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Early Wellington

The “Birman.”

The “Birman.”

This ship, which has already been described in the opening chapter, was of 450 tons register, and was commanded by Capt. James Cleland. She left Gravesend in October, 1841, and arrived in February, 1842, with 53 married couples, 15 single men, 12 single women, 47 children under fourteen, 38 under seven, and 16 under one. 15 births and 12 deaths occurred on Board. The following persons, some of whom became well known in the settlement, augmented the rapidly increasing population:—

page 103
Name Age Wife's Age No. of Children
Agaga, Thomas (a New Zealander). 19
Allen, Eli 20
Bell, John and Jane 34 39 4
Bell, Wm. and Hannah 39 39 4
Bell, Ann 15
Bradshaw, John and Mary Ann 28 22
Briggs, Martha 38
Buck, George and Mary 23 24 1
Burford, Robert 18
Cayley, Thos. and Mary A. 38 37 6
Carpenter, Robt. Holt 21
Carpenter, Harriet 23
Chapman, Henry 22 1
Chapman, Sarah 27
Chapple, Jas 30 2
Chapple, Maria 27
Clarke, —
Clapham, Joseph 38 3
Clapham, Sarah 37
Clapham, George, 18; Ellen 16
Clapham, William 14
Clapham, Sarah 20
Collis, Chas. 30 3
Collis, Ann 30
Cronin, Patrick 38 3
Cronin (Wife) 36
Crowther, Sam 20 1
Crowther, Eliza 18
Davey, William 37 4
Darvey, Eliza 35
Day, Robert 26
Day, Sarah 20
Duck, John 21 1
Duck, Eliza 21
Dunn, Wm. 38 4
Dunn, Mary 37
Ferguson, Mary 30
Furniss, John 14
Furniss, Smith 17
Furniss, Wm., 28; Sarah 27
*Gill, George 20
Gillespie, Andrew 36 3
Gillespie, Christian 36
Harding, John 21
Harding, Emma 20
Haigh, Geo. 33 3
Haigh, Elizabeth 35
Harvey, Jane 14
Hill, James H. 26
Hobbs, Chas. 30 2
Hobbs, Sarah 31
Hodges, Wm. 24 1
Hodges, Elizabeth 21
Hodges, Chas., 20; L. Jane 19
Hunt, Geo. Prior 32
Hunt, Ann Sophia 26
Ladbroke, Wm. 23
Ladbroke, Eliza 22
Levi, Elizabeth 20
Lewis, Evan 39 4
Lewis, Ann
Lismore, Geo. 24
Lismore, Mary Ann 22
Lowndes, Lewis 28
Lowndes, Mary Ann 25
Ludwell, Wm. 36
Ludwell, Harriet 35
Maxton, Samuel 26
Maxton, Henrietta 20
Mellor, James 28 1
Mellor, Mary 24
Mills, Chas. 38 5
Mills, Eliza Sophia 40
Milson, Daniel 30
Milson, Elizabeth 20
Monk, John 32 6
Monk, Phœbe 32
Morgan, Thomas 32 3
Morgan, Mary Ann 34
Nott, William 26
Nott, Ann 32
Parry, Thos. 28
Parry, Mary 21
Patterson, Rob 39 1
Patterson, Ellen 39
Patterson, Mary, 18; Wm. 15
Penfold, Stephen 31 4
Penfold, Harriet 32
Perkins, Geo. 23
Perkins, Sarah 22
Phillips, John 34 4
Phillips, Hannah 34
Read, John 35
Read, Prudence 38
Richards, Jas. 22 1
Richards, Sarah 23
Sarjent, Henry 25 2
Sarjent, Louiza Catherine 24
Solomon, Esther 18
Sparks, Jordan 28 1
Sparks, Mary Ann 22
Startup, Robert 23 1
Startup, Sophia 19
Stewart, Richard 39 5
Stewart, Mary 38
Stewart, Lewis, 18; Chas. 16
Taylor, George 38 2
Taylor, Sarah 27
Tonks, Wm. 35 5
Tonks, Jane 36
Torr, Joseph 27 3
Torr, Julia 29
Vaughan, Jas. 37 1
Vaughan, Jane 37
Waters, George 30 2
Waters, Susan 28
Waters, Thomas 16

Some letters, written by a lady passenger on the “Birman,” were published in “Chamber's Edinburgh Journal,” 1848, No. 257, Vol. 9.

page 104

A few extracts are given as under:—

“Cape of Good Hope.
December 30th, 1841.

“Dearest Annie,

“Here we are at the Cape, and a delightful place it is, especially to us, who have been tossing for weeks on the billows. What a luxury is soft bread and fresh meat. Everything we could desire is brought on board to us and all very cheap. We have good wine at fourpence and six-pence a bottle, and fine mutton and beef at three half-pence a pound.

“Many of our companions would like to land here and finish the journey.

“Employment being plentiful and provisions cheap, but rents are high.

“We have had a favourable voyage, parted with sea sickness and have voracious appetites.

“This is the last day of the year and as warm as summer at Home.

“Grog was served on Christmas Day, and we are to have a pint of wine on New Year's Day.

“The doctor on board serves as chaplain also.”

“Port Nicholson,
July 28th, 1842.

“Dearest Annie,

“After leaving the Cape we had a good voyage until nearing New Zealand. The captain diverted from the right course, and we were nearly wrecked; and should have run on some reefs but for the timely warning of a stranger who put off in a boat and was just in time to intercept us while within a few hundred yards of the sunken reef. The right track was discovered and we at length reached the harbour in safety.

“On getting on shore, we found what a wretched place we had come to.

“The building intended for our occupation had been appropriated by a ship load of emigrants who had the good fortune to arrive before us. The result was that we were crammed into a large empty storeroom, just like an old barn, filthy beyond description, and overrun with rats.

“Here a space was chalked out for each family on the rough flooring, and here our little property, together with rations for a fortnight were conveyed, and we were finally left for good and all to shift for ourselves.

“There were heart-breaking scenes. The most sanguine lost heart, and many women wept and wrung their hands.

“I could have done the same, but my husband wore such a dismal face that I forebore.

“We arranged our things as well as we could and curtained our corner off. Then went into the bush close by, cut some small twigs, made a broom, and swept the floor and walls. Our example was followed by others, and we found ourselves better off than on board ship as we could get in and out as we chose. We were banished to this outlandish place at the end of the earth and thought we would never stay here. We found the natives a fine lot of people: dark brown skin, and most of them tattooed in fanciful patterns, which suffices for clothes for some of them. Some are dressed in loin cloth and tattoe.”

Wellington, October, 1841.

Dearest Annie


“My husband rented a small piece of land, 60 × 24; barely sufficient for the site of a decent home, for £9 per year, and has built a small house on it, and has opened up a store. We sell whatever was bought and do business with Maoris and Pakeha, who daily flock to the store. We sell clothing, bread, potatoes, which page 105 latter we buy from the Maoris. My husband earns a little at carpentry. Some of our fellow passengers are half starved for want of employment, and were in a miserable position in winter, when storms and tempests of rain prevailed. Once we could not venture out of doors for weeks together. We were sometimes soaked to the skin, for we could not hold an umbrella up.

“Gross immorality prevails amongst the Colonists. Some seem to have left every moral and religious obligation behind them. Bishop Selwyn has lately landed here; he is much liked at present. I hope his example and exertions, which are very much wanted, will be of general use. I retain my health wonderfully. My husband is well and picking up the language. The Maoris are fond of us, because we are uniformly kind to them. They call me ——, and are quite as familiar as you could be.”

Wellington, December 11th, 1843.

Dearest Annie,

“The country appears all mountains and vales. Trees everywhere which are always in full leaf, there being never sufficient frost to kill the foliage. As our stock increased, we had to use our building to accommodate it. We hired a house of two rooms, built of clay and thatched with toi-toi. Work is not too plentiful, about two days employment during the week for each. Auction sales take place on the arrival of vessels. Our credit being good we buy from natives and Colonists, some of whom sell the clothes from their backs through destitution. Some in good circles in England have parted with everything, lead miserable and degraded lives, skulking in the bush and drowning their sorrows in drink—when able.…