Jottings from a Sailor’s Life – The Journal of Alexander Kidd
In the year 1845, Nov. 11th, I was bound an
apprentice for a term of 4 years and sailed in the Barque Anna
Robertson of London from the Port of Leith with a cargo of coals for
Alexandria in Egypt which we had loaded in St. Davids, a small place on
the Fifeshire side of the Firth of Forth.
From a child I was fond of the sea and being close
by was always playing on the sand by the sea shore and when the weather
was suitable (and at times not very suitable either) splashing
among the water and swimming about whenever we got
a chance. A holiday from
school was our opportunity and to get afloat in a boat was a great treat
and hence I was being in a manner trained for a sea life.
My grandfather was a sailor and also his Son. My uncle by the mother’s side at the time I started was
Captain of a West Indian trader so I almost by right was intended for the
sea. My mother put cold water on my attempts to get to sea but my
determination was too strong. I insisted on going and also at the same
time had formed a secret resolve to rise in the profession and become the
commander of a fine ship some day.
I had been at times an unruly boy at school and at
home and very often in trouble through an unsettled temper — however at
sea I soon got that toned down.
So to sea I go. We weighed anchor and made sail and
struck out from Leith Roads and down the Firth of Forth with a fine breeze
and we parted with the pilot shortly after leaving and passed the Bass
Rock with its swarms of sea birds spinning and whirling around us. Night
coming on and the weather not very promising Captain Russell gave orders
to shorten sail, top gallant sail first and the Chief Mate with a now then
away aloft there boy and help the man to furl the sail. I got up but my
help to the man was nil, I had enough to do to take care of myself. The
man was more kind than the mate doing all himself while I hugged the yard
thinking every minute I would be sent flying off the yard overboard. I had
not got my sea legs on board and found it difficult to meet the quick
motion of the ship in a heavy sea - it was not long ere that Topsail had
to be reefed and the Yards being lowered and reef tacks hauled out.
Away aloft all of you came in hoarse tones from the Mate but the
Captain, a little more human called the green Boy on the Poop and excused
me another journey aloft. By
this time the sea had got high and washing about the deck and all hands
feeling very uncomfortable and wet. After
about a fortnight of similar weather we got as far as the downs and
anchored among a lot of other wind bound ships but our stay was short only
one night but I felt thankful for the rest it gave us. The wind shifted
and we got under weigh again with a fair wind which did not last long and
the weather soon became worse than ever.
After beating about some days the weather got very bad the sea
washing over all and the ship straining heavily she commenced to leak
rather badly and gave plenty of work at the Pumps one night blowing a gale
and the shop hove too under close reefed main top sail and fore top mast
stay sail. The Look Out
(which was not a very well kept one Officer and all the watch below which
should have been on deck.) One
man went on deck at times to take a look at the compass and around and
came down again to report to the Mate who was reading at the Cabin Table,
the Captain asleep at the time in his cabin.
On one of his visits to the deck the Lookout man returned in a
hurry and told the Mate that lights were visible and not far off. The Mate
jumped up sent all watch hands on deck and then called the Captain who
immediately gave orders to call all hands to make sail. They were a crew
of good sailors and were promptly at their stations and the Captain coolly
got a heavy press of canvas on the ship making her fly through the water
and smothering her with seas. I thought the masts and sails would all go
out of the ship. I heard the Captain express anxiety and wishing the wind
would haul a point or two which I believe it did or our chances had been
very slight. Indeed we had
drifted in the Gale and got in bayed in about the Easkets near the French
coast and all this through a bad watch and look out.
A good officer would have seen the lights in time to have wore ship
in safety. After clearing the
danger and getting off shore with room to drift sail was shortened and the
ship hove too again and ropes coiled up.
Orders were given to man the Pumps.
After working for a long time at them it was discovered we had
sprung a leak the thrashing her off the Lee shore had shaking her so much
by opening her at the Bows 24 hours pumping and no reduction of the water
the sailors refused to pump any more unless the Captain would promise to
make for a Harbour to repair. After considerable altercation and threats
the Captain was obliged to succumb and promise to make for a harbour. We
stood in for the English shore and as we neared the land the weather
became fine and we took a fisherman on board for the purpose of going into
Torbay but shortly after a proper branch Pilot for Dartmouth came on board
who persuaded the Captain to go into Dartmouth as a more secure harbour
and better place to effect repairs. In
approaching this place it looks as if you were running into the cliffs and
going close to some rocks you make a short turn and open the mouth of the
harbour or Dart river. We
were hailed from an old castle as to who and what we were by a man which I
suppose to have been a coast Guardsman and running up about a mile moored
with two anchors in a snug place in the middle of the river opposite the
quaint old town. After
surveying and taken the usual steps in such cases repairs were proceeded
with. A lot caulkers
carpenters and other tradesmen came on board to work and the crew were
kept mending sails working at the rigging etc. and at the same time
confined to the ship and not allowed to go on shore.
The communication with the shore was kept up by the
Captain’s Gig, Carr the other and oldest apprentice and I being the crew
(or rowers) so Jack was supposed to be pinned secure on board but where
there’s a will there is a way. The
example to break through restraint was given by the Second Mate who was
the Owner’s son and who decamped overnight leaving a note explaining to
the Captain but he caught him soon and cleverly in Totnes the same night
and brought him back again when I fancy he persuaded him not to attempt
such a trick. After this the
Captain always took him ashore with him.
The Mate had to carry on all the work, the second was a young man
and not much worth as a sailor. So
he was perhaps better out of the way, his mother’s family were living
somewhere about the locality so he had a lot of invitations, the Captain
also with him.
A County Ball was given in an hotel in Dartmouth,
the incidents connected with which I will never forget. We rowed the Captain and 2nd Mate ashore in the Gig about 7
o’clock to go to this Ball. We
were sent back to the ship with orders to return at Midnight to bring the
Captain off to the ship again after the Ball broke up.
Previous to going on shore with the Captain and 2nd Mate some of
the sailors persuaded us to help them to get on shore. We knew we would get thrashed if we were caught but we had to
run risks to get into the good graces of the sailors with whom we lived in
the Forecastle and who steadily taught us to look upon them as our Friends
and the Captain and officers as our enemies.
The way the landing was effected was in this wise, the night being
dark we pulled up the River above the ship and quietly dropped down under
the Bows when five of them came down the chain cable into the Boat.
We landed them above the usual place and after getting a promise
from them that they would not go near the place where the Captain and 2nd
mate were we rowed quietly back to the usual landing place and then off to
the ship as if coming right back from landing the Captain.
We repeated our orders to the Mate and after hoisting the boat out
of the water we were sent to lie down and be ready for a call to go on
shore again to bring the Captain off as ordered.
We were duly called and dispatched at midnight with the boat -
after getting to the landing steps Jack Carr the other apprentice run up
to the hotel (not far off) to see if it was time to take the Captain’s
Boat Cloak up. He soon
returned in great consternation saying we are in for it now, all the
beggars (meaning our sailors) are in the hotel drunk and making a row and
the Captain will be sure to see them.
One of them called Clark came down just then who made us row him
off quietly and he got on board without anyone knowing he had been ashore
- he had kept sober and could tell the history of the adventure.
About 2 a.m. the Captain brought the other 4 sailors to the boat
all drunk. We started to go
off to the ship but when about half way they began to fight nearly
capsizing the Gig, the mate lowered another boat and came to the rescue,
we got alongside and had to hoist two of the sailors on deck.
The Captain was in a towering passion and sent for us boys to
question us (our story was concocted) he overhauled Jack first then I.
We both thought we had seen the poor shoemaker’s boat.
He called to the Mate Mr. Couper when next you see that
shoemaker’s boat alongside through the Grindstone into her and sink her.
The story of the spree as told by Clark the sailor.
After landing they went to one of the Caulkers houses as they said.
to see the caulker’s daughter but having no money they could get no
drink and were in a dilemma but a happy thought struck one of them.
Murray an old man and an old dodger he was, that they should go to
the Hotel where the Ball was going and represent themselves as Captain
Russell’s boats crew to take Captain off after the Ball broke up and he
the Coxswain Murray had Captain Russell’s orders to treat the crew to
beer and she the landlady in the Bar would oblige him by sending in 5 Pots
at once which was done and repeated about 4 times then it was thought they
had enough. But Coxswain
Murray could tell a good yarn and kept holsters coachmen & others
open-mouthed with his tough ones and at the end of each yarn, here Sailor
drink with I handing the Pot which he took care went the round of his
chums and came back empty to Tumas. Another
dodge to get some more was carried out by one of them, he went up stairs
to the Ball room landing and watched a chance when the 2nd mate came near
the door dancing with a Lady when this impudent fellow caught his coat
tails and pulled him into the landing in the shade and a sort of your
money or your life affair took place to get him out of the way. The
officer gave him two or three shillings, he swore he would run into the
Ball Room and kick up a row if he didn’t but the row came after all
downstairs where the Captain found them having a general fight and
ultimately the Captain had to pay for something like 24 Quarts of Beer
ordered by his self appointed Coxswain and crew of his gig.
Our repairs were completed in about a fortnight but the continued
westerly gales detained us wind bound for about six weeks altogether
before we got clear of Dartmouth. We
got on extremely well afterwards and arrived in Alexandria in about a
month afterwards and discharged our cargo of coals and loaded a cargo of
cotton for Liverpool where we arrived in June 1846 after a tedious and
long passage of 9 weeks. We
were put into Quarantine and had to discharge our cargo into a hulk which
with the cargo had to remain in Quarantine some 30 days longer while the
vessel sheered off and anchored to fumigate and clean for 5 days before
she was admitted to Britain, then we got into dock and finished the
voyage. I had serious ideas
of giving up the sea then fears of being jeered & xxxxxx
touched my pride. So I
made up my mind to stick to it & overcome the many drawbacks to a hard
life. It was anything but an
easy one on board of the Anna Robertson a rough school living in the
Forecastle with the sailors cuffed & snubbed by all hands & made
to do the slavey for everyone but drilled into our business.
More perhaps for their own sakes than ours with a small ship &
small crew it is an advantage to get everyone competent to do something
— no drones in the Bee Hive there as they say everyone who cracks a
Biscuit must work for it. The owner of our ship had made up his mind to sell.
I suppose she was not a profitable one.
So the apprentices had to be disposed of & having no other ship
(we had our choice) I was transferred to William Lamport of Liverpool, the
other had his indenture cancelled & went to London.
I never of him again. My
new master was very kind and promised advancement at a future time if I
behaved myself & served my apprenticeship out faithfully. He sent me
to Greenock to join a ship of his called the William Ward of Liverpool
Captain Jas. Scoullar bound to Quebec.
I did not care much about the Trade at first but our winter voyages
to New Orleans made up the difference.
Liverpool had quite a large Fleet of very good ships in this trade
at that time. On joining the
Wm Ward, the Capt and officers were all St. John New Brunswickers. Their
behaviour and kindness was very different to what I had been accustomed to
on the Anna Robertson. We the
boys lived in a place by ourselves with the Boatswain which I found much
better than being in the Forecastle with the sailors. I soon became a
favourite with them all (Captain & officers). I had learned to do most any thing belonging to seamen’s
work steer reef furl splice make knots sew & a lot of fancy work &
my new fellow apprentices had been a voyage but they knew nothing, they
had not been put to it as I had been.
I felt a little proud of my abilities now.
The Captain & officers seemed pleased to have a little fellow
so well posted & which I took care to improve.
This kindness gave a fresh spur to my ambition to rise.
I took to my books and writing to improve myself, the Captain
seeing this encouraged me so I got on swimmingly and soon managed the
Rudiments of Navigation and before my apprenticeship was finished I had
got much more than the usual quantum required for General purposes of
Navigating a ship.
But to return to my story we sailed from Greenock
for Quebec in August 1846, the first night out it came on to blow and all
the sailors being drunk and unfit for duty it became a serious matter to
shorten sail with only the officers boys &
xxxxx to do so.
They the sailors are a little better nowadays owing to the Law
taking a little more notice of & punishing the offence of neglecting
to join but still there is too much of it.
Drunken sailors gives much anxiety to the commander of a ship just
leaving port with so much to be done in the way of clearing up and making
all snug to contend with bad weather possibly and little room to work in. He at all events must not be without his wits and woe betide
him if he comes to trouble. The Board of Trade enquiries take no such
excuse from him. Sailors are
Nursed by the Govt. in all ways Mostly but not nursed and put on board
Sober and competent to do their duty and giving the commander something to
work with and prevent numerous accidents such as shipwreck collision and
Loss of Life and Property - but to go on with my voyage we got to Quebec
after a tedious passage and there loaded a cargo of Timber for Liverpool.
This North American Trade is hard and Laborious not much fine
weather on the voyage. The
St. Laurence looks fine in the Summer but beating a Ship up with a fresh
wind takes away the beauty of it not much time to look round and admire
the Scenery cracked hands pulling ropes calls forth a few oaths on the
Ship wind river &c not very Poetic and after arrival we have cargo or
Ballast to put out and then hurry up to get Timber loaded working early
and late. Men grumbling about
the time they are kept at it but the Poor apprentices are frequently kept
half the night in the Boat attending the Captain on Shore in addition to
their share of the general work going on during the day but there is no
help for it growl you may but a ropes end will likely be your reward and
much better it is to go willingly, we got to Liverpool after a rough
passage, thus ends the first Voyage in the William Ward. We the (Boys) are Sent ashore to get our Meals but we Sleep
on board not very comfortable in a cold damp ship especially when
contrasted with the comforts we see others having on Shore. Captain &
Mates are off we are left to ourselves no overlooking on us so we have a
great inducement to go and Kill the Night time in Singing houses which we
very frequently did & very doubtful places of Amusement they are as a
rule but we manage to get through the Night.
The house we boarded at was what is called a Sailors boarding house
and a very objectionable old woman kept it.
She was simply disgusting, the trade of the Port was bad and a lot
of unemployed sailors or hard ups about.
This woman bullied them very much because the poor fellows did not
get ships & away, giving them bad food at which we had to complain
being participator at the same table but it came to an end and we sailed
again for New Orleans in December 1846.
We had a fine passage all the way but kept very busy refitting ship
which is the usual practice in the Tropics each year with ships in this
trade. I enjoyed the passage
through among the West Indian Islands, the weather warm and fine, the rich
vegetation of the low land in bright contrast with the blue and hazy
mountains gave a charm to the scene as we went sailing by. On arrival in New Orleans all was bustle owing to a war then
going on between the United States & Mexico, a lot of transports going
& kidnapping all the sailors they could get hold of and the means used
not very justifiable. All our
crew were off in an hour after we made fast in the Pier to the Wharf.
New Orleans was a vile place at that time full of all sorts of
scoundrels and life anything but safe.
We loaded a cargo of Provisions & cotton, shipped a new and
very mixed crew and procured in various ways through runners of sailors
boarding houses & shipping masters, very frequently they were drugged
or made drunk and put on board in that state and were generally out at sea
before they recovered their senses to find they had been victimised, in
our ship we got two real victims, one a Scotsman McDonald who had been
hocused by a villain and old schoolfellow and sold him for forty dollars.
He was a sergeant in the American army, a married man with a
family. He feared poor fellow
that he would be posted as a deserter and deprive his wife of pension
ground he had earned through long war service among the Indians, poor
fellow I felt much for him. Another
a Prussian and also a victim to a countryman, he had saved for years
working as a Cabinet Maker to get to America to better his condition.
He was shipped voluntarily but had been made to understand we were
bound to New York where he could better himself and not liking New Orleans
but the poor fellow was in great distress when he found we were bound to
Liverpool. The rest of our
crew were a rough lot and a great trouble to the Captain & Officers
they would only do what they pleased being runners and paid in advance,
the Captain had little hold on them.
We had a stormy passage home where we got clear of all the rascals
— one of the sailors an old Irishman & a decent fellow was an
exception. He amused us much
by telling yarns like an Arabian Nights entertainment he had a wonderful
faculty for fiction & making up a yarn and thoroughly believed in
Fairies &c. We the
apprentices on arrival in Liverpool were sent to a different stile of
Boarding house to our last, a large establishment where we were very
comfortable. Our next voyage
was to New York with passengers, 1847, the Irish Famine Year.
We left Liverpool in April and took the North Channel into the
Atlantic. We had just cleared
some 50 miles when we were caught in a heavy N. W. gale during which we
had much trouble with the emigrants who got frightened. We also lost a man
overboard, we could render him no assistance, the sea was too heavy to
lower a boat. We had a little
sickness on the voyage among the children (measles) and one case of
smallpox (an apprentice) who died and which alarmed the Captain who feared
it might spread which would have been dreadful among so many people &
no Doctor on board, but every precaution was taken fumigation,
disinfectant & cleaning which was effectual. We (the crew) were glad
on arrival at Staten Island to get clear of the emigrants, they were
mostly very filthy but poor things theirs was a hard lot fleeing from
famine with little means to keep themselves clean.
From New York we went to St John N.B. and loaded a cargo of Deals
for London. I had an attack
of fever in St John but soon got over it.. Our sailors all ran away and
with a fresh crew we sailed for London. After a fair passage but a leaky ship with continual pumping
we got to London without any mishap.
From London we went to Quebec and after a nasty cold voyage home we
came to Liverpool again and boarded with Mrs Burns the mother of one of
our apprentices, Tom Burns a making scamp.
I saw him years afterwards a common Sailor he told me he had been
all over the world and every sort of ship and doing no good at any time.
He was dismissed from our employ as an incorrigible good for
nothing and his indentures destroyed.
We started again December 1847 for New Orleans & without much
incident returned to Liverpool in May and off again for Quebec, much the
same sort of voyage as described previously but we returned to Bristol
with our homeward cargo of timber. We enjoyed our stay of a month very
much being new to us. I liked
the quaint old place and the people.
A fine lot of good looking girls here & we towed from Bristol
to Newport (Mon) and loaded a cargo of coals (in the Winter of 1848 we
were dismasted going out from Newport to St Thomas and had to put into
Cove of Cork (now Queenstown) for repairs) for Bermuda a coaling station
for the West India Royal Mail Steamers and an extensive convict station
also a Naval Yard. Consequently
had always lots of soldiers about watching the convicts.
They seemed to be well taken care of clean and well fed only marked
with the name of the Hulk they belonged to & deprived of their Liberty
which was very necessary for a lot of Scoundrels they were.
We went from Bermuda to Turks Island and loaded Salt for New
Orleans & returned to Liverpool.
Another Voyage to Quebec & returned to Greenock we had made a
voyage from New Orleans to Cadiz & back to New York with Salt then to
Quebec and on to Greenock My
apprenticeship being out I had some leisure to myself leaving the ship in
Greenock discharging Cargo. I
paid a visit to my Father and Mother and stayed with them 5 weeks when
recalled to join my ship in Greenock this time I was rated a Sort of
Boatswain or 3rd Mate and sailed from Greenock for Newport (Mon) and
loaded coats for St. Thomas in the West Indies.
We had a hard time before we got clear of St. Thomas we left that
place with nearly all hands sick. Myself
and a few others not included we also had a man shot in a Sunday drunken
row. A Meddlesome Captain
brought the soldiers to quell the disturbance and the result was a life or
two lost which might have been avoided with a little tact.
From St. Thomas we went to New Orleans and was detained 4 months
waiting for a freight & could get nothing worth taking for Liverpool
the cotton trade being in a bad state during the time we were lying in New
Orleans we saw a great deal of the place and those contained therein
rather a rough lot an occasional Irish row and Fires every night and many
of them the work of Incendiaries. Not being able to find employment for the Ship here we sailed
for Quebec in April and after a tedious time working through the Ice in
the Gulf of St. Laurence we arrived in Quebec in May where we loaded a
cargo of Timber for Newport (Mon) all the crew mostly left in Quebec they
got discharged legally through an omission in the Agreement we got
Substitutes and proceeded and got to Newport in due time all well where we
were detained 6 weeks. A
money panic being there & Banks closing but being pretty well
acquainted we managed to pass the time tolerably well.
At length we started towed to Cardiff & loaded Railway Iron for
Mobile. I was shipped as 2nd
Mate this voyage and we started from Cardiff with a very mixed crew and
anything but Sailors. Such a
lot I could hardly imagine collected together none of them could do what
we call Sailors work which made it hard for the Mate and myself but we had
to make the most of it we could not replace them at Sea — we got to
Mobile in due course after a tolerable passage discharged our cargo of
Railway Iron & loaded Cotton for Liverpool.
Ships Anchor in Mobile Bay some 30-miles from the Town the Captain
is generally up in Town and sends provisions, Cargo &c down by Steamer
and keeps the Chief Mate instructed by letter who carries on the work of
Loading with a Stevedore & a few men from Town & hard work
Screwing Cotton is to those not accustomed to it but we got through it
& started for Liverpool and after a tedious passage of 64 days got to
Liverpool safe and well & at this time Captain Scoullar & I left
the Old William Ward & Peter Johnson Chief Mate became Captain of her.
Captain Scoullar now got command of a new Ship the
“Senator” & after passing my 1st examination he appointed me his
2nd Mate. A new law had just
come in Force compelling Masters & Mates to pass examinations & be
certified Officers we were loading for Bombay.
A new trade for me and the change was very agreeable & opened
up new prospects I was quite proud of my position.
2nd Mate of a fine New Ship & bound to the East Indies.
Another spur to my ambition to rise, and if by Strict attention to
duty & diligence in Study I might rise I was determined to Succeed I
had only one drawback that was I thought the Overlooker had a Spite
against me for no reason that I knew time has proved I was mistaken and
instead has proved my best Friend & I still hold the Old Gentleman in
high esteem he has often given me good advice & substantial help when
necessary — We started on our voyage in the Summer of 1852 and had a
very comfortable passage all the way to Bombay with a fine ship & a
good crew we were all very happy - The Captain a had his Wife on board and
her little boy. She had
frequently made voyages with us and I always felt pleased to see her on
board. She was very kind to
me at all times & best of all she kept the Captain from worrying
himself and being nasty about the Deck.
We loaded a cargo of cotton in Bombay for Liverpool and preceded on
our homeward voyages we had a few passengers on board who made themselves
generally disagreeable without a cause more especially the wife of one of
the Passengers. Nothing could
please her & the Captain was often in a fury and it was fortunate for
them his wife was on board or he very likely would have taken different
measures with them but all things come to an end so did this voyage and on
the whole I enjoyed it very much — We were not long in Liverpool only
one month and off again for Bombay with a general cargo where we arrived
in due time and discharged our cargo and loaded again for Liverpool on
this voyage the Chief Mate Mr. Brailly a very clever man but not very
moral had given offence to the Captain by taking drink so they were not on
good terms. Although the Mate
and I got on very well together. The
Captain had an accident by a Cotton Bale falling on his foot which broke a
small bone in his ankle which kept him from moving about so after leaving
Bombay the Captain made me do the Navigating work of the Ship he would not
trust the Chief Mate but the Mate had sense enough not to make it
unpleasant for me as I was bound to obey the Captain’s order. We had only one passenger this time Captain Wheelwright
Bengal Artillery, who had been cashiered the Service for insubordination
& drunkenness and a queer fellow he was he did not get on very well
with the Captain at all the Mate worked up trouble between them.
Captain Wheelwright I heard went to the Crimea & joined the
Turkish contingent whether he ever returned again I never heard we arrived
in Liverpool after a tedious passage 4 ½ months all well.
I passed another examination for Chief Mate & Mr. Brailly
having neglected his duty by leaving the Ship and going on the Spree he
was dismissed and I was appointed Chief Mate in his place.
We now loaded a cargo for Quebec and started in April 1854 being
early Spring we had a stormy passage across the Atlantic and got among the
Ice entering the Gulf of St. Laurence and cut our Bow very much &
nearly took all the copper off the Bottom we got to Quebec at last &
loaded a cargo of Timber and came back to Liverpool where I left the
Senator and went to London with Captain Scoullar & joined a new ship
the Leicester we went in Ballast with her to Shields and loaded a cargo of
coals for Bombay we sailed from the Tyne in Nov. 1854 and after a long and
tedious passage we arrived in Bombay all well and loaded a return Cargo of
cotton and seed for Liverpool and after another tedious passed we got to
Liverpool all right and this time I left my Old Captain to take command
having passed the board and received my Masters Certificate in 1855. I was detained in Liverpool some time waiting the arrival of
the Barque Glengariff whose Captain I had to relieve who had misconducted
himself on the voyage. She
arrived and in due time I was appointed Master of the Glengariff, loading
for Jamaica. When nearly
ready for Sea the Owners bought another vessel in London (the Barque
Leander) I was asked to command her and leave the Glengariff, which I did,
preferring the Employment she was to be engaged in.
She was to load for Madras so I went to London and took charge. She
had been purchased without survey or approval and I found her in very bad
order in fact a very inferior ship everyway & requiring a lot of
repairs which turned out to be an expensive affair and a very bad bargain
for the Owners — we started from London for Madras in February 1856 and
this voyage to me was a very trying one especially to a young Man & a
first command troubles came one after the other testing my abilities &
energy in Several ways to begin with a very inferior ship with an
indifferent crew who gave me much trouble by broaching cargo but I caught
them & had them punished by imprisonment with hard labour (that is the
ringleaders) in Madras after arrival then they were all guilty but I had
to consider the interests of the ship or they should all have been
punished - next came trouble about loading the ship the Agents for the
Charterer would not act on the charter so I was obliged to be cautious for
my owners interests which I tried to do by reading up Maritime Law and
writing on the subject receiving replies to my extensive correspondence
with the assistance of a Lawyer at times until I was satisfied all had
been done to insure my owner’s claim on the charterer for more
fulfilment of contract which we recovered in Liverpool we loaded a cargo
of Sugar for Liverpool & proceeded and after an ordinary passage to
the Cape of Good Hope where we had some rough weather I put into Table Bay
to get a Supply of Water having lost most of our water by the Bursting of
the Water Tank which held all our Supply with the exception of Six Casks -
here I met trouble & delay by a Number of the Crew refusing to proceed
in the Ship which ended in their being sent to prison for 8 weeks and
losing all their pay due, they not having any reasonable excuse to justify
their refusal of duty. After
procuring other Seamen I continued the voyage and all went on well until a
day or two after passing the equator the Ship sprung a leak and a very bad
one keeping us constantly pumping all the way home and getting into bad
weather entering the Georges channel gave us as much as we could do to
keep her afloat and the exercise Labour pumping knocked up nearly all the
crew we got drove north of Liverpool with the gale and passed a very bad
night between the Isle of Man & the coast of Cumberland & finding
myself getting into close quarters with a disabled crew and a lot of water
in the Hold I was compelled to make for a port &
Whitehaven being the nearest and most convenient I ran for that
place in the morning and got assistance from the Shore while waiting for
the Tide and entered the Harbour about 8 o’clock at night where a large
number of the people were waiting to receive the ship in distress.
A report having got afloat during the day while we were waiting
outside of an exaggerated amount of suffering we had endured at all events
the people were very kind & I have always liked them since & have
confirmed the liking having taken my wife from among them.
We made a few repairs to the ship and towed to Liverpool where I
finished my voyage & command of the Barque Leander of which I was
heartily tired and glad to be clear of her having had a very uncomfortable
voyage. I now begin another era of my life with a very steady number of
voyages in various steamers and generally fairly successful with a few ups
and downs of more or less importance to myself & others.
In January 1857 I took command of a small steamer
the Cleator owned by Mr. Alfred Holt of Liverpool in the Bordeaux &
Liverpool trade making occasional intermediate trips to various other
places giving me quite a new and bustling sort of occupation which I did
not like at first but gradually got used to it and liked it better as time
went on. The Bordeaux trade is hard in Winter but very pleasant in Spring
& Summer & ere the first year expired I got quite reconciled to my
new occupation. I married in February 1858 leaving my vessel in Whitehaven.
All arrangements having been made with my wife and family I quietly
went to Keswick got married to a dear Girl and returned to my vessel in
Whitehaven & off to Sea the next day, and a rough Honey Moon our
Wedding Trip was we got into a heavy gale the day after leaving and had to
take shelter in Holyhead for three days.
Another three days in Milford Haven to shelter another gale but we
got safely over the voyage in due course.
After several trips in which my wife accompanied me I was sent with
the Cleator to the West Indies to fill up the place of the Saladin which
had met with an accident & got delayed. This was a new line being
opened up by A. Holt in connection with the Panama Railroad for Transit of
Goods & Passengers to the west coast of America and including several
places in West Indies which increased to very respectable dimensions
before I left the trade we had rather a rough & tedious time on our
round with the Cleator. She
being unsuited for a long passage the space for fuel being limited but we
had to make the most of her as a make shift for this voyage.
October l0th 1858
We left Liverpool deeply laden with 80 tons coal on
deck for fuel, all available space being filled up with cargo intending to
call at one or two places for coal we made for St. Michaels in the Azores
and with considerable difficulty got 60 tons on board & left
immediately the weather not looking very favourable but we were caught by
the gale and we lost about 5 days coal overboard rather a serious matter
with a long run before us, but we had to make the best we could of it and
went South to get the trade winds & use the canvass carrying a low
press of steam to save fuel by which means we reached St. Thomas all well
and after taking some coal proceeded for Jamaica & arrived there in
due time without any mishaps. We were detained in Kingston 4 days being
the rainy season we could not discharge cargo only at intervals, the rain
comes down in torrents flooding the whole plains which descends in a
gentle slope from the base of Mountains which tours in ridges back in the
distance ending in the Blue Mountain Peak which sends its water shred down
with considerable velocity through the Plain converting the streets of
Kingston into small rivers rolling cocoanuts Palm leaves dead Pigs Fowls
&c into the Harbour. After the rains the country assumes a beautiful
aspect all becomes fresh and green with a fine clear atmosphere.
A very grateful change after there long droughts which they
generally have after June until October during time all grass is burnt up
& the cattle suffer a great deal in fact some have to sell their
cattle. A heap to those who
are fortunate enough to have a river that does not dry running through
their estate of which there are a few, and about the only properties worth
owning nowadays, Sugar is a bad speculation and Coffee not much better
owing to the difficult matter of Labour.
The Negroes are bad to manage and give a lot of trouble to the
Planter. They may have some
grievances but I think they are very few in comparison to those the
Planters have to contend with.
We started for Calon, 20th of November where we
arrived on the 24th all well. A
most uninviting place & full of a vile fever. The place had not been
long opened by the Panama Railroad Co. & only partially finished it
stands in a beastly swamp with an Indifferent Harbour but became somewhat
better in time & a very busy place being the grand route for
California during the Gold Mania & rebellion in the United Stated
which brought large numbers of Passengers and a great amount of Traffic
the Scenes on arrival of the New York’s Steamers crowded with Passengers
were worth looking at. The Hotels being crowded & Bar Rooms full of
all sorts with a good sprinkling of Sharpers who came like Birds of
Paradise to prey upon the Travellers.
We remained in Calon or Aspinwall 6 days and returned to Kingston
(Jamaica) and after loading some cargo for Liverpool & a portion for
New York. We started for
Liverpool via New York, and after a rough and tedious passage anchored at
Straten Island 8 miles from New York on the 1st of January 1859, here we
suffered much from the excessive cold weather after being so recently in
the warm Tropics. I went up
to New York in a passage steamer to try & see our Agent, but could
find no one in the office New Year’s day being the great Holiday in the
United States all business is suspended and the Streets of New York
crowded and dressed in their best. I
went to dine at the St. Nicolas Hotel with a passenger I had brought from
Jamaica and a sorry figure we made in the gaudy assembly in our rough Sea
Attire among a highly dressed lot of Ladies & Gentlemen we were
anything but comfortable and retired from the dinner table as soon as
possible to my friends room away up any amount of stairs and a poking hole
it was very poorly furnished for an Hotel with such a display in the
Public rooms below. I went
back to the ship in the afternoon with the passage steamer quite an
exciting trip for an hour going through broken ice floating out of the
Hudson into New York Bay, the Paddles throwing the pieces up into the
Buoys with a noise like thunder to the passengers in the cabin.
Next day we steamed up to New York and discharged some cargo and
coaled for the passage home to Liverpool.
My wife and I went to Laura Keenes Theatre to see Southeren in Our
American cousin as Lord Dundreary which I did not think of at the time and
did not stay it out being very cold & the streets abominable with
slush (snow & salt are used to thaw the streets to keep Broadway clear
for carriage traffic). Some
of the streets are left frozen and sleighs run very easily over it.
We were glad to get on board to our snug comfortable cabin on the
7th December 1859. We steamed
out of New York Harbour to sea with a bitter cold wind & the decks
covered with ice and after a very stormy passage all sails blown away
& Fore yard broke (3rd Engineer buried at sea Wm Jones).
With these exceptions arrived in Liverpool all right and glad to
get over a tedious & hard voyage. I left the Cleator and got a short
holiday. In April I took
command of the S.S. Saladin and sailed for Kingston Jamaica on the 7th
April and after a tolerable passage arrived in Kingston on the 9th of May
all well. From Kingston we sailed for Santa Martha and from there to
Calon and then to Parthagina, Savanilla & back to Kingston taking in
cargo at all the above places calling at Bermudas & Sydney C.B. on the
homeward voyage & arrived in Liverpool on the 12 July finishing a
somewhat tedious voyage with a new traffic working up and a vile fever
among the crew which gave a great deal of anxiety and required personal
attention having no surgeon on board at that time.
Aug 2, 1859 sailed again with the Saladin for Jamaica taking the
northern route via Sydney C.B. thence to Kingston & the other ports
mentioned in the previous voyage and returned by the same route and after
a very stormy passage arrived in Liverpool on the 4th Oct. all well.
Another voyage, my wife with me this time.
We left Liverpool on the 7th Dec. 1859 with a large cargo for this
ship & not enough coal for the whole distance, it was arranged to call
at Madeira to coal on the 17th steamed into Funchal Road but could not
anchor to coal as the Sea was heavy and bad weather threatening.
Stood off shore to sea awaiting more moderate weather.
Tried Funchal next day but found it rather worse and a gale coming
on we ran to leeward of the Lesertas where we lay quiet for a short time
but the wind shifted to N.E. A
gale which made us get out of that place in a hurry.
Next day we got our Coal at Funchal & proceeded on our Voyage
& arrived at Kingston (Jam) on the 11th Jan. 1860.
From Kingston we went to Colon & thence to Carthagena &
Santa Martha & back to Kingston then on to Bermudas for Liverpool
where we arrived about the middle of March.
This voyage I had to part with my chief officer Mr Laslebrook an
excellent officer but could not resist drink, it had become a disease with
him which I proved in several cases.
He had another chance as Master of the Cleator but failed again.
I met him afterwards very miserable and hard up, I gave him a
trifle to get something to eat. I
heard afterwards he went as mate of a ship & died in Calcutta thus I
had the example of a man ruined through drink.
We had a very nice family passengers home from Bermuda this trip.
A Military Captain Blurton wife 2 daughters & a Son.
Captain Blurton’s Daughters told some amusing anecdotes of their
sojourn in Bermudas. I heard them telling my wife the way they tried to
catch husbands. All the
Bermudan young men have to go away to find some employment at other places
some go to America and some to England. So the only chances left for the resident girls are the
soldier officers who may be quartered there.
When a new regiment is expected they have general tea gathering and
with an army list take out the names & have a sweepstake, each draw
their man and no competition is allowed.
In the case of the 39th Blurton’s regiment all the officers who
came with the regiment from Canada were married only an assistant surgeon
left, all the Ensigns are exempt. The
unmarried ones had gone home on leave or exchanged.
So I suppose the surgeon was nearly worried to death. Whether he was caught or not I never heard - My wife heard
occasionally from the family afterwards.
April 8th 1860. Started
on another voyage with the Saladin but in turning in the River Mersey in
charge of a stupid pilot, we fouled a schooner, her anchor chain getting
foul of the Screw and ran aground on the Bank of the River & the tide
left us high & dry off Egremont & we had a valuable cargo on Board
and were well watched by the underwriter but we took no harm & got off
next tide & proceeded. We
had a fair voyage out & arrived in Kingston May 2nd 1860.
Made the usual calls on the round (Viz) Santa Marta, Colon,
Savanilla, Carthagine, Kingston, Bermudas, Sidney C.B. & arrived all
well in Liverpool on the 1st of July & left the Saladin
Sept. 1860. Made a
voyage to Bordeaux in the Cleator Sept. 29th 1860.
Started on another voyage to the West Indies in the S.S.
Plantagenet and had rather a rough voyage but arrived in Liverpool all
well on the 29 Dec 1860. We took a new port this voyage (viz) Port au
Prince a Black (Negro) republic in the west part of St Domingo.
6th February 1861 commenced another voyage in the
Plantagenet, the day after leaving met bad weather and went into Holyhead
for shelter. Stayed one day
& proceeded & made a good voyage arriving in Liverpool on the 21st
2nd June 1861. Commenced another voyage
in the Plantagenet made a good voyage & finished 22nd Aug.
& left the Plantagenet. 10th
November 1861. Commenced
another voyage to the West Indies in the Talisman, made a good trip &
arrived in Liverpool 21st January. 1862.
February 9th 1862.
Another voyage in the Talisman, had bad weather going out &
nearly lost the Chief Officer in a gale.
Mr. Alfred Holt was on board making a tour of inspection of his
line. During his voyage he
learned something of an Atlantic gale.
The day the Mate had a narrow escape Mr Holt was on deck — he
came into my room in haste to tell me the mate was aloft in danger.
I ran out & saw the mate in an awkward place on the lee Fore
Yard Arm and the Topsail Yard broke & the Top Sail shaking &
likely to knock him overboard. I immediately gave the engine more speed & filled the
sail to keep it steady & had him brought down, found he was bruised
but no bones broke. I gave
him a blowing up for getting into such a place without taking certain
precautions. I had to put the
ship in a bad position to save him. We
shipped a very heavy sea filling the Decks which rather astonished Mr Holt
& learned him to take precautions in his ships which he would not
listen to previously and on the whole his voyage was of great advantage to
him he went to all the ports with me & left at Kingston to go on to
New York to see something of the United States & returned to England
by the Inman Line. We got
home on the 21st April 1862.
June 8th 1862.
Commenced another voyage in the Askalon & went out by the way
of Sydney C.B. to all the parts in our West Indian Route & returned
via Sydney to Liverpool making a good voyage.
Arrived in Liverpool on the 16th August 1862.
7th September 1862. Another voyage in the “Askalon” via Sydney C.B. had
rather a rough passage out but had a good voyage & arrived back in
Liverpool November 17th 1862.
January. 7 1863 Another voyage in the “Askalon”
- had a fair voyage to Port au Prince left to meet the Talisman Captain
Turner Russell who was late with the Mail from New York.
Met him next day transferred his Mails & Passengers &
proceeded for Kingston. When we
arrived found the Saladin ashore below Kingston.
Sent the Mails & Passengers up to Town & commenced to get
the Saladin afloat, took coals out of her & got her off next day all
right & her people were mostly all sick with fever & the Captain
not square coming home we had a serious brake down to the Engine but we
managed temporary repairs & got home all right arriving in Liverpool
on the 22nd March 1863.
April 9th 1863.
Sailed again in the Askalon returned to Liverpool on the 21st
July 9th Sailed again in the Askalon.
Another good voyage &
returned to Liverpool 10th September 1863
October 10th 1863 Sailed again in the
“Askalon” on the usual round & returned to Liverpool 22nd
January 21st 1864 Another voyage in the “Askalon
”Mr Holt sold his interest and all the vessels of the Line &
now we are the West India & Pacific Steam Ship Company Limited. I went
to St Thomas & Curacoa in addition to the other ports. This
time had a fair voyage and returned to Liverpool 30th
April 21st 1864 Another voyage in the
Askalon via St Thomas and then the usual round via Port au Prince.
On the passage from St Thomas to Port au Prince the United States
War Steamer Pouhatan stopped us with a gun & sent an officer to
examine my papers. It was
during the American Rebellion he was polite & apologised for stopping
us & returned to his Ship & we proceeded.
Returned to Liverpool after a fair voyage on the 29th
June 1864 when I left the Askalon.
October 26th 1864 Started on another
voyage in the Chillian on the usual route via St Thomas. This was the most
uncomfortable ship I ever was in. She was in bad proportions & a most
awkward ship to work & I did not like her.
However I made the one voyage and would not go in her again. So left her on my return January 1865. I was sent to Leslie’s the Builders on the Tyne to
superintend the finishing of a new ship called the “Cuban”. I brought her round to Liverpool & was sent to take the
Christabel Colon the Captain of which vessel took sick on the eve of
sailing so I was sent off in a hurry.
I did not care much about going in her. She was old & worn out,
however I did go & she gave us a lot of trouble on the voyage but I
would not go in her again, so she was laid up & I went to Greenock to
look after two new ships (the American & Californian).
September 11th 1865 commenced
another voyage in the S.S. “American” taking the usual West Indian
Ports & returned to Liverpool in November 1865.
November 20 Only 6 days at home & commenced
another voyage in the American & left her on my return to Liverpool in
January 1866 which was my last voyage to the West Indies.
begins another stage of my voyaging.
in February made a
short trip in a new ship of Lamport & Holts (S. S. Humboldt)
I took her from the Builders Leslies on the Tyne with a cargo of
coals to Gibraltar & returned to Liverpool via Lisbon. This was a test
& trial trip with Alfred Holts new engine.
Mr Lamport thought the engine was a failure.
Alfred Holt thought otherwise and sent me to prove it was all right
in the “Humboldt”
Mr Holt had three steamers building with his new
engine the Agamemnon [Captain Isaac Middleton], Ajax [Captain Alexander
Kidd] & Achilles [Captain Turner Russell] for a new trade (via China
& the East) & we commenced a line which has continued ever since
& risen to a large concern & now comprises 23 large steamers &
five small ones & I am still in command.
July 1st 1866 I commenced my first China
voyage in the S.S. “Ajax” and made a very favourable passage direct to
the Mauritius. We had a small
cargo and some 5 passengers, one too many a clergyman who took offence at
a trifle and made himself generally disagreeable but he had the worst of
it, a shallow vain fool and not much of the Christian about him, so far as
I could see. I met some nice
people in the Mauritius but had not much time with them as we were only
two days there and off again for Penang (our next Port) I had a good
passage to Penang where we loaded some cargo & took a lot of Chinese
deck passengers for Hong Kong and proceeded on to Singapore discharged
cargo from Liverpool & filled up with local freight & passengers
and started for Hong Kong and after a good run up the China Sea arrived in
Hong Kong all well, remained 5 days there, finished our work and started
for Shanghai had a fairly good passage & arrived in Shanghai Thursday
September 20 1866.
We stayed a month in Shanghai waiting to see if
times would mend but found things getting no better.
Started on the return voyage with very little cargo and very poor
prospects. Still I had faith
in something turning up. We
took all we could get at Hong Kong & Singapore & Penang and we
left Mauritius with 2000 tons space to fill up. I was rather puzzled what
to do with a fine ship going home 1/3 full not very promising for our new
trade. But when approaching
Algoa Bay I thought I would call at Port Elizabeth & try if I could
get any cargo there, fortunately I did.
We filled all our space with wool at a very fair rate & thus
enabled me to finish my first China voyage very favourably & got
complimented by Mr Holt for the way I had managed.
I landed a mail & some passengers at Falmouth took in some 40
tons coal & proceeded to London where we arrived & went into the
Victoria Docks Tues January 21st 1867.
Had a rough passage round to Liverpool from London. Entered the
Dock in Liverpool February 3rd 1867 finishing voyage.
Saturday 9th March 1867.
Commenced another China voyage. Had a good passage to Mauritius 41
days 8500 miles. After
staying 3 days sailed for Penang and made good work to that place.
2 days there & on again to Singapore where we arrived on the 12th
May on again to Hong Kong and Shanghai where we arrived on the 4th
June & stayed there until the 20th June when we commenced
the return voyage calling at Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang & Mauritius
& after a good voyage running on Time, 75 days the Penalty
£3,500 which we just saved by 3 hours. Arrived in London 2nd
September 1867. We had
an accident coming down the Thames on our way to Liverpool.
A smack (the Pride of the Dart) ran in between the steamer towing
us & our Bow. We struck
her & she sank soon after above Gravesend.
We proceeded & got to Liverpool on the 11th
September 1867. Ending the 2nd Voyage to China in the Ajax.
S.S. Ajax October 18th 1867.
Left Liverpool commencing a third voyage to China, had it rather
rough the first 4 days. We
called at Santa Cruz, Canary’s Tenerife, coaled & proceeded on the 1st
Nov. We met our sister ship
the Agamemnon (SS) Captain I. Middleton came on board got a few articles
he required and then we parted. We
had a fair passage & arrived in Mauritius on 30th
Left Port Louis on Monday 3rd
December & arrived
at Penang Tuesday December 17th
Lost the propeller in getting under weigh & got towed down to
Singapore by the British India S.S. Company’s Mahratta went into dry
Dock & put on another screw & started for Hong Kong on Monday 13th
January 1868. Arrived at Hong
Kong January 22nd & proceeded for Shanghai 25th
January Arrived Shanghai January 29th, in leaving Shanghai had
a collision with a ship doing some damage but not very serious, called at
all the Ports on the return voyage & arrived in London Monday 4th
4th Voyage June 25th 1868.
Commenced another to China in the Ajax had a good passage &
arrived in Mauritius on the 4th August left again in pursuit of
two Chinese Absconding Debtors with a detective. On the 12th
day caught the S.S. Quang Tung & put the detective on board who
apprehended the delinquents on arrival at Singapore but they were released
through some informal nature of warrant & the scoundrels got away with
a lot of stolen money 8000 Pounds in Gold, the Mauritius creditors were
furious at the action taken by the Singapore authorities & made it a
subject with the home Government. We
arrived in Shanghai on the 9th of September 1868 but we met
with great trouble before we got away from Shanghai, our poor Ajax sank in
the Shanghai river at her moorings & was under water for 24 days
destroying a lot of property, the accident occurred through the shaft
running out of the stern pipe while under repairs caused by an unusual
current running up the River. After
strenuous exertions & spending about £17,000 pounds, we got our good
ship afloat again & made all right & returned home again, arriving
in London on the 19th February 1869 all well - after
discharging homeward cargo steamed round to Liverpool arriving there 2nd
Sunday April 11th 1869. Commenced another voyage to China in the Ajax calling at Cape
Town Mauritius Penang Singapore Hong Kong & Shanghai taking the same
ports on the way back & after a successful voyage arrived in London 23rd
Thursday 21st October having loaded in
London. Started for Tunis Malta & Alexandria had my wife & 3
children, Alick, Annie & Willie.
At Tunis we had an opportunity of going to visit the ruins of
Ancient Carthage and the Tomb of St Louis at Malta, we visited St John’s
Church & other places worth seeing.
While in Alexandria at the request of Mr Alfred Holt took a passage
in a Russian Steamer to Port Said for the purpose of seeing the Suez
Canal, it was opened at that time the Inauguration was a fine sight.
I had a conversation with Mr Lessep’s for the information of Mr
Holt about the Canal. I took
a passage to Ismailia in a Post Boat & remained one night there,
fortunately I found a bed at a small tavern & met an old acquaintance
a Swiss Mr Ernst who at one time lodged with Mrs Nicoll in Liverpool.
We saw all the preparations being made at a new Palace of Pasha
Ismail for the reception of his grand visitors “Eugenie” Francis
Joseph & a lot others to a Ball in honour of Opening the Suez canal.
The whole altogether was a grand sight and worth having seen.
I returned by Rail to Alexandria & sailed for Liverpool &
had a rough & prolonged passage called at Queenstown, short of coals.
We got to Liverpool on the 11th December all well.
Saturday January 1st 1870.
Started on another voyage to China in the “Ajax”, had a good
passage & arrived at Table Bay, Cape Town on the 31st
January then on to Mauritius, Penang, Singapore,
Hong Kong & Shanghai.
Shanghai to Amoy & Hong Kong where we loaded a cargo
principally Rice for Yokohama Japan & returned to Shanghai. Loaded for London by the way of the Red Sea & Suez Canal
passed through Hong Kong and Singapore, got on all right until about half
way up the Red Sea when we broke our Crank Shaft, the weather very hot.
I made a bargain with the Captain of the Steamer Brazillian to tow
us up to Suez for £1000, where we arrived in due time towed through the
Canal repaired & proceeded for London where we arrived on the 29th
August 1870 having made a fairly good voyage.
Loaded again in London for Malta and Alexandria
& started September 24th arrived back in Liverpool November
Thursday December 8th 1870.
Started on another voyage to China via the Suez canal in the
“Ajax” had a rough time after leaving and had a sad misfortune in the
loss of my Chief Engineer David James who had been sailing with me about
14 years. We did not know how
or when he went but supposed he must have been washed overboard during the
night, his loss cast quite a gloom all over the ship.
We called at Malta for Coal, called at all the
usual Ports and returned to London arriving there on the 12th April 1871.
8th Voyage Friday May 19th
1871. Started on another
voyage to China in the “Ajax” had the usual round having some trouble
on the way home with the stern post broken.
Got to London
Oct 13th 1871. Afterwards towed to the
Tyne to repair Stern Post afterwards steamed to Liverpool had my wife with
me on the Voyage.
Thursday 11th January 1872.
Started on another voyage to China via Suez canal & the usual
Ports on the route and after a fair voyage returned to London, arrived on
the 25th May 1872 and steamed round to Liverpool where we
arrived 2nd June ending 9th Voyage.
Sunday June 30th 1872.
Started on another China Voyage nothing of importance occurred
during this Voyage, returned to London 8th November 72 and
round to Liverpool 19th Nov
ending 10th Voyage.
Saturday 4th January 1873.
Commenced another voyage to China had very rough weather as far as
Cape St. Vincent. Afterwards
fine, made a fair voyage and returned to London & Liverpool on the 4th
Thursday 26th June 1873. Started on another voyage to
China & returned to London 7th November 1873 and steamed
round to Liverpool, remained in Liverpool all winter getting new boilers.
13th Voyage Friday 15th May 1874 Another
start for China made a fair Voyage & returned to London & round to
Liverpool arrived 21st September 1874.
14th Voyage Sunday 1st November 1874.
Another Voyage to China & returned to London 4th
March 1875. Afterwards round to Liverpool.
15th Voyage Tuesday May 4th 1875.
Another voyage to China returned to London September 3rd
& Liverpool 14th September 1875.
16th Voyage Sunday October 17th 1875.
Another voyage to “China” returned to London 17th
February 1876, arrived Liverpool 29th February 1876.
17th Voyage Saturday 1st April 1876.
Another voyage to China returned to London 7th August
& Liverpool 18th August 1876.
18th Voyage Wednesday 4th October 1876.
Commenced another China voyage returned to London 3rd
February & Liverpool 14th February 1877 - had an accident
on this voyage the British India Company’s S.S. ”Agra” run into our
Bow while we were at Anchor in Suez Roads doing considerable damage to
both ships which detained us 4 days to repair.
Although she was to blame we had to pay. A lot of hard swearing done on the other side lying well and
I think paid the referee well. However
not very serious. Mr Holt got
my explanation & believed I was right.
19th Voyage. Thursday
March 22nd 1877. Commenced
another voyage to China. All
went on well on the outward voyage & homeward we met with a bad
Accident breaking the Shaft in the Stern Pipe to repair which it was
necessary to get into a Dock. We made all the sail we could set & with
a fair wind made for Bombay where we arrived safely having been 9 days
under sail covering 1300 miles, on Monday 16th July 1877 and
during our detention while effecting repairs had lots of trouble in many
ways and everyone especially the authorities did not do anything to favour
a distressed ship. However we
helped ourselves and got away from Bombay on the 4th
I have anything but an agreeable opinion of Bombay facilities to
effect repairs to a disabled ship. Parsees
are fine thieves and require watching & strict superintendence.
We arrived in London on the 4th Nov & Liverpool on
the 15th November 1877.
20th Voyage. Tuesday, 18th December
1877. Commenced another
Voyage to China with my wife on board.
A trip for her health but I fear it did not do her much good
probably the reverse but the intention was for her benefit.
We called at Colombo on our return voyage & arrived in London
on the 15th May & Liverpool 26th May 1878.
21st Voyage. Sunday
23rd June 1878. Another
Voy to China and back to London arrived 6th November 1878 after a fairly successful voyage. After this I
took the Ajax to Greenock to undergo extensive alterations and went home
with my wife who had come from London with me.
While at home in Keswick I was much grieved to find my wife’s
health failing. I did all I
could to help her but had to leave again to take the Ajax from Greenock to
London to load a cargo there for China.
While the ship was in Greenock I lost two officers old servants. Mr
Bisson fell down the hold & was killed, was with me 10 years.
Mr Hobson 2nd mate died of inflammation after a very short illness,
he had been with me 10 years, their loss was very keenly felt more
especially by my worthy Chief Officer Mr Wm McGaw.
Wednesday 12th February 1879 - Sailed from London this
voyage & had a fairly successful trip & arrived back in London on
the 4th of June 1879. At Gravesend I found my son Alick awaiting my
arrival with very painful news for me.
A scribbled note from my dying wife to make haste home to see her
while she was alive. Arrangements
were made by Mr Holt for the ships business & my son & I travelled
all night and got to Keswick early next morning.
My wife just recognised me and then gradually sank & died on
the 12th July 1879, her death was a great blow to me and with
my large family caused much anxiety.
I laid my wife in a grave beside her mother & close to her
first baby boy Alfred with a very sad heart but time is a great healing
power & association removes the grief — at first I got soured with
Keswick and made up my mind to leave the place.
I gave up my house & placed my children with a lady (Mrs Geo
Mawson) who volunteered to take charge of them. She had been a school
fellow of my wife’s. I
thought it an act of disinterested kindness but found it was not so &
I made a mistake as the sequel proved and gave me great anxiety — the 23rd
voyage of the Ajax was made under Captain Scale while I stayed at home for
Saturday 7th February 1880.
Made another voyage to China & returned to London June 24th
/80. Had only time to
make a hurried journey to see my children in Cockermouth & found
things not so nice as I should like, had to send my eldest daughter, Annie
Agnes, to her aunts in Middlebro as she could not get on with Mrs. Mawson.
I was much troubled but had to hurry back to London to start on another
Friday July 9th 1880.
Started from London on another voyage to China & Japan returned
to London 27th November. & round to Liverpool arriving
December 8th 1880.
Ending 25th Voyage.
After arranging the ships affairs I went to
Cockermouth to be with my children & found things not so pleasant as I
should like. My children
being scattered and no home for myself I felt very miserable indeed so
began to think seriously of trying to establish another home.
I observed Lizzie Bowerbank who was Governess with Mrs Mawson and
very kind to the children. A
happy thought struck me; if I could only win her for a wife she would make
me and the children very happy. I
made proposals & she being young felt diffident about taking such a
responsibility but as she was leaving Mawsons, she would look after my new
house & children. So under these arrangements I left and made the 26
Voyage to China. On the voyage I received several nice letters detailing
matters connected with furnishing and on my return I found all very nice
& comfortable. I felt
very grateful and if it was only respect & esteem I had for her
before, I felt it had grown into a sincere love and made up my mind to try
again to get her for my wife. After
some persuasion she consented to be my Darling & make me happy. So I started on another voyage with an easy and contented
mind & we agreed to marry on my return.
Thursday June 23rd 1881.
Made another nice voyage to China & returned to London on the
13th October and hastened down to Liverpool to meet my
betrothed wife. And we were
married, Blessed & made happy on the 18th October 1881.
And ever since I feel certain I have gained a good wife.
We love each other dearly and are devotedly attached.
I adore her and she is respected & loved by my children & I
have a contented mind and a happy home managed with good sense & tact
by a dear wife. She says I
have taught her to love me dearly, My own Lizzie, it will be my aim to
love nourish & cherish you according to the solemn vow made at God’s
alter when we were made man & wife & with God’s Blessing we will
be very happy My Wiffie.
28th Voyage Saturday November 10th
1881. We started from London
this Voyage taking my young wife with me and we were very happy on the
voyage even although my wife was a bad Sailor and not well all the voyage
but at Ports on shore she enjoyed the trip, we went to Japan & I let
her see all that was to be seen at the various places & she came back
a traveller having seen a good deal of the Far East.
We arrived back in London on the 5th April 1882 &
round to Liverpool 17th April 1882.
29th Voyage. Wednesday,
17th May 1882. Made another trip to China and returned to
London on the 16th September 1882 where my wife met & sailed round to
Liverpool with me and was a good sailor, we arrived in Liverpool 22nd
September 1882, the only drawback to our happiness is the parting but I am
thankful for other blessings amongst them the loving wife & happy home
to come to.
30th Voyage. Saturday, October 7th 1882.
0ff again for China, hurried off this time taking the place of 2 other
vessels disabled. Just got
home to find I had to leave again. Wiffie
and I mutually grieved to have to part again so soon.
I returned again to London on the 9th February 1883 and
found my dear wife waiting for me on arrival to give me a loving welcome
home. It was so nice to see
her, Bless her dear heart, she loves me dearly and the feeling is mutual. Captain Roberts took the ship round to Liverpool so that I
had a little longer at home this time but happy moments do fly & I had
to be off again, the voyage flies also looking ahead to the pleasure of
being again united to those one loves & who are longing to have you
31st Voyage Thursday March 22nd
1883 commenced another voyage to China.
Parting with my wife seems harder each time and my
seems to feel it acutely. Our
letters are about the only soothers during absence being mutually
affectionate and full of regard for each other & looking forward to
our next Reunion.