My two sons leave England for Australia. Incidents of the Voyage. Extracts from Journal. Arrival at Port Phillip. Melbourne. Employed as Shepherds in the Interior. Mode of Life. Melbourne in 1853. Advice to Immigrants. Descriptive Letters from the Bush.
DURING the summer of 1852, I formed the intention of joining the exodus, then pouring out from England to Australia. I had been in treaty with the "Melbourne Gold Mining Company," recently started, in which promising speculation, on paper, I held some shares. The late Earl of Devon was chairman. I was to go in the Sarah Sands, in my professional capacity. My two sons, William John, and his younger brother, were to accompany me; but on further investigation of the modus operandi, I gave up all idea of attaching myself to the scheme, sold my shares at a slight discount, and engaged as medical attendant on the passengers, taking my two sons with me, in a fine new ship, the Ballaarat, on her first voyage. This arrangement I considered final. But a few days after William returned home, he came to me when I was sitting alone, engaged in writing, and with that expression in his countenance so peculiarly his own, said; "My dear father, I have a favour to ask of you." "My dear boy," I replied, "there is nothing you would venture to ask that I could possibly refuse." "Then," continued he, "it is this. I see my mother is grieving, although she says nothing, at our all leaving her together. Let Tom and I go alone: I will pledge myself to take care of him." After a consultation with my wife this new plan was agreed upon. I released myself from my engagement with Messrs. Simpkin and Marshall for the Ballaarat, and secured two berths for the boys in one of Mr. W.S. Lindsay's ships, which at that time were conveying living freights to Melbourne, their Channel port of departure being Dartmouth.
By the advice of Mr. Lindsay himself I took steerage passages for them. He shrewdly remarked, "They will be there as soon and as safely as the cabin-passengers, and their money will be saved." This sounded so like an axiom in practical economy that my dear boy never attempted to argue the question. Having obtained permission to knock two cabins into one, my sons considerably diminished their expenses, and had quite as agreeable a voyage as if they had paid sixty guineas each; for I have lately learned by experience, in a homeward passage, that you have to put up with companions in the cabin, as objectionable as can be imagined in almost any situation of life.
At Dartmouth, a day or two before the ship started, I found that William had expended some money on a quantity of stuff rolled up like balls of black ropeyarn. I exclaimed with astonishment, "In the name of goodness, are you going to chew or smoke all the way to Australia?" for the commodity was the good old pig-tail tobacco. He said, smiling, "This is to make friends with the sailors: I intend to learn something about a ship by the time we reach our destination." I dare say the worthy skipper of the good ship Janet Mitchell, should he be still alive, has some recollection of him. His mode of proceeding, as he told me, was first to secure the good graces of the crew through the persuasive medium of the pig-tail; then, to learn the name and use of every rope, and of every part of the ship's tackle from stem to stern. He soon acquired the art of splicing and reefing, and was amongst the first to go aloft in a storm, and to lend a hand in taking in topsails. When I arrived in Melbourne at a later period, several of his fellow-passengers spoke to me with praise and wonder, referring to his activity, and readiness to leave an unfinished meal, on the slightest indication of danger or difficulty. His journal of this voyage, is now before me, from which I extract a few remarks: -
1852. October 1st. - Left Dartmouth - Slightly sick for the first few days - My brother much more so, but got right again - Foretopmast carried away by a squall, just at the crosstrees, bringing down with it the main top-gallant mast - 'We look a precious wreck! ' - Remember the Honourable Michael de Courcy, brother of Lord Kingsale, saying to me on the quay at Dartmouth, the day before we sailed, that the first gale would carry away the fore-top-gallant mast - I believe the Janet Mitchell is quite a new ship, on her first voyage - The remark speaks well for the judgment of a young officer.
19th. - Sailors prigged some spirits in the hold and got very drunk - A passenger so drunk that he became mad, and was put in irons.
20th. - Sailors not yet recovered from their drunkenness - A naval captain, passenger on board, insulted by one of them; struck him with his fist and cut his face open.
22nd. - Fine weather - Getting hot - Latitude north 21, longitude west 36 - The Great Bear getting low - Sunsets and risings very fine, particularly the former.
November 1st. - Shark taken, of which I had a large share and rather enjoyed the novelty of the feed.
5th. - Crossed the Line - Sailors shaved and ducked a good many - Tom and I got off very well. (Query - effects of the pig-tail?)
16th. - Stormy weather - Obtained some books on navigation and studied trigonometry.
20th and 21st. - Passed Tristan da Cunha, Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands, about 37 south latitude, 12 longitude west. - Saw a great many whales, mostly sperm, thousands of birds, albatross, Cape pigeon, and many others, the names of which I am ignorant of.
23rd. - A shoal of porpoises passed us. A sailor struck one with a harpoon, but it got off again. They are of a salmon colour, no more like pigs than horses, just the shape of salmon, only much larger. In swimming they turn on their sides.