The sailing ship 'Cardigan Castle', 1199 tons, from London to Lyttelton with 320 immigrants. Captain Lewis Davies of Cardiganshire, a maritime county of south Wales, was in command. Voyage account (opens in another window). Posted 20 October 2005.
Voyage Diary of Sarah
Elizabeth Stephens (1851-1920)
Sarah, a twenty-six year, old single women, from Montgomeryshire, a county of north-central Wales, along the English border, promised her relatives, back home in Wales, to send a full account of the 100 day voyage and she did in two installments in the form of letters. References in the diary are clearly to one family her mother, brother and four sisters. The transcription is courtesy of Margaret Holmes. Please contact Margaret if you have any information on this family or would like information. The Jennie, mentioned on New Year's Day is Margaret's Great Grandmother, Jane Lind Rees nee Morgan always known as Jennie who was about a year older than her cousin Sarah.
The diary, 26 September 1876
- 23 January 1877, in excellent descriptive style, was probably written for her Uncle and Aunt,
William and Anne Morgan nee Meddins, Jennie's mother and father.
Jennie's brother William Morgan, Jr., came to Auckland aboard the 'Queen
of the Mersey' [broken link] in 1863. Between 1887 - 1891 William Junr, was
the mayor of Newmarket, now a suburb of Auckland.
The passengers and crew of the Cardigan Castle', were affected by fever and quarantined for nearly 3 weeks, 6 January - 23 January 1877. Good stories of problems with Matron, Mrs Harriet Stoddart b. 30 Nov., and single girls; including censoring notes to sailors, 16 & 23 Oct. Christmas drunkenness, Mutiny 13 December, Quarrantine, Dr Jeremiah Walsh.
Mamma [S.E] age 45 [b. 21 Nov.1832] Robert E. age 24 [b. 7 Dec. 1853] a single man, a lawyer, from Montgomeryshire (ill on voyage) Sarah E. age 26 [b. 1850] in Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire, Wales. A housekeeper, the writer. Mary [Polly] age 20 Ann age 19 Charlotte age 14 [b. 14 Dec.1863] Dora age 16 [b. 22 Oct.1861]
Sarah E. b. 1850 was the daughter of Elizabeth Stephens nee Morgan who was the daughter of the Rev. James Morgan, vicar of Trefeglwys, Montgomeryshire. Elizabeth b. 1832, married Robert Edward Stephens, a currier and leather merchant of Machynlleth. He died in 1874 and his widow took her children and went to New Zealand to join her sister, Anne Davies nee Morgan and her husband Richard Davies, Uncle Davies of the diary. Uncle, an old friend of Captain Davies, had a farm "Y (the) Cyffiau" near Tai Tapu, near Christchurch which Margaret has been unable to trace. Sarah's brother, Robert became a merchant in Christchurch and a founder member of the "Cambrian Society". Sarah, never married, and is mentioned in family records as having made a trip back to the UK with her sister, Annie in 1917. Charlotte Amelia Hannah Stephens, married Thomas Wreaks, a corn merchant, in Opawa in December 1890. Dora married a much older widower, Walter Jones Williams, a builder of Christchurch, at St Mark's Christchurch in October 1889, they had two daughters as well as children from his first marriage. Witnesses to the wedding were: R.E. Stephens, merchant and Ann Issard Stephens. Dora died in 1912. Mary aka Polly married her cousin, Zacharias James Davies, in St Luke's Church, Christchurch in August 1882.
Sarah kept her promise to send a full account back home.
September 26. Arrived in London, early this morning, and are very much Tired after the night's journey.
27. Still here in the eastern part of the city. We shall be very glad to get away for it is a dirty place. Polly and I went to St. Paul's this morning and walked about the city, but of course had not time to see much.
- 28. We are steaming down the Thames to Gravesend where the ship lies at anchor. It is a very large vessel but I fear we shall be crowded for there are so many in it. There is a Matron for the single women and we have the high part of the deck called the poop to ourselves. It is over the saloon. The young men have the extreme end of the ship, forecastle, I think and the married people have the main deck. I am very glad of the division for some of them are very rough.
- 29. Still in Gravesend. The sailors think it unlucky to start on Friday.
- 30. A steamer tugged us down the straits of Dover into the Spithead Channel.
- Oct 1. The steamer has left us and the ship is rolling very much. The Sensation is something dreadful. We are beginning to feel sick.
No service held today.
- 2. Very stormy. All sea sick and either lying flat on the decks or below in the bunks.
- 3. The sea is very rough. We all feel as if dying and would not much object to be tossed overboard. We are in the Bay of Biscay. The wind is against us and the sea like mountains and like the ship in the song "are obliged to stay here until next day".
- 4. Sick all day and still in the bay. The food is very coarse we cannot eat anything.
- 5. All ill. Have just left off trying to eat breakfast. Ship rolling from side to side. Tins, buckets and people flying about in all directions, while to crown all a man fell overboard. Six men went out in the lifeboat to rescue him. It was very dangerous for there was a heavy sea and the boat was nearly capsized. We heard since that the man threw himself over and did not make the slightest effort to catch the life buoy. However, they brought him back alive and he was put in the locker for a fortnight.
- 6. All a little better this morning and up on deck to breathe the fresh air. The sea not so rough. Captain Davies has been talking to Mamma for Some time. He is a Cardiganshire man, we have discovered that he and Uncle Davies are old friends. In fact, he is the only acquaintance he has in New Zealand, excepting business men. He is quite pleased we are in his ship.
- 7. Very stormy all day.
- 8. Stormy and all sea sick. We had a very rough night.
- 9. The sea is calmer but the wind is against us and it is very cold.
- 10. All better and a fair wind. We are going in the right direction at last, but we are not out of this dreadful Bay of Biscay yet. Saw two sharks this morning.
- 11. Fair wind. Morning showery but a dry evening and a splendid sunset.
- 12. A calm morning. Ship at a standstill. Six others in sight. One was signalled. She was the Burmak of Dundee, bound for Brazil. A fine evening with a fair wind which has carried us out of Biscay's stormy Bay on to the blue Atlantic.
- 13. Rainy Day.
- 14. Very calm not a breath of air.
- 15. We all pas in succession before the Captain and the doctor to see that none of us is missing. We are first on the list - our mess being No. 1. To make up our number to eight, we have a little lame girl from Cripple College, Marylebone and an Irish protestant, a farmer's daughter from Dublin. We chose them before we embarked. Our doctor read the prayers this morning. We have a great many catholics on board. The evening is so calm and the ship rolls from side to side, there being no wind to keep her up. Captain Davies is fond of singing, so we are allowed on deck an hour later the usual time being seven. Two lanterns have been brought up and hang on a rope and some are singing Sankey and Moody's hymns as tho' their very life depended upon them. Polly and I are at one end looking on and are going below directly. Good night!
- 16. A beautiful morning. Great confusion below. All the beds are ordered up for an airing, so there is a great deal of ticketing going on. And after all the fuss Charlotte's was lost. Someone has taken possession of it and will not own to their dirty one which is lying about. Is it not A shame? Some of the girls have been breaking the rules by writing notes to the sailors. The Matron came up unexpectedly and tried to take the letter from them. There was a scuffle in which the matron's hat ( a new one) fell overboard and some knitting that she had in her hand. She is very angry. I do not know what will be done with the girls. It is a dry evening But very windy. Someone's hat has just gone overboard.
- 17. Beautiful morning. Polly is Captain of the mess this week. She made a plum cake and a pie but cannot get them baked for a day or two. What do you think of that? We shall have preserved meat on the brain for we have it nearly every day in the week. Bread and treacle has been the rage the last few days. We have plenty of butter, sugar, pickles, etc. but of such inferior quality that we cannot eat them. Charlotte had a new mattress sent her by the doctor unknown to the others, so she is all right. The captain has taken a great fancy to her and she is now walking up and down the deck with him. She is looking very shy.
- 18. A very warm morning. We are nearing the Tropics. Land is to be seen in the distance, one of the Canary Isles called Palmar. (Las Palmas). With a telescope we can see the little town of Santa Cruz and the hillsides Terraced out with vines and now as we leave this behind there are two other islands coming in sight but are not so plainly seen as the first. We can just see the peak of Tenerife at a distance of 100 miles. The main deck has been in the wildest confusion all day for they are Handing the boxes up to get out suitable clothing for the hot weather. Robert has been on our deck this morning. He is going to help with the Stores all through the voyage so we shall see him every day. Had salt And potatoes for dinner. All too busy to cook anything.
- 19. Very hot, the sun is so powerful we are getting as brown as berries. There are a few invalids yet, not recovered from the seasickness. They say that if there will be fever on board every article of clothing, boxes, etc. that the passengers possess will be tossed overboard. Pleasant news is it not! There is not much wind and we have quite a workshop on the poop. We dined on salt meat today without potatoes and about an inch of bread for each that we had left from breakfast. They say extremes meet, and this was certainly a contrast to yesterday's dinners!
- 20. Charlotte went on deck before us this morning and came down presently with the news that Robert was very ill and had been put in the hospital. We are very much alarmed for fear of fever. Mother is not very well. I think it was the heat yesterday. Today there is an awning put up on the poop so we are seated under it and are very comfortable. Just a little breeze stirring. Robert has been up here and altho' looking ill, it was an exaggerated report.
- 21. Very hot below but pleasant on deck under the awning. All very busy with some work or other. Robert is better today but he sleeps in the hospital still, it being much cooler there than with the other men. Dora will be sixteen tomorrow. We have made her a cake and tart, but cannot Get them baked. All the people are very quiet today. A beautiful sunset. The sky like opals. Evening is much the most pleasant time, being so much Cooler.
- 22. Dora had a very nice cake sent her as a birthday present, from one of the midshipmen - friend of Robert's. We came into the Tropics early this morning. Splendid weather. Shoals of flying fish to be seen. The sea very calm. The Captain says we shall not get to New Zealand for twelve months at this rate! We had a service on the poop. It was much better arranged than last Sunday. We had a very nice seat near the wheel. There was a bench which quite divided us from the others. The "Plas Pew" we called it. You should have staring there was at our corner! I think all know us now, quiet as we have been. We get plenty of attention, Books lent us, etc. etc. Some of the messes are very angry because we keep aloof from them. The fact is that our Captain wishes us always to keep to the stern of the ship near the wheel and he will not let the others come beyond a certain place and I think they are very much annoyed. It has been a very long day. We are going below. Good night!
- 23. Very hot night. Could not sleep. The heat was so intense. It is cooler on deck under the awning. Robert has been here but is looking better. A steamer in sight. She was signalled but did not answer.
The sea is very calm but we are only making one mile an hour. When shall we get there? This afternoon one of the girls was writing a few particulars of The voyage to her mother on note-paper. The Matron, passing by, thought She was writing to one of the crew and snatched it from her, read, Crumpled up and threw it back. Was it not rude? She ought to have apologised when she found her mistake but what can you expect from a pig but a grunt! A very long day. We have among us an elderly person named Mrs Walford. She likes to appear very juvenile, so in the evening she was asked to sing and caused a great deal of amusement by singing in a cracked voice the song of "Molly Darling" and "Brittania Rules the Waves", after which we all returned to our downy pillows.
- 24. In the Tropics and becalmed. What shall we do? The heat is becoming more intense every moment and there are dolphins to be seen in numbers this morning and a shark has been following the vessel, so some of the people must needs think that there will be a death on board. We have one girl here that has been in an assylum for a long time and tonight the heat has affected her so much that we are afraid of her and she has been put in the hospital. A glorious sunset - the sky seems on fire and not a wave on the water. It reminds one of a sea of glass mingled with fire. The days are getting much longer. Good night!
- 25. Very hot and the ship only just moving. Dora is fishing with a line and a little bird called the stormy petrel got entangled in it which she caught but afterwards let go. She caught another this evening. The Captain has spoken to the doctor about Robert, for he is the one who has any authority over the passengers so he is to be exempted from the duties of his mess cleaning, etc. We are going about seven knots an hour.
- 26. A Tropical squall last night. The Captain shouting to the sailors at the top of his voice. Ma was very frightened - the least thing makes her so nervous. This morning the rain came down in torrents and one of the sails was split but it is now very pleasant. A soft wind blowing this evening. The sailors held a festival which they call "Burning the dead horse". They stuff up something to resemble that animal then it is tied to a rope and drawn up in the air with a sailor on its back, amid the songs and shouts of the others. After which it is burnt and let down into the sea. It is meant to celebrate the end of the month, they having drawn money in advance for that time before embarking.
- 27. A wet day in the Tropics. Only those who have experienced it can have any idea of the heat and discomfort for of course, we are obliged to stay below. A change in the evening. Dry and very calm. We get very contrary winds or none at all and do not think our voyage will be ended before January. The sailors are now dancing a hornpipe on the main deck. We miss seeing them on the poop. A moonlit evening and an hour's grace allowed us.
- 28. Could not sleep on account of the heat and there is very little wind this morning. Made two cakes but could not get them baked so they were put into the pudding bag to be boiled for tomorrow's dinner. We had some cornflour and a very nice cake sent to us today. The people are all very cross and irritable and some are quite sick again. I hope there will not be any fever.
- 29. Sunday. We had the Litany and Communion this morning. The doctor reads. He is very nervous and appears to be very glad when the ordeal is over. The Doxology seems to be a favourite of his for he gives it out every Sunday, on account of the shortness I suppose. The sea is so calm and clear we can see thousands of fish beneath the surface of the water. There are also several ships in sight, becalmed like ourselves. We got Our pudding and preserved meat for dinner. The Captain sent Charlotte some almonds and raisins in the afternoon and several books for us to read. It is a lovely evening we can almost see to read by the light of the moon. Some are fishing but are not successful. We did not go down until 10 o'clock.
- 30. Dora is Captain of the mess this week. It is very hot for her. If we get a little wind we shall cross the line in a few days. We sighted and signalled a ship this morning. She was the "Wyndover" from the Maitan Islands, bound for London and been over 100 days. We could not send letters Being too far off. There have been a great many quarrels today. The doctor Was sent for to quell the mob. A little child of four months old died today Of convulsions. The burial took place after sunset. We single people were not allowed to see it. The service was a very impressive one. There were sharks about at the time. We saw some small whales this evening but not very near.
- 31. A fair wind. We are doing eight knots an hour and passed several ships. A little girl died today and will be buried tomorrow. There is one man and a little girl dangerously ill and not expected to live many hours.
Nov. 1. We are sailing splendidly this morning and making up for lost time. Some of the people are green! They are hoping that it will be a clear day When we cross the line, so that they may see it. What do you think of that? We have been telling them that they will have to pay their footing by kissing Old Father Neptune who will appear in a boat decked out with sea weed and They believe it! We had a game of hunt the slipper this evening on the deck, But a tropical storm came on so we had to go down earlier than usual.
- 2. Very hot and a grey sea and sky. The day began as usual with a quarrel. Passed a ship homeward bound but did not speak to her. A man and a child died today and will be buried after sunset. There is not a clergyman on board so the doctor reads the burial service. We are to have the newly made widow and and her children in our cabin. The people are all very sad this evening.
- 3. Much rain in the night. Some came into our bunks. A dull showery morning. Very hot and calm. Mamma is not very well this week. The heat tires her very much. A squall came on this morning and we had to go down early. It was a miserable night. We could not get any rest for a great number of people were playing Blind Man's Buff and other games. The place was a perfect bedlam. A little child died today. There will not be a burial service as the parents are Catholics.
- 4. We heard that a man had fallen overboard but it was a false report. We heard afterwards that someone had thrown an empty box over without The Captain's permission and to show his authority he sent out a boat with Five men to bring it back. It was afterwards cut up for firewood. A calm hot day. This evening a sailor jumped into the sea and swam after a hat that was thrown over. He was hauled up with a rope. A squall came on so we went below early.
- 5. Sunday. This morning we went through the usual ordeal of being counted like a flock of sheep. After that, the morning service. We always manage to get our pew. Our Captain gave Mrs Richardson a lesson in steering this afternoon. She managed the wheel very well altho', being short, she had to stand on a box to turn it. A very long hot day. We are not sailing very fast. A splendid sunset.
- 6. A fair wind today and a ship in sight following us. Saw some small fish called the Portuguese man of war. Someone said a storm was coming on so we hurried down and although it turned out a dry evening we were not allowed to come up again. The noise below was something dreadful.
- 7. Very stormy. Going about ten miles an hour. Passed Cape Verde today. The ship heaves very much and all are seasick again. We are about 400 miles north of the line. Some of the people think they have passed the Cape of Good Hope. The sailors are cramming ? them. Irish jigs and songs are the Amusements of the evening. Good night all!
- 8. A fine morning. A ship in sight. We have the trade winds at last and Captain Davies is in good humour.
- 9. A dull morning and a heavy sea. Robert told us today that there is a Mr. Pollock on board from Liverpool. He knows the Owens very well. We suppose he is the one Mrs Evans is acquainted with. We have not seen him yet but will look out on Sunday. The Captain's little daughter's birthday today. The saloon people and the crew have had quite a feast. We went down early this evening. Have seen the last of the North Star.
- 10. We crossed the line early his morning. What tales we heard. Some said they were tossed out of their bunks by the sudden jerk in going over it and some think that until now they have been going uphill and that now we shall be going faster because, having crossed the line, they think we shall downhill. Mamma has been in the saloon this afternoon where she had cake and wine and Mrs Davies sent a book each for Annie and I to read - "The Gilded Age" and "The Ingoldsby Legends". A ship in sight following us. The Captain has sent up two rockets out of bravado, daring her to catch us. A sea bird was sent down this evening for Dora, which she sent back again, it was alive.
- 11. We are on our right course and sailing well. A steamer in sight. We spoke to her. You will probably see the account in the papers that we are all right. Dora's bird came down again today. It is striped and very Pretty. She is going to keep it.
-12 -14. Pages missing.
- 15. Mrs. Davies sent Mamma a box of sardines and a jar of marmalade. The cabin is like an oven - not a breath of air. Three girls fainted Quite away. One was unconscious for half an hour.
- 16. A storm last night so this day is quite a contrast to yesterday. The ship is pitching and tossing about like a mad thing. Many people Are sick and all feel it more or less. Is it not strange that as soon as We have stormy weather the sickness begins? One girl is out of one faint and into another all day. Three sails have been carried away and Polly's hat followed suit. She is now wearing my large one and I have on a fur hat belonging to one of the midshipmen which was lent to us until we have our trunks up to get another out. I can assure you that I feel quite a card for the races and must look like one! A stormy evening and five points off our course.
- 17. Been a rough night. The sea very high this morning but all are feeling better than they did yesterday. We have just heard that one poor woman died last night. She lost a little child some time ago which preyed upon her mind very much. [Catherine Kennedy died aged 20, married woman & Patrick Kennedy died aged 1 month] There is another woman very ill.
- 18. Rainy and stormy. We have been kept in "durance vile" all day. Just imagine 68 in one place without a breath of air. Not a port hole open. Our only consolation is that we are sailing fast.
- 19. Still rough and wet. The waves are smashing over the main deck. No prayers this morning. We went to the poop twice between the showers but it was so slippery we could not stand without holding to the ropes. One man fell down, broke his nose and hurt himself very much, but such accidents will happen unless one is very careful. Last night there was a great crash. Some thought the ship was going down and were told this morning that a whale's tail had struck the ship and caused the noise. Many believed it! The truth was this - a large tin case of preserved meats had fallen and was rolling about in the storeroom next to our cabin. This evening some of Erin's bonnie maidens are singing songs of their native land in opposition to Sankey and Moody's hymns. The Matron is coming down now to put a stop to it.
- 20. A fine morning and a fair wind but not much of it. The sun is very hot for they cannot put the awning up because it interferes with the sails. Our complexions are a deep copper colour. Our most intimate friends would Scarcely recognise us now. The sea is high and the ship rolls about like An old duck. Cabins and storerooms are scenes of the wildest description. A boiler of water was upset on the oven and spoilt all the bread so we shall be obliged to eat biscuits for the next day or two. One of the mates Tumbled into a cask of flour and came up looking like a snowdrift, though rather A soiled one. The people on the main deck were washed about and looked like drowned ducks. One man fell into a large empty barrel in which he went rolling down the deck. We really though the ship would capsize. It was quite on one side. Saw an albatross today for the first time. It is a splendid bird.
- 21. Fine morning but the ship still rolls very much. Mamma's birthday tomorrow. She had a large cake sent her this evening in readiness for the occasion.
- 22. A beautiful morning. Just like Spring weather. It is a pleasure to be on deck. Numbers of albatrosses to be seen. They are larger than swans and measure from five to six feet from the tip of one wing to the other. The ship rolls so much that we cannot sit still but keep sliding about. We are now in the same latitude as the Cape of Good Hope and expect to Be in Canterbury by Christmas Day.
- 23. In the Indian Atlantic Ocean. A fine morning. Charlotte and I are having a promenade on the poop. We are up first and have it all to ourselves. There is a very large whale near us. They are hauling up the boxes this afternoon to get winter clothing. It is amusing to see the finery spread out on the decks. A very cold evening.
- 24. Fine morning but cold wind. There are a great many Cape hens and pidgeons flying about. The hens swim like ducks. There are nine swimming close to the ship now We passed an island today. There is only one family living on it and they are Spaniards. It must be lonely for them.
- 25. We were rocked in the cradle of the deep last night with a vengeance. Our bunks are like cradles. We are near Gough's Island today. It is only just visible for there is a haze on it. In 30 days we hope to be in Lyttleton for we have good winds. They have been heaving the log now and we are going 12 knots an hour.
- 26. Sunday. Extremely cold. Cannot keep warm although we are huddled up. A little child was buried today. We had service this morning. There was a break down in the singing. Showery afternoon and evening. Very slippery and uncomfortable
- 27. So cold that we sat in our bunks all day. The hatchway to the hold under our cabin was opened this morning. Monday being store day. A hamper of bottles was smashed in bringing up and some of the boxes down there were covered in treacle. Robert and one of his friends found a hole in the wall near our bunks and while we were at tea some loaf sugar and biscuits came tumbling in. We have named it "The Post Office".
- 28. Beautiful morning. Healthy, bracing air but very cold. Mamma is getting quite well again. We are now very near the Cape. Some of the crew are ill this week.
- 29. Very cold. Stayed below nearly all day.
- 30. Still cold. We have to keep walking about continually or we should freeze. This is the Matron's birthday. Some cakes and a bottle of wine and rum has been sent her by the Captain and doctor. So this evening she dressed up some of the Irish girls as Negroes and got them to dance for the amusement of herself and the others. They did look absurd.
Dec. 1. We passed the Cape last night. A lovely day but very cold. The sea and sky so blue. We know the full meaning of perpetual motion, for we have to be walking about every moment to keep ourselves warm. The ship is sailing splendidly and leaving a trail of foam behind her that looks like snow and makes one wish for a game of snowballing. A man died this morning from brain fever. His widow and children will be going to our cabin.
- 2. Before we were up this morning, the news came that there was a large whale to be seen and a ship in sight. So hurried up to see it, but of course the whale had disappeared but the ship was spoken to. She was the Lalla Rooke of Liverpool bound for the Fiji Islands and had been out 71 days - ten more than us. It is very cold today but the sea looks beautiful. So blue and flecked over with foam. A great many birds about.
- 3. Sunday. Went through the usual ordeal. Too cold for service. Plum dough and preserved meat for dinner.
- 4. Intensely cold. We are flying through the water. Can do nothing but try to keep ourselves warm. Spent most of the day talking of our friends at home. Have not seen Mr. Pollock yet. He sent by Robert some C.D.V. (cartes de visite) of the three Miss Owens' of Liverpool for us to look at.
- 5. Colder still. Nearly frozen. Are walking on deck to keep ourselves warm. Doing 15 knots an hour. Prince Edward's Isle is on our right - about 40 miles distant.
- 6. Quite a spring morning. The wind warm. We are not making much progress. A whale to be seen and a ship in sight. Plenty of birds about. Some people have lines out trying to catch them. The Matron caught two and some of the others three more. They are very pretty, about the size of a dove and a lovely bluish slate colour.
- 7. Robert's birthday. We have not seen him today only spoken through the Post Office for it is too stormy and wet to go on deck. The ship pitches and makes one feel sick. Head winds driving us back towards the Cape. Altogether a wretched day. Tins and buckets rolling about in all directions.
- 8. A night of nights. Waves washing down the main hatchway into our cabins. Water coming thro' the roof into the bunks. People nearly wild and hurrying on with their clothes ready to rush up the ladder and one's buckets and mops in constant use. One girl fell down and cut her lip open with her tooth. The doctor is going to stitch it up in the morning. Two sails were carried away. This day has been a second edition of last night's horrors. We are in the centre of a storm called a cyclone. Waves are washing down continually and the people are shouting and crying with a mop in one hand and a mop in the other. The sea looks grand. The waves mountain high, the rigging looking like winter trees - all gaunt and bare with only one bit of sail up. We had a fall of snow to finish up the day and the promise of calmer weather in the morning.
… To be continued by the next mail.
… Diary continued.
- 9. A cold bright clear morning. Sea very high. The sailors are now putting more sails up. The poop is quite dry and we went up early to walk about and keep warm. We heard that the married people were very frightened and no wonder for during the storm their hatchway was washed away and they had nothing to prevent the water from rushing down. The men, instead of mopping up water as it came down, got into the top bunks with their wives and children around them like the helpless things they were. The doctor had to go down and sharpen them up. He said they ought to be ashamed of themselves, when the single girls had done their place so well . The young men did not get any water in their cabin but we heard they were worse than a lot of old women - so cowardly. An iceberg was seen this morning. Did not see it for we had to go down early, hailstorm shower coming down.
- 10. Sunday. The ship rolled very much last night and does this morning but it is almost a calm. No service today. Bird-catching the amusement of the afternoon. The Third Mate caught a molly hawk.
- 11. Very warm and sunny on deck but the sea is so calm and the vessel at a standstill in the morning. A fair wind sprang up in the evening and we are sailing away splendidly although three points off our right course.
- 12. Cold windy morning. Sailing 12 knots but not quite on our right course yet. We stayed on the deck all day but could not walk about for the ship rolled about so much. We are very tired of this life. Some of the sailors have been telling the girls that if they do not get to New Zealand in the night time they will in the day!
- 13. Very rough stormy night. Important news per Post. Mutiny on board early this morning. There was a regular fight on the poop between the sailors and officers. Captain Davies was knocked about very much. The men have been discontented for a long time but I believe they have come to some terms now. A woman died of low fever and was buried this evening.
- 14. A rainy day. Just one run on the poop in the evening to breathe the fresh air. Is it not glorious? Two girls fought today.
- 15. A day like March. So clear and bright. Never saw the ocean looking more beautiful. We stayed on the poop all day and enjoyed it so much. Although it was cold we had to walk about all the time. The Second Mate and one of the midshipmen has low fever.
- 16. Damp cold morning, yet we had to go on the poop for there was such a commotion below. Cleaning and whitewashing and the beds coming up for an airing. Shall be in the same latitude as Australia tomorrow and as we go farther south we expect colder weather. Hatchway closed early being a stormy evening.
- 17. Sunday. Charlotte's 14th birthday today. While at breakfast a large cake appeared on the scene sent by Pearce, one of Robert's friends. A calm mild day. Had the morning service on the poop and our names were called over. The Second Mate is not any better. He was delirious last night. Mamma was in the saloon with Mrs. Davies this afternoon. A fair wind this evening and we are rushing through the water.
- 18. Stormy day. Have to kep below the weather being so rough and squally. A quarrel in the married people's place. Some man gave the Assisstant Doctor's wife a black eye and the two men fought.
- 19. Rough day. The waves washing over the main deck and even the poop and coming down the hatchway. We went up in the afternoon. The sea very high but looking beautiful. Sailing 13 knots The ship rolling very much and anyone looking at it from the shore would be terrified thinking she would be capsized. A raffle this evening for a workbox belonging to some poor man who has lost his wife. £4 was collected although the value of it would not be more than ten shillings. The doctor drew it. Many were disappointed for each thought they would be sure to get it.
- 20. A day of squalls and rainbows.
- 21. St. Thomas' Day - very long here. Day dawns at 2.30. You will all be preparing for Xmas while we poor mortals will have to spend it in this dismal hole without holly or mistletoe or anything else to enliven us. The cook has made a cake with half a sovereign in it. There was a raffle for it and £5 was collected.
- 22. The second mate, Mr Angel, is very ill. He gave the other officers quite a fright last night for they could not find him anywhere and were afraid that, being delirious, he had gone on deck and fallen overboard but however, he appeared from under a table where he had crawled. He is a native of Jamaica and is a dark handsome man. Mr. Sheppard is much better. Sickness on board will be serious for us, for we may have to go into quarantine.
- 23. A dull grey morning. We are opposite Melbourne now. Great work going on below. Twelve of the single girls are making 34 Xmas puddings or, as they are called here, plum doughs, for all the passengers. The doctor is superintending.
- 24. Sunday. Fine morning. Did not have service. The doctor does not care about the office. Preserved meat and plum dough for dinner. The dough was not boiled sufficiently, so was sent up to be baked for tea. Some of the married people sang carols at the saloon door this evening. The Captain presented each of them with a bottle of rum. He himself is a total abstainer.
- 25. A Merry Xmas to you all. We had a splendid service at four o'clock. It was broad daylight. All were awakened early by someone blowing the foghorn down the ventilator and letting down a dummy dressed as a sailor, which occasioned much amusement. The Matron came round and put a stop to it and made the Captain of every Mess get up at once and do all their scrubbing down before breakfast. A large cake, elaborately ornamented, came down to Mamma with the compliments of the season from Mrs McNeal and Mrs. Pearce and a little while after we received a bottle of sherry and some biscuits. The day was a lovely one - quite warm. The Captain had rum punch made for all the passengers and sailors, after which they all came aft and proposed the health of himself, his wife, the doctor and the single girls. The doughs were very good, so they said. The Matron got rather too merry today And had to go into her bunk. The sailors have all found her out and are making fun of her.
- 26. Dull foggy day with contrary winds which has made everybody feel very cross. We have just heard that a passenger was lost last night. It is not known whether he fell or went overboard purposely. He was not missed until too late to go after him. He was an Irishman. An entertainment was held down here this evening. A very tame affair. The only fun we had was seeing people making themselves so ridiculous. The Matron, after lying in her bunk all day from the effects of last night's orgies, was actually absurd enough to come out in full dress and acted as Queen of the Revels. Just fancy what a simpleton she looked to be dressed up in such a place. The Captain and doctor came down drank a cup of coffee each and stayed about 15 minutes. Some married people and their brats were invited. The doctor's assistant and one young man to play the concertina. It was kept up until daylight, although the ship was rolling very much and many people were annoyed for they could not get any rest and two women were ill, but what did they care.
- 27. Ship rolls very much. Nasty headwinds are delaying us and makes us afraid that we shall not get to Lyttleton by New Year's Day. A fair wind sprang up in the afternoon but there is a heavy head sea which keeps us from going more than seven knots. The ship pitches and many feel sick.
- 28. Very rough night but fine morning. Busy below for the beds are taken up to be shaken. The ship is tossing about very much. After dinner one of the girls went off into hysterics. She was yelling like some mad creature, from bad temper alone. The result of a quarrel between herself and the Matron. The place is a perfect bedlam for there is always some quarrelling going on. In the evening the Captain caught some of the girls talking to the man at the wheel which is very much against the rules for it takes his attention from the ship's course. How he did storm at them and they were ordered down at once and not to come up again while on board. Saw a great number of porpoises this evening. Dozens of them leaping over the waves.
- 29. A beautiful morning but the sea is very calm. We are sorry for had hoped to pass between the South of New Zealand and an island called The Snares today. It is a very dangerous place. Many ships are wrecked there.
We shall be glad to get clear of it. Dozens of albatrosses are swimming and flying about us. The Captain caught five. Some pure white, others mixed grey and brown. The breeze is freshening this evening so we hope to have a good night without rocking.
- 30. A fine morning but becalmed again and in sight of The Snares. Is it not provoking? Eleven albatrosses were caught by the officers this afternoon. A beautiful evening and glorious sunset.
- 31. Sunday. Fine day and fair wind. Stuart's Island (Stewart Island) was sighted this afternoon. The steward, an African, went up aloft to look at it. Some of the sailors followed him, tied him fast and left him there to be looked at and laughed at. Someone said he blanched but did not say what colour. New Year's Eve. It is almost a calm. Did not turn in until after twelve, everybody wishing each other a Happy New Year.
Jan. 1st 1877. A Happy New Year to you all. It has not yet dawned at home. How strange it seems. Does Jennie remember how she and I kept watch last year in the little parlour and she wrote some couplets. I have them still. Had anyone told me then where I should be now my surprise would have been great. It is a bright morning. Quite calm until twelve when a fair wind sprang up. Otago is in sight. How glad we are after seeing nothing but sea and sky for such a long time. Saw a waterspout this evening, are going out of our course but they expect the wind to change soon when they will turn the ship about so that she will get the land breezes and be enabled to sail near the shores. A baby was buried this evening.
- 2. A lovely morning. New Zealand weather, but we have been going out of our course all night and now the sea is quite calm and we have lost sight of land. We may be rocking about here for days, when if there came a fair wind we would be in port in 24 hours. The sea is like a mill pond or lake, with birds, exactly like ducks, swimming about by dozens and small fish called Portuguese men of war. It is now evening and we have been drifting back towards Stuart's Isle, are now going to turn into our bunks for the night, but first had a peep at the sky through the porthole. It is beautifully coloured. There is a great deal of illness on board. I hope they will not put us into quarantine.
- 3. Fair wind. We are near Dunedin, the capital of our adopted country and are sailing on the coast a few miles from land. Great preparations for landing going on below. The boxes are opened and all the finery is taken out. Each girl evidently intends making an impression on the natives and certainly, if colours are effective for the purpose, they will succeed.
- 4. A beautiful day. Fair wind but very little of it. We can only see the outline of the land. There is a ship in sight. She is nearer the shore than us. Better news this afternoon, have a good wind and are nearing Lyttleton and hope to be in the bay about twelve this evening. We turn in with the happy thought that we shall land tomorrow.
- 5. Been going out of our course all night and it is still "tomorrow" that we hope to land. It is hope deferred with a vengeance. For every day for a week have we expected it. We have lovely weather and there is a beautiful fair wind now and land very near. They have now turned the ship about as she was too near the rocks. Lyttleton is in sight and there is great excitement on board for the pilot has come and we anchored at twelve p.m. precisely.
- 6. We have anchored opposite the Quarrantine Station. The pilot did not come on board because there is illness in the ship. The yellow flag is hoisted. One child died this morning and there is one married woman and a single girl ill. The Commissioners will be here at ten to decide whether we are to go ashore or not. All the girls have donned their finery in readiness.
They have been and it is decided that we are all to go into quarantine. The married people and single women to the station on Snipe Island opposite and the single men to Quail Island two miles distant. All were sent off in boats at once. The Captain would have kept Robert on board but he dared not under penalty of a heavy fine. If anyone were to come to the Island or go to the ship they would be kept there and fined £200. They say we shall be kept here three weeks. The young men have not any illness among them so they will be let off sooner. The ship will be fumigated and the crew not be allowed to go ashore for some days. The scenery here is very wild and picturesque. We are completely hemmed in by mountains.. It is midsummer and the air is soft and balmy. It is a beautiful little bay. Robert came with some of the officers to have a last look at us this evening. He returned to the ship that night and went to his own quarters next morning. Received a letter from Uncle. He was in Lyttleton today and was very much disappointed by having to go back without us.
- 7. Sunday. No service. We can go where we like here but the Island being so very small we can walk all over it in 15 minutes. The Welsh mountains are nothing compared to these about us. They are such an immense height. Had a long quiet day sitting on the rocks among the seaweed. There are some pretty shells here.
- 8. All the boxes have been brought from the ship this morning. Everything has to be turned out of them and spread on the grass or on lines to be well aired. If we did not they would have to be burned. Dr Donald from Lyttleton came to see us this afternoon.
- 9. All the clothes worn in the ship have to be washed. WE are No. 1 Mess so we begin first. This is our washing day. It is a very convenient Wash-house there being eight tubs fixed to the wall with taps to let the water out. Some of the men look after the fire. Our hands are very sore But we were very glad to get them out of the way. A very hot day.
- 10. Wrote to Uncle today but the letter will not be sent for some days and they will all be fumigated first for fear of taking the fever into the interior of the country. One girl was put into the hospital today and the one that was ill when we came died last night. She was taken away in a boat and buried on another island. It was a sad sight. We received a box of fruit from Uncle. Was it not kind of him? It was such a treat for this is a very barren island, not a tree or a shrub growing upon it. Quail Island is much better than this and has a good beach for bathing.
- 11. The Cardigan Castle has gone a little nearer Lyttleton today. Until now she was lying at anchor just opposite us. With the aid of a telescope we could see what was going on there, but now she has gone and we feel that we are really left alone on a desert island. A catholic priest came here to see a man who is thought to be dying. He saw all the Irish girls. They received him in such a nice manner and they all went down to the beach to see him off. The doctor, Matron and another man went this evening to Quail Island in a small boat. Did not come back very early the tide being against them and the boat was nearly capsized.
- 12. Fine morning but windy. Charlotte and some other little girls have been bathing. We heard afterwards that it was very dangerous for there are several sharks about. They come in shallow water. We heard today that we shall leave here next Tuesday. I hope it is true. The stores are brought here in a steamer every morning. Also we get the news of the day, for each compartment has a newspaper daily. The sea air does not suit Polly's eyes at all. The Lyttleton doctor says it all comes from winking And wants to know if we all wink!
- 13. The days are very long here with nothing to do. How I wish to climb some of the mountains and see what lies beyond. But that is impossible for we are surrounded by the sea. Dora and some others bathed this morning. It is very hot. Had a letter from Uncle. He seems to think we shall not remain here much longer. A large ship has just sailed into port and she has her red flags flying - no illness there. They are fortunate. Fishing has been the amusement of the evening.
- 14. Sunday. A dull damp day and very wet.
- 15. The much heard of New Zealand rain. It is coming down in torrents. Preparations were being made for our leaving here on Wednesday but Dr. Donald came over this afternoon and prohibited our going. He ordered one Girl into hospital and we must all remain here until they are well.
- 16. We had some of the Illustrated London News sent us today from some of Robert's friends, with the full account of the Arctic Expedition. So you will see we are not very much behind you with the home news although so very distant. Mrs Welsh is going to read them. I have been down to the shore watching the waves. The tide is coming in. Good night.
- 17. A clear bright morning. We can distinguish Lyttleton with its pier and the ships near it quite plainly. Already we have experienced many changes in the weather for we have had the hot winds which has made us brown as the Maories. The heavy rains and the hot days with their chilly evenings -
So chilly that although this is one of the hottest months of the year a fire would be acceptable. We received four letters today. One from Robert. He, with the others, left the island yesterday. He stayed in Christchurch last night, he likes the place very much. He is going to Uncle's farm , the Cyffiau, Tai Tapu, this afternoon. You will be pleased To know that there is a vacancy in the largest shop in Christchurch ready For me as soon as I am at liberty but I am afraid we shall not leave here Until next week.
- 18. Had very heavy rains last night but this promises to be a fine day. We received a Maori bag like the one Uncle sent to you. It was filled with fruit and eatables evidently bought in Lyttleton for it seems, from a letter that was enclosed, that Uncle, Aunt and their two daughters were in port yesterday expecting to meet us. However, they were not quite disappointed for they met with Robert somewhere and all went home together.
- 19. Very warm. There were a great many bathers today. Polly and I wer lookers on. The Matron was so unfortunate as to lose a ring in the water. She was very vexed for it was one that belonged to her husband's first wife and he had given it to her the very day she left New Zealand for England.
- 20. Mamma received a letter from the Cardigan Castle this morning, in which we heard that Uncle and Aunt dined with Captain Davies and his wife last Wednesday. Also that the writer, Pearce, had been introduced to them which has pleased him very much he is Robert's particular friend. They spent Thursday together in Christchurch. Please tell Aunt Sarah that It is all for Annie's sake. The poor fellow having fallen over head and Ears in love with her and he pays the greatest attention to Mamma and the rest of us for the same reason.
- 21. Sunday. Lovely weather. This afternoon a boat full of the ship's crew came close to the island to have a look at the inhabitants. They dared not come a step on shore.
- 22. The Commissioners are coming this evening and we expect to leave the island tomorrow. Received a letter from Robert. Uncle and he have taken a house for us about a mile from Christchurch. Ma is very glad to have a corner of her own. Robert has obtained employment with a very large firm of timber merchants so we are fortunate so far.
- 23. We were up at 4.30 preparing for our departure. It is now eight o'clock. The steamer is here and the men are taking the luggage down to it. All are dressed ready for starting and the commissioners came early but after all the hurry and bustle we had to wait for a telegram from somebody and did not start from here until 5.0 p.m. Uncle met us in Lyttleton and Aunt was in Christchurch. Mamma, Dora, and Charlotte went with them to Tai Tapu and the rest of us stayed in Christchurch. We like Christchurch very much excepting a few streets in the centre of the town. We could imagine ourselves in the country for nearly all the houses have a garden and trees about them. The place abounds in weeping willows.
The banks of the river are covered with them and look beautiful and the roads outside the town are like avenues. There are some very fine buildings but most of the houses are built with wood and with only one floor and nearly all have verandahs around them. The Cathedral is not finished and is in the centre of the town. There are several churches and some very good schools. Everything here is much the same as at home. I think we will like it very much. It is midsummer and harvest time and the mountain tops are covered in snow. You will forgive me for tiring your patience so much for you know that you made me promise to send you a full account.
I will leave off and wish you all Good Night.
Source: The 17 page
typed diary of Sarah Stephen is held by the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch. The spelling and
punctuation is as it was in the diary and have tried to make the
transcription as close to the copy as possible. The original may be in a
museum in Liverpool, England.
Other diaries at the Manuscripts Department, Canterbury Museum:
Diary written by Jemima Roy, a 28 year old housemaid, from Norfolk, who also arrived in Lyttelton on 6 January 1877 "'Cardigan Castle'"
Diary of voyage on board 'Caroline' to Nelson 12 October 1875-18 January 1876. Also includes verse written on the 'Cardigan Castle' to Lyttelton 1876-77.