death of husband James in Scotland
110 days on the sailing ship Strathallan 550 tons
In company with her daughter Christian- wife of Andrew Smaill
250 passengers sailing from Leith to Port Chalmers under Capt. Todd
by her grandson William Smaill in 1926
a passenger (at the age of 8 years) with the group
by Marloe Leavitt Archibald of Wellsville, Utah, USA
from a poor copy of a typed transcription
original of these reminiscences (both the voyage and around Mayfield)
the Otago Early Settler Museum, 220 Cumberland Street, Dunedin, New Zealand.
New Zealand opened to pioneering families from Scotland. With two families traveling together,‘ the Smaill's and the Darlings, Agnes then had this company to travel with and the record indicates she was well loved by the parties involved and was known to them as ‘Grannie' Archibald.
This history is transcribed from a difficult-to-read, printed copy and is to be shared by descendants of this woman who gave birth to many children in the family of James Archibald and then pioneered on the Inchclutha River of Otago, New Zealand. There they built a house called the Mayfield House after living sometime in a Maori bowery. The details of the voyage are presented as they were written by her grandson William Smaill who was one of the members of the voyage.
This record is of two parts: The Voyage and The Pioneering, and was made available from cousins Aileen J. Wood and Pat McWatters of New Zealand and Australia. We are grateful to them for this account which has long been absent here in the Americas.
(re-formatted by Lana Archibald)
Part 1: The Voyage
The departure of Agnes Achibald and the Smaill families was reported by Robert Archibald, Christina's brother, as being on the 1 of October 1857 and arriving safely on the 1 of February 1858. This arrival date was probably when they arrived at Inchclutha, some miles from Port Chalmers where the ship went into port. William Smaill gives the date of the ship's arrival as 8th of January 1858 and we now follow his account.
Strathallan, Captain Todd,
550 tons, 250 passengers
Leith to Port Chalmers, 110 Days. Arrived 8th January 1858
I have long wished
to set out in written form some of the things connected with the sea
voyage, in the clipper ship Strathallan;
of the landing in New Zealand; and the happenings up at the diggings;
which changed, not only the conditions of those earlier days, but
also the conceptions, so that those early days belong to a world
which closed with the advent of the diggings.
As I was only eight years old on the ship, my personal recollections are such as would appeal to a boy of that age. But, as I had always a vivid imagination and a very retentive memory, most of the incidents are still wonderfully clear in my memory.
As a boy, I may say that all things outside lessons interested me, of all descriptions, but anything connected with reading aloud, spelling, and grammar, and, to a degree, counting, were anathema. This, I think, gave me a keener relish for all other things. I liked writing, drawing, and painting; and I can see now that I always had the artist’s way of seeing things – that is, seeing the whole thing at once. The resolving comes afterwards. With these opening remarks, we will get to work with the opening at the voyage.
We sailed from Leith. The first stage was by tug, a paddle-wheel steamer, that towed us out to the Leith Roads, where we lay for a week. It must of been very early when we sailed, as we were down the English channel when I arrived on deck. I can remember the delightful sensation of the sailing motion. It was different than anything I had felt before or even imagined. Then the ship seemed to go so fast; a railway train seemed slow compared to it. The water and the waves seemed to be passing at such a rate. And then the formation of the white foam from the bow of the ship swirling away at such a beautiful and graceful angle. This was a delight that never paled and is still fascinating to me [William says he was eight years old when they sailed] and all through the voyage, it was a constant delight to watch the wonderful play of the waters. But that morning, the feeling of delight was simply intense, and I have always regarded those hours passing down the English Channel as the most delightful experience in my lifetime. There were others that came near, which I still notice, but not just equal. It was an ideal morning, and passing the White Cliffs of Dover was to me a dream of loveliness beyond anything, I had ever imagined. (It should be remembered that the adults were having these same experiences but more wonderful to an eight year old).
I am not certain where the pilot joined us, but I have an idea it was just after we passed Dover, from which port I think he came. I remember passing land's end and seeing it being left behind us some time in the afternoon. I remember the peculiar feeling of the growing immensity of the boundless ocean, the land receding slowly out of sight. Many, I remember, watched with tears. Such was my first day at sea.
That night we met a gale from the south, which lasted for about a week, in which passengers were not allowed on deck and, so as far as I remember, the most had other feelings to attend to. But, for myself, I never was seasick, although when we got on deck after the storm, all us youngsters felt as groggy as drunks. We thought it great fun, much the time as waltzing.
As the pilot was still on board, I suppose he ran the ship northwards so that he could meet the steamer after the storm, which duly happened. The old folks said his parting words to the passengers were "have every confidence in your captain, as he is a first-class sailor."
Now as the ship is safely on her way we will have a look at the crew and the passengers. Taking the crew all around from captain to apprentices they were, with one or two exceptions, a good lot. I cannot give a detailed account of each member from memory, as only the outstanding personalities were remembered. Of the officers, Captain Todd, Mr. Grieve -- first officer, and Mr. Keeler -- second.
Mr. Grieve was the outstanding personality in every way. He was taller by inches, and a larger man in every way than the other two. The captain was rather below medium height, somewhat thickset, a most capable man and sailor when he left the drink alone. That was his one failing , which seemed to be caused more from weakness in nerve, when strain was pressing, than from appetite. This was shown noticeably twice. The first, when one of the young women passengers died and the doctor was much blamed. I forgot to mention Dr. King, he was really the captain's evil genius, as they spent most of their time together, and in this trouble, the captain seemed to think something of an epidemic. The doctor did not worry, but the captain did, and took too much liquor. But, bad weather did not effect the captain's nerve, and he was a quite kindly man, and was in goodwill with all, and most attentive to all complaints, and courteous to all. But, Mr. Grieve was a tower of strength. Of course, he was a sailor's man. He was also a passenger's man. Any fear or trouble of any kind he was sure to be besieged by a band of questioners, and the quiet good mannered way he answered was well worth hearing. His answers were always hopeful and the best that could be said, and his word always went.
Mr. Keeler, the second, was a man of totally different type. He was just as firey as the first was cool. He was the only one of the officers which had the "gift" and that copiously. He and the bo'sun easily held their own in the profanity line, although the bo'sun was certainly the most profane, or rather blasphemous, especially if any of the passengers made any litter on the deck, when he was going his rounds coiling up the ropes. He might be described as a profanity pump-- it ran in such an easy stream. The second mate was more detached, but just as direct. But, they were both good sailors and brave to recklessness; both valuable men aloft at night and in a crisis the bos'sun was always given the wheel.
Among the sailors there were special favorites, and easily first was Little Joe, so named as there was a Bigger Joe, also a nice clever man and one of the best and most reliable in the crew. On a rush or a risky job, such as clewing up in a gale, he was mostly the fartherest man out. On the other hand the crew took more care of Little Joe; he was kept mostly on inside jobs. He was of kindly nature, ready to help all and sundry, carry kids or jelly pots for the others, help the grannies to light their pipes, and had a good word for everybody. He was a married man, and one of the crew that returned with the ship and, I understand, he was drowned just before the ship reached home.
The next sailor that was in favor was Bob, a wild harum skarum, always up to mischief or a lark, but kindly with-all, and one of the most active sailors. He was Mr. Keelers right-hand man, as Big Joe was the First's. These are the outstanding characters among the sailors who had their sleeping quarters under the fore-castle deck, a watch on each side.
Then there was the round house hands, the bo'sun , the two stewards, cabin and passenger, two cooks, the carpenter and the two apprentices.
Jack Allan, passenger steward, was another great favorite, running Little Joe very close for first place. Another kindly soul, but at the other end of the stick, was Duncan, passenger cook . He was a misfit in every way. He knew nothing about cooking, or of cleanliness, either of person or language. If the bo'sun was blasphemous, his profanity was low and dirty and continuous. He cursed everybody, some more than others certainly, but he was heartily cursed by all and sundry. He was one black spot in the ship's life. He said that he was shipped as a sailor, but it was found that he was no good and he was dumped into the gulley, with wretched results to the passengers. His doings and sayings, and their opposites from the passengers, would fill a book; but that would have an interest all its own. My father and he were daggers all the way. Yet when he was ashore and dead broke, my father was the first to help him. So much for the cook.
Jamie Strathan, cabin steward, was another kindly soul and very good to others (when the cook was outrageous) in getting things for them, so was the cabin cook. So much for the ship's company.
There were five cabin passengers: the doctor; the minister, Rev. McNichol, Highland to the bone and I expect more at home in the Gaelic than in English, but a kindly soul withal, if easy going. He had Sunday Service every fine Sunday; Dr. King and a Mr. Johnston (son- in-law of Captain Cargill's); and a Mr. and Mrs. Curry.
Of the other passengers there was a goodly crowd, somewhere about three hundred, at least a hundred too many for the size of the ship. The accommodation was primitive — two rows of bunks, one above the other, ran pretty well all around the ship on the main deck: young unmarried on the fore-hatch, the married and children under twelve years in the main hatch, and unmarried women in the after hatch. Two or three families messed, or drew rations together, according to numbers and relationship.
Considering their being so closely packed together, they all agreed wonderfully well, and many close friendships were formed.
They were rather a superior lot and have put up a good record in New Zealand. To go into any descriptions would lead too far from my intentions, as happenings and things interested so much more than persons. What I have given will give an idea of the atmosphere and conditions of the voyage.
One person I have forgotten, that is the purser. I am not sure if he was first or second cabin, but I think the latter. He was not a very efficient officer, but he had the knack of getting others to do his work while he stood around, or to be more accurate, sat, as that was what he mostly did. His duties were to serve out rations once a week, which of course, was a kind of market day; weather, of course, had a say in the matter, but it had to be got through somehow.
What we will call the market was held on the main deck, just in front of the quarter deck, that was the largest open space on the main deck.; but in bad weather it was on the quarter-deck, or the poop as it was called. Jack Allan, passenger steward, was the leading workman with a team of assistants. The stuff was brought on deck and arranged in rows around the purser, who sat on a cask with his notebook and called out the passengers' mess numbers. He again had a lot of assistants who served out the biscuits, sugar, butter, raisins, bully beef, pork (this last was put in a net for boiling), rice, split peas for soup, sometimes potatoes preserved, tea and coffee.
The provisions were both good and plentiful, but the cooking was wretched. For example, Jack Duncan was short of soda for dissolving the peas for soup, so one of the sailors , I expect Bob, said "soap and soda always go together, try soap," and he did. Of course the whole lot had to go to the captain, and then overboard. Again the pork was generally boiled in the pea soup. One day some of the pork had maggots, he must have known, however in it went and that day there was fresh meat in the soup, but it all went overboard.
So much for market day, but there was the daily parade three times a day. One or two at the galley for each mess, and the general row with the cook. Such then was the daily routine, very much as in a military camp without the orderly in charge.
A little description of the vessel will help towards a glimpse of the conditions of life on deck. Between the fore-castle and the quarter-deck was a close bulwark eight feet high which it was impossible to see over while standing on the deck, but all around were spare spars lashed about half way up. While standing on them, I could see comfortably over with without fear of over balancing, and in fine weather, it was nearly always lined with children looking over.
On the fore-castle, just in front of the capstan, was a favorite meeting place for a number of the older men to smoke and yarn, but there were four who were nearly constantly there and, of the four, two who were always there, if allowed by weather, which means orders, for only orders would stop them. They were old shepherd's and they never seemed to tire of watching the sea. And it was really worth watching. Sometimes it would be a great flight of flying-fish spurring from a wave-top to skim along and land on another and off again. Or it might be porpoises, sometimes only a few, but sometimes in hundred's and thousands.
Such were some of the interests of the fore-castle which made a deep impression on my mind on the few times I had the pleasure of being up there with my father, as it was not considered safe for children by themselves, as there was only an open rope railing round the fore-castle, so that was forbidden ground to children.
But if forbidden the fore-castle, we had free run of the quarter-deck mostly in the afternoon. The great attraction there was to watch the sea birds gathering in the ships wake; scraps thrown over-board gathered there, and there were often great scrambles for anything of the kind. Meat or fat wanted. Quite a number of albatross were so caught. Such were the common daily interests.
Then there were always a watching for ships, the sight of which was always a gayla day with the signaling. We had left port nine or ten days after the Palmyro had left London and there was always the excitement when a ship was sighted ahead going our way, and as we overhauled and passed everything the excitement increased to know if it was the Palmyro. However, we were all on the south side of the line [equator] before we overhauled and passed the Palmyro, and were in port a fortnight before the arrival of the Palmyro in New Zealand.
The most ships we passed in one day was five. One passed quite close and took letters home. I think that was the third and last that took letters, and this brings me to the first vessel we met, the first or second night after the pilot left us; with her we came into a collision about midnight. A steamer -- carrying no lights -- a terrible disaster was averted by the closest of shaves. Keeler, the second, was on watch and he caught sight of the light in her galley fire and it seemed right under the bow. He jumped to the wheel and threw our ship's head off. The next minute there was a crash forward. The steamer fouled our fore-stays, carrying away part of our figurehead, a high-lander in kilts. One of his arms was carried away. Keeler went forward like a tornado, they said, making the air blue with sulphuric language, an axe in one hand and an a knife in the other, and was soon cutting adrift what had held them together. It was said one of the steamer's crew jumped aboard and Keeler told him he would split his skull if he didn't get back from whence he came. It was said the man was half drunk, but got in a hurry, and the fouling was cut adrift and the vessels cleared. However, when we got to port they raised a rumour that they had run into us and sunk us , as I suppose they saw nothing of us in the morning. It caused quite a panic in shipping circles, as we heard afterwards. Some short time after, the chance to send letters was given by a passing ship. Among them my father sent one, with the result that all the letters were opened and posted up in the London office to contradict the rumour about the sinking. So passed the first real sensation; it was a very close call, but nothing was known on board ‘til morning.
As we worked south, the weather conditions steadily improved, the air becoming sensibly warmer, and a general settling down to enjoy the new life on board ship and, as the sailors said, "the passengers were becoming as tame as mice!" Quite a number of the younger men began charming and working with the sailors. Decks were washed down and swept every morning, which was quite a job. The water was raised with a big pump worked with two cross levers, working like a see-saw swing. One man at each end could work it, but as there was a T crossbar, two or more could get into it at each end. Thus with four men on the pump, there was a big pressure of water. And as the bo'sun always worked the hose, pity anyone who got in the way and did not shunt quick. His language would most likely reach them first, but if there was any inclination to dally, they would get a flood of both, but as the bo'sun made no secret about his movements, it was easy to keep to the other side.
The deck between the main hatch and the fore hatch was divided in two, leaving a passage of about ten feet. At the main hatch was a long boat on stocks, that is propped up and ready to float, and as there was a sort of awning over it, it was quite a common place to get into for a seat. Then just at the stern of the long boat was the round house and galley, that came right up to the fore-hatch so the washing down took first the one side and then the other. The pump would first be just in front of the sides, and the fore-castle. Then the pump was shifted aft in front of the poop deck where the rest was reached, and the quarter deck. This took quite a squad to work it, with three or four on the booms, but the business that attracted the most attention was pumping the ship. This was always after tea and before dancing began, if there was any on.
There was always a sing-song of sailor songs and quite a crowd if the evening was fine. As we worked south, we were getting longer evenings and moonlight nights and the ship on an even keel. Dancing was the pastime and much enjoyed, the whole ship's company gathering around, looking on and gossiping. And, as the climate was steadily getting warmer, life on the whole was enjoyable.
The next event that comes to mind about this time was ‘ land- ho' That was the cry that made a general rush on deck and all eyes were fixed on what was supposed to be land. As the appearance is only a smudge of blue-gray colour on the horizon, the eye can hardly tell whether it is cloud or land, but the sailor's eyes know, besides [before] the glass has been on it. It's land alright, the first seen since leaving lands end and the next question is "Where?'! What land is it ?!" Well! That question was not answered in a hurry. There was plenty of time given for conjecture, but a smudge grew into something with a definite outline. It was seen to be an island. Some were placing it on the coast of Africa, others on the coast of Brazil. Some of the extra wise ones were very positive that it was Robison Crusoe's island. This was almost accepted as a fact and were we not lucky to see it so nicely? It was a lovely day and the island gradually grew into sight, and it was a beautiful sight as it emerged from grey into purple, then into beautiful chocolate and russett browns and olive greens, as it came right abeam.
I would suppose we would be three or four miles off. There was nothing that artists would describe as detail visible, only the broad masses of colour, but they were beautiful, soft as a dream under a soft silver haze.
The officers were really the only ones who knew definitely the name and they, I think enjoyed the situation, for as far as I can remember, there was no definite name known that day, at least to the crowd. But one old man, I remember, was very sure about everything about it. I remember he explained that the olive green masses were palm trees and so on. It was a most enjoyable and exciting day, worth remembering in red ink.
The next sensation was crossing the line [equator]. This began some weeks before we reached it. All that was to happen, and what was to be done to all men who had not crossed the line before, was discussed. They, of course , must be shaved and washed afterwards if the ship was to be lucky (the ceremony of crossing the line has continued to the present and therefore all sorts of play has been done then and since so this will not be covered in detail but is part of the author's record) ..................................
Now I may return to the thread of my story which included another cabin passenger, the minister no less. As I have said tea was over and all was supposed to be over. The minister was leaning over the rail beside the bell talking to little Mrs. Henderson — there were two with this name, the other was big. They were congratulating each other how well they had kept clear all day. However their congratulations were suddenly brought to an end, with first one bucket of water descending on them and then another until the row of buckets set for that purpose had been emptied and the minister made for his quarters — drenched.
Thus ended the day's proceedings of the crossing. Matters settled down to their usual order, but I think there was a sad aftermath which I will notice further on.
Crossing the line naturally divides the voyage into two distinct divisions. As we neared the line our daily average speed decreased considerably; from about ten a.m. until five or six p.m. The slowing down was very marked; although we never came to a dead stand-still, but very near it. I am not sure which side of the line this took place but I remember the carpenter threw some shavings overboard sometime in the forenoon just in front of the foremast stays. The ship was moving but that was all that could be said about it. By about three p.m. the shavings had just got abeam of the quarter deck, when a nice breeze came along and away we went merrily ripping through the water. What a relief to everyone and how the good ship seemed to enjoy the run like a thing of life. Although there were other slow days, that day was clearly the slowest and every day the breeze came sooner in the afternoon until we were clear of the tropics.
As I have said, there was a sad aftermath. One of the young women was supposed to have caught cold from the effects of the wetting she got in their water battle and, so far as I can remember, the doctor was blamed for neglecting her at the onset, with the result
of lung trouble. A hospital had to be fixed up and, as it was right at the foot of the main hatch in a recess left for such purpose, it was close by the mess, so we knew everything that was going on. I well remember the anxious time of our friends, as she was a favorite. She was brought down to the hospital. Both the captain and the doctor were often enough down there, but matters grew daily more serious until she passed away.
Then I suppose the most solemn of all funerals, one at sea, took place. It was something, I will never forget. The coffin was carried up covered, I think with a flag, and rested on the gang-way ready to be slipped into the boundless sea. When the funeral service was conducted, the whole ship's company were gathered around; there were very few dry eyes. Then the hush after the coffin slipped away was awful in its sudden quietness. A solemn day most certainly. The captain was so much concerned that he was drunk for about a week afterwards.
With the exception of the first storm, I have said nothing about rough weather, although we had a fair share of it, and our ship was what sailors call a wet one, that is she went through a wave rather than raise over it. This was caused by her long clipper build.
I suppose her length would be seven times her beam or width, (this is supposing a beam of fifty-one feet [which] would give her a length of three hundred and fifty feet, which is not far from her length). If there was any decent breeze and the ship was what sailors call ‘on the wind,' that is -- working into it instead of running with it — the lee scuppers were always a-wash. In warmer weather it was delightful wading for us boys, like the sea beach always backwards and forwards, and when an extra big sea struck her generally on this weather side, just forward of the main mast, there would be a momentary pause and a tremble all over the ship, and a bog shower of spray drenching the deck on the windward side. As these conditions were almost usual, a little more or less was not taken much notice of, although I believe even before we reached the line, conditions had been bad enough to ‘heave to' sometimes at night, that is bring the ship right head to wind and reduce sail. The ship of course, drifts, but it rides the sea easier, and on the main, holds her position, as enough sail is kept on to keep steerage way on in lulls of the wind.
But we had not passed the line long before we met something much beyond anything previous. During the day it was blowing a fresh gale, and I remember the waves were, to my mind, simply tremendous. I remember hearing a passenger asking Mr. Keeler, second mate, as he stood in his oil-skins sou'wester, dripping with water, what he thought of it. "Oh, it would be alright if the wind would only lower a bit." I have a notion that at that time we were running with the wind, that is "free," as the seas were coming pretty well in all directions. Well! The wind did not go down with sun, but rather increased, so that the hatches were fastened down to keep the passenger off the decks, as there were very heavy seas coming aboard -- what the sailors called ‘green seas,' and there were two men lashed to the wheel, one of them the bo'sun, and he was considered the best quartermaster on board, which means the best steersman.
I was always a light sleeper and I remember getting out of bed and crawling to the top of the main hatch steps which were quite close to our bed or bunk. The main hatch was covered with a thick glass skylight which was open enough to see through. There must have been a moon, because I can still remember the appearance and feelings of the night. To me the appearance was simply terrific. That was the only time I ever really saw ‘spin-drift'. It was flying in sheets. I remember crawling very quickly back to bunk, but not to sleep. Well! Matters steadily got worse until after midnight. The ship was in a continual tremble, coming often to what seemed like a standstill, and then of a sudden plunge forward, well-described as reeling like a drunken man and at its wits end! Then all of a sudden came a tremendous crash right on the main hatch, smashing the skylight to atoms, and such a deluge of water came down! Many of course , jumped out of bed into water, and such a hub-bub — in which the laughable was as much in evidence as the tragic. I always remember my aunt's "God Almighty! We are all away to the bottom!". And with that she was out, where she met a small cask floating or carried with the water, that took her feet from under her, sending her sprawling. Then my uncle, in a great rage, kicked the cask and blessed the owner — this without his boots was not pacifying by any means, as he and the owner, my father to boot, were sooner louder than the storm, until my father saw the fun of the thing and ran to my aunt's help, leaving my uncle to attend to his toes.
That fortunately was the last heavy sea that night and so on the party in our mess was laughing over its troubles. What had happened was this: Matters had got so serious with the heavy following seas that the captain decide to ‘heave to', and a big risk in such at sea , but he considered it the safest, and the ship met this tremendous sea right amidships just as she ‘came to'!. In our boat sailing days I have seen the same thing happen and it often reminded me of that night. We had any amount of rough going after this, but nothing quite like that night. From this until we reached New Zealand, there was no monotony as far as weather was concerned.
About this time the ship made some record running and here I may say something about ‘heaving the log;' this was generally done about 4 p.m. Or rather in time to be logged then. There is, first, a reel not unlike a reel of a fishing rod and on much the same principle. It would be about eighteen inches long — one man held at arm's length. On the end of the line was a piece of wood about a foot long ‘the log.' It took three men to take the log and always one of the mates, who took the time with the sandglass, was present. When all was ready, the mate gave the word ‘heave!' Enough line was free to let the log reach the water. As the log struck the water, the sandglass was turned up and the sand began to run down. Now the line is running out at the exact speed of the ship. As soon as the last grain of sand leaves the top glass , the man in charge of it cries ‘out', when the line is at once locked. The next business is to wind in the line and count the knots that have been run out, from which the average for the hour and the general measurement made for the twenty-four hours is calculated and gives a fair idea of the speed made. Our speed was mostly around ten knots an hour. Conditions were such one day about this time that a record was made, with the result that the reel was run out before the glass, with a chronometer, when it went somewhere between fifteen and sixteen knots and we kept that up for some time. Needless to say there was much excitement. I remember Mr. Grieve was in charge, and I will never forget the express pleasure was certainly there, but there was his natural caution — the more excited he got the quieter he became, but quick and alert in his movements. A quick glance up with his characteristic laugh, "We are going quicker than we want!"
The next sensation occurred shortly after this. Sometime in the afternoon of a rather equally day, the ship was on the wind on a port tack, when the call came from aloft "a whale!" Sure enough, there he was coming straight for our lea bow, which would bring him pretty close when we passed him. I do not think he changed his course, and I suppose, had we been going slow enough, he would have run into us, which would have been a bad jar for him, as I do not think he was big enough to have affected the ship. All the same, I have no doubt they would have made him glance off. He was a regular orthodox whale; I would think somewhere between twenty and thirty feet long. ... he sent up a jet of water as a signal.
I now have to describe something I really never saw, although I heard of it, that is a whirlwind that was causing something in the nature of a water spout. There was a great volume of water in suspension, which was really the danger. It was just about the same time of day that we saw the whale, only blowing harder and more sea on. We were on the same tack and I remember us boys were waiting in the lea scuppers. It took us well over the knees sometimes. When that was the case things were lively. What I remember was the second mate, Mr. Keeler, giving a great yell from the port side of the quarter deck and his coming tumbling down the steps in about two leaps. He had just jumped out of bed in his sleeping things and went forward like a tornado, yelling "all hands on deck!" And the watch turned out just as suddenly and in the same direction as the mate when they followed, first on the one side of the ship, untying the halyards, leaving a man to hold it with a turn on the belaying pin. Then at a signal, one side let go and the other pulled it in, with the result that the ship changed direction in about her own length. What he did was "ware ship." I do not know how near we were but it was as near as the whale. Keeler was white as a sheet when it was over, and there was no swearing. He took a long breath then said "You talk about storms. That's ten times worse and you will never be nearer!" And off he went, but it was considered a piece of superb seamanship. The way the sails swung around on each mast as the ship ‘payed off', was perfect, leaving the howling horror behind her.
Such, I suppose, was our greatest peril passed.
Soon after this, it seemed to me, we had a long run right before the wind. I will never forget those days, nor their sensations. Standing just beside or behind the wheel, one got the best view of the whole situation, and it was really something grand to watch. The outstanding motion before the wind is the steady swing from left to right, swinging so far, sometimes that the main yard would touch a wave tip, not often certainly, although we wondered why it did not every time, as it seemed to make a straight run for it, and one held one's breath until the swing ended. It made conditions very uncomfortable on board, as there was no time for adjustment. Then there was the fore and aft movement; from the wheel, the ship seemed like to stand on end, bow down. Then she would make a great rush down and begin climbing up the other side and gradually make ready for another plunge.
We were now approaching a time of tension and expectation which came to a climax in "Land ahead!" I am not positive, but I think it was just before dusk that the gray smudge of colour was first seen, as early next day we were in full view of the Snares, and that they were well-named, was the general impression and expression. Their first appearance suggested a row of shark's teeth, cruel and bare, not a vestige of vegetation to be seen anywhere. As we came nearer, the day being fine and mild, we got above Queenstown from the beach there. The view reminded me very much of the Snares, of course I was much further away from the Remarkables than the Snares, but there is a marked resemblance. That day, the Snares were pretty well in sight all day, but again just at the dark, "land ahead!" was the cry and this was New Zealand at last. We were told
afterwards that it was Stewart Island, but that was a [minor] detail, as the main land was soon sighted, and next morning we were in ful view somewhere off the Nuggetts, and a lovely sight it was. The weather was perfect and it was a day of perfect delight.
As it was January, we must of been on deck very early. This was our last day at sea, but it was a long one, and much happened that day before the anchor dropped in Port Chalmers in darkness. The first and really only trouble was that the captain went on a spree, and as soon as he took over the watch from the first mate, he turned the ship's head to sea. He evidently did not want to get in that day, whatever was behind his mind. He was not that drunk, but that he knew what he wanted, and was as head-strong as liquor could make him.
We went right out until we were nearly out of sight of land, and all faces grew long as we moved out.
It was common speculation what Mr. Grieve would do when he came on deck, which happened about four p.m., when he promptly turned the ship's head towards Otago Heads, and as there was a nice easterly breeze, she was soon nearing the shore again, and it was not long before the signal gun fired for the pilot. This brought the captain on deck. Mr. Grieve took no notice of him and he did not say anything. He just walked about looking as black as thunder. The captain was sober enough now, and was realizing what this meant to him. He might have been painted to represent a ‘dammed soul,' his look was awful. Although I was only a child, I pitied him, although I did not understand the position, but his face was terrible to look at.
But we soon forgot him, as the ship was making grand speed and soon the pilot's boat was sighted, dancing over the waves — a green whale boat. Soon we made out our Maori crew, and driver, the pilot, standing in the stern sheets. Soon he was aboard giving directions, and now the whale boat was under sail and challenging us to a run, which at first was all our favor, but as sail was steadily being reduced, our speed was also reduced. The sun was just setting as we entered the heads, a most lovely evening. The sea was smooth as the good ship slipped along at about six or seven miles an hour, the motion perfect.
By this time the Maoris, at the Kaik were waving us welcome. Needless to say, they were well answered and as Tennyson says "joy was heard" and all the time the sailors were aloft stowing every sail as it was taken in, all in perfect quietness; only the foresail and jib were left. The lovely evening was closing in and now the foresail was furled and stowed, only the flying jib keeping way on.
Now it is quite dark, but still we slip along smoothly and quietly. The excitement could be felt, so tense was it, until the signal "cast anchor," when away went the chain with a great rattle, then the sailors from every part of the ship send up three ringing cheers, such a cheer as one only hears once in a lifetime. It must have been brewing ever since the day the anchor was weighed, such was the outburst that now broke out, in an outburst of joy with something of the song of thanksgiving in it.
Then the ship swung quietly around, head to anchor. The jib was stowed and the ship's company, except the officers, gathered in the forecastle and started a singsong with all their most stirring sea songs. And no wonder. The continual strain of three months was at an end for the present, and the tension was off. Thus ended the Strathallen's voyage and joy was supreme. Her part of the business was finished fitly on a Saturday night.
The next day was Sunday and it was a special Scottish Sabbath, as quiet and orderly as if we had been in Leith. Such was Otago in those early days. There were a few visitors aboard but really not many and very few left the ship. It was a day of rest and quiet.
Monday, the James Daly, a topsail schooner , came along side to take the passengers to Dunedin, which might have been accomplished had she taken only passengers with what luggage they could carry or little more, say bedding, such as could have been taken quite easily. But the captain of the James Daly was one of those men who are always at sixes and sevens with their crews and all he came in contact with. Getting the boat alongside was a long wrangle of bad temper and worse language. After a long wrangle, they began to take in passenger luggage. She would be between a fifty and sixty ton boat. Well! She was loading virtually all day with the result that she was far too deeply loaded, and it was so late that she missed the tide. It must have been after five before sail was made for Dunedin, with the deck crowded like a skep of bees. As the passengers had been served the week's rations during the week, on Monday there was no regular cooking, therefore, any food that was taken was of a sketchy order.
However hope was high. There was a nice fair wind up the harbor and with good steering, we could have been at Dunedin wharf in good daylight. Even though she was sailing against a falling tide, she was making good time. Her passage between the islands was good and most pleasant, and joy and hope were high. But, alas, short-lived. The steersman evidently knew little about the harbor, as he sailed right into the shallow water at St. Leonards, and came to a standstill. Then there was a racket. They tried — everyone blessing the other fellow — to trim the vessel off by shifting the passengers. They got a ketch anchor out but, as the tide was falling all the time, it was a hopeless business, which meant an all-night job for all hands, without food or bedding. It was an unpleasant prospect for those who understood it. Fortunately, us youngsters did not, and until the actual discomforts did come, we were not much concerned. We did get some sort of tea of a very black mixture, and we had some hard tack. But sleeping was the job, everyone had to sleep just where he sat, there was no room to lie down. I remember mother was the center of the group, at least the younger lot. She had Tom, the infant, in her lap, Jack and Bob had a head on each side, then I was on the left side with my head on her knee, Jamie on the other side, and thus we spent the night.
The Darlings and the Huldanes were just as closely packed together in the same style. I think Mother and Mrs. Darling were supporting each other, sitting on top of the luggage. It was certainly a night of many funny sights and sounds, but like most things, it came to an end.
The morning was fine and warm, and to show how deep the water was, many were wading and enjoying the water. It was about all there was to enjoy. Some time in the morning, Adam's Lighter, the Queen, came from Dunedin and got alongside and took a load of passengers on board. I remember the second-cabin passengers' claim for precedence was very marked, with rather funny results. They and their belongings had to go first, then a few extras, and finally the Queen got away, very heavily loaded. She got about a hundred yards when she sat fast and remained there all day. So much for precedence. Somewhere between ten and eleven a.m. Mr. McAndrew had got word of the plight we were in, and he turned up with a boat load of bread. I do not remember anything else. I remember, again, the second-cabin folk wanted to be first, and in fact, one of their men began very daintily and slowly, not at all to Mr. McAndrew's idea. He got hold of the knife and cut a loaf into about four slices and threw them in all directions. Talk about broad grins as that bread got home. I remember getting hold of a two-inch slice and attending to it. I have been as hungry since, but only once, and bread again was the relief. It was not long before everyone was satisfied.
(Upon reflection, perhaps the previous action by the captain, of heading out to sea, was not so much that he was drunk but that he had knowledge of the tides which produced the above results)
After that, things got better. Not long after this, the captain's gig came along on its way to town, and my father and Mr. Huldane had stayed with the ship to assist in unloading. They were both on the oars and the captain had come to see what was up. This was the first they knew of our trouble. When he saw how matters stood, he said that the wives and children of his two boatmen were to come with him, so we gladly scrambled in leaving the second-cabin folk with very long faces as we passed the Queen's bow. We were not long before we were at Dunedin wharf, and then to the barracks, and thus our voyage ended.
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