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

Laying Off The Township

Laying Off The Township.

As soon as the Wakatu had been selected as the site of the Nelson settlement word was promptly sent over to Wellington by the schooner Elizabeth, and communication began between the two places, one of the earliest cargoes being a consignment of pigs and sheep which was brought over in the Eliza.

Ashore at Nelson the expeditionary party had a busy time. The store and shed of the company, brought out from London in sections, was soon run up, and then the work of getting ready to receive the immigrants went on steadily, the surveyors laying off the place, and the workmen erecting sheds and other shelters.

There were 22 officials of the company, and 73 workmen in this expeditionary party. The workmen were all specially selected, being of good physique and character, and many of them rose to very good positions in the community. Some of them started with next to nothing at all; in fact, one man who had a sixpence in his pocket—the last he possessed—did actually land without a cent, as he threw the coin overboard before going ashore, just for luck, apparently. This man afterwards became a very rich settler with herds and flocks of his own.

After the expeditionary ships had been dispatched from London the officers of the company lost no time in organising the first band of settlers, and in October, 1841, four ships were sent away. The first to sail was a small brig named the Lloyds (Captain Green), which had been specially selected to take out the wives and children of the men who had gone out in the expeditionary ships. The other vessels were the Lord Auckland, 600 tons, Captain Jardine; the Fifeshire, 551 tons, Captain Arnold; and the barque Mary Ann, 600 tons, Captain Bolton, which all sailed from the Downs on the same day, October 2.

As the site of Nelson was unknown when the ships left London, they were instructed to call at Port Nicholson for instructions. The Fifeshire arrived there on January 19, 1842, the Mary Ann on January 27, and the Lord Auckland on February 7. The Fifeshire anchored in Nelson Harbour on February 1, the Lloyds and the Mary Ann on February 9, and the Lord Auckland on February 27. These four ships brought 764 people into Nelson. The date of arrival of the Fifeshire with the first immigrants has ever since been celebrated as the anniversary of the province.

A very sad story was told when the Lloyds came to an anchor. Some accounts say she was a very good ship, selected with the greatest care, and that the directors took every precaution to carry out their promise to the men of the expeditionary fleet to bring the page 60 wives and children out safely. Other accounts describe her as a very small brig, overcrowded, and state that during bad weather the passengers had to spend many days cooped up in stuffy cabins with the head-lights closed, in pitch darkness, except for the light from some ill-smelling lamps. Whichever account is correct, there must have been something radically wrong, for 65 children died on the voyage, and the women told of a terrible time. Matters had been shockingly managed. The captain was blamed for having set a bad moral example, and it was said did not even try to enforce rules for the preservation of ordinary decency. The doctor was also censured, and Captain Wakefield refused to sign the certificate, without which neither captain nor doctor could claim his pay. Whoever was to blame, it was the last experiment in sending out a shipload of women and children without the protection of the husbands.