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Week 28 - A wedding on the beach

[ 28th of August 1836 to 3rd of September 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 28 - Education ]

On land

Things are looking up at the tiny settlement of Kingscote.  We start the week with a wedding on board the John Pirie. Mary Ann Powell, who travelled as an emigrant in steerage with her two brothers and sister-in-law, marries one of the Pirie crew – William Staple, who intends to remain in South Australia.  After the ceremony they all repair to the tents for dinner, music and dancing.  Things liven up later, with ‘one or two amicable fights, amongst which the Bride and Groom were very conspicuous’, John Woodforde reports. But squabbles aside, the celebration seems to lift the general mood to everyone’s satisfaction.

Come Monday morning though, Samuel Stephens’ troubles return. His two officers are still largely absent.  His second in command, Thomas Hudson Beare has not reported for duty, although his wife seems to be improving, and Mr Birdseye apparently only consents to turn up for a few hours in the middle of each day. A harassed Stephens is relying more and more on Henry Wallan, one of the original settlers, who begins to supervise the company men in building a store.  When Mr Beare turns up on Wednesday 31st to resume his duties Stephens ignores him. And so it goes on.  Some of the other recalcitrants have turned up again however.  James and Joseph Jones seem to have tired of their strike and come to Stephens ‘begging that I would receive them again’.  Strikes are all very well, but there is only one employer on this Island at the moment, and he has all the provisions as well!

And there is more good news.  Captain Morgan reports at the end of the week that Mrs Beare is much better.  Her children are able to return to her and she is able to acknowledge them.  What a bewildering experience it all must have been for these children.

At sea

On the Africaine Mary Thomas is a little happier.  She has made friends with the cabin cook who, in exchange for an extra glass of rum, will sometimes cook something for her.  Mind you the fare does not sound very appetising – salt beef pie, rice pudding without eggs or milk and cake made with dripping.  Still, beggars can’t be choosers and Mary is ever the optimist. She finds some aspects of shipboard life more difficult though.  Earlier in the week she had her first experience of shipboard discipline, and found it brutal and distressing.

On the Buffalo progress is slow and George Stevenson continues his relentless critique of his employer, Governor Hindmarsh.  There is no Sunday School again and Stevenson laments the lost opportunity to school the emigrant children.  He also gives us an interesting insight into the uncomfortable conditions the poor steerage passengers must endure.  The passengers are strictly segregated on deck and the only walking area accessible to steerage travellers is alongside the pig pens, which are ‘generally in a horrid state of dirt and uncleanness’.  These injustices will ‘tell eventually’ he writes darkly.

Scene: burial at sea
Burial at Sea, ca. 1854. by Charles Lyall

This week is also a sad one on board the Buffalo. One of the sailors dies of consumption (tuberculosis).  He is said to be ‘sensible to his latest hour, and spoke of his own death with the calmness and hope of a Christian.’ When he is buried later that evening, the shipmate who nursed him throughout ‘shewed by his sobbing and tears that a sailor can feel like a man’.  It is a salutary occasion for all on board.

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 28 August 1836

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

… in the afternoon Jones & Glansford and myself
went on shore and in the bush by the sea side we
powered out our prayer at a throne of grace and
was refreshed in the wilderness in the settlement they
had the coulours flying and the fidle playing and dancing
selebrating a sailors weding Captn Martain had maried
them one of his crew to one of the emigrants

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 28 August 1836

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

28th (Sunday). The wedding took place this morning with all becoming solemnity & all due honours.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 28 August 1836

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

The Bay has presented today a singular scene of bustle and merriment on the occasion of a wedding on board the ‘John Pirie’. The ceremony was performed by the Captain after which the happy pair proceeded to the tents where the marriage dinner was prepared. Our crew was invited to the feast which wound up with one or two amicable fights, amongst which the Bride and Bridegroom were conspicuous. The afternoon being very fine I went on shore for a walk but was very soon driven on board again by my implacable enemies – the mosquitoes. They use me very ill and cause me so much irritation on my skin that I am obliged to scratch for half an hour at a time and the consequence is that the bites soon degenerate into ulcers. I have been diligent in my search for Butterflies for dear Melliora but have, as yet, been very unsuccessful. There are, however, some very good shells on the beach and I hope soon to make a collection for her.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 29 August 1836

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

Augst 29th On Saturday Eveng all the Men went down to Kingscote
for their Wages and fresh supplies of Provision, leaving me quite
alone untill this Afternoon (Monday) when two of them came back
named Bates & Powell, with a few Sheep, Pigs and grey Peas,
but the other two Men call’d Jones, who are Brothers (and were brought
out, in the “John Pirie”) refused to come with the “Stock”, because
Mr Stephens would not allow them, to bring any Spirituous Liquours.
The Man Bates mentiond above, has been 13 Years on this
Island, and is a very active, civil sort of Fellow _________

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 29 August 1836

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

29 August-Fresh breezes and squally; went in the A class of net fishing boats used on the Thames estuary. The Rapid’s boat was built specially for the Colonization Commissioners by W.T. Gulliver of Wapping hatch-boat to examine the northern side of the bay, distant about four miles from Kingscote. There is a well of fresh water here, dug in the sand, close to high water mark, which supplies the settlers at Kingscote. The country here is low, and the soil appeared much better than that we had seen before; and altogether, it struck me that a settlement might be formed here at some future period, to great advantage.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 31 August 1836

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

31st Rose at ¼ to 6 A.M. & finding that neither men nor officers were stirring (I had arranged that Mr Dawsea was to call the men this morning at ½ past 5) I sounded the call on my trumpet & soon had the men out, no officer of higher rank appearing to take my orders I at 10 minutes past 6 called Mr Wallan the oldest of the Islanders & a man whom I introduced here & always treated as an officer & to him I explained at length the way in which I wished to have a store built to receive “John Pirie’s” Cargo. I directed him to take all hands with him & set about it immediately. All this time I was out in my shirt shoes & dressing gown & at ½ past 6 as I was going to my tent to dress I saw Mr Beare approaching. I took no notice but went into the tent & prepared to dress, when he came in front & without prefixing or adding any other word called out (I supposed to me) “what are the hands to go about today”. I replied “I have told Mr Wallan” & Mr Beare retired. I may as well here record that this was the first morning Mr Beare had ever appeared to receive in any way my orders as from the severe affliction of his wife I had permitted him to remain with her & had further allowed him some hands to assist him occasionally, & had had his 4 Children under the care of his sister living under a tent by me & at my expense. Two nights before this (up to this time I had every reason to pity & respect him) I had mentioned to him that on the morning of 31st I should begin to build a store &c, & that if he would speak to me in the morning (of the 30th) I would explain to him how it should be done he did not however do so ——

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 31 August 1836

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

Went on board the ‘Duke of York” at 7 a.m. this morning and was much pleased to find my patient better. Returned to my own vessel after breakfast and have been mending old clothes best part of the morning. The Sealers again visited us this morning bringing with them two native men and a woman belonging to the Main. These men are brothers and one of them is the father of the woman who lives with the Sealers on this Island. They were much better looking than we had expected and probably are a good specimen of their tribe – their stature is about 5’6” and their limbs very small – their complexion dark copper-coloured – their features are coarse but exceedingly good-humoured, occasionally giving way to immoderate fits of laughter especially when we gave them brandy and tobacco of which they seemed very fond. They have large flat noses and exceedingly long beards – their hair is not woolly. They are a very ignorant and indolent set of men depending entirely on their women for the means of subsistence which are very uncertain and which probably accounts for their emaciated appearance.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 2 September 1836

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

… Some of the runaway sailors coming in I gave them a small supply of provisions but told them I could not further communicate with them while Capn Ross was in the Bay. I had to manage the men myself to day as usual, having no one to assist me, except Mr Birdseye who appears at the store for 3 or 4 hours in the middle of the day.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 3 September 1836

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

… In the everning had family worship Mrs Bear is
much better and I had the pleasure of seeing her
children restored to her and she acknoledge them which
she has not lately, I believe this is an answer to prayers.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 3 September 1836

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

3rd Called the hands at ½ past 5 A.M. & went on as before & often, very often, looked out in hopes of seeing the Emma that I might get one officer at last to stand by his post & assist me in the present emergency. I have still no communication from the L.M.P. At night paid the men & afterwards received a note from the two men (James & Joseph Jones) who deserted their duty last Monday begging that I would receive them again!!

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Journals from passengers at sea:

Sunday 28 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

AUGUST 28.-This morning, at about 8 o’clock, we had a specimen of ship discipline which, however necessary it may be to maintain subordination, was nevertheless disgusting to the passengers. One of the sailors, who happened to be at the helm, received some orders from the chief mate which he swore he would not obey, and made use of some very abusive language, whereupon the mate struck him. Catching hold of the binnacle, the man overturned it and broke the compass, cutting his head at the same time. The captain was then called, and he also struck the man several times. Some sailors having been called up, the captive’s hands were tied behind him, and he was fastened to a hencoop on the deck, where he remained the greater part of the day. But what made the incident appear worse was that it happened to be Sunday, and we had Divine Service with the culprit in full view, the blood streaming down his face. The man was, I believe, often abusive, but yet it was thought by some that the punishment exceeded the offence, especially as it was well known that the mate was, on account of his surly behaviour, by no means a favourite with the crew, or, indeed, with anyone else on board the vessel.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 28 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

… For Service to-day
had substituted the Articles of War. Surely in the lazy
listlessness of existence at sea there might have been
sufficient time for both – if indeed reading the Mutiny
Act be at all a fitting employment for the day. No
Sunday School. So we thought it would be. What the
plea is we know not. But all this is exceedingly un-
-satisfactory. There are no school books on board to give
to the Emigrants’ children – an unhappy oversight, for
they might have been advantageously instructed during
these long and sleepy days. It will be important to see
that in all future emigrant Ships a person in some
degree qualified to act as Schoolmaster, be sent out.
Next to the Surgeon he would be the most useful person
in the vessel.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 28 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Sunday, Augt 28. Heavy rain, Wind West. Course South.
Mustered the crew & emigrants, & read the The regulations which govern the behaviour of members of the Royal Navy. Articles of war (by the Governor). Lowered the topsails in squalls.
Took in one reef. Noon. Miles run 89 + 2697 = 2786.
Late 10E43′ No. Longe 25E. P.M. Modte with rain. People very
busy catching water in various vessels, water being
scarcer yesterday than brandy or wine: that is to
say that I could get brandy or wine to drink, easier than
water. In 2d reefs of topsails, down royal yards. Rainy.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 30 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Tuesday August 30 Wind fair but the weather unsettled,
the atmosphere heavily charged with electricity. A poor
sailor died this afternoon of tuberculosis consumption. He was perfectly
sensible to his latest hour, and spoke of his death with the
calmness and the hope of a Christian. He was ordered to
be buried in the evening, and accordingly by torch light
his body was committed to the deep. Mr Howard read the
prayers of the Church, the crew was silent and attentive, and
the poor fellow’s mess-mate who had nursed him throughout the
whole period of his illness, shewed by his sobbing and tears
that a sailor can feel like a man.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 31 August 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

… We had now been rather more than two months at sea, and though we were all well stocked with clothes I found it necessary sometimes, as, I believe, most of the passengers did, to wash a few small things such as pocket handkerchiefs, partly to prevent them from getting mouldy, a condition to which I found everything very liable, whether dirty or clean. I mention this to show that our supply of water was sufficient with economy for so doing, but I could not boast of their whiteness when washed in muddy water. Some of the steerage passengers, I understand, washed all their clothes. How they managed it I do not know, but one of the women washed for the surgeon I before mentioned (an Irishman), and, of course, charged an extravagant price, which caused him to make the observation in my hearing that every man while on board of ship ought to be his own washerwoman.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 1 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

SEPTEMBER 1.-We had by this time managed a little better with regard to our cooking, that is, we had made friends with the cabin cook, and by the occasional bribe of a glass of rum he would bake for us whenever he could; sometimes a beef steak pie (salt beef, of course) or a rice pudding (the latter without either eggs or milk) or a dripping cake. Dripping, which in some measure answered the purpose of butter, I purchased from him at a shilling a pound. The wine also was better than at first, whether from the effects of the voyage or not I cannot tell, but we had some of a very fair quality.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 1 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Thursday September 1. A foul wind with a heavy swell
from the South; we are now in the region of what sailors
call “winds which frequently shift from one direction to another baffling winds ” and must be content to endure what
we cannot avoid. The Emigrants have expressed some
dissatisfaction on the substitution of cocoa for tea, and
in fact are not, upon the whole, made so comfortable as it
would be for the interest of the colony that they should
have been. I have exerted my influence with several
of them, and they consent to bear the disagreeables as well
as they can. Let full justice be done to the body of
Emigrants on board this ship; they have suffered without
much murmuring, though they have had several sufficient
causes for complaint. They have no place where they can
walk or breathe unpolluted air; the Sides of a ship raised above deck level to protect objects and crew. bulwarks of the
Buffalo are six feet high; on both sides of the main
deck are rows of filthy hogs kept in pens, generally in
a horrid state of dirt and uncleanness. The Emigrants
can only walk alongside of these animals and inhale
the stench from them: they are forbidden either side of the The quareterdeck was the deck between the main mast and the back of the ship. quarter-deck although the officers and passengers have the Technically called a stern deck, the poop is an exposed partial deck on the stern (rear) of a ship. It forms the roof of the stern or ‘poop’ cabin. poop or what remains of it unoccupied by hay trusses
& hen-coops to themselves. These things make a deep
and ineffaceable impression on the individuals most
directly affected by their operation, and will tell
eventually. It has been a grand and radical error to
send out the Governor of South Australia in the invidious
and arbitrary character of Captain of the Ship: the
consequences of this act must be severely felt by him
if they be not in their result highly detrimental to the
colony. Common people have difficulty in separating
the acts of the Captain from those of the Governor, and
the trifling doings of the one are not likely to increase
respect when they shall be merged in the more important
functions of the other. A voyage like this calls for the
exercise of more philosophy than falls to the common lot
A reference to the teachings of Greek philosopher Zeno. Zeno was never at sea in an Emigrant ship.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next Week: Captain Ross is in trouble on the Lady Mary Pelham but Captain Martin acts as peacemaker on shore and miraculously restores harmony to the warring factions. The Cygnet finally arrives at Nepean Bay, while Light, Pullen and Woodforde set sail for the mainland and are captivated by the country from Rapid Bay to Yankalilla

On the Africaine the Gougers have trouble with one of their servant girls and a baby makes his appearance in the middle of a raging storm.  On the Buffalo the dog Lion falls overboard and the ship must turn around to try to recover him, while the Tam O’Shanter seeks in vain for the thief on board.

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Burial at Sea, ca. 1854. by Charles Lyall part of the Charles Lyall Collection. Sketchbook. pencil on grey paper. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

Comments or Questions:

2 Responses to “Week 28 – A wedding on the beach”

  1. Neil Miller August 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Just a quick note regarding this weeks edition, where there is an error in the spelling of the name of THOMAS Hudson Beare. ( Not, Charles Hudson Beare.)

    Best regards, Neil.

    • Allison August 31, 2011 at 8:16 am #

      Thanks, Neil. We’ve fixed that up.
      Regards, Allison – History SA

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