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Week 21 - a sumptuous feast

[ 10th of July 1836 to 16th of July 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 21: What's Cooking? ]

This week we have eight of the nine ships on the ocean, as the Buffalo makes ready to sail. We also have a rare insight into the thoughts and feelings of one of the ordinary emigrants who is traveling in steerage. Rosina Ferguson and her husband have left their native Scotland to travel to Portsmouth where they have boarded the Buffalo. Although a little annoyed that the ‘ladies and gentlemen’ travelling with them have been much slower to board, she is generally content, and is gratified that a woman in her ‘station in life’ has been shown ‘every kindness’. The berths sound very small and cramped to us now, only six feet by four, and separated by flimsy canvas sheeting. Rosina says they are like her ‘mother’s hens nests’, but she is grateful for her health and for her husband – ‘one of the kindest and best of husbands I could desire’.  We can’t help but hope that all will go well for her on the voyage.

It is a far cry from Rosina’s cramped quarters to those of cabin passengers like Robert Gouger, who is travelling on the Africaine. In his dairy this week he describes how they ‘fare sumptuously every day’ and goes on to detail what seems to be a quite extraordinary amount of food and drink consumed.  We might wonder whether any of these ladies and gentlemen were actually sober by the late afternoon!  Gouger’s diary also points to the differences between the standards of fare served to the different classes of passengers.  While the cabin passengers eat fresh meat every day, those in Cabins of lesser comfort than those occupied by privileged passengers and intermediate between them and the dormitory accommodation afforded the emigrants. intermediate cabins only have fresh meat once per week.  Gouger doesn’t bother to tell us what the emigrants in steerage are served, only that they ‘are all contented, and have reason to be.’ We shall find out whether they agree with him over the coming weeks and months!

Meanwhile Captain Morgan is approaching the end of his journey, as he heads into the Great Australian Bight.  He catches his first glimpse of Australia, but his pleasure is spoiled by wrangling and petty thefts between his passengers and crew.  In despair Captain Morgan reflects that ‘such ignorence and vice I belive seldom ever met together’.

SLSA_B4263_HMS_Buffalo_1836 low res

HMS Buffalo, 1836. Image courtesy of SLSA: B4263

Journals from passengers at sea:

Tuesday 12 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

On Board His Majestys Ship Buffalo Portsmouth
July the 12 1836

My Dear parents and friends

I now embrace this opportunity along with
Sir James he intends to leave us tomorrow we have fairly tired him out
Captain Hindmarsh is still in London. He is attending Court to day
to take leave of the King. He is to be here tomorrow and we expect to
get away at the end of the week. I am sure it is quite provoking
the way the[y] have gone on first and last we have been on board since
Friday last. …
… There is a great deal of both ladies and gentlemen going
out with us but they are not come on board yet and a doctor
how many young doctors I do not know. There is another
Scotch family besides us. They came from Fifeshire within 4
miles of Bomino[?] but they do not know Uncle’s folk his name
is Cock he is a joiner with a wife and six children just going
out on his own expense upon chance. He has been this six weeks
at Portsmouth at lodgings and they are very dear here indeed.
There is a great deal of familys going in the Buffalo but they are a [?]
way of us for the children makes such a noise there is 22 in our
mess that is the place that we stop in our beds is six feet long 4 feet wide
They are like press shelfs one above another ours fortunately is an under one there
is no more division than a piece of canvas on the side partition. They are
like my mother’s hens nests. How strange every thing seems here indeed …
…  I had nearly forgot to mention
Sir Pulteney’s son that is at Sidney they had a letter from him
two three days before we left London saying he intended to
make Mr. William a present of a few of the finest of Merino
sheep I suppose these will be about a score but he did not mention
how many but they fancy [?] about what I have stated likewise.
Ferguson has a letter to a gentlemans son there the[y] saw his father
in London. He was selling his wooll he is just returned home
but his son is remaining he told Sir James and Ferguson what
sort of management and sheep was most profitable for the Colony
and sent a letter to his son to render them all the assistance
he could. Every [thing] still appears promising and if we are just favoured
with our Heavenly fathers countenance and protection there is
about 20 of the Royal marines goes out to protect us from our
earthly enemies. There is also a paper to be printed weekly in the Colony
their was one printed before we left London I got a copy
of one which I intend to send along with this …

… I must now stop and wish you good
bys I wish you may be able to make out this scrawl I am far from
you but I have every kindness shown me, more than I ever
expected in my station of life, and more than that one of the kindest
and best of husbands I could desire. If it is the almighty will to spare
us to [?] if not that we may be enabled to undergo what
ever he thinks proper to afflict us with. Ferguson joins me
with sincerest love to you all …
… so good bye and believe us ever your affectionate son and
Rosina Ferguson
July the 12/ 1836

Thursday morning Spithead we have got this far now…
…  After you have read the paper you may
send it to my father in law Hardy [?] perhaps will like to see it.
Sir James has made me a present of a pounds worth of little cake.
It is beef boiled till it is like glue. In case I am sick we dissolve it in
water and it is like beef tea. Now my dear parents I hope you will I seriously
beg of you not to make yourselves unhappy about us for we are
very comfortable, as much and more than we could expect.
I will not let one opportunity slip of giving you every detail of how we are and how we get on…

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Sunday 10 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

This being Sunday we, for the first time after we
came on board, had Divine Service on deck, amidst the heaving
of the ship, the sea being very rough, and the roar of the waves
sometimes almost drowning the voice of the officiator, the sur-
geon. In the evening we came in sight of the island of Madeira,
and passed it in the night, with a strong breeze blowing.

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Wednesday 13 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Wednesday, July 13, 1836. Fresh breezes & cloudy from the Westward.
The Ship loosed from the Hulk, & anchored at Spithead.

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Wednesday 13 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours light winds from the SE all sail
set fine clear atmisphier with smoth water
at half past 3 PM saw the land of austrilia bearing
ENE at 5 PM a ridge of rock bore by compass
NE by E½E distance 7 leagues Longd 116.28 E Latt
35.35 South…

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Wednesday 13 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

July 13th .

… Our cabin party besides Capn & Mrs Duff, consists of ourselves, Mr, Mrs & Miss Brown, the Emigration agent, his wife and sister; Mr & Mrs Hallett, a merchant & purchaser of land who settles in the colony and who is in partnership with Duff; Mr Everard & his wife; and Mr Skipper, the son of a solicitor of Norwich who is articled to Mr Mann, the Attorney General of the colony. The first mate also dines in the cuddy; thus we have the unfortunate number of thirteen!

We fare sumptuously every day – Hot rolls for breakfast manufactured by our excellent black steward, eggs, rice, two sorts of cold meat, coffee, & every tolerable tea. At twelve luncheon: bread & cheese, the last of two kinds, both good, with admirable bottled porter, Hodgson’s pale ale wine & spirits. We dine at four; soup of an excellent quality, two joints, and poultry. As a sample: today we had pea soup, salt fish & eggs, haunch of mutton, fowls and pork – occasionally plum pudding. Then beer, porter, wine and spirits as the French say à la volonté, which is being interpreted, as much as you please. Tea at eight, and the grog bottles from nine to ten. This precision on my part is for the especial consideration of Household [?]. It is true the ducks & geese are sometimes worthy the appellation of matrons, but certainly everything is better than I found it at Ibbotson’s Hotel. Harriet gives the soups unequivocal praise, and while I am writing she is having for luncheon a basin of chicken broth, which calls forth a laudation at every mouthful.

The intermediate party (i.e. between the cabin and the steerage) consists of eighteen persons; one intends to keep an hotel in the colony, Mr Thomas and his family (he is the proprietor of the colonial newspaper), my clerk Mr Nantes, and four proprietors of land in South Australia. They fare differently to the cabin passengers, having fresh meat but once a week, and on other days salt fish, pork or beef.

The labourers and their families occupy the next compartment in the ship. Their number is about 50; they are all contented, and have reason to be so; in this place Mr Pollard & his wife are, with our servants. And now for a word about these. Pollard has volunteered to take charge of the poultry, the pigs & sheep, and my goats. He takes excessive pride in them & boasts of their condition daily; moreover he milks the goats, and performs upon the pigs and sheep when occasion requires the kindly offices of the butcher…

… I must however say at any risk that Capn Duff’s conduct in every respect merits the warmest encomiums; he appears to be a thorough sailor, decisive and skilful; he pays equal attention to all the passengers, has no favorites apparently, & therefore is a general favorite.

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Friday 15 July 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours gentle breeses from the NNE plesent weather
all sail set steering E by S saw the land bearing NE
employd gitting up water and provisions
Lattd 36.47 South Longd 119.48 East
Most part of the afternon of this day has bing spent in
controvercy about petty thiefts between the crew and
passengers such ignorence and vice I belive seldom ever
met togather but god knoweth how to deliver out of the
hands of the cruel man..

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Next week: Passengers on the Africaine are out of sorts – some ill, others discontented with their provisions.  The Buffalo is delayed at St Helen’s, but the Duke of York is closing in on Kangaroo Island.

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HMS Buffalo, 1836. Image courtesy of State Library of South Australia, B 4263.

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