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Week 24 - Trouble on land and at sea

[ 31st of July 1836 to 6th of August 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 24: Pets ]

The initial excitement of arriving at their destination is dissipating fast as Captain Morgan, Samuel Stephens and the passengers confront the realities of their new situation.  Their first concerns are finding fresh water and providing for one of the passengers, Mrs Beare, who is described as being ‘in a deranged state of mind’. Getting her into a tent on shore is an urgent priority.

That task achieved, Captain Morgan and Samuel Stephens resume their explorations and finally meet with two of the men, Henry Wallan and John Day, who are unofficial residents on the Island.  They visit their ‘nice little farm’, buy some pigs and vegetables and invite them to visit the ships with their Aboriginal female companions.  A cordial relationship is soon established and Henry Wallan agrees to work for Samuel Stephens for three months, for the sum of £1/10sh and provisions.

Scene: Mr Beares Tent

Mr Beare's tents, Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island. ca. 1836. By Colonel William Light.

Here the cordiality ends. For the first time a passionate argument erupts between Stephens and Captain Morgan over a perceived slight.  It emerges that Morgan has serious concerns about some of Stephens’ behaviour, particularly towards Mrs Beare, but we also see the first hint of a personal attachment developing between Stephens and Miss Beare, despite the disparity in their ages. The crews of both vessels are also disaffected and positively refuse to unload either cargo or passengers unless they are paid.  The South Australian venture sees its first strike – within a week of landing!  Stephens must hand over £90 to the crew to entice them to resume work.

At sea

There is trouble also at sea.  On the Africaine, Mary Thomas is both distressed and angry to find that her much–loved cat has been thrown overboard during the night by a group of the passengers.  The crew is also incensed.  Much superstition surrounds cats on board and harming a cat is believed to bring bad luck.  The crew threatens retribution against the culprit/s should they be found. Not surprisingly, no one owns up.  Mary has her suspicions however and pins up a poem about the incident where everyone can read it.  Many years later she finds that she was right.

Oddly enough, cats are also a problem on the Buffalo, but this time because there are too many of them.  George Stevenson manages to remove some before the ship leaves St Helens, and orders the emigrants’ deck to be cleansed to get rid of the stench they have created. Ironically he still believes that cats ‘are probably valuable in the colony’ – a remark that we now find hard to understand.  On a lighter note, the Misses Hindmarsh set about trying to entertain their fellow passengers, as befits young ladies.  They produce two editions of a hand written journal, the ‘Buffalo Telegraph’, which Stevenson dismisses as exhibiting ‘scarcely a redeeming point of intelligence or wit’. Since he is secretary to the Governor, we can assume that he probably keeps this view to himself for the time being!

Language warning

Please note that these sources contain language which is today considered offensive. It has been retained as it is part of the historical record and evidence of past attitudes.


Journals from settlers in South Australia:

Sunday 31 July 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours passing showers of rain in the fore
noon had prayers in the cabin with a surmon
13th chapt of Hebs 5th verce in the afternoon instruct
ed the children I was sent for by Mrs Bear one of
our passengers who is in a deranged state of mind
with four helpless babes to look to her as a mother
I think the means used for her is too hars not suited
to the case I read and reasoned with her but I
am afraid to little perpose in the everning
we had service on the quater deck read the 13th chapt
of epist of Hebs read a surmon and exhorted the people
we commenced and ended with prayer and sung allso
so concluded with this day the first in this port
Mr Stevens and Mr Bear on shore erecting a tent
for Mrs Bear with desire to git her on shore as soon
as posable beliveing it the best

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 1 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Had Mrs. Beare taken on shore, then took two hands and the well borer and went once more in search of water and a suitable place to discharge the cargo. Succeeded better than I expected and fixed upon a spot which I think will be our first town, then went on board a boat with Captain Morgan and The action or process of measuring the depth of water with a sounding line, a line marked at intervals of fathoms and weighted at one end. A fathom is a unit of length equal to 6 feet (1.83 metres). sounded the Bay nearly to Point Marsden. Returned to the ship at 8p.m. much exhausted having neither eaten nor drank anything since 5a.m.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 2 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours moderate breeses from the North
early this morning Mr Stevens Captn Ross and
myself went to the river in search of the boat
and if posable to git some whild foul in walking
along the side of the river on the oppersite side
I saw a man some what like when a boy I have
seen Robinson cruso with long hair and beard a
stick in his hand and verry little apparel/clothing apperil I
put to him a few questions which he answered
said he had bing here since 1832 had a farm
by the side of the river with another man and
had come down in search of swans eggs by this
time Mr Stevens came up who was behind in
the boat the man turned back and we
accompanied him to his farm which was
closed in with piles drove in the ground conta
ining about five acres of weat some turnips
cabages onions and a few pertatoes they have
pigs and fouls a fine cat we where introduced to
the partner of our friend who appeared to be a
rough sailor though left of sea and had bing
on the island about      years and had become
quite nativefied his voice appeard to have lost
his mother tongue as regards voice they said
they had two women lived with them which
they called Aboriginal women, from dyin in the langauge of the Sydney area, usually used perjoratively jins and they where gone to catch
wallaby that is a small kind of Kangaroo
Mr Stevens invited them to come with thier wives
to see him on sunday and have a religious ser
vice but says the man to introduce our wives whould
be like introduceing a dog to you presence they
lived in small one story leve with the ground
houses had out houses for thier stock I promiced
to give them some Essay or pamphlet, generally on a religious topic. tracts with a Bible each
in the everning returned on board with some
ducks and a swan and found my own crew and
the Lady Mary Pelham’s L M Pelhams and the people on shore had re
fused duty I had prayers in the cabin with
the mate two foremast men and the two
apprentices and found Mrs Bear much worse

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 2 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Having given Mr. Birdseye directions for the men during the day went on board the Pelham at ½ past 5a.m. to breakfast and at ½ past 6 in company with Captains Morgan and Ross put off in a boat in search of the one we had lost in the River Morgan. Shot a swan and some ducks on our way and when about 8 miles up the river fell in with John Day a resident on the Island, took him on board explained to him the reason of our coming to the Island and visited his residence. His partner Henry Wallan is the oldest resident on the Island having been here 18 years. They seem very industrious and steady people having a nice little farm of about 5 acres (two of which are under a fine crop of wheat) 8 or 10 pigs, some poultry and various vegetables, purchased two pigs for the ships brought away a bag of turnips and left two men and 1 boat to come down the following day with the pigs and settlers, reached the Pelham about 9p.m. and was not a little surprised to find that all my men and the crews of both vessels had struck work! Saw my men immediately and after some lengthy conversation was pleased to find them agree to return to their alleigance. Retired to bed on board the Duke of York at 2a.m.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 3 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours mostly strong winds attended
with rain I had the people called on the quater
deck to know the reason they refused to land the
passengers things they sayd Mr Stevens had promiced
them fivety pounds and they whould not work till
he paid them so I let it stand till farther advice
the two men came from the farm Mr Stevens was
not on board but had bing makeing signals
on shore and no one preceived him
we had family prayer in the everning I went
to bed as usal and was disturbed some time after
by hereing Mr Stevens going on in a most unman
ly way it appears he was hurt in not being heard
when these men where on board for he wanted to
be on board to receive them I heard him say it
was an eternal disgrace to the captain an eternal
disgrace to the officers and crew and he should
write to the directors and inform them and he was
a magestrate and so on and said he should like
to see the captain but surposed I was asleep so I got
up and told him what I thought of his conduct
dureing the time I have had to be with him as to
his moral conduct I have known when we have
bing in our extrimities he has bing lost and as his
conduct towards Mr Bear and family has bing
such as no one but whould disapprove off he has
came into the cabin tore down the curtains got
a horse wip and thretned to horse wip Mrs Bear
and has told Mr Bear in the hereing of his wife
that he whould banish him and his family to
any part of the Island and cut off his supplys
the poor whoman is now raveing mad with four
helpless babes on board with the sister of Mr Bears
who is over come with the good qualities of Mr Stevens
at the age of fivety Mr B disapproves of such conduct
well god makes the ungodly his rod but either to
they can come and no farther Mr Stevens I under
stand has bing down where the people lives and
paid them fivety pounds – so ended this day

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 3 August 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Spent the whole day in endeavouring to restore peace on board the ships. The grievance was the having to bring out and land passengers and cargo without some remuneration and both crews positively refused to lower another boat unless they first received the sum they wished. To the Pelham I sent £40 through their Captain to pay the remainder of the money promised them at Liverpool by consent of Mr. Hurry and I further consented to give them 1 Also known as a ‘piece of eight’, this large silver coin was minted in Spain from 1497. Widely used in the Americas, Europe and the Far East, it became a form of world currency and was widely used in trade, including within the British Empire, where there was often a shortage of coinage. It was the basis for the American dollar and equated to approximately one dollar in value. Pieces of eight were also associated in the popular imagination with piracy. Spanish dollar per man for landing the cargo. To the crew of the Duke of York I gave £50 which I had partly promised in Torbay (England and for this sum they promised to land passengers and cargo in good order. Henry Wallan and John Day came to our ship today and brought the 2 pigs. I was ashore at the time and for 2 hours hailed the ship (and fired 7 shots to her) but could not get a boat put off for me although the Captain knew I had asked the settlers to dine with me and look at the act of Parliament and other Documents connected with the Colony. Captain Ross brought the men ashore, and I returned by his boat having first agreed with Henry Wallan to give me his service and advice in any way I wished for the space of 3 months from this day in consideration of the payment to him of £1:10:0 and his provisions. On reaching the ship spoke to Captain Morgan and Mate about what I considered the very uncourteous behaviour in not answering my hail. This was the first time since we left England that I had made the least complaint to captain Morgan ( though I ought to have done so more than once) and I was perfectly astonished to find him get so warm and use to me language so exceedingly disrespectful and unprovoked. Henry Wallan and John Day acknowledge me as Magistrate of the Island and on arrival of the Governor wish to retain their farm on payment of the purchase money.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Journals from passengers at sea:

Monday 1 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Warmly did our hearts respond to those of our friends who on the 1st of this month would celebrate at Barkway the anniversary of Harriet’s birthday. How often did we talk over the events which were probably being enacted at the moment of our speaking! And herein we had an advantage over our Barkway friends for knowing the exact difference of time between our position on the globe and theirs, we were able to fix upon the precise moment for dinner, for the usual course of toasts and expressions of kindness & affection, and, last of all, for the striking of the hour of twelve, when we knew Caroline would in her own inimitable style give the crowning glass to the whole – at the same hour the time having been calculated to the minute, Harriet & I joined in ardently wishing every blessing to be the portion of each around her.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 2 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Who killed my cat? Suppose I tell;
Unless deceived, I know full well;
But you, perhaps, may guess the plot
When I have told you who ‘twas not.
‘Twas not the captain nor the mate,
For they, I’m sure, had no such hate,
But both expressed their deep regret
That Puss with such a fate had met.
‘Twas not the steward; he desired
That she should every day be fed,
And said, ‘I tink dat man so bad
Who dared do wicked act so sad.’
‘Twas not the sailors; one and all
They would apprehend a squall,
And vow that man should drowned be
Who threw a cat into the sea.
‘Twas non who in the steerage dwelt,
For they had more humanely felt,
And all, with Nature’s truth inspired,
Her stripes and beauty much admired.
Who was it, then, who killed my cat?

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 3 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

D,W                thomas washed a Shirt
Handkerchiefe and one
Pair Of stockings Mr
Fink Consented for the
Cheaf Mate to Sleep in
his Cabbin to make room
for one of the feamaile
Pasangers that was Sick
Mrs Stuckey

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 4 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

The second No of the Buffalo Telegraph
today. A dead failure. Scarcely a redeeming point
of intelligence or wit.  Scraps from young ladies’
Books of useful information or memorable sayings, compiled by individuals. They were often hand-written, but could also include pasted extracts – hence scrap books. common place books do not become original by
being fairly copied into a sheet of foolscap

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 5 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

For the last three days the
Emigrants deck has been in a most offensive
state – so much so that it was impossible to
pass along without fingers to the nostril. To cleanse
it at last, became a matter of absolute necessity,
and this has accordingly been done to-day with
bleaching powder chloride of lime and plenty of seawater. I had
some difficulty before leaving St Helen’s in procuring
a number of cats to be sent on shore. They were
very numerous and had crept under the berths
of the emigrants, which is the main cause of the
horrid effluvia now existing. Cats are probably
valuable in the colony, but whoever takes them
out should be obliged to keep them sweet and
clean and confined to a hutch during the
voyage.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 5 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Light airs & cloudy, N.E. All sail set. Shewed
our Number to the The Channel Squadron of the Royal Navy was first stationed in the English Channel in 1690 to defend Britain against the French Navy. Channel Squadron (6 sail of line)
Noon. Almost calm & fine. Aired the emigrants’ bedding &c.
& inspected them for This might refer to bed bugs, fleas, lice, or all three. Scabies was also often referred to as ‘the itch’, but the mites which cause it are microscopic and unlikely to be found by inspection of bedding. the itch – a few cases only. P.M. A light
breeze from the Northward. Attended concert in the cabin.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 6 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

S-W                 Cut out Lower
Stunsell Built 6 Houses for
Gogs 3 Oclock halfter noon
a General Dispute took Place
Betwean the Emegrants
and the Captain Respecting
the rations rashings and the Either specified areas on deck limiting access to different groups of passengers for walking, parading or promenading, or just limited space. delimeted Spaise
of Deck for Praiding the
weather Very fine Running 6½ Knots

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next week

Disputes and quarrels continue at the Island settlement, while the crews get riotously drunk on stolen liquor.  Drunkenness is also a problem on the Africaine, and Captain Duff decides that no more spirits will be served to the emigrant women and children.

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Image Credit: Courtesy of State Library of South Australia PRG 1/5/182

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