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

The Brodick Castle

The Brodick Castle.

An almost bewildering series of misfortunes overtook the brand new ship Brodick Castle on her maiden voyage—London to Auckland—in 1875-6, and the many descendants of the nearly 300 passengers who made the trip must have often listened to the tale of woe told by their forbears. The fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the ship in Auckland was celebrated in 1926 by a most interesting reunion held in Auckland, about fifty people attending.

The Brodick Castle was a magnificent iron clipper ship of 1,775 tons, belonging to the Castle Line (Messrs. Skinner and Company), and chartered by the Shaw, Savill Company. Built by Wingate at Glasgow, and launched in 1875, she was on her maiden voyage when she sailed from London on October 7 of that year for Auckland, in command of Captain Thyne. When lying at Gravesend, ready to sail, she broke away from her moorings, but no damage was done. In the Bay of Biscay the encountered a terrific storms, and she was dismasted, narrowly escaping total wreck. Fortunately a steamer picked her up and towed her to Falmouth, where she arrived on October 20, and was subsequently sent to Plymouth for repairs. After the repairs were effected there was still further delay owing to the difficulty of settling the salvage claim of the steamer that towed her to Falmouth, so that it was December 14 before the ship was on her way again to New Zealand.

After leaving Plymouth, the voyagers were favoured with good weather for their second attempt at the stormy Bay of Biscay, and Madeira was sighted on Christmas Day. On that day the crew were ordered to send aloft the top-gallant yards, which had not been sent up before, and they flatly refused, as Christmas Day at sea is one that the sailor used to consider peculiarly his own. There was some trouble, but eventually the work was done by the ship's officers. The equator was crossed on January 13, 31 days out, and the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope on February 12. Here the vessel was becalmed for nearly a week. She ran down her easting between 50 and 52 deg. with moderate breezes. Cape Maria van Diemen was made on March 16, and Auckland was reached on March 23, after a passage of 99 days.

But the ship's troubles were not yet all over. As she was beating up the harbour on the young flood she was suddenly taken aback while in stays about 500 yards from the Bean Rock light-house, and she was carried stern first on the reef. She lay there, hung up, for about 20 minutes, when with shift of the wind to the south-west and the rising tide, she floated off.

The police flag was flying when the ship came up the harbour, and several of the ship's crew who had behaved mutinously during the voyage after the incident of Christmas Day, were taken ashore and afterwards dealt with at the Police Court. Three deaths occurred during the voyage.

Mrs. E. Oldfield, of Takapuna, who was a passenger by the Brodick Castle, tells an interesting story of the voyage out. "Our ship," she says, "narrowly escaped disaster before ever she left the Thames. In a sudden squall she dragged her anchor, and was onlypage 141 saved by several small tugs coming to her assistance and towing her back to her moorings. The gale in the Bay of Biscay was a very trying experience. The wind blew with terrific force. For seven days and seven nights the ship was rolling about helplessly, the passengers being battened down, and for three days they were unable to get any food. The fore and the main mast, with their mass of yards and sails, went overboard, and the end of one yard-arm smashed a hole through the deck just over the compartment where the single women lived. At every roll of the vessel water poured in on these unfortunate girls, everyone of them being then battened down; and to add to the terror of the girls, the store-room walls gave way, and two large casks of flour went rolling through. The ship was rolling so heavily that three casks were smashed, and the flour mixing with the water made an indescribable mess, adding to the terrible state to which the poor girls were reduced.

"When superintending the cutting away of what was left of the mizzen mast, which was considered to be dangerous, the second officer had his leg severely smashed by the falling spar. The ship's doctor, with the help of two passengers, successfully amputated the limb. During the storm we also lost two sailors overboard, and one was killed by a falling spar. We were drifting about for seven days, helpless in the trough of the seas. At night rockets were sent up, a blue light was kept burning, and minute guns were fired.

"It was a terrible time for the passengers, many of whom never expected to see dry land again, and you can imagine our joy when a large steamer hove in sight and answered our signals of distress. She took us in tow and brought us into Falmouth.

"We were taken ashore at Falmouth, and went on by train to Plymouth, where we were lodged in barracks. Every kindness was shown to us. Those of the married people who could afford to do so, were allowed to take lodgings in the town. A few of the passengers left us at Plymouth, having decided that they would not renew their acquaintance with the Brodick Castle.

"For nine weeks we waited at Plymouth, and then, at last, on December 14, we re-embarked for New Zealand with a new crew. Things went well until we reached the Tropics, where the vessel was becalmed, and we had trouble with the sailors over the sending up of the topgallant yards on Christmas Day. Before things resumed their wonted calm, the captain had to go down and bring up his revolvers. For their disobedience the captain refused to give the men their extra Christmas rations. There was great resentment at this, and the disaffected men bringing their tubs of rice and salt meat, flung them down outside the door of the first mate's cabin, singing:

"''Tie Christmas Day, and we've salt horse for dinner;

Our meat's as green as any grass, and tough as any leather;"

"Owing to this disturbance with the crew the customary ceremonies connected with the crossing of the Line were omitted on our ship. Nothing very unusual occurred during the rest of the voyage to Auckland, where we ran on to Bean Rock Reef, but happily we soon floated off again."