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Arrival of the ship British Empire - 350 passengers - 8 deaths - The vessel quarantined.
New Zealand Herald. Thursday February 5, 1880. It details the arrival of the ship British Empire.


At a very early hour yesterday, away to the eastward of the North Head was seen a full-rigged ship flying the yellow flag, denoting disease on board, and as she was well away from the shore and tracks of vessels, it was evident that the pilot thought the matter a serious one. The signals at the Flagstaff not only denoted that the presence of the Health Officer was required, but also gave the number of the vessel, viz that of the British Empire, ship, from London and Falmouth, with 350 passengers, 89 days out from port. The vessel is under charter to Messrs. Shaw, Savill and Co. and the agents in this city, Messrs Cruickshank and Co, were at once made acquainted with the facts, while the police hastened away for Dr. Philson, the Health Officer,and Mr Brophy, Immigration Agent. The Customs launch was placed at the disposal of the authorities, and they at once went within hailing distance of the ship, and on learning that a case of scarlett fever had broken out only a few hours previously, and that eight deaths had occurred from the same disease during the month of January, the ship was at once ordered into quarantine, and under the charge of  Pilot Burgess, she sailed into Motuihi, where no doubt Mr Barnsley would kindly receive his future charge.

It is now nearly three years since a vessel was quarantined here. The vessel comes out under the command of Captain James Mather, and was here in October 1875 under the same charge, and he reports leaving Falmouth on November 7, and made a splendid run of 68 days to Tasmania, when strong easterly gales set in, and the vessel encountered the heavy weather which has prevailed here for some weeks. The Three Kings were made last Sunday week, and down the coast adverse winds and calms, and the promise held out by the worthy captain to be in Auckland by Anniversary Day, so that the passengers would have an opportunity of seeing one of the regattas of their adopted country, was unfortunately doomed to be broken. We are indebted to the master for the following particulars regarding the breaking out of sickness on board:-

On the 20th November, when the vessel was 13 days out, measles made their appearance, and lasted up to January 1st, during which time 36 persons had been attacked, but without resulting fatally to anyone. The measles, we understand, were brought on board by a family that joined the ship at Falmouth, and how they escaped medical detection is yet to be ascertained. the last case of measles, however brought with it a more noisome and deadly disease, and on the day in question a passenger was attacked with scarlet fever and so virulent was the disease, that eight persons have already died out of eighteen that have been attacked. With considerable difficulty we have ascertained the names of the deceased passengers, but as the whole of those on board, with the exception of nine immigrants, have paid their own fares, we are unable to give their ages or the part of the United Kingdom they hail from. The following are the name of those whom succumbed to scarlatina:-

Harry Brown
Samuel Crooks
Bella Duncan
Florence Taylor
William Veitch
Emily Gardner
P.N. Harris
Letitia Arblester.

There was a probability that the vessel would escape quarantine but at the last moment, that is yesterday morning Annie Fitzgibbon, about five years of age, was stricken down and on this ground the vessel was ordered to Motuihi. There are also two persons on board suffering severely from consumption, and notwithstanding this, the passengers testify to the comfort they have enjoyed  on board, in fact they speak in commendatory terms of the officers of the ship, and under the trying circumstances have passed the time as pleasantly as could be expected. At a late hour last night none of the passengers had been transferred from the ship to the quarantine station. Mr Barnsley, opposing the transference of the cabin passengers, on what grounds we do not know, but we understand that gentlemen will receive orders to take all on the island, so that they will be landed to-day in the ships boats. When this is done the fittings of the ship will be taken out and burned, and the vessel fumigated, so that she is not likely to be in the harbour until Saturday or Monday, when she will discharge and proceed to Lyttelton, having a charter to load from there to London. With regard to the time the passengers will have to remain at Motuihi, it is impossible to say, as that depends upon whether any fresh cases break out or not but under any circumstances they will have to remain seven days. The agents Messrs Cruickshank and Co, chartered last night one of the North Shore Ferry Co.'s steamers, and sent down a large quantity of fish, meat and vegetables which will be replenished every second day.