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Captain George Toleman Ralls

Captain George Ralls...

1838 - 25 January 1927

George Tolman Ralls was born in Horsey, Bridgewater, Somerset, England, the son of George Ralls (born 16 Sept. 1808) and Mary Toleman (born abt 1811). Although his mother's surname suggests that his middle name should be Toleman, all other references do not use the 'e'.

The Captain's parents and grandparents were born in Horsey, Bridgwater, Somerset, England, so I assume the Captain was born there, and the prior two generations were from Ashcott, Somerset.


  •  His Family
  •  Gone to Sea
  •  The "Maryborough"

    Young George had 5 sisters (3 older) and 2 brothers (1 older)...

    •  Mary Tolman Ralls (born 22 Feb 1832)
    •  Jane Ralls (born about 1834)
    •  Julia Ralls (born abt 1836)
    •  John Tolman Ralls (born abt 1837)
    •  Anna Ralls (born abt 1841)
    •  Diane (Dinah) Ralls (born 1845)
    •  Orlando Ralls (born abt 1848)

    George's brother John was my great-great-grandfather.


    Captain George must have gone to sea at a young age and under an accomplished master, because by early 1870 at the age of 31 he was master of his own vessel, the "Maryborough". These facts are carved on his first wife's headstone. (story to follow of how I came across this amazing information)


    From "TheShipsList" archives I have come across a couple of references to the "Maryborough".

    The "Maryborough" was originally named the "Robert Parker", and there are accounts of her voyages in a book named "The Passage Makers" by Michael Stammers. She was renamed "Maryborough" on 10 April 1862 when she was purchased by Baines and Co. of the Blackwall Line. She was put on the Australia run to Queensland but was never a fast ship. Although well made she did not make any fast passages to Queensland.


    FIRST WIFE: Susan Brewer

    [Author's note:  I can only assume that this is George Tolman Ralls first wife from the details on a headstone in a churchyard in the heart of Brisbane city, Australia.  There cannot have been many ships captains by that name sailing in these waters in that time.  The surname Brewer was supplied by the person who had researched this headstone in Brisbane]

    The "Maryborough" sailed from Gravesend, England on 9 December 1869, under the hand of a 31-year-old Captain George Ralls, and arrived in Brisbane on 15 April 1870. Captain Ralls was presumably accompanied on this journey by his pregnant, 27-year old wife Susan.  This was not unusual and the Captain's second wife, Adelaide, travelled at least three times with her husband from England to New Zealand in the 1870s as three of her children were born "at Sea".

    Less than six weeks after their arrival in Brisbane, Susan and newborn infant son George, were dead and buried in the Paddington Cemetery in what is now the heart of modern Brisbane, only to be rediscovered by family 132 years later to the day, and their lives remembered and noted with flowers.

    How they died I have been unable to ascertain, and it can only be assumed that Susan and the young George died as a result of childbirth complications.

    Susan Ralls (nee Brewer) headstone reads...


    Sacred to the memory of

    Susan the beloved wife of

    George RALLS master of the ship "Maryborough"

    who departed this life 21st May 1870 aged 27 years

    also George infant son of the above died 13th May 1870 aged 5 days.

    Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. John xiv:1,2.



    (Click photo to open large versions in new page, close that page to return here)

    The great grandnephew of Captain George, Malcolm Ralls and his wife, have now retired from New Zealand to Brisbane and have visited the headstone.  Malcolm is the grandson of George Ralls brother John Tolman Ralls. Malcolm's daughter Julie is my third cousin, and lives at Whangarei Heads, New Zealand.

    The person that took this photograph (not related) commented on the pattern of lichen and staining on the headstone that bore some resemblance to the Grim Reaper.


    SECOND WIFE:  Adelaide Tompkins

    [Author's note:  I have only recently discovered (Sept 2005) Adelaide's surname, through her sister Susanna and brother-in-law John Henry Dickinson on the night of the 1891 UK census.]

    George Ralls and Adelaide Tompkins were married in the Jan-Feb-March quarter of 1872 and the marriage is recorded in the UK General Register Office (GRO) index for the district of Bicester, Volume 3a, Page 751.

    George was obviously not of the 'girl in every port' kind of sailor, well at least not while he had the privileges of captain anyway, and travelled with his wives.  Adelaide gave birth to their three eldest children at sea, and this is recorded in White Wings as well as on the various census results that the children appeared on subsequently.

    This must have been an arduous and at times terrifying life for a woman of those times, where a one-way voyage lasted over three months, for half the year your family is twelve thousand miles away, and there are no hospitals when things go wrong.

    In January 2006 while searching for records of my great grandfather's arrival in New Zealand, I came across a reference to the death of the infant son of "Captain G.A. Ralls, of the City of Auckland" on 10 September 1873.

    I have included a transcript from the newspaper articles of the time reporting the arrival of the City in the port of Auckland on the page dedicated to the City of Auckland.

    This meant that the captain and his new wife Adelaide lost their firstborn and a second son for George, just four days out from their arrival in New Zealand on the captain's first voyage as the master of the City of Auckland.  I will try a search of deaths registered in New Zealand in that year to ascertain if the death was registered here when the ship arrived, and report results here.


    In 1873 Captain Ralls, at the age of 35, was in command of the ship "City of Auckland", not to be confused with another ship called simply "Auckland".

    The "City" was a fine new vessel, constructed in 1869 especially for the immigrant trade between London and Auckland, New Zealand.  She was a strong ship of 5½-inch teak with copper fastening over an iron frame, and her first four voyages were under the command of Captain William Ashby, a respected captain of the time who had made several prior voyages to New Zealand and was well qualified to oversee her construction.  Captain Ashby was a part-owner of the ship as well.

    Captain Ashby made four return trips from London to Auckland averaging about 96 days for the outward voyage, and then on 5 June 1873 the "City" again left London but this time under the hand of Captain George Tolman Ralls.

    Captain George made five return voyages from London to Auckland from 1873 until 1877, and then on his sixth voyage to New Zealand the ship was wrecked on Otaki Beach, New Zealand, on the night of 22 October 1878. More on the wreck...


    The Captain retired to the village of Sandford-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, and in 2004 I had some young friends who were living and working/travelling near London, and they travelled to modern-day Sandford and brought me home some brilliant photographs (see Links below).


    Sandford 2004 photos

    © Copyright 2000 - 2004 - Graham Ralls - Last updated: 14 October, 2007