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

Attracted From Sydney

page 33

Attracted From Sydney.

Before the end of the year the population of the township was increased by the arrival of the barque Chelydra, with about forty passengers, mostly mechanics, who came over from Sydney. This vessel was owned and sailed by Captain Smale, who bought some land at the bottom of Albert Street, and after whom Smale's Point was named. Not only has the name disappeared, but the very point itself has gone. It used to run out from Albert Street, and formed the western horn of Commercial Bay. Britomart Point, named after H.M.s. Britomart, then in these waters, has also disappeared, and in fact the whole waterfront, for a stretch of over two miles, has been altered as to be quite unrecognisable.

The Chelydra brought over some hardwood, ready morticed for making house frames, and until this was got out and erected the newcomers had to live in tea-tree whares, erected with the help of the Maoris.

There were no wharves, and the cargo from the Chelydra was landed on the beach just about where the fine big ferro-concrete store has been erected in Fort Street for L. D. Nathan and Co. Fort Street was originally the line of the foreshore, and the street was called Fore Street. Later it became changed into Fort Street, evidently through people confusing the name with that of Fort Britomart, which was perched on top of Britomart Point, at the top of Shortland Street. It was in Fort Britomart that the first troops in this part of the colony, a company of the 80th Regiment, took up their quarters in 1841.

The barque Chelydra made several voyages between Sydney and Auckland in 1840 and 1841, and brought over a good many mechanics. Among other vessels which arrived were the Minerva and the Goshawk, and other small craft, but it was not until the year 1842 that the first immigrants arrived from the Old Country.

It is perhaps unnecessary to repeat the oft-told story that Auckland was named after Lord Auckland, the Governor-General of India. Eden, the family name of Lord Auckland, was given to Maungawhau, the fine volcanic peak, which is the highest on the isthmus.

No sooner had Auckland been fairly started than Hobson communicated with the Home Government, pointing out how necessary it was to direct settlers to the Waitemata. Many people had come down from the Bay of Islands when the capital was shifted, and others came over from Australia, but the first organised party of immigrants to reach Auckland was that on board the two vessels, the Duchess of Argyle and the Jane Gifford, which arrived on October 10, 1842, with upwards of 600 prospective settlers, of a good, sturdy type. The Duchess bad left ten days before the Jane, and the people on the latter vessel never expected her to make it up. But she did. When the Jane picked up the pilot, the Duchess was only about fourteen miles ahead of her, and owing to the Duchess running on a sandbank, the Jane actually got to an anchorage first. Oddly enough page 34 there were exactly seventeen deaths and eight births on each of the two vessels.

In reviving the story of Auckland, I have been fortunate in coming across a copy of a most interesting diary kept by the late Robert Graham. He was a passenger by the Jane Gifford, and every day he jotted down the incidents of shipboard life. I have never met such a full, interesting, and shrewd account of a voyage in the old days of the emigrant ships, and so have quoted at considerable length, just to give the present generation some idea of what a voyage in a sailing ship meant. For sixteen weeks these people were shut up, not having nearly as much room as would be allowed to the same class of passengers to-day, having to do much of the work for which stewards are now carried, having to make their own amusements, and many of them having large families to look after.

In the cabin there was every chance for people to get heartily sick of each other during a voyage of sixteen weeks, and the wonder is that they agreed so well. Among the emigrants by the Duchess and the Jane there were some who were anything but saints, and in the fo'c'sle there were even tougher problems to tackle. Over this varied and rather difficult little floating kingdom the captain ruled without question. And it must have demanded a man of no ordinary calibre. Not only had he to be a good sailor, but he sometimes had to be something of a diplomat to keep his cabin passengers in good humour; he had to see that the emigrants obeyed the regulations, while at the same time he tried to do them justice; and there were occasions when he had to put some of his recalcitrant crew in irons.

Nowadays everything goes like clockwork on board the big steamers, and the journey is so short that there is hardly time for the novelty to wear off. In the old days, the captain was responsible for several hundred people, and many thousands of pounds' worth of vessel and cargo, for many weeks at a time. Some skippers fulfilled the duty in such a way that they not only won the respect of their cabin passengers, but the thanks of the emigrants, and the gruff admiration of the tough customers who inhabited the fo'c'sle.

We are apt to forget what exceptional men these old-time skippers must have been to rule their floating kingdoms and bring them safe to shore. It is to show what a complicated sort of business sixteen weeks at sea in the 'forties could be that I have gone into such detail from this most interesting diary, and have revived the story of the eccentric Irishman and his bride, the dancings on the poop, the blind man's buff, the drunken sailor who had to be put in irons, and all the other happenings which are so naively and so clearly put down by this observant young Scotsman.

Robert Graham was a leader of men, and did much for his adopted country.