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Diary of Samuel Pearson's
Voyage to New Zealand
On the Hereford in 1879

Samuel Pearson was born in 1862, at Netherend, Cradley, Worcestershire. His father, Ambrose Pearson, was a dairy farmer of 19 acres at Netherend and was also the local Rate and Tax Collector. His mother was Louisa Matthews (the widow of Noah Bache). His parents weren't particularly affluent. In October 1879, at the age of 17, Samuel Pearson had intended sailing to New Zealand with two friends. However, they didn't turn up at the local railway station (presumably Stourbridge) and he proceeded on his own to New Zealand on the immigrant ship the Hereford as a Government Immigrant to work on a sheep farm. He returned to England a few years later and founded a company in Wolverhamton that manufactured glass bottles. In 1892, Samuel Pearson married Lydia Cording of Kingswinford, Brierley Hill, Staffordshire. He died in 1938. The family is not sure exactly when he returned to the 'Old Country' from New Zealand but it is believed that he was there for no more than about three years. As he does not appear in the 1881 census of England and had commenced the manufacture of glass bottles at Cartwright Street, Wolverhamton in 1891 it must be between these two dates. 

page 16. Samuel Pearson is the fouth name listed. The transcription of the diary from a typewritten copy that was made about 50 years ago is courtesy of Dr Iain Wells. The surviving passenger list for the 1879 voyage of the Hereford is available at the Archives New Zealand, Wellington. The quality of the reproduction is poor and but fortunately we have found the entry for Samuel Pearson on page 16. He is listed as 17 years of age, came from Worcester and was an Agricultural Labourer and destined for Timaru. The old English style of  writing made Pearson look like Boarson. Posted 25 April  2004. 

1879
Wednesday 1st October 

Left home about half-past seven o’clock. Started by the 7.55 train for Worcester, then I changed for Plymouth. I happened to get into the first carriage where there were two sailors who were going to Plymouth, so I rode with them all the way. I reached the depot about 7.30pm. had tea, and then went to bed.

Thursday 2nd October

Got up about 6 o’clock a.m. then went down and washed myself, cleaned my boots and then had breakfast. Then we were divided into Messes. A Mess generally consists of ten; they have a table to themselves, and all dine together. There is a captain whose duty it is to see that they keep everything clean. After breakfast I wrote a letter home. Then I had my box looked over to see that I had everything alright; it was then stowed away ready for shipment.

Friday 3rd October

Rose when the bell rang at 6 a.m. had breakfast and then we had to sweep the yard up. We couldn’t go outside the yard, but passed the time away by watching the boats and ships in the harbour. Today our boxes were sent to the ship.

Saturday 4th October

Got up early and had to pass the doctor. One man and his family couldn’t go because one of his children had some disease. Had our drinking tins given us, and everything got ready for shipment. Left Depot on steamer to go to the ship about 6.30 p.m; had tea on board and then went to bed.

Sunday 5th October

Had to get up early to pump water. The water has to be pumped every morning by the single men. It is taken in turns by the Messes – our Mess being the first, we had to pump this morning. We had a Church service this morning, the test was “Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the world”. We had fresh roast beef and potatoes for dinner. It is a beautiful day and a very fine scene from here. On one side you could see Plymouth with the barracks and its large guns, and the other side the wide sea studded with ships.

Monday 6th October

Had breakfast at 8 o’clock and then went on deck to watch the sailors get the ship ready for sailing. We set sail about 11.30 a.m. A steamer named the “Secret” towed us out of the harbour. We had a very good wind and went along rapidly. At night I went on watch from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The watches have to be taken in turns the same as pumping the water. The watchman has to report every half-hour whether all is right below; so that if there was a fire or anyone ill he had to report it to the man on the Bridge.

Tuesday 7th October

Great many sick. Nearly all sick in our mess, but not sick myself. We had a good wind till night when it fell. We are now in the Bay of Biscay.

Wednesday 8th October

Very calm. The sick are getting better. We saw several ships around us today. We had salt beef for dinner for the first time, and also had our weekly allowance of tea, coffee, butter, sugar etc.

Thursday 9th October

We had a severe thunderstorm this morning; the lightening was awful. The wind changed twice during the night. We are going along very well. We had our first allowance of flour and raisins today for making puddings etc. 

Friday 10th October

Splendid day. Fair wind. We had fire drill today. Our mess had to pump water, some had to run the hose along the deck to where the fire was supposed to be. From the time we began until it was all over wasn’t above ten minutes. We saw 12 ships around us today.

Saturday 11th October

Weather getting warm. The sea very calm. Counted 20 ships around us this morning going very slow. There was a concert tonight; the concerts are given by the sailors free of charge about once or twice a week weather permitting. We had flour given us again today for making puddings.

Sunday 12th October

Going very slow. We all had to appear on deck with our faces clean and our shoes blacked; to have our names called over by the Captain. This is what they call “mustering”. There was a Church service afterwards. We made ourselves a plum pudding today.

Monday 13th October

The wind has changed for the better. We are going along very well. Had our weekly allowance of tea, coffee etc. We haven’t used above half of what we had last week, so we either throw it overboard or give it to the sailors.

Tuesday 14th October

Going along very well. It is beautiful weather. I had my hair cut this morning. We are passing ships that left England long before us – one is going to Australia and has been in sight this last day or two. The ship is rolling very much today.

Wednesday 15th October

It is getting rather hot now. We are going along very fast, making from 10 to 11 knots an hour. We have been taking some of the sails down and putting some more up today. 

Thursday 16th October

Hot again today. There was a whale in sight today. This morning we had to clean the floor under our beds. This afternoon we had a bible class – the baker was teacher.

Friday 17th October

Had fire drill today. As soon as the bell rings you have to run to work. It is rather hot for we are nearing the tropics. Tonight there was a bit of a fire in the cabin but it was soon put out.

Saturday 18th October

Lime juice was given out today for the first time because it was so hot. We saw some very large fish today called porpoises. The sailors have been acting again tonight.

Sunday 19th October

Had service this morning – the doctor was the minister. Then we had dinner which consisted of preserved mutton, potatoes, and pudding. We had a bible class this afternoon; and after tea we were singing Moody & Sankey’s hymns till nearly bed time. We are now in the tropics.

Monday 20th October

We had our boxes out of the hold this morning for the first time, to get what clean things we wanted for the next month. I didn’t want any clean things for I wash mine when they are dirty.

Tuesday 21st October

Going along very well. Our ship has been signalling to another today, she proved to be the “Sarah Grice” bound for Melbourne. Some of the people have turned sick again because of the rough weather. We saw some flying fish today.

Wednesday 22nd October

Going along at a rapid pace, making 12 knots per hour. The sea is very rough – the waves come dashing over the side of the ship. We haven’t seen any ships today. Dinner consisted of preserved meat and potatoes. It is very hot now we are in the tropics.

Thursday 23rd October

Not so rough today but we are going along very well. There is a child dangerously ill. The mate has been trying to catch a shark, but he did not succeed. We had a bible class this afternoon. I am very glad that I have a bible thanks to my kind and loving sister.

Friday 24th October

There have been two squalls today – one this morning, and the other this afternoon. We had the foresail carried away, so you may imagine how rough it was. The rain came down in torrents, and the waves dashed over the side.

Saturday 25th October

The child I spoke of has died. It was buried at 10 o’clock last night. It was raining very heavily this morning but it is very calm now. It is so very hot that some slept on deck last night.

Sunday 26th October

A ship named the “Eagle” passed close by us this morning – so close that the Captain spoke to them through his trumpet. We had church service this morning and bible class this afternoon. It is a beautiful day and everybody seems to be in the best of spirits.

Monday 27th October

Not going along very well; the wind being the wrong way. The sailors have to keep altering the sails. Another ship came close to us this morning, but she was a foreigner. The married people had a tea party today.

Tuesday 28th October

Very hot today. You could not see the ship stir at all this morning. There was another tea party today. I helped the cook to make the buns, tarts etc; so he let me have my tea as well. I thought it a treat for we don’t get very good bread in the mess while this hot weather lasts.

Wednesday 29th October

Going along very fast. We have got what they call the south east trade winds. I hope we shall keep this wind so that we shall soon be out of the tropics. We had flour etc. given us today to make puddings.

Thursday 30th October

We are going along, but not exactly on our course. There was a child born this morning. There was a bit of a row today in 37 Mess over a cake that one had made unknowing to the others. He took the flour in the night and got it baked for himself; but he was found out. They took it from him and never let him have a bite.

Friday 31st October

There came another ship close to us this morning. The Captain was signalling to her for a long time. We had fire drill today. We expect to cross the equator tomorrow when we shall have some rare fun.

Saturday 1st November

This is the day for amusement for we cross the line – a circumstance of much note during a long voyage. There is a procession of sailors who draw a man and woman whom they call Neptune and his wife (of course they are all dressed up – some as soldiers, sailors etc.) from the forecastle to the cabin, to be shaved and washed. They are put on a bit of a platform where a barber shaves them. He gets a large whitewash brush daubed all over with the lather, which is made of flour, treacle etc; and then he asks them how they want shaving. As soon as they open their mouths to speak he puts the brush in their mouth which almost chokes them. He then blackens their faces all over with a soot rag as a way of wiping their faces. They are thrown backwards into a large sail filled with water to wash them. There was about half a dozen served like this to the amusement of the spectators.

Sunday 2nd November

Fine day. Had service as usual this morning. After dinner we had a bible class on the forecastle; and at night there was a prayer meeting on the quarterdeck. It is a beautiful night. The moon shines beautifully, all seem to be in high spirits.

Monday 3rdNovember

Hot day. No ships in sight. Going along well. We had to clean the floor, benches etc. in our room today. Tonight there was a concert on the quarterdeck, the Captain presiding.

Tuesday 4th November

Beautiful day. Our mess had to pump water from the after hatch to the forehatch. I haven’t seen any ships today. We are going along very well. There is a strange sort of fish swimming about today, something like a flat fish. They swim on top of the water.

Wednesday 5th November

Very hot today. Not going along very well. It is bonfire day with you, but we don’t want one here for it is hot enough. There was one ship in sight today. The schoolmaster has begun to put down what latitude and longitude we are in every day, and how many miles we have gone.

Thursday 6th November

It is beautiful to look at the sea today; to see the swell going up and down and the sea as calm as can be. Hundreds of birds are flying round us – some of them are something like swallows. They live on insects and small fish.

Friday 7th November

Fire drill again. Had meat pie and pudding for dinner. Going slow again. No ships in sight. It is a beautiful sight when we are going slow, but we want to go fast, for we all want to be there soon.

Saturday 8th November

Awfully hot. 112 degrees of heat. Salt pork and pea soup for dinner. We are another concert tonight – the Captain presiding. We are going along very slow.

Sunday 9th November

We have passed the island of Trinidada today – a very fine place with rocks that seem to rise up to the clouds. It was once used as a convict settlement by the Portuguese. There was a ship wrecked on it not long since, but the crew found safety on the island.

Monday 10th November

There was a whale seen this morning, but I did not see it myself, I only saw the water that he blew up. It has been raining very hard today. The schoolmaster’s wife gave birth to a stillborn child last night. Not going along very fast, but the ship is rolling very much.

Tuesday 11th November

You could not see that we were stirring this morning, but the ship keeps rolling from one side to other. It is rather warm today, but we shall soon be out of the tropics. 38 Mess had their porridge stopped this morning for rowing.

Wednesday 12th November

Very calm this morning. I’ve been washing some of my clothes for I’ve learned how to wash; and I don’t mean to have many dirty things when I land. One young man had his hat blown off today, but the sea being calm, a sailor caught it with a hook.

Thursday 13th November

Going along very well to what we have been doing lately. The weather is getting rather cooler than it was for we are out of the tropics now. We are a little troubled with rats some nights – last night one run across our beds.

Friday 14th November

Fire drill this morning. From 12 o’clock yesterday to 12 o’clock today we only went 87 miles; but this evening we are going faster than ever to the delight of all. There were two ships in sight today. We had to change our course for one of them for fear of collision. If there had been one, both ships would have been knocked to pieces at the rate we were going.

Saturday 15th November

Going along very fast. It is a little rough – the waves dash over the sides and the wind rages furiously. We almost ran into another ship tonight. We are making about 14 knots an hour.

Sunday 16th November

Rougher still this morning. Out of 18 sails on the three masts only 4 are set. The waves dash over from one side to the other. They say it will be rougher yet. It rains hard at times which makes things more miserable. They had all hands on deck this morning to furl top-sails.

Monday 17th November

We are going along today, but not like we did yesterday. It is getting rather cold now. We saw one ship today. Our ship is rolling very much and it is very dangerous to walk along the deck.

Tuesday 18th November

Salt pork and pea soup for dinner today. It is getting very cold now and a great many have caught colds; and no wonder, for it isn’t so long since we were in the tropics where it is burning hot; and now to come into the cold is enough to try anybody. 

Wednesday 19th November

We have had our boxes up this morning – I hope for the last time till we get there, for we are all tired of the journey and wish to be there; but we are in hopes of making a smart passage. I washed some of my clothes this morning.

Thursday 20th November

Fine day and not quite so cold for the wind isn’t blowing from the south now. When the wind blows from the south it is cold here, when it blows from the north it is warm. Just the opposite from England.

Friday 21st November

Fine day and going along well. Done over 240 miles in 24 hours. We had fire drill today as usual. We had preserved potatoes today for the first time. None of our Mess could eat them so we threw them overboard. 

Saturday 22nd November

The ship is rolling awful today. It is laughable to see the things rolling about. Sometimes when we are having our meals it rolls the tea things off. We have wasted a lot of butter in this way; and then we have to go short, for we have a certain allowance every Tuesday to last the Mess for a week 

Sunday 23rd November

There wasn’t any service today because it was so cold and rough. There was another child buried last night. There were preserved potatoes served out again today but we didn’t fetch any because we cannot eat them. We are not far off the Cape of Good Hope for we saw some Cape pigeons today.

Monday 24th November

Beef and rice for dinner today. The beef is that tough that we can hardly eat it. We generally make a pudding when it is beef day, so that we can then do without any beef at all. We are going along very well – having made 368 miles since yesterday.

Tuesday 25th November

Fine day and not quite so cold. We haven’t seen any ships for over a week. There was racing round the deck for money last night. The Captain gave money to the best runners. I didn’t run myself for it is dangerous to run round a ship’s deck.

Wednesday 26th November

We are not going so fast as we were. We are now off the Cape of Good Hope and expect some rough weather now. We haven’t seen any ships for 9 days. The two tallest men in the ship ran for a wager last night – both of them are nearly 6´ 3" in height. 

Thursday 27th November

Going a little faster. There are some very large birds flying about today, they are called albatross. The Mate has been trying to catch one – he had one on the hook but the bird broke it and got away. There is to be sacking racing and a concert tonight.

Friday 28th November

Fire drill today as usual. The first Mate has caught an albatross today – it is the largest bird I ever saw. It is 10½ ft. from the tip of one wing to the other. They are worth a deal of money. Their skins with the feathers on is used to make muffs; and the feet to make tobacco pouches. 

Saturday 29th November

It is rather rough today; they took nearly all the sails in. There was another paper published today besides the Hereford Times; but the baker blacked it over because there was something in about himself which he didn’t like. There is a woman very ill down the main hatch.

Sunday 30th November

It is a beautiful day but the ship rocks so much that we didn’t have a service this morning. I made a pudding today which turned out very well. We didn’t go for any preserved potatoes today we cannot eat them.

Monday 1st December

We have a good breeze this morning, but the ship is rocking very much. One man fell down and stunned himself. The Captain is very ill – I think it’s through drunkenness – for he seems to drink much.

Tuesday 2nd December

Going along very well. We have found out a way of softening our biscuits by soaking them, and then mash them up with flour and raisins and make a pudding. We find that that is the best way for they are that hard we can hardly crack them.

Wednesday 3rd December

Going along rapidly. We have gone 257 miles since yesterday. The first Mate played some of them a trick last night. They were sitting in the cook’s galley talking, and he came and put some pepper on the fire and shut the door so they couldn’t get out. You can imagine how it made them sneeze and cough.

Thursday 4th December

We are going along very fast. We have gone 267 miles since yesterday. I am glad to say the Captain is a deal better. I made a cake for tea today for we didn’t get much dinner; for it is salt beef day today, and we don’t care for that.

Friday 5th December

Fire drill today. I washed some of my clothes this morning. We have gone 9,550 miles since we started; we have to go about 4,600 miles now as near as I can reckon. We had a good dinner of meat pie and rice pudding.

Saturday 6th December

We had every appearance of a cyclone today. The ship was hove too – that means stopping it – the married people and single girls were battened down; the sails were taken in, and everything got ready for it; but it passed away but not before frightening some of us. One man shook hands with his friends and wished them goodbye for he thought the ship would go down; but it cleared right away thank God and it’s now nice and calm again.

Sunday 7th December

Today it is as different from yesterday as can be – it is a dead calm. The wind fell early this morning so they put the sails up again. We had service on the quarterdeck. Everyone had to appear on deck to have their names called out.

Monday 8th December

The wind has risen again. We are going at a good rate. It is salt beef day, we had a pudding for dinner. Today we had our weekly allowance of tea, coffee, sugar and  biscuits.

Tuesday 9th December

It is a miserable day. The waves are dashing over the sides wetting everything and everybody. Salt pork and pea soup for dinner. The pork is good when its cold, but the beef isn’t fit for anybody. We haven’t seen any ships for a long time.

Wednesday 10th December

It’s rather warmer today than it has been. The sun is shining brightly; going along well. We had meat pie for dinner. The Captain is well again but the Mate is poorly now.

Thursday 11th December

It’s a very rough day and the waves are coming over the sides every minute swilling everything about; it is raining too. We had some preserved meat given us for dinner – but the other Messes had salt beef and rice.

Friday 12th December

Fire drill as usual. We had preserved meat served out to us this morning so we made a pie. We had porridge for breakfast this morning besides coffee and bread and butter. It isn’t so rough today as it was yesterday. We have about 3,200 miles to go. 

Saturday 13th December

It is very rough today and the waves are like great hills. It is dangerous to walk along the deck. One boy was nearly drowned and another was knocked off his feet. We had salt pork for dinner. It is good pork but the beef isn’t fit to eat. 

Sunday 14th December

No service this morning because it was so rough. They had to have four men at the wheel last night to steer the ship. We had preserved meat pie for dinner. We had to get up at 5.30 this morning to pump water. 

Monday 15th December

It isn’t so cold today but it is very rough. Beef and rice for dinner. Another child has died belonging to a man named Jenkins. We haven’t seen any ships for some weeks now. It is very miserable this weather and if one walks along the deck he is in danger of slipping down or getting a good ducking. 

Tuesday 16th December

We had pork for dinner today. We generally let ours go cold before we eat it – it’s a deal nicer then. We are not going so fast today. We expect to be there in a fortnight. I’m not sorry about it either for I am getting quite tired of the journey. 

Wednesday 17th December

It is a fine day but nor going along very well. We had porridge for breakfast and meat pie for dinner. The first Mate has been ill but he is getting better. They have commenced cleaning the ship ready for going in harbour.

Thursday 18th December

We are going along well today. There is a ship in sight, it is the first we have seen for some time. It is supposed to be the Western Monarch for that ship started for New Zealand about the same time as ourselves.

Friday 19th December

It has been raining very hard today. We are going along very well with the wind dead aft. I washed some of my clothes this morning. It is said we have to go about 2,000 miles yet.

Saturday 20th December

Going along rapidly. The Western Monarch is still in sight. There was salt pork and pea soup for dinner. We had to clean the room floor etc. today. I hope it will be the last Saturday we shall be on board.

Sunday 21st December

We have gone 252 miles since yesterday, to the delight of all. There was no service today because it was so cold and miserable. There was some large fish round the ship today called porpoises. We had meat pie and rice pudding for dinner.

Monday 22nd December

We are going along very fast today. We have gone 274 miles since yesterday. We expect to be in by next Sunday at the rate we are going. We thought at one time we should be in for Christmas, but it will be somewhere about New Year’s Day.

Tuesday 23rd December

It is very rough today. They are obliged to have ropes along the deck to lay hold of for fear of slipping down. One wave came down our room and wet some of the beds. I was lucky in not getting mine wet but it happens to be down one corner on the top row.

Wednesday 24th December

We are going along again very fast today. We are preparing our pudding for tomorrow – Christmas Day. It will be such a Christmas that I never had before; but we must do the best we can. The Doctor has been shooting porpoises today.

Thursday 25th December

It is Christmas Day and such a one as I never saw before. We had our plum pudding and stew for dinner. Of course it made us all think of home and those that are there. We had no tea because the copper rolled off the stove. The ship has rolled worse today than any day yet. You may imagine for yourself when the coppers had enough water in to make tea for about 500 people.

Friday 26th December

We sighted the Snares at 2 o’clock this morning and Sharks Island at 5 o’clock that is the South Island of New Zealand; everybody got up on deck to see it. We have a good breeze, and if we can only hold it we shall be in Lyttleton in two days.

Saturday 27th December

We are now off the coast of Otago. We can see the town of Dunedin right before us. If we had a good breeze we could get in in a few hours; but it is quite calm; and perhaps we may have a head wind for the sailors say that it generally blows either a head wind here or a wind that will send us right in.

Sunday 28th December

The wind has changed – it is right against us, so they have to keep tacking all the time. It is quite disheartening to have to keep tacking about here when we are only 180 miles from our destination.

Monday 29th December

We have a head wind still – we can scarcely get along at all. The Captain is in ever such a way because this wind might drive us back miles. We can see the land quite plain from here and with a fair wind we could get in in a few hours.

Tuesday 30th December

The wind has changed this morning for the better. There was a great doubt whether we should get in today, but here we are anchored in Lyttleton harbour. Thank God (for we need to) for as soon as the pilot came on board we heard of an emigrant ship called the Faseley Hall that has not been heard of for 200 days. Of course if it’s the truth you have seen it in the newspapers. They didn’t expect us yet for we have been 85 days out – that is the quickest passage that’s been made to this port for 6 months. 


Hereford 1878 voyage
Shipboard Diaries