ARRIVAL OF THE WILLIAM DAVIE
The Otago Witness May 1, 1875
Many thanks to Ian Morison for providing this from the newspaper
The heavy fog which obscured the harbour on the 22nd instant had not long lifted ere the signal letters of the Albion Company's ship William Davie were hoisted at the flagstaff, together with the welcome announcement of "all well" on board. As it has been decided to bring the ship right to the Pier in the event of her having a clean bill of health, the Health and Immigration officials decided to accompany the tug to the Heads, and to obviate the necessity of stopping by the way coming back, clear the ship as she was towed in.
We have to thank Captain Thomson for the courtesy which dictated an invitation to our reporter to accompany the tug. the invitation was readily accepted and the party embarked. Dr Drysdale, the medical advisor to the Board of Health, objected at the last moment to the presence of the Press on board the same vessel with himself. The presence of a member of the fourth estate in such near proximity to his official capacity appeared to excite him much in the same manner as a piece of red rag is supposed to affect a certain feathered biped. The Doctor would have none of us, and expressed his strong disapprobation of what he deemed an intrusion, as he nimbly passed from the paddle-box to the bridge and the bridge to the paddle-box, and finally declared that if our reporter went he would stay behind. There was no gainsaying this line of argument. The ship had to be cleared, so our reporter stepped ashore, and the Geelong sped on her way down the harbour. In due course she cleared the Heads and made fast to the ship, and the tide being strong flood, the inward passage was soon completed, and by 2 o'clock the ship was at the Pier. This thorough proceeding sufficiently indicated the healthy condition of the passengers.
Although the passage had been a long one, they had enjoyed remarkably good health. This was what might have been expected, the total number of souls on board, exclusive of the crew being only 168 when the ship left London. Dr Smith, the surgeon-superintendent, informed us that seven deaths and two births, had occurred on board, the deaths, excepting one, being confined to children of tender years, and were caused by infantile complaints. Death first appeared on January 12th, when Sarah Hudson aged three years succumbed to pneumonia; on January 19th Alice Hatchison died of the same disease; and on the 23rd Joseph Irwin was carried off by an attack of diarrhoea. On January 31st Henry Vickers aged 3 years, of acute hydrocephalus; and on the 2nd February , Frederick Vickers, aged 1 year, died of the same complaint. The last death occurred on the 16th April, when William Powel, a married man but without children, died of acute phthisis. Of births, there were two. Mrs Bates was confined of a daughter on the 30th January. The child died on the 28th February of diarrhoea. On January 30the Mrs Janet Bates was confined of a daughter.
As soon as the ship reached the pier preparations for landing the immigrants were made, and such good despatch used that all of them and their baggage were sent to Dunedin by the 3.30 train. They are classified as follows:- 80 married couples, 49 single men, 21 single women, 25 male children and 8 females under 12 years of age and 2 infants. These figures are only approximately correct, as in consequence of the bustle that attended the landing of the immigrants, we could not obtain inspection of the official passenger list. There were not any cabin passengers. As customary with us, we inspected the immigrants compartments, and have much pleasure in attesting to their cleanliness. The offices were roomy and well appointed, and the several passengers whom we spoke to expressed unqualified satisfaction with the entertainment they had Recieved on board. In all other respects the smart little William Davie (only a few years ago she was classed amongst the big ships) has arrived in good order. We are pleased to welcome her back. This voyage she is commanded by Captain McAllister, with Mr Skipsey still Chief Officer. They, together with the Doctor, and Mrs Pilkington (the matron) gave the immigrants a very good character, and we readily believe them, the appearance of their charges being very superior.
The ship's log-book supplied us with a report of the passage. It had a wretched commencement, and was lost almost before the vessel cleared soundings through one of the longest spells of heavy westerly weather that we have heard of for some time. She had all her bad luck at once, for after the weather cleared up the passage was remarkably fine and moderate throughout, only one other gale being encountered, and that not before she was close up with the New Zealand coast. The Davie left Gravesend on January 10th and thus has been 101 days on the way. South and S. W. winds, fresh and gusty, prevailed in the Channel and on the 13th she departed from Start Point, and on the following day reduced canvas to the commencement of bad weather, which lasted until the 25th. It was a strong heavy blow from S. W., the wind hauling at times to south one way west the other. During the greater part of the time the ship was under head reaching canvas, once or twice she managed to show upper topsails to it, but not for long. On the 22nd, the first indications of a permanent change were apparent in severe thunder and lightning, and a short break intervened. But next day the gale increased with tenfold violence. To quote the log - "Terrific gale with terrible rains squalls". The ship was hove-to under lower maintopsail and plunged and strained tremendously in the heavy sea. The lightening and thunder were very severe. This proved to be the finish of the gales. On the 25th the weather fairly broke, and sail was made. During the gale the ship behaved magnificently and made good weather of it indeed".
At noon on the 25th she was in alt.47.48 N., long. 8.4 W., just clear of the channel. Thence westerly, S. W. and southerly weather still headed her, with one or two short spells of leading winds until the 7th February, when she came within the influence of the N. E. Trade in lat. 30. 58. As of to make amends for past reverses, the Trade proved fresh and steady, and the ship knocked off her 9 and 10 knots in good style. It gave out on the 16th in lat. 3 north. Then followed an irritating spell of seven days of doldrum weather , the Line not being crossed until the 23rd, long, 21 W. Whilst in the doldrums, on the 18th the Davie signalled the ship victory, from Rangoon to Falmouth, 78 days out. When on the line, the barque Shooting Star from London to Auckland, 65 days out was signalled. The S. E. Trade was met with a few miles north of the Line, and held a good trade inclining easterly until the 7th march, when it gave out. The wind then veered to N. E., and kept in the northern quadrant until the 12th; the ship continued making good headway. On the 13th, the first taste of the westerlies was obtained, and on the following day, Gough's Island was passed to the southward. The 14th and 15th were marked by the winds coquetting in the eastward, and then they backed to the N. W., and excepting one short break, held fair and steady until the ship made land. On the 16th March she crossed the Grand Meridian, and the meridian of the Cape on the 20th, and that of the Lewin on the 10th April. She made capital running between the 45th and 48th parallels, her better day's work's being 303, 306 and 310 knots, but she frequently knocked off from 270 to 290 knots but the 24 hours. On the 15 April she encountered a strong northerly gale, and had to heave-to for a few hours, but again made sail and on the 20th passed within sight of the snares; passed the Nuggets next day, and arrived at the Heads yesterday morning. Besides the two enumerated above the Davie signalled another vessel during the passage. She showed up on the 5th March, and proved to be a Kaffir, from London bound to the Cape of Good Hope. The William Davie has brought about 900 tons of cargo, chiefly dead weight.