuance of those instructions, and at daybreak one Sunday morning with thick dirty weather, which had set in during the night we sighted the first patches of the coral and continued all the morning steaming between and around them. None of the patches were dry, and with the dense weather prevailing, the definition of their edges was very imperfect and rendered the work dangerous and anxious, and my vessel’s position problematical through the continual rounding of the constantly occurring coral patches. Untill about 2 p.m. we saw nothing on any of the reefs that indicated the presence of the wreckage, but shortly after that time a very large objsct was made out on a reef to the north east, and we at once commenced to thread our way amongst the reefs towards it. For a time everyone on board was convinced it was the hull of a large ship. However, on getting under the reef on which it lay, it turned out to be a coral boulder not larger than a dingy, but raised and magnified by refraction or that peculiar mirage which is always deceiving one amongst coral. The weather was getting thicker and fresher all day and as there were no patches of sufficient height to afford any shelter at high water, after a very anxious day, I was very thankful to get clear to the westward of the inhospitable Swains shortly after nightfall.
(311) Shortly after the visit to the Swains, I again received instructions to visit the north western detached patch Bell Cay, and report on the position and condition of the iron barque Waverley , of about 2000 tons, stranded there. The vessel bound for Bangkok, passed through the Capricorn channel, sighted North Reef dipping from the main topgallant yard and hit Bell cay very hard at about ten o’clock at night (fortunately fine.) The captain who was part owner, had his wife with him. The ship which was under all plain sail and going seven knots, without any preliminary bumping or grinding, rammed herself into a little gulchway in the solid madrepore coral which she fitted in as in a dock cradle, with deep water under her keel. She sat perfectly upright the coral rising under her bilges. It was high water when she struck, enabling her to get well upon the reef. As soon as she stopped all her sails were furled and then two of the boats were lowered with some provisions and water. A large case of tobacco was placed in one, which was given in charge of the chief officer. The other was taken by the captain with his wife and a number of the crew. It was a dark night but the captain’s boat got safely off the reef and headed for Mackay. The mate’s boat however, was capsized and thrown onto the reef again, and then securing the case of tobacco it was attached to the boat’s painter and used as an anchor, the boat remained on the reef until daylight enabled them to see the smooth lee edge of the reef and follow the captain’s boat. Both arrived safely in Mackay. I may mention that one of the captain’s legs was built of cork, and probably a capsize of his boat would have placed him in rather a peculiar position. From Mackay the captain proceeded south and having notified abandonment, the underwriter advertised the sale of her wreck. After my visit and subsequent report from Cape Capricorn, the advertisement was withdrawn and tenders were advertised for floating the ship on no cure no pay principle. That is to say, if the salvors were successful in floating and delivering her in Brisbane, they were to receive a certain sum and if they failed they were at the (312) loss at their undertaking and outlay.
At the time I received instructions to visit the Waverley, Pine Islet light station was attended to and supplied from this port, and Bell Cay was only about fifty miles of a detour, so I visited it when bound to Pine Islet. Referring to my diary, Referring to my diary, I find that after leaving North Reef at 7 a.m. at daybreak the next morning there was the phenomenal sight of a ship apparently anchored in mid ocean, her sails snugly furled, perfectly upright and rigie(?) the swell which was fairly heavy, not affecting her, the hull being much higher than either sandbank or reef (the latter was not visible.) The impression that the vessel was at anchor however, was quickly dissipated as the sandbank and reef became visible. A little later the anchor was let go and the dingy soon brought me alongside the Waverley. There she lay without a scratch on her paint above the coral on the outside of her. On getting on deck there was every evidence of a hasty flitting of her officers and crew. There on the poop was the residue of a new royal, from which I suppose a boat sail had been hastily cut. There were two fine boats turned up on the skids, the sounding rod and iron were lying on the deck beside the pumps, dropped evidently after the well was sounded after the ship struck. In the deck house the seamen’s chests were all lashed up, with sea boots and oilskins on top. Other clothing was scattered about. In one of the bunks a cat was coiled up dead, probably from want of water. A well fitted caboose, with a good stove and utensils all tidily arranged stood forward. In fact, wherever one looked, on deck or aloft, everything was good. Running and standing rigging, iron masts, steel yards and bowsprit, sails, steering gear, compasses, ground tackle, pumps etc. etc. were all new and excellent. Nothing had deteriorated nor was even wet. Neither did anything yet wear the peculiar bleached and weather worn appearance which a ship and everything belonging so quickly assume after abandonment, especially on coral. Going into the cuddy under the poop and the captain’s and officer’s rooms, I found everything in disorder. There was a handsome piano with a pile of music beside it, a new (313) sewing machine, a breach loading gun case with fittings, but the gun gone, ladies bonnets and hats and clothing, a large medicine chest, a pier glass, a marble topped buffet, A Japanese tea set, a large camphor-wood chest full of ladies clothing, a work box open and everything indicating the ransack of hurried departure.
Nearly everything appeared to have been left. In the captain’s room there were two bed places with bedding just as vacated. A ladies silk night robe, the captain’s stove pipe hat in its leather case, a silver mounted Malacca cane, a silk and wool coverlid unfinished, and a spare cork leg with a Wellington boot attached. Off the saloon was a capacious bath-room half filled with ladies clothing. It is seldom indeed in the present day when people travel only by steam, that a sailing ship is so well and even luxuriously found and fitted as as the Waverley, and in spite of all the disorderof ransack on that night’s flitting, there was still discernable that indescribable air of domesticity, comfort and refinement which only a woman’s presence and domicile can give to a ship’s cabin. Only by going into the ship’s hold could any sign of damage be suspected, but there the water was nearly as high as it was outside her. All hands might with perfect safety have remained by her and left comfortably at daybreak. The workmen employed to salve her lived securely on board of her for five or six months until she was finally floated off. I brought nothing away from her except the captain’s very handsome writing desk, which I forwarded to the Portmaster in Brisbane for delivery to him. The captain wrote to me in acknowledgement of its receipt, but said that he would have been more pleased to have had the case of tobacco.
On my return from the Waverley, I wired from Cape Capricorn that it was quite practicable to float the ship and tenders were called for and accepted by some people in Mackay, a captain Hovell having the supervision. The ship was stripped of her top masts. All her yards and spars were placed in her holds, the injuries to her bottom coffer dammed and after some months of very arduous work by the men, who were all depending on the floating (314) and delivery of the ship in Brisbane for remuneration, she was floated, taken in tow by a little steamer named the Annie, whose power was altogether inadequate for the job and, after being over eight hours afloat, the steam pipe of her large centrifugal pump burst. As without this she could not be kept free, the Waverley was anchored to nine fathoms of water about three miles east of the entrance to Thirsty sound. The steamer with some of the party left her. The shipwrights remained on board all night, but were taken off the next day. The enterprise and ship ere abandoned, and the latter gradually filled and went down to her anchors.
While the work of salving was going on I visited the ship two or three times, and always urged her being beached on the Percy Island, fifty miles distant only, and the master shipwright favoured it. But Captain Hovell, not being able to foresee the accident of the centrifugal, tried to get her to Brisbane. If she had only been taken in to Thirsty Sound, with its great rise and fall of tide, and beached, the ship would have been safely repaired, rigged, ballasted and delivered. As it was, after foundering at her anchors, her three lower masts and her top masts stood high above water for years mementoes of a perseverance and pluck nullified by a divided executive. I have a photograph of the ship’s three masts, as they stood in the sunken hull, taken by Pilot Foster. All the masts have disappeared long ago. (315) During the early years of my station at Rockhampton polar storms south east gales accompanied by dense atmosphere and heavy rains were frequent visitations, but in later years these storms were much less frequent although during the summer monthsthere were frequent visits of the Black Norther as it is usually designated northward of Sandy Cape and Black North Easter to the southward of it – the characteristics being generally very similar if not identical in both.
All along the east coast from Sandy Cape to Gabo during the summer months the north easter blows with almost monsoonal regularity. It is a low current and at its greatest velocity an upper strata of cloud may frequently be seen traveling in the opposite direction. Its force is generally from 2, 3 to 4 for the first two days and 4 to 5 for a day or two following and northering in direction, and the thunderstorm more or less heavy, with a short blow from the southward intervening. The change for the time is radical, the temperature falling from sixteen to twenty-five degrees lasts the greater part of the night, followed by a lovely sunrise and a calm hot morning until about 11 a.m. comes along the north easter again. A high barometer is characteristic of a Nor’easter, but before the there usually occurs a sudden fall by a correspondingly quick rise. In past days when all the trade of the east coast from Jervis Bay to the Tweed River was carried by schooners and ketches. The long spells of Nor’easterly winds were trying and obstructive as it obtained that the stronger the nor’easter the greater the velocity of the south-south-easterly current and it was therefore useless to attempt beating to the northward with northerly wind. Sometimes the nor’east wind after blowing freshly for some days with a high barometer, easters a couple of points, the atmosphere gradually becoming dense with the heavy masses of low clouds driving from the north east quarter. The glass falls to 29.60 or 29.70 and the wind reaches the force of a gale and knocks up a distressing hollow sea. This is the black nor’easter and lasts from twelve to twenty-eight hours followed by a quickly rising barometer a clearing of the atmosphere and an absence of cloud areas – the sea falling as quickly as the (316) the wind. But recently these black nor’easters are hardly ever experienced on the east coast.
Northward of Sandy Cape, or let me say within the tropics we occasionally get the black northers. That there is no easting in them is probably due to the more westerly trend of the coastline but the blows have all the characteristics of the more southern disturbances.
The last of these black northers I was in did me a bad turn. I will relate the circumstances. There was laid down on the bank of the Mary River, the keel and frame of a vessel, but for a number of years she was incomplete. Then someone finished building and launched her and named her Perseverance and being laden with pine and hardwood timber she sailed from Maryborough for Townsville. Somewhere between cape Townsend and the Percy Islands her mainmast went over the side – why or under what circumstance I never heard. Anyway the vessel was anchored of Steep Island and abandoned, the master and crew being picked up by the S.S.Gabo. The first intimation I received of the disaster was a telegram from the port master instructing me to proceed in the pilot steamer the Fitzroy in search of the derelict reported in the steamers track off Steep Island and a menace to shipping and to remove her if practicable otherwise to scuttle her. This looked like a racy job and I hurried up and got away as soon as possible. Arriving in Keppel Bay I saw Sea Hill signaling “Iwant to communicate.” On getting there I was handed two telegrams, one from the underwriters which read, “Will hand you cheque for 100 pounds if Perseverance placed at safe anchorage.” The other from the sub-collector of Customs Mr. Fahey to the effect that a party of holiday makers were on one of the Keppel islands and had lost their boat and were short of food and water. Mr. Ben Long, Mr. Hudson and five or six more were of the party. It was 8 p.m. when we got to the South Keppel and the brigantine Friendship was at anchor there bound for the Soloman Islands, and Captain Norman informed me that he had passed the Perseverance at anchor off Steep Islands abandoned the previous day. I was no light on South (317) Keppel but it was a very dark night and the party might have no means of making a fire, so there was no alternative but to anchor until daylight. I may here say that the barometer had been steadily falling all day and I feared northerly weather. At daylight there was no sign of anyone on south Keppel so I went on to North Keppel and there found Mr. Long and his party. They had lost their boat. I got them on board as quickly as possible and took them over to Emu Park and landed them and also my coxswain who was unwell, and for the time being I wished old Charon had the ferrying of them for my barometers were telling me I was racing against an approaching norther. During the day the atmosphere got heavier and the sky murkier with heavy masses of cumulous traveling from the northward but it was dead calm and as smooth as fat. We shoved the little vessel along all we could and I quite made up my mind it was going to be a close thing. I intended slipping both the derelict anchors and towing her into Sarah’s Bosom and anchoring in an adjacent group of islands and hanging on to her until the norther which I was certain was coming was passed. Passing Clara Group, it was still calm and smooth and four hours more would have finished the job and put the derelict in safety. After passing Clara Group we soon knew all about it. Before the wind struck we were enveloped not in a Scotch mist but a Scotch haggis – yellow and damp and so dense one could not see twenty yards in any direction. Then presently came the wind, due north and with a ready made sea in front of it. We had a big surf boat in the port davits and had a square stern boat in the starboard and it was a very difficult job to get these boats inboard but I was expecting to have to take the norther out to sea, and I determined to make an attempt to get to an anchorage and this in view I put the helm up and steered for land and stood until I saw the break on the beach then keeping this in sight I found the entrance to Island head creek into which I entered and anchored although I could not see the opposite shore entering. We lay here three days and a very heavy sea rolled down on the reef at the entrance all the time. When the weather broke we went to Steep Island but no sign of the Perseverance was visible – she had either gone down to her anchors or parted and drifted to sea, but (318) but it was a moral certainty that but for the delay over Mr. Long and his party the Perseverance could have been snugly anchored in Island Head creek before the norther came away.
In 1902 I was asked by the Portmaster Captain J. Mackey whether I could with the little steamer Fitzroy prosecute a search through the coral for a vessel named ‘Sybil’ which was long overdue from the Soloman Islands.It was mainly a question of carrying sufficient coal. However, I replied in the afternoon in the affirmative and at once set about preparing for the undertaking filling the bunkers and taking three hundred bags of coal on deck. I left Keppel Bay and going northward called at Mackay where I refilled the bunkers and left that port on a Monday night continued on a northerly course and anchored under Holborn Island the next evening and was underweigh by daylight the next morning, steering to pass through the Great barrier Reefs by Flinders passage. Passed to the eastward of Myrmiden reef at 4 p.m. steered for the south east and Lihou Reef, examined the islands of the Tregosse and Diamond Groups and anchored under a small sandy cay which is sparsely vegetated by myriads of sea fowl, and this being the breeding season (September) the surface of the island was literally covered with sea birds of every variety sitting on eggs. The birds did not attempt to get away from our footsteps. Overhead were thousands of male birds hovering, screaming and occasionally darting at our heads apparently without fear in defence of their young. Sitting at intervals all round the beach at the limit of high water were Boobies and Gannets, the former with their peculiar looking young with their bright scarlet bills and eyes, the latter with brilliant blue rims round them. There were thousands of shells on this islands all inhabited by the hermit crab, but there were no turtles nor any indication of their landing at any time which may account for the number of birds having their habitat there. During the night the men caught some fine fish. Next morning we planted twelve cocoanuts on the island then got underweigh and steamed round the south east end of Lihou reef which is sixty-eight miles in length. About noon we (319) entered Herald Pass and a couple of miles to the north of the pass there was lying on the crown of the reef a fine five thousand ton steamer the ‘Queen Christina.’ I anchored about three hundred yards to the west of her and lowered a boat and went alongside of her. There was about three feet of water on the reef where she was lying – she was sitting perfectly upright and there was no appearance of damage to the ship – even her propeller was not clipped. Her port anchor with one hundred and twenty fathoms of cable lay extended on the coral. On her decks everything was rusty and bleached. A large quantity of stores, casks of pork and beef, tanks of rice and dall together with tinned meat, fish and preserves were in her lazarette. There was also a room off her saloon with shelves well filled with drugs and medicines. There was plenty of Japanese coal in her bunkers and had we been short we could have refilled our bunkers, but I took nothing from her except a couple of hams and a few kegs of paint. As I have said there was no indication of the ship having sustained any damage but the water in her hold was as high as the water outside her. But for the distance from any port and consequent difficulty of getting facilities for the work the ship could have been coffer dammed and floated. She lay right on the crown of the reef and out of reach of any heavy sea or surf, the small rise and fall of the tide ensuring this.
The ship was driven on the reef by a cyclone which she ran into on her passage from Japan towards Melbourne. After stranding, a boat in charge of the second officer, was sent to Townsville from whence a small steamer was sent to bring the rest of the crew ashore. There is but little doubt that the ship will last twenty years in the meantime she forms an excellent beacon for Lihou Reef which extends north and south sixty-eight miles.
Leaving the Queen Christina I ran along the western edge of Lihou stopping off at the numerous sandy cays and planting cocoanuts on them but seeing no sign of wreckage. From Lihou reef I went to the Madelaine, Willis and Flinders Groups but without any success as to the object of our search, but planting cocoanuts on all the islands. Returning after our unsuccessful search I passed through the barrier Reef by Palm Passage and called at Townsville (320) where I filled up the bunkers with coal and ultimately arrived at Rockhampton after a seventeen day steaming trip.
In the year 1904 the A.U.S.N. Co’s S.S.Aramac met with a casualty which caused much anxiety and as I was engaged in salving operations in connection with the casuality I repeat here the Rockhampton Bulletin account of them.

On a Sunday in March 1904 at midnight a knock came at my verandah followed by a cry of “Telegram” in a boy’s voice. A minute later I read – “Aramac struck Breaksea Spit, now anchored twenty miles east of Burnett Heads go to her assistance as quickly as possible.” I got into my clothes and onto my bicycle and made for the residence of my engineer. It happened unfortunately that the pilot steamer’s boiler was under overhaul and it was open and empty. Near the railway station I met MR. J.M. Cooper, of Messrs Walter Reid’s Shipping department on his bicycle going to my house for me, he having received a similar telegram. So together we went to the engineer and then to my mate’s place. The latter left to get the rest of the crew together and everything else necessary to be done. Coal was absolutely necessary and the railway was the only chance of supply. About 1 a.m. I roused out the Railway Manager but failed to get coal, but meantime the S.S.Queensland arrived at the wharf and from her we got sufficient to fill the bunkers and about 6.30 a.m. we left the wharf. When we reached Keppel Bay the late Pilot Ralston in response to a telegram I had sent him came off and gave me one of his pilot boat’s crew. He said, “You won’t get out sir.” “The Taldora has made two attempts and has had to return and is now anchored at Cape Capricorn.” “All right Ralston, we’ll go till she puts her fires out and then return under the jib.” Well we all wish you good luck was the reply. We took as much smooth water as Rocky Island afforded and then broke away at it until 6.20 p.m, when we were off Gatcombe head. At 10.55 we were in the red beam of Bustard head light making the best we could in a nasty distressing sea.
We were steering for the Aramac position which as given in the (321) telegram was twenty miles east of Burnett Heads. When at 1.30 a.m. a muffled cry was heard and I slowed down and then stopped and listened and presently a confused cry of many voices was heard. The night was pitch dark, only the white phosphorescent tops of the sea were visible. Our steam whistle was blown, and there came a cry of a number of voices, then all at once on the top of the sea a boat became visible close to us. It was miraculous that we had not run over her for even after seeing her we lost sight of her again. She had no lights and it would have been utterly impossible to have kept safely in her vicinity until daylight. Still it was my conviction that it meant disaster to take her alongside of the little steamer with her violent motion in the seaway. However a decision had to be come to and that promptly and it was proceeded by the following dialogue. “Who is in charge of that boat?” “I am, Jim Trickett.” “Have you any women and children?” “Yes, both.” “Have you oars?” “Yes.” “Can you pull a few yards?” “Yes.” The little steamer was then laid in the trough of the sea to windward of the boat. “Now pull end on to the steamer,” I called out. “and make everyone keep their hands and arms inside the gunwale.”
The boat got alongside and in a few minutes although one moment she would be above the rail and the next under the bilge – twenty six women and children were safely on board the Fitzroy without an accident beyond the crushed fingers of a girl and boy. Trickett did everything in the boat to get the people out safely and was the last to leave him himself. When everybody was out of her she was cast adrift and ultimately came on the beach at Shoal Bay. This boat had left the Aramac with twenty- six souls without a seaman or officer to take charge or means of shoeing a light. The only members of the crew of the Aramac in the boat were a stewardess and a pantry man, and I have no hesitation in saying that but for Trickett’s knowledge of handling boats and the fact that he asserted himself and took charge in the face of some opposition at the outset, the chance of her keeping afloat to be stumbled on by us would have been very remote indeed. Mr. Trickett informed (322) me that several boats had left the Aramac at the same time that he did, so I doubled the lookout and kept pegging away dead slow and sounding the steam whistle at intervals until daylight.

And now as we can depend on a prompt call from the bridge if anything comes in sight let us make the acquaintance of our friends from the boat. The Fitzroy is diving into a head sea and at intervals entertains over her bows and on her decks little reminders that the Pacific is wet. The cabin skylight in addition to its own protective covering has a tarpaulin latched over it, the iron tubular (?) has been removed and a plug has been inserted in the orifice on the foredeck – the companion is covered up and the cabin below may be said to be almost hermetically closed. Then making allowances for the smell of crude castor and vacuum oils and the other usual vile secretions of the bilges it may be understood to some degree what the atmosphere was that morning in that little cabin and our sympathies go towards the unfortunates necessarily imprisoned there for the time being. We go down and are instantly sensible of the vitiated atmosphere, but it would take the pencil of a Hogarth to depict the scene in the little saloon, Here are twenty-five men, women and children, the two latter in acute stages of dishabille. They had thankfully and sensibly thrown 0ff their wet and salt encrusted garments but all with the happiest and jolliest faces were vivaciously talking together no one listening.
The stewardess sitting on the table one arm round the stanchion and a teapot and a bottle between her knees faithful to the responsibility of her calling was dispensing tea and wine to each in turn of those around her. Miss Fergusson, sitting right in the eyes of her with quite nothing on beyond evening costume was laughing and talking perfectly oblivious whether the salt water from the ventilator plug above her ran down her back or her nose every time the vessel made a dive. Near her again was a very stout lady who had nearly been pulled to pieces in getting her from under the thawts of the boat where she had become cramped, now with a happy smiling face talking her hardest.
Then there is a man with one arm around his little daughter and the other through the handle of a galvanized bucket into which at intervals (323) while relating his experience in the boat he would put his head and then go on with his yarn apparently without any perception of nausea.

Everyone seemed imbued with a feeling of the happiest abandon as if nothing in the wide world mattered only that they were safe and their poor scorched salted red faces gave the impression that it was so. It was demonstrative of how hopeless they had viewed things previously. Up till 11 a.m. next morning we saw nothing of any more boats, and as I could not feed or accommodate with reasonable comfort all these people I bore up for Gladstone. Passing Bustard Head I signaled to advise the mayor that we were coming. After landing the people I coaled and went to sea again in prosecution of further search but about sundown Bustard Head signaled that all the Aramac’s boats were accounted for and I returned to Rockhampton.

The Jim Trickett who was in charge of the Aramac’s boat was Lieutenant J.J.Trickett who fought in South Africa through the Boer War and ultimately laid down his life in France while Lieu. of the 2nd regiment of Light Horse Brigade in the present war.
(324) I may now have something to say respecting the shipmasters trading to and from Rockhampton during my earlier connection with the port.
(p. 146 on Mummy’s copy)
Firstly comes the late captain T.A.Lake who was the only one of the employees of the defunct Q.S.&N. Company that the directors of the A.S.N. Company when that company purchased the assets of the Q.N. Company retained in their employ. Captain Lake continued in the Rockhampton trade for many years and was very popular. Lake’s Creek the site of the great meat preserving works was named after him. Then there was captain Curphy who had command of the S.S. Queensland belonging to the Q.S.N. Company but lost his command when that company wound up. He was a smart enterprising seaman of gentlemanly deportment. He purchased a fine down East built Brigantine named ‘Restless’ which he ran to this port, but steam was asserting itself by leaps and bounds and in every branch of the Australian trade making it difficult to keep the Restless on the right side of the ledger, so when the Colonial Sugar Company put the S.S.Fiona into the Sydney and Clarence River trade, Curphy applied for and obtained her and ran her successfully until one night he lost her, a little southward of sugar Loaf Point. He, however retained some interest in the company and when a new and finer Fiona was built Curphy took command of her and retained it until his death. At one time Curphy had a very fine residential property on Bowen Terrace in Brisbane, and he resided there while in the Q.S.&N. Coy’s employ.

Captains Cottier, Champion and Hurst were probably the best known in Rockhampton of the earlier masters of the A.S.N. Coy’s steamers running to the northern ports of Maryborough, Rockhampton and Bowen and later Mackay and Townsville. Cottier was in command of the S.S.Clarence for a long time with Champion as chief officer with him, but in later years he was better known in the Lady Bowen running between Brisbane and Rockhampton. Then when the A.S.N. Coy sold her and the machinery and boilers taken out of her she was rigged as a schooner and finally laid her bones on Bramble Reef. Cottier was given command of the S.S.Eurimbula but soon after his appointment he ran her ashore under Round Hill Head. She was, however floated off (325) but cottier soon after retired from the sea, married his second wife and resided in Sydney, paying occasional visits to Rockhampton where he had considerable property. Cottier was a fine upstanding man of genial temperament and very popular with his passengers. He was particularly fond of a game of cards and a bit of port (?). He left no children and predeceased his second wife. He loved the River Fitzroy, but like most of the skippers I have known had his bete noir in its navigation, and that strange to say was False Point – that is the little projection below Rocky Point, which nobody else notices after passing Rocky. Cottier never came into the Harbour Office for a yarn but he drifted onto False Point. A light or a beacon on False Point was the summum Bonum of his desire for facilitating the working of the Fitzroy River.

Captain Champion was for years in command of the Tinoone, Clarence and Diamantina in the northern trade. He was a Welshman of good physique and of very dark complexion. He affected a garibaldian style of dress, short jacket, knickers, stockings, buckled shoes, bonnet and scarlet sash round his waist and he was a picturesque object on the bridge when leaving the wharf. After leaving Port Denison one day an old lady passenger remarked to Mr. Wallace, the chief officer, “I don’t like these ocean swells.” “My dear madam,” said Mr. Wallace, “ It’s as smooth as grease.” “I am referring to the swell on the bridge,” replied the lady. Champion was credited with being the proprietor of an hotel in Quay Street in Rockhampton, seems to me to have stood on the present site of Dr. O’Brien’s surgery. It was signed ‘The Steam Packet’ and was run by two widows and was a very popular hostelry with seafaring people of the port.

After a time the A.S.N. coy transferred Champion to the trade between Sydney and Newcastle giving him command of the S.S. Williams but the change did not suit Champion. At this time he had a very fine black retriever dog to which he was much attached and one day just as he was taking the Williams alongside the A.S.N. Coy’s wharf in Sydney which was crowded with people, the dog jumped from the steamer’s bridge into the harbour and Champion immediately followed.
(326) Another stirring incident happened during my location in Cooktown which I will relate. It was midnight but I cannot recall the day or the month of 1876, and I was lying wakeful listening to the south-easter roaring down the gullies and amongst the trees of Grassy Hill, Cooktown. The hill under which H.M.S. Endeavour lay keel out while her artificers repaired the planks which had been torn and ground on the coral reef now bearing her name – Endeavour – as the town does that of her illustrious commander. But presently I heard the alarm bell attached to the telegraph instrument ring out, and hastening to it, I received a message from the lookout station at the summit of Grassy Hill that a steamer’s lights could be seen off cape Bedford. Replying “OK” I went on to the verandah and blew the whistle for the coxswain of the pilot boat and told him to get the whaler in the water and to put the storm lug in her. Then I hastily dressed, and in a for minutes we were afloat using the oars until we cleared the eddies immediately under the hill and then ‘lay in oars’. The little storm lug was then got on her and she was soon dancing away towards Cape Bedford. I may mention that my coxswain then was the late Captain Ralston and my senior boatman the late captain Helsden, of the S.S. Woonoona. The lights which were seen from the elevation of Grassy Hill were not raised by us for some time. At last they came above the horizon, and I soon made out a large steamer. Presently, we neared her and we heard an indescribably awful roar as of hundreds of people groaning, and I naturally concluded that she was full of Chinese and that something dire and awful had occurred or was occurring, for it was during the height of the Chinese influx and before it was restricted by legislation. Now she slowed down and presently stopped, with her head to windward to make a lee for my walers. We sailed alongside , dropped the lug, and I asked “Do you want a pilot?” “Yes” came the reply from the captain and I was soon on the bridge and found it was the steamer ‘Thales’ from Hong Kong, with 700 Chinese, that there were several cased of smallpox amongst them, that three days previously the ship had struck an unchartered rock, that the torn plates in the bottom had a mattress of rubber and (327) buckram temporarily tommed down over it, that the boilers, that the boilers had been fed from the bilge since the accident, and that her bilge pumps must be kept working to keep her approximately free of water. I sent my boat away with instructions to come alongside after the ship was anchored, and then I steered for the anchorage. Every now and again the coolies uttered dreadful groan-like howls.

After anchoring, I went ashore in the pilot boat and sent one of the boat’s crew up to the Sub-Collector of Customs and Health Officer, Dr. Kortum, and at daybreak I took the latter alongside the Thales. The doctor remained on my boat and ordered the men said to be suffering from smallpox to be brought to the gangway. One of them came down into the boat and was looked at by the doctor who remarked to me, “Undoubtedly smallpox,” and sent him up on deck again. Then instructed by the doctor I told the captain to isolate the sick men and to have no communication with the shore and to hoist the yellow flag. Then, as I was preparing to leave the captain said, “I trust pilot,that you will represent to the authorities the condition of my ship for any slipping of the toms would flood my stokehold and the ship may fill and go down at her anchors.” I had moored her in as shoal water as was compatible with safety when I brought her into the roads. Her draught would not admit of her going inside.

Later in the day the Sub-Collector of Customs went alongside the Thales and instructed the captain to proceed to Fitzroy Island a distance of over a hundred miles, and there ride quarantine. The captain said this procedure was, considering the state of the ship, altogether out of the question, and pointing out that the Thales was then in comparative safety and that if a disaster occurred from taking her to sea again, nothing could exonerate him from blame. There was a valuable ship with eight hundred souls to be considered. He then called the chief engineer, who described the injuries to the ship. The Customs Officer, was not however convinced, but failing eventually to induce the captain to go the matter was referred to Brisbane, with the result that the late Mr. C.D.Burns, mechanical engineer for the Marine Board, was sent from Brisbane to examine and report whether it was discrete to take the (328) ship to Fitzroy Island, and as I had foreseen from the ship’s first arrival, he reported that such risk should not be entertained for a moment. Mr. Burns had to remain on board the Thales, and the Government also placed Mr. Cameron J.P. on board to see that the quarantine regulations were carried out. Arrangements were quickly made by putting up tents and employing a number of men as special constables to form a cordon right round St. Patrick’s Point, a sandy projection opposite Cooktown, and when things were in order, the coolies were all landed, together with the ship’s European doctor, and the ship’s crew and officers, with Mr. Burns and Mr. Cameron remaining on board the ship. They were there some weeks and all the time engineers were tapping the plates in the ship’s bottom and screwing on patches, and by the time the quarantine lying days had expired the ship was comparatively safe. After the coolies were landed on St. Patrick’s Point, of course, still in quarantine, there were very few fresh cases of smallpox, and although there were many persons, both European and Chinese, who surreptitiously landed and did business, there was not a single case in the town, or anywhere outside the Thales passengers.
As soon as Dr. Kortum granted the ship pratique(?), the captain brought ashore, and an inquiry was held into the circumstances of the ship’s striking. I attended the court, but was not on the enquiry. The captain’s evidence, supported by the chief officer, was that the ship struck on an uncharted rock and he gave the position by cross bearings of islands in the immediate vicinity. The finding of the court was, however, adverse to this, and they found that the Thales struck on a known danger. I had carefully followed the evidence and had a very intimate knowledge of the locality and considered the captain and chief officer, who were both on the bridge at the time of the accident, as conclusively pointing to uncharted danger. Captain Thompson R.N., the then Harbour Master of Hong Kong, agreed with me, and after the ‘Quetta’s tragic disaster, H.M.S. Dart went up and found the Quetta Rock, and the “Straits Pilot” newspaper said that the officer in command of the dart told an interviewer that the position given by the captain of the Thales and that of the Quetta were identical.
Autobiography of a Mariner
by
Captain Albert Edward Sykes. 1837-1928

I was born at Enfield, in the county of Middlessex in England. My father was a Timber Merchant and had several places of business in London at one time.

At ten years of age, I was placed at a boarding school at Ipswich in Suffolk and many of my school fellows were sons of ship owners and masters of that port. Now and again as a recognition of good behaviour, I, as well as others of the boarders, were permitted to spend the Wednesday and Saturday half holidays with one of the day scholars. Instead of going with the former en masse, walking or playing cricket, I used to work hard for this concession and always chose for a comrade, a boy whose father’s vessel was at the time in dock, so that when we were released from school we could make our way to that vessel and spend the afternoon on board her, going all over her from cabin to forecastle and from deck to masthead. Sometimes we were allowed to have the vessel's jolly boat to pull about in, and this was where I learned to go aloft and became acquainted with the various hatches and the manner of getting below into the ship’s holds and to pull an oar and scull. The knowledge of these things served me well later on. In common with the majority of the boys, I was enamoured of sea life. A day scholar from time to time brought me one of Captain Marryatt’s novels and these were absolutely devoured and all things were subordinate to the reading of Peter Simple’s Midshipman Easy and other books of that great naval novelist, with the result that several of us made up our minds to run away from school and secrete ourselves on board one of the brigs or schooners which were the only class of vessel at that time frequenting or trading from the port of Ipswich, under the British Flag, although an occasional visit was paid by a laden barque flying the Norwegian Ensign.

The vessels belonging to the port, traded mostly to the northern ports for coal together with a few smart schooners in the fruit trade to St. Michal’s and the Mediterranean; (there was no steam employed in the fruit trade at that time) and a few brigs in the Baltic timber trade during the summer months.

One night we held a council of war and came to the conclusion that one of us, as favourable conditions offered, should slip away from school and stow away on board some vessel bound for the Mediterranean. We favoured this voyage as it offered a chance of being taken by the Barbary Pirates as was Robinson Crusoe and we agreed to celebrate the occasion by a sea fight in the dormitory. So after we had retired to bed and the ushers had left us, we placed the wooden bedsteads about five feet apart and an attack on the French ships commenced with pillows and bolsters and boarding without much noise for a time. But getting excited, two boys would meet midway when springing from bed to bed in boarding and fall heavily on the floor. Then they would engage in fisticuffs yelling at each other in utter abandon. Then came the climax (which was always referred to afterwards as the blowing up of the Orient,) by a bolster breaking in half and the feathers and down being scattered over the dormitory. There was a silence that could be felt immediately, for we knew that nothing could save us from detection and it was ominously broken by the opening of a door and the voice of the senior master saying, “The young gentlemen will go in the other dormitory and wait further orders.” We all knew what this ultra politeness meant. Had he said, ‘the boys,’ we would have anticipated perhaps a hundred Latin roots or a couple of Perin’s French fables to translate during the ordinary recess, but ‘young gentlemen’ were entitled to Birch and probably Coventry preliminaries. We filed into the other dormitory in our long white night shirts (pyjamas were not thought of then) a sorry lot. After the maids had cleaned up the wreck and remade the beds, we were called in and prayers were again read in which some direct reference was made to our iniquity. We were then turned in again and all dreaded the coming morning. At breakfast we were given porridge without milk or sugar. At the commencement of school we were given Birch and French fables and a months Coventry. The latter meant no conversation or playing with other boys and the wearing of a placard with ‘coventry’ printed on it. I was the youngest of the boys implicated, but I felt of the Birch very acutely and I made up my mind to run away the coming night if possible.

The master or principal of the school with his mother and sister, who was a pretty girl of thirteen or fourteen, lived on the premises. These ladies took breakfast and tea with the boarders, but the latter dined by themselves, with an assistant. All the boarders were in love with the sister Ida, and the cruelest factor in the punishment by Birch was that she invariably expressed her sympathy with, and, to the boys she had heard yelling during school hours. The day following the punishment I have related, I met her in the passage and she consoled me, putting her arms around me and kissing me as doubtless she would do with all those who had suffered, as opportunity offered. This prompted me to ask her to get me some short cakes and put them in a certain place in the dormitory and this she promised to do.

When night came I undressed and went to bed with the other boys as usual at nine p.m. Waiting till I thought everyone was asleep, I crept out of bed and found the cakes where Ida had left them. I then carefully opened my box and selected my best suit, dressed and waited till I heard the assistants go to their dormitory. Then I pinned a strip of paper to the pillow on my bed with ‘gone home’ written on it. I crept out of the dormitory and went down and out into the playground and ran to the gate which I found locked, but climbing over it I was in the street and quickly made my way to the docks. I intended to make my way to a brig named Bure belonging to a school fellow’s father, who also sailed her—as I intended to stow away on board her. I went to the yard of Ransome & May’s Foundry and getting into an old covered vehicle I sat sleeping and waking until daylight.

I then sauntered down to the brig, finding no one on board but the cabin boy, who told me that the vessel was to be towed to Harwich at one a.m. When the boy went ashore for his breakfast, I went down in the cabin and tried to raise the lazaret hatch, intending to settle beneath it, but I could not move it, so I went forward into the forecastle and as there was a ring in the little hatch over the fore peak, I easily raised it and looking down, I saw there was a considerable fall to reach the vessel’s ceiling and from whence I could not replace the little hatch. But fearing the crew could come on board and find me I dropped from the forecastle floor and fell on a heap of coal. Until my eyes became accustomed to the gloom, I could see nothing.

Presently I heard swearing and then the hatch dropped into its place and was fixed down. Later, there were sounds of men moving about the deck and a tug took hold of the boat and I judged by the motion she was being towed down the river Ornell. I now found I could get elsewhere about the hold by crawling over a great heap of silt balls and right aft sat and ate my short cakes which Ida had given me and which I had fortunately brought in my handkerchief. I had taken a drink of water when I first came on board, still I was thirsty but I comforted myself with the knowledge that the vessel would presently be on her voyage to the Mediterranean, and once outside I would make my presence known to the Captain.

Towards evening the brig commenced a lively motion and I knew she must be at Harwich. I then became very sick and was anxious to get up into the fresh air, and as the vessel began to lay over on her side I knew how sails were set, and I considered I was safe to make known my presence on board. As I could not reach the hatch by which I had come into the hold, I commenced knocking on the ship’s side with a piece of coal. I continued doing this at intervals all through the night without attracting any attention. I was dreadfully seasick and thirsty and was frequently thrown off my feet when standing up to knock.

The smell of the bilge water when it became disturbed by the motion was dreadful and I began to feel very bad and weak and had to keep remembering the ignominy of the Birch to prevent wishing myself snug in the school dormitory. In this way another day passed and all through the following night and day similar until I lost count of time.

Being unable to attract attention I crawled over a heap of ballast amidships and commenced knocking under the forecastle and I threw pieces of coal up at the little hatch through which I had got into the hold. At last I saw the hatch cover removed and a shaft of dull light projected downwards and then a bucket was thrown down and a man followed it dropping from his hands on a heap of coal. He lifted a short ladder which, in the darkness I had not seen and placed it against the opening in the deck He filled the bucket with coal and started up the ladder with it. I then came forward and caught him by the leg. Before I could speak he swore a fearful oath and dropped the bucket. He got off the ladder and while I was saying “please let me up” he struck a match and looked at me and called out, “On deck! Why, there’s a G-dam boy here.” The man, who was the brig’s cook, sent me up the ladder before him and after being pushed up a second ladder on to the main deck. On coming suddenly into the broad daylight, weak from seasickness and darkness and want of water, I fainted and fell on the deck. I was carried aft and on coming to, I saw Captain Harmer and his chief mate bending over me as I lay on the locker of the brig’s cabin. The Captain recognised me as his son’s playmate and as I was no longer seasick, a good meal and a wash quite set me up. I then told Captain Harmer truthfully the circumstances leading up to my stowing away on board his vessel.

I was greatly chagrined to learn that the Brue, instead of the Mediterranean, was bound for Shields for coal for London. I remember nothing of Shields excepting a very high bridge where vessels passed under with their top-gallant masts on end.

After taking in a cargo of coal we sailed for London, where on arrival I was taken home and whence after a week’s stay, I was returned to the same school, and there I remained until I was between twelve and thirteen years of age, [about 1850] when the old Domine wrote my people that I was too unsettled to learn, and recommended I should be sent on a long voyage, which would doubtless dispel my desire for a sea life, and on my return would not be too old to pick up a good commercial education. And this advice was followed by my father, who came to a decision to send me as a midshipman on board a merchant ship on a twelve months voyage; and later an arrangement was come to with the Dumbarton firm of R. & R. that for the sum of £70 I should sail as midshipman on board one of their full rigged ships bound to Sydney N.S.W.

At this time, every seaman or boy in whatever capacity was registered by the Government and a parchment register ticket on which was a minute personal description of the recipient was given him.

As soon as it was settled that I was to sail in the Dumbarton ship I was taken to a Government office in lower Thames Street to obtain my registered ticket; and after the lapse of sixty-six years I can say that I have never been so elated as I was on that day.

The next step was to get my sea outfit for the voyage, and I was taken by my father’s head clerk to an outfitters in the minories and they undertook for the sum of £65 to fit me out well and sufficiently for a period at sea of eighteen months, and a list of articles was given which being approved of were put into a sea chest and placed on board. A day or two later came the ship’s sailing day, and I was taken by my father in his business brougham to the London dock gates and there bidding him “Goodbye”, I went on board the ship and reported myself to Captain R.M. Miller, who at once said “Better change into more suitable clothing”, and being shown my sea-chest by the steward who handed me a key, I was soon trying to select a fitting suit.

This I found very difficult, for although every article that appeared in a list tacked on the inside of the lid was there, the things were so abominabley shoddy, I was ashamed to put them on, and, with the exception of a suit of blue cloth with gilt buttons, and a cap with a gold lace band, everything was absurdly to large for me, and of the shoddiest material. However, I had to change out of my shore clothes and presently I put in an appearance among the men and boys of the crew, in white canvas pants with a roll of a foot at each ankle and a blue jacket described in the inventory as a “blue cloth reefer” but one of the crew later on called a Midshipman cut of ‘bullswool and oakum’ and said it was an admirable fit, like a 'purser's jacket on a hand spike'.

The ship was unmoored from the quay and then was warped to the dock heads to await a tug to tow her to Gravesend, where the crew came on board and the lumpers left, most of the former were three sheets in the wind, others suffering from the previous nights debauch; with them were some boarding house keepers and pimps, together with men with hand trucks on which was the seamen’s effects, which generally comprised a sea chest and a donkey’s breakfast and with the more provident, a pair of sea boots and a suit of oilskins. As soon as the seamen were on board the lodging house keepers drew the chief officer’s attention to the fact and left. They were then sure of getting the ‘advance notes’ they held, cashed, which would not be the case if the men did not join.

The ship was towed to Gravesend and the next day took on board a quantity of powder. Here also our passengers came aboard, of which eight were cuddy (or saloon as we now say) and thirty- two intermediate. We went to sea next day in the charge of a channel pilot. Off Beechy Head we met strong weather from the Sou’West and for several days we were batterfanging about under three double reefed topsails in the channel, with snow and sleet which froze on the shroud as it fell and the ship was constantly shipping weather water. I, like everyone else was continually wet to the skin and half frozen and at that I reflected that Captain Marryatt had not put me on a very soft thing. Then I was awfully seasick and always sleepy, but the 2nd mate whose watch I was in, would not allow me to leave the poop during my watch on deck except to assist with the watch to trim sail, and the smell of the boatswains stores which were kept in the berth that I shared with the 2nd officer, made me dread to go below.

One night we shipped a heavy body of water which broke all the skylights and found its way into the poop cabins nearly suffocating the ladies and children and drenching all the clothes and bedding: and I have never forgotten the abominable perfume of my new shoddy blankets when wet with sea water, and for days in our watch below we turned in shivering and turned out steaming, and I must confess that my enthusiasm for sea life was at a very low ebb in those days.

When the weather cleared up we sighted Start (Start point) and later on a Hobblers yawl was seen to windward, and a signal being made with a whift Ensign at the mizzen peak, she ran down for us. The gale had lulled by this, but there was still a heavy sea running; our helm was put alee and the main yard laid to the mast, we were under three double reefed topsails, the pilot after taking leave of the Captain and officers, got over the rail and into the main channels and waited. It was a sight to see the Yawl with her reefed main lug and whole mizzen coming swooping down off the curling seas and completely hidden in the hollows, then climbing up and appearing again on the snowy crest of the next, and making one wonder what would take place when she approached the ship, but before there was time for speculation she was nearing us, her helm put down and her main lug dropping as she gained head to the gale and the sea, and sweeping round within a couple of feet of ship’s chains the pilot threw in his bag sprang into the boat himself, and in a moment she was standing away clear of us under her mizzen. Then up went her main lug, the pilot turned and waved his hand in final farewell to us and the Yawl continued on her stretch for the Start, which was dimly visible. Our main yard being filled we stood away to the Sou’west.

The expert mannor in which the Hobbler handles his open boat and embarks or dis-embarks a pilot in almost all weathers is only equalled by the expert and plucky way in which pilots take advantage of the boat’s approach to the ship’s side as rounds to but never stops, but falls away on the opposite tack. Of course the ships of the day of which I am writing, with their wide channels under their rigging and standing out from their sides like shelves, lent themselves to the pilot’s activity but made it additionally difficult for the boats for as in a seaway a ship might roll her channels on the boat.

I had now quite got over sea sickness, and had an appetite like a porker but I still suffered in common with the others from the cold.

After the pilot left us we got into better weather and getting clear of the English Channel and soundings, we carried a fair wind and made Southing and warmer weather rapidly, and one morning came the order, “You boys loose the Royal Standards”. These had never been set since leaving. I saw two apprentices going up to the fore main, and being on the poop I took the initiative and went up to the mizzen, and getting to the yard I watched the boy on the main. I watched his action and when I had loosed my sail like his I sang out, “Sheet home the mizzen royal,” and I was very proud when on gaining the deck, the Captain asked me if I had been to sea before. Of course the climbing of the brigs and schooners in Ipswich dock served me well now.

We picked up the North East Trades, and later we lay in the stark calm ‘on the lap of the line’ and then the inevitable ceremony of entertaining Father Neptune was gone through, but everyone is too conversant of its detail to make it expedient to recall here.

I will here mention that as soon as we got into the North East Trades Captain Miller had the apprentices and myself every afternoon watch, aft in his cabin and taught us navigation. I have always all through life felt a deep debt of gratitude to him for his kindness.

After crossing the Equator and passing through the South East Trades without incident of interest we picked up a strong westerly wind with dense thick atmosphere, and one morning the Island Inaccessible, one of the Tristan da Cuna group, loomed out through the haze right ahead of us and pretty close. The ship was running under single reefed topsails and fore course and she was hauled on a wind to clear the group under the same canvas, with the addition of the jib, main course, a spanker and foretopmast staysail, and she made bad weather of it and as a consequence, the order came to “haul up the mainsail and haul down the jib.” Presently the haze cleared and the sun shone out and the whole of this lonely group was visible and in close proximity, and the Captain took advantage of so excellent an opportunity of getting sights and proving his chronometers and while thus occupied with his sextant, the chief officers being below and taking the line and recording the angles, the third officer was in charge of the deck. When the jib was hauled down, the ship was plunging into the head sea and the men stood at the knight heads waiting for the ship to be kept away, but instead of this the third mate told the man at the wheel to “ail her close” then the partially losing her way stopped diving into the head seas and the men (4) laid out on the jibboom and began picking up the jib. The helmsman (a Dutchman) allowed the ship to come ‘too high’ and she nearly took aback and having entirely lost her ‘way’ fell off into the trough of the sea; then gathering way and coming to, she made a heavy plunge into the head sea and came up without the jib and flying jibboom, and the four men who were stowing the jib were in the water. I saw them altogether on the white crest of the sea, a tablecloth would have covered the four. The helm was put down and the ship came to the wind and getting flat aback gathered stern way and the unfortunate men were last seen to windward and ahead of the ship. After considerable delay in cutting gripes etc., one of the quarter boats was ready for lowering, but the men could not be seen from aloft and as all four had sea boots and heavy clothing on, it was considered unwise to risk lowering a boat in such a sea and jeopardising five other lives on what was morally certain to be a fruitless enterprise, more especially as the jibboom held by chain martingale and backropes was thundering against her bows, threatening to knock a hole in her. So the boat was griped again and with the main topsail to the mast, all hands assisted by some of the passengers, got the broken spars inboard and the fore-topgallant and royal mast secured and about night fall the vessel was again on her course running down her easting.

The poor chaps had gone to their swift doom through an error of judgement of the officer in temporary charge. There was no hiding the fact and everyone on board was impressed with it; no one more so than the officer himself who, unfortunate man, carried the conviction that had the ship been ‘kept away’ there would have been no tragedy. There was now a shortage of two wheels in each watch and I soon became an expert helmsman.

How vividly I can in thought recall the incidents of that Sabbath morning off Tristan da Cunah. At early morning nearly all the passengers with some little extra care of toilet and change of dress which in respect of the Sabbath under all conditions is so thoroughly English, were on deck expectantly waiting and watching, having been told the previous evening that the group would be sighted at daylight; then the excited curiosity when it was reported from aloft that Inaccessible Island could be seen, followed by a little apprehension at the density of the atmosphere; then the elation which was apparent on every countenance when the sun shone out gloriously, sweeping away in a moment the thick mist which had as with a drop scene, obscured the lofty precipitious islands and revealing them in a moment in their majestic isolation, their base encircled by snowy breakers in this in inhospitabel and icy sea, showing up the golden hues of their basaltic rocky ridges and a thousand little canyons and valleys in every shade of verdure.

On board the ship interested passengers thronged the poop, cheerful in the brilliant sunshine in which the decks showed almost as snowy as the bosoms of the topsails which overhead were bellying out with their utmost filling of the crisp westerly gale that was driving the good ship towards her destination.

On the poop Captain Miller was standing, bracing himself with legs wide apart against the motion of the ship, sextant to eye and his clear cheery voice calling out the angles as he took them, to the officer below at the chronometers, who in rasping tones repeated as he wrote them on the log slate. The third officer doubtless enjoying his temporary command of the ship and briskly giving orders for reducing the sails; and then the choice of three little words out of six cost the lives of five good seamen in their prime, for everyone knew that if the order to the helmsman had been ‘keep her away’ in place of ‘sail her close’ in all human probability there would not have been that awful tragedy which on that bright morning of sunshine plunged every soul into the deepest sorrow and depression. After this sad occurrence, we encountered strong gales of fair westerly winds and sometimes the ship was taking on board large quantities of water amidships. Some of both crew and passengers gave utterance from time to time in strong language of their dislike and contempt for the third officer in consideration of his unfortunate mistake, and he became morose and brooding. More than once I heard Captain Miller urge him to dispel the gloom, which had evidently obsessed him, but without effect, and he would frequently pass a whole watch without addressing anything to anyone.

On the Sunday night next after the accident we were scudding before a very heavy westerly gale with nothing on the ship but a close reefed main topsail and fore topmast staysail and at midnight the captain came on the poop and was standing in converse with the chief mate, the third officer also came up and I heard the Captain say something to him about watching and steering and he came aft and looked into the binnacle, but made no reply to the Captain. After the lapse of a few seconds he threw his cap down on the deck and running aft sprang upon the taffrail and calling out, “Goodbye Captain Miller, my pockets are full of shot.” and turning, dived into the front of a mountainous wave which at that moment was piling up with a white phosphorescent crest over the ship’s stern where it broke and carrying the ship on it like a boat running in front of broken water on a beach and curled over both rails at the chess-tree and filled the decks. The whole occurrence, tragic as it was, did not occupy fifteen seconds. Nothing was seen of him although it seemed probable that he would be hurled against the ship by the over running sea, and, but for his cap lying on the deck beside the binnacle, it might have been the phantasy of a distorted fancy. For a day or two previously it had been thought that his mind was affected, if so the method in his aberration was apparent by his telling the Captain that his pockets were laden with shot as convincing that it would be useless to attempt rescue; but under the conditions no human aid was possible, as to have attempted to round the ship to, in the sea that was running would have been fatal and no boat could have been lowered or lived.

Next day the helmsman, the chief officer and myself signed an entry that was made of the tragic occurrence in the log book. I don’t think we had official log books in those days and in the morning when the other watch and the passengers were told of what had happened the effect was similar to what I have experienced when a corpse on board ship is awaiting burial ….no one swears very loudly.

The westerlies stuck to us and we made a good landfall off Cape Ottway and passed through Bass Straits carrying light variable winds and rounding Gabo arrived off Sydney Heads with a Jack flying for a pilot on the one hundred and second day from Gravesend. Pilot Gibson came on board and sailed the ship up and anchored us near Pinchgut, then an unimproved rock, with an old dismantled gun lying on its surface.

The next day Mud Pilot Crook came on board and after receiving pratique the ship was sailed into the cove and moored at Circular Quay. Here the passengers landed and after discharging the inward cargo of about one thousand tons, which was worked by the ship's crew occupied fully six weeks, she loaded tallow wool and hides and we again sailed for London by way of Cape Horn.

Having shipped four seamen in place of those lost off Tristan da Cunah, we made a good passage home, encountering without mishaps some very heavy N.W. gales in the southern latitudes and a weeks calm and doldrums on the Equator, and eventually berthed on the 101st day from Sydney in the London docks.

As soon as the ship was fast Captain Miller called me to him and asked if I had sufficient funds to pay my expenses home. During the whole voyage nothing could exceed his kindness and forethought for the welfare of the apprentices and myself. At the same time we were kept to our work and every opportunity was given us to become expert seamen. These were the last days of hemp rigging and there was much to learn by way of fitting new, repairing old rigging and gear and sailmaking, chafing gear and the majority of which work, now under the rein of iron and steel wire rigging and spars is obsolete and useless and also through the voyage he insisted on our attendance in his after cabin with slates and epitome to work out the ship’s position each day and this at the sacrifice of his own leisure and convenience. The result of his kindness was that four of us became shipmasters early in life and inspired with the confidence which is given by the knowledge that we were conversant with every move of the Nautical Board. There was in these days much to learn beyond the legal requirements for an A.B. of ‘hand, reef steer and heave the lead’.

Bidding Captain Miller ‘goodbye’ and with an effort to thank him for his goodness to me, I took a hansom patent safety (as they were then called) and giving John instructions for 3 Hyde Park Place and drive quickly for an extra fare, I was so elated and overjoyed at the near prospect of being home again and meeting with my mother and sisters that I could hardly contain myself. It is a long drive from London Docks to Hyde Park and it seemed I should never get there and when at last the cabby drew up in front of the familiar iron gates with their bronze facings, I sprang out of the vehicle forgetful of the cabby and his fare, ran up the broad steps and gave an energetic tug at the bell pull. The door was promptly opened by a man in livery whose face was quite unfamiliar; but without speaking I marched into the hall and was making towards the door of a room where I expected to meet my mother, but the man in livery hurriedly intercepted me and I asked, “Is Mr. Sykes at home?” he replied, “He does not live here now, but I think if you are his son from sea you are to please wait”. And leaving me in the hall he presently returned with a letter addressed to myself in my mother’s handwriting. I opened it where I stood. It informed me that my family was residing at St. Peters on the Isle of Guernsey and I was to put myself in communication with my father’s solicitor N&Co., Bishopgate Street. It was the worst set back I had had in my life and I question if after years brought much worse. I had been so full of happy anticipation of home return from the time we had made soundings.

From Mr. N., I soon learned that my father, having failed in business and liquidated, had for economy gone with all the family to reside in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands and a free port. I was advised that the sum of 100 pounds was available for further fee for my next voyage and necessary personal outfit.

After some consideration I told the lawyer I should bind myself apprentice to the same owners, and ship for four years, which would economise the 70 pound fee; but I took 25 pound for pocket money and outfit and for 20 pound of it I got a much superior stock of clothing than previously. Messrs R&R readily accepted me as an apprentice for four years and I remained in the same ship.

The ship, after the discharge of the Sydney cargo, was laid up for some time, only a ship keeper and the apprentices being kept by her. Afterwards she was towed to Limehouse and put into Fletcher’s dry dock – her bottom sighted and some repairs affected. During all this recess I attended three nights a week Mrs. Janet Taylor’s navigation school in the Minories. I, with the other apprentices was boarding at an eating house opposite the London Dock gates, the owners of the ship paying for us.

At this time the locality of the London Docks, Ratcliffe Highway, Old and New Revel Lane was the most squalid and of the worst repute of any purlieu in London and sea faring lads domiciled as we were, were subject to great temptations and few came off unscathed.

I remember one Sabbath morning, my chums and I were walking along Ratcliffe Highway when we met an old man dressed like a seaman except for his white neck-cloth and short stove pipe hat, while behind him in pairs were about a dozen little boys all dressed as sailors and soldiers and now and again the old gentleman would stop on his way and would address a few words of exhortation for a better life to the passers by, with frequent invitations to attend his floating church in the evening. Our curiosity was arroused and after tea Jemmy Waite and I found our way to the waterman stairs alongside the Tower of London wall, where we found a boat ready to convey to an old hulk with the word Bethel painted on her side. It was moored in the stream and any persons so desiring, could attend the evening service held on board her. She was a sheer hulk except for a flag staff on which during the day a blue flag having a Dove and Olive Branch and the word Bethel in relief, was flown. Getting alongside we saw an aperture had been cut in her side and a door fitted and through this we, stepping from the boat, found ourselves on a floor or deck which was laid fore and aft of the ship’s hold, making a very capacious apartment in the centre of which was a low pulpit with a little table or platform at the top. At it was the stout old gentleman who had invited us in the highway. He was reading a chapter from the Bible, which told of the vision of Jacob and the origin of the word ‘Bethel.’ There were about seventy persons present and the dingy was coming with more every few minutes. Most of them, by their dress, were seamen and sprinkled amongst them were women, chiefly of the Magdalin class from the highway. Most of the men were smoking, everyone perforce inhaling tobacco smoke and the little boys who were the orphans of sailors and soldiers as indicated by their dress were showing incomers to seats on the forms, snuffing the candles and catching the dingy’s boathook as she came alongside. After the reading of the chapter was finished, “Let us pray,” was literally hurled at us, and keeping our seats Jemmy and I bent forward and covered our eyes. “Down on your knees you boys, on your knees! Bill, Harry, Sal, Tom and Susan!” came rasping, and obedience followed as promptly as to the ‘way aloft’ of the hardest boatswain afloat and then such a prayer, such an outpouring of the old seaman’s sincere but appalling and peculiar convictions. On his knees, with his head thrown back; his eyes from which big tears were falling, strained upwards; his arms exteneded with clenched fists, he implored the “Great Boatswain, Captain, Admiral of our salvation” to save the “old shells from the blasting and everlasting fire of Hell, before they sail again, and let all Thy waves go o’er them that they return not to these women again”. The extempore pleading was followed by ‘Our Father’, repeated by all hands and then ‘Rock of Ages’ sung with tremendous verve, but the effect was spoiled by the words being given out every two lines. The hymn having been sung, everyone settled themselves in their seats, conversed in a murmur and cut up tobacco, filled and lit their pipes – the pastor not excepted. After a few minutes smoke the old gentleman gave out a text from the Revelations. ‘And whosoever’s name was not found in The Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.’ He read it over twice, then picked up his pipe, which he had laid down to take up his Bible, took a few draws, then laying it down, took his Bible in his hand again, read his text again then leaning forward and in a small distinct voice asked, “How many of you men have been logged?” No response. Again he repeated in a tense voice, “How many of you men have been logged, I ask you?” There was a general murmur, which the preacher seemed to understand and then he asked, “How many of you men and women have your names written in The Book of Life?” No response. Then he hurled at them, “There is hell fire waiting for you!” and he again exhorted, pleaded and threatened, in a voice like thunder and then dropping off in a small and indistinct voice, asked, while every now and then big tears would course down his weather worn cheeks. He concluded by describing a ship in fine weather all canvas set sailing along a coast with fair wind, and by and by, the wind hauled and the ship broke off; the wind freshened into a gale and the ship on a dead lee shore with a projecting point of rocks on the lee bow. Once on those rocks nothing could save her. “What shall we do to save us from destruction, from going to hell through salt water?” he roared. Then holding his hand out as if feeling for the wind, again he roared, “The wind’s fleeig luff! Luff God dam you! Luff and weather hell!” Then with tears running down his cheeks he fell on his knees and asked forgiveness, and half the men and women were crying too, and smoking their hardest. Coming out of the little pulpit he passed among his audience, and addressed them individually as they passed into the dingy.

I afterwards learned that he was known all over the Eastern part of London as ‘Smith of Penzance’; that he was a seaman and had for years been master in the coasting trade; had lived an evil and dissipated life until he saw a vision and had then given up the sea and taken to itinerant preaching to seamen. He supported a number of orphan boys, and that he had a small private income – and had done and was doing good amongst the east-end people – that he never took up a collection or asked for pecuniary aid. It would be interesting to know if the late General Booth took his initiative from Smith of Penzance, as their methods were very similar.

After the ship’s repairs were completed the ship was towed to dock again and placed on the berth for Sydney, our loading soon being completed. Under other conditions, I should have dreaded the time coming for leaving home and my mother. As it was, I was only too anxious to get to sea again. Reading between the lines of my mother’s letters from Guernsey, I was sure she was experiencing a time of unhappiness which no efforts of mine could relieve.

Eventually we sailed for Sydney with thirty passengers. It was rather a sharp ordeal to be domiciled in the forecastle (one side of which was occupied by the apprentices) and the meals for a time, in spite of a boy’s healthy appetite, were, well I’ll saying – trying. But I had accepted the position voluntarily rather than use the one hundred pounds which I considered at the time, would further embarrass my people. As I had told this to Jemmy Waite. I think it obtained for me a measure of respect, and I was not subjected to the innuendo and chaff which I had expected and feared – for I was very sensitive.

We left Gravesend in charge of the same pilot as the previous voyage and he left us off Beachy, as there was a fine fair wind and we met with no difficulty in the English Channel. and by the time we got out of soundings I had become quite satisfied with my surroundings. Though I was not so well fed and lodged, I was much better and more suitably clothed, and on one third of the amount of outlay. I was then a good helmsman and good use aloft. Still, I was of course, one of the ‘damn boys’.

We had an average passage to the Cape of Good Hope. Having picked up the South East Trades in 2 degrees north of the Equator, we sighted no land from Start Point in the English Channel until Tristan da Cunah was made, and from this lonely group (where at that time Governor Young dominated) until Pedra Blanca was sighted, whence the eastern coast of Tasmania and New South Wales was more or less kept aboard. On the one hundred and second day from Gravesend, we were hauling up for Sydney Heads. The next day Captain Crook the pilot came on board, sailed the ship into the cove and moored her at the wharf just ahead of a crane with a galvanised roof over it, that then stood opposite to the Bon Accord Bridge gates. Our passengers all left us. One of them I remember, opened a hotel named ‘Observer Tavern’ in Lower George Street near the entrance to Campbell’s wharf. He kept this hotel for many years and transferred to the Sussex Arms, Paddington.

The work of discharging the cargo by the crew was carried out fairly well at first, but gold was being found at Bendigo, Ballarat, Turon, Araluen and other places and the gold escort, starting from and arriving in Barrack Square, created much excitement with everybody. One after another the crew absconded, some to travel at once to the diggings, others to smuggle on board coasting vessels, where the monthly pay was ten pounds and infinitely better food, as against two pounds, five shillings and semi starvation. Shore labour was both scarce and expensive and it was six weeks before the ship was ready for her stiffening, eighty tons of which she had to take in to give her stability before all the inward cargo could be discharged. At last, after two months since our arrival the ship was ready for her outward cargo of tallow, wool and hides, for which she was chartered by Messrs Gilchrist and Alexander of London.

Mr. Hunter was the contracting stevedore to load the ship. The wool used first to be screwed into dumps on a platform erected on the wharf by hand labour and afterward screwed into the ship’s hold. I remember one night while laying at the wharf a fire broke out in Mr. Kemp’s sail loft, which stood on the flat by the Tank stream, where Hoffnung’s is now. H.M.S. Calliope, Captain Hume, was in Farm Cove and two of her boats were filled with blue jackets and the ship’s fire engine, in command of Lieutenants Stanley and Heath (the latter late Port Master of Queensland and now residing in London) came ashore. When they got to the Bon Accord Bridge, the gate was, as usual after sundown, closed and locked. During the day a toll of a penny was charged, but, instructed by the officers, the men charged at the gate and broke it open. The engine, worked by the seamen, was quickly playing on the fire. There were two or three wooden structures in close proximity. To prevent the flames from spreading, a rope was taken round these and Jack and all the bystanders, with a one, two, three, h-a-u-l! soon had them all down. Jack was in his glory; he would soon have cleared the flat given his own way. However the sail loft was completely destroyed. The proprietor afterwards carried on an extensive business as a storekeeper in Nowra, Shoalhaven. The Calliope referred to, was the old wooded sailing ship commanded by Captain Hume, who died while in Sydney and was buried in the old cemetery.

The ship did not complete her loading until the end of February and she was then taken to anchorage off Garden Island. We had now three mates, a carpenter, four apprentices, a steward, a cook and four A.B’s of the original crew. The rest had absconded to the diggings and it needed the utmost care and watchfulness to prevent the others from following suit. The ship’s boats with one exception were left at the wharf. The one kept in case of accident was always in the davits with gripes on and falls racked.

The butcher’s boat, which used to come off daily to us at our anchorage belonged to Mr. Chapman, who kept a hotel at the corner of Argyle Street. Mary Dunn keeping the opposite corner. Chapman had a butcher’s shop next door and served the ships at three quarter pence per pound all round. This boat was attended by the officers only. The Captain used to be taken backwards and forwards by a waterman named Alexander, known by everyone as ‘Old Boomer’. He had lost one leg while employed in blasting the Argyle cut.

One day Dunn’s water tank came alongside and filled up our casks which were lashed on each side of the deck and also four tanks which were stowed in the ‘tween decks. One of our seamen secreted himself on board her and was not missed until the tank had left. We saw no more of him.

One night the third mate had the watch. He was proverbial on board as being able to sleep with his head in a bucket of water and on this occasion he was asleep on the poop skylight and was only awakened when, after cutting the gripes and lowering the only boat, two of our remaining three seamen were pulling away from the ship. They landed at Lady Macquarie’s Chair and cast the boat adrift. Before the men had got far from the ship’s side Captain Miller came up. “Come back,” he called out “or I’ll shoot you.” “Shoot away Captain,” was the reply, and the Captain fired his little flint lock pistol; but Captain Miller would not have hit them for the world and the men knew it. At this time between the corner of Argyle Street and Birch’s Observer Tavern, Lower George Street, there were four or five so called shipping offices kept by persons who undertook to engage seamen for the many ships lying ready for sea all over the harbour, but were unable to get crews. Many shipmasters might be seen promenading up and down all day in front of these offices, accosting every working man that passed with “Do you want a ship?” Jack would probably reply, “Yes.” “Do you have a character from your last crew?” Some of the ships that had evil reputations for leakage, bad steering or bullying officers lay from three to six months waiting crews. The masters and perhaps the mates only remaining by them.

While we were lying off Garden Island a heavy E.S.E. gale caused us to drag our anchors and when the gale subsided, we had to get the assistance of the mates and apprentices of the Glenbervie belonging to the same firm as our ship, to purchase our anchors and the services of a tug and the pilot, to get back to our original anchorage. This being accomplished, all of us went to dinner, after which the mates and pilot came on deck to find both the Glenbervie’s and our own boats gone with all the former ship’s apprentices and our cook. All the rest of the day we lay with the flag for the water police flying and no means of landing the pilot, until the captain came off in ‘Old Boomer’s’ boat in the evening.

This state of things continued for some weeks, for men would not ship for overseas ports. Every issue of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Empire, (the contemporary paper), told of more alluvial gold discoveries, and wages were ever increasing for work about the wharves. But at last came a morning when Captain Miller did not go ashore as usual, and about 10 a.m. two boats in charge of Sergeant [….] came alongside with seven of our original crew who had absconded, and had been arrested and placed in Wooloomooloo Gaol. They were clean shaven, with close cropped heads, and had irons on their wrists. With faces blanched from confinement, they looked miserable and crestfallen. In addition, there were nine others who were engaged for the run home for lump sums of from seventy-five to one hundred pounds. After they were on board each man of the old crew was asked by the Captain “Will you turn to, my lad?” and each replied in the negative. Sergeant [….] made some unnecessary and exasperating remark to the men, and a Kircaldy man named Alec Wills replied to him. Instantly two of the water police threw him on the deck, ironed as he was and Sergeant [….] kneeled on his chest and struck him with his clenched fist in the face, breaking the flesh and drawing blood at each blow. When the Sergeant stood up again a man named George Fairs, unable to control himself, ran at him with his ironed wrists. The life was nearly beaten out of Fairs by the police and. strange to say, all water police were seamen, who had run away from their ships, and either served time in Wooloomooloo, or had gone scot free. I watched this incident and it is as fresh in my mind to-day as then. The Captain now interfered and the police boat was about to leave the ship when one of the runners, addressing the Captain said, “We would like our money now.” “As soon as the ship is under way,” replied the Captain. “No,” said the man, “our agreement is, before the anchor is tripped.” Then all the runners stepped up and said, “Yes, we must be paid now.” The Captain then said to Sergeant [….] “Please stay till these men are paid.” So each man received his money in gold, and signed a receipt for it, the last being a boy named Badderly, who had never before been afloat. He received thirty-five pounds. The runners having been paid, walked to the forecastle with their money and traps and presently the chief mate gave the order, “Man the windlass.” the members of the old crew did not respond and the runners went aft and said the ship was shorthanded, and they refused to trip the anchor. Captain Miller, who I think was sorry for the men who had spent so much time in gaol, told them that if they would turn to, and behave well on the passage, he would undertake that they should be paid continuously London to London instead of having their pay stopped during the time they were in gaol. The men agreed to this and at once walked forward to the windlass and soon the cable was coming in, to the shanty of ‘Bully in the Alley’. Presently the mate reported “Anchor short, Sir ,” and the men were sent aloft to loose the sail and masthead topsail yards. This was done. No further orders were given. We all wondered what we were waiting for but later a little steamer named Angenoria came alongside and the mates and apprentices were soon employed carrying little cedar boxes of gold, altogether fifty-three thousand ounces, into the Captain’s cabin, where it was passed down into the lazarette. Two iron bars were then screwed down over the little hatch. The police boat and the little steamer then left us, and the pilot boat brought Pilot Christianson on board.

We were soon outside the Heads. The pilot then left us. We carried strong south west winds and passed south of Stewart Island under double reefed topsails and scudded towards Cape Horn with ever increasing gales, which northered as we made easting. We made bad weather of it, shipping heavy water frequently and the crew were allowed to use as much fresh water from the casks lashed on the decks as they liked, as we had our four tanks in the ‘tween decks. As we approached the longitude of Cape Horn the gales became so heavy that the ship had either to ‘hove to’ or run dead before it and we were making much more southing than we should have done if it had been safe to run with the sea and wind on the quarter.

One night we were scudding under the close reefed main topsail and reefed forecourse. It was as dark as pitch, with fierce squalls of wind, hail and snow and there were great mountains of water, with snowy phosphorescent combs, following the little ship. In the hollow of these seas between the squalls, the forecourse would fall into the foremast and then as she rose on the next comber, it would bang out with a report of a piece of ordinance. She always steered well, and although there was a second hand at the wheel, it was only a precautionary measure.

At two o’clock one morning there was a lull after an exceptionally heavy squall and a sea topped up, and the comb of it broke over our stern and smashed everything on the poop, washed one man overboard from the wheel, broke the arm of the other and carried the Captain and the second mate along the poop and forward to the forecastle, severly bruising both. The watches were at the pumps but fortunately none of the men were hurt, although the steward and mate, who slept in the poop berths, were nearly suffocated before the water ran off. If a second sea had overrun her, she must have foundered. Instead a heavy snow storm set in. At noon that day we were in 62 degrees 32 minutes south… some degrees further southwards than the track the Captain intended taking had the wind not northered. Eventually the snow ceased and the weather became clear. Very fortunate it was, for there were seven icebergs in sight! The wind had southered and moderated, and we were carrying all plain sail. In the afternoon we raised more ice and at dusk there were thirteen bergs in sight. By ten o’clock that night the weather had become very hazy, and snow began to fall. The lookout was doubled on the forecastle and a man was kept on the foreyard, but it was impossible to see any distance. At midnight ice on the starboard bow close on board, was reported from the foreyard and directly afterwards the forecastle lookout called out, “Ice right ahead.” “Call all hands save ship.” roared the mate, while the captain ran up on the forecastle head. At the same time a third berg hove in sight through the gloom on the port bow, and close to us. The wind was light and we were going about three knots, and the crew were standing by the braces. The Captain conned the ship between the two bergs first seen, a small one and an immense one as high as our royal masthead and about one third of a mile long. To clear the smaller one we had to approach the larger one very closely and after clearing the first, the wind hauled on us and it seemed inevitable that we should drop along side it. The royals and light sails that had not been on the ship for weeks were set but we were slowly getting closer to the berg, and its length seemed interminable! At last came the order “Get the quarter boats ready for lowering.” What a prospect ! In a boat in these stormy southern seas, a race for death by starvation or freezing. We soon got the boats ready and then turned again to the tense watching of the ship gradually closing with the ice. Then the wind failed us altogether and the sails just flapped against the masts and the end of the berg seemed still without definition. Looking backward, I think we were set round two sides of it. Then when conviction had come to all of us that nothing could save us from destruction, the carpenter exclaimed, “She’s setting off, Sir.” In a few moments the berg was astern of us, and right in our wake. Everyone asked himself, “Was it years or minutes we had trailed alongside that berg?”

As soon as we were well clear we got the wind again and we were hardly more than a couple of cables from it when we heard a tremendous crash! A swell of the displaced water reached us, for the berg had capsized—the lower and immersed portions having melted or worn away until it had become top heavy. Now we were still among a number of bergs, but the weather was clear and as the ship had good steerage way, we had no difficulty in keeping clear of them. But we had some in sight all the next day. The wind now southward and making northing, we left the ice astern off Cape Horn.

Hitherto the weather had been so heavy and exacting in other directions that little attention had been given to the numerous and various sea birds which had followed the ship since she had been in the high latitudes but now that the wind was moderate and at times light, Jack’s attention was directed to the opportunity offering for securing curios, by way of tobacco pouches, pipe stems, muffs etc., and fishing lines were trailed astern with the object of catching albatrosses. Cape hens, mollyhawks, cape pigeons, whale birds, ice birds, stormy petrels (Mother Carey’s chickens) and any of the bird species which apparently made their habitation the stormy latitudes between, I may say, fifty-eight degrees and sisty-eight degrees south—approximately the belt between Cape Horn and the Antartic. But where the majestic albatros, the sooty cape hen, the white iceberg, the slate coloured whale bird, the stupid grey and white molly, and the beautifully
marked black and white cape pidgeon, and the stormy petrel repair to deposit and incubate their eggs, I cannot tell, for in the records of Antarctic exploration, while much interesting information is given of the penguin tribe, nothing is said of the numerous species of sea birds which swarm between the Horn and the northern limit of the Antarctic Circle . Probably the desolate and isolated rocks in the Falkland Islands and the precipitous inhospitable shores of Terra del Fuego, which doubtless provide both protection and isolation, may be the resort for depositing their eggs and rearing their young.

For some days the crew, boys excepted, had been permitted to fish over the taffrail and albatrosses, with an expansion of wing of thirteen feet and eleven feet from tip to tip, were caught and turned loose on the main deck until finally slaughtered, for none of the sea birds can rise from the deck and all are sea sick immediately they are hauled on board. The men used to take off the skin and endeavour to preserve it with the beautiful plumage on, but they were seldom successful. The feet were skinned the claws being left on and tobacco pouches made of them. The long thin bones of the wings were cleaned, bleached and dried for pipe stems. Such were the sordid objectives for slaughtering the most majestic of all the feathered tribe that are denizens of the lonely southern seas. Too much cannot be said of these beautiful birds. Allow that you are ‘hove to’ in a gale under a close reefed main topsail, making seven points leeway. There is a little smooth area to windward maintained by the drift of the ship nearly broadside on before the gale and between the mountainous seas which are constantly rolling down on her. On this comparatively smooth space are hundreds of Cape pigeons and all the other smaller sea birds, swimming here and there, catching particles of marine growth detached from the ship’s bottom by the unusual progression of the ship broadside on. Over the weather quarter, poised mid-air in the face of the hurricane, as rigid as if modeled in
ivory, is an albatross, only the beautiful eyes indicating vitality and these, earnestly observant, note a portion of food probably concealing a hook thrown from the drifting ship. A quick turn of the head, a droop of the outer joint of the immense pinions and it has swooped downward over the coveted morsel. When close to the seething water the ruddy feet drop out from the snowy under plumage, the head and neck are extended towards the prize and with a hoarse cry, the creature is floating as gracefully on the mountainous sea as the moment it had hovered in space and looked into the eye of the hurricane. The marvelous control the feathered denizens of the southern seas, are able to exert over their every feather in the fiercest storms, and their ability to fly dead in the wind’s eye with the same grace and ease as in a calm, is miraculous and inconceivable. Quite a number of albatrosses were caught by the crew, much to the disgust of Captain Miller, who was a very humane man, but with the majority of his crew runners, with their wages in their pocket and who, if ruffled, would refuse to do anything beyond trimming sail and steering, it was in the interests of his owners not to protest, especially with so much gold on board. For at that time several ships with gold form Australia were missing and the general feeling concerning them was that crews had mutinied, and destroyed the ships off the Brazilian coast after the bullion had been taken.

To return to our voyage home, we were now making a northerly course with moderate winds and a rising temperature, although we had occasional snow northward of the Falkland Islands. After that, the weather became fine and much warmer every day. About this time the whole of the fresh water which had been carried in casks on deck, as was then customary, was with the exception of one cask, consumed. This remaining cask was fortunately lashed aft near the steward’s pantry, so it was left for his convenience and orders were given to broach one of the ‘tween deck tanks, of which there were four. This was accordingly done and the day’s allowance of five pints for each man was served out and put into the scuttle butt. At tea time however, the tea was salt and it was quickly discovered that the water in the broached tank was salt. Considering that the brass pump connection in the deck had leaked, and as the other tanks were sufficient to take us home, it was not regarded as serious. But the second and third tanks also proved salt,—not brackish—but as salt as the sea. The Captain and officers and every one of us stood round in grave anxiety, while the carpenter split out the wooden dowel of the remaining tank and screwed in the pump. The Captain, with a very anxious look on his kindly weather-rugged face, held a cup under the pump while a few strokes were given, and then raising the cup to his lips, expectorated and in a quiet tense voice, said to the chief officer, “It’s as salt as the water alongside, Mr. Brown.” Then he ordered the crew to unlash the after cask and secure it in the after cabin. The position was serious enough but it would have been infinitely worse had that last cask of about sixty gallons, been consumed, as it would certainly have been had it not been lashed close to the pantry. Twenty-nine souls a thousand miles from any port, and not a drop of water, or rather, ‘water water everywhere but not a drop to drink’, as with the ancient mariner. That evening we ate our salt horse and pantiles without tea or water. There was a conference held in the cuddy during the second dog watch by the Captain and mates and carpenter and boatswain, with the result that a pint of water was served out to each of us. At seven bells the next morning the Captain explained that the next port was Montevideo. He also advised each of us to take our allowance of water in a bottle the steward would supply us with, and we all did this, forgoing tea and coffee, so the cook had a good time. During the next day or two a condenser was rigged up in the following manner. The two large coppers which had been used on a previous trip with emigrants were fixed on the caboose stove and a wooden lid, fitting tightly put on them. In this two holes were bored. Then a leaden pipe was cut from one of the poop water closets. One end of this was inserted in one of the holes in the wooden lid and then bent over and passed through a cask, the end just projecting. Under this a tub was placed. The cask was kept filled with cold sea water. The second hole in the wooden lid was for the insertion of a funnel by which to fill the copper with sea water and a wooden plug was inserted at other times. Then, the boilers being filled and a fire kept up the steam became condensed and dripped quickly and sometimes ran into the receiving tub. From two and a half to three gallons in twenty-four hours was the result.

The Captain now called all hands aft and said he was prepared to give an undertaking to pay each of them ten pounds in addition to their wages, if they agreed to proceed without calling at Montevideo or other port, pointing to the fact that we should be able to fill up every thing from the equatorial downpours as we approached the line. The members of the original crew agreed readily but the runners objected. This latter, doubtless confirmed Captain Miller’s determination not to approach the Brazilian coast. The next morning the crew came aft and stated that they would all agree if two pints of water per day were served instead of one. A compromise was come to for a pint and a half and an agreement was signed in the cuddy and witnessed by the apprentices. The weather was still cool and little inconvenience was felt, but when we picked up the Trades and the weather became hot, we were all a very bad tempered lot. We had albatross quills passed through our water bottle corks and only that it was such dry work, it would have been ludicrously enjoyable to watch all these hirsute fellows in the forecastle at meal times sucking at their bottles. Flour was served out every day as the duff (or pudding) of flour and fat could be boiled in the sea water, the canvas duff bag not allowing it to penetrate. In this connection I may remark, that duff days, namely Sunday and Thursday, were in the old times red-letter days with Jack. He was allowed half a pound of flour, which with fat, was made into a duff. As showing how tight a dietary scale ruled in deep water ships in those days, the duff used to be ‘cried.’ That meant that if there were ten men in the forecastle, the duff when it was bought from the galley, was divided by the bully of the crew into ten as nearly equal portions as he could cut it. Then a man went on the forecastle head, and the man at the duff kit held one of the pieces on a fork and called out “Who shall have this?” and the other replied Jem or Jack as might be, until the ten pieces were allotted, one piece slightly larger than the rest being placed on a tin plate and left in the galley for the man at the wheel. This latter was an unvarying point of honour. In some English ships molasses or raisins were given, but this was unknown in the Scottish ships.

We were in the south east Trades, when one day a ship hove in sight. She was steering to the westwards across our course and we manoeuvred so that we should pass close to her. We first signaled, “Short of water. Can you spare any?” To this she did not reply, but showed Brazilian colours. We hove to and she passed close under our stern and called out, “We are very short ourselves.” She was an extreme clipper with lines like a yacht, as pretty and graceful a thing as could be constructed of wood, and snowy white cotton canvas. Her hull bore about the same comparison to the cloud of canvas about it as the car does to the balloon. She was carrying royal staysails, and it was the first and only time I have seen anything above sky-sails set, but this little clipper had two moon sails. There was a peculiarly unpleasant smell apparent while she was passing us and our officers said she was a slaver, a white sepulchre indeed.

We were now nearing the Equator and with anxious expectation of thunder squalls and rain, but there was nothing but clear sky. This was serious, for we were in 2 degrees south and losing the south east Trades. On the evening it fell clock calm and at mid-night it was ‘pump ship’ as usual, but the watch failed to suck her, so when the other watch came up the carpenter was called to sound the well. He found 23 inches in her. It took both watches a long time to dry her. In the morning watch the apprentices and officers were in the carpenter’s after cabin taking up the gold from the lazarette and placing it in another cabin, as the water could be heard rushing in at a seam. A piece of hoop iron was driven from the inside through the ceiling and plank. Then a boat was got out and it was seen that the leak was a few inches behind the immersion line, so the carpenter was slung in a bowline, and between swells he managed to get some oakum in the seam. There had been no sharks seen about the ship, but as a precaution, a boy had been sent to watch from the taffrail. Just as the carpenter had finished a fowl got out of the coop and flew away from the ship and dropped into the sea. There was immediate commotion. The water was churned up by sharks and the fowl disappeared. “Bear a hand Chips,” said the mate, “They’ll be here directly.” “It’s all right,” replied Chips and was leisurely casting off the guy rope that had been keeping him under the quarter, when in a moment up came an enormous shark right under him as he hung in his bowlines up to his buttocks in the water. “Haul! Haul!” shouted the mate and the men at the guy, who could not see what was the matter, hauled and the men at the bowline at the taffrail, who could see hauled, with the result that Chips was jammed up under the ship’s counter. In a moment we could see that the shark had caught him, for he was now naked below the waist. The guy was slackened and Chips was lowered into the quarter boat from the bowline and the boat being taken to the davit tackles, was pulled up. The Captain said when he saw Chips simply stripped but unhurt, “You had a close shave, Chips.” “Ma good breeks,” said Chips. “But you had a very narrow escape,” said the Mate. Chips replied, “Its na a escape. My twa-sheiling rule’s gane.” He had a rule pocket in his pants, but Chips was a Montrose man and he deplored his good breeks and twa-sheiling rule for the rest of the voyage. It was really a marvelous escape. But the ship made very little water after this and the gold was replaced in the lazerette by the officers and screwed down.

We carried light variable airs of wind, having lost the south east Trades in 2 degrees 30 minutes south and one day at noon we were 1 degree 30 minutes south, a mile and a half south of the line becalmed. ‘Stark calm on the lap of the line’, and huge masses of dark rain clouds hung all round the horizon. We thirsty souls were jubilant, but nothing culminated till about mid-night as far as weather went. During the day there had been some trouble between the men and the cook about fat for the forecastle lamp. The oil had run short and the remainder was kept for the cabin and binnacle lamps. At mid-night ‘All hands shorten sail,’ was the order. The watch had clewed up the light canvas. There was no response from the watch below. After a short interval the mate went to the forecastle and shouted, “Turn out men smartly if you don’t want the sticks taken out of her.” The bully man replied, “The ship’s too Scotch to carry oil and the …… cook’s stopped the …… slush and we can’t find our duds.” There was a rush of the squall over the ship, which lay over scuppers in the water. The light sails, hanging in the gear, blew to ribbons, while the mates and apprentices let go the topsail halyards and the sails banged and slatted like ordinance. The men of the watch on deck had gone with their mates into the forecastle and although it was imminent that either the sails would blow to pieces or the masts would be taken out of the ship, not a man budged. As is usual with tropical squalls, it was fierce but short lived and it was soon clock calm again. Then the officers, apprentices and the after-guard got the reef tackles hauled out. Then came a peel of thunder and then a few drops of rain, followed by a fall as from a cloud burst and in a moment every man was on deck with the poop buckets catching water as it ran off the poop. The four cringles of a lower studding sail was quickly fixed up to the rigging for catchment. The shower lasted only half an hour or so and really only served to wash the salt off the rigging and decks. What was caught was – or would have been under more favourable circumstances – undrinkable, but everybody got a good bath, for even the mates were stripped to the skin while passing the buckets about. This was all the rain we got on the Equator. We had filled the casks, but in three days the water was a bluish black tint and stank like a sewer, but we drank it, holding the dipper with one hand and our noses with the other to prevent smelling. The deep sea sounding leads were hung in the casks – Jack’s idea of purifying water. The day after the squall we crossed the Equator three times in twenty-four hours in variable airs and then picked up the north east Trades. In the northern limit of the north east Trades we sighted a vessel, which proved on near approach, to be a derelict. We lay with the main yard to the mast and lowered a quarterboat and the mate and the four apprentices boarded her. She was a timber laden barque. Her decks were awash and bulging off the beams and grass and oakum, bleached white, were hanging from her seams as she rolled in the long north east swell. Her topsail yards were on the caps and the reefed portion of the sails was still on the yards. There were no boats. In a house on the after deck was a mass of clothing just recognizable as such and a cloak hanging, which did not appear to be damaged, which we took with us. On her stern was New Bedford, but her name was undecipherable. We could not sink her and she was a grave danger to shipping. She was, as Kipling puts it,
‘Whipped forth by night to meet
My sister’s careless feet
And with a kiss,
betray her to her master.”

On the passage, night and day, the fire had been kept going for condensing. We consumed the last of our coal in the north east Trades and then cut up all our spare spars. We had stripped and burnt the topgallant bulwarks. Several attempts had been made to get at the casks of tallow in the lower holds, but without success. Losing the north east trades we met a succession of easterly gales and we were in 37 degrees west before we got a change. Then it came from the westwards and we got into soundings and then the chops of the Channel. The allowance of water was increased to two pints a day and I may here say that Captain Miller had served out all the malt liquors and fresh provisions on board, and intended for the cabin, equally to all hands (apprentices excepted) from the time the water was short.

We were running up channel with a fleet of vessels that had been detained by the easterly winds and when off the Start Point one night, we ran into a schooner and carried away our jibboom and main yard, so that in the morning the first tug which came along was engaged, ultimately leaving us at the London dock heads. Between these heads lumpers came on board and the crew were released until pay day, when the runners were looking for 10 pounds only and the others of the original crew their wages in addition.

As soon as the ship was between the dock head crimps, touts for boarding houses and pimps from the lowest places of resort in Ratcliffe highway and the purlieus of old and new Gravel lanes swarmed aboard. They would seize on the men’s chests, lash them up, carry them on the quay and the seamen would have to follow willy nilly. It frequently occurred that the men lost everything belonging to them, or if Jack followed, getting to these low boarding houses, an advance would be made to the penniless seamen and an order given by him to the tout to receive his wages and pay himself. Sometimes after attending the pay table and receiving his pay after a two or three year’s cruise, he would fall into bad hands and lose his money and his clothes and have to don a brown paper suit, left for that purpose by the miscreants who had robbed him, to return to his boarding house, where a small amount of cash would be given to him, on the advance note which, after twenty-four hours on shore and three years at sea, Jack would probably receive the next day on his wages for another voyage. But a few years later this abominable business was done away with. Constables were at hand to prevent crimps and touts boarding the ships on arrival. There were instead of these scum, representatives of reputable licensed boarding houses, and the Wells Street Sailor’s Home, and every protection and facility were given these men to avoid low disreputable lodgings. Seamen in those days indeed earned their money like horses, and spent it like asses.

Payday for our crew came and the men, with one or two exceptions of the runners, came to the cuddy table, where sat Captain Miller and a heap of gold and silver and the writer beside him checking each amount paid. The original crew were paid first, without any deductions for the time they were in Wooloomooloo Gaol. Then the Captain said. “Men, I regret to tell you that the owners repudiate my arrangement with you for 10 pounds in consideration of your proceeding on the small quantity of water.” The men all started to protest, but the captain, holding up his hand said, “Wait men. I am leaving the ship and tomorrow, when I shall receive my salary, I will divide two-thirds of it amongst you. That is all I can do for you.” It seemed to sober the men and they went ashore. Shortly after most of them returned and, meeting Captain Miller at the gangway,” said, “Thank-you for your kindness. We won’t take your money, but we’ll pull those Scotch ------ the owners.” And they did. The case was called and the apprentices were called as witnesses, but the morning the case came on, as the managing owner was stepping from his brougham at the Court of Requests, he fell dead and the firm paid every penny as well as the lawyer’s fees, the case not being heard.

When the crew was finally paid off we saw no more of them and lumpers were employed discharging the cargo. The gold had been taken away by the bank officials while the ship was between the Dock Heads. At the first opportunity, I went up to Mr. Norton’s private residence and from him I learned that my father’s private affairs were far from hopeless. Everything had realised well, and his creditors had dealt with him generously, recognising that in liquidating he had acted solely in their interests. I also learnt that my two brothers had been placed as boarders in the same school at Ipswich that I had run away from, and that I was not to go to Guernsey to visit my family as it was probable my parents would be returning to England before I again sailed. All this was encouraging but I was very miserable in London after a few days. I, with the other apprentices, was living at the ship’s expense at a boarding house in Jamaica Square, close the London docks, kept by a Scotch lady—a Mistress Sinclaire. She was Scotch in accent and very Scotch in her cooking and the latter, we boys could not appreciate. We used to make a point of asking when we were leaving after breakfast to go to the ship, “What will you have for dinner today Mrs. Sinclaire?” although we knew the answer would be “Braw kail and fish, laddie fish,” and day after day it was ‘fesh laddie, fesh’, except on Sundays when an alternative of boiled fresh beef would be on the table – fancy brisket or ribs of beef boiled fresh. There were a few Scotch mates boarding there too but the cooking suited them and an appreciative remark was frequently elicited from them of, “Them’s fine kail, Mistress.” Why the Scotch spoke of soup in the plural always puzzled us.
One day an inspiration came to me that I would ask for leave from the owner and if granted I would visit my brothers at school in Ipswich. The Captain had gone to Scotland to visit his people. A week was grudgingly granted and without a word to anyone I took a second class ticket in a parliamentary train at Uston Station for Ipswich – 69 miles from London and three and a half hours occupied by the journey were whiled away in pleasant anticipation of meeting my brothers, and old school fellows and especially Ida. I had dressed carefully in the uniform of sea apprentices of that time – short cloth jacket with silk facings and buttons in a curve on each side and the cuffs slashed with six buttons. I wore a vest of the same cloth with snowy duck pants and a cap of blue cloth with an embroidered band round it. With a white frilled shirt front turned down over a black silk neckerchief tied in a sailor knot, a very neat uniform it was. I have often regretted its becoming obsolete for apprentices in the merchant service but it gradually became evanescent as steam began to dominate the white wings. On arrival at the railway station in the quiet sleepy ancient town of Ipswich, I took a hansom and was driven to the school from which I had been so glad to leave. Discharging the cab, I rang the bell at the private residence of my old dominie and in a few minutes was sitting in the keeping room conversing with Ida and her mother. I was much surprised to see the alteration in Ida since I last saw her. It was evident to me that from a frolicking hoyden she had become a quite impressive young lady and I was not nearly so much at ease with her as I had been when she would throw her arms round the boys and sympathise with them for their birchings. I found myself under much restraint and almost tongue tied, while she seemed perfectly self possessed. Presently I received an invitation to go into the school where I met my two brothers and paid my respects to my old master and then returned to the ladies with a view of taking my leave and going to an hotel. This however they would not permit, informing me that the Dominie had stipulated that I was to domicile with the family during my visit. This kindness I was only too ready to accept as it gave me better opportunities of seeing my brothers and renewing my acquaintance with Ida and this latter came about quickly, after her mother began questioning me about the voyage I had just returned from. When evening came I found Mr. K had invited some of the old school boys to meet me and I spent a very pleasant time, the only drawback being that they all seemed so much better acquainted and more at their ease with Ida than I could be. The next day my brothers were granted a weeks recess, so I hired a fowling piece and day after day we three went all over the places which had once been so familiar. I found many changes had taken place in my absence. Brick and mortar had marred some of the prettiest and most secluded rural spots in the suburbs, and there was very little sport to be had until I got permission to shoot over Sir W. Brook’s and Squire Tomlin’s grounds and we then got very respectable bags of partridges and rabbits—the pheasant being taboo—and a keeper was always sent with us. We trudged all day taking a lunch with us and we were so tired by the time we returned that we were glad to retire early. Looking backward, I can see that this helped me with Ida of whom I saw very little during these days.

Ida’s mother was the widow of a sea Captain who had owned several vessels sailing out of the port of Ipswich in the Baltic and Mediterranean trade, one of which he had always sailed himself and used frequently to carry his wife with him. She used to tell us some very interesting stories of trips to the Baltic and Mediterranean ports, and her description of sea life was very graphic. One evening she very pathetically described how her husband had left her on his last voyage in a new brig he had just purchased. She had she wished to accompany him but he had refused to take her because he had no knowledge of the new vessel. Even when he had been away long enough to have made the voyage, however, he did not return. Week after week elapsed, her nights being passed sleeplessly and in prayer, the days in listening for his knock and his cheery voice. After many months of awful weary suspense, Lloyds had reported the ship missing, another mystery of the seas and the insurance claims were paid. She alone clung to the hope of his return and three years passed over her, turning her hair, black as a raven’s wing, to snow. She believed all the time that he was in the hands of the Algerian pirates and would eventually make his escape, as had happened to many other seamen of that time. Then she sent a chill through Ida and myself by describing how her husband had come to her bedside and placed an ice cold hand on her forehead. She then knew he was dead but she had not experienced the least fear, and as soon as he had left her, she had risen from her bed, knelt down and thanked God for the token He had granted for her prayers. The next day she put on Widow’s weeds which she would not wear previously, but would now wear to her life’s end. She had three sons, one of whom was my old Dominie, and one daughter, Ida.

The owners had granted me a weeks leave but when it had expired, I had become so enamoured of Ida I recklessly stayed on. My brothers had returned to their classes, so one morning I asked her to accompany my shooting and getting her mother’s permission, she readily consented. We started early and carrying our lunch with us, walked to Hog Island on the banks of the Orwell. Here we agreed to light a fire and have our lunch, so I laid my gun and ammunition flask carefully by. We sat on a little mound and watched the gulls as they hovered over the river. I wanted to sit close to Ida and presently the opportunity came for she complained of cold hands and what was there to do but put my gloves on hers. While so engaged, her pretty face was so close to mine I could not resist the temptation to kiss her sweet lips, and all at once the world became a lovely place to live in, and the river and the ancient oaks and all nature round us was smiling. Putting her little hand with my big glove hanging to it on my shoulder, she returned my kiss and then—ah they were halcyon moments, and we were only awakened from loves young dream by a suspicion that I was sitting on something damp. This proved to be the lunch. The three hard boiled eggs and the apple turnover formed an appetising conglomerate which we ate while we laughed, kissed and picked out the pieces of shell. What a happy day it was! We loved and we were young and although doubtless,Ida had kissed and been in love with half the boys in school, I, with the exception of the little Scotch lassie at the boarding house in London, a little passenger angel on the voyage and two sweet little things who used to come aboard with the washing in Sydney, had had nothing so serious and nice as this. After lunch I cut our initials in an oak tree and we agreed that Hog Island was a misnomer and to refer in future to it, as Love Island. We left in just enough time to get home by dusk and when nearly home it occurred to us we had left the gun behind. I discreetly sent Ida on home and went back to look for my powder flask, which I supposed I had dropped. After securing the gun, I turned into St. Clements Fore Street, went in to a poulterers and purchased a partridge and a brace of snipe which I handed in as a result of the day’s sport. The next day Ida told me the cook had said that the birds must have been dead when I shot them as they were quite high. I was now fully seized with the fact that I was exceeding my leave but I was so hopelessly in love that I was reckless of consequences and day after day passed. If Ida could not accompany me shooting I would stay home. In the evenings I would go with her and her mother to weekday service in St. Helen’s or St.Clement’s church. How well I remember those quaint old churches with their blue flint and cement outer walls and the many ‘In Memoriam’ slabs which covered the walls inside. The inscriptions recorded the name and manifold virtues of many who had passed through life’s fitful fever centuries past, and who, if they read their epitaph would be much surprised to see how good they had been. Even the stone slabs which composed the floor of the aisle of these ancient buildings bore inscriptions, many partially obliterated by the footfalls of past generations. Some of the churches, notably St. Helens and St. Stephens dated back as far as the remains of the Roman Wall which had circled the townand which could still be seen in the early fifties. All the churches had originally belonged to the Roman Catholics. When Ida could accompany me, we would, after getting away from the immediate vicinity of the town, secrete my gun and flask behind a hedge and go on the Woodbridge Road, cross Rushmere Heath and return by the Foxhall Road and Nottages Lane, with many little love episodes beguiling us on the way. These happy and innocent days passed so quickly, idylls that never returned, and, thank God were never regretted. As memory carries me back to those halcyon times I remember also the vile tuition that boys received in the depraving contact of the ship’s forecastle and I am astounded by the super influence of purity over vice, which enabled me to pass through this episode in my life so that I can look back on it through the mists of three score years and ten, as an idyll and without regret. All this time I am sure the Dominie never suspected there was more than boy and girl camaraderie which he must always have known existed between Ida and the boys—her fellow pupils, until I, with much embarrassment, told him of my love for her and he discreetly replied, ‘that when I returned from my next voyage he would be pleased to offer me further hospitality’. The next day however, he asked me if I had an extension of leave granted from the owners and when I replied in the negative, I saw by his expressive face that he considered that I should return to London. In the evening I told Ida and her mother that I should leave them the following day. Next morning I took leave of my brothers and the Dominie, who, giving me his blessing and exhibiting much emotion, I drove to the railway station accompanied by Ida and her mother and after a short episode of sweet sorrow in the waiting room I boarded my train and left those two tearful women whom I was never again to meet on this side of the Great Divide.

On arrival in London, I was driven first to Mr. Norton’s, the lawyer, who handed me a letter from my mother telling me the family would not return to England before I sailed and enclosing a note for ten pounds and although bitterly disappointed at having to leave without seeing my mother and sisters, after leaving Mr. Norton I went straight to a jewelers in King William Street and purchased a ring for Ida, and posted it to her within the hour.

The next day I went on board the ship and reported myself to the managing owner. The Captain was still in Scotland visiting his people and the owner evidently did not remember I had exceeded my leave. I started work immediately with the other apprentices and again domiciled with them at Mistress Sinclair’s at St. James Square. Three evenings a week I attended Mrs. Janet Taylor’s school for navigation and before I sailed I could, if I had been of age, passed a second or only mate’s examination.

The ship was on the berth for Port Adelaide and cargo was received and lumpers were stowing it and the utmost vigilance of the ship’s officers failed to prevent the broaching and pilfering of the cargo although ostensibly there was a rigid personal search of every employee who passed through the dock gates outwards. What with the defection of the lumpers and the utterly reckless handling and peculation of the crew on seas of that time, I should say the consignees suffered badly. Lying in both St.Catherines and London dock I remember day after day seeing the lumpers in the hold three sheets in the wind at their work.

It was in the year 1851 and the first international exhibition opened on 1st May of that year, and London swarmed with foreigners from every town in Europe and all other parts of the civilized world. It was a wonderful gathering together of representatives of every nation of the world and of the products, manufactures and the industries of all the people of the earth. At this time the Great Eastern was on the stocks and the Great Britain was lying in the Thames with her six masts, and in all the docks were lying loading or discharging cargoes from or to China, America and Australia, many of the most beautiful clipper ships that man’s brain had conceived and his hand fashioned, to be propelled by the winds of heaven only, for it was the year of the clipper era.

The ship was now fully loaded with the exception of a quantity of explosives, which as usual were to be taken in at Gravesend. At knock off time one evening we apprentices were told that the ship would be towed to Gravesend the following day. We took leave of Mistress Sinclaire and her fesh (fish) that evening, and I squared up my account with Mrs. Janet Taylor for my tuition in navigation, and wrote to my mother and Ida. Then we apprentices engaged a conveyance for our chests to the ship. The morning came cold, dull and repellant and directly we had got our effects in the dirty forecastle, we were turned to the work of getting the ship ready for towing. Meanwhile the lumpers were warping the ship to the dock heads where she waited the coming of the tug, and while there, a lady in widow’s weeds came with a pale faced, rather puny lad. With them was a man with a trunk with a chest and mattress on it, which he took on board the ship and we were told by the mate that the lad was a new apprentice. The lady and the boy remained on the quay in converse—she holding the boy’s hands, and he looking tearfully in her face. Some of the crew came down at this time accompanied by some women, all three sheets in the wind. Presently I was sent ashore to make fast a line and in passing I lifted my cap to the lady, who bowed and came toward me and asked, “Are you one of the apprentices?” I replied “Yes.” “Have you made a voyage?” “Yes, two, “ I replied. “My boy Ernest, is going with you. This is his first time of leaving home and he has lately lost his father. Will you be kind to him if you can?” I promised to be his friend so far as I could. “Will he sleep in the same place as you?” she asked. I replied in the affirmative. She then looked towards the group of seamen and women on the quay—a look which I interpreted, and said, “ The apprentices don’t sleep amongst the seamen.” Then taking my dirty hand in hers she said, “Goodbye, your promise has comforted me. God bless you and enable you to keep it.”

I had too lately felt the clinging embrace and tearful parting kisses of my own dear mother, to be able to see this sweet motherly woman’s emotion unmoved and to my great disgust and dread of ridicule, do all that I could, I was not able to keep the tears from my eyes. Two years at sea and sniveling. The little boy followed me closely on board, his eyes streaming, but I noticed as old Jack Sutherland, the boatswain, came along, the little chap turned his face from him and tried to conceal his wet cheeks. The kind gruff old Fifeshire seaman said, “Dinna be ashamed of greeting laddie. Ye’ll hae but ae mither.” Then came along Rory Anderson the second mate, and seeing the new youngster, says, “Now youngster, stop greeting and get some working togs on.” Then, catching sight of my watery eyes, he exclaimed, “Well I’m ----.” Then he roared, “Here boatswain, get the end of the towline over the bows. Here’s all these ----- boys piping their eyes because they can’t get to sea.”

Presently a tug came and the end of the towline was passed to her and we were soon clear of the docks and in the river. Looking astern I could see the boy’s mother waving her handkerchief to him. Dick Corderoy, also an apprentice and myself were sent to the wheel and we had to steer after the tug. Those of the crew who had come on board were sprawling on their still lashed up chests, or in the bunks of the forecastle in their go ashore togs, and there were only the three mates, the boatswain and we three apprentices available for work. The tug had hardly got good away on us before she had to slow down to clear, on one hand a big coal lighter whose propelling power was two immense sweeps, each worked by a man, and, on the other, a red, blue and green stripped sailing barge with brown tanned sails, (a London river barge.) A woman was at the tiller of the barge and a man forward. The latter seemingly perfectly oblivious of surroundings, and especially so of the proximity of our ship, and her tug, for he was looking over the Rotherhithe side filling his pipe with his back to us. Having slowed his tug, her master seemed to have given up all responsibility and it appeared to me that he was not seized of the fact that he and his tug were ahead of us for any special purpose. The man at her wheel reclining on it, chewing tobacco and appearing to be examining something in an elevated position in the direction of the Tower. The tug’s paddles were just revolving, and the towline lay in a bight under our bows, while our ship carried her way, and would it seemed, run over and annihilated the little tug, except for a miracle. Then the men on the coal barge stopped working their sweeps, and leaning their shoulders against them, began to blaspheme the master of the tug and advised him to get home quickly as his grandfather wanted his spittoon (referring to the tug) and that his mother could not have her breakfast until he returned her coffee pot (indicating the tug’s boiler.) Then the skipper of the tug blasphemed the men in the coal barge, and if their language was atrocious, that of the skipper of the tug was appalling. All this time the coal barge was drifting right on to us, but at the right moment, a movement of the sweeps took her clear. Meantime the sailing barge, with a fresh breeze shaped right for the tug’s paddle box, which the woman at the tiller seemed intent on hitting as hard as she could, while the man forward was perfectly satisfied with everything. The master of the tug having shut up the coal barge men, walked quickly over to the other side of his vessel, and, leaning over the rail, watched the sailing barge, which kept her stretch until it seemed a collision was inevitable. The woman then walked to leeward with her long tiller, and the barge’s head flew up in the wind. The man forward woke up and let something go that was not his pipe, and away went the barge on the other tack, but not a word said the skipper of the tug. I learned afterwards that had he opened his mouth, the woman taking a lone hand, would have obliterated him in a single sentence, while her husband forward would have refilled his pipe during the process. The power of vituperative and recherche blasphemy, yet, in spite of its atrociousness and smart repartee, these lightermen and tugmen on the Thames possess, is only equalled by the expertness with which they handled their apparently unwieldy craft. The foregoing happened in far less time than I have taken to relate it. Being clear of obstruction, and just as I expected to feel the shock of the tug under our bows, her paddle revolved at full speed, the man at the wheel finished surveying the Tower, the towline toughened out, and off we went again. All went smoothly until we got past the Isle of Dogs, when in trying to avoid several north country brigs that were ‘backing and filling’ up river, we touched the ground, and although we did not stick, the towline parted and before we could get it to the tug again, we nearly fouled a large Sunderland brig. Then the old thing began, the brig master and crew seeming to leave everything to the brig as far as clearing us was concerned. Every man of them from the Captain standing in the companion way in a black Elsinor dig-skin cap, to the cook at the galley door, knife in one hand and a potato in the other, seemed impressed with the necessity of exhaling as much blasphemous chaff as he could. While the ‘…………sou’spainer and sulphur bottom’, as they called our ship was within hail, beyond expressing an anxiety to know if they stopped all night in that elegant hooker, the tug Captain did not rise to the occasion, as in the former case of the barge. In spite of the apparent apathy, the right thing was done at the right moment. The brig cleared us and we proceeded, anchoring off Gravesend and the little tug left us. The night was fine and the mate went to the forecastle and told the men they must keep anchor watch. Ostensibly one was kept, the men tumbling out of their bunks to sleep on their chests or lockers.

Next day we took in some powder. The Captain came on board bringing the rest of the crew with him, all more or lass tipsy or suffering from a recovery from excesses. During the day the long boat was taken in and griped, and the pigs and sheep were put into her, the tacks and sheets put on the courses and the vegetables slung in the quarter boats after the fashion of those days. Some of the better class amongst the crew turned to and the mates, having less to do, got better tempered. The new boy Earnest Wood and another boy were sent to grease down the foremast spars, and I noticed that Wood seemed very nervous about going aloft. and could not be persuaded to negotiate the futtock rigging. I went up to him and tried to get him on the foreyard, and so on to the top, but I did not succeed and I had to leave him and go on deck. I heard the second mate rating him afterwards for being frightened. The next day we left Gravesend in charge of a pilot, with a fair wind. The following morning the pilot was taken out of us by a Deal Boat. Most of our crew had now turned to, and to a man they were all from Fifeshire including the officers and Captain, except the carpenter who hailed from Montrose. The apprentices were all English and the cook was a native of Barbados. We carried our fair wind to the Eddystone and then got it right in our teeth from the westward and for two or three days we were under the double-reefed topsails.

At that time sailing vessels carried no side lights and one night while plunging into the westerly sea the lookout on the forecastle head sang out, “Sail right ahead,” and before the second officer, who had the watch could give an order, she crashed into us. Our jibboom was carried away and our foretop gallant and royal mast and yard came down by the run. The other vessel, a large French lugger apparently of about 100 tons came tearing and crashing down along our port side, taking away our cathead and causing our port anchor, which was on the bow, to drop until the cable brought it up. As there were eight or ten seamen’s chests lashed to the cable in the forecastle and several of the watch (who should have been on deck) sleeping on them, things were very much mixed. When the jerk of the anchor falling some thirty feet came on the cable it sent the chests up to the beams, throwing the sleeping men away stunned, extinguishing the lamp and creating ‘confusion worse confounded’. The lugger drifted clear of us but what her state was we made no effort to ascertain, and she was soon lost sight of in the darkness. She gave us plenty of employment in the next few days.

Happily the westerly wind blew itself out and we had light fair winds and smooth seas until we had everything right. These were followed by a calm, which lasted all one night and until noon the next day when a small squall came away from west-northwest with a shower, and orders were given to furl the fore-main and mizzen royals and haul down the flying jib. I went to the former. Two other apprentices went to the main and little Wood and another boy, were sent to the mizzen royal. I had stowed my sail and was coming down the topmast rigging when I heard the mate call to the boy on the mizzen royal yard to stop there and show Wood, who was in the topmast cross trees, how to furl the sail. The wind had gone, the squall being tropical, sudden and short. Wood could not be induced to attempt the ascent of the topgallant rigging, which of course was not rattled. The mate was angry and sent a seaman up to insist on the boy going to the royal yard. The man, as it appeared afterwards, chaffed the boy and said, “If your mother could see you now, she would not cry over you. She’d laugh at you for being a coward.” This seemed to overcome the lad and he scrambled up the topgallant rigging and got onto the royal yard. I had got on deck and was employed in some way when I heard a sharp agonised cry of ‘Mother’ and a moment later a dull thud as of something falling on the deck. Involuntarily I looked up to the mizzen royal yard and then , running aft, I saw between the capstan and the break of the poop, poor Wood on his back, his blue eyes wide open and round his nose and mouth a line almost as blue, but nothing else to indicate that he was injured. I knelt down and spoke to him. Although his eyes were open he did not seem to see me, and he did not speak. The Captain, mates and watch were soon round him but he was evidently unconscious. A tablecloth was brought from the cuddy and carefully drawn under him and as he was lifted I saw him smile and then utter the word ‘Mother’ in a sort of ecstatic manner, and the Captain relieved me very much by saying, “Thank God he is not much hurt. He is only suffering from the shock.” The man who was aloft with him said that he shinned up the topgallant rigging and got on the royal yard, but immediately pitched right over the yard, and in falling, struck the mizzen stay before striking the deck. We took him into the cabin state room and put him to bed. Strange to say he had no bones broken and no bruises except a slight abrasion across the back. He continued unconscious and except bathing his head and hands, no remedies were applied. At 8 p.m. it being my watch on deck, I asked the Captain’s permission to go in and out to him. He granted it and told me to call him immediately if the boy regained consciousness. I mentioned that I had promised his mother to look after him and then he told me to stay in the spare bunk in the same berth with Wood in my watch below. I went in and out several times between 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock and there was no change except that his eyes closed and he breathed a little harder. At 10 o’clock the Captain paid him a visit and applied friction with a hair glove but with no effect. I asked him if he could recover and he replied that it was doubtful as he thought the spine was injured. Then he told me not to leave the boy until midnight when I should be relieved. I sat on the closed up washing stand at his head thinking what a blow it would be to the mother if the little chap died, and wondering if I should have to write to her or if the Captain would do so. I nodded so deeply that I nearly dislocated my neck, so after glancing at Wood and seeing no change, I leaned back and was soon asleep and was awakened by the bell striking 8 o’clock and the mate calling out, “Heave the log.” I went to the Captain’s cabin and waking him, told him there was no change. He came and looked at Wood, applied friction and ammonia for some time and said he thought he would pass away unconscious. Before he left the berth the steward entered and told the captain he would watch the boy till 8 am. I went and got my pillow and blanket to sleep in the bunk opposite but the steward did not wish this and said I would sleep better in my own bunk and he would call me if he became conscious. However I could not be persuaded and I turned in and in a few minutes was asleep. How long I slept I cannot say but I was awakened, not by a start or by a shock, but with the consciousness of hearing the boy say in quite a strong voice, “Mother! Mother! I knew you would come.” I was lying on my right side with my face turned towards Wood, whose face was turned towards me and distant from me the width between two bunks, say 4 feet. But I could not see his face because between the lad and myself and bending over him, was a woman dressed in black. I could see obliquely the side of her face and a frill of a widow’s cap. I recognised her immediately as the boy’s mother I had spoken to on the dock heads on the day of our departure. I have said I was awakened without a shock. I seemed to wake by simply opening my eyes, induced by some subtle influence which I could not then or now define. At first I was not startled at what I saw but for a few seconds accepted it as a natural sequence that the boy should be attended by his mother. Then the second mate on the poop over my head called, “Trim the binnacle light,” and in a moment I realised what was by my side, and an overwhelming fear flooded me, and my first instinct was to escape from the berth. To get out of my bunk I had to turn half round and, however rapid was my movement, when my foot touched the deck of the berth the woman disappeared. I had heard no sound or movement but I saw as I flew out of the berth that Wood was conscious. I made straight for the door of the Captain’s berth and had it been locked or fast, I believe I should have fallen in a fit. As it was the Captain just opened it as I got to it, with the result that I hit him about the belt with the force of an Armstrong projectile. He was rather stout and puffed. “What in God’s name is the matter with the boy?” I could not answer and he went quickly to Wood. I followed him as I could not get on deck the other way and then ran to the forecastle and told my chum. Explaining to Waite what I had seen, he dressed and went with me to the poop. I then told the second mate about it. He told me I had dreamt it. Just then I heard the Captain calling me and I, with Waite, went to him beside the sick lad, whom I found, as I had noticed in my flight, conscious. He was looking steadfastly towards the Captain but it did not seem to me that he saw him, but seemed to be looking beyond him. In reply to the Captain’s question, he said he had no pain. I asked him if he knew me and he replied in the affirmative. Then presently he said, “I wasn’t afraid but my head went round.” Then just as the skipper was telling the steward (who had come in looking as white as a sheet as if he had seen something too) that some hot water would be required for a warm bath, the little fellow stretched himself and then put up his arms, curved as if he was pulling someone down to him and muttered, “Mother! Mother!” His arms then sank gradually down on his chest and with a little sigh he left us. The bell on the poop struck two and the other on the forecastle repeated it, for it was 5 a.m. and the boatswain roared, “Port forebrace! Let go the fore tack and bowline and slack the foresheet.” and daylight broke with what is called high dawn. The wind freshened and the sea got up rapidly, and at 10 a.m. when four bells struck, all hands were called to shorten sail (the topgallant sails were already stowed.) Two reefs were put in the topsails, the steward called, “Grog ho.” and the watch went below again. At 2 p.m. we furled the mizzen topsail and maincourse and close reefed the fore and main topsails. There was a nasty cross sea and we were shipping big lumps of water at times. Captain Smith very reluctantly postponed the burial of poor little Wood until next day. Seamen were then intensely superstitious and it was always advisable, even at the expense of sentiment, to bury the dead at sea as soon as possible.

The story I had told of seeing the boy’s mother was at this time believed to be a dream. Still, its effect was apparent as soon as evening closed in. Both watches had supper together in the dingy topgallant forecastle, imperfectly lighted by the foul smelling, smoking black oil lamp hanging from a beam, swinging and swooping with every lurch and send of the ship. The roar of the wind out of the foot of the forecourse, the swash and thump of the sea striking her under the bluff of the bow, the creaking of the bulkheads, the men looking weird and grim with their unshaven faces, now lit up and then in darkest shade as the lamp jerked and swung wildly, all added to the atmosphere. They were sitting on their chests, knife in hand, and a small tub called a ‘kid’ at their feet, with a piece of salt horse in it resembling fibrous mahogany. Each man also had a small box with a bar across it called a ‘barge’, filled with coarse biscuit and a hook pot for each man containing tea. They were just beginning their meal when the ship gave an extra lurch and the big bell on the forecastle head struck out dolefully, partially smothered by the roar of the wind and sea. “One!” then as she rolled back in the hollow of the sea, it again tolled out “One!” “The kirk knell, by God!” exclaimed old Beckford the sailmaker, and all these hirsute kail-suppers of Fife, who would have sat, with the utmost complacency, at the weather earring of the main topsail and squirted tobacco juice and blasphemed with ship nearly on her beam ends and the masts expected to go out of her, now turned and looked at each other as scared as boys crossing a church yard at midnight. An ominous silence was broken again by Beckford, who roared out “One of you boys go and make fast the lanyard of that bell.” Of course had this been done at first the bell would have been silent. Then they went on with their tea, everyone having a yarn to tell about ghosts, wraiths and death lights.

During the day the corpse had laid in the bunk the boy had died in. His best clothes had been put on him by the steward and at eight bells all the apprentices asked permission to give a last look at him, for we heard the sail maker told to have a canvas ready to sew him up in, in the morning watch. He was to be buried at 8 a.m. whatever the weather. Well we all went in and saw him. There was a small bracket lamp burning in the berth. He was much altered and I wished I had not gone in. We were all more or less affected although each tried to hide his feelings. Jemmy Waite and I were in the mate’s watch below. I slept in the forecastle. At midnight it was my wheel and when I went on to the poop I saw the weather was moderating and the Captain went below, telling the mate to call him before making more sail. Wind and sea fell rapidly and when I was relieved from the wheel at 2 a.m. the mate told me to call the Captain and tell him the ship wanted more sail to steady her. To reach the Captain’s cabin I had to pass the cuddy or saloon (as it is now called) and go between the state rooms, in one of which the corpse lay, so I asked Jemmy Waite to come with me and call the Captain. We entered the cuddy which was dimly lighted, the swinging lamp being turned so low, that the light in the berth where the corpse lay, threw quite a bright ray from the open door across the passage. Nearly opposite was the steward’s room where he slept and kept all the cuddy stores, casks, cases and jars. We were pretty nervous. I was slightly in advance of my chum and I kept my eyes straight in front of me to avoid seeing the corpse and had got nearly past the open door and through the streak of light, when Waite made some exclamation and ran back. Turning, I faced the door and in a momentary glance, I saw standing at the head of the corpse and bending over it, Mrs. Wood. She was touching or doing something to the face. Of course I followed Jemmy Waite pretty quickly and at the cuddy door, we both fell one on top of the other and I hurt my ankle. How we scrambled on to the poop I cannot tell but the first thing I remember was both of us trying to make the mate believe what we had seen. He called us “------- fools,” but he did not hurry down and when at last he entered the cuddy, he at once turned up the lamp and called the steward, who came out of his berth as white as a ghost. His black whiskers and mustache were in such strong relief as to make him look ghastly. I said immediately “You have seen her, steward?” He replied “Seen whom? There was no woman there.” he added. This made us all doubt him. At this juncture the Captain came out of his state room and he was told what we had seen. He sent first Jemmy, and then me out of the cabin and heard each of us relate separately. I thought he was convinced this time. However he told the steward to give us half a tot of grog and send us below, telling us we had been deceived by our overwrought nerves. The carpenter was called and told to sit up and watch the body until daylight. The steward volunteered to keep him company, or I do not think Chips would have sat in that berth alone for a kingdom.

All hands were employed in making sail and at 6 a.m. the sail maker was called and he sewed the poor little chap up in new canvas and put some shackles to his feet to sink it. Both watches went to breakfast at seven bells. At 8 a.m. the Captain called out from the break of the poop, “Haul up the mainsail and lay the mainyard to the mast, Mr. Brown.” Then the cluegarnets and buntlines being manned, the tack and sheet started, the sail slats for a minute or so and the gear is up and the sail is snugged. Then, “Port main brace.” and the heavy yards swing square and aback and counter acting the head yards, the ship is nearly stationary, the helm being put down. Then the bell on the pinnacle begins to toll slowly and all hands stand in the starboard waist, and the red ensign is at a dip from the mizzen gaff. The sailmaker and steward come out of the cuddy carrying the corpse, followed by the Captain with a Church of England prayer book in his hand. The gangway in the topgallant bulwarks being opened, the corpse on one of the poop gratings is laid in the opening held by two apprentices. Then Captain Smith began to read the burial service for the dead at sea. He started fairly but he spoke lower and more indistinctly as he read on and I saw that his eyes were suffused and a big drop coursed down one and the other of his rugged cheeks. I knew that he was ashamed to wipe his eyes and he could not see the words and in a moment he made us all jump by calling out as if he were ordering the topsail halyards to be let go in a squall “Come here, you boy Sykes. I can’t see this print” but giving me a look he read on a bit and then a big lump came in his throat and he got blind and held out the book to Jemmy Waite who took it and got on to, “We therefore commit his body to the deep.” Then with streaming eyes and a sob he turned his face to the main rigging from the crew and the corpse and then another collapse. Then old Jack Sutherland, the boatswain said “Let the puir wee laddie go. He’ll be alright.” A cant of the grating —a splash—and little Wood had ‘all ocean for his grave.’ Then came, “Starboard main brace. “Well of all”. “Jump, you boy, and overhaul the gear of the mainsail.” The yards fill and the main tack is boarded and the ship gathers headway and begins to plump into the westerly sea. Some of us wondered then what the dickens we piped our eyes for but the fact is, our nerves had been a good deal shaken the previous night by the wraith of the boy’s mother. There was a great amount of sympathy amongst the crew considering the short time the lad had been with us. Were these the same men Mrs. Woods had seen on the dock the day we left?

Things went on in the usual way for some time and we had crossed the line and got to the westward of the Cape of Good Hope. About 11.30 o’clock one night we were scudding under a close reefed fore and main topsail and forecourse, the Captain and mate were standing close to me at the wheel discussing the weather and the advisability of taking in the foresail at eight bells. The Captain said he would go down and look at the glass. As soon as he left the poop the mate took the wheel from me, telling me to call the second mate and, “Tell him we are to take the foresail off her.” I had just got to the front of the poop when up ran the Captain and in an agitated whisper said, “By God Brown, I’ve seen the ghost, standing just inside the cabin door.” I was about the mate’s height and had on a similar pilot’s overcoat and the Captain had, in his excitement, mistaken me for the mate. Then, seeing his mistake, he said angrily, “What are you doing here? Where’s the mate?” “At the wheel, sir.” “You go and take it and send him here.” I did as I was told, and the two stood in earnest conversation for some minutes. Then Mr. Brown went below and returned with the second mate. The three then talked together until the first mate came aft and struck eight bells and hove the log. When the man from the other watch came to relieve me I did not give up the wheel but told him the foresail was coming in, so he went forward. The Captain and mate left the poop and returned but gave no orders about the foresail, so I presumed the barometer was rising. They stood in the after part of the mizzen rigging and I heard the Captain say, “……. That boy. He heard what I said, I’m sure. You had better call him here at once.” The mate walked to the front of the poop and called out, “Boy.” I answered from the wheel. Mr. Brown said, “Why aren’t you relieved?” I replied that I thought the foresail was being hauled up. The Captain said, “I was startled by the mate’s oil coat hanging up in the alleyway and was foolish enough to take it for the ghost you wretched boys have been talking about. When I left the wheel I told my chum Jemmy and two other apprentices that the Captain had seen Mrs. Wood, for I was not a bit taken in by the Captain’s subterfuge of the oil coat, and Jemmy was as convinced as I was. The crew, of course, heard of the Captain’s having seen it and the effect on them was most depressing and at the same time ludicrous. Every old seaman knows the constant topic of conversation at meal times on long voyages was women, but from this night nothing was talked about but wraiths, death lights. and the supernatural generally and what such things foreboded. A man would not go aloft after dark, but on regaining the deck, would describe some figure in black he had seen pass to leeward etc…etc. One morning just after midnight, a boy was called to oil the wheel blocks which were squeaking and he was just getting up from the after side of the monkey poop which covered the steering gear, when the Captain who had just come up on the poop, seeing the unexpected figure rising up in the gloom, jumped away uttering an exclamation. The man at the wheel dropped it and ran to the skipper and the boy seeing them jump, dropped the oil feeder and sprang up alongside them. The Captain made himself ridiculous by cursing them both, especially the man for leaving the wheel. On another occasion a man was relieved by the mate from the wheel and sent to call the Captain, as the wind was freshening, and he returned without reaching the Captain's room, swearing he had seen a woman in black cross the cabin, and enter or vanish at the steward's berth.

We were now in the Roaring Forties, running down our easting and one forenoon it fell calm and continued so all day and there was a large barque, homeward bound, a very unusual thing to see between Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. Towards sundown the two vessels had drifted near enough (as vessels invariably do in a calm as under some attractive influence) to signal. We found she was the Maitland of London, Captain Henry from Adelaide, with wheat and copper oar. In a sudden squall she had been thrown on her beam ends. The cargo had shifted and she had to be kept on the starboard tack until the cargo was trimmed, which accounted for her being so far south. Next day it was still calm and the westerly swell had gone down. The Maitland was about a mile from us and one of our quarter boats was lowered away and four of us pulled the Captain to her. She was one of the old style ships with immense quarter galleries and one could have wheeled a barrow in her main channels. Her heavy stern offered as much surface as her main topsail and as she rolled lazily on the long westerly undulations, the barnacles six inches long could be seen under her run and the grass floated in and out from her side like a green silken fringe. Her courses hung in the gear her mizzen was brailed in and the head sails hung down under the jibboom to save the chafe as the ship rolled. Besides her crew there were a few ladies and gentlemen, evidently passengers, looking over the rail at us as we approached. On getting alongside, her commander received ours at the gangway. “How are you, Smith?” and the answer, “All right, old man,” indicated that they had met otherwise than in mid ocean. Our boat was veered astern and “Grog, ho!” put the seamen on good terms with each other and of course Jack was soon comparing and discussing the old hooker, old man, their duff days and their treatment generally. Presently I was called aft and sent with a message to our mate to tell the steward to prepare a berth for a lady. The mate, on receiving the message, tried to satisfy his curiosity by plying me with questions, but I did not know weather she was young, good looking, married or single, or why she was coming to us. Returning to the Maitland, we received into the boat some trunks and luggage and presently, sitting on the gangway, I saw our Captain and Captain Henry and a lady in hat and gloves come along the deck. Captain Henry was talking the lady and was evidently trying to persuade her to do something, for I heard her say, “Please Captain Henry, do not speak of it any more. I am only leaving your ship at the earnest solicitation and desire of my husband and I need not remind you of the wretched life I have led since we left port. At the same time I thank you from my heart for all you have done for me. Were my husband to kneel to me I would not stay.” The lady had hardly finished speaking when they were joined by a tall handsome man, whose face however, had a haggard expression. “Laura my dear,” he said, “Return to the cabin a moment with me.” She did not hesitate a moment. “No Rob, no good can come of it and I have delayed Captain Smith too long already.” “Then Laura,” he said, “I must speak here.” (then the Captain turned away."Do not I entreat you leave me. Let us try once more. If it fails, we can separate on arriving at London.” “No Rob.” “I beg, I entreat you, Laura.” “Never again Rob. You spent half the night in persuading me to go to the vessel if it chanced to be near at daylight and I agreed to accede to your wishes. Having once made up my mind, you know I do not readily change it.” “Will nothing move you?” “No Rob.” “Well then go to ------. If you meet me there you must not expect a cool reception.” This was the parting of husband and wife. “Steward, give the boat’s crew a glass of grog,” said Captain Henry. Then the two skippers shook hands. “Good-bye old man, fair winds and fair weather to you.” “Good-bye and the same to you,” and they laughed because they were bound in opposite directions and a fair wind to one meant ‘more wind in the other’s jib.’ Then down into the boat came the lady, taking her place on the stern benches and we shoved off for our own ship. As we were leaving, all the passengers and Captain Henry and his officers came to the side and said and “Goodbye, goodbye, Mrs. Voysey,” was heard on all sides. The little woman looked up and waved her hand and said goodbye. I did not see her husband and I do not think she looked for him. There was a hard stubborn look in her eyes, in spite of a little quiver and nervous contraction of the lips, showed that she was not relenting. Pulling the after oar, I had a good opportunity of observing her. She was under the usual height, with a well shaped rounded figure, dark expressive eyes, a great coil of dark brown hair, a very pretty mouth and perfect teeth. On her upper lip was a suspicion of black down and between the chin and the under lip a mole half the size of a threepenny bit, I thought, but it was the last time I saw it for weeks. I took her age to be from twenty-eight to thirty. Getting alongside our ship, the hard look left her eyes and she talked vivaciously to the Captain. I thought her the prettiest little woman I had ever seen and lost my seventeen year old heart to her at once. Some of our own crew came to the gangway to pull up the luggage. The Captain went up the ladder and stood with his hands to assist Mrs. Voysey, who was standing in the stern sheets steadying herself by placing one hand lightly on my shoulder as I held the boat to. A seaman named Harris said something to the mate about the luggage and put his head over the side and I felt the lady’s hand grasp my shoulder spasmodically and a shiver seemed to pass over her. The next moment her hand relaxed and she went up the side. The boat was pulled up in the davits and griped and less than an hour later the wind came from the westward and at sundown the Maitland was hull down on the port tack. Mrs. Voysey was domiciled in the berth on our ship on which Wood, the little apprentice who had fallen from aloft had died and as the days went by we wondered if she knew anything about the ghost. I heard the steward tell the mate that the lady cried and sobbed all the first night she was on board and requested Captain Smith to put her on board the Maitland again if it were possible, but of course it was not. The Captain and officers appeared quite devoted to her. They sat longer at meals and when she left the deck after dark one of them always accompanied her to the door of her berth. To a certain extent she was a godsend to us boys. Somehow she gave us confidence in going in and out of the cuddy at night. The fear however had not entirely died out, as was proved by the carpenter remarking that Mrs. Voysey had sent him to tell the Captain to come up and see a lovely sunset, but he said, “if she wants him to see the moon rise she can call him herself.” She had never spoken to me until one day she accosted me at the wheel by saying, “you are the boy who saw the ghost?” She did not seem to be the least impressed by the matter but, patting me on the shoulder said, “If ever you see it again you may run right into my berth and tell me, but don’t tell the Captain or mates. Will you promise me this?” I promised readily and she still further impressed my susceptible boy’s heart by her kind manner. A few days before we made the Ottway, the steward was not very well and the Captain insisted on his having one of the apprentices to help him at meal time in the cabin. We took it in turns. I think the other boys liked it but I felt the menial position before the lady acutely, although I did not mind her seeing me smothered in the tar and grease of sailor’s work. One day I was removing the tureen and soup plates and the steward entered the cabin with a large flat dish on which was a leg of mutton, when the Captain said in a sharp angry voice, “Steward, bring your wife here instantly.” We all looked at him, thinking he had suddenly gone mad but the gravity of the position was destroyed by the pose of the steward and the second mate. The former appeared paralysed. He stood with his eyes dilated, his mouth open, his knees bending, while the dish in his hands tilted and the leg of mutton slipped off it onto the deck and the gravy poured after it. The second mate at the time the Captain spoke, was in the act of drinking some rum and water, their usual dinner beverage. It obviously went down the wrong way and he was gasping and spouting it over Mrs. Voysey, who sat next to him. All the time he was trying to look at the Captain and steward to ascertain which most needed a straight jacket. The lady with both hands stretched out was trying to keep him off. “Don’t stand there like a baboon. Put that dish down and do what I tell you, now,” roared the Captain. The dish was laid down and the steward disappeared into his berth and presently, to our intense astonishment, reappeared accompanied by a poor, delicate looking woman, in a black dress, who curtised to the skipper and then began to cry. “Call all hands aft, Mr. Brown and go out on the main deck steward and take your wife with you,” said the skipper. Then we all followed and the crew being all aft round the Captain, the latter said, “You have all been making fools of yourselves about a ghost. (He seemed to forget he had participated in the folly.) There is your ghost. You can go forward and in future it won’t take two of you ---boys to shove a topgallant studding sail out of the top at night. You needn’t expect to see old reekie in the doublings. This was rather rough on us boys as we knew he shared our fear. He then returned to the table where the mutton had undergone a recovery. The Captain apologised to Mrs. Voysey for not waiting until the meal was over for the denouement. He explained that he had seen in the little mirror which Mrs. Voysey had hung on the mizzen mast, which was close to the Captain’s table, a woman in black flit past and enter the steward’s room. It instantly occurred to him that the steward’s wife had been stowed away in his berth amongst the stores and had impersonated Mrs. Wood. It appeared that the steward had solicited a passage for his wife, but the Captain thinking he would run away in the colonies if he had his wife, refused him. Then the woman was smuggled away behind the casks and cases in his berth. A few weeks previously they had lost their only child, a boy about the same age as young Wood. Her maternal feelings would not allow her to see the little chap attended by the rough hands of the seamen. She had worn her mourning without any intention of impersonating Mrs. Wood at first, but afterwards, finding the confinement intolerable, she extemporised a widow’s cap as a safeguard against discovery. We learnt afterwards that she had made a confidant of Mrs. Voysey directly the latter came on board and her secret was kept and this no doubt accounted for her words to me. After this the steward and his wife worked together and it was astonishing to see how quickly the woman threw off her delicate appearance when the feeling of restraint was removed. We made a good landfall off Cape Otway and were quickly clear of Bass Strait and we received our pilot off Sydney Heads the fifth day after making the Otway. Getting inside the Heads the wind died away and we anchored in North Harbour. The rendezvous flag was then hoisted for a tug, which Pilot Hawkes said would not be got until next morning. The Man Harris, whose name I have mentioned as looking over the side the moment of Mrs. Voysey’s advent on board, had the first anchor watch from 8 p.m. till 10 p.m. with orders to keep it on the poop and about 9 p.m. Mrs. Voysey came up and got into conversation with him, eliciting that he (Harris) had a wife and two children residing in Sydney and that he was on half wages with the understanding that he should be discharged there when the cargo was out. I heard her bid him goodnight and he touched his cap and responded as she went below and she presently sent him up a glass of grog by the steward. I relieved him at 10 p.m. and he was very profuse in his praise of her but summed up by saying, “I think she’s a bit of a high flyer,” which qualified his praise. We were turned to at 5 a.m. the next day and washed down, sent down the studding sail booms and gear etc. A yarn got up amongst us that Mrs. Voysey had been robbed of some jewelry and that the police were to come on board. Harris at once concluded that it was the steward’s wife if indeed she was his wife. At about 10 a.m. the tug Breadalbin came alongside and towed us to Pinchgut, where we anchored. The flag was then run up for the police boat and presently it came alongside with Sergeant Teddy Cowell and two of his men, who came on board. Cowell stood for some time talking to Captain Smith and then Mr. Brown called all hands aft. We mustered in front of the poop and presently the captain said, “Go and give my compliments to Mrs. Voysey and say the water police are waiting. In a few minutes Mrs. Voysey came out of the cuddy with the steward’s wife, who did not look a bit like a guilty person. “Mrs. Voysey,” said Captain Smith, “this gentleman is in charge of the police.” She made a slight inclination of the head and I saw to my surprise that the mole under her lip was there again and was very noticeable. She walked over to the group of seamen and stopped in front of Harris and then turning towards the police, she said clearly and without the least appearance of excitement (except the hard look in her eyes and the little muscular contraction of the lips I had observed when she left her husband on board the Maitland,) “Sergeant, I give this man (touching Harris on the shoulder without turning herself towards him)
in custody for bigamy and robbery. His name is Williams alias Harris.” Cowell motioned to his men to attach Harris. It came like a thunderbolt to us all, even to the captain and officers who had been simply told by Mrs.Voysey that she had been robbed. Suspicion had naturally fallen on the steward and his wife as the only people having access to her belongings. Harris turned as white as a sheet. He evidently never had the slightest recollection who Mrs. Voysey was. “You are quite mistaken marm, you are indeed,” he exclaimed. The lady quickly passed into the cabin without even turning her head to him. Just as she entered the cabin Sergeant Cowell said, “One moment, madam. Who did this man rob?” “Myself,” was the reply. Harris, handcuffed was taken away in the police boat. It was a puzzle to us all how Mrs. Voysey, who had left Adelaide while Harris was in London, could be in a position to bring such a charge as bigamy against the latter. I was, I believe the only person who knew she recognised him from the first and it accounted for the disappearance of the mole on her chin, which was very effectively painted out in order that the recognition would not be mutual. During the day we rigged in the jibboom and topped the lower yards and otherwise prepared to go alongside the wharf. In the evening the captain sent for me. Mrs. Voysey had not landed and I found both of them at the cuddy table. The captain said that as I had promised Mrs. Wood to look after her son, he would like me to write her a letter describing the accident. This would be enclosed with a letter from himself. He said I could take the following morning to write it and I could do it in the cuddy. He dismissed me and the lady held out her hand to me and bade me goodnight and I went forward. Jemmy Waite and I lay on the forecastle head talking of home until midnight. We were both rather romantically inclined boys and both found keen enjoyment in nature and this night was a lovely one and the surroundings were beautiful. The moon was nearly at full and there was not a cloud and the sky was of that beautiful blend of pale and grey (which so many books tell us is only seen in Italy) with myriads of stars (the ‘silver islands in a sapphire sea.’) We could see the somber heights of Woolloomooloo in strong relief against the sky, the white palaces of Potts Point and Shark Bay framed by the dark foliage of their cultivated grounds. The sheen of the moon made a softly brilliant and ever expanding causeway up the centre of the harbour as she rose over the precipitous cliffs of South Head. Pinchgut, then a bare rock with a single dismounted gun on it, was lying ambushed in the deepest shade until touched by the lovely lunar streak to turn its rough sandstone into alabaster. Then came the rattle of the kettle drums, the shrill whistle of the boatswain’s pipe and the notes of the cornets, all rendered musical by the distance and then the bang! Bang! Of the sentries’ muskets as the men went to quarters on board the Queen’s ships in Farm Cove. The bells of the ships scattered all over the harbour struck two and the churches of the city took up the refrain and tolled out nine. It is at least a good harmless topic Max O’Rell not withstanding and will always hold its own on a good basis with the Sydney people. The next morning Captain Crook the pilot came on board and took us alongside Campbells Wharf and inside a barque names Ganges (afterwards for many years a hulk at Bott’s Wharf, Miller’s Point.) Her commander, Captain Allen the late harbour master at Newcastle, had held a Bethel service on board every Sunday and this was transferred to our ship in order to avoid the inconvenience of ladies climbing over one ship to get to another. The late Rev. Mr. Threcleld used to officiate and he always came accompanied by his daughter. While the ship was mooring, I was in the cuddy writing to Mrs. Wood. Mrs. Voysey was sitting at the table and when I had finished I showed her the letter. She read it and said it was very nicely worded and suggested a postscript to which I readily acquiesed.
I then handed it to her for the Captain. I think that she had seen all along that I liked her and before I left the cabin she asked me about my people at home and then whether I had noticed any difference in her appearance. I replied “Oh yes. The little mole on your chin has returned.” “Yes,” she replied, “isn’t it a pity?” I replied “Oh no, I like you ever so much better with it.” She blushed with pleasure at my candour and looked altogether so nice that I could feel the blood in my face and, stammering an awkward “good morning” tried to get away. However she called me back and telling me that I should not probably see her again as she was leaving the ship during the day, she gave me some motherly advice and a little silk purse which she had made herself. She then bent over me and kissed me on the forehead and I took my leave. It was twenty seven years before we met again but I wore that kiss on my forehead for a long time. It is now necessary to explain the relative positions of Mrs. Voysey and Harris and how the former came to be a passenger on board the Maitland. Mrs. Voysey, or Williams as we may now call her, whose maiden name was Trevor, was a orphen having lost her parents when quite young. At their death there was just sufficient means left to educate their only child and she was placed at a boarding school near London when she was fifteen years of age. These means being expended, she was to have occupied the position of junior governess in the same school but unfortunately she was attacked by smallpox of a virulent type and she was at once isolated in an adjoining cottage and attended by Nurse Williams who afterwards was her mother in law. This nurse had a son about twenty-two years of age, who in the temporary absence of his mother used to sit by the patient and go backwards and forwards as necessary, unknown to the school mistress. He was a smart good looking fellow and the patient, in her isolation, naturally looked forward to his visits and in her convalescent days became attached. to him. The mother, hearing from the servants that the girl was an heiress, encouraged the intimacy. As soon as the girl was sufficiently recovered, she was with her own sanction, removed in a cab and Mrs. Williams reported to the school mistress that she had eloped with her son during her temporary absence. She pretended to be ignorant of the complication and to be much incensed. A few days afterwards the young pair was married by a dissenting minister. Mrs. Williams called on the school and produced the certificate of marriage and the school mistress, considering it too late to do anything, told Mrs. Williams the position Miss Trevor had held with her and handed her some articles of jewelry of considerable value which had belonged to Miss Trevor’s mother. Then, taking a receipt for the jewelry she washed her hands of the girl. Young Williams had never seen his wife except while actually suffering from and disfigured by the smallpox. Her head was shaved and she had neither eyelashes nor brows and although she had partly recovered her health, she was very much disfigured at the time of her marriage. He had never cared for her, much less loved her and as soon as he found out from his mother that she was penniless, he got the jewelry into his possession and shipped in a vessel to Sydney without telling his wife. In justice to his mother it must be told that she kept her son’s wife until she recovered her health and she was fast regaining her strength and getting over the shock she received at finding herself deserted by her husband of a few days. Any doubts she had as to his continued absence were set aside by his mother informing her that he would never return. She then replied to an advertisement and obtained a situation as a governess in a private family, where she remained until she heard that her husband had gone as a seaman in a ship bound for Australia. At this time the ardent attentions of the son of the family she was domiciled with became so pressing and annoying that she made up her mind to make an attempt
To follow her husband. She then obtained a situation as travelling companion to a lady proceeding to Sydney. It was with mutual regret that she left her employers for they had become attached to her and had no knowledge of the annoyance she had suffered at the hands of their son. She left London with her new employer in the clipper ship Phoenician, Captain Sproal. Before leaving she unfortunately called on her mother in law who, knowing that her son had no desire to live with his wife, wrote to him warning him of her coming and the letter was received by him on the very day his wife landed in Sydney. Probably it travelled by the same vessel. He was master of a little vessel called ‘The Sisters’ trading between Sydney and the Macleay River and singular to say, his wife actually saw and recognised him on board of her from her position on the Phoenician’s poop, as the latter vessel was being berthed at Campbell’s Wharf, Sydney. Immediately Mrs. Williams could get away from her duties to the lady she had travelled with, she landed and made inquiries for the little vessel and to her intense chagrin, found that it had sailed for the Macleay River that afternoon and would probably be away for three weeks. There was no alternative, as there was no steam communication then, but to wait for her return. Her husband however did not leave in The Sisters but on receiving his mother’s letter, left her and shipped as bos’un in the Scotia for London. He sailed before The Sisters return but it was only on that vessel’s arrival that Mrs. Williams discovered this. She also found that he went by the name of Harris and had gone through the ceremony of marriage with another woman residing in Sydney, whose house she soon discovered. Calling on the woman, ostensibly to get lodgings, she found that like herself she had only found out that Harris had not sailed in The Sisters when the vessel returned and she was in great trouble, being entirely without means. She gladly let a furnished bedroom to Mrs. Williams. The two wives of this despicable ruffian thus became domiciled under the same roof.
In conversation Mrs. Williams soon discovered that the unfortunate creature thought that she was Harris’s wife and that the man had ill treated her from the day of their marriage and Mrs. Williams felt convinced that Harris intended to desert them both. Therefore she at once made up her mind to follow him and the next day she heard of the wife of a clergyman who wanted a companion for the voyage home. She presented her testimonials and obtained the situation and in due time arrived in London again. Taking a hackney, she drove straight to the house of her mother in law who at first did not recognise her so much had she improved. Her face showed no sign of the pitting, her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows had grown, her figure was well rounded. She was a very different person to what she had been when leaving London. The mother denied all knowledge of her son or his whereabouts. This Mrs. Williams did not believe and leaving she domiciled at a private boarding house. The next few days she visited the sailors’ homes, the shipping offices and even the sailors’ boarding houses but heard nothing of her husband. One day however, returning home in a hansom there was a temporary block in the wheel traffic (as often occurred in London) and while her cab was stationary, she saw her husband with another man dressed like a sailor pass on the footpath within a few feet of her. She called out his name and he turned without stopping, his eyes even meeting hers, but without recognition. The next moment he was absorbed in the crowd of passers. Some days afterwards she heard by accident that Williams had shipped in the Shomberg, Captain Forbes, to work his passage from Liverpool to Melbourne. Although from the moment she heard this she knew she would follow him, it was a terrible disappointment, for she had felt sure she would meet him in London sooner or later. She was greatly depressed and her funds were insufficient to pay her fare to Melbourne. Later however, she obtained an engagement to chaperone two young ladies who were returning to their parents after schooling at a Strasberg convent and eventually she, with her charges left London for Melbourne in the Isabella Watson, Captain Fullerton (afterwards lost on Point Nepean.) Arriving safely at her destination, she obtained an engagement with the parents of the young charges she had travelled with and she embraced every opportunity of making enquiries for her husband. She heard the Shomberg had been lost close to Melbourne Heads but she could not trace anyone that fitted the description of her husband. Saving her earnings she left her place at the end of six months. She devoted some weeks entirely to enquiry. Utterly unsuccessful, she paid her passage to Sydney, visiting Mrs. Harris whom she found earning her own and her child’s living at laundry work and who had heard nothing of Harris. She then took a situation as bar maid at the Observer Tavern, kept by a Mr. Birch in Lower George Street, much frequented by seamen. Although she frequently saw men who knew her husband, none had met him later than herself. While in this hotel, who should stroll in but the son of her old employer in London, who had so persecuted her with his attentions. He instantly recognised her and from that day became a constant caller. He took the first opportunity of telling her his feelings for her had not changed and offered to marry her immediately or wait any reasonable time if she would hold out any hope to him. She told him she did not love him but that did not rebuff him. He said he would take his chance of that coming later if she would marry him. He had an income of 750 pounds a year, was thirty years of age, tall, gentlemanly and good looking. She had to acknowledge to herself he was a very eligible party for any girl in her position if free. What gave her real uneasiness was that she had begun to watch for his coming each evening but because she was so busy at her work, had little chance to speak with him. As time went on she realised that she loved this man who she could never marry and who had not the least idea that she was already a wife – a deserted wife from no fault of her own and imbued with a stubborn determination to follow and track her renegade husband, if she spent her life travelling from one end of the universe to the other. She had already followed him once around the globe and had crossed the Equator three times and now what could this other man’s love be to her? The next morning she gave notice to her employers who at once offered to raise her salary but this did not alter her determination. She replied to an advertisement in an Adelaide paper and enclosing her references, succeeded in obtaining a situation in one of the best hotels in Hindley Street in the city. She was able to keep her intended departure from her lover until the evening previous to her leaving. He then tried everything in his power to make her give up her journey and marry him and at last threatened both her and himself until she became terrified and he left her almost raving. The next day she left for Adelaide in the old London via Melbourne. The few hours she was in Melbourne she devoted to her quest, visiting sailors’ homes and shipping offices, but learned nothing. On arrival in Port Adelaide in the S.S. Burra Burra she made further inquiries without result before going to her situation in the city, which is seven miles from the port and shipping. She had been domiciled only a month in her new situation in Hindley Street, when one morning Mr. Voysey walked in. He had never been absent from her thoughts and she found it impossible to receive him coldly. He offered no explanation for being there but simply dropped into the old habit of calling every day and she could not bring herself to refuse his escort during the hours of recess she was allowed every evening and which she always spent in walking in the beautiful public gardens. At last she felt that in justice to him, she should make him acquainted with her true position. Up to this time Voysey had believed her to be perfectly indifferent to him, so during one evening’s promenade she told him of her history. He never interrupted her and at the close of her narrative, so far from its making any difference in his feelings for her, he at once assured her that he should devote himself to the quest of her renegade husband, never appearing to think of his own position relative to her if he was successful. His disinterestedness quite overcame her caution and she warmly expressed her gratitude and wept. The next day Voysey inserted advertisements in every newspaper of note in Australia and actually visited nearly every goldfield , being absent three months, but learned nothing of Williams alias Harris. Had he found him he would have either bought him to assist in the divorce or killed him. From what developed later I think there is little doubt of the latter. Having done all he could he returned to Hindley Street. The old routine of life commenced again but after a week or two became intolerable and knowing he was loved, he used every persuasion to induce her to domicile with him. He pointed out that to go through the marriage ceremony would place them at William’s mercy if he turned up and he would surely blackmail them or worse. True, Williams had married another woman in Sydney but two wrongs would not make a right, whereas if they kept themselves within the law, although at the expense of morality, there would be little difficulty with Williams by way of divorce , if it was made worth his while. She had to admit all this but she would not entertain domiciling with him. One day he was thrown from his horse receiving severe injuries. She left her situation and nursed him. When he was convalescent, acceding to his earnest desire, she engaged a companion and kept his house for him at Glen Osmond, calling herself Mrs. Voysey. These conditions continued for two or three years when Voysey began to develop a most violent temper. However, the woman remained his housekeeper for eight years, when in constant fear that in one of his ungovernable fits of temper he would take her life or his own, she made up her mind to leave him, which would not be difficult if she could only get away without his knowledge. By the assistance of a friend in a shipping firm in the port, she took a saloon passage in the Maitland for London. She managed to get her luggage on board and leaving a farewell letter, arranged so as to get herself on board a few minutes before the tug took the Maitland in tow. The tug let the ship go in Holdfast Bay. It was calm and the anchor was let go. The next morning just as the yards were abox and the anchor apeak for sailing, the tug came alongside with Mr. Voysey and his luggage. He had traced Mrs. Voysey to the shipping company’s office, taken his passage and engaged the tug to put him on board. For some time their friendly relations continued, then Voysey’s temper again asserted itself and led to the final resolve of Mrs. Voysey to leave the ship mid ocean. The day Mrs. Voysey kissed me she left our ship and as I have said, I did not meet her again for many years. Harris was not brought to trial, as while at large on bail, he was killed on Bott’s Wharf, being crushed between two drays. Mr. Voysey left the Maitland when she called at The Cape of Good Hope for supplies and returned to Australia where he met Mrs. Williams (as she may now be called) again and they were married in St. James Church, King Street. I next met her on board the Eastern and Australian Company’s steamer Brisbane, a wealthy widow bound to London via China and Japan. The name Voysey is of course fictitious.
At this time there were no deep water berths alongside any of the wharves in Sydney Cove. All vessels required a long staging from their gangways to the wharf to admit of their lying afloat and after we had so rigged a stage, the discharge of cargo was carried on from day to day, occupying as on the previous voyage about six weeks. Very exciting and favourable news appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and Empire from the gold diggings at the Turon, Bendigo, Ballarat and other places and the crew as usual, made up their minds to abscond from the ship on the first opportunity. For my part, I had a good time while in port. On Saturday evening the crew used to receive ten shillings on account of their wages and the apprentices, five shillings. My chum Jemmy Waite and I used for a shilling get into the gallery of the Victoria Theatre which then stood in Pitt Street mid way between King and Market Streets. We had much appreciation for Frank Howson, Mrs. Gibbs (with her lisp) and Julia Matthews with whom all the boys were in love. Then there were Lola Montez, Madam Sarah Fowler, Mary Provost and other theatricals of the day. After the play we would purchase saveloys which were excellent so far as quantity went for a penny (meat was only three farthings per pound) and a loaf of soft tack. This would provide a merry and satisfactory supper on board before turning in. Jemmy Waite and I made the acquaintance of some very hospitable people who kept a fruiterer’s shop in George Street opposite Jannisons Street and we frequently spent our evenings with them and would go to old Saint Phillip’s Church on Sabbath evenings with the three daughters and we were keenly disappointed that all three were devout. (handwriting here I can’t understand) About this time I received a letter from my mother informing me the family was again domiciled at Woodford in England and that my father would soon be engaged in London in business. I was to stick to my ship and that as soon as I was able to obtain a master’s certificate he would purchase an interest in a vessel for me to command. I also received a letter from Ida asking me to write to her about the voyage out but containing nothing indicative of sentiment. Although I felt I had cause to complain it gave me no disappointment but I may here say that before we left Sydney I received a letter from my elder brother of the two at school, telling me of the sweet companionship that existed between Ida and himself and of their intention to marry when older, which explained matters. After all she was just a little hoyden who kissed every boy after his birching by her brother. One day, while the cargo was discharging, a pilot moored a schooner named Nancy alongside of us, (the Ganges having sailed.) She was originally from Leith, Scotland, in command of a Captain Peebles, father of the present Torres Straits pilot of that name. She made a long passage and called into Monte Video for provisions and water and later at the Cape of Good Hope and thence on to Sydney. When about to sail from Leith Heads the chronometer was dropped from the rail into the boat which had brought it to the ship but Captain Peebles refused to delay sailing until another could be obtained. He brought the vessel to Sydney calling at the ports of Oporto, Monte Video and Cape of Good Hope and making good landfalls on dead reckoning only. Every evening the Nancy lay alongside us her crew would pass bucketsful of Port Wine on board with the result that little work was done by our men. Captain Peebles was a Kircaldy man and a school mate of our captain and he eventually shipped as boatswain on our ship. When the cargo was about half discharged four of our able seamen absconded. A reward equivalent to the wages due to them was at once offered by the captain. The result was that they were captured by the Water Police, and being brought before the magistrates, were sentenced to three months imprisonment or to be put on board the ship when ready for sea. The rest of the crew, taking warning by their fate, made it up to ask the captain for liberty when the cargo was out and having a clear day’s start, get right away. When the cargo was about half out, they all went to the captain when he made an appearance at the after capstan and civilly asked if he would give them a day’s liberty when the cargo was out. To this he replied in the affirmative and promised each man forty shillings on account of wages. The men were satisfied, returned to their work and from that day commenced to get their clothes ashore to the different friends they had made since arriving. These friends, in nearly every instance, were crimps of the worst description who had placed themselves in Jack’s way making advances towards acquaintance while intending to stow him away until a reward was offered and then sell him to the water police. At this time there were numbers of these wretches both in Sydney and in Melbourne. Well the cargo began to look small in the hold and the ship got tender and at last there was nothing left but eighty tons of coal on the floor. Then there came on of Billy’s Blue’s lighters full of ballast alongside to stiffen her. Some little consultation took place in the forecastle as to whether it should be taken in but as the vessel would not stand if the coal was discharged without first taking in the ballast, the crew agreed to load it. The stiffening being in, tubs were slung and whips got up to discharge the coal. All being ready, in the evening Jack landed the rest of his traps except what he stood in and his best suit for liberty day. Next morning brought the second mate forward as usual with his “Turn to, men.” Out they came and before they had time to hitch their pants they hear a voice which could not possibly be mistaken for anyone but Mr. Mud-pilot Crook’s saying, “lay aft and haul in the stern moorings.” The men looked at one another and then at the shore. On the wharf they see that the moorings have been cast off by the pilot’s crew, that tackles are on the stage so it may fall from the rail and they observe Teddy Cowell and four Water Policemen chatting carelessly alongside the ship. The men see that they are sold and go about like sheep, hauling in the mooring hawsers and finally man the windlass and sheer the ship off to her anchor in dead ominous silence, for in those days Jack loved to shanty at his work. Presently, a wretched little tug came under the bows and the anchor being away, the old Duke was towed down to Garden Island and moored. As soon as the weather bits were on the cable, aft to the captain go the crew and directly he appears at the cuddy door they begin to accuse him of breach of faith in no measured terms. He listens to them looking straight in their eyes and as soon as there is a pause he says quietly, “What are you making a fuss about men? I promised you liberty when the cargo was out and as soon as the last tub of coal is over the side you shall have it. I pledge you my word.” The men roughly apologised for their mistake and went forward jubilant and Blue’s lighter came alongside in the afternoon. They worked so cheerfully and well that at four o’clock the next afternoon the coal was out of the ship. Then having washed and had supper they made preparations for liberty, taking a final farewell of the ship the next day for with twenty – four hours start, they considered capture out of the question. At this time every man’s chest and hammock was in the forecastle. The former containing some stones or rubbish to give it the appearance of containing clothes if an officer happened to step in and the latter being destitute of blankets – the men having landed all their effects while at the wharf. Early the following morning one of the blue’s lighters with ballast came alongside and presently to the men’s surprise the order “turn to men, rig the stages for ballast.” was heard. The men tell the mate it is liberty day. He wants them to turn to until the skipper is up but the men are suspicious and refuse. Presently the mate comes forward again with “Lay aft to the captain.” This they quickly do and the captain speaks first. “Well men the cargo is all out and now
You can have your liberty. I suppose none of you will run away from the ship?” All smiled scornfully – it would break their hearts to leave the old Duke. “Very well men, I will keep my word. See that you keep yours.” Any two of you can go ashore today and return tomorrow morning at eight o’clock and so on each day until all have had their liberty. Of course, the first man who does not return stops the liberty of the rest.” You could see in every man’s face “Sold, by jingo.” They walked forward without a word and after a warm discussion amongst themselves it was finally settled that two of the crew, one a married man whose wife was in London and the other a very delicate consumptive man (who had both declared that they intended to go away with the ship) should be the first to go on liberty. So these two, having received their forty shillings liberty money, went ashore with the captain in old Boomer, the waterman’s boat. The remainder of the crew took in ballast the rest of the day. That night two of the crew got ashore on a stage the carpenter had been working on during the day and no more was seen of them. The next morning to the crew’s great disgust, neither of the liberty men put in an appearance so of course no more were allowed to go ashore. The captain said he would wait till noon. Meanwhile the rest of the crew refused to turn to. During the dinner the cook and one seaman got over the bows into the water without attracting attention and swam ashore. They were not missed for some time even by some of the crew. We had only four A.B’s left and during the afternoon the officers and the apprentices swung the ship’s boats inboard and lashed and secured them as for sea, in case of the men rushing them. The captain then went ashore in old Boomer’s boat and later on returned in the Water Police boat with Teddy Cowell and took the remaining four A.B’s away to the lock up. The next morning they were sentenced to lie in Woolloomooloo Jail until the vessel was ready for sea, for refusing duty. The four men who deserted when the vessel arrived being there already, the captain was thus sure of eight of his crew. Well, the ship was ballasted by the officers and apprentices and sometimes we had the assistance of the apprentices and carpenter of the old ‘Glenbervie’ a barque owned by the same firm, also lying without a crew. When ready for sea we heard we were bound for Singapore, through Torres Straits. A little country wallah barque called the ‘Tenasserim’ was to be our consort, for at time vessels never went the Torres Straits route alone but sailed together for mutual assistance and protection in case of wreck or attack from the Malay or Chinese pirates. At that time I little thought how conversant with and what experience I should have in after life, in the then imperfectly known and much dreaded Torres Straits. The sailing day came and early in the morning (the ship had been unmoored the previous day and was riding to a single anchor) off came the captain with four seamen in place of those who had got away clear. Then came the Water Police boat in charge of Mr. Cowell, bringing the eight men who had been in Woolloomooloo Jail for desertion and refusing duty. These men had left the ship fine, hearty, brown, big whiskered fellows. It was difficult to recognise them with blanched whiskerless faces, close cropped hair and darbies on their wrists. They scrambled up the ship’s side and greeted the officers and apprentices with furtive chagrined looks. Teddy Cowell and his myrimidons followed them on board and being mustered on the main deck in front of the poop, where stood the captain and mate, the men were asked each one separately, if he would turn to if the irons were removed. Each man sullenly refused. Then the difficulty arose that the new men would not sign the articles with the ship shorthanded. The captain told Cowell that he would take the men to sea in irons and the third mate (Mr. Staig) was sent for the ship’s irons to substitute for those belonging to the Water Police. The men, seeing that they would be taken to sea, made virtue of necessity and expressed willingness to turn to. Accordingly the irons were taken off all with the exception of a man named William Perry, a native of Dover. He was a man of some education and of good extraction but who still refused to turn to. The men having turned to, Perry sat on the spare spars in the gangway. The windlass manned and the old pump-wind pump-thunder machine brought the cable slowly in to the shanty of ‘Fare you well my bonny young girl, Britannia rules the waves’ from the throats of all, as heartily as if they had been dining on turtle and champagne instead of supping skilly and submitting to tonsorial manipulation at the expense of her most Gracious Majesty for the previous six weeks, in Wooloomooloo jail and had no aspiration in life but navigating the old hooker to Singapore. “Anchor’s short, Pilot.” “Then loose the sails and let fall the bunts and sheet home.” The yards were laid abox, the windlass again manned and the anchor hove away to ‘Bully in the Alley.’ Then the main yard fills, the ‘Old Duke’s’ head falls off and gathering away with a fresh southerly wind she is soon past Bradley’s Head and Sow and Pigs and when between South Reef and North Head, in whose contour the 'Old Duke' is again repeated in profile, the main yard is laid to the mast, the pilot boat (a fine whale boat with a Maori crew) is hauled up and pilot Gibson, wishing us bon voyage leaves the ship. “Fill the main yard and dip the Ensign and then all hands to the cat-fall.” The anchor is coming to the cathead to the strains of “Cheerily men, haul, hold on the fall, cook steward and all,” when “Fare you well lads, tell them at Dover,” rings out loud and clear and our attention is drawn off just in time to see Perry, clothed and ironed, spring from the swinging boom just abaft the fore rigging into the sea. The Captain roars “Down helm, port main brace.” The vessel comes to the wind and the mainyard to the mast, the courses were not on her and all hands are cutting and slashing at the seizings on the boat’s falls and gripes and throwing out pumpkins, cabbages, carrots etc. etc. of which quarter boats were always full, some going overboard and some on the poop. In the midst of all the hubbub I could not help noticing that the steward was gesticulating and singing out to the men to throw his vegetables inboard. Well, at last the boat was in the water and the second mate, Rory Anderson and four seamen in her, but in spite of the risk of what we all supposed was a drowning man in irons, the captain himself stood by the mate who held the boat’s painter and insisted on the seamen coming up on deck out of the boat and four apprentices taking their places. “Cut the painter,” roars the man in the boat and out comes a knife. Out comes the captain’s hand from his pocket with a rusty old flint lock pistol. “Cut and by God I’ll shoot you,” he says “Do you want to drown your shipmate?” At this moment the lad Badderly sang out “I see him.” The men came up the falls into the channels in a moment, down slid the four apprentices and away went the boat. I heard the captain remark to the mate, “Better lose one than four. These brutes would have taken the boat and cleared.” We lay to for them for two to four hours waiting for the boat and during this time the little barque, our would be consort, came out, passed close to us, called out something to us we could not understand and then under all sail, steered to the northward and that was the last we ever saw of her. The boat, after leaving the ship in charge of the second mate, was steered right in the direction it was thought the man would be. He was known to be an expert and powerful swimmer, but with hand cuffs on and his system reduced by six weeks of gaol diet and discipline, it seemed impossible he could keep afloat for any length of time. On board the ship we watched for the boat, hove round and stood in and watched and watched, until the captain lost his temper and swore the second mate and apprentices had cleared out boat and all and the order had been given to run the Jack up for a pilot boat to take the ship in, when we saw the boat coming round the south reef. At last she was alongside and to our great surprise Perry was lying in the bottom of her to all appearances dead. The boat was pulled up to the davits and the man lifted out, much exhausted but evidently not seriously so. However, he was taken below and out in one of the cabin state rooms and the yards being filled, we steered to the northward after our consort who was now more than a hull down. Perry, having drunk a glass of rum and changed his clothes, seemed very little the worse for his long immersion. It appears he knew he could get his handcuffs off before he jumped overboard and he could with free hands undress himself in the water. He had not the least anxiety about swimming ashore. His mistake had been in bidding the men farewell. He had supposed the ship, being between the Heads would not be rounded to as the pilot had left her. Once in the water, he quickly slipped the handcuffs, then his coat and vest, but in spite of every effort he could not get off his half Wellington boots and these together with his reduced system knocked him up. The boat pulled past him and around him and past him again, then finally gave him up. When returning, they actually struck him without the men seeing him, so entirely had they given him up. The next day on being asked to turn to in the mate’s watch, he refused, swearing he would never do a hand’s turn on board the ship if she were sinking and I don’t think he would. The first thing was to get ward of our consort and during the night the wind freshened and we cracked on to the Old Duke getting nine, sometimes nine and a half out of her with the topgallant sail set over single reefed topsails. We burnt blue lights and fired rockets but without any response. When daylight came she was not in sight from the royal yard. Our skipper was very much concerned, for he had never been through Torres Straits and the master of the Tenasserim was an old trader. His vessel also was much better armed than ours. She had given us the slip for the present but hopes were entertained of picking her up at the entrance to the Straits. We carried fine weather and moderate winds for some days and we were nearing Wreck Reef which we expected to pass 5 degrees to the eastward, about noon. About 11.50 we were all on the poop with our sextants and I noticed that the captain kept working up his altitude on his thumb nail as was his wont when anxious about his latitude. Presently he said, “A hand aloft. Lookout for reef on starboard bow.” A man on the fore topsail yard reported, “Nothing in sight.” The sun dipped and we all went below with our sextants. A few minutes afterwards, the captain went into the mizzen rigging but he hardly got on the fair leader when he sang out “Down helm!” However, before it could be brought over there came a ‘scurr! scurr!’ and she went on Wreck Reef. The sea was smooth as a lake. At once the yards were thrown aback and as soon as we had time to look around us we saw she had struck on a narrow projecting spur of the reef, composed of dead coral which was almost awash just ahead. One of the quarter boats was lowered and a kedge anchor and hawser were laid astern of the ship. It was flood tide and before the hawser was taut to the capstan the ship backed off into deep water. The hawser was at once cut away. The filled after yards were braced up on the starboard tack and the vessel hauled to eastward until she was clear of the main portion of the reef. The boat was hoisted up to the davits and the pumps sounded but she had made no water and it was presumed we had escaped with the loss of the kedge and hawser. This was a bad beginning and I think it depressed the captain for some time. However, it made us doubly vigilant in watching our chronometers and the current. Not a night passed without lunars or stars being worked to verify our day’s reckoning. The wind continued light with a smooth sea and fine weather. A lookout was kept both night and day on the forecastle. The fourth day after grounding, the vessel’s position was computed at 4 p.m. to be 25 miles east of Raine Island Passage and the vessel was brought to the wind and stood off and on until daybreak. A cast of the deep sea lead being taken every hour. When day broke the next morning, the ship was kept away under all sail and a little later as it got light, no less than the sails of five vessels were seen about five miles ahead, steering the same course as ourselves. This was of course, very gratifying to all of us and we fully expected that our consort, the Tanasserim, would be one of them. As soon as the sun was above the horizon the ‘Old Duke’ showed the signal at her spanker gaff. ”I wish to communicate.” This was quickly replied to by the nearest of the ships, which hoisted her ensign and Marryatt’s code pennant. We then had the satisfaction of seeing her lay her mainyard to the mast and wait for us to close. The other four vessels followed suit and we were uickly alongside of them. They proved to be, a full rigged ship belonging to Messrs Wigram & Co. of London named ‘Prince Alfred,’ three Dutch barques named respectively the ‘Hendrick’, ‘Pictura’ and ‘Bulverstein’ and a Bremen brig ‘Louisa Fredrika.’ Our boat was lowered and the captain went on board the Prince Alfred and presently all the other captains followed, where they examined the chart, mutually agreed on the tract to take during the day. After a glass of wine each returned to his ship and all filling away steered the same course towards the opening. All the six vessels were within the radius of a mole, the Hendrick keeping the lead. The wind gradually fell lighter as the day got older. It was noon before the Hendrick signalled the Raine Island Beacon in sight and altered her course a point to the northward. All the vessels steered after her and about 2.30 we were nearly abreast of Raine Island. By this time the winds was so light and the current so strong setting to the northward, that we had all to steer right across the channel and very great apprehensions were felt that we might not be able to clear the broken water on the port hand. However, the wind freshened about 3 o’clock. Two hours after, the sun was getting too far ahead for a lookout of any value to be depended on and presently the commodore, as we had already dubbed the Hendrick, signalled ‘come to’ and her topgallant sails and royals being clewed up she soon after fired a gun at her starboard gangway and down went her anchor. We were only about half a mile astern. “Clew up and haul down light sails,” was the order of the day and it was easy to see that our fellows and the crew of the other English ship, the Prince Alfred, were on their mettle to show the Dutchmen how to take in sail and I never saw it done smarter before or since on board a merchant ship. Well each ship picked her berth and anchored, furled sails and then lowered a boat. Each with their captain pulled towards Raine Island, which was two and a half miles to the eastwards of the ships. All met on the little island and the skippers walked up to the beacon together. This was a little tower in three sections of concrete and iron and in addition of serving the purpose of a beacon, it served as a water tank, the rain falling on the top surface running into the midship section. However, it was in disrepair and there was no water except in a small tank standing alongside. The tower was erected by the crew of one of Her Majesty’s ships under orders from the Admiralty. In a box was a book containing the names of two ships that had passed onwards a few days previously. One of these had been ashore on a detached reef south of Raine Island but had got off without damage. I have forgotten the names of these vessels. Towards sundown we left the island and pulled towards the Hendrick where a track was picked off for the next day. (87)After a little conviviality gone in for in the cabin and a little schnapps and cheese (the latter as salt as Lot’s wife’s elbow) with black bread given to the boat’s crew, each boat pulled for its respective ship. Then, a double watch anchor being set, nothing further occurred until sunrise the next morning. Canvas set and anchors short (we were anchored in very deep water) bang went the gun from the Hendrick and all were under way following her lead in a few moments. There was about a four knot breeze and the Commodore was not doing quite so well as on the previous day, so that at 8 a.m. we were all close to her except the brig. All could carry a conversation, one ship with her neighbour and we had to lower down the royals and main top-gallant sail, to restrain the old Duke's ardour, or we should have very soon been leading. Presently, “reef ahead” was sung out by the lookout on our topsail yard and luffing up quickly, our jibboom was in a moment right across the Pictura’s poop. It passed under the topping lift of her mizzen boom carrying it away and we shot across her wake as she struck on the coral forward and then swung around with her stern in deep water. We touched very lightly but did not stop. The brig was astern and seeing the Pictura’s head to the southward with her yards aback, put her helm starboard and presently she stuck fast on the weather side of the patch. Had she ported, leaving the Pictura to port and followed us, who were afloat, she would have cleared. We at once lay to and the Hedrick took in her light sails and anchored and lowering a boat, her master, with kedge and warp, passed close to us calling out “ its young flood, proceed and anchor off Mount Adolphus, we will soon join you.” So we filled away the main yard and in company of the Bulverstein and Prince Alfred, steered to the northward. About noon the wind fell very light and the sky was overcast, so that false alarms were continually being given from all the mastheads and the vessels were within speaking distance of each other. “Discoloured water on the port bow.” “Reef on starboard bow.” Were continually reported, but always proved to be the shades of the clouds passing. It, however seemed to make the skippers nervous and presently the master of the Bulverstein called out “bad water, bad water, anchor! anchor!” In less than a minute both ours and the Prince Alfred’s helm were down and long before the vessels had come to the wind both anchors run out in twelve fathoms, our windlass being on fire and the forecastle full of smoke from the friction, the anchor having been let go before the carpenter could get his buckets of water, which in those days of wooden welped windlasses were necessarily dashed on the body of the windlass before or while the cable was running out, to prevent ignition from the friction. Well, the anchors down, the vessel swung head to the wind which was very light. The sky cleared the sun came out and everyone looked around for the danger we had anchored in such a hurry to avoid. “What water?” “Twelve fathoms Sir,” Then a pause and the captain and mate looked at the chart spread on the skylight . “so there ought to be.” “Can you see any reef from the crosstrees?” “No Sir, Only a small sandbank on the starboard quarter.” Another look at the chart. “So there ought to be.” Then “what the h--- did that d----- Dutchman fancy he saw?” said the captain. The leadsman going forward amongst the rest of the crewtells them there was “no bad water, no reef.” Then Jack bowses up his jawing tackle, “what was the b----- Dutchman frightened of etc etc.” Presently the captain of the Prince Alfred came alongside. “Ain’t we a pair of B---- idiots to anchor because of that God D------ yah for yes sung out for bad water.” It was the most sensible remark made up to that time. The captain went below and had grog,cheese and biscuits and in a few minutes the Bulverstein captain came on board, being met at the gangway by the two English captains and at once being taken below. He was a little round fat man with a smiling red face that looked as if it was just french polished and his breechers were like those worn by the Greek, very baggy and full, as if he expected his already ample proportions to gain in rotundity. Amongst our ship’s company he was after this always referred to as “Bags” and “Bad Water.” After the lapse of about half an hour the three skippers came on deck, all looking as Schooner Bill said, as if they had a very tough job over the chart. “Bags” and the captain of the Prince Alfred returned to their ships and presently nothing was heard but the shanty songs of the tars, accompanied by the clank, clank of the windlasses of the three vessels and they purchased their anchors with their yards abox. “Anchors away, Sir” “Up jib and fill away foreyard,” and we were off again. We soon saw the Pictura and the Hendrick following. The brig was afloat and swung head to the wind, but had to pick up her kedge anchor. The wind was dead aft and with royals clewed up and topgallant yards on the cap, we were quickly overhauled by the vessels astern. About 6 p.m. bang went the Hedrick’s gun and we were soon all safely anchored under Mount Adolphus. Double anchor watch was set, an old Brown Bess (tower musket) with flint being laid on the poop skylight, with instructions to the watch to fire it in case of seeing canoes close to the ship, but we could see the Dutchman’s boats going backward and forwards.
The night passed quietly and at 4.30 a.m. we roused out and commenced mast heading topsail yards and hove short and at 5 a.m. we were all under way with a light south easter. Every rag was set and the six vessels were close together so that each was conversing with the other and presently our men commenced throwing biscuits on board our neighbour, the Pictura, and her people threw cheese sewed up in canvas in return. This however, was stopped by our boatswain Phillip Peebles, who with his usual expletive “speer and pocato men” went on to the forecastle head and with an iron bolt bent on to some spun yarn, soon had direct communication with the Pictura and the men filled a sail bag with biscuits and were making it fast to the bight of the spun yarn, when “haul the courses up, clew up the royals and lower topgallant yards on the cap,” came from our poop and by the time this was done, the old Duke was fast dropping astern. The Bulverstein and the brig very soon followed our movements and at eight bells the Hendrick was leading and we again made all sail and gradually drew up to her. The wind kept very light and with the tide setting strong to the north east, we made but little headway and everyone was anxious about getting to a good anchorage for the night. At noon as the Prince Alfred and the Pictura were within speaking distance of us and the three skippers were talking to each other, the Hendrick being about a quarter of a mile ahead.
Our crew had just gone below to their beef and ‘strike me blind’ (rice) and there was only the helmsman, captain and the second mate on deck, when bang went the Hendrick’s gun and up she came to the wind with everything aback. Down went our helm and in a crack we were foul of the Prince Alfred, our bowsprit being over her port bow and the Pictura rove in between us, both abaft the brig and the Bulverstein. Both hauled on the wind on that starboard tack. It was fortunately as smooth as a river and neither of the vessels had received serious injury by the first contact, but it was quite a different matter to get clear. Of course, all supposed that the Hendrick had struck or was close on a reef, but we were too much occupied at first to take notice of her, but presently she hoisted a signal ‘man overboard,’ and our skipper saw he had been too precipitate. In spite of the ships being still in collision, a boat from each of the three vessels was quickly lowered and sent to where the Hendrick’s boat was seen and the rest of us did all that we could to extricate (91) the vessel. Our jibboom was run under the Prince’s fore-stays and her wide channels at her fore rigging projecting about eighteen inches from her sides, were tearing up the bluff of our starboard bow. Our boatswain, Peebles was out on our jibboom with two or three of our crew, tomahawk in hand (which he always kept in his berth) and there was one of the Prince’s youngsters, a stout lump of a chap, upon our boon also. They were shoving and bearing off but doing no good. Presently says Peebles, “Shove lads” and them pushing the axe into the Prince’s chap’s hands, he said “now chop, laddie, chop quick,” and the laddie was just going to chop at our port jib guys. “Nae, nae, laddie. The stays,” and in a few minutes the youngster had his ship’s fore stays cut nearly through when the strain parted the rest. The jerk shook Peebles and the boy off the boom onto the Prince Alfred’s forecastle. The old Duke’s boom being released, she commenced dropping square alongside the Prince, but the flying boom caught her topmast stays and it carried away, bringing down our fore royal and topgallant masts. The rest of the crew with the captain and mate had been getting the Pictura free and when we dropped off the Prince Alfred, the Pictura was immediately astern of us but clear. We had just got to the braces to trim the yards when our boat returned in charge of the second mate, who stated that they had not recovered the man, who it was supposed had struck the main yard arm in falling.
A minute or two afterwards the Bulverstein boat pulled alongside and before he had got to the ladder the captain sang out, “bad vater, bad vater, hein rock, vot you got?” When he got on deck he was given to understand what the mistake had been – that there was only bad water for one as Geordie Jack said. He was going to return to his ship, which was now half a mile distant, hove to. Although we were very busy with our topgallant mast hanging over the side, our captain signaled for the Bulverstein to run down on her boat, but unfortunately her steerman ( mate) read the signal “Let go your anchor,” (92) and presently it want down in twenty- three fathoms of water and about fifty fathoms of cable ran out. The brig seeing her anchor stood close over to her and let go also. ‘Bad vater ‘ then got into his boat in high dungeon (I think he was under the misapprehension that we had made the signal) and made for his ship. We, with the Pictura and the Prince Alfred filled our yards and followed the Hendrick, which had the Dutch ensign half mast for the drowned man, who it appeared fell from the main topsail yard while pointing a top gallnat studding sail boom through the boom iron. Her skipper growing anxious lest, if the wind did not freshen, an anchorage would not be reached before night, having resolved contrary to the arrangement come to at Raine Island by all the captains to set his studding sails. About 3.30 p.m. the wind freshened, but as it was dead aft the loss of our fore-topgallant sail, royal and flying jib made no difference to the sailing. No notice was taken of the two vessels lying astern to an anchor. We were too well employed clearing away our wreck forward and could see the Prince Alfred people getting up a tackle to the foremast head to secure the mast, in place of the fore stays which Peebles had made her own apprentice chop away. The Pictura’s crew were also smartly engaged, for she had two men slung over the side in the wake of the main channels. The wind was freshening all the time and two of our people were sent into the head to come up the flying jib and topgallant stays. They had scarcely got over the bows before they jumped up again, roaring out frantically, “back the main yard and put helm down. ”Down went the helm. The men ran down from aloft and everything was flat aback. The Prince Alfred just in our wake astern, rounded to also and the Pictura which was astern of and on the port quarter of the Prince, almost immediately followed suit and struck the Prince’s stern in the quarter gallery, carrying away the topping lift of the Prince’s (93) mizzen boom, which dropping on the wheel, smashed it and narrowly missed killing the man. Well it turned out there was no bad water for anyone this time. Our men, on going into the head saw a man hanging to the lower bobstay shackle. As he had no hold except with his hands, they considered very correctly that the way should be taken off the ship immediately. However, as the wind was right aft, the yards could only be backed by putting the helm down. Of course the matter was soon understood and one of our people went over the bow with a bowline and pulled the exhausted man up on board. Then, the yards being filled, we steered for the Hendrick which was a distance ahead, with her courses up and top gallant yards on the caps. The man we had picked up was presumed to be the Hendrick’s man, for whom her ensign was flying half mast. He could not speak a word although interrogated by a Dutch seaman of our crew. We were all standing by him while his countryman asked him did he belong to the Hendrick, but not a word did he, or could he utter. Then the carpenter stepped forward and gave him a piece of chalk and a board. The man took it and sitting down on the deck, squared himself up for writing. The captain then says, “now ask him Jack if he belongs to the Hendrick?” We all stood around him breathlessly. The mate looking down from the poop breaks the silence by calling to the helmsman, “keep the Hendrick dead ahead.” Then the man commenced to write. He was about three minutes with his face bent down close to the board and then raised it to show a very unmistakable but badly formed S. The Dutchman had told us to expect a Y. Then down to it again for another spell and then another exhibit and so on, until at last he had perpertrated “schnapps” and one of our hands exclaimed “schnapps! By God.” “Bring another glass of grog, steward,” said the skipper, who had given the man brandy as soon as he was got aboard. As no information could be got from him he was put into one of the cabin berths and was soon asleep. There was quite a fresh breeze and we were rapidly approaching (94) Wednesday Island and South Torres Reef and quickly came up to the Hendrick who still had her courses up. Presently, his little Dutch skipper asks through his speaking trumpet, “vat is the matter? Vat you stop? Vat you see?” Then, referring to the collisions, “Mein Gott, the zee is too little for the ships. Dere is always two ships in the one place.” ‘Shall we get to Goode Island before dark?” asks our skipper. “Yah, yes, we cannot wait for zee ship,” and down came his fore course and up went his topgallant and royal sails and we were soon bowling along at seven knots, past and close to Wednesday, Hammond and Goode Islands. With our captain along with the lookout on the fore topgallant yards, all the crew at their stations and braces and the chief officer on the poop, we ran for about an hour or so. Everybody was on the alert and orders came quick and clear. “Port,” “Starboard,” “Starboard main brace,” “Port jack brace,” etc, etc. The sun wqas dipped right ahead of us and the wind freshened. The Prince and Pictura with everything set, were bringing up the wind with them and everyone seemed anxious. Although we were dead in the wake of the Hendrick, our skipper roars “Port” to the helmsman. “Port main braces, starboard cross jack braces,” orders the mate and then we see some ugly black rocks just above the water, which look close alongside us but must have been much closer to the Hendrick. Presently we see the Hendrick’s mizzen set and then she clews up royals and topgallants, hauls up her courses and comes gradually to the wind on her starboard helm. Down goes her anchor and bang goes her gun, with her top sails to the mast head and her yards abox. We follow her as closely as possible, but take all our canvas in before putting the helm down and get a rather leeward berth which gave the skipper some anxiety. Then, as soon as the weather bit is on the windlass, up tear our tars to stow the sails, better and quicker than the Hendrick’s crew who have the start, but they have the top sails to clew up and both crews are in the rigging simultaneously. Our boys go clawing up to the royals, the men singing (95) out to them “Snug-in-a-cloth and smart, you wretches, or the Dutchman will laugh at you!” Both topsails are furled at once and the men go hand over hand on the tween stays to the courses. All the square sails are furled and the men have just slid in from the jibboom when the Hendrick’s are laying out, but then we had no fore royal or topgallant sail, so it was called a tie. The old Duke however, was much heavier than the Hendrick and not so well manned. The fun was to see the Prince Alfred and the Pictura come to anchor and the same struggle between the crews and when it finished some minutes later in favour of the Prince our fellows on the fo’csle head hurrahed, but all that was heard on board the Pictura when the men were done, was the voice of the steerman calling out, “Schnapps! Schnapps!” and we could see the men walking aft with their pannikins . This did not make our fellows feel any better. It was very seldom the cry of “Grog oh” was heard on our craft. After tea the after was given to lower the quarter boat and our skipper was pulled to the Hendrick. Then the mate of the Hendrick came over in her boat to our vessel and took away the men we had picked up, who was still unable to speak. (96) As soon as he was over the gangway of the Hendrick, somebody called “Schnapps!” giving him the first swig and passing it around to one and all the crew, including our fellows in the boat. This was followed by a cheer for the Duke of Wellington, I suppose for picking the man up. We stayed till midnight, the captains of the Prince Alfred and the Pictura having come on board and after the day’s casualties and mistakes had been discussed and the work laid out for the morrow, brandy, schnapps and tobacco were the order. What with the two English and the two Dutch captains and the two Dutch steersmen (mates), the cuddy was like a beche-de-mer smoking room and all were talking so loudly and fast in round Dutch and plain English, that it was quite a little pandemonium. However when the anchor watch struck eight bells, all came up and went to their respective ships. Both the skippers and the boat crew were in a state to be reminded that they had heads on when morning came, for some sleepy individual had come out of the deck house to the gangway and called “Schnapps!” about every ten minutes during the whole time we were on board and every soul on the ship, whether asleep or on deck, responded by personal appearance within ten seconds after “schnapps!” was uttered. I can only account for our men keeping their feet, from the fact that they were eating salt cheese and very dark coloured bread during the intervals. On getting alongside our ship, the captain’s attention was at once directed by the mate to two fires on the island on our starboard hand ( Friday Island) and which had not been noticed by us while on board the Hendrick. Muskets were given to the double anchor watch and vigilance enjoined. However, nothing transpired during the night to disturb us. At daylight we saw three canoes full of natives close in under the island but they did not approach us. All hands were called early and a spare topgallant mast was got ready for sending up. By half past five o’clock all sail was set and the anchors ‘short’ waiting for a breeze, it being calm under the island. About six o’clock the Bulverstein passed and shortly afterwards the Bremen brig. They had a nice little breeze outside but it did not reach us. As it continued calm after breakfast (91 Mal’s book)) our skipper went to the Pictura. Her people were all busy repairing damage from the previous day’s collision and we got alongside without anyone seeing us. As there was no ladder and the ship was in light ballast, it was difficult to get on board, but our bowman got up by a rope that was hanging over the side. Immediately his head appeared above the rail there was an exclamation of “Steerman” and immediately afterwards another of “Schnapps” and before our fellow could get his legs over the rail, he had to take a little tin-tot full of schnapps in one hand and hold on with the other, until he emptied it. As soon as our skipper was on board all the boat’s crew were schnapped and this was repeated just before the captain returned to us. A few minutes after we got back to our ship the wind sprang up and the cable was coming to the tune of “You Shanandoah, I long to see you.” We all got out and away very nicely and were pleased to see the old Duke leave the other three ships astern. Captain Smith going to the topsail yard himself let her take the van, the Bulverstein and the Louise Frederick (sic) being some four miles ahead, but in about two hours we passed the latter, we were rapidly overhauling the barque. The captain came down to consult the chart and a few minutes afterwards the lookout on the topsail yard reported “island ahead.” This was Booby Island and a very welcome sight for we knew the arrival meant all the dangers of Torres Straits were astern of us. We all arrived at the island within an hour of each other. Two English full rigged ships, the Prince Alfred and the Duke of Wellington, three Dutch barques the Pictura, Hendrick and Bulverstein, and a Bremen brig, the Louisa Fredrica (sic) – quite a squadron.
As we shall be taking our next departure off Booby Island, a few words concerning it may not be out of place. Booby Island, on which now stands a lighthouse and lightkeeper’s domiciles, is eighteen miles W.S.W. from Thursday Island. In 1850 it was uninhabited and its conditions were approximately the same as when natural forces erupted and raised it 60 feet (92) above sea level, for it is of volcanic origin. It has very little soil and is sparsely vegetated by scrubby growth. For many years it was utilised as an ocean post office and as such, was an important factor in navigation of Torres Straits, as at the present day its beacon light is one of the most useful and important in the Australian seas, standing as it does, sentinel and guide to shipping from all parts of the world through the Arafura Sea as well as that bound westward from Torres Straits. In past years every vessel passing westward through these imperfectly surveyed and known straits hove to, or dropped anchor at Booby Island, for in a cave was kept a store of provisions and water and these were renewed by contributions from passing vessels for the relief of shipwrecked mariners. There was also an old sea chest in which a log book and pens and ink were kept and in it letters were deposited. Every calling ship left a record in the book of her name, port sailed from and bound to and what was of supreme importance, the position of any reef, rock or sandbar sighted or struck, which was uncharted. Looking backward over the years which have given me an intimate knowledge of localities and natives, I cannot solve the problem of why the natives of the Prince of Wales group, with their superior physique and good outrigger canoes, did not in the old days visit the island and raid the cave, for in the early seventies they, to my personal observation, made frequent visits to the island without the incentive existing earlier as the store of provisions was not then maintained.
The Dutchman and the brig anchored but the Prince and ourselves ‘hove to’. All lowered boats and landed and Captain Van Hest of the Hendrick led the way to the cave. There were two flagstaffs outside it on which were portions of an English and Dutch ensign. In the cave were two or three casks of pork and beef (all in bad order) some tins of soup and boulli, three casks of water, several bags of mouldy biscuits and an old sea chest containing a log book, pens pencils and ink and five letters. A great many entries were in the log book of ships which had passes through the straits. (93) some of whom, like ourselves safely and some detailing the striking and stranding of others on reefs and sandbanks. The last entry was of the Sydney brigs Scotia and Venus. Both had stranded on Cockburn Reef and had been attacked by the natives of the mainland in seven canoes. The brig’s swivels had beaten them off without casualty to the vessels. Letters were left by most of us as well as some tinned soup and boulli, candles, biscuits, matches and a little tobacco, from each ship and a dozen of long clays, some bottles of schnapps from the Dutchmen. Then all the boat’s crews, mustering in the little landing nook, and a bottle of brandy being produced from the English boats and Schnapps ad libitum from the others, our Captain Smith said “With hearty thankfulness to Almighty God for bringing us safely through the Straits, I now propose the health of Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen of England.” The King of Holland then had his turn.
There was a little conversation amongst the skippers about the passage and then good-bye was said and all got away in their respective boats and soon our boat was in the davits. Then it was “Fill the main yard,” and away we all went before the wind, the Dutchman bound for Batavia, the Bremen brig for Surabaya and the Prince Alfred for Calcutta and our Duke for Singapore. “Up studding sail booms and gear,” was the order of the day and by four o’clock in the afternoon every vessel was carrying lower topmast and topgallant studding sails. The wind blew steadily all night and at daylight next morning the other vessels were hull down. The weather continued fine and the wind E.S.E. light. We were now in the Arafura Sea and lost sight of all our late consorts, but had seen one or two junks and prahus. These always seemed to be taking up Captain Smith’s attention. We knew that piratical junks and prahus were frequent in the seas and with light winds there would be small chance for us with our wretched armament of four four pounders, ten flintlock muskets and double that number of cutlasses and flint lock pistols. One day at sunset a native craft of considerable size was in sight of our starboard quarter. (94) We could not make her out to be junk or prahu, but she was certainly not of European rig and she seemed to be nearing us when we lost sight of her at dark. At this time Chinese and Malay pirates were supposed to be plentiful as bonitos in these waters and bloof curdling yarns of their doings were current with the seamen. The captain seemed very fidgety about her and at four bells all hands were called aft and two guns were taken from the main deck and placed aft on the poop and tackles and breechings put on. The anxiety of the captain relative to the character of the prahu or junk was equally shared by the whole crew and all the watch were on the quivive keeping a bright look out. When day broke the stranger was visible in the starboard quarter and when fully light we made her out a large prahu with two huge lantern sails and showing no colours. We had five a knot breeze dead aft and by 10 a.m. it was evident the prahu was nearing us fast. Our captain watched her through his telescope constantly and said she was full of men. At 4 p.m. and eight bells struck, the watch was told not to go below. All hands being aft, the captain told them he believed the stranger was a Malay pirate and if attacked they must do their best to beat her off, for if they took the ship they would certainly murder us all and loot and scuttle the ship for fear of detection by the Dutch. Then all the old flintlock muskets, with bayonets fixed and horse pistols, were loaded and primed and laid in the quarter boats and a cutlass was given to each man. The four four pounder guns were loaded with a bag of musket ball and a 4 lb shot. The cook’s coppers were also filled with water and fat and kept boiling and a lot of the largest ballast stones were piled in the waists. Tarpaulins were nailed to the fore and main guard boards and stretched up tight to the fair leaders to prevent boarding. This done, the men went to tea. We were all fully impressed with the seriousness of the position, but it did not spoil our appetites. At 8 p.m. it was very dark. “Grog ho!” was called and the men were told to remain on deck and the muskets and pistols (95) and some cartridges were served out to them. The carpenter and the second mate were in charge of the big guns on the poop and main deck and a boy was to run with a red hot iron rod for firing them. The crew were instructed not to fire until the captain gave the signal by discharging his pistol. At 10 p.m. was close to us and sailing a little faster than we were and presently she sheered alongside at our fore rigging. In a moment our wide guard boards had caught her rattan rigging. At the same time Captain Smith fired his pistol and then all our old brown flintlock bessies blazed away over our side into her. Peebles, the boatswain and his gang threw ballast stones and buckets of boiling fat and water into her. The Malays were hampered in their efforts to board us by our swinging boom and triced up tarpaulins. Fortunately the prahu’s rigging carried away and she dropped astern until our main channels caught her aft rigging and she swung right around. The rigging again parting, she dropped astern. Then Bang! Bang! Went both our gung on the poop and we saw both her sails come down and we were clear of her and leaving her astern in the darkness. Three of her men were on board of us. One jumped overboard before he could be secured, but the other two were in the hands of our crew and were receiving rough usage when the officers interfered and soon had irons on them. They were secured to the rail for the night. At daybreak next morning nothing could be seen of the prahu and we were all much elated at having got rid of her so easily. During the day we were told that the captain intended to call at Batavia and hand over the two pirates to the Dutch authorities.
We carried fine weather and fair winds and some days later we anchored off a little village on the western side of Balli (sic) Straits. There we filled our tanks and casks with fresh water and some of us had a good run ashore. We purchased bananas, pineapples, coconuts, eggs and fowls very cheaply. The only currency appeared to be the Dutch East India Company’s cents and British East India Company’s rupees and the latter were very difficult to get in change. Some of us had a day’s leave and (96) as soon as we got away from the beach we were accosted by a little Malay chap, who in a jargon of English, Dutch and Malay, urged the men to follow him to a little Malay village and they, knowing from previous experience that he would lead them to Bacchus or Venus or both, hitched up their pants and started and soon found themselves in a pretty Malay (sic) village, the houses being built of bamboo thatched with a kind of palm frond secured by rattan. The houses had wide verandahs and earthen floors. Bananas, coconut palms, sweet potatoes, yams and arrowroot were under cultivation and growing luxuriantly. All the people, including women and big children carried long knives and creeses for protection against tigers. Our guide took us to where a Chinaman dispensed square bottles of gin at a rupee a bottle and the men finally left cleaned out of every cent, the guide like his type the world over, leaving them to find their way to the ship as best they could. However, they managed to get on board and turned in to sleep off the fumes of the Chinaman’s gin.
The next morning we finished taking in water and a native boat brought off plenty of fowls, yams, eggs and many kinds of tropical fruit. We then got under way and with a fair wind were soon running through the Straits of Lombok piloted by a little Malay Dutchman, who left us at the other end of the Straits in a little canoe that had towed astern. The winds continuing fair, a few days later we were anchored in Batavia roads. There were a number of Dutch merchant vessels anchored with a Dutch man o’war riding guard ship. As soon as the sea breeze started to get sick about 4 p.m., a number of native boats came off, some as bumboats, with every kind of tropical fruit, fowls and eggs, others as dobey wallahs for washing clothes, but especially to be mentioned are the beebee boats. The beebee boats were the large Malay boats in charge of two Malay men, carrying a sail made of alternate cloth of blue dungaree and white drill. On benches which extended from end to end of the boat were seated from twenty to thirty Malay girls, bibbys or beebees. These girls were all candidates for and anxious to be sharers in Jack’s joys and sorrows from dewy eve till sunrise (97) and for the consideration of half a rupee, to mend and make his clothes, darn his socks, smoke his tobacco and administer to his little wants and comforts, and in a general way do all that could be reasonably expected of Mrs. Jack, even to certain lectures in a mixture of Malay, Dutch and English. At sunrise Jack, with tender forethought, would allow her to relieve herself of all domestic care by clearing out in the same boat (when it called for her) that had put her on board the previous evening. These boats together with the girls were all licensed by the Dutch authorities and were regularly received on board the Dutch vessels, not excepting the guard ship, where I used to see Jack’s camp rigged between the guns. Nearly all these women were exceedingly expert with the needle and could embroider with thread or silk very nicely. The beebee boats were, however, never allowed alongside the Duke or the other English ships. Of course our tars thought they were very hardly done by, for their socks wanted darning badly. The day after our arrival the surveyers came out and examined our ship, with the result that she was charted to load sugar and spices for Hobart and Sydney and Malay go-downs came off taking our ballast away and bringing cargo off. From the bumboat we used to buy fruit, fowl and eggs marvelously cheap, but except our boys who were the boat’s crew, no one got ashore. There were no wharves or jetties at Batavia at this time and we used to land the captain up a little canal amongst numbers of lighters and native craft and Captain Smith used to frequently send one of us boys to a little cottage with little things from the ship’s stores. The only inmates of the cottage were a young Italian or Portuguese lady and her mother or elderly friend. On several occasions the ladies came off to dinner or tea with the captain and it was usually expected by the officers and crew that there should be a wedding before we left Batavia.Expectation was intensified when the carpenter, with two Malay assistants was known to be occupied in fitting up the captain’s cabin with drawers and shelves and a double folding bed place. At last all the (98) Batavian cargo, consisting of sugar and pepper, was in and we were to leave in the evening, when the sea breeze was done and the wind came off the land, for Surabaya. It was also current that the younger lady of the two was to accompany us, wedding or no wedding. Well as the breeze got light, off came the shore boats with vegetables, fruit, birds, monkeys etc. and in our boat came off the captain and the lady. She took tea in the cuddy with the captain and the officers and afterwards promenaded the poop on the captain’s arm and Jack in the fore castle, drew his own conclusions and expressed his ideas in the elegant and forcible language of his kind. We hove short and mastheaded the topsail yards and lay waiting for the first puff of land breeze to start, when a boat came alongside pulled by Malays, but having two Europeans, apparently Spaniards or Portuguese, in the stern. They were respectably dressed and a ladder was put over the side. One of them, before getting onto it, blew a whistle and the little lady ran from the captain to the side and, looking down into the boat, cried out, “Jose!Jose!Is that you? I was afraid you would be late. Come up. Come up.” The captain who evidently did not expect visitors, was apparently asking Angela who they were. However, this curiosity was soon satisfied, for as soon as the strangers got on deck Angela ran and embraced the taller (a fellow about 6 foot 2 inches high) and he, stooping down, kissed her full on the lips. She turned to the captain saying, ”Captain this is my dear husband and my dear brother. You will permit them to keep me company to Surabaya?” Captain Smith was thoroughly nonplussed and looked it, but he caught sight of the officers and crew watching him, so pulling himself together, he lifted his hat and said “I am happy to see you aboard the Duke of Wellington gentleman.” He then invited them to his cabin and as the wind came off the land a short time after, we got under way, taking the strangers with us. We carried the land breeze all night and at daybreak we were about seven miles off land. As the sun rose the wind died away and at 8 a.m. we were becalmed, with the sea as smooth as a river. At eight bells the captain came on deck and soon after him came our two Portuguese passengers, but there was no appearance of Angela. At about 11 a.m. the wind began to come in from the sea and there were shoals of bonito and dolphins all around the ship. One was struck by the second mate from the main brace bumpkin and while it was splattering about on the poop, Angela came up and placing herself alongside the captain, she watched the fish and kept on chattering. Presently the order to brace the yards and board the fore and main tack was given and while the men were so occupied, Captain Smith sent the man from the wheel to let go the starboard main lift. Simultaneously with the man leaving the poop, Jose, Angela’s husband got over the rail onto a piece of plank laid across from the poop to the bumpkin, where the second mate had struck the dolphin and calling for the captain, told him to come and see the beautiful fish. The captain got over the rail and a moment afterwards there was a splash, then a shriek from Angela, an exclamation of “caramba!” from her reputed brother and then “Man overboard” from the man who was returning from the wheel. “Let go the fore tack and sheet the bowline and lee fore braces and let the yards run square back again.” All hands then ran to the quarter boat and in a few minutes she was in the water and with five men and the captain in her, she was soon alongside Angela’s husband who was swimming towards the ship, seemingly perfectly at ease. However, on the captain’s reaching over to catch hold of him, he appeared frightened and sang out to the men to protect him. The men soon got him into the boat, but he refused to go into the stern sheets and we could see that he had a large bowie knife in his hand. On getting alongside the ship the boat was pulled up into the davits and Jose, having called the first and second officers and Angela and her brother to him, accused Captain Smith of deliberately shoving or knocking him overboard. He was not demonstrative or noisy, but on the contrary, seemed desirous of confining himself to the four persons he had called round him, but Captain Smith became very excited and denied point blank in very forcible language (100) that he had not touched him or contributed in any way to his immersion. Angels endeavoured as far as possible to prevent the captain replying and her brother, placing the forefinger of his left hand on his closed lips, stuck the thumb of the other hand under his jaw and jerked his head over on his shoulder in a most significant way, clearly indicating that if not silent, he would hang. At this juncture, the chief mate, Mr. Brown, went up to the captain and in an undertone, said something to him about conspiracy, which seemed to have the effect of pacifying the captain. Then he called the steward and told him to go below with Jose and give him a change of clothes and for a time Jose disappeared. I noticed that neither Angela nor her brother exhibited the slightest anxiety or sympathy after their first exclamation on hearing the splash in the water. The wind was quite fresh by this time and the yards being filled and braced up, with the port tacks on board, we were soon bowling off our nine knots. During the forenoon the first and second mates were taken into the cabin and Jose, in the presence of the captain, stated that while he was standing on the main brace bumpkin looking at the dolphins, the captain had given him a push and caused him to fall overboard and that he believed that it was done intentionally and he requested the mates to make note of his statement. He also stated that he was in fear of his life at the time he was speaking and asked the mates to protect him until the ship arrived at Surabaya. We were off the entrance of Surabaya Strait two days later and a proa came off with a pilot- a little half breed Dutch and Malay – who was called a ‘piar Dutchman” by our fellows. The wind was right out of the Straits and our yards being braced up short, we stood across to the starboard shore. Our pilot called out “Ready, ‘bout ship,” and in the same breath “Helms alee,” but it was not alee and the mate who was working the forecastle, eased up the head and fore sheets before the helm was put down and before the square sails were aback, the little fellow sang out “Topsail haul.” As a natural consequence the ship refused stays, but made a stern board and ran on a mud- (101) bank and only floated on the next day’s tide. We anchored the same day in Surabaya and were surrounded by the boats of the port officials as well as beebee and bumboats. Captain Smith landed with Angela, her brother and her reputed husband in the ship’s boat and later two Dutch gentlemen came to the boat and were taken on board the ship, where after talking to the chief officer they examined two of the boys in reference to Jose going overboard. Jose having laid an information against the captain to the effect that he had tried to abduct his wife and then drown him. The boys declared on oath that they were on the mizzen topsail yard and San Jose had got over on to the bumpkin and dropped into the water feet first and that the captain did not touch him. It also transpired that Jose was not unknown to the Dutch police and further, he could not prove Angela to be his wife. It was clearly a conspiracy to extort money from the captain and to which Angela was a consenting party. However, we saw no more of them in Surabaya.
We were taking in cargo at Surabaya from godowns rapidly. One morning a small Dutch man-of-war arrived with three large piratical prahus in tow and a few days later there were nine Malay pirates dangling from the yardarm of the guardship and the next day fifteen more. The prahus were taken up a little creek and burned. Every night we lay in Sourabaya there was a thunderstorm more or less severe. Immediately the sun set it was dark and if there was no moon by 8 p.m. it was intensely so and on these nights the luminosity from the phosphorescence in the water was marvelous, the movement of the fish being indicated by flashes and streaks of fire. Then passing rapidly over the surface of the water, making the darkness more intensely apparent, were to be seen small canoes containing two natives. A long stick with a torch on the end of it was fixed at the bow close to the water. One Malay propelled the canoe, while the other with a spear, transfixed the fish which were attracted to the surface by the light of the torch. Every evening following the sun’s dipping came a cloud, small at (102) first, charged with electricity, emitting faint but frequent flashed of lightning, which gradually grew sharper and more brilliant as the cloud gained altitude. It rose very slowly until about midnight, when it had usually gained about twenty five degrees altitude. Then the flashes would occur momentarily, illuminating everything, defining the rigging and spars of the shipping against the sky as rigid as steel, bathing everything for a few moments in an intensely penetrating light and then enveloping all in a darkness that could be felt. Then a little later would come a peel of thunder and a heavy gust of wind and in a few seconds, the cloud which had taken four or five hours to gain an altitude of twenty five degrees would reach the zenith and dispel itself in a smart shower. A few minutes later the sky would be perfectly clear, with stars twinkling as if they knew nothing of the late commotion and the land breeze would come away. With the coming of the squall and shower there would be a fall of the thermometer of from ten to twenty degrees, making the small hours very enjoyable after the day’s heat. Our lower hold was now filled and we left Surabaya and went to Samarang to complete our cargo. We took in a Portuguese seaman named Josef Mudee to work his passage to Hobart. At Samarang we were anchored about half a mile off the shore and except for the cargo boats and a solitary bumboat, nothing came near us. We spent Good Friday here and Josef Mudee asked permission to go ashore to see a priest. On being refused, he became very insolent and taking his knife from his belt, he hurled it into the deck at the captain’s feet. The officers, after a severe tussle, put the handcuffs on him and placed him on the poop. When the captain was leaving the ship in the shore boat, shortly after, Mudee jumped overboard with handcuffs on and by diving repeatedly under the boat, eluded the men who tried to capture him, but the second officer calling out “Shark! Shark!” he was soon on deck and made fast. At anchor in Samarang in the evenings there would be millions of small horse mackerel right on the surface and the men used to catch more than we could eat. Some (102) fine fish were caught from the bottom also. One of the boys got a bite one dark evening and, pulling up his line in the uncertain light, thought he had a fish and was peering at it to see what it was like,when the large water snake which was on his hook passed itself around his neck. In his terror he dropped his line and ran for the cabin door where there was a light and soon had the snake, line, hooks and sinker so tightly round his throat that his cry for help was intelligible. The other end of the line being fast, it tightened up and nearly strangled him as well as cutting his throat. The snake had sharp interlocking teeth as long as a rabbit’s and it was only by cutting its head off that the boy could be released. We did not know if the reptile was venomous but the wound was cauterised and treated with ammonia and the boy was made to drink about half a pint of neat brandy, which intoxicated him at once. However the wound soon healed, but we were pretty cautious in handling fish after dark in future. All through the China and Java Seas, sea snakes are met with continually on the surface of the water. Some are very beautifully marked in brilliant colours. Natural history tells us that some of them are very venomous. We completed our loading in Samarang and we were ready for sea. The bumboat came and Jack paid his debts honourably. When the captain came on board he bought with him a young fellow (a dago the crew called him) to assist the steward, who had been ailing for some time. We sailed and fine fair winds and anchored in Batavia roads a day or so later. The captain landed, but returned in a few hours, bringing a boat load of fruit, vegetables and fowls and as soon as the wind came off the land in the evening, we got under way and proceeded towards Aujer Straits. (The earthquake that obliterated Aujer had not then occurred.) Two days later we hove to, as was then normal with all ships passing, off Aujer and lots of bumboats came off with every kind of fruit (including bananas, plantains, soursops, pineapples, rus balls and tuck tucks) monkeys of all kinds from thirty inches to little marmosets no bigger than one’s thumb, as well as beautiful little mouse deer, (104) cockatoos, Java sparrows, pigeons, doves and all kinds of parrots, beautiful little lividly green snakes no thicker than whip cord and 6 foot long and Jack parted with everything he was not actually wearing, ignoring future necessities for colder weather.
Then came the order “Fill the main yard!” and we were off for Hobart round Cape Leewin. I may mention that the little chap that was assisting the steward and whom the men said was a dago of some kind, soon ingratiated himself with everyone by his civility and readiness to assist with anything that was doing and when the steward was laid up he nursed him as well as performing his duties cleverly. His pronunciation was so like Angela’s that he frequently was called by the name. After leaving Aujer we carried fair winds and weather until we were about two degrees north of Cape Leewin, where we were becalmed. There was a very heavy westerly swell and we were rolling gunwale and gunwale without steerage way and about a mile away was a little barque flying the Italian ensign, but the captain was evidently worried about the rolling of the ship. At 8 p.m. it became evident that we were nearing the barque and all hands were turned to, to send down the royal yards to ease the ship. This took some time on account of the rolling. The Portuguese seaman Josef was with the boy up at the main royal yard and appeared frightened at the way the ship was rolling. The boy, who was a smart lad, chaffed him and as the yard was being lowered, Josef ran out on the main topsail yardarm and without comment, jumped off into the sea. “------ the Portuguese lubber” roared the mate. “Lower away the yard,” and he did not allow the men to leave it until it was on deck, in spite of the cry of “man overboard.” The the port quarter boat was lowered and before she touched the water the boatswain (Peebles) and four men got into her, but the ship was rolling so heavily that the man at the after tackle could not unhook it. The fore tackle being unhooked and the painter not being fast, the next roll of the ship twisted the boat half around and in a moment, instead of one, we had six men in the water and the ship crunching up the boat under her quarter. Then over went the lifebouys and then two (105) hen coops fowl and all. Fortunately all the men could swim and all were soon on board by ropes and bowlines thrown to them. Luckily the ship had no way through the water. The boat, of course, partially filled and the ringbolt parted the boat was adrift. In it all no one thought of Josef until the second mate exclaimed “There’s that ----- dago alongside the barque.” Sure enough he was hanging on to a rope and apparently talking to the officers of the barque. The vessel was now within a hundred yards of us. Captain Smith called up our little cabin boy and he, speaking Italian was told to hail the barque. The little chap sang out “Ca Bastemento?” and a reply in good English came back. “This is the Italian barque Don Quienx,” so the boy was sent down. Meantime we had lost a quarter boat, three lifebuoys and two coops of fowls, for we would not risk lowering another boat as the ship was rolling so heavily. Captain Smith called out to the barque “If we foul we shall sink each other.” We then got a fore course and fastened a light anchor to it and veered it fast to a light hawser over the stern and to our great relief, the barque drifted ahead of us, but so close that it was doubtful for some minutes weather she would take the jibboom out of us. When she was clear the Italian asked if we wanted Josef and getting an affirmative reply, Josef was sent away and he swam alongside us and clambered on board by the main chain plates.
During the afternoon the swell continued, but not a breath of wind. The sky was dull and leaden and low down on the western horizon, now and then came flashes of lightning out of a little electrical cloud. The mercury had been falling since the previous midnight until 10 a.m. and then remained stationary, but at noon it commenced falling again. We then reduced the canvas to close reefed fore and main topsails. The westerly swell still gained in both volume and velocity. The sea was as black as ink around us, but faded to a dull leaden colour towards the horizon so like the sky that it was difficult to tell where the water ended. The little electrical cloud now emitted flashes and coruscations every (106) moment. It had gained an altitude of about twenty degrees. Presently little catspaws began to come from the eastwards. We were over sixty miles from the Western Australian coast and the little puffs brought the small of land with them. Later the breeze freshened, but so was the westerly swell that looking to leeward when the ship was in the trough of the sea it appeared that it must overwhelm and annihilate her. At eight bells came “Gug ho!” and the ship was pumped dry. At 10 p.m. there was no change. Nothing to be heard but the flapping and bellying of the close reefed topsails as the ship rolled the wind out of them, the squeaking of the wheel chains and the wash of the water in the scuppers as she rolled covering board in. The little cloud alone appeared busy, increasing in altitude and luminosity. Presently the captain came on deck and told the mate that the glass was rising and directed him the clew up and furl the fore topsail, but before the watch got on deck, the easterly breeze died away and the clock was calm. Before the fore topsail could be made fast, a cold chill was felt in the atmosphere, as if an iceberg had come alongside and then a blast of wind of irresistible force, with an enormous wave – a black mountain of water with a ghastly white crest, bourn as it were on the face of the wind, dead from the westward – which, taking the ship by the lee, hurled her down into the seething water until the port topgallant bulwarks were in the sea. Then came a flash of lightning, that for a moment every spar and rope appeared like rigid steel bathed in ghastly white flame, followed by a peal of thunder so appalling that we all felt the ‘crack of doom’ was imminent and that in a moment there would be a rift in the dense black clouds and the great white throne would appear. We were paralysed for some seconds. We got the ship round on the starboard tack, put the helm down and coming to the wind under the close reefed main topsail, headed the sea and righted her a little. The fore topsail had blown to ribbons. Then, unfortunately, the yardarm of the fore sail got adrift and before we could get up to it, it blew out (107) of the quarter and bunt gaskets. There were seventeen of us on the yard trying to mitten the sail, but it slatted and tore from our hands time after time. The officers came up with carrings and we were getting them passed, when a terrific squall came on us, with hail the size of walnuts, driven with such velocity by the furious wind, that the men let the sail go and sat on the foot ropes, that the foreyard might protect their faces. The sail was a new one and it flapped and banged like a piece of ordinance and we expected the yard to go at every moment. Then the chief mate made a slit in it with his knife and it burst and flew from the yard like a piece of thistledown and we were glad to get on deck. The ship was behaving fairly well hove to with a hurricane at west and a mountainous but true sea. At midnight the weather main topsail sheet carried away, but we managed to get it made fast and she had only the goose - winged main topsail on her. Toward daylight the wind began to norther and the mercury was falling. At 6 a.m. after a terrific squall, followed by a lull to nearly calm for a few minutes, it blew as hard as ever at due north. The sea became pyramidal, confused and dangerous and we commenced at once to ship heavy water. Presently she shipped a sea over the port bow, which filled her up to her rails. She hardly recovered from it, when a heavier one came on board over the weather chestree, tearing away the bulwarks, filling the poop cabins, hurling all the spare spars, water casks and long boat down to leeward and causing the ship to take a heavy list. Luckily no one was hurt. To get her round on the other tack was the captain’s resolve at once and the smallest boy knew what a risk that manoeuvre was. “Men,” said the captain, “we must wear her round on the other tack or she will founder.” I will not go into detail, but simply tell you that pluck and good seamanship got the vessel before the wind and it was thought it was safer to run before it than to risk bringing her to the wind. We had to get more sail on her and a fore topsail was reefed, tied up and got aloft and bent and set close reefed. We then started to get the weather clew to the main (108) topsail sheeted home and while so occupied, an enormous sea came after her and she was hurled along on the face of it like a boat beaching in surf. She shipped none of it over the stern but it closed right over her from both sides just before the main rigging, smashing the caboose to matchwood. It filled and gutted the topgallant forecastle and before we had time to do anything, another followed as high as the mizzen ----(?). Right over the stern it came, crashing up hen coops, skylights, monkey poop, binnacle and steering wheel and the ship from the rigging where we sprang, looked completely under water and lay like a log. One of the men near me sang out. “She’s gone! She’s foundering!” Then we heard the captain’s voice from the mizzen rigging “Aft to the relieving tackle smart for God’s sake, men.” These had been hooked on earlier in the day and soon four men were steering the ship with them, the wheel having been swept away. When we had time to look around us, we saw the helmsman, old Jack Sutherland, lying at the foot of the mizzen mast hanging on to the mizzen topsail sheets, both legs and his left arm broken and a spoke of the wheel sticking out of his bosom. Nearly all the bulwarks and stanchions between the main rigging and forecastle were gone and the latter was blockaded up with water casks and the wreck of everything that had been on deck, Not a vestige of the longboat, with its menagerie of pigs, monkeys, parrots and other live things we had got at Aujer, was left and a heavy teak spar was rove out between the chain plates of the fore rigging for fully 10 feet. “Leave Sutherland, men. We cannot help him now but we can save the ship if you get more sail on her. “ It was only when we mustered at the topsail halliards that we missed an able seaman (Jim Read) and an ordinary seaman (Bill Wilks). They had been swept overboard. With four men steering and two men drowned, we were very short handed making sail. Providentially we shipped no more heavy water and the weather appeared to moderate suddenly and with the increased canvas, she cleared the sea. Sutherland was carried down into the cabin. For the time we could (109) do nothing for him, but the little dago attended to his immediate wants. The fore-hatches were stove in and tons of water went down amongst the sugar. After securing these we all went to the pumps and except when we had to pump up on the skids, or shin up the topsail sheets to avoid a sea, we pumped for seven hours before we got a suck and then the spear of the pump box broke and it took hours to draw it. We were exhausted and as there could be no cooking, we were all taken into the cuddy and given beer, tinned meat and biscuit. At midnight the mercury began to rise. The sea was falling and we were making better weather. All hands were clearing up the wreckage around the decks, bending a fore course etc. and the carpenter and cook rigged up a caboose with a cask and some spare chain. Then the former set to work making a steering wheel out of the heads of two casks and before night closed in we were able to discard the relieving tackles. The ship continued to make a lot of water, but by the colour of it and the way it black-leaded everything, we knew that the lower tiers of sugar were being pumped up. We never saw the Italian barque again, but we heard of her safe arrival, dismasted, at Swan River. Looking backwards through the years, I still marvel that the little ship, deep as a sand barge with sugar, her decks lumbered with longboat, spare spars, water casks, etc. etc. as was the fashion of the day, lived through that awful time. Also, one cannot but realise that it is in such strenuous times on the now heaped up contumely windjammer, that a man may justly feel he is a seaman and master of his ship absolutely with no intervening cranks, crossheads and propellers. In later years I made several voyages in command west about the Australian coast from the northward, but I never experienced more of the violent cyclone or hurricane weather that everyone knows the western coast is subjected to and which periodically decimates the pearling craft and recently was responsible for the wreck of the Mombana.
Continuing our voyage to Hobart with moderate and fine weather we arrived without further incident beyond that one day I went (110) to the steward’s pantry where the little dago was in charge, the steward being laid up and asked for a little sugar for our duff. He said “Yes, come into the pantry and I’ll give you some,” and I entered, when to my great disgust, he quickly took my face in his hands and kissed me and I knocked him over sugar and all. I lived to regret it, as will be seen. We arrived safely in Storm Bay and received our pilot (Lucas) from Mount Louis and a few hours later moored at the commissary’s wharf in Hobartown. As we had expected, nearly two tiers of sugar had washed out and a large quantity of the cargo generally had been damaged. On arrival, the Portuguese seaman and the little cabin dago were discharged. About a fortnight after our arrival the chief officer told me and another apprentice named Waite, to put on our best clothes and go up to the Anglican Church, where we should meet the captain. Much mystified, we obeyed him and were waiting when along came Captain Smith, dressed up quite a swell and said, “I want you two boys (he didn’t say ----- boys as usual and we both felt a bit ill used) to go into church and remain until I come to you.” We accordingly went into the church and presently a person came and stood at the altar rails. Then up the aisle came our skipper and the prettiest little brunette of a woman we had ever seen. Then it dawned on us that it was a wedding. There were two other gentlemen at the rails, friends of the captain. It was soon over and the skipper and the little woman came to us boys from the vestry. Before the captain could speak the bride held out both hands to us and then, bending over me, she said “Are you sorry?” Sorry did not express it. To think I had knocked this pretty little thing over when she would have kissed me, for it was the little dago: but in male attire and the black moustache, which was only nailed on with glue, what would one? “Now” said the captain, “you can tell all the crew what you have seen and here (giving me a soverign) you can stay on shore all evening.” We went to a fruit garden, then in the centre of the town, near Tench, where for a shilling one could fill up with gooseberries, currents, cherries (111) and other fruits which you picked off the trees and ate.
We lay in Hobart some weeks, for there was much trouble with the damaged cargo. All had to be discharged and the Sydney portions reshipped. At this time convicts dressed in black and yellow and others in grey, were every day to be seen working in the streets. Warders in uniform and carrying loaded carbines guarding them and although strictly forbidden, most people endeavoured to drop bits of tobacco so that these wretched men might pick it up. Seamen belonging to the vessels in the port were arrested and locked up if found in the streets or pubs after nine p.m. One day there were four men hanged at the Tench in Murray Street. They had been carrying on ‘robbery under arms’ for a considerable time before capture. One man named Donohen made a speech on the scaffold. I heard a portion of it. He, speaking in a loud bitter voice said, “I never killed a man in my life, but if I had my time over again I’d shoot ye’s down like rats.” The four men fell almost simultaneously, but the drop was insufficient to kill one of them and the only one who needed support to the scaffold. An awful scene occurred before he was finally strangled.
Early one morning two whales were blowing about amongst the shipping in the harbour. There were several whale ships at the wharves refitting and in a very short time several boats were manned and went in pursuit. Avery unusual and interesting spectacle was viewed by thousands of the towns people who congregated on the wharves and approaches. Two boats quickly got fast to one fish, but had to cut adrift again as the whale doubles short round a barque at anchor. The second whale was also struck by two boats. One of which fixed an explosive shell into it but which did not explode. Neither whale seemed inclined to make a run probably being confused by the restriction of the wharves and shipping. One boat while hauling up to lance was thrown clear out of the water and nearly cut in two by an upper stroke from the cachelot’s flukes and one of her crew fatally injured, although all were picked up by another boat. Both fish were eventually killed by boats belonging to the whaling (112) barque ‘Orfle’ the property of Dr. Crouther and the tug boat Venus towed them to Watson’s slip where they were cut in. When ready for sea we all expected to see the captain’s bride come on board but were disappointed and we sailed for Sydney without again seeing her. We also left the man Perry who it will be remembered jumped overboard at the commencement of the voyage. He had not done a hand’s turn of work from the time he was brought on board between Sydney Heads, but it was rumoured amongst the crew that he obtained his wages in full by some stratagem. In his place a seaman named Bond was shipped to work his passage to Sydney. The first day he was on board he pulled me out of the water when I fell overboard under peculiar circumstances with a ship’s bucket in my hand and which I did not let go although unable then as now to swim. Bond on arrival in Sydney became master of the steamer ‘Victoria’ belonging to Messrs. Mannings Coy. And in 1863 he came out from Glasgow Chief Officer of the Queensland Steam Navigation Company’s first steamer Queensland with Captain Patulla and later, they both went home again and bought out the P.S. ‘Lady Young’ for the same company. Bond’s daughter Mary became the wife of the late Inspector Lewis of Brisbane. I think Bond was lost in the barque ‘Fury’ belonging to Messrs. Robert Towns & Coy. On her passage to Frisco in about 1865. He was a very fine seaman and a gentleman.
Leaving Hobart for Sydney we had a protracted passage, calm and north easters prevailing, but eventually we were moored at Campbell’s Wharf where we discharged the rest of the Java cargo. There was still no appearance of the captain’s bride and we boys thought he must have sent her to his home in Scotland.
My chum Jemmy Waite and I obtained three day’s leave and as we had raised the wind by selling some Java curios and had each a pound on account of wages, we meant to have a good time and hire a horse and trap and drive out to see the bush we had heard and read of so often. The first day of our leave, I, being dressed first, arranged to go to the post office to see if there were any letters for us. Jemmy was to meet me at Bath’s corner of Bridge Street (113) and while waiting and wondering what kept him, a hansom cab pulled up abreast of me and I saw a lady beckoning to me, or someone in my direction for I did not think it could possibly be me. As the driver called me I went to the side of the cab, when to my unbounded astonishment, dressed in the height of fashion and extending to me two perfectly gloved little hands, with her pretty piquant face wreathed in smiling welcome, was the little dago – the captain’s wife. “Come in! come in! you dam boy,” she cried. I was thunder struck, confused and hesitating what to do, when she repeated “come in! come in! Don’t you want some sugar for your duff?” showing she had forgotten nothing of the days when she was the little dago in the pantry. I got in beside her and she told the driver to proceed. I was very young and her chatter and familiar mannerisms so entirely fascinated me, that for a time I forgot the awful possibility of meeting the captain or of the spoiling of Jemmy Waite’s holiday by my non appearance at Bridge Street. When I at last spoke of it she said “Poor Jemmy” and taking my face in her hands she kissed me saying “Today is today – those others are tomorrow. We will enjoy today” and I resigned myself to the goods the Gods had sent me.
We were driven to an hotel at Chippingdale where the hansom was discharged and after some refreshment we started in a four wheeler belonging to the hotel, with a boy to drive. We went to Botany and lunched at an hotel (Banks possibly.)
We left the hotel in time to get to town before dark. During the drive back my companion’s manner was more repressed. I made an attempt to talk of the captain, her husband, but she immediately placed her hand on my lips and I knew the subject was taboo. The day had been a happy one, but in spite of her tender manner and the fascination she exercised over me, I had become convinced that she was much older than her looks and mannerisms indicated. I remembered the advent of her fictitious husband on board the ship the night we left Batavia Roads and his kissing her mouth in greeting. Then there was the infatuation of that hardheaded Scot, the captain, who had married her although after his experience at Samarang must (114) have known that her career had been, to say the least, a checkered one. She put me down on Church Hill and promised to take Jemmy Waite for a day’s drive on the morrow if he was at Bath’s corner at 9.30 a.m. and taking a tender leave of me drove away. Away for ever out of my life for I never saw her again.
We both waited for her the next day expecting her to come as she promised, but she did not. Looking backward over the years, I can have no doubt that she was a Circe and the captain her Ulysses. But to me she is the memory of a pleasant little Dago, that impulsively made me happy for a day. Doubtless she was buffeted by her surroundings in Batavia in her youthful days.
When I reached the ship after leaving Angela, I found Jemmy Waite had been on board all day, in consequence of it being discovered just as he was going ashore, that the steward, who was a Spaniard, but an efficient and inoffensive man, had cut his throat after an altercation with the men and Jemmy had been put in temporary charge of the cuddy. I told him how I had spent the day and we were both much puzzled as to where the captain came in. We were taking in stone ballast from Billy Blue’s boats and we learned that the ship was chartered by Messrs. Gilchrist, Watt & Coy to go to and load at Colombo. Some of the crew who had been there said that large dogs fetched a big price there and this proved to be correct later on. Consequently we boys, as well as the men, endeavoured to entice on board every big dog we saw in the town in the evenings. One night a seaman tied a dog up at the foot of the gangway stage and he bit the second officer as he passed and there was a prohibitory order given next morning about dogs. But the next night the sailmaker induced a big vicious looking brute to follow him into the forecastle where he tied him up to the grommet of a seaman'’ chest, all hands being ashore. About midnight the men came on board, some of them well ‘sprung’ and the first man to enter the forecastle was ‘Sails’ to remove the dog. But the animal sprang at him like a tiger, straining at his tether and barking furiously. Sails sprang back, knocking over some of his tipsy shipmates and the (115) man to whose chest the dog was tied roused on Sails and they were at fisticuffs in a moment and others interfering there was a free fight of nearly all hands. Meanwhile the big dog continued to bark furiously. The uproar brought the three mates and carpenter forward and this quieted the men and Sails, to the enquiries of the chief officer, stated that the big dog had got into the forecastle and wouldn’t allow the men to go to bed. The carpenter, who was a Hielandman added, “and tied herself up!” Then the third officer, who was an Englishman interjected, “and on board a Scotch ship!” Then Mr. Brown the first mate called out “come here one of you dam boys and untie that dog and put him ashore,” Jemmy Waite stepped up and saying “He’ll eat me Mr. Brown (to what base uses we may return Horatio) deliberately walked up to the dog which fawned on him and licked his hands while he was casting off the tether from the seaman’s chest, which being done, the dog went with the rope trailing him through the officers and the seamen , out the forecastle down over the gangway and on shore like an electric flash. The carpenter remarked, “she’s got one of the earrings of the main topsail with her whatever.” In discussing the incident the next morning Jemmy and I came to the conclusion that one of the questions put to a candidate for a master’s certificate by the Board of Trade examiner should be, “In whom should you rely in time of stress or danger?” The answer being “THE DAM BOY.”
When we had taken in over three hundred tons of Sydney sand stone ballast, the ship was taken to Pinchgut and after lying there for a few days Pilot Christianson came and took us to sea. We had not lost one of our crew except the steward whom we left in the hospital and had a very inefficient substitute for him.
(116) After leaving Port Jackson we steered southwards, passed through Bass Straits and then northwards, leaving Cape Leewin some sixty miles to the east in passing it. We had a fine uneventful passage, a few days calm on the Equator and them picking up the S.W. monsoon one morning we saw the high land of Ceylon looming up ahead and later in the day a little brown sail was seen, which as we approached nearer, proved to be a catamaran with two natives (naked except for turbans) on it, who were gesticulating wildly and our main yard was laid to the mast and the little craft came alongside. The man (the other occupant was a boy of some ten or twelve years) threw up a small line attached to a joint of bamboo having a lid, which being unscrewed was found to contain a letter or document. Then the bamboo box with some biscuit and tobacco was given to the natives and they again set their three cornered sail and were off towards the rapidly rising land. About dusk we entered the outer waters of Point de Galle without a pilot and anchored. A native boat came off and took Captain Smith ashore. A quiet night was passed on board the ship. No boats coming off, we had no communication with the shore which was very disappointing to everyone and especially so to Jemmy Waite and myself, for we were very curious about Ceylon.
Next morning the topsail yards were mast headed and the anchor hove short and the captain being brought on board we got under way and later it transpired that we were to go to Colombo and then two days later we anchored. There were several vessels in the port, most of them country wallahs, one or two flying the Arabian flag. The captains of these latter were the most picturesque figures, in their flowing white robes and parti – coloured turbans. Their fine dark features and tall commanding figures, that I had not before of after seen on a quarter deck. But one could not help speculating on what the effect of bad weather would be on such flimsy magnificance, which drenched with rain or sea water would be limp and clinging if nothing worse to the wearer. We lay at Colombo five days taking on board from godowns empty casks, (117) filling up the hold on top of the ballast as well as some hundreds on deck. None of us got ashore, our boats being in the davits all the time. A Cingalese canoe was employed to bring the captain off and on. These canoes were very narrow at the bottom which was made from a single piece of timber dug out, top sides being seized on with rattan. They had outriggers on one side and carried a large sail of shield like shape, the apex being at the foot of the mast. They were very fast with the wind free and are never known to capsize. The paddles were nearly round in shape and were attached to their shafts by rattan seizings. I have not been in Ceylon for a decade and doubtless the motor boat has long since rendered these native canoes obsolete. Every morning while lying at Colombo, bumboats came off to us with delicious fruit. Limes, green coconuts, plantains, bananas, soursops etc. etc. as well as nice little loaves of bread, plenty of eggs and a variety of vegetables. Also some jewelers and filigree workers, tailors and manicurers. The working jewelers were very expert and it was marvellous how quickly an English sovereign would be transformed under their blow pipe into a number of pretty ornaments. Yet it was understood that they always managed to retain a portion of the gold given them to work up, watch them ever so closely. The tailor, differing to all other trades people affected European dress but he was a most remarkable man. He told us (Jemmy and I) that his mother was a cingalese and his father a moor. His height was six feet seven and a half inches, well proportioned even to feet and hands and carried himself with the dignity of a sultan. He took orders from the officers and seamen for white drill suits and jumpers and pants for we boys. For the former he charged one and a half rupees and for the latter a rupee. Then he went on shore and returned with two little sewing chaps, who, sitting under the break of the poop put the garments together almost as quickly as the big tailor measured the men and cut out. It transpired later that the two little (118) chaps, were of the feminine gender, discretely dressed as men for the times they were on board ships. On Sunday morning the captain and a gentleman whom we afterwards knew as Mr. Outerson as the managing partner of the firm Outerson & Coy. Of Cochin, came on board and we at once hove up and made sail for the port of Cochin on the Malabar coast, where we anchored on the fifth day after leaving Colombo. We anchored in the inner harbour of Cochin and commenced discharging our ballast into godowns which were brought off by natives. To the great satisfaction of we boys our own boats were used for communicating with the shore. . Jemmy and myself made up the captain’s boat crew. The firm of Outerson & Coy to whom the ship was chartered had extensive works, where they expressed coconut oil and manufactured coir junk. The manner of loading was that empty casks were first stored in the hold and a large wooden tub, with an aperture in the bottom, to which a long leather hose was attached and slung in the main hatchway. The casks of oil came alongside in the native godowns and the casks, being picked up bung down by the ship’s tackles, were slung over the tub and the bung being started, out ran the oil into the tub. The hose led it into the empty casks in the hold, which when filled, were securely bunged and so, tier upon tier until the ship was laden. Every Sunday the crew were allowed to go ashore with three rupees in their pockets, advanced by the captain on account of their wages. The hotels appeared to be kept by Portuguese and Spaniards and if we purchased a bottle of spirits – arrack or gin – there would always be an invitation to sit down at a table, on which were little loaves, fruit and dried fish and to which we readily did justice. It was a puzzle where the profit of the transaction came in. If we ever referred to it, the proprietor would spread out his hands, throw (119) his head on one side and say “My country fashion” and we did not object.
Tropical fruits of all kinds, cigars, nice mats etc. were all incredibly cheap as compard with the present cost. The ship supplied the crew with fowls and buffalo beef on alternate days, with plenty of yams and sweet potatoes. We all ran an account with the debash for fruit, eggs and soft bread and so lived like fighting cocks. The debash also arranged to supply the men with arrack and they would often be unfit for work. When the ship became immersed to her fifteen feet draught, she was taken outside the bar and anchored in the roads and later came a little French barque that anchored close to us. Among her crew were two English seamen and our crew fratenised to the extent of exchanging sugar for two cases of eau de cologne, both items being pilfered from the cargoes. Later the French crew would visit our people in the evenings and a bucket would be brought into the forecastle and a number of bottles of our eau de cologne emptied into it and hot water and sugar added and it would be served round in a pannikin. Songs in English and French would be sung until the men became too intoxicated and when the songs ceased there would be --- “Dagoes, French and Englishmen acussing altogether in the forecastle of the homeward bound.” And the mate would come forward and order the French crew to their own ship. The eau de cologne used to give our fellows dreadful heads in the morning. All the winch and deck work connected with the cargo was done by thirty native labourers and about every fourth man of them was afflicted with elephantiasis, one of their legs being perhaps as thick as their bodies. After a few days the French barque sailed for Colombo and as the debash man had been forbidden to bring on board intoxicants of any kind, Jack had to keep sober for some time. One day however, everybody forward was more or less ‘screwed’ and when the debash’s boat came as usual in the morning, down went the mate into her and turned out everything, but no grog was found. Then (120) all the green coconuts were passed up and chopped open, with the same result. No other shore boats came alongside except the little catamarans that would call as they came in from the sea with fish. All the same everybody was drunk that day except the officers and apprentices. It was the same the next day although the boat was again exhaustively searched. On the succeeding day the first catamaran came sweeping in from the sea under her big lateen sail and rounded up alongside as usual and our cook and the labourer’s bandaddy that cooked for them, went to the gangway with their baskets for their fish. No one appeared to be paying any attention, but as soon as they pulled up their baskets, down from the poop came the mate and collared both and took them into the cuddy. In every fish was found some kind of bottle, according to the size of the fish, containing arrack. Someone gave the catamaran warning and she cleared off. Later in the day two more came close to us but the lascars evidently gave them the signal to stand off. After this there was no more trouble in this direction.
When all the Cochin cargo was in and we were ready to sail for Alleppo the next day, the debash came on board and complained that some of us had stolen the book which we had every day signed for our daily indebtedness to him. So the men were called aft and the captain put the question to each man “What do you owe the debash?” Everyone had been getting bread, eggs, fruit, cigars etc. and most of the arrack for it was all the debash’s property.
Probably a sovereign would not have covered any of our debts, but no one acknowledged more than two or three rupees and off course the could pay no more. Jack was content to pay the balance with the fore topsail sheets. But what was astonishing, although the debash protested most emphatically that each man owed him much more than was acknowledged, was that after his business with the ship was all transacted and before he left the vessel, he gave all the fruit, bread, eggs etc. that was in his canoe to the men and shook hands with each, saying, “Bime, bime, you come (121)back. Me serve you again.” And left us apparently satisfied. It was coals of fire on Jack’s head all right.
We sailed next morning taking Mr. Outerson, our charterer with us and a day or two afterwards we anchored at Alleppo. Here we took in a few godowns of coffee and rice and seventy-six lascars, mixed nationalities of Hindus, Cedyboys and Arabs, a crew for Tindall’s ship Persia (then lying at Colombo.) The ship was paid 20s. per head and they brought their own rice and other food. We all expected to be in Colombo in a few days, though we were to call in at Toticorin. After leaving Alleppo we had very light winds and calms for a day or two and then a dead calm day after day. Then we last sight if the land so we knew there was a current. Then we had frequent little squalls, in which would be a few drops of rain and a puff of wind from everywhere, but of no service to the ship. Presently the lascars food ran out and the ship had to supply them with rice from the Alleppo cargo. Conditions continued the same day after day and excert by the current, the ship’s position was unaltered. We were too late for the season and in the doldrums, which always precede the changing of monsoons.
One morning the serangs of the Persia’s crew were called aft and, after a confab with the captain, all our four boats were got into the water and manned by the lascars, four and a steerman in each, and a line attached to the end of the flying jibboom was taken as a towline. The four boats were towed night and day, their crews being relieved by the usual watches. The sea was as smooth as glass, there not being the least undulation and in the early morning it would be an unbroken surface of yellow spawn, whale feed as it was called. Whether of animal or vegetable production, I have never learned. All the Australian coasts are subject to it and it is often very offensive when driven on the beaches at Yeppoon and Emu Park.
The calm continuing, one day a Hindu fell sick. His own people were attending to him and none of us took any notice of him until I happened to hear one of his countrymen say he was dead. (122) I got onto the water casks and looked over into the long boat which, as customary then, was stowed amidships where the man had lain sick and there was the dreadful corpse, eyes open, hands clenched and arms bent from the elbow and drawn against the chest. The legs were bent from the knees and drawn up to the abdomen. I received a shock and at once told the chief mate and he and Mr. Outerson went to the long boat. I followed. I heard the latter say, “By God! Its cholera. If we don’t get wind it will go through the ship.” Then the captain came and afterwards all the Hindus that were nopt in the boats took the corpse under the break of the poop and laid it on some boards and a couple of boxes. While this matter was engaging everyone’s attention a little squall was brewing. There had been nothing in the squalls previously beyond a puff and a few drops of rain, but this one brought a strong gust, filling the topsails and giving the ship such way that she ran upon the four boats towing ahead, before the towing could be let go. It was a miracle the boats were not capsized. As it was, five of the men jumped overboard and dived under the ship and they and the boats were left half a mile astern. In a few minutes however, it was clock calm again and the boats came alongside safely. As soon as they heard of the dead man they refused to remain in the boats and the men and boats were taken on board. All of them went and looked at the corpse and a Hindu, who was an assistant bandaddy, was left in charge of it, sitting close by its side on the platform. The rest went to their supper.
At eight bells of the second dog watch our European crew were called aft and cautioned not to have any contact with the Persia’s crew or their belongings. Then a tot of brandy was given to each of us and we were told that no more arrack would be served out. The man watching the corpse was lame on the left side, the tendons of his leg being drawn up by burning. He had also last the sight of one eye and the centre of the socket was white, giving him a very peculiar and repellant (123) appearance. But of tis anon. After having the brandy, our people were all sitting in the forecastle head discussing cholera and two other apprentices and myself were stealing green mangoes from the bow of the long boat. It was still clock calm and the ship lay in the bright moonlight, with headsails down, courses hauled up and topgallant sails and royals on the caps, like a painted ship on a painted sea, motionless, when a loud cry or scream was heard by everyone. We all ran aft in the direction it came from and there was the little lame watcher bouncing about the deck in a fit. His countrymen at first would not touch him, but when the first paroxysm had passed, they took him to the gangway and poured water on him and rubbed his hands and feet. However at midnight he was dead and they laid him alongside the other corpse. At two o’clock in the morning the mate called out, “Boy, trim the binnacle light. The vessel is not steering.” The man at the wheel was half asleep and, after I had trimmed the binnacle light, the mate told me to prick up the main deck light. This was the light hanging over the dead man. A few minutes afterwards I gave a yell and ran to the cuddy and sang out “The man is not dead!” The captain and Mr. Outerson came out and it was at once apparent that the man who had died first had straightened out his legs and one arm and it was the latter movement I had seen while trimming the light. “The man’s as dead as Pharoah,” said Outerson. “I have seen the relaxation of muscles after death by cholera in natives before. It usually takes place when decomposition sets in and doubtless it was the sudden movement of the legs that frightened the other man into a fit. I do not think he died of cholera.”
The next morning the serangs were told to bury the corpses and some canvas and iron were placed at their disposal for this purpose. Later the serangs told the captain that the Hindus would not bury them because they were short of something that was necessary to put around the necks of the corpses, by which I think they were lifted into their heaven. Later in the day they (124) absolutely refused to bury them and the bodies were taken by them and placed in the quarter boats. About noon that day two more Hindus were ill and would not take medicine from the captain. Two of their countrymen rubbed their abdomens, their hands and the soles of their feet. At four bells of the first dog watch, our men were told to throw overboard the bodies from the quarter boat, but as soon as the Hindus heard this, they carried the corpses to the gangways, washed them, rolled them up in canvas, attached some iron to them and dropped them overboard. About ten o’clock that night another man died and shortly after midnight, another. It was still dead calm and about every two hours one of us boys used to have to trim the light that hung over the sick and dead men. There was no kerosene then and the course black whale oil then in use required constant attention. All our crew, including the boys, received two tots of brandy a day and all the camphor in the medicine chest was given us. We made bags for it and wore it around our necks. However, we never missed a chance of sneaking the green mangoes. At six o’clock the next morning the other two corpses were dropped over the side. There was still not a breath of wind. The crew were not given any work other than cleaning the ship in order that they might not come into contact with the lascars. During the fore noon another if the Hindus was on his back and when I was going to the wheel at one bell after my dinner, when I saw a big Cedyboy named Abdulla lying on the deck with two of his countrymen attending him. These men were Muhammadan , fine men, jet black, good seamen and intelligent. Abdulla took all the medicine that was given by the captain and Mr. Outerson and very brisk friction at the hands of his nurses, but he and the two Hindus were dead at midnight.
I shall never forget that night, for a very strange thing occurred and I can recall it as vividly now after a lapse of sixty years as the night of its happening. No interim experiences have lad me to be doubtful of it as absolute fact. After the man Abdulla, who as I said, was a Mahommadan, got sick, one of his co-religionists was, in a low monotonous tone, repeating from what we supposed to be the Koran. Now and again, breaking the (125) dead silence that hung over the ship would come a response from the others, who were lying about apparently asleep, of “Allah, Allah, Allah resoul.” It was startling and awe inspiring under the circumstances. As soon as these last two were dead (all since the first had died nearly straight) they were laid on the after hatch and before daylight three more men were ill on the platform. But previous to this and just after midnight, the second mate called out from the poop, “One of you boys trim the main deck light.” This was the sick bay light. I was asleep on the fore hatch, but I heard him and responding “aye aye sir!” I hurried into the boy’s side of the forecastle and got the oil feeder and pricker and was hastening along the starboard side of the deck, when I saw a lascar standing abaft the chestree between the water casks and the bulwarks. I thought, “I won’t touch you in passing, as you must be attending the sick,” and to say something when I got to him, I said “Salaam,” and was passing on but he neither spoke nor moved. But I looked in his face and saw his white eye socket and then noticed that he was all one side with a contracted leg. I recognised him at once as the little assistant bandaddy, but I did not realise for a moment that two days previously I had seen him stiff and stark and being scrubbed and launched overboard. When I did I dropped the oil feeder and ran back into the men’s forecastle, where there was a light and some of the watch sitting on their chests smoking. I hurriedly told them what I had seen and they appeared as frightened as I was. Everyone, I think, was nervous at night that horrible time. But a man who we had nicknamed Faversham jumped up and said “I’m not frightened of a live nigger and much less a dead one. Come on boy.”I followed him as far as the galley and then stood until Faversham got up to the man, who I could see distinctly standing just as I had seen him before, until Faversham’s figure hid him from me and then I turned and went into the forecastle again. The second mate was calling out “Trim the light. Where is that ---- boy?” (126) In a few minutes Faversham entered the forecastle looking frozen. He did not speak at first, but sat down on his sea chest. Presently he said “By God, it was a little scary.” “Is he there now?” was asked. “No. He cleared out while I was looking at him.” Was the reply. Then the second mate came forward and seeing the light asked “Where’s that ---- boy?” Faversham, without saying I was there, went to the door and told him what had occurred, but he simply said of course that “It was one of those ---- niggers.” But as Faversham protested he said “Well if the black ------- don’t know when they are dead, I can’t help it. Send that boy to trim the light.” It was as light as day out of the shadows, a full moon and a cloudless sky and we had both seen the man as clearly as if it had been noon. Anyway, I was not going with the oil feeder amongst two dead men, three more dying and another standing about not knowing he was dead, so Faversham went with me and when we returned forward again we were both taken with violent vomiting and the boatswain went aft and told the second mate. Presently the captain and Mr. Outerson came forward and gave us brandy and probably tincture of opium and poured nearly scalding water on our feet. The next I remember was finding myself in one of the cuddy berths at noon the following day, for I had slept till then and being alright except for a dreadful headache, I was bundled forward again, feeling rather ashamed I was not dead after the fuss. I was very glad to see Faversham was all right too. The other boys informed me that five men had been buried during the fore noon.
To abbreviate, we lost nineteen of the Persia’s crew, and the first day there were no deaths or sick men there was a light adulation on the sea. Towards there was quite a swell on, and everyone was anxiously expecting wind. About ten o’clock it came a dark streak on the water heralded its coming. Then there was a little shuddering through the light sails, which had been hanging in the gear for a fortnight. Next the topsails filled their white bosoms and bellied out. Then came the incisive voice of the captain to the man at the wheel. “East by south, half south.” (127) Then followed “Board the foretack, Mr. Brown, and sheet home the topgallant sails and royals.” Quickly came the swish of the water along the ship’s sides as she gathered more headway as the white wings were spread, and the feeling of thankfulness and exhilaration which one always feels when the blessed wind comes after a prolonged calm and its attendant inactivity and monotony, even under ordinary conditions, it is very sincere; but with us, after these weeks of calm, disease, and death, it would take a much abler pen than I can wield to approach description of. Up to this time not a European of our crew of twenty-seven all told had had a cramp or an ache; and doubtless Faversham and myself gave the captain a fright when we lost our stomachs over trimming the lantern. However, it was productive of good, for after it oil was issued to the lascars, and they trimmed for themselves. Our calling at Toticorin was given up, and the wind carried us to our anchorage in Colombo.
Fortunately there were no more cases of sickness, and two hours after anchoring a godown came and took the remainder of the Persia’s crew from us. We, of course, expected to have been quarantined and this would have been most disastrous so near the monsoonal change. We landed Mr. Outerson, who I never saw again. I may remark that he and the captain were utterly sceptical of the reappearance of scanny. At Colombo we took in a few godowns of coffee and spice, and two days after our arrival, after having the decks full of Cingalese filagree workers, tailors, manicurers barbers, hat sellers and makers, chaps with monkeys, parrots, green snakes, pigeons, etc., conjurers, who grew mango trees on the deck while you waited, others with ebony and ivory elephant’s walking sticks, chessmen, and also beautiful and useful coromandel woodwriting desks and dressing cases, to say nothing of fruit of all kinds, fowls, eggs and vegetables, we mastheaded the topsail yards, hove the anchor short, and were aloft dasting off yardarm gaskets and standing by to let fall the bunts for the homeward voyage. Just then a boat came alongside with some officials, and the captain was taken ashore. As he did not return that day, (128) the cable was veered again that the sails make fast; but the next day he came on board, and it was rumoured that he had feen fined 300 pound for suppressing the fact of having had cholera on board. Probably the fine was preferable to detention with lascars on board. So the cable came in once more to the rattling chorus of “Do let me go, girl. Do let me go. Hurrah, my yellow girl, do let me go. Good-bye, farewell you well. Good-bye”
Etc.
After leaving Colombo we carried fair winds and weather until in two degrees north of the equator. Soon after leaving, our hard bread, Liverpool pantiles as Jack called biscuit ran short. It had for some time been full of live stock weevil and maggots and the forecastle door used to be drawn to shut out the daylight that we should not see what we were eating. If a biscuit was broken and dropped into a Hookpot of tea or coffee the insect being drowned floated and could be removed with a spoon, but the only nutritious element in the ancient biscuit was lost. Looking backward, it is, to me, amusing how the generally splendid physique of seamen seventy years ago was gained and maintained when consideration is given the quality of food supplied. Take the ship I am writing of as a criterion of the dietary scale of most ships of the time. The week was divided into – two duff days, two rice days, and three pea soup days. On the former days half-pound of flour per man was issued to the cook, this being mixed with water and fat from the salt beef and pork was poured into a conical-shaped canvas bag and boiled in sea water and eaten as boiled – without currant or molasses, yet, a duff day was always a red letter day with the forecastle. In addition to the half-pound of flour there would be one and a half pounds of salt beef, which, in our case, had been on board the two years of the current voyage and was probably casked in brine, years before it came to us. In boiling, it shrunk to half its size when taken from the tieree and every item of fatty matter disappeared while in the coppers, the remainder resembled fibrous mahogany. The daily allowance of biscuit was a pound, this whether good or bad was ample, for I never knew a man who habitually consumed his pound of bread. On rice, or, as it was usually (129) named “strike me blind” days a third of a pound of rice per man was issued, but with no trimmings such as sugar or molasses. Few seamen ate their rice, for in addition to its insipidity eaten alone, seamen had a fixed conviction that it deteriorated their eyesight and if a man on the lookout failed to see an object before the officers, his excuse was that “d---- strike me blind”.
The pea soup, in common with every food that passed through the ship’s galley or caboose was brought into the forecastle in a little wooden tub called a “kid”, and in appearance it was two thirds clear yellow fluid with an inch of precipitation of peas at the bottom of the “kid”.
When a ship had been ten (10) days at sea and the crew on salt provisions, an act of parliament enforced the issue of half an ounce of lime juice and the same quantity of sugar daily per man as a preventative to scurvy – hence the term of “limejuicer” or what was allowed to be an equivalent the men could be given a “fresh moss” every tenth day and this generally consisted of soup and bouilli, and in my boyhood it was the only tinned provisions carried in Scotch ships. Jack used to tell a yarn of an illiterate scotsman owner to whom the act was explained and who immediately instructed his captain to give the b-s (meaning the seamen) a feed of “Burgoo (oatmeal porritch) every ten days – and so save the lime-juice. Our biscuit being nearly all consumed, flour was issued in lieu of it, and as the flour was brown in colour and full of weavils the apprentices were allowed as much of as they could use, and we used to make duff and use plenty of the salt fat from the pork in mixing it with the result that we were all covered with boils. Just north of the equator we fell into a hurricane before which we scudded under a close reefed main topsail with a very dangerous sea racing after us, and it was apparent to us all that the captain and mates were anxious. We had been in heavy gales and seas of the Capes Leeuwin and Horn, but we had never experienced anything to nearly equal the force of the wind or velocity of the waves that were they following us (130) during the time that we were scudding before this hurricane. As night closed in it became pitch dark with vivid flashes of forked lightning. Driven by wind and hurled along by the sea we made a speed of thirteen knots. Great mountains of water raced after us astern and on each side of us and then blending ahead their combs broke and crashed across the ship’s course in a broad belt of phosphorescence till it was easy to believe that she was racing to annihilation on the weather edge of a coral reef, and so she ran from 6 p.m. till 3 a.m. when the wind began to haul to the southward and moderate, and the sea became pyramidal and all hands were called. The wind quickly fell light but the sea was in pyramids and the ship’s motion was so violent that we expected the masts to go out of her every moment, she would drop off a sea aft until one would expect her counter to be lifted off her, and then plunge into a short hollow sea forward and bury herself to the knighthead. Chips, our carpenter, had always shown himself a plucky chap under all previous conditions but at this time he went on the poop to the captain and said, “she’ll no stand it, captain, she’ll no stand it!” “Well”, said the captain, who was perfectly calm (though I thought he had the face of an old man just then), “What can you suggest doing – the ship is not steering and is unmanageable.” We were in a calm in the centre of a hurricane. On each mast head and on every yardarm there was what seamen then called compenants. About daybreak the wind came away as strong as before and we have her to under a goose-winged maintopsail. While all hands were hauling on the lee main brace as she came head to wind there came a blinding flash of lightning with a deafening peel of thunder simultaneously and the whole nineteen of us were thrown violently on the lock and against each other and we all lost perception of surroundings for some seconds, but no damage was apparent to us or the ship and it was only when lying anchored at St. Helena that it was discovered that two of the main chain plates were fused and the lignum vites dead eye was carbonised, with this exception we made through a very strenuous time soathless. Two days after the hurricanes we made out an object ahead which on nearer (131) approach proved to be a dismasted barque named Givalior. The wind was light and it was sundown when we got within signalling distance and receiving no response to our first hoist of flags, a boat was lowered and with the first mate in charge and four apprentices, which included Jerry Waite and myself, went along side of her. It was evident that her distressful condition was of earlier date than the recent hurricane; her three masts were gone, her mizzen at the poop deck, the main about fifteen feet above the main deck, and the foremast just at the base of the mainstays; her foreyard lay across the forecastle head – the canvas of the foresail frayed out and knotted up with the water laid fore sheets and chain tacks hanging over the side. She was in ballast, which we considered to be Sydney stone, there were no boats with the exception of the long boat which store and foul with the stench of rotting carcases of pigs and sheep, was lying on the one side of the main deck to where it had been washed from the chocks off the main hatch. The cuddy, or saloon as it is now named, was strewn with seamen’s clothing of all kinds, as well as decaying provisions. In the captain’s after cabin there were cells for three chronometers, two of which were still in their places, but run down, the third had doubtless been taken in the boats when they abandoned the ship. A cat evidently but recently dead, lay coiled round on the cabin table, quite likely she had survived some time after the crew left. In every part of the ship, there was the most intolerable and sickening stench. She was evidently making little or no water for although it was a foot over the ceiling, it was black and stinking. We pulled back to our ship and the mate reported, and taking the carpenter and his mate back, they bored several holes with a large auger and we left her. We heard afterwards, that the crew, after suffering much hardship was picked up by a passing vessel. Vessels are so frequently abandoned prematurely. We now carried find weather until crossing the Aqulhus banks and while in bad weather there sprung a leak, and it kept us half of every watch at the pumps, and the coconut oil that had in a liquid (132) state been spilt in the hold while loading, now that the weather was cold solidified and the morabliu nuts rolling about the bilge picked up the oil and would come up into the pump boxes and choke the valves every minute. However, after hauling up for Fort Natal and making the land, we kept away again and ultimately pumped our wretched way to St. Helena, where we anchored, and getting some lighters (the razed hulls of slavers captured by H.M.S.), alongside discharged some casks of oil into them. This enabled us to reach and stop the leak from the inside. While lying at St. Helena, Jemmy and I went with the captain up to Napoleon’s tomb; the body had been removed to France long before. We used to have a large bag of watercress, or at Jack called it “scurvy grass” brought off every morning as also lots of flying fish, both of value to us for their antiscarbutic qualities especially the former, and what was a dire necessity to us, some fairly good bread (biscuit). The day after our arrival, the Black Ball ship Bloomer stood in for the anchorage but let go her anchor off the bank and a hundred fathoms of cable ran out without reaching the bottom, and making sail again she attempted to purchase for anchor but failing had to "slip it".
We lay at St. Helena six days, and then having stopped the leak and restowed the oil and purchased what stores we required, we left and proceeded on our voyage.
As we approached the Equator, we were kept employed tarrying down the hemp rigging, (it was previous to wire), and painting the ship as was usual at the time. We were short of linseed oil and the white lead used to be mixed with rum instead, and during the night the lead would precipitate leaving the rum on top, and this was always poured off and drank by the seamen. We met no calms on the equator, but carried the S.E. into the N.E. trade winds. We were in about twenty deg. north when one morning, we sighted an object which on nearer approach, we saw was a dismasted hull flying an English ensign Union down as a signal of distress. On nearing her, our mainyard was laid to the mast and a boat lowered, and with the second mate in charge and Jerry and myself and two (133) seamen pulling, we went alongside her. It was the full of a beautiful clipper scooner mamed “Electric Flash” and hailing from Brixham, engaged in the St. Michael orange trade and as it transpired on her maiden voyage, and her low symetrical black hull with its narrow gilt streak just below the covering board, and as she rolled to the long regular swell her new metal sheathing reflected the sun’s rays until it blazed like burnished gold. She was still a thing of beauty although despoiled of her power of propulsion. She was fruit laden from St.Michals and had lost both masts short off at the deck in a squall, which her master stated did not last ten minutes. Beyond the loss of her masts she had sustained no damage. These had been cut adrift when they went over the side to avoid injury to the hull. She had a crew of eleven all told, and the master had “taken his little daughter to bear him company”, a pretty girl of seventeen, and at his request we took him to our ship, and after some converse with Captain Smith, we returned with him to the schooner, and brought away every soul, including the girl, and the vessel was abandoned. Immediately, the strangers were on board our ship, the schooner mate went up on the poop and asked Captain Smith, if it was intended to abandon the schooner. He replied, "that was her master’s intention". Then said the mate. “I protest against such action. Will you give me one of the spare spars from your main deck and put me on board with two men, for I have no doubt but I can carry her into port.” Then turning to the crew who were grouped behind him, he asked, “Will two, or any of you go back to the schooner with me? It will pay you well”, - but there was no response from the men. Then he asked Captain Smith, “Will you permit your boat to put me on board alone? The reply was, “The master has abandoned the vessel. I cannot assume the responsibility of leaving you on board, where in all probability you would perish before you would be picked up.” Then said the mate, “Goodbye, Miss Dora! Goodbye all!” - and before anyone had realised his intention, he had thrown off his coat and plunged into the sea from the gangway, striking out vigorously for the schooner. (134) Our boat had been pulled up to the davits, but she was again lowered and by Captain Smith’s instructions, followed the mate, keeping close to him until he had clambered on board the hull by the fore chain plates. “Have you food and water”, he was asked. “Plenty I’m alright.” “Will you return with me”, asked our offer. “No thanks”. “Then goodbye and good luck.” - and we left him and returned to our ship. Directly we left, the distress signal on the schooner was hauled down from where it was flying on the sprest lashed to the pump. Our boat being secured, the mainyard was filled and we proceeded on our own northward. We learned later on, that a few hours after we left her, a barque spoke to the schooner and gave her a couple of studding sail booms and three shipwrecked seamen which the barque had picked up in the Bight of Benin, volunteered to go in her, with the sequel that she was navigated to the Port of Dieppe in France, where the cargo was sold much of it proving marketable. Salvage claims were settled without litigation, the mate’s share being 900 pound. After the schooner was refitted, he sailed her as master in the St. Michals trade successfully. After leaving the schooner we carried fair weather into soundings and through the English Channel, and picked up a tug off Beachy Head that towed us to the London Dock Heads.
From a letter I had received from my mother I was fully prepared to find the family again residing in England, as my father was again in business, and was therefore expectant of seeing some familiar face on the dock to welcome me, after an absence of over two years. In this, however, I was disappointed, although Jemmy Waite’s parents and sister were there and welcomed us both.
Differing from our last return to London all the evil crew of pimps, low boarding house touts and women of the most vicious class which overrun ships immediately on their arrival at the dock heads previously, were now conspicuous by their absence. Only accredited representatives of the Well-street sailor’s home, and of one or two private boarding houses were permitted by constables whose special duty it was to attend the arrival of every oversea ship.
(135)Between the dock heads, the services of the crew were dispensed with. A gang of wharf lumpers took their place and warped the ship to and moored her in her discharging berth. The officers and apprentices were however retained.
It was nearly dark when Jemmy Waite and I got away to go home. Mr. Waite was waiting for Jimmy at the dock gates in Shadwell Street, and hearing that like his son, I was penniless, he handed me a sovereign and drove me to Mr. Norton’s, my father’s solicitors, and waited until I had ascertained the latter was at home and then took a kindly leave of me.
Mr. Norton was very kind and handed me a letter from my mother which told me the family were living at Grove House, Woodford, some miles away from London, and as the only conveyance was by coach leaving at early morning, I accepted Mr. Norton'’ off of hospitality and remained, with his family being absent, until the coach left next morning, and it was only when taking leave of him I learned that he no longer transacted my father’s business. By the Woodford coach, I reached my new home by mid-day, the meeting with my mother was pathetic and painful. The acute physical and mental change in her was difficult for me to understand untill, when later I became conversant with the drastic alteration in my father’s temperament and habits. I returned to my ship next day and with Jemmy Waite arranged to take up lodgings at an eating house opposite the dock gates. I also called on Mrs. Janet Taylor in the Minories and arranged to attend her navigation school thrice a week.

It is now necessary to say something about the master of the schooner “Electric Flash”, which we spoke of dismasted and his daughter Dora. Captain Mitchell as I must call him was owner as well as master of the Electric Flash. He was a gentlemanly and well educated man and had only followed the sea late in life, having, strange to say, in his younger days held a commission in the 15th Hussars (Prince Albert’s own), and as I learned later was a good navigator but anything but a practical seaman. Both he and Dora were very sociable and pleasant to Jemm and myself during the (136) time they were on board the ship, and we both fell deeply in love with Dora – a fact of which I am quite certain she was perfectly unconscious of, and treated us with equal favour and camaraderie. I from the first thought that Captain Mitchell had a favourable feeling towards myself, but I was not siezed of the fact that such feeling had not the remotest relation to Dora. When taking leave of these pleasant people, Captain Mitchell asked me for my future address, and as I was then uncertain of it I gave him Mrs. Janet Taylor’s, as I quite intended studying under her. The captain said he intended taking Dora to her home at Weymouth at once, but intended returning to London in a few days and he would probably look me up. This raised hopes that I might meet Dora again.

Waite and myself in common with the other two apprentices and 1st and 2nd mates were employed on board the ship from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. except on Saturdays when we knocked off at 1 p.m. and we spent the weekend at our homes. I attended Mrs. Janet Taylor’s three nights a week regularly, and was confident that I could pass successfully the Board of Trade Examination for Master had I been of the complete age. One evening, while at school, Captain Mitchell called. He had arrived from Weymouth that day and his looking me up so promptly rather surprised me. At his request, I gave up school for that evening and placed myself at his disposal. At Aldgate, he hailed a cab and we were driven to Drury Lane Theatre. During the performance, the captain told me he intended purchasing a small vessel to engage in a trade between Hong Kong and the South Sea Islands, but he was very desirous that his intentions should be kept secret for the time and that he had mentioned them to no person but myself. Now, I had always a great desire to sail in the South Seas. My imagination had always invested the South Pacific with what every romance there was in a seaman’s life, and I must admit that my after experiences confirmed rather than dispelled the imaginings. After the theatre, we entered a restaurant where we had an excellent oyster supper, and afterwards the captain drove me to my lodgings and left me with the promise of seeing me again shortly. After retiring, I lay awake wondering (137) why Captain Mitchell had told me, a youngster, of his intended enterprise which he said he was desirous of keeping secret. With the folly and egotism of youth, I associated his confidence in connection with his daughter Dora, and me, still an apprentice with an income of seven pounds a year. Well it is amusing to look back on now. At this time, my weekends spent at home were very strenuous times – my father was so irritable and exacting, and it was only for my mother’s sake, I went near the home. These conditions were more deplorable, as we had a very fine establishment with a staff of several servants – including a gardener, coachman, and a resident governess for my younger sisters. After the rough life at sea, it would have been a very welcome recess for me especially, but my father’s eccentricities made anything approaching happiness impossible. The whole family was frightened of him. All my sympathies were with my mother and sisters, who had to be perpetually domiciled with him while at home. Fortunately his business kept him in London a portion of each day except Sunday. The ship had discharged the inward and was now receiving her outward cargo for Port Adelaide, when one day Captain Mitchell came on board to see Captain Smith and afterwards had some conversation with Jemmy and myself. He had arranged to call for me in the evening, and when evening came we went to a hotel in the Minories and in a private room Captain Mitchell conversed of his intended enterprise. He said he had purchased a brig named Maud but she required extensive repairs and refitting, all of which he would have effected in Bombay or Cochin where labour and teak timber was 70 per cent cheaper than in England and that he would take metal for fastenings and sheathing out with him. He impressed on me that the conversation was absolutely confidential and asked me if I would go with him as mate and navigator. He went on to say that the brig after finishing her repairs would go direct to the South Seas where she would be engaged in an inter-island trade in Beche-de-mer and pearl shell, and whatever else would find sale in European markets. Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to have been able to give an unqualified assent but there was every prohibitable condition in the way. In the first (138) place, I had no certificate and although I was confident of being able to pass the Board of Trade examination, I was not twenty-one and if a certificate was granted, it would be endorsed as ineffective until I was of age. Also my father had told me that when I could get a Masters Certificate, he would purchase a ship or interest in one, for my command, and there were other lions in the way – all of which I put before the captain. He appeared much disappointed and offered to engage a mate for the run to a repairing port, and visit my father and obtain his consent. A few days later, without telling me, he went to my father’s counting-house and broached the matter and was called a pirate for his pains. At the weekend I went home as usual, knowing nothing of the captain’s interview with my father, until I met him in the evening and then so warm a passage of arms took place between us, that after a heartbreaking parting with my mother, I left the house and never met either of my parents again. A few days after, a clerk who had been with us many years came to the ship with a cheque for the purchase of an outfit for the next voyage, but as he brought no word from my father, to whom I had written a very humble and affectionate letter after our fracas, I, in spite of Mr. Slee’s arguments refused to take the cheque. I have always regretted it since. Captain Mitchell visited my father from the best motives doubtless, but it proved disastrous to me, how much so I was unable to realise until my father’s demise.
I left London in the old ship bound for Port Adelaide, and my five years apprenticeship and eighteen months I had served as Midshipman would expire before we would reach that port, so I was entered on the ship’s articles as 3rd mate to prevent my leaving ship in Adelaide, where the wages for a substitute in my place would be treble what was current in London. Captain Mitchell whom I saw every evening before we left informed me he had purchased two hundred tons of cardiff coal and had freighted for the Colonial Government five locomotives and was bound to Melbourne, and the “Maud” sailed about the same time we did. I was very anxious to know if his daughter Dora sailed with him. We had an uneventful passage and (138) made anchorage in Holdfast Bay on the hundred and sixteenth day pilot to pilot. I remember an amusing episode which happened during some rough weather in the English Channel. We had some twenty-five cuddy passengers for Adelaide and amongst them two recently married your couples. They had berths on one side of the alleyway aft of the cuddy (soloon as it is now called) adjoining each other. The doors being exactly similar. Both ladies had retired early in the evening and both husbands had remained on the poop with the officer of the watch until 10 p.m., when both went below and also retired, and nothing further transpired until the steward’s assistant knocked at the doors with the early cup of coffee. The wrong hubbies responded at the respective doors. Doubtless, when retiring they entered the wrong berths. It was soon known all over the ship and Jack, in the forecastle, improvised and suggested in the vivid manner of his kind, and the unfortunate bridge’s suffered roasting for the rest of the voyage. We had also a French family, a Monsieur and Madame Duvard and their daughter, a very Frenchy and pretty girl as Jemmy and I thought about eighteen. As usual we were much impressed, and it became the usual role for either of us having the first watch, (we were not in the same watches), to stand under the break of the poop with her and watch the roll of the ship for an excuse to put an arm around her waist and support her, and to keep it there in anticipation of the next roll, and this she never resented and usually if it was dark enough kissed us goodnight when she was called to retire by her mother. The ship’s Doctor Edmunds had with him his son who had just finished his term in a French University and always wore the uniform of his college, and although he spoke French like a Parisian, he never carried on conversation with Mademoiselle Celeste which Jemmy and I were very thankful for. On arriving at Port Adelaide Celeste made an opportunity of taking a French and very affectionate leave of Jemmy and myself separately, and each of us pitied the other. The passengers all left as soon as we moored at the wharf, but next day Celeste and the young student Edmunds came on board and took wine with the captain in the cuddy, and afterwards they both came to Jemmy and Me, and the college bloke (as we always called him), introduced Celeste to us as Mrs. Edmunds and she laughing (140) kissed her fingers to us and told us to be bon garcons and left us to comfort each other. They had been married the previous day.
We had been in Port Adelaide a week when I received a letter from Captain Mitchell by which I learned that the brig had arrived in Melbourne, and suggesting that I should try to get my discharge from the ship and join him, and promising to send me a draft for my expenses by the following mail. At the same time I received a letter from Ipswich telling of the marriage of my one time sweetheart Ida, to one of her uncle’s school assistants and of course I was heartbroken. I quickly made up my mind that I would join Captain Mitchell but I felt certain that Captain Smith would not give me my discharge, as he would have to pay current wages 10pound per month for an A.B. To have asked him would have been to let him know I was desirous of leaving and I should then have been watched.
I told Jemmy I intended leaving the ship, and he tried his best to dissuade me from doing so. I could not tell him about my intended arrangement with Captain Mitchell without breaking faith with the captain, but I let him think it was the unhappy relations with my father which influenced me, and this really was so, for had things been smooth at the home I should not have entertained absconding from the old ship for a moment. Jemmy then assisted me to get my clothing, sextant and books ashore and deposited with a resident in the port whom I considered trustworthy. I received some money from Captain Mitchell by post, and one Sunday morning putting on a tweed suit to less sailor-like than the blue uniform generally worn by the merchant seamen at that time, I paid two shillings for a passage to the city by one of the tandem carts which, before the railway was build, was the only public conveyance over the seven miles between the port and the city of Adelaide. Arriving in the city at noon I had a good meal at a restaurant and started at once to take the first road which led out of the town, and before dark I was quite in the country, and I entered the first bit of thick scrub and sitting at the foot of a large tree, I camped for the night. I had no luggage but my pocket handkerchief and (141) tying this over my face and putting my hands in my pockets, I did my best to dodge the mosquitoes until midnight, when a short thunderstorm with a heavy shower which drenched me to the skin occurred. I remained in the scrub with my clothes spread out to dry a bit until about 8 a.m. and then took to a track with Mount Lefty ahead, and presently, I saw a man following with a carpenter’s basked of tools on his shoulders. I slowed down until he came up, and with a good morning he asked “are you going to Glen Osborn?” I replied in the affirmative (it was the first time I had heard of such a place), and I asked him if there was a lodging house or hotel there. He said “no, but there’s a little store”, and he asked looking at my London cut tweed suit, “you don’t want work I suppose? I am a carpenter and I want a labourer?” The result being that at the end of a five mile tramp, I started as assisting to lay flooring boards in a new cottage at eight shillings a day. At night we slept in the cottage which he was building for a German named Starkey who kept a little store where we purchased our tucker and a bottle of beer too, if we were discreet with it. There were only two or three cottages, but many bullock teams passed. After a day or two during which I had become quite expert and useful to my carpenter, Starkey wanted me to dig up some garden ground at the rear of the cottage, and the carpenter said I had better go, so I started digging at one shilling per rod, and I found I had to work very hard to make eight shilling per day. The unusual work affected my back so much that it was torture for a while when starting in the morning, and I was glad when Starkey came and told me I wasn’t keeping my trench clear or going deep enough, and knew almost as much about digging as his cow. I told him I quite agreed with him and started helping my carpenter again. I continued with him for a fortnight longer and was very anxious to know if the ship had sailed. I was saving nearly all the money I earned as the carpenter found the tucker for both. At last Starkey received a newspaper from town which he lent us and in it the ship’s clearance was reported, and my face must have reflected the pleasure I felt, for my carpenter, to my astonishment, asked “has your ship gone?” and before I had time to reply he said, “Oh, I knew you were a runnaway sailor before you had been with me (142) a day 0 they’re always handy coves.” So I made a clean breast of it. He was a real good straight chap and I had taken to him mightly.
Next day I collected the money due to me and buying a blue serge shirt, a felt hat with a girdle and tassel, and a pair of moleskin pants from Starkey, discarding those I had been working in, made up a swag of my tweeds, a towel and some brushes, took leave of my carpenter and started for Adelaide. I slept at a Temperance Hotel in Hindly Street and went to the port in a port cart, where, after making sure the ship had sailed, I took a steerage passage for Melbourne in the SS Burra Burra. I did not go to the people with whom I had left my clothes before leaving, concluding it would be more discreet to sent for them from Melbourne and as I afterwards learned there was a reward of 20 pound for my detention, and instructions left to send me to London by another ship, I felt I had acted discreetly.
On arriving the Burra Burra moored at Sandridge Jetty and I at once proceeded to Melbourne by cab, and discharging it at Flinders Street, I made my way towards the shipping lying alongside the Yarra banks; and it was not long before I stood alongside the brig Maud. I recongnised her at once as a country wallah (i.e. a vessel built in India) round in bows and sides, coir lower rigging – a good sea boat but slow – was the opinion I formed of her. There was only one man visible on board of her and after waiting awhile I accosted this man who said Captain Mitchell was on shore, but would be on board at noon. I made up my mind I’d wait in the vicinity. I did not fall in love with the brig. It was past midday when I saw Captain Mitchell coming towards me and nothing could have been more assuring that his manner of meeting me. We went straight to Scott’s Hotel and had an appetising lunch and then went towards the brig. On the way, in reply to his query of what I thought of her, I replied that “I had not been on board of her, but I should say that she was slow and sure, judging by her lines.” He seemed quite nettled and said, “You’ll alter your opinion later”. Going on board we went below and I was agreeably surprised at the commodious and handsomely fitted cabins, which were pannelled in polished (143) mahogany and teak with moldings. There were four nice comfortable state rooms, opening into the cabins fitted with lavatories, lounges and everything necessary to comfort found generally in vessels of much heavier tonnage.
In the South Sea Island trade it was not expected at any time to have the opportunity to fill the ship with cargo and it therefore admitted of good space for cabin and personal accommodation for both officers and crew. There were four arm racks but with the exception of a couple of fowling pieces and as many swords and horse pistols, they were not filled. I remarked that at some time she must have had a large armory. To which the Captain replied, “Yes, and will again before leaving our repairing port.”
The crew with the excepting of the cook (a West Indian), were paid off as soon as the cargo had been discharged. After a short stay on board, we went to Scott’s Hotel and dined, and afterwards Captain Mitchell told me in detail what his future projects were. I was to sail with him as mate and navigator, and when I expressed doubt as to whether my youthful appearance would not raise a difficulty at the shipping office, he replied that he had already arranged that matter, which he had foreseen.
The next day we both took up our quarters on board the brig, and during the day three Swedes and nine coloured men as seamen and a new chum Scotchman as 2nd mate and carpenter were shipped and same on board, as also a Cingalese steward. In the days that followed I was fully occupied in overhauling the brig from Kelson to trucks, and noting the capabilities of the crew, I formed a good opinion of the 2nd mate and carpenter, and two of the Swedes. The third seemed morose and sulky, and, I thought, would make trouble. The calashes were as good and cheerful as they invariably are if treated fairly and the climate warm.
We received a number of cases of stores for South Sea Island trade, and fifty stand of arms viz. fifty muskets, horse pistols and cutlasses. The muskets were flintlock tower weapons which Captain Mitchell had purchased and had had altered to percussion locks. He shipped as ordinary seamen two young Englishmen, who although not (144) seamen were fine upstanding pleasant-looking chaps, and would be useful in the Island trade.
One day I went with Captain Mitchell to the shipping office and signed articles as chief mate; no questions being asked by the shipping master. The next day we next day we left the Yarra in charge of a pilot and in tow of a little tug, and was taken to sea. The brig being cleared at the customs for Guam, as was then the custom with ships seeking charter, and their next port undecided. Dropping out pilot out side the rip, we squared away to the westward before a fresh E.S.E. wind. We took sights for the chronometers off Cape Otway and later off Cape Northumberland and Leuwin and then left the land. Until we reached the Equator Captain Mitchell had not come to any conclusion regarding our port of destination, Cochin or Bombay, for the brig’s new topsides and necessary repairs.
We had every reason to be satisfied with the crew until one day when near the Equator, the Swede I have before said I expected trouble with (and was really a German), came aft with the other two Swedes and complained of a nuisance arising from the proximity of the berthing of the coloured men of the crew. It was my watch below and from my cabin, I heard the Captain say very quietly, that as the calashes were domiciled on one side of the forecastle, the Europeans in the other, he did not see any ground for complaint. The man then became abusive, and his manner threatening, but the other two Swedes did not say a word. The captain, not wishing the coloured men to hear what the man was saying, told him to follow him into the cabin and he would talk it over with them. In the cabin further talk took place and the man, evidently mistaking the captain’s quiet manner for fear, commenced bullying and using bad language. When Captain Mitchell got up from his chair and said quietly – “get out of my cabin” – the man shouted “You’re a ----------- pirate and I have known it all along and so has that dam fool of a boy you have got for a mate. The ship’s half full of firearms and I’ll denounce you in Bombay.” Turning to the little arm rack, he took a horse pistol from it and said, “I will take this for my own protection.” He turned to go up the companion. I instantly drew the door of my berth (145) back and pointing my pistol (unloaded) at him I said. “That pistol is empty. Lay it down or I’ll drill a hole in you!” (I had read of this threat in Fenmore Cooper). “Don’t shoot!” exclaimed the Captain. “He’ll lay it down.” With an ugly scowl the fellow said “Take you ----- pistol.” He threw it down on the cabin deck and to my intense surprise it exploded as it struck the boards.
“Now c