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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885

The William Bryan

The William Bryan.

Excellent arrangements were made for sending out the settlers in batches. Six barques were chartered, and it is most refreshing to read of these well-found craft and the satisfactory provisioning, for in the later stories of the immigrant ships one so often comes upon a well-deserved growl about "old tubs" and "salt horse."

The first barque that left England under the company's scheme was the William Bryan, 312 tons, Captain Maclean, which brought out 148 passengers, including 70 children. In his interesting pamphlet, "Taranaki, 1840-1842," Mr. W. H. Skinner gives interesting details connected with the charter of the William Bryan and a number of the other ships that brought out Taranaki pioneers. This barque had been engaged in the West Indian trade. She was chartered by her owners, Domett and England, of London, at the rate of £5 2/6 per ton, which works out at just under £1600 for the voyage. In addition the charterers were to allow the owners £60 a head for victualling the cabin passengers, £40 for intermediate or second cabin passengers, and £18 15/ for the steerage passengers. The ship was bound to carry a surgeon and the manning was on the scale of five men and one boy to every 100 tons registered. It is interesting to know that the lower deck, where the emigrants lived, was only 105 feet 3 inches long, and the headroom or height of the ceiling from the deck was just over 6 feet at the for'ard end, 5 feet 11 inches at the main hatchway, and 7 feet at the stern post. And that was all the room there was for 148 people, including 70 children.

The William Bryan left Plymouth on November 19, 1840. Prior to their departure the emigrants were entertained at a lunch, the Earl of Devon presiding, and at this historic gathering Mr. Gibbon Wake-field, of New Zealand Land Company fame, made the dramatic announcement that the previous day's London "Gazette" contained a proclamation that Captain Hobson had taken possession of New Zealand in the name of the British Government. This reminds us that when the New Zealand Land Company began its preparations for colonisation the country was not even British soil.

After an uneventful passage of four months the William Bryan anchored in Port Underwood on March 20, everybody on board being in excellent health, thanks to the good food, and the care taken by the ship's surgeon, Dr. Weeks. The vessel remained, at Port Underwood for a week. An account of the voyage mentions that "the emigrants had dined al fresco for nearly two months on deck, as very little rain fell during the passage." It was at Port Underwood that the newcomers saw their first Maoris, and the tattooed faces struck them as being very strange indeed. It was there also that they heard of the selection of Taranaki as the site of the future settlement. It page 50 was out of the way, and there was nothing in the shape of a harbour, so it is not surprising the people began to murmur; they thought their interests were being sacrificed for the sake of those of the New Zealand Land Company. However, the assurance that Taranaki was known as "the Garden of New Zealand" brought some consolation.

Leaving Port Underwood on March 28, the barque two days later anchored off the Sugar Loaves, about a mile and a-half off shore. Next day the passengers were landed on the Moturoa Beach, and by April 6 the ship was cleared of all her cargo and the livestock that had been brought out from the Old Land. Everything had to be boated ashore, and in the early days we hear of many exciting adventures in the surf. Although the passengers and their luggage and the bulk of the food-stuffs were landed on the Moturoa Beach, the sections of the company's storehouse and the agent's residence were rafted along the coast and landed in the bay in front of Mount Eliot (where the railway station now stands). This locality was in the early days known as "Port Eliot," being named after the place of the same name on the Tamar in the Old Country.

Landed in a strange country, among savages, the first settlers felt very desolate after leaving the well-ordered ship, and the women were particularly down-hearted. More than half the passengers were women and children, and the women felt keenly the lack of privacy of those first days ashore. Tents had been run up, and there were also several raupo whares that had been erected for the family of "Dickey" Barrett, and in these the people were quartered. Barrett, an ex-whaler, was a noted character of early Taranaki. He was a powerful, frank sort of fellow, and seems to have been a sort of general cicerone to the first settlers. In these tents and whares there was no privacy whatever for the Englishwomen, and they used to lie down in their clothes at night, never thinking of undressing. The weather, fortunately, was fine, and eventually matters were straightened out, but it was a rough entry into the new life, and small wonder that some tears were shed, and some of the travellers sighed for the combes and lanes of their own peaceful West Country.