Monday, 16 August 2010

Bound for South Australia if you're sober, industrious and of good character!

It wasn’t easy earning the right to become a free settler in the new colony of South Australia.

Emigrants had to be recommended for their sobriety and industry and be known to be of ‘good character.’ Which means they had to have references; which means they were gainfully employed and reliable and responsible enough to procure such references. Or they had the money to pay a good forger which I am sure happened more than once.

And, just like the ‘Ten Pound Pom’ Scheme more than one hundred years later, the Mashfords would have had to sign an agreement that they would stay for a certain amount of time.

If they quit the colony within four years of landing or went to the goldfields... an ever present lure just over the border in Victoria... then they had to repay a large proportion of their passage money.

The Colonisation Circular which could be purchased for ‘tuppence’ contained all the information they would need before setting out on their journey. We can only presume that at least one Mashford could read and write or had the money to pay someone to do the reading for them. I am sure all that industry, sobriety and good character would have had them welll prepared.

Emigrants would often have to wait weeks before being told a departure date and, when it came, it would often be announced at short notice. They would have been packed and ready to go for quite some time. The Circular told them that they had to provide their own bedding, a drinking mug... made of tin or pewter, knife and fork and spoon.

When the ‘call to ship’ came they would have hurried to the docks. One presumes this means they were living in quarters nearby in the weeks prior to departure. Each emigrant was expected to carry their own goods on board and stow them in their ‘space.’ It wasn’t much space, barely wide enough for two with a hessian and straw mattress for a bed. It may however have been an improvement for the Mashfords or conditions with which they were long familiar.

The ‘beds’ had no separations between them so privacy was nonexistent. A long table ran the length of the area at the bottom of their sleeping quarters. This was where they would live and eat and sleep for the months it took to reach Australia.

Conditions were cramped to say the least. There were nearly 200 passengers on the ship, chiefly from the mining districts of Devon and Cornwall. Some 195 ½ passengers actually according to the records including 39 married couples; 36 boys, one aged 14; 27 girls; four boys under one; three girls under one; 43 single men; 41 single women and one presumes the ½ was a pregnancy. There were seven births and only three deaths during the journey.

As well as passengers the ship carried the following cargo: 105 tons coal, 15,000 fine bricks, 30 bags merchandise, 116 packets tea, A.L.Elder, 4 bales of merchandise, etc.

However, the Mashfords were, it seems in good company as this extract from the South Australian, March 19, 1847 reads:

‘The arrival of three large ships from Europe within the present week. Two of them with emigrants numbering in all upwards of four hundred souls has been hailed with great satisfaction by the colonists. The emigrants of the ‘Princess Royal’ are all English except one from Ireland. Judging by appearances and reports we had of them, these emigrants are of better stamp than usual.’

So it seems the Mashfords brushed up reasonably well despite a long and arduous journey. The Princess Royal left London on November 5, 1846 and arrived in Plymouth, Devon where the Mashfords probably boarded the ship after weeks of waiting. The ship was under the command of Captain Charles Von Zuilecom and it left Plymouth on November 15, 1846 and arrived at Port Adelaide on March 16, 1847.

I like the fact that the family came out on a ship commanded by a Charles when that name would become so important in my family.... handed down through the generations at least until today.

The Princess Royal was an iron barque of 540 tons and it saw good passage from England, stopping briefly at St Jago in the Azores, as it made its way south.
The ship had been singled out before leaving England as this report in the South Australian of December 1846, taken from the Plymouth and Devenport Weekly Journal of November 19, 1846 reveals:

A VISIT TO AN EMIGRANT SHIP – Departure of 200 emigrants.

On Friday last, in compliance with an invitation we previously received from Mr. Willcocks, the agent under the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners for Emigration to the Australian Colonies, we paid a visit to a fine ship, The Princess Royal, which was then lying in the sound.

To us it was a matter of great interest to see a large number of our fellow countrymen, collected together, chiefly from Cornwall, who were to take a voyage to a distant colony, from which they will probably never again return to these shores: and we therefore accepted the invitation with pleasure, determining subsequently to give some notice of our visit, as a satisfaction to the friends and family of the many emigrants who were on board, and also to those who may either contemplate a removal themselves, or who feel an interest in the welfare of the industrious classes engaged in an undertaking of the greatest moment to all concerned.

On going on board we found everyone busy in preparing for the departure of the ship, which was expected to leave the Sound the following day. There were men, women and children, the latter in apparently large numbers, though we were informed the selection in this respect was particularly favourable. All the emigrants appeared to be in good spirits and many of them were engaged in writing letters to their friends, prior to their departure. (Our Elizabeth and probably most of the Mashfords would have been the exceptions).

The Princess Royal is a beautiful vessel, 543 tons register, of the firswt class being A.I at Lloyd’s and is chartered by and entirely fitted out, and despateched under the immediate management and superintendence of H.M. Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners. The whole length and breadth of the ‘tween decks’ is appropriated to the accommodation of the emigrants, and is fitted up from stern to stern on both sides with a double tier of standing bed-places and is separated into three distinct apartments, divided by bulk-heads, but so constructed as to allow a free circulation of the breeze from the windsails, and numerous scuttles admit light and air. The single women have an enclosed apartment to themselves, and so have the single men- the males being placed in the extreme forward part of the ship, and the females at the extreme other end in the stern – the intermediate space being occupied by the married couples.

There are two distinct hospitals, one for males and the other for females, the latter being fitted with several bed-places, some of which are prepared expressly for accouchements. Tables run along the entire length of the ship, in the centre, with fixed seats on each side, and hanging shelves are secured between the beams; seats are also fixed at the outer extremity of every bed-place.

In addition to the ample stores of provisions of every description which are put on board under the inspection of the Commissioner’s Officer, there is an ample supply of medicinal comforts which are issued at the discretion of the surgeon superintendant, an officer who is appointed to each ship by the commissioners, to whom and to the colonial government he is amenable for his conduct. This officer is paid by a fee per head for every emigrant he lands in health in the colony, thereby stimulating him to increased energy in his care of the people. The captain is also entitled to a gratuity on each emigrant, as well as the mate who serves out the provisions, if the surgeon superintendant reports favourably of their conduct towards the emigrants on the voyage.

Captain Van Zuilecom, and Mr Chant, of the Emigration office, kindly showed us over the ship, and answered all our enquiries, as to the various accommodations which are provided for the maintenance of the health of the emigrants, for promoting their cleanliness, comfort and during the voyage. After we had seen all that was interesting below, the emigrants were mustered on deck, and the roll was called, to see that all were present.

Amongst them we saw a great many miners, a class of men who have many of th persevering qualities, and the handy abilities which are so essential for prosperity in a young colony. South Australia, owing to its having been colonized chiefly from the West of England, has more of this class of men, than perhaps, any colony in our possession, and it would seem to be more than mere chance that drew them into a land which is now found to be abundant in mineral treasures.

The women and children looked healthy, and in good spirits, and all the emigrants listened with the greatest attention to the addresses that were delivered to them.

Mr Willcocks spoke to them from the poop nearly as follows:

"My Friends - As the period is now so near at hand when the noble ship in which we are assembled will commence a voyage, which I earnestly hope will be one of comfort and prosperity to you all, I am desirous of directing your attention to a few brief remarks, which the deep interest I feel for your welfare, individually and collectively, induces me to address you.

During the long period in which my avocations have connected me with emigration, I have ever regarded the situation of the emigrant with deep interest, considering no class of person entitled to more of the sympathies of their fellow-men, than those, who, for the laudable purpose of improving the condition in life of themselves and families, determine on making some one of our distant colonies the home of their adoption.

The separation from your friends, kindred, and native land, is, doubtless, a severe trial, and attended with painful emotions. These feelings time will alleviate, and the consciousness of having undertaken this important step with right intentions, and a firm reliance on the assistance of Providence will aid you in subduing vain regrets, and promote the cheerful performance of the duties you owe your families, and enable you to antic-ipate with humble confidence the future career of usefulness which I trust is in store for you.

The excellent character and satisfactory testimonials which you have pro-duced assure me that your future conduct will be marked by frugal habits, persevering industry, and attention to your pursuits, and I shall anxiously hope for the pleasure of hearing of your success in the fine country to which you are about to proceed.

Perhaps there is no country in the world which offers a fairer field for persevering industry, or yields such ample reward to the well-conducted labourer as Australia, and in the fine province of South Australia, the land to which you are now looking as the field of your future exertions, the demand for services of useful and steady per-sons may almost be said to be unlimited.

The blame therefore must attach to yourselves, should you be unsuccessful; you must not, indeed, expect to attain affluence at once; for in Australia, as in every other portion of the world, the ancient curse, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," attaches to man. The difference between Australia and England is this: -- That in England we have more mouths than meat while in Australia there is more meat than mouths.

By steadily pursuing a prudent industrious, and virtuous course in life, you may rely on very materially improving your condition; and at no distant period of obtaining com-petency, and perhaps fortune, thereby securing to yourselves the means of comfort-ably providing for your families, and placing them in situations that no industry in England would enable you to obtain for them.

I earnestly entreat the young unmarried females among you, particularly those whose parent do not accompany them, to consider seriously the circumstances of their present and future position; and let me impress on their serious attention, how entirely their well-being in the land of their adoption must depend on propriety of moral conduct.

It must be well known to yourselves that a comfortable provision awaits every well conducted female in Australia, either by marriage or respectable service: let me then implore you to remember how important it is that you should guard and watch your conduct with the utmost circumspection.

I must now enforce on your attention the necessity of strictly observing the rules which the Commissioners have laid down on board ship. Their object is solely for the comfort, health, and happiness of every person on board, and it is absolutely necessary everyone should implicitly obey them.

Those for the promotion of cleanliness are of paramount im-portance; on your performance of them depends not only your comfort, but perhaps life itself; sickness, and often death, being the inevitable result of neglect of clean-liness in the 'tween decks’ of a ship.

Let me recommend you, therefore, to conform to them cheerfully, regarding it as a sacred duty to comply with such rules as the surgeon-superintendent may establish, and thus aid, by your example, the promotion of the general welfare and harmony of all on board.

It is necessary I should inform you that a record is kept by the surgeon-superintendent of all your conduct during the voyage, which he will place before the authorities in the colony on your arrival; it is obvious, therefore, how materially your interests in life will be effected by that report, and now necessary it is for you to comply with his reasonable orders and directions.

If any dispute should arise, or any just ground of complaint occur, avoid all altercations and angry words; do not give way to expressions of irritable feeling, but go at once to the doctor and captain, state the circumstances to them, and rely on it they will speedily see justice done to you.

I am desirous to caution you against a course which has proven injurious to many emigrants, who have committed a fatal error in demanding exorbitant wages when overtures of employment have been made to them.

The arrival of additional labourers to South Australia is a matter of much importance to colonists; and the competition for their services so great, that you may safely rely on a fair average rate of wages being offered to you. Mar not then your own fortunes, by setting such a price on your services, that however valuable they may be, cannot be complied with, and must keep you out of employment until necessity compels you to accept, perhaps a lower remuneration than you might have at first obtained.

The sooner therefore you enter into the engagement the better; and by your conduct, zeal, and skill in your avocations, prove at once to those who employ you that your serves are really valuable, and depend on it a reward will quite equal to all reasonable expectation will be yours.

Forget not, in the improved circumstances which I hope and firmly believe you will attain, that you owe a deep and lasting debt of gratitude to Her Majesty's government for enabling you to reach a more profitable field for the employment of your labour, without any expense to yourselves, and especially to Her Majesty's Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, by whose judicious management and considerate arrangements your comforts during the voyage have been amply and effectually provided for.

The best return you can make, as well as the course which good citizens, be kind to all around you, be honest, sober, and industrious, scrupulously perform all your religious and moral duties, study to obey the laws of your adopted country, and you will secure the respect and esteem of all with whom you may be connected.

I feel most sincere pleasure in being able to congratulate you on the fortunate position in which you are placed, not only as regards the noble ship in which you are embarked, but as regards her commander, a gentleman whose urbanity and courteous conduct inspire all with whom he is connected, with esteem and respect; your surgeon, too, as well as your captain, are intimately acquainted with a service of this kind, both having made frequent voyages in a similar employment, and much is due to the liberality of the owner for the excellent spirit with which he has carried out his contract with the commissioners.

I have every confidence that your voyage will be a prosperous and happy one, and with the most sincere and heartfelt wishes for the successful realization of all your hopes, and for your present and eternal welfare, I bid you farewell, and may God bless and prosper you all."

Mr Chant also addressed the emigrants, pressing still more urgently upon them the importance of cleanliness, and giving them advice as to the manner in which they should act while on the voyage, and the means that they should adopt when they reached the colony for promoting their interest. The whole company listened to these addresses with great attention and at their conclusion gave three hearty cheers in which the gentlemen on the quarter-deck joined.

The Captain and his friends and visitors then adjourned to the cabin to partake of some of the emigrants’ beef, pork and biscuit, all of which were of excellent quality. Amongst the gentlemen present, were T. Carew, Esq, of Stoke. H.J. Hall, Esq., R.N. of Blackheath, one of the owners of the ship, J. Chant, Esq., Lieut. Henmans, R.N., the Surgeon Superintendant, Mr Byers and several cabin passengers.

The dinner was an excellent one, and there was a beautiful supply of champagne and other wines. While we sat at dinner, the emigrants assembled nar the cabin; and one of them, a miner named, John Rowe, of Lanhydrock, led off a piece of his own composition, entitled, ‘ The Emigrants Song.’ We hve notes of this effusion, but it is too long to transfer to our columns. The piece is of a religious nature, in which an invitation is given to all to join in coming to our Saviour, and the character of it may be seen in the first stanza:-

Come on, my brethren, let us sing,

Uno that city bright;

There need not one be left behind,

For Christ does all invite.

Chorus- And to glory we will sail, we’ll sail, and to glory we will sail.

Rowe, when called in was invited to take some wine, which he declined, being a teetotaller. In reply to questions he said he could not write, and that he had studied the song... meaning that it was his own composition. It was a source of pleasure to witness the quiet and orderly conduct of the people on board, which contrasted most forcibly, as Mr Carew remarked, with the scenes of riot and debauchery which prevailed in ships when about to leave harbour twenty or thirty years ago.

We have already extended this notice far beyond our intention when we commenced writing it, and its length requires we should not proceed further. We will merely add, that while we looked with a deep interest and with much sympathy upon so many people, our own countrymen, whom we shall probably never again see in this world, we feel much gratification in the thought that everything appeared to be done that could be done to promote their comfort and happiness.

The ship left the Sound on Saturday at three o’clock, and we sincerely wish all parties that are in her, a prosperous voyage, and entire success when they have reached the colony.

Brevity was not common it seems, in journalistic dabbling of the day. However, it is important to remember that the emigrants, including the Mashfords, were about to undertake a brave and somewhat perilous adventure in crossing the high seas to become colonists in a strange and distant land.

It was no small thing to set sail for the colonies in the 19th century. And the Princess Royal was not a large ship. Within two years, on February 24, 1849, while sailing to Hong Kong with a cargo of silk, tea, sugar and wine, she would be wrecked on the Lonsdale Reef in Port Phillip Heads.

In a record of the time: the captain stated that the light on the inner head near Queenscliff had led him into danger, and he was using an old chart of the Heads. He said the sea threw her across the reef and on the third surge she bumped so hard she broke in two, scattering her cargo over a wide area. Fortunately all the crew were saved.

But that lay in the future, as did the arrival of the Mashfords in the new colony. Ahead lay thousands of miles of ocean and months at sea. I wonder what Elizabeth thought of the address and whether or not she joined in the singing. The air must have been alive with excitement and perhaps they just wanted the speech to end so that food could be served or bags unpacked. Fear and excitement would have stood on either side of Elizabeth's mind I am sure.

The ship would have carried at least one milking cow along with pigs or cows for fresh meat and some hens. Fodder would be needed to feed the livestock.

Weekly food provisions for each adult included:

1 pint of oatmeal; ½ pint of preserved cabbage and a daily ration of 3 quarts of fresh water. 2 to 3 pounds (lbs.) of bread per day; 1lb of preserved meat; half pound of picked fish per week; 3lb of flour per week; 6 ounces of suet; 2/3rds pint of dried lentils; 7 ounces of sugar; 1 ounce of tea; some mustard; Children aged between 7 and 15 received half this amount and younger ones one third.

Privacy for the emigrants would have been a non-existent luxury. Toilets were pans, rinsed out with salt water. As the journey went on the stench would rise, depending upon how well the passengers had heeded the call to cleanliness and how much they could actually ‘clean’ their living areas. Fresh water was precious and required for drinking and cooking. Salt water would be used for everything else.

A day at the beach would remind any of us what it must be like to wash with salt water even if we could not imagine what it would be like to do it for months at a time. The salt would cake in powdery dust across the skin and over time, would, no doubt become itchy.

Few people would have had soap but then with salt water there would be no lather anyway. Washing on deck was the norm for men and children. Women would be required to dab wash privately. It would have been fine and even fun for the children when the ship was sailing through the tropics; but truly awful in cold weather.

There would have been a common galley which would have made hot food possible and stews a common meal. Without refrigeration, particularly in the tropics, the threat of dysentery was great. Usually such illnesses would go through the entire ship simply because conditions were so cramped. Dysentery was a common form of death. About ten percent of the emigrants died on a ship heading for Australia just three years after the Mashfords took their journey.

When the weather was bad passengers would find themselves locked ‘below’; often wet and ankle deep in water. The further into the journey they were the more likely the water contained not just food scraps but excrement.

How Elizabeth must have waited for that first breath of fresh air and the salty kisses of the wind. She has a strong, sensible look about her in the one photograph that we have and may well have travelled better than many. She was after all travelling toward freedom and dreams. On that long journey there would have been plenty of time to dream; it would have been the only place of privacy.

Within the creak and rock of boat; the scud of cloud and whispering winds, she must have wondered what her new life would be like. Did she dream of handsome young men, fine houses and pretty dresses? Looking at her image I doubt it.  There is a pragmatic air about her. Perhaps she dreamt of a warm bed and hearty meals; of sunshine and of laughter.

Whatever the truth of dreams or nightmares, by the end of the four month journey, her face would have been tanned and the taste of salt would be something she would never forget. Depending upon the weather the ship would have spoken in a language she either learned to love or hate. The only silence would be found facing into a determined wind which dispatched all noise: voices, both soft and loud; cries of joy and pain; the flap and snap of sails; the whine and creak of stretching timber; the thud of dropped bags and boxes; the scraped metallic roll of moving barrels; the throated murmur of chickens; the echoed sighs of cows; the snuffled snorts of pigs;the laughter of playing children; the shrieks of a dying creature being prepared for the pot and the drift-rise cry of hungry or newborn babies.

And when the babies were born did she dream of the children she would one day have or fear the moment of giving birth. Probably both. Childbirth was common and very risky. The Princess Royal recorded seven births and three deaths and there is a very good chance that the three dead were mothers and/or babies.

The other risk was fire. There were strict rules regarding cooking, candles and open lamps. Fire when it started was inclined to spread quickly and one presumes more than one ship which disappeared without trace did so because it became engulfed in flames and very little was left to be found.

There was a fairly established route from England to South Australia. The ship would have headed south-southwest, tipping the point of north-west Africa and continuing down to Rio De Janerio before turning due east to head for The Cape of Good Hope in a straight line to South Australia.

The Roaring Forties in this region were both gift and curse. Winds would gust and turn into gales washing water onto the deck and into the lower levels. And when there was no wind, the ship would rock in hot, frustrating idleness. The humidity would make sleeping below decks almost impossible. As always women suffered the most. Men were allowed to sleep on deck but women and children would often remain below deck for days, or even weeks.

The fact that so few died on The Princess Royal must be a testament to good management; sensible emigrants and good weather. How they must have prayed for the journey to end. Not that nearing Australia brought any greater safety. There were too many as yet uncharted islands and reefs and in winter – the threat of icebergs.

But, as the weather improved, as it would have done heading into an Australian summer, the women and children would have spent more time on deck. No doubt any fears they had as to their new lives were well and truly buried under one desire: to get off the ship onto dry land.

LEFT: South Australia would look nothing like the land they had left behind.

Some 14 weeks, give or take the weather, after leaving England Elizabeth Mashford would have seen Port Adelaide far off in the distance. That first step onto dry land must have been both exciting and frightening.

It must have looked like some alien landscape compared to England. Strange trees, unknown plants, weird and wonderful animals and a stretch and reach of sky beyond imagining. It was the light which most struck the early settlers according to records; a light so clear and bright that it was almost blinding. A light, according to artists of the time, which illuminated in a way they had never seen before and which gave a brilliant clarity to every image. It was a land which shone with light ;from the shivering blue of sky to the glittering white of sand and the shimmering red of soft, old earth.

They probably walked from Port Adelaide to the village of Kensington...about ten miles (17km) ... just over twice the distance between Winkleigh and Coldridge. And as the new bridge across the Torrens River had not been built, they would have waded through wetlands to reach the town. March can be hot in South Australia as the summer drifts into Autumn and the journey may well have been made in temperatures as high as 40C. Even if the temperatures were lower it would still have been hot for those used to the cool climes of England. Wading through wetlands may have been a welcome relief after a long, dusty journey.

The land between the Port and the settlement of Adelaide would have been largely bush and the smell of crushed eucalyptus leaves would have drifted with them as they walked; an exotic, unfamiliar smell which would become to their descendants a perfume evocative of their native land.

Beyond the crush of dried gum leaves and broken earth Elizabeth would have heard the mellifluous carolling of magpies and the distant, raucous laughter of Kookaburras. Huge flocks of pink and grey galahs; iridescent coloured lorikeets and parikeets; brilliantly coloured and ridiculously chirping budgerigars; sulphur crested white cockatoos and black cockatoos would have dipped and risen from the nearby trees. Only the black cockatoo with it's luminous yellow crest  and flocks of wild budgerigars are seen less often today.

Kangaroos and wallabies would have stood in silent watch in the dry grass of the bush along with the heavy-haunched wombat; the long-nosed spiny echidna and the scampering tumble of possums. If the day was hot there may have been snakes, brown or red-bellied black, sunning themselves in the dust of the track.

And they would have been struck by the sky; that shimmering expanse of cerulean blue which rolled in endless wash to distant horizons in a way not seen in Devon. Behind them was the Gulf and the sea upon which their ship was moored; in front of them lay the city of Adelaide and behind it a ridge of low mountains, the Flinders Ranges, some of the oldest land forms on earth; and, on either side, stretching south  to the Southern Ocean and north  to the Wirrabara Forest and beyond to the great unknown heart of Australia -were vast expanses of ancient, waiting land.

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