12 January 2016

Brighton Traveller of 1875 - Harry Duke Warne


The Journal of Harry Duke Warne 1875

Transcribed by Judy Middleton (1984 revised 2013)


Harry Duke Warne presents life aboard a sailing ship en route from London to Australia in vivid detail. By the end of the journal you too feel you have shared in the pleasures and dangers of the voyage. The pages were carefully written and remain legible for the most part. The journal was protected by covers of black, oiled canvas.

It must be said that Harry travelled in style. He had a comfortable cabin on deck, a hammock to sleep in, a servant to look after his needs, companions with whom he played endless games of whist and there was good food and wine. The experience of third-class passengers was very different. For instance, neither they nor the hands had the benefit of fresh meat for three months and the relentless rolling they encountered must have been unendurable for those battened down below. There was also the difference that the third-class passengers were poor emigrants hoping for a better life down under whereas Harry was travelling for the sake of his health and returned to England on the same ship, the Carlisle Castle. Neither was he a novice for this was the second time he had sailed to Australia and in the same ship.
copyright © J. Middleton.
Harry Duke Warne made the trip to Australia aboard the Carlisle Castle
in 1874 and 1875.
At the time of this trip Harry was a young man aged twenty-three and it must have made a pleasant break from his legal studies. Just a year later in December 1876 he was admitted as a solicitor and set up his practice in London. In 1880 he decided to move to Brighton and joined the practice of Mr J Penfold & Son at 20 Middle Street. Subsequently, he built new offices and practised there alone.

Not far away from Middle Street stands the Old Ship Hotel. It was not long before Harry made the acquaintance of a young lady called Edith, the fifth child of the hotel’s owner Robert Bacon. The Bacons lived at Wentworth House, Keymer, a spacious house set in its own grounds. It is still in existence, now known as the Villa Adastra and enlarged. It was from Wentwoth that Edith emerged on 7 September 1882 to travel the short distance to the lovely old church of St Cosmas and St Damian to be married to Harry. It was a special place for them and when, tragically, their two infant sons died, it was in this churchyard they were buried. The sons were Bertram Duke Warne (born 22 August 1883 died 22 February 1884) and Lionel Wentworth Warne (born 11 July 1884 died 8 November 1885).  

Despite these tragedies life went on and Harry built up a thriving practice; he became one of the first directors of the Old Ship when the hotel was made into a limited company in 1888 on his advice. He also became involved in local politics. In November 1888 he was returned to Brighton Town Council as a representative for St Peter’s Ward after an exciting campaign, which resulted in one of the highest polls ever recorded. He received 1,187 votes, Dr Marchant received 981 and Mr Edwards received 742. The Brighton Gazette later described him as ‘one of the best speakers of that assembly and whenever he addressed that body he showed an aptitude for marshalling his facts and utilising them in the most telling manner, which never failed to interest and impress his audience.’

Warne had other interests too. He obviously knew the art of taxidermy because on the 1875 voyage he writes about skinning and preserving some of the birds of the southern hemisphere, which he might present to a museum back home. He also writes of his love of a Naval skill – signalling with flags and hoped to have his own set for use on certain days on a proposed mast in his garden. By the late 1880s he had a serious interest in photography, which was a cumbersome hobby in those days as well as requiring practical skills in the use of chemicals to develop the plates.

In 1889 when he was still only aged thirty-seven Harry’s health began to cause concern; he had a weak chest, a disease of the hip, a painful arm and was subject to bad headaches. On medical advice he and Edith planned a trip abroad and the doctors must have been seriously worried because they advised him to take a two-year break from work. It was not to be a straight out and back voyage (like the 1875 one) but a round the world tour, staying for a while in Tasmania, then going to New Zealand, Hawaii, the USA and Canada. While in Australia Harry was delighted to encounter his old friend the Carlisle Castle at Sandridge Pier and took Edith aboard to show her the cabin he had once occupied. Edith kept her family informed of their adventures in a series of long and delightful letters. (These appear in A Brighton Lady in Tasmania and Travels with Edith). It is interesting to note the complete contrast in their writing styles; while Harry’s journal is fluent and literary, Edith’s letters are spontaneous, chatty and informative with scant regard for grammar and a scattering of slang words.

The extended holiday brought some benefits although they both seem tired and out of sorts at the end of nine months of travelling when they set sail for England. Soon Harry was ailing again and this time he visited South Africa. By the summer of 1892 the disease was far enough advanced to necessitate an operation. Although successful as far as it went, it was feared another one of a similar nature might have to be carried out. Meanwhile, Harry returned to his practice at Middle Street and tried to carry on as usual. On Tuesday 19 July 1892 he had an animated discussion with his head clerk Mr Lord Thompson about the probability of the one-man one-vote soon being on the Statute Book for Harry was an ardent Radical. He went to lunch at 2 o’clock and was seized with an apoplectic fit from which he did not recover. Edith was telegraphed for and arrived just in time to be with her husband as he breathed his last. It was just a month past his 40th birthday.

Poor Edith – at the age thirty-two she had lost her husband and two baby sons and she was to spend the next forty-one years as a widow. But she had a lifelong companion in her sister Clara and they lived together in a house in York Avenue, called nostalgically Wentworth.

The Carlisle Castle

She was the product of the famous Blackwell Yard and the firm of R. & H. Green owned and built her in 1865. She weighed 1,458 tons, was 229.8 feet in length, and 37.8 feet in width; she was registered at the Port of London. She was the second iron ship to be built at the Blackwell Yard and she was heavily rigged with a double set of stun-sails but she was known as a fine, steady-going ship. It is interesting to note that Harry logs times of over 300 miles in twenty-four hours, which was unusual for her, and he also records the voyage took seventy-five days whereas the record books state her best time was eighty days achieved in 1877.

The Blackwall frigates, as well as being first-class ships, were noted for the superb training they gave. Harry often mentions the middies and these ships differed from other sailing ships because they had midshipmen rather than apprentices. Many a Blackwall middie went on to reach the top of his profession. Likewise a Blackwell Captain considered himself a cut above the rest. He wrote ‘esquire’ after his surname and he could expect to earn in the region of £5,000 a year.

R. & H. Green sold the Carlisle Castle in 1893 and the vessel was lost with all hands off the west coast of Australia in July 1899.

Editor’s note. The transcribed manuscript was shown to Lieutenant Commander Stapleton for his professional opinion, particularly with regard to nautical terms. He was horrified to find Harry used the word ‘knot’ to describe the distance a ship covers in twenty-four hours, Apparently, this should always be expressed in nautical miles (2023 yards) whilst the actual speed is described in knots (for example one nautical mile an hour). He was equally horrified that I had perpetuated the error. But of course this is Harry’s Journal and his way of reporting events.

By a curious coincidence, Lieutenant Commander Stapleton’s uncle had once served as Second Mate aboard the Cardigan Castle, the sister ship of the Carlisle Castle and sailing the same route from London to Melbourne.


The Journal of Harry Duke Warne aboard the Carlisle Castle (London 5 October 1875 to Melbourne 29 December 1875).

Dedication – My dear Father and Mother, these jottings of my second voyage to Australia, I have written in the hope that in addition to being of interest to you, many even amuse you.                                                                         Harry Duke Warne

Carlisle Castle
Sunday 10 October 1875

Our pilot has brought us safely down the Channel, miserable with its Autumnal weather, and is about to leave us. There is a boat towing astern (with three Devon fishermen who are getting wet through with the sea and spray) and in which our pilot and guests will soon depart. Also all letters for the shore, which were in the letter bag hanging in the Saloon (the bag has been taken down and securely sewn by the sail-man).

Gradually the hills define themselves, the shoreline itself with the waters rolling in is plainly seen and at last snugly nestling under a range of high land, buildings and a township clearly resolve. At what is apparently a short distance to us another town is seen and now we know we are heading into the bay between Torquay and Brixham. The rope ladder is thrown over the side, gangway steps out into position and our owner Mr Green and the two Vivians with the pilot are ready to leave the ship. The former has up to this time, shared my cabin so that we are, as it were, especial friends.

After many hand-shakings and innumerable wishes of ‘Bon Voyage’ and repeated promises from all three that they will come to meet us in the steam-tug on our home arrival in the Channel, we bid goodbye and part from our last communication with home. Up the rigging and on the gaff, everywhere in fact whence a good cheer can be given and a sight of the boat running hard before the breeze can be had, we swarm. When we meet on deck again we feel that our voyage has commenced in real earnest.

‘Uncle’ Homer brought his pipe into my cabin after dinner and our first dinner we spent in company, the officers being all too busy and anxious to get clear of the land to join us; so we set together, present in body but far, far away in spirit and silently and musingly we watch through the first night of our second voyage to Australia in the Carlisle Castle.


Thursday 14 October 1875

In its competition with the world, every trade and occupation has its tricks, right away from the builder who scamps his work with unseasoned wood and inferior mortars, to the doctor who dilutes his drugs with coloured water, and the lawyer who pads a deed with unnecessary verbiage, none are exempt. Even the open-souled mariner has his dodges, his especial weakness being to gull the public with the reported rapidity of his passage. In days gone by, I should have suggested in my ignorance, that to leave Gravesend on the 5 October and to arrive at Melbourne on the 5th of the following January, the trip was therefore one of three months’ or 92 days’ length; but no, you are put down as 75 days or even 72 days out and congratulated accordingly. As far as I can make out the raison d’être is that in seaman’s parlance, one is not ‘at sea’ or ‘out’ until land has been lost sight of for four and twenty hours. Although our pilot left us last Sunday afternoon, the baffling winds and high sea have kept us knocking about the mouth of the Channel until so late as Tuesday evening when the Eddystone or some other light was seen for the last time. The log-board posted up in the Saloon records us today as being only ‘one day out’ and yet we have spent no less than nine days aboard the ship.  

Thanks be to the energy of Cleave and Conway who in their passage from the docks to Gravesend did such wonders in my cabin, I am comfortably settled down. I have ample opportunity for taking stock of everything and everybody, yet I have had quite enough to do recently in lashing everything that could possibly carry away for the weather is still of the most wretched description.

The threat we had coming down the Channel has gradually developed; reefed topsails and whipping seas being still the order of the day whilst the rolling and pitching so peculiar to the short choppy seas of the Channel are both doing their utmost to annoy us.

The only solace we find is in whist for the drizzling rain prevents any going on deck. Uncle and the Doctor, with anyone who is not seasick, at present make up our four and like heroes we struggle through rubber after rubber; but it’s sorry work and tiring for the knees. First the chest, which serves as a table, goes charging down to leeward and capsizes the player behind it; then the chairs skip about so you lash them up and then slip off yourself whilst the chairs are provokingly still; then the tricks are mixed together without any regard as to whose they are, you drop your hands and expose your cards whilst trying to steady yourself; the grog capsizes and from the Saloon one hears children crying and their parents retching.

Dripping all over from his oilskins Smith looks in at us for a minute to snatch a hot rum (the brewing thereof we perfected last voyage) and tells us in matter-of-fact tones that ‘the barometer is falling and a regular sou’wester is coming up.’ The present weather is bad enough even for the well seasoned but a sou’wester on the top of it makes us smile grimly at the thought of what is in store so we light another pipe and prepare to sit out the night and see the worst of it.

The Doctor, thoroughly miserable and unused to this sort of work and sickened additionally by the repeated calls made upon on him by passengers not more wretched than himself, goes sadly below, our best wishes sarcastic in their improbability that he may get a good night’s sleep. This is leaving the Channel in old fashioned Channel weather.


Saturday 16 October 1875

The worst of the weather still continues and refuses to allow us even to endeavour to make ourselves comfortable. From the day we weighed anchor in the Downs we have not been permitted to see the sun, nothing but a long exhausting gale with occasional heavy squalls and torrents of rain. The sea too is running very high as we are now in the ocean standing fairly out in the Atlantic. In consequence we are continually shipping heavy seas over the bulwarks and through the hawser pipes until the main deck is altogether impassable. We fully expect to hear on our arrival at Melbourne that the South and West coasts were visited about this time by an exceptionally heavy gale, if so, friends at home will be right in anticipating that we were right in the thick of it. But so far we have got well through our troubles and notwithstanding that the hands are all new to the ship and have almost to live aloft in times like these, we have not as yet met with the slightest casualty beyond a stay-sail or two carrying away.

By a strange coincidence we have cheated the Bay of Biscay just as we did last year; on both that and the present occasion it blew so hard from the W.S.W. as we were entering the bay that it began to look like getting jammed in it but as luck would have it we just then got the wind a bit free and scuttled right across in a couple of days. Our position is now about 150 miles to the west of Cape Finisterre.

We have just thirty passengers in the Saloon. About ten less than we carried last year and taking them all round perhaps a more promising crowd of companions. But the rain having so far prevented any intercourse on deck save when hidden in oilskins and sou’westers, we are as yet mostly strangers. The sea-sickness too has until within the last few days kept a large proportion of our public in strict seclusion and from what I hear I fancy that those who have been suffering went through their work in real earnest.

The steward has at length arranged the dinner table and with that last act of settling down, we are finally believed to be in regular sea-going trim. Uncle and myself being old passengers are next the Captain with the Lee-Warners, the brothers Field and ‘Jack’ Turner in support. As the mizzen-mast runs right through the table at this point, we are effectively shut off from the rest and have a snug party to ourselves.

Captain Lee-Warner of the Scots Fusilier Guards is taking out his nine months’ leave of absence in endeavouring to put himself straight with his constitution (and longevity) but he has a lot to make up. Strange to say, his throat being particularly affected he has lost his voice exactly as has the old Uncle, both talking in a good sized whisper. His brother travels with him and is supposed to look after him but I fancy his thoughts are more of partridges and poachers than the ocean and his charge’s convalescence. Having a large estate in Norfolk at Walsingham Abbey and being a JP for the County, he has great trouble with regard to those of his neighbours who enjoy surreptitious sport; he is vexed in spirit with the idea that now he is away they are having a real good time of it.

(The Walsingham Abbey estate of the Lee-Warners included the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, which in mediaeval times was one of the four great centres of pilgrimage in Europe. The practice was revived in the 19th century and today some 350,000 people a year come to visit. It was John Warner, Bishop of Rochester 1637-1666, who purchased the estate before the Civil War and left it to his nephew John Lee on condition that he adopted the Warner surname. The last of the Walsingham Lee-Warners was Miss Agatha Lee-Warner who in 1904 married Eustace Gurney.)

We are thrown a great deal together for his brother being unable to stand the tobacco, which he knocks about pretty liberally, my cabin during the present weather is turned into a divan with repeated coffee brews at which the Captain, John Smith and Uncle hold repeated assizes. We seem to have already developed a coterie of our own and fall into each other’s ways and customs with a sailor’s instinct. By reason of my cabin being in this perpetual state of smoke, our rubber is now removed into Captain Lee-Warner’s cabin where we capsize and fall about in the old fashioned manner, the consequence being that for the last night or two we have taken to playing on the floor. When the rolling gets very bad, we can all lie out at length until the bout is over. But even then you are not altogether safe for only last night a sudden lurch shot Uncle clean across the table and pinned his partner against the bulkhead. All this may be very amusing but roughings of this sort are fatal to the prospects of one’s recollecting whether the seven or eight of spades is the best card in. You will appreciate that whist is not played as it should be but we have three months before us of tropical calms, which will probably develop the science.


Monday 18 October 1875

That half bullock we brought off from Deal has at length given in, not so much as a steak surviving; pears and other fruits cease to grace our dessert table and with them have disappeared the last of our shore-going luxuries. We have now only to wait for strawberries and cream and unripe peaches in Melbourne. The sun has favoured us with a beam or two but the sea is still unpleasantly high and we get a playful squall now and then just to keep us lively; however dry decks are a blessing after the fortnight’s dusting, which has thoroughly worn out the officers, tired the crew and sickened the passengers.

For almost the first time we are able to walk the deck and have a look at one another. We have all sorts of sizes, shapes and descriptions of men on board, three ladies (only one unmarried) a Dane and a Roman Catholic Priest completing our total of Saloon passengers. The invalid element is well represented, generally in the form of white, pinched faces with excessive languor pervading their owner’s every movement, greatcoats and comforters concealing much of a sadly worn-out figure. None, however, seem so desperately bad as were some we carried last year and lost; many appear to have a fair chance of being set fair and square by a good voyage.

In striking contrast to the care and anxiety exhibited by the invalids, stands the inevitable section of that annual dose of the British Public who is constantly finding it advisable to leave his native country and make a fresh start in another world. The chief characteristics of this class (whom I have now met more than once) are youth, a tendency to scatter money at the commencement of the voyage and to raffle guns about mid-way and to dispose of watches and chains near the end. They have a senseless disregard for health, extreme liberality in giving drinks, enormous popularity with the sailors, a suit of clothes for every day of the week (driving a cab in Melbourne being their ultimate destiny). We have a fair sprinkling of this genus who have already learnt to call one another by their Christian names and quarrel on the slightest provocation. But the ship is big enough to hold them as well as us – so we go our way and they go theirs.

Every element is represented, even the fanatic; for we have one man who in addition to being a Scotchman is a Calvinist of the utmost uncompromising righteousness. More than once he has told me in a shockingly abrupt manner that the world is full of ‘vanity’. I of course referred him to the Captain if he had any complaints to make but he explained that I mistook his meaning.

Amongst those who are travelling for their health are two Old Rugbeians named Field, one of whom has a weak lung, the other a bad head brought on by sharing in that terrible railway accident near Oxford on the Christmas Eve of 1874. In fact it seems nowadays that for any ailment of an important member the best treatment is to shoot off to Australia.

(Mr Field was an Old Boy of Rugby School. He received his head injury on 24 December 1874 when a train de-railed in Oxfordshire at Shipton-on-Cherwell. More than 70 passengers were injured and 34 people died.) 


Sunday 19 October 1875

The bell rings at half past eight as the signal to brush one’s hair, again at nine as the signal for breakfast and for my own part I have by this time learned to take my place at table, bow to the Captain and drive away at porridge, grilled bones and curries as naturally as if I had never left the Carlisle Castle since her last voyage out. Tiffin at half past twelve consists of a ship’s biscuit and cheese and I now look on it as quite the proper food for the middle of the day. Dinner is served at four o’clock.

(Tiffin was a term well-known to ex-India hands and signified a light repast.)

Although the weather is dry the sea will not go down and give us peace. The wind is still very high, which prevents our cracking on much sail, in fact we are still logging a ‘moderate gale’. But hope cheers us for the barometer is on the rise though not a bit too soon considering that it has averaged as low as 29.76 ever since we have been out.

It is the continual rolling and tumbling about that beats one. Only yesterday at dinner were just getting around our soup when the dish in front of Lee-Warner started off on a run and being brought up sharp by the fiddles on the tables, shot out a couple of boiled fowls and gravy right into his lap; a terrible funny incident for spectators but uncomfortable and greasy for the sufferer. And the hot grog at night is very worrying, first someone scalds himself, then another man tumbles down with his glass just as he has mixed a rattling dose, or a portmanteau getting adrift charges across the cabin and capsizes the lot. In vain we cry for peace but the ocean takes its time. (At sea a fiddle signified a device fixed to the table to prevent plates from sliding off.)

The officers, who were tired out with the constant day and night work, are now working regular watches so that we see something of them. We are able to get an occasional chat with both the Captain and Smith when for a few minutes in the evening they give us a look up just about the time they think the kettle is hot.

Amusements and plans for occupying the time begin to be thought about but I had quite enough last trip carrying on the newspaper single-handed. As I can’t discern a great amount of literary ability on board, the prospects of a newspaper are as yet in embryo but the plays are set going in the shape of a farce with plenty of life and go in it; all good parts and of the riotously funny style suitable for a ship performance – nothing less than the good old Slasher and Crasher. It has moreover only two ladies’ parts, which I have succeeded in getting two young midshipmen to take, much to my relief, as there were no passengers I could rely on as being sufficiently feminine to look, let alone act, the parts. We had a rehearsal this forenoon in my cabin and for a first rehearsal everything promised well – we might even rival last year’s dramatic successes. The great thing for the present is to get heaps of rehearsals before the hot weather sets in when everyone is either lazy or goes to sleep.

(Slasher and Crasher was a farce written by John Madison Morton and delivered in one act.)


Thursday 21 October 1875

After a fair experience of this kind of life, I can positively assert that one’s first thoughts on waking do not instantly revert to the little house in England, the chambers or the girl that is left behind; to do so would be to savour of the poetic whilst at sea (despite all that is written to the contrary) the prosaic ever dominates. On rousing in the morning one instantly becomes anxious as to all particulars concerning the weather, the wind, the rate of speed and most monstrous question of all – are we going our course? To ascertain these details one never needs to turn out of his bunk and a moment of two of wakefulness will soon determine. There is something in the tone of the hands’ shanty, the way they move about their work; in the rolls and every movement of the ship and even in the very tone of the orders given by the officer of the watch, which a little practice can soon interpret into volumes of information.

This morning was a good instance. The incessant bad weather, heavy seas and worrying squalls, which had been our lot ever since leaving the Downs, had passed away. There was no doubt about it; a change and an enormous change had come over us – we were becalmed. Breakfast spoke of our altered state for cold meats, tins of yellow salmon and pickles ruled the roost so lately held by curries, hashes and country captains; effervescing drinks usurped our cocoa and monkey jackets gave place to alpaca. Gradually sailing into warmer latitudes, the bad weather had hitherto prevented our feeling the rising temperature but today it burst upon us suddenly.

To come on deck and see the sails flapping their discontent – the officer on deck moving about and looking slightly miserable, the ship quite motionless – the sea oily and unruffled – and the sky unclouded – whilst the sun without let or hindrance playfully tickles you with a pressure of about three million horsepower – was indeed a novel experience. We stood about discussing matters and we all condoled with the Captain but we were hypocrites for we secretly rejoiced in our new found tranquillity.

We spied a barque about four miles off and spent our morning signalling her. She turned out to be the Eleanor from Belfast to Pensacola in Florida, USA. We did not get a great deal of information from her, perhaps because the flag arrangements were carried on by the passengers (who have not as yet got their hands in) the whole ship’s company being engaged in changing the ship’s sails, as the good ones are reserved for rough weather and strong breezes whilst any old things do to flap about in the light airs of the tropics, which we are nearing.

We rehearsed Slasher and Crasher in the afternoon; all promises well bar Browne the marine – he won’t do at all. This evening is memorable as the first night we have had our rubber without all being lashed in our places, holding our grog between our knees and dealing the cards into each other’s pockets.

Friday 22 October 1875

Calmer if anything than yesterday and what the Captain calls a ‘regular bellows-mending day’. The Doctor joins in smiling and tells everybody ‘it’s just the day to do them good’ – a self-evident fact but nobody contradicts either Captain or Doctor and we are all lazy.

It was just tiffin time when very few men were on deck that one of the turtles so plentiful off these islands was espied on the quarter apparently asleep in the sun. All hands were at dinner but that was of no consequence to the middies who came tumbling onto the poop and in about five minutes with the aid of a few able-bodied passengers, had obeyed the Captain’s order and lowered the port quarter boat. Walker (4thofficer) was in the bows, Peel, Lyon and Lee, middies, pulled an oar apiece with Livett (2nd officer) in charge. The boat was just going down when the Captain told me to jump in so that our expedition numbered half a dozen men to catch one turtle. We pulled about 400 yards when we could plainly distinguish the booty floating about twice the ship’s length ahead of us, very quiet and happy. ‘Gently boys’ said Livett and with a sly, stealthy stroke such as Marryat describes when his hero is engaged in cutting out a slave dhow on a dark night, we ran the boat alongside him. Captain Marryat was an English Naval officer who relinquished his life at sea to become a writer. He was famous for his novels about sea life, especially for Mr Midshipman Easy. He also wrote Children of the New Forest, which was very popular.)

Before he had time to collect his thoughts or take his dive, the fingers of Livett were around the hind leg and with another friendly grasp from Walker, he was struggling on his back in the bottom of the boat and at once commenced to attack us by biting through Walker’s boot and I can testify as to the power of a turtle’s jaw. Bets were freely made on board (we afterwards heard) as to our expedition being successful. Many were the congratulations heaped upon our party as on pulling alongside, prospective soup was seen fin-flapping in the boat. But alas! The survey made by the butcher destroyed our hopes for there was a recent shark bite in the area of the stomach. The bite had so maimed him that he was pronounced unfit for food and yet he weighed 61 lbs without counting what the shark had got of him.

After dinner, there being no more wind in the forenoon, nothing would do but that we must bathe so down went the boat again. Then there was a scene because everybody wanted to go and the boat could not hold them. The Captain avoided the difficulty by saying that it was the midshipmen’s boat and they could take who they liked but limited its passengers to ten. The 3rd officer (Norewood) was in charge and had with him Walker and five of the middies, Vivian, Peel, Lyon, Lee and Casey; they took three passengers Lee-Warner, Field and myself. It was less than an hour since we had eaten a plethoric ship’s dinner but it mattered not, we risked that and sharks too. Although the ship was supposed to be becalmed, we had all our work to do to get a decent distance ahead. We left Morewood and Lee-Warner in the boat to keep her moving that the ship might not gain on us and got ready for a dive. Morewood gave the signal, as in bathing with sharks it is necessary to go in simultaneously and start with a splash, a proceeding said to keep the bathers safe and the sharks in order. It was grand indeed. I have had several memorable bathes from Windsor to Athens and in the volcanic springs of New Zealand but to tumble into a gentle ocean without a ripple on its surface and 4 ½ miles of buoyant and mysterious water under you and four of you in a row abreast the boat, is as true a swim as man could want.

Enjoying our opportunity to the full, we swam on until the ship was found to be so rapidly gaining on us that we had to get in helter-skelter, lay hold of the oars and pull as though our lives depended on it. To get into a ship’s boat is no easy task, a river boat is difficult enough but when you have another twelve inches of freeboard, the task becomes anxious. We all adopted different plans and we all thought our own one best. I did and do now. If you have a friend in the boat, get him to put an oar over the side as if he were going to row, lay hold of it near the end and cock one leg over; tell him to press his end down suddenly when one or two things will happen. Either you will be shot into the boat in a lump, or you will break the oar and flounder on your back – either performance is exciting.

We celebrated our evening in the midshipmen’s berth. Peel plays the fiddle and everybody tries to sing; in fact I caught myself trying to work through a song. Our strong point is a chorus. The Mulligan Guards, Marching to Georgia and John Peel seem to be general favourites as they can stand a deal of noise and knocking about and in truth they were vented and shouted as only a midshipmen’s berth can shout.


Saturday 23 October 1875

I must finish the history of this calm for the winds of heaven still refuse to favour us. Even the few puffs, which came about every hour and a quarter yesterday and enabled us to keep the ship’s head aiming at the right point of the horizon, have failed us. So the wheel is deserted, in fact it is lashed up.

We are now in company with four other sail, which have sprung up in the night but whether they came to us or we made up to them, it is not possible to say. The nearest of them is about three miles off – the Margaret Galbraith of Glasgow bound for Otago, New Zealand with emigrants whom we can see swarming all over the ship.

There is even amusement to be got out of the ships for having no steerage way on us, we keep turning round and round; they do the same probably in different directions, like a regular solar system. First we see two right ahead and the other two on our quarter, then a few minutes after they will be all four in a row abreast of us. Whilst watching the kaleidoscopic ships an enormous grampus (a popular name for a whale) was seen about a hundred yards off, jumping suddenly out of the water and taking a dive back again – he was evidently having a real good game all to himself. Guns were produced and a middy sent aloft to keep an eye on him; in a few minutes he shot up again and I am sure I am understating it when I put the leap at quite twenty feet. He turned in a somersault kind of movement, plunged back and then headed right alongside and showed himself. He paid dearly for his vanity for the captain got first shot and settled him clean in the head; but before anyone could go over the side to make a bowline fast or even the harpoon could be brought to bear, a thirty foot length of good grampus sank before our eyes.

In the afternoon a bit of a breeze from E.N.E. sprang up and at once we began to congratulate ourselves that the N.E. Trades were tapped. However by tea-time it had died away but sprang up from the west so we hurry off on our way to cross the Line


Saturday 28 October 1875

We have now for three or four days past had hold of the N.E. Trades and are in consequence having a good time of it. One hundred and eighty miles a day is an average and the weather is perfect. The sea is smooth, the decks are dry and we have a comfortable awning – so we sail along happily.

In addition to the Saloon passengers there is accommodation provided for second and even third-class passengers. Amongst the former is a Mrs Shirley with her daughter of twelve, Daisy or ‘Dear Daisy’ as she is called. Now Mrs Shirley is the height of eligibility with a comely face, a buxom figure and a good complexion. She is ever the centre of a buzzing crowd of Lotharios whose ardour (cut off from their former hunting grounds) finds its only vent in Mrs Shirley. She of course revels in the attention lavished on her. Many, many are the ship’s scandals, two at least are born every day before breakfast until at length to have one’s name mentioned in connection with Mrs Shirley, is to be looked at suspiciously by your fellow passengers for at least a week afterwards.

This afternoon I saw Uncle and the Lee-Warners sitting on the hen-coops at the break of the poop in a high state of excitement at something below on the main deck. John Smith and the Doctor were also there and seeing me come on deck beckoned me to join in the fun. Looking over I saw Mrs Shirley stretched out at length in a basket chair fast asleep, her hat pushed back – comfort rather than appearance expressed in her whole attitude - and (let me have done with it) her mouth open. The Jacks and second-class passengers standing about were all greatly pleased. John Smith at once offered to bet me a bottle of wine that I wouldn’t go and kiss her as she lay! That mouth made me shy for a minute but seeing a prospect of diminishing next week’s wine bill, I asked for odds. Lee-Warner placed three bottles of rum to one on the event whilst Uncle and the Doctor fearlessly staked their claret. It being now a matter of business I accepted their offers and quietly whipped down the companion to the main deck. I bore alongside my patient and looking up to heaven by way of preparation, caught sight of a row of grinning faces over the poop rail. I bent o’er her massive form and placed a loud and strong one on her scented cheek – of course she must needs wake up and scream. I can’t recall now what she said or rather what she didn’t say for she was very voluble so I merely smiled guiltily until she had run the length of her tether. Then I explained how sorry I was. That evening my bottle rack was full.


Thursday 4 November 1875

Mother’s birthday. She is pledged before I leave my swing cot in a good draught of rum and milk specially ordered for the occasion. I also honour the day by laying aside the silk and flannel and indulging in a clean boiled shirt and shore going costume generally. I cannot get out of my mind, try as I will, those last few moments I spent with you dear Mother when I bade you good-bye on that dull October morning and left you behind to go on with your duties and cares, saddled with extra anxiety on my score. I know full well how many sleepless nights you will pass whenever you hear a strong wind blowing. Unfortunately for us we have signalled no homeward-bounder and never to see us mentioned in the newspapers as spoken with will give you silent trouble.

Just at the right moment a homeward-bounder is reported on the lee bow about six miles ahead, so hastening to my cabin I vent my feelings in writing you up a good extra double assurance of my well-being. But beyond furnishing me with a safety valve for pent-up steam, the homeward-bounder does nothing else for a heavy tropical rain squall has come on, we are running with it under full canvas and our would-be letter carrier is lost to sight.

Slasher and Crasher gets on well and is now nearly ready for presentation. We rehearsed this afternoon on the lower deck but were nearly stifled by the terrific heat. We took everything off but our trousers, drank five quarts of claret cup made in a bucket and were able to be funny into the bargain. Lee-Warner continues to prompt us and Uncle does his duty as stage manager. Poor old Bill Field has been down with a visitation of my former enemy – bleeding – so the Doctor has taken his place and makes a most efficient Blowhard. The marine has pulled himself together and does all right – for a marine – so that with a couple of dress rehearsals we shall be able to challenge inspection. But where dress rehearsals are to come off in this tropical heat, when the very pitch in the seams of the deck is bubbling up molten, I know not.

The second piece we have decided is a Burlesque – Fair Rosamond’s Bower. There are three characters only with songs ad lib and heaps of dancing. Fourth Officer Walker, an Irishman of tremendous comic power and mimicry takes King Henry, Lyon, said to be a great dancer and handsome into the bargain is Fair Rosamond whilst I play Queen Eleanor. We rehearse daily in my cabin after dinner, Peel fiddling from my bunk. The others refused to play unless I took a part so there was no alternative but to join in. Nightly I find myself singing The Path by the River, Gipsy Countess, Harry Come Home and other bad songs. Peel plays by ear so whatever key I start (entirely a matter of chance) he tries to keep level. If our singing is amusing, our breakdowns are faultless. (Perhaps the plot was loosely based on an opera by John Barnett in four acts entitled Fair Rosmond.)


Friday 5 November 1875

The N.E. Trades are now left behind and we have to face the Doldrums before we can get hold of the stronger breezes of the S.E. Trades. Today is regular Doldrum weather; calm and heavy tropical rains. As none of our three ladies is on deck, we abjure boots and socks, don knickerbockers and paddle about the cool decks. Here and there are baths being filled by the rain running off the awning and in jumps the owner who revels in the fresh water. There is a regular fresh water mania, I notice the Lee-Warners’ servant very busy collecting water and going with the Captain to his cabin he smilingly pointed out to a row of seven buckets full of fresh water. I must say I prefer the salt water fresh from the ocean for my morning bath and refuse to change.

It is an unusual thing in this part of the tropics to pass a day without sighting one or more ships, generally outward-bound, and for two days we have been in almost constant company with a trim little barque of about 700 tons. When we came up from dinner we found her about a mile or so on our lee quarter. As is but natural we have left the dinner table in the best of spirits, so we have the flags up and sending the middies away, take charge of the signalling ourselves. Our consort turns out to be the Golden Fleece of London. She left St Katherine’s Docks on the 26 September (ten days ahead of us) and is bound for Algoa Bay with passengers. We give like information about ourselves when John Smith who has been taking minute stock of her, says there is a lady in a green dress with a handsome figure watching us from their poop. Other glasses are brought to bear, the fact is confirmed and the spirit of mischief being on us, we signal ‘How is the lady in green?’ As soon as we have got through our question, we feel abashed at our temerity. As a rule similar questions are apt to be scrubbed but the barque looks a jovial craft and the answer confirms it. ‘The lady in green is well and sends her compliments.’ Pleased to have even this little communication with minds fresh and new to us, handkerchiefs and even blankets (on account of their size) are waved, the Golden Fleece responds with handkerchiefs only and as it is getting dark we run up ‘Good-night’ and put the flags away.

Today is what is known as dead horse day and to make this intelligible I must enter in a few explanations. A seaman on signing ‘Articles of Agreement’ whereby he agrees to make a voyage in a certain ship at a certain rate of pay, is by custom entitled to receive a month’s pay in advance wherewith to find his outfit and sea-boots. Additional pay does not commence to become due until he has been a month at sea and therefore the first month is spent, as the saying goes – working for the dead horse – so the last day of the month is dead horse day.

We left docks on 5 October so today is our jubilee and to the maritime mind a day of rejoicing. The revels are confined to the evening and it is dark in these latitudes by 6 o’clock, the time the Jacks have finished their supper. As soon as dusk had set, jeers, groans and gee-whoas are heard coming from the fo’c’sle and at once the procession appears. About twenty hands are hauling on a rope, which drags the steed made of a flour cask covered with chestnut covered canvas; It has an elaborately shaped head also of canvas with straw for brains and the bottom of two beer bottles for eyes; the main and tail are finely teased but tarred rope and the whole is mounted on the gun-carriage for convenience of locomotion. A halt is made and the history and merits of the beast are chanted in alternate solo and chorus. When the poop is gained the jockey dismounts – by the way a gorgeous imitation of a jockey with his cap and jacket slashed en règle, top-boots and whip. The jockey offers his horse to the highest bidder. His audience is scattered one, some on the main deck, some on the poop, others in the rigging whilst a bid comes now and again from the main top. The witticisms are feeble and not as a rule to the point but everyone is in good spirits because we have safely experienced a third of our trip. The charger is ultimately knocked down for £2-2-10d, which sum had to be made up between the Saloon passengers for distribution amongst the hands. There is more singing and chorusing until the horse arrives beneath the lee foreyard arm to which it is attached with a rope. Everybody gives a haul to the tune of a lively shanty and soon the horse with the jockey still in the saddle is swinging clear of the ship over the waters of the Atlantic. Blue lights are burned from the yard arm revealing a ghostly horse and rider, rockets whiz up and just as the yard is gained, the rider is seen to be steedless, swinging alone in the air while his horse drops from under him with a dull splash. Cheers take the place of groans and the boatswain’s pipe sounds ‘all hands to grog’.


Saturday 6 November 1875

We are still little better than becalmed, the log recording ‘light and variable airs’, which being interpreted means that we are just moving, having steerage way and nothing more. The Golden Fleece is about two miles on our weather beam, a position she seems to have drifted into during the night, so we ask the Captain for permission to signal her and have a regular talk. Leave being granted, the flag bag is produced and we are filled with ambition to shew the officers and middies what we can do with flags. Every man has his duty assigned; the brothers Field keep the flags sorted in their alphabetical order; Willink and Beecher look out the combinations and have them ready bent for the next hoist; I check our flags and answers off to Uncle who sits with the signal book, paper and pencil writing down every word as we receive it. Proceedings are commenced by running up the ensign and we see that they are prepared for a yarn as in a minute or two up goes theirs and we both dip three times by way of a ‘good morning’. Having our first set of flags already bent, we take the lead promptly – the result of 2 ½ hours labour. This is the conversation.

Carlisle Castle – Should it be calm, will you dine with us at 4 o’clock?
Golden Fleece – With pleasure.
Carlisle Castle – Bring the lady in green.
Golden Fleece – Lady in green delighted to accept.
Carlisle Castle – Captain sends his compliments but be very careful in your intercourse with strangers.
Golden Fleece – Except on the ocean.
Carlisle Castle – Where all is love.
Golden Fleece – Are you fond of ladies?
Carlisle Castle – Come and try us. It is one of our weaknesses.
Golden Fleece – Say your one virtue.
Carlisle Castle – No weakness from our point of view.

All this reads as very little when put on paper but is in reality a specimen of smart signalling to say nothing of the merits of the dialogue. Note the gallant start we made and our remembrance of the lady in green. Our conversation so far had been spelled out word for word but in looking over the book we happened to notice a host of words comprised in one hoist, that is BVR stood for ‘be very careful with your intercourse with strangers.’ So we ran it up but the Golden Fleece had those on board who were quick in retort. At this point the signalling got tedious, as we had to spell many words letter by letter. For instance, there being no signal for the word ‘virtue’ (morals and metaphysics not being generally discussed at sea) you have first to hoist four flags, ‘CFSW’ as standing for ‘vi, ’ then ‘CFKB’ for ‘rt,’ then ‘WVD’ for ‘u,’ and ‘WJD’ for ‘e,’ finishing with ‘WVL’ to show that the word was finished. We anticipated continuing the conversation with the lady in green over the dinner table but we are in the tropical Doldrums – rain came on and with the rain the airs became breezes, the breezes wind, until at 3 o’clock our hopes finally sank as the Golden Fleece gradually dropped astern and at dinner time was lost to sight amid the rain and the mist.


Monday 8 November 1875

We were yesterday in latitude 2 degrees 30’ N and the question of the hour is – when shall we cross the line? We are so often becalmed and the winds are so unsteady that calculations are impossible. Our plays are ready to come off and we are anxious to avoid clashing with Neptune’s festivities.

At daylight this morning I was called by previous arrangement with the midshipman on the watch. It was a little after 4 o’clock so I at once went round and roused our Slasher and Crasher crew to attend an early morning rehearsal. They were pretty docile in turning out promptly with the exception of the Doctor who was a trouble to move for he would persist in saying ‘all right’ and then instantly going to sleep again. We were driven to this unearthly hour for rehearsing because of the heat between decks during the day. By the time they all showed up, I had my coffee pot to work and doled them out a cup apiece with a nice Osborne biscuit. On the main deck then did we get through our task, fought with ship’s cutlasses as became our parts, fell into one another’s arms and showed tremendous surprise in the dénouement.

The dresses are all in order and I have worried the last of the wigs out of the sail-makers. Programmes are ready and everything ready to go off the first evening the Captain gives the signal. I should be anxious about our Burlesque; at our last rehearsal Fair Rosamond had not only forgotten his or rather her part but had hurt her leg (when up aloft) to the detriment of her steps and jigs; whilst our fiddler in a well-meaning mood had increased our orchestra by a harmonium and a man to play it. I knew what it would be like. As soon as I started off my little bit, I ran aground; yes, I shoaled after about four lines. I can run along all right to the fiddle and can put up with a flute but when that thing with the diaspon and the drawling notes came to bear, I sat down and grieved.

The man with the harmonium is a strange fellow and has something wrong with his liver. During the day he carries about an enormous quarto volume, which is an exposition on the Thirty-Nine Articles and is occasionally seen to open it; he rarely smiles and when he does you wish he wouldn’t; he is a great authority on everything but is generally wrong. He has arranged with himself to play our overtures. Now our pieces are broad farce so I should have imagined that a good lively selection would be appropriate but no we must have the March of the Israelites and the Vicar of Bray and these are heard droning all over the ship about four times a day.

(The Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) was a declaration of the beliefs of the Church of England and every clergyman had to agree to abide by them before he could officiate.)    


Tuesday 9 November 1875

We crossed the Line about half-past two this afternoon. Once again I find myself in the Southern Hemisphere., under the shade of the Southern Cross and the sense of having left home becomes complete. The Equator, we were taught in the Dame’s School, is an imaginary line but to me it seems real and it exercises important influences over feelings and sentiments.

My first visitor today, and I generally average about five before I am well awake, was John Smith who came into my cabin about half-past five and fixed tonight for our performance. On subsequently going round to look at our troupe, I find Dinah Blowhard with rheumatism and Fair Rosamond (in addition to her game leg) suffering from secondary symptoms of yellow fever caught a year ago in Brazil. So we postpone and wait patiently, trusting to luck and a fair wind.

The day is passed much as other days. The general public loll with their books beneath the awning; the energetic hang long black threads over the stern and get ecstatic when a poor little Mother Carey’s chicken entangles itself and is mercilessly hauled on board; then a larger school of flying fish than usual, glittering in the sun; or a shoal of dolphins kerflopping in and out of the water cause all hands to run to the poop rail and watch and comment with all the delight that novelty has to schoolboys. The tiffin bell rings. Later congenial spirits hold siestas in one another’s cabins where effervescing drinks, smokes, yarns and naps kill the languor of a tropical afternoon.

(Mother Carey’s chicken was the seaman’s name for a storm petrel; the term Mother Carey derives from Mater Cara, a name for the Virgin Mary while the petrel refers to St Peter who famously walked upon water. When the storm petrel is feeding he has a unique way of walking on the water.)

After tea in the cool of the evening everyone turned up on deck to witness the coming of King Neptune but His Majesty did not arrive until nearly eight bells. A noise from the jib-boom was heard hailing us through a speaking trumpet ‘What ship is that?’ ‘The Carlisle Castle of London, who are you?’ ‘I am King Neptune’s Secretary’ came rattling through the speaking trumpet. ‘Then come aboard sir’ said Livett. ‘Aye, aye sir’ was the answer and in a few minutes there ascended the poop companion a figure clad in overalls and oilskins with an enormous wet and matted beard and whiskers reaching to his knees. In his hands he carried a postman’s letter-bag. He was received on the poop by the Captain who shook his hand and asked in genial tones after his employer and his queen whilst the newcomer returned the compliments, making special reference to Messrs Green and hoped they were getting good freights and allowed their seamen plenty of grog.

The bag was opened and with the aid of a lantern, its contents delivered; a letter for everyone who had not previously crossed the Line. They were warned to pay careful tribute to Neptune on the following day with a postscript added to the effect that experienced barbers at moderate prices would be in attendance. I did not receive a letter myself but for the credit of the fo’c’sle I must state that all I saw were well written, spelled accurately; in fact no two were alike in composition. Promising on the part of the ship that Neptune’s behests should be faithfully observed and that all his sailors should be free to attend the revels, the Captain gave orders for the boatswain to pipe the grog. No sooner did the pipe sound than the Secretary scuttled, being subsequently seen at the window of the stewards’ pantry drinking his tot of rum with the rest of them, the other hands standing around all venturing on their little joke as to his drinking like a fish.


Wednesday 10 November 1875

Is not life on board very monotonous? This question is often asked but only by those who have not journeyed in great waters. The sea has many voices and it is ever varying with its moods and tempers. To sit and watch and listen to the stretching expanse one finds memories are revived, present cares destroyed, emotions confusedly pleasurable and painful are generated and then chased off as rapidly. Provided of course that you are a passenger.

But even as a passenger you have to wake up at the sound of a bell, to dress at another, to sit down to breakfast the instant another rings; to go through the whole day obeying the behests of repeated bells; in fact going to bed with the bidding bell and finding your lights put out at the sound of the final bell. Does not all this, you may ask, render the solitary life of a ship distressing in its dullness? Not at all, dear friend on shore, not at all. You have your dinner parties, your skating rinks, your concerts and your Lord Mayor’s Day and be happy with them by all means but even if you were to multiply the total of your pleasures, we should still be ahead of you. You never cross the Line, you never catch a shark, or get rolled out of your beds, you never get soaked with an unexpected sea or see an albatross or keep birthdays as we keep them. Take today, why I defy the whole of my happy and contented family to have enjoyed themselves as much as we have enjoyed ourselves today. A clean bill of health, plays shortly coming off, no ladies to be worried about, no letters to be answered and lots of livestock and tobacco on board – all these are auspicious details to assist in a joyful celebration of crossing the Line.

Let me endeavour to describe this celebration. I was on deck at 5 o’clock and I found the first thing to rivet my attention was the boatswain superintending the rigging of a large sail on the main deck between the deck-house and the bulwarks, which was in time to develop into an enormous bath. From the top of the deck-house there stuck out a pole of many colours (like a barber’s pole) with a board announcing shampooing performed at extraordinary terms by expert hands. The carpenter’s bench carefully draped in sack-cloth and canvas with a barrel on top, was the pulpit where the operation was performed. Half a dozen hands were at work on the fire-engine, pumping water into the bath until there was a depth of about four feet. Then the decks were cleared, the topes all coiled out of the way on spare spars and the ship being clean and tidy, gala attire was donned.

By 10 o’clock the whole ship’s company was gaping in the direction of the fo’c’sle, screened by a spare sail stretched across the ship. The weather was delightful, a four-knot breeze taking us through water as smooth as the Serpentine. When the screen was drawn aside we caught sight of the procession. In front were two policemen, their uniforms were perfect but their faces were coloured and they had very red noses and sandy whiskers, Following them was the court physician with a bald head and enormous spectacle frames; he was clad in flowing black robes, had yellow legs and sandals and bottles of many colours arranged on a tray in front of him. Then came Neptune journeying up the deck in the family coach drawn by eight bears harnessed in couples. The coach, its equipment and occupants were the triumph of the day; the coach was covered with gaudy bunting and Union Jacks. Neptune was represented by a Norwegian sailor named Woolf and truly regal was he. His only decorations were a crown, flowing hair and beard made of fine manilla, a trident and a girdle cloth; the remaining points of admiration being the man’s marvellous anatomy, which was painted a bright ochre. This showed up his grand sinewy strength and muscles and the only possible criticism was that he looked more like Hercules than Neptune. An ordinary seaman in a cotton gown was Mrs Neptune whilst a ship’s boy, also red ochred, was Master Neptune.

The bears, four pairs of which drew the car, were disguised in sheep-skins. Dyed and closely tied round their bodies, their heads being enveloped in large and cleverly constructed masks with becoming snouts. On the side of the car walked the barber, a cruel looking man, followed by a very black man with a white waist-cloth who carried the barber’s tools of trade, the lather-pot, the three-foot razor, the jagged razor and the shears. Two more policemen and a mob of cheering Jacks brought up the rear.

At the foot of the poop Neptune and family alighted and greeted the Captain and passengers. The eight bears finding themselves un-harnessed tumbled up the companion on all fours, creating great diversion among the five children we carry. These bears had a nasty habit of laying hold of the legs of the unsuspecting and hauling them over. The civilities going on between Neptune and the passengers were interrupted by the arrival of two of the bobbies with drawn truncheons and a midshipman who had previously crossed the Line, in charge. The Captain signifying acquiescence to Neptune’s jurisdiction, the proceedings began.

At the foot of the platform were posed the royal family with the black man in attendance, the barber and doctor taking their places on each side of Casey (midshipman) who was seated on the barrel whilst in the bath were the eight bears with their skins off awaiting victims. The doctor opening the poor wretch’s mouth, administers a large pill and the barber with a large whitewash brush applies lather over face, head and neck. Then a pause; the doctor bends over him and asks if he has lather enough; he opens his mouth to answer but before the yes has time to come out, a good dose is freely circulating around his tongue and teeth. The razor scrapes, the shears snip and with a one, two, three his legs are hoisted up and he somersaults through six feet of space into the bath below. The bears are upon him, roll him, shake him, duck him again and again until he reaches the edge of the bath and getting hold of a welcome rope, swarms out. One after another they were shaved and ducked amid the cheers and groans of the onlookers, which alternated according to the popularity of the patient.

Along the top of the deck-house overlooking the bath were the officers, middies and a few Saloon passengers but all stood there at their peril for the poop alone was sacred ground. One of our passengers, who has not the gift for making himself beloved and hails from Liverpool, has raised the especial ire of the officers by persistently addressing them as mate and by the heinous offence of surreptitiously shipping a quantity of inflammable goods. Innocently seated on top of the deck-house he was watching the goings-on, when Livett was upon him and sprang with him off the deck-house into the bath – a drop of about ten feet. Tweed suit, watch and chain, deck boots and cigar were all mercilessly ducked amid jeers and yells from the poop deck with cries of ‘Gunpowder ah!’ ‘Go it Livett’ ‘Cartridges’ until the next shaved victim diverted the bears from their present sufferer.

After this, tumbles from the deck-house were numerous and I began to think it would be politic to put on some soiled ducks in place of the lovely clean pair I had put on but as I had not got my watch on, I resolved to let things take their chance. Thrown off my guard by watching the struggles and expletives of the butcher’s mate (the most Irish of Irishmen) I suffered one of the Jacks to creep right to me, only discovering him as he bore alongside. Being about my own height and weight (although with the advantage of not having a weak lung) I was tempted to grapple with him. But knowing my usual luck and the odds in favour of being the bottom man in a fall, I made a virtue of it and leapt. I recollect hearing cheers from the poop and then finding myself in water. I had not watched the proceedings for nothing so I lay snugly at the bottom of the bath until my bear hauled me up for breath and then passing me on to the next bear, I had a quiet dip with him. The poop was very pleased and cheered loudly as I passed them on the road to my cabin. Fortunately I had nothing on that could hurt except a blue silk handkerchief, valuable on account of its donor. I changed at once into dry ducks and shirt and was soon back on the deck-house. Everyone had to suffer; with the help of Vivian I nailed a bobby and sent him flying in amidst a storm of groans; we gave the barber himself a sluicing and had the Captain come on the main deck at that time he would have found his level.

Those on the poop who had abstained from rendering personal tribute, were fined; about £5 being thus collected.

The forenoon part of the programme being over, Smith held a consultation in his cabin with a deputation from the Jacks (to which he invited me) as to arranging sports for the afternoon. The question of prizes was the only difficulty and this was eventually settled by the Jacks paying ten shillings out of the amount they had collected, the same sum I allowed them out of the theatrical fund, and promised that the passengers would make up another pound so that we had a couple of sovereigns for distribution. Smith refused to allow any racing aloft (I think very rightly) but the deputation from the fo’c’sle were anxious to go to the skysail-mast and back down the leeches of the sails so we agreed to refer the question to the boatswain and hear what his views were. We called him in and although he was against going aloft he could not clearly express his opinions but gave us a few clever professional remarks ending up with ‘What’s the good of them getting hurted?’ The Jacks were satisfied with his remarks and so going aloft was not inserted in the programme.

As soon as tiffin was over and the hands had finished their dinner, the sports began. In one division were the able bodied seaman and the ordinary seamen were in another. The competition throughout was keen but the good nature peculiar to mariners was never wanting. They were tied up in sacks, pushing each other over at the start and racing with bounds along the deck; falling ingloriously at the moment of winning in the best of spirits; they contorted their faces through a lifebuoy to gain a cheese and shouted with laughter as couple after couple stumbled in the struggles of a three-legged race.

A steeple-chase, run in heats, was the great excitement with the scrimmage at the companion ladder to gain the poop first and the charges that were made over ropes spread in imitation of hurdles. , Cock fighting, High jumps, wide jumps and standing jumps were indulged in. Then there was a smoking race; about twenty men all sitting in a row with new clay pipes of exactly the same mould, filled with tobacco from the same pouch and a fuse apiece. All started their lights at a signal and puffed like engines.

Then the ship boys stood in a row with their hands tied behind them with a passenger apiece as a feeder. A dish on about forty jam tarts was brought smoking hot from the galley and the boy that ate ten first was the winner. But although the feeders burnt their fingers and the boys their tongues, they stuck to it. The tarts were so hot that some of the jam falling on the boys’ naked feet made them hop and dance with pain but in their mouths they seemed better able to tolerate it.

In the evening there were jigs, hornpipes and step-dances followed by songs, all the performers nominally competing for prizes. Both Smith and myself were puzzled in our duties as judges so agreed to get out of our difficulties by giving a prize to everyone who performed. Tom Bowling, Hearts of Oak and Black-eyed Susan were in greatest demand but sentiment in the shape of The Mistletoe Bough and The Old Mill Stream ran them very close. (Tom Bowling, the ‘darling of our crew’ was written by Charles Dibdin and was especially suitable to sing at sea. The famous actor-manager David Garrick wrote the words for Hearts of Oak and William Boyce, Master of the King’s Musick, set it to music; it celebrates some famous British military victories in 1759. It would be interesting to know what The Old Mill Stream sounded like because it has been superseded by two far more popular songs with similar titles; thus There’s an old mill by the Stream, Nellie Dean, 1905, and Down by the Old Mill Stream, 1908.)

The dear old boatswain enjoyed today as much as anyone. To him it meant numberless grogs and oceans of Bass; before dinner he was in the most equable of tempers but this evening he outshone himself. Issuing from his berth in the deck-house were strains that it would be more than kind to call melodious. The attitude he had assumed was a bar to pure vocalization for he must have been lying on the floor of his cabin – his head alone appeared outside the door, resting on the deck with his old hat thatching him like a roof. He managed to warble five lines of a song and then brought himself up sharp; informing the public that ‘he shouldn’t sing no more until Muster Warne sent him a bot’lo beer fur prize.’

In the general way singing knocks off at 8 o’clock but tonight by special leave it was kept up until ten. Then after many cheers and three times three for everyone, the day’s celebrations were brought to a close.


Thursday 11 November 1875

During a voyage from England to Australia there is a part of the passage, which I find most enjoyable and that is in the belt of latitudes over which the South-East Trades blow. The hot airs of the tropics are rendered agreeable by their cooling breezes, the sea is invariably smooth and the ship is steady day after day without a sail requiring to be trimmed; she ploughs through the South Atlantic at an average of eight or nine knots an hour. Then is the time for amusements like theatricals. The Trades are now two days old and beginning to put out a little strength so that Smith deems it advisable to fix on tonight for our theatrical performance and not run the risk of waiting any longer.

Before breakfast then, the official programme was put up outside the steward’s pantry overlooking the main deck, a position in which the whole ship’s company could read it. Around it were other notices painted on narrow strips, which entreated the public to come early and to come in their thousands whilst others proclaimed there would be no charge and no collection.

I noticed the programme being read and discussed throughout the day by all hands as sagely as critics look through the score of a new opera. This is a copy of it.

                                        Carlisle Castle                    Play House
                                                     Dulce est desipere in loco
                                         First entertainment of a serious series
                                                         11 November 1875
           The performance will commence at 7.30 p.m. sharp with the Idiotic Farce

                                           SLASHER AND CRASHER

Mr Benjamin Blowhard  ***** Dr E. Tate
Mr Sampson Slasher     ***** Mr H. Duke Warne
Mr Christopher Crasher  *****Mr E. Field
Lieutenant Brown           ***** Mr H. Becher
John                                 *****Mr Bill-Field
Miss Dinah Blowhard     ***** Midshipman Lee-Dixon
Rosa                                 **** Midshipman Lee-Dixon


                 In which there will be awful larks à la Davenport Brothers by
                                             Mr Midshipman Vivian
               To be followed by the startling, moving, anti-historical Burlette

                                           FAIR ROSAMOND’S BOWER

Scene ***** England, the home of the brave and the free
Era     ***** Some time during the 12thcentury but the author never bore the palm for dates.

King Henry II – A fascinating and distingué young Monarch whom Rosamond – poor thing she never had a discreet chaperone - pronounces quite her own chap.
                                                                                      Mr 4th Officer Walker

Rosamond Clifford – Commonly called Fair Rosamond, a little pet though a little pet-ulant.
                                                                                       Mr Midshipman Lyon

Queen Eleanor – Henry’s consort – a scandalous old party in fact quite a phenomenal, to be seen (on this occasion) only at quite a nominal fee.
                                                                                         Mr H. Duke Warne

                                                       God Save the Queen
                                                        And the old ship

Messrs William, Peel and Shore                                       Mr Wooh Horner
             Accompanists                                                         stage manager

In the afternoon the sail-maker commenced operations on the spare main and mizzen royals, ripping up the seams and making doors and exits and wings of faultless style whilst a few hands covered in the forward part of the poop, which formed the stage, sewed the signal flags together to make a drop curtain, arranged footlights, top-lights and side-lights, grouped bunting at the back in lieu of scenery and long before dinner had got the whole thing finished.

We seized the opportunity to have a final rehearsal. Poor Rosamond was very seedy still, threatening to collapse before the evening and as it was impossible to have a further postponement, it was decided I had better learn her part and my own. By dinner time I had driven her part into my head.

About 6 o’clock the performing crowd mustered in my cabin when dresses and hair and wigs were served out like rations and orders issued to meet while duly dressed in half an hour. The midshipmen who had to be worked up as ladies were handed over to the care of Mrs Favell with the prompter present to keep ‘em quiet. As soon as my cabin was empty, John Smith came in armed for the fray and I must admit he makes an excellent scratch barber; the way he snipped off my whiskers and the beard born this voyage (and just getting respectable) and ruthlessly wiped away the moustache was done with the style and heartlessness of a true barber. He lathered and scraped and made up strokes and down strokes, finally turning me out like a fat-faced Chinaman so that even my own mother would not have known me – certainly none of the fellows did when they came back to my cabin.

The middies were transformed into excellent girls with splendid hair, especially Dixon with locks reaching to his waist. At half past seven the cuddy bell rang, the lights were lit and the Vicar of Bray played the people into their seats like a regular professional voluntary. With the exception of the look-out on the fo’c’sle, the boatswain (who never patronizes the drama) and a couple of second-class passengers lady passengers who said they had not got dresses fit to appear on the poop in, every hand on the ship was present.

As soon as the audience had fallen into their seats the curtain rose. They at once burst out laughing at the various rigs and dresses and this gave confidence to the girls who were both somewhat nervous. They buckled to and fanned themselves and simpered and worked their eyes just in the way they had been taught. Without hitch and with much laughter the farce wound itself along until at last the curtain was drawn amidst violent cheering and imperative cries for Blowhard, the woman and Slasher. As the cries increased the stage manager had to interfere and explain that as Slasher would appear in the next piece, he was indulging in a cold bath. The heat was fearful and the quantity of claret cup that the performers got through at each exit was appalling.

In the burlesque the dresses were unique. Fair Rosamond wore tights and trunks, a jacket made out of a coloured shirt and a Dolly Varden cap.

(A Dolly Varden hat was usually large and well decorated with flowers with one side of the brim bent down.)

 Queen Eleanor wore very baggy, pyjamas over her legs and a jacket borrowed from a fat second-class passenger padded to make her bosom; with a crown affixed to an enormous carroty wig. My first song was Harry, dear Harry, Come Home. The harmonium and fiddle each gave their own version and I gave mine so the audience was amused. A little later on when Harry was flirting with Rosamond, his queen rushes in and discovers his faithlessness. I got through a magnificent yell of anger and was coming in with a lurch; I put my hand on the piano to steady myself and down we both went in a heap, the piano being on top of me. The worst of it was however, the upsetting of the bucket of claret cup, which was stowed out of sight behind the piano. The stage manager and prompter lost their heads through laughter and the audience thought it was part of the play. The piece wound up with a grand song called The Ohio Bluff with dances by the company and it was encored and so brought to a conclusion a very merry evening’s amusement. A champagne supper was given by the Captain with toasts and songs and speeches from everyone. This was the closing scene of our carnival week, which has done so much to render our voyage pleasant and to bring together a medley collection of passengers.


Tuesday 23 November 1875

We have had a brisk run through the South East Trades and have left the tropics far behind us, being now a day’s sail to the westward of the island of Tristan da Cunha. Our trip so far has been uneventful and unlike last year we have had no illnesses, deaths or unruly passengers to keep us in turmoil. Everything up to the present time having gone to keep up the Carlisle Castle’s reputation of being a happy ship.

For some days we have been keeping a sharp look out for albatrosses, which give us so much amusement not only in fishing for them but even in watching their graceful and marvellous flight. Their wings seem almost stationary, yet they float in the air, rise aloft, skim the water and forge ahead at extraordinary speed without apparent movement. This afternoon we saw our first bird and at once the Captain who is an expert fisher had his tackle out and commenced operations. To catch an albatross you need about 250 yards of strong line, generally a plait of three salmon lines, with a triangle of hooks, which are baited with pork fat forming a mess as large as your two fists. You then watch the bird as it crosses the ship’s wake for leeward, you let the line run out so as to keep the bait floating and motionless. Perchance down the wretch settles, paddles up to it, gorges the lot and then you strike and haul in. About four hands are required to bring in a bird, which requires a lot of skill. Our first bird today was brought in after about half an hour’s angling and was exhibited all over the ship for everyone is anxious to see an albatross for the first time. It was a small bird being only ten feet eight inches from wing to wing but everyone called him a beauty.
copyright © J. Middleton.
People aboard thCarlisle Castle were very interested in 
seeing a specimen of the fabled albatross with its huge wing span.
(It would be interesting to know if Harry ever read Coleridge’s poem entitled The Rime of the Ancient Mariner where the crew cursed the mariner with their eyes as they died one by one, attributing their bad luck to him killing an albatross with his cross-bow. Most sailors were superstitious about the albatross. Perhaps Harry had never heard of the poem or discounted such superstition. But it is interesting to note that after the albatross killing, Harry reported he was suffering from bronchitis by the 23 November and on 3 December dislocated his elbow after slipping on deck in violent weather; his cabin windows were stove in by a rough sea; not to mention the crewman who was flung from the rigging by a huge wave and broke his ankle.) 

Smith wants a new set of signalling flags but the ship’s husband (a delightful term to describe the owner’s agent who is responsible for the ship’s affairs in the home port)Captain Price of London refuses to allow us more, so any new ones must be bought out of private funds. An arrangement has been entered into between the Captain, Smith and myself that the former shall give us the first few birds he catches, which I am to raffle until we have funds enough to buy the flags in Melbourne. In return I am to have the present set for the exhibition whereof I propose to rig up a flagstaff in the garden at home and indulge on gala days in my mania for signalling. We have already realised £1-19-0d and the rage for albatrosses will daily increase and only £8 is required.

Now that the weather is fairly good and there is but little work to be done on board, cricket is always played for an hour every evening. A bat has been roughly made and a supply of canvas balls stuffed with straw is prepared every day by one of the hands. The game as played on board ship is exciting, the difficulty being where to strike the ball to; for if it goes overboard you are out and are fined a shilling; then there is a field in every part of the ship, on the poop, in the rigging, in the inboard boats, on the deck house, in fact everywhere. We find it an excellent preparation for our whist, which, be the weather what it will, we have never missed for a single evening.


Sunday 28 November 1875

We are today on the meridian of Greenwich, only in latitude 39 degrees south, instead of 53 degrees north but still our time is your time and we can follow you in imagination through your occupations of the day without going into abstruse calculations. Having rounded the Tristan da Cunha group we are now anxiously looking for the westerly winds, which prevail down here and take us more than half our journey in a quarter of the time the whole occupies; that is the first 5,000 miles takes about 55 days while the second 5,000 (thanks to the strong winds of the southern ocean) is generally done in about twenty days.

Church is held in the Saloon as usual, the Captain officiating and most of the passengers, with about half a dozen of the hands who take it in turns to attend, stand and sit around as morning prayers are read. Sunday is much as other days except for the Jacks appearing in uniform and lolling idly on the fo’c’sle; the carpenter, sail-maker and engineer look especially awkward in their Sunday best.

Over the stern of the ship are swarms of birds, albatrosses, molly-manks, cape doves, ink-pots and whale birds but I fail to take much interest because for the last two or three days I have had a wretched cough and felt generally out of sorts. The Doctor has evidently noticed for this morning he came in before I was up to see how I felt, a mark of attention I appreciated. I asked him to amuse himself by listening to my chest and he then frowningly told me I was suffering from bronchitis. No doubt it was brought on by the sudden change from the tropics to these cold latitudes. We propose putting on a camphor and ammonia application tonight.

(Molloy-manks refer to a fulmar, part of the petrel family. Cape doves were also a type of petrel known as a Pintado while whale birds were large Antarctic petrels called blue petrels who had a habit of following whalers.)

Tuesday 30 November 1875

The westerly winds are giving us splendid sailing. Throughout yesterday and during the night we were running along at a terrific pace but this morning though the wind is stronger, the sea is getting up considerably and of course takes something off our rate of speed. As I was dressing this morning and looking our of the windows onto the main deck, I saw the main sheet suddenly carry away and the enormous main-sail start off flapping and tearing about in the wind. All hands were out in a minute to prevent any further mischief. The middies were at breakfast but never waiting for their coats or caps were out in the pouring rain swarming about like cats in their fight with the sail for it is a terrible struggle to nail a main-sail or even a much smaller sail when once the wind finds it free.

When the fray was at its height, the ship being in the wind to help them get the sail in, an enormous sea broke right over us, drenching everybody. Luckily it did not wash anyone overboard though all anxiously looked round in fearful expectancy for a clean sweep across the ship was made. I saw it coming and then had the excitement of seeing it stove in my windows and flood the cabin, so that Peter who attends on me had a very busy morning of it. The log- board today has had the biggest run-up I have yet seen the ship make, no less than 361 miles.

The Captain was wonderfully pleased to find his old ship true to him and when at 9 o’clock this evening he came down to the stern cabin in his dripping oilskins (hot rum having been reported to him) he was in the best of spirits. He went so far as to play a hand and he had the game pretty well his own way for everyone was too busy laughing at his nautical expressions given in his Irish brogue. As he led a king it was ‘what d’ye say to that, my brown trout.’ Then he followed it with an ace and ‘that’ll foul your running gear.’ When he held up the queen as well it was ‘that’ll drive your weather sheet home.’ But this is a very poor example of the extraordinary remarks he interspersed with the game.

When the whist is over, the two Captains (the ship’s and Lee-Warner) always have a couple of games of écarté while Henry Lee-Warner (whom I’ve christened John – he in turn makes me known as O Theophilus) goes with Uncle to my cabin where we have a final pipe before turning in.

(The name Theophilus crops up in the opening verses of St Luke’s Gospel for whom it was written.)                

I ought to mention here that the camphor and ammonia did their work and now I am out of the Doctor’s hands.


Friday 3 December 1875

The running is still good, too fast for us to permit of our doing any albatross fishing but we are making short work of our easting, being today past the Cape of Good Hope, which we left about 400 miles to the north.

Unfortunately the wind refuses to go out on either quarter but keeping right dead aft makes us roll very heavily. Once again everything has to be lashed up yet things are always being broken and every morning at breakfast there are terrible complaints of no night’s rest. Thanks to Smith I have a swing-cot, which Peter rigs up every night the last thing. When I turn in I sleep undisturbed because I feel no motion.

This morning I was standing up in my bath sluicing away when the ship giving a heavier roll than usual, sent the bath and me flying into the corner so Peter has another job to mop out the cabin.

Now that we are having such good runs we have instituted a daily lottery. At breakfast we arrange two numbers having an interval of 60 between them and within which the ship’s run is likely to fall; each man of the twelve who are in it drawing five numbers. It costs a shilling, the whole thing being strictly select, just our end of the table and the officers constituting the dozen. It gives us plenty of excitement in the forenoon until the run is posted up. I have to speak of an accident, which (page torn off.)

Decks were slippery and the ship rolling as much as ever. I slipped and fell – and need I write it – on my game arm. I felt a wrench and a crack somewhere in the elbow and then those symptoms of broken limbs I know so well; dizziness (I could hardly distinguish who was lifting me up) bells in my ears and my arm numb and powerless. The Doctor came at once to my cabin and made a survey but could find no bones broken although from the peculiar shape of the elbow, which was swelling rapidly, he thought I had torn a ligament. The pain was uncommonly severe – it being the elbow I smashed up at school. Later the Doctor injected morphia, which put me into an unhealthy and distempered sleep.


Friday 10 December 1875

It is a week ago today since I hurt my arm and it seems to grow worse daily. As I have hitherto been under the impression that it was merely a sprain, I would not fiddle about with slings and so I carry it hanging by my side. I do not care to move it, in fact I can’t and the pain keeps me awake at night. I am helpless as far as joining in any of the ship’s amusements and have to get Peter to help me to dress; Lee-Warner cuts up my meat and the midshipman of the watch hoists me into my cot.

This evening the precise nature of my injury was made patent. Standing outside my cabin watching the cricket, the ball was hit close by me, when without thinking I stooped to pick it up and threw it. It was all done in an instant but as I did it I felt a hitch in my elbow and found it wedged with the forearm twisted out of position. The Doctor found the swelling very much gone down and the radius sticking absurdly out of place whilst my palm was where the back of my hand ought to be and the ulnar nerve instead of being decently buried in its socket was rolling about all over the shop. He at once tried to reduce the dislocation but couldn’t so we laid plans for the next day and then having a temporary bandage put on, I turned in under the influence of another morphia injection.


Saturday 11 December 1875

The wind is still very high and we are moving along in splendid form, the only drawback being the persistency of the wind in keeping aft, so that the rolling goes on until the most hardened of us gets cross with it. But the progress is good, our running for the past week being 273, 250, 275, 261, 311, 292 and 331 knots respectively. That’s the kind of sailing that gladdens a sailor’s heart. We left home to escape the winter but we have caught it down here for the cold is simply bitter and monkey jackets, leather vests, comforters and knitted socks fail to keep us warm.

About 3 o’clock the Doctor came into my cabin attended by two midshipmen. Calmly and deliberately he got to work, producing webbing, halyard rope and sail-maker’s canvas with a supply of bandaging and a splint. Obeying orders I stripped or was stripped and then had to stand upright against the bunk post. I had a broad belt of canvas tied round my chest and the post so that I couldn’t move if I wanted to. Webbing was adjusted round the forearm and the halyards made fast to it and taking a turn round the rail on the other side of the cabin and handing the end to that monstrous Vivian, he bade the pair of them haul. He manipulated as he called it and then asked for more tension. They pulled and hauled and the Doctor jerked and struggled until it appeared that I was the least interested person in the room. When he thought I was pale he gave me brandy and then they had a nip themselves and went at it again until working it into some kind of position, he said it was the best that could ever be done with it. So the splints were applied and lashed on, we had a go of something all round to show there was no ill feeling and then I had to bear the pain and be patient. The pain during the night, which seemed never ending, was very sharp and my whole body ached with that pulling. Just my luck.

Monday 13 December 1875

Happily sailing along though through a brute of a gale, the sea running higher than I ever saw it and the waves are tremendous and break right over the ship, poop and all. Two men are always at the wheel and even they can hardly hold it. One or two seas have burst open the skylight on the poop and flooded the Saloon. Everybody that can keeps clear of the main deck for to walk there is to hold your life in your hand.

One of the able bodied seamen was sitting with his back to the main mast on the mizzen top-mast stay doing something to the stay-sail, when a sea broke right over us and brought him down onto the deck. The fall broke the ankle in one foot and a minor bone in the other – the poor fellow is worse off than I am.

With nearly every roll the quarter boats are dipped into the sea and the quantity of water that comes through the lee scuttles is enough to keep the main deck flooded. But in spite of it all, we adjourn to the main stern cabin where we light a plate full of spirits of wine hung low in a swing-tray, by way of keeping us warm and sitting on the deck pass the time at whist.

The arm now that it is comfortably settled in splints is behaving better though he is troublesome at night, as I don’t know where to stow him for the greatest relief. So I lie awake and think about him and my wickedness.

The glass is steady so we hope by tomorrow morning to have got through the worst of this breeze.


Saturday 18 December 1875

Wherever one goes there is nothing but grumbling on account of the rolling, which I am sure has not ceased for a single moment during the last fourteen days. But we make a splendid average and our run today was 347 miles. The rolling was greater than we have yet felt it, one lurch I noticed on the dial gave her a roll of 38 degrees. The weather is not nearly so cold as it was but still cold enough to give us all tremendous appetites and I am told by the steward that twice as much stock is killed a week now, as was in the tropics. There is plenty of shot in the locker and if we were to stay out another six weeks we should still have food enough.

Already speculations are rife as to when we shall arrive in port. The sanguine give us one week more but we are a couple of days’ sail from Cape Leeuwin, the south-westernmost point of Australia, and I don’t believe in any ship doing even the distance from here to Melbourne in a week. For myself I allow twelve days from now and shall be very surprised if some of us are not present at the Carnival Race Meeting at Melbourne on New Year’s Day. But the great thing is to get letters and papers from home whilst even news is looked forward to and its probabilities discussed. Are we at war with China? Has the Prince of Wales gone unmolested and unharmed through India? Has the Egyptian bubble burst? Has the Herzegovina business made any difficulties in the Orient? These are all questions we ponder but we must be patient.


Tuesday 21 December 1875

Here we are becalmed off Cape Leeuwin. It seems like a practical joke played on us, to find ourselves motionless on the waters after the splendid running we have been enjoying – even though the rolling nearly drove us mad. To have come from the meridian of Greenwich to the Leeuwin, which is in longitude 118 degrees east at an average of nearly 250 knots a day is a performance to talk about.  If we had gone into Melbourne at the same rate we should have had one of the smartest passages on record. The Captain hurls all the anathema the Irish tongue contains at the weather and bemoans his luck.

The passengers are now discussing nothing else but their companions in Melbourne and the merits of relative hotels; shall they go to Scott’s or Menzies’ or the Port Philip or into lodgings. Everyone who has previously been to Melbourne is minutely cross-examined as to the advantages and disadvantages of each place. However Turner, the Lee-Warners and myself stay on the ship while we are in harbour so we have no anxiety or bother of packing to worry us.

There being swarms of birds about us, a boat is lowered after dinner for Uncle to go out and have some shooting and when it returned we find prey to the extent of dozens. I nailed an albatross, a molly-mank, a parson (a parson bird or tui, a New Zealandhoney-bird) and a few whale birds as my share and have skinning and preserving enough to last until Christmas Day. I might present them all to Maidstone Museum when I get back as a collection of Southern Ocean birds. But they would want a tremendous lot of room as they mostly run over eight feet across.  


I was not up so early as I could have wished greeting everyone with the compliments of the season, for to be honest I was sleeping off the rum punch we enjoyed so much last night in the midshipmen’s berth. We kept Christmas Eve in proper form. At 7 o’clock, which would have been 11 a.m. with you, we made a grand brew of honest punch in the soup tureen stuck over a spirit lamp and settled down to songs and mirth. Morewood, the 3rd officer, the president of the berth had to be on watch all the time so he put me into the chair. There were the 4thofficer, the middies, the Doctor, Lee-Warner, the brothers Field, Turner and one or two other passengers popular in the berth.  We were crammed together and everyone smoking so the place looked jolly when John Smith and Livett came in for half an hour and gave us a song. The chorusing was done at extra pressure and coupled with harangues from the chair to unruly members, attracted the whole ship in jealous groups around the doors.

The Saloon was draped with bunting interspersed with imitation mistletoe and Christmas mottos. Church was held in the forenoon and Hark the Herald Angels given with warmth, though the Captain being an Irishman did not show much anxiety on the subject and hurried on to the deck; for the barometer keeps falling and the weather is very dirty. Melbourne in the present state of things is not yet for us.

At the dinner were plenty of geese and as we could not get beef, we had imitation veal, made of a leg of pork with the bone taken out and then rolled round with veal stuffing and gravy. Housewives look to this. Burning puddings, Christmas cakes, jellies and blancmange were the little extras thrown in, together with sparkling Johannisberg.

(This was a famous wine made from Riesling grapes at the Schloss Johanninsberg vineyard, Rheingau, Germany.)

During the consumption of the latter our end of the table gave toasts The Queen God Bless Her came first, then all ships at sea and afterwards all ships in port so that we thus exhausted the fleets of the world. The Bishop and all Denominations, as well as the Army and Volunteers we left to take care of themselves, going straight on with those at home, sweethearts and wives and winding up with ourselves.

We sat an extra hour at the table as the rain prevented any skylarking on deck. We could hear the crew enjoying themselves in the fo’c’sle over the remains of a couple of pigs given to the main deck, who today taste fresh meat for the first time since leaving London. Fresh meet was also offered to the second and third-class passengers, the offer being accepted by the latter but by the former was refused with the pride peculiar to them and the remark that ‘they didn’t want to be under no obligation of no Steward.’

We cut our whist short tonight and asked a few fellows who don’t belong to the whist set  to come in and have a round of loo, which we enjoyed to the accompaniment of the Herald Angels and Holding the Fort on the harmonium in the distance. Those who were hymning were happy, so were we, in fact everyone was happy when we all turned in at half past ten, just as some of you at home were thinking of sitting down to a 2 o’clock Christmas dinner.

(The game of Loo was once popular at Brighton and even gave its name to a circular or octagonal table used in the Regency Period.)  

Tuesday 28 December 1875

Ever since Cape Leeuwin we have had calms and baffling winds, our runs for the past four days being 82, 107, 189 and 101 instead of the glorious bursts we were lately experiencing. But the worst of it is that we have been unable to take any observations, the sky being dark and dirty and the sun never seen. By dead reckoning we know we are unpleasantly close to the trap of this coast – the treacherous King Island with the current always settling on to it, which has proved fatal to so many good ships. (King Island is situated in the Bass Strait.)

The rule of this coast is that no ship should try to make land with a lower barometer than 29 in 65; but falling for days the glass now stands at 29.32 and the banks to the southwards grow ever darker and darker. The Captain has not left the deck a whole hour for the past 48 hours and is worked up to a big pitch. All last night he had us hove-to and tonight at midnight should Cape Otway light still be unseen he intends to wear the ship and put right out to sea again. It doesn’t do to talk to him now, in fact the best thing is to keep out of sight. So we enjoy what we hope is our last night at sea for the next month or two.

At dusk a hand was sent aloft to the top of the fore royal-mast to keep an extra look-out and watch for our haven, the Otway light. It was about 8 o’clock when sitting in the stern cabin at our cards, we heard sung out from aloft ‘a revolving light point and a half on port bow’. We all run on deck to shake hands with the Captain and congratulate him on his relief from anxiety. As we are doing so, up comes Morewood, who has been sent aloft, confirming the news. The sail is piled on now that we are sure of our position, as we want to get ahead before the coming storm breaks. As I lay in my cot that night, I could watch the Otway light solemnly revolving and the thought ran through me that once more I was 10,000 miles from home.


Wednesday 29 December 1875

Before breakfast we were nearly up to Port Phillip heads and race an American barque as to who shall have the first pilot but the big ship wins. As the pilot’s large cutter gradually draws nearer, we see his gig lowered and the pilot ranges alongside. His first question from the boat is ‘How Long out?’ We reply ‘Seventy-five days.’ The pilot says ‘Good, best passage this season. Greens’ Malabar who left a month before you, only came in last Saturday.’ His is the first new face we have seen for three months.

The pilot comes up the side, gets three cheers for which he bows, shakes hands with the Captain, tells the quarter-master to put his helm up and asks Smith to set him a stay-sail. He then sits down in the forward part of the poop, which is roped off, and quietly signalling to the quarter-master now and again, proceeds to give us all the news. We are not at war with China, Dizzie had bought up the Suez Canal, Turkey has gone smash and there’s nothing fresh.

(Ferdinand, vicomte de Lesseps designed the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869. In 1875 Britain gained the controlling interest in the Suez Canal Company at the instigation of Benjamin Disraeli.)

We run through the heads and I recognise all the old places, Queenscliff, Sorrento, Brighton, Dromana and last of all Williamstown and Sandridge. Taking off the sail by degrees, we glide right into Hobson’s Bay, the agent’s boat buffs alongside, he waves his letter bag and whilst he is saluting from his boat those he knows, the anchor is let go and our journey is at an end.

Copyright © J.Middleton 2013
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