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White Wings Vol I. Fifty Years Of Sail In The New Zealand Trade, 1850 TO 1900

The Flying Foam

page 238

The Flying Foam.

High Seas Mutiny—Men in Irons and Handcuffs.

Frequently on the old "wind jammers" there was trouble with the crews, but probably the worst case that ever finished up in Auckland was that of the Flying Foam, which arrived in 1864 with an amateur crew at the ropes.

According to a statement written during the voyage by Captain Ryder, Paymaster of the 40th Regiment, then on his way out to join up, the ship must have resembled a police station for the greater part of the passage. This statement, written on the blue foolscap which for years was the certain sign of an official document, has been preserved, and is now in the possession of his son, Colonel Ryder, who lives at Devonport, Auckland. Although the ink is 60 years old it is a great deal blacker and more easily read than much of the modern article. It seems from this carefully prepared and carefully preserved document that the trouble began on April 27, 1864, when an able seaman assaulted a second-class passenger by kicking him in the back. When the third mate went to bring the culprit aft he was struck in the face, and a couple of other seamen took a hand and started to rescue their friend. The captain of the ship, when things took this unexpected turn, "submitted as a temporary measure to the withdrawal" of the sailor whom it was sought to arrest, and hoped "that on consideration the men would submit to proper authority." The cabin passengers then armed themselves at the request of the captain of the ship, and the deck having been cleared of women and children, and all other passengers but those "who were willing to assist in the preservation of order," the captain of the ship went forward and again formally demanded the recalcitrant seaman as a prisoner.

It ended in the chief, second, and third mates, together with the surgeon, carrying the seaman aft, the said seaman fighting hard all the time. A drawn knife was brandished by one of the other seamen who wanted to effect a rescue, but eventually the prisoner was placed in irons, before which, however, he had managed to kick and punch his arrestors, and he gave vent to "volleys of oaths and much obscene and blasphemous language." Three of the worst of the rest of the crew would have been arrested there and then, but there was no place where they could be confined.

Under Arrest.

What the real trouble was the account does not indicate, but evidently the ship was nothing more or less than a mild sort of pandemonium from then until July 13, when she reached Auckland. There was nothing openly mutinous until June 10, when the starboard watch was ordered to help in getting up stores and passengers' luggage. Eight of the men refused, and said it was their watch below, during which they should not have to work. The men were given time for reconsideration of their refusal, but evidently the after guard expected trouble, for some of the second-class passengers were shifted and their cabins made ready as a temporary prison. The men were given another chance to turn-to, but still refused, and then were locked up, "in the hope that reflection would prompt them to better behaviour."

Later on five men of the port watch refused duty until their mates "were let out of irons." It was explained that the men were not in irons, but this did not appease their comrades, who threatened to go aft and let them out. These obstreperous ones "were ordered into temporary confinement in the forecastle," and as they walked forward some of them "sharpened their knives on the grindstone."

Eventually the men were either confined or placed in irons in the cabins that had been prepared for the purpose, but they soon started wrecking the woodwork and making night hideous with their language. Some of the passengers were armed and acted as guards. Apparently all the sailors were concerned in the mutiny, though the account is not quite clear to anyone not familiar with the circumstances, and watches of tea men each were made up from the second-class passengers. Naturally they could not have been very expert, and the captain reckoned that the mutiny had caused him a fortnight's delay on the trip.

Smashing Things.

From the time of their arrest the sailors seemed to have made their tem-page 239porary prisons a sort of Donnybrook. Such irons and handcuffs as there were were all in use, and some of the men were lashed to bolts in the transoms of the lazarette. The carpenter was called in more than once to repair the damage. Some of the irons were even broken, and eventually the carpenter was ordered to make a set of stocks, in which the men were placed. But even this did not restrain the mutineers, who forced the stocks open, and eventually smashed the apparatus.

Much to the relief of everyone on board, the ship at length, on July 13, 1864, reached Auckland. In response to a signal armed police went off to the ship, and the sixteen sailors were bandled off to Mount Eden. They were all brought up at the Police Court and charged with mutiny. The captain, in his evidence, estimated that the mutiny caused a fortnight's delay, and then he had to pay £20 to passengers to do the seamen's work. After hearing the case the Bench discharged six of the men. Three of the leaders were sentencd to sixteen weeks' imprisonment each, and the rest of the prisoners were sentenced to twelve weeks' imprisonment each.

The saloon passengers on this eventful trip were Lady Wiseman, Mr. Edridge (purveying officer), Mrs. Edridge and three children, Mr. Lightband, Mr. Olliver, Ensign O'Brien of the 43rd Regiment, Ensign Greigson of the 40th Regiment, Ensign Churchward of the 14th Regiment, Paymastor Ryder of the 40th Regiment, Mr. and Mrs. Ireland, Mr. Evitt, Mr. Wivall, and a party of natives. In the second class and steerage there were 122 passengers.