White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885
A Remarkable Man
A Remarkable Man.
Robinson, a fine sailor, was a man with a marked personality, and he was not only looked up to by the rest of the crew, but was very popular with all the passengers. The captain was a verypage 87 reserved man, keeping himself strictly aloof from the crew. The mate was a very young man, and though he was a good sailor he had neither the appearance nor the personality to command and retain respect. The second mate rather resembled an "old clo' man," and it was a puzzle to all on board why he ever got the job. However, he did not hold it long, as he was disrated, and the boatswain was promoted in his stead.
Just before the ship reached the Bay of Biscay things came to a climax. The mate's watch had one night just turned in when the captain shouted, "All hands on deck; shorten sail!" This was too much for the harassed men. Robinson talked the matter over with the rest of the watch, and they agreed to stand by him. He then went on deck, told the captain that the crew refused to turn out, and said there was no necessity to shorten sail.
The captain was furious, and wanted the passengers to arm themselves with pistols and hold the poop while the officers secured Robinson and put him in irons. However, not a single passenger would lift a hand against Robinson. The captain made the best of a bad job when he saw that he could not count On the passengers, and nothing was done to Robinson. The captain sulked and spoke to none of them for over a week.
Robinson, after his defiance of the captain, took charge whenever the weather was rough, and from that point until New Zealand was reached the captain had very little to do with running things. In fine weather Robinson obeyed orders and went about his work like the rest of the crew, but in storms he was in supreme command, and the ship met with a lot of rough weather, so Robinson was a good deal in evidence. The position was really most remarkable. When it was his watch on deck Robinson used to take up his stand by the break of the poop, which is just where the poop rises from the deck. From that point he would call out his orders that could be heard all over the ship, and right willingly was he obeyed. There was no question about Robinson's seamanship, and all hands worked for him with a will. Although the captain would be on the poop when Robinson used to take charge, he never uttered a word, and the mate, in an emergency, would go the length of repeating Robinson's orders.
Considering the stormy weather met with, accidents and mishaps were exceedingly few. On one occasion a yard-arm was sprung, and a heavy sea which broke on board smashed the bulwarks, upset the cow-house, and broke the ribs of the man who happened to be milking the animal.
During the voyage a member of the crew broke into the fore-hold and consequently grog was plentiful in the forecastle. Robinson, however, seldom, if ever, tasted the stuff, and such was his influence upon the other men that there was no over-indulgence. One of the crew, however, did imbibe too much on one occasion. Making his way to the second cabin he started a fight with one of the passengers. The captain was called, and with the aid of the mates soon had the sailor seized and handcuffed. Just as the culprit was going to be taken below and placed in confinement, Robinson interfered and said he would not tolerate any man being placed in irons. The captain flew into a great rage and threatened Robinson with hispage 88 pistols. "Shoot!" said the cool Robinson, but the captain never dared to do so. Robinson took the sailor to the forecastle, but when that inebriated person tried a second time to go back to the second cabin to resume the interrupted fight, Robinson, who was sent for, seized him, bound him hand and foot, and carried him back to his bunk in the forecastle. In the morning the foolish sailor woke a sober and sorry man.
In spite of the rather strained relationships on board, the crossing of the Line was celebrated with much eclat.
After a long, rough passage, the Victory at last reached Otago Heads on July 8, which meant practically three winters for her passengers, because it was winter when they left the Old Country, the whole trip was most wintry, and it was winter when they reached New Zealand. At the Heads the ship was boarded by Dick Driver, the pilot, who brought her to Port Chalmers in grand style.
Upon information laid against them, Robinson and four others of the crew, including the man who got drunk and wanted to fight the second-class passenger, were taken before the magistrate. Robinson was charged with assaulting the mate and got six months' imprisonment. The three other men were each sentenced to three months. The gaol of those days was a most primitive affair. Sergeant Barry was in charge, and the only place he had to house his desperate criminals was a shanty made of manuka stakes driven a few inches into the ground and tied together with flax, over which there was a roof of thatch. Fortunately for the peace of mind of the gaoler the men behaved well, but they did not serve their full term, as a whaler came in and they accepted the offer of being allowed to ship on board her.
The subsequent fate of the captain of the Victory was tragic. A few years after this eventful voyage to Otago he was in Chinese waters in command of a vessel on board of which there were between 200 and 300 coolies. There was a revolt, and the coolies massacred the crew. The captain took refuge up the mizzen-mast, but the bloodthirsty wretches swarmed up the rigging on both sides. When they reached the unfortunate man they started hacking at him with their knives, and then threw him overboard.