Chapter 3 – Land Ho! The Stag Arrives - Colonial South Australia 1850

The Stag Diary - Passage to Colonial Adelaide 1850


 

Chapter 3 Land Ho! The Arrives - Colonial South Australia 1850

 

There’s no thrill in easy sailing when the skies are clear and blue,

There’s no joy in merely doing things, which any one can do.

But there is some satisfaction that is mighty sweet to take,

When you reach a destination that you never thought you’d make.

- Anon

 

At 12 o’clock on Tuesday 11 June 1850 a pilot joined the Stag to safely guide the vessel the last 4 miles to Port Adelaide. This was the end of a passage of around 13,000 miles for the some three hundred passengers and crew that had embarked for the journey at either Deptford or Plymouth, some one hundred and eleven days previously. There would have been a great sense of relief and excitement amongst the passengers and crew at finally and safely arriving at their destination. Francis Taylor expressed his feelings thus:

 

“…. We have finished our long journey being now safely arrived in Port, thanks be to God who has been our guide and mercifully preserved us from all the perils of this long and arduous voyage.”

 

It would be another day before the Commissioner came on board and cleared all the passengers to land at Port Adelaide and then to make their way to Adelaide.

 

“12 o’clock nearly all have now left the vessel and are wending their way towards the town or city of Adelaide. I am one among that number …”

 

According to Taylor the emigrants on board the Stag were pleased to have arrived and to once more set foot on land following a journey that had taken them direct to Port Adelaide without the usual stopover at the Cape of Good Hope. The long passage had been eventful and thus some of the families would have arrived with very mixed feelings, doubtless wishing they had never commenced the journey, particularly the husband of the woman and the parents of the six children that died during the passage. However, for most of the Stag’s passengers it was an exciting time that was to signal the start of a new life, which they would have been eager to commence. In seeking this new life many would have left behind poverty and conditions that offered little opportunity for advancement. It is possible that there were those onboard who had emigrated to escape some personal problem in Britain. There were possibly some who like poet Adam Lindsay Gordon had emigrated to South Australia after being spurned by a young lady and may have been capable of sharing with Gordon the feelings he expressed in verse to his sister:

 

“Across the tackles seas I go’

No matter when and where;

And few my future lot will know’

And fewer still will care.”

 

Gordon arrived in Port Adelaide some three years after the Stag’s passengers on 14 November 1853 on board the Clearly he didn’t appear to waste time pining and was immediately admitted into the South Australian mounted police force and sent to Mount Gambier.

 

The last few days on board the Stag clearly involved a mixture of emotions, experiences and feelings amongst the passengers. Their first sight of South Australia, as experienced by so many emigrants bound for Adelaide, occurred with the emergence of Kangaroo Island as a dot on the horizon. Francis Taylor described it thus:

 

“12 o’clock Kangaroo Island about which there has been so much talk is at length seen, but it requires every keen eye to discern it, as it appears like a dark spot arising out of the ocean. 2 o’clock we are now approached within about six miles of it, which is the nearest we shall be, it is surprising how we are all smitten by the sight of land….”

 

It seems that not all emigrants were impressed by what they first saw on arrival in the Bay on the last leg of their passage to Adelaide. A diarist on an earlier passage commented:

 

‘February 5

All morning sailing near Kangaroo Island. At 1 in the afternoon anchored in Holdfast Bay four miles from shore. Dismay and disappointment at the dreary, melancholy appearance of the place, threw a great damp on our arrival. Some of the passengers wept bitterly.’

 

However, the impression and hence the mood changed on approaching the Port:

 

‘At noon a Pilot came on board but the tide did not serve for going up the river so we had to wait till three in the afternoon. We could just clear the bar. It was an anxious moment. As soon as we entered the face of the country was indeed changed. Beautiful green trees and shrubs with mountains behind were seen on both sides. We had to beat up the river. Sometimes we were nearly amongst the shrubs. It is really a beautiful sail.’

 
 

Cape Willoughby, Kangaroo Island 1857 by W G Mason [By permission of the National Library of Australia]

This description coincides with the considerable praise by Francis Taylor for the landscape as the Stag approached the Port:

 

‘Truly of all sights ever witnessed by any European who has ever crossed the ocean, this surpasses all human imagination, romantic and natural in beauty, apparently boundless in extent, on each side the river or narrow channel we are now in are shrubs similar in appearance to the English Laurel, but of many varieties…..’

 
 

Port Adelaide – Sketch by T S Gill 1848 (steamboat Juno left of sketch was first overseas vessel to steam up the Port River in1847)

[By permission State Library of South Australia]

 

One writer in the middle of the century described the scene on entering the Gulf and proceeding to the Port as follows:

 

‘Entering at Vincent’s Gulf, and passing Holdfast Bay, where Governor Hindmarsh disembarked, and Mrs Hindmarsh’s piano was floated ashore through the surf, - for it is no harbour at all, but a dangerous open roadstead, - passing a number of seaside villages, Port Adelaide is reached, which by dint of dredging and with the advantage of quays, has become a safe and convenient harbour, and with the aid of the intended railroad, will afford the city of Adelaide nearly as much convenience as if it had been planted on a navigable river, or a deep harbour; that was impossible since no site exists in South Australia combining a good harbour, agricultural land and fresh water….’

 
 

Map of South Australian coast in vicinity of Adelaide showing the landmarks that were seen by emigrants on arrival

 

Having been confined to the Stag for one hundred and eleven days it must have been very strange to finally leave the familiarity of the vessel and step ashore to a place that they knew relatively little about. Many of the Stag passengers would have possibly felt apprehensive particularly those who had not come to a job or been met on arrival. However, to have made the tough decision to emigrate and to arrive safely it would be difficult to believe that these initial feelings would not have been quickly replaced with a sense of optimism and excitement. Clearly they would have arrived with a range of expectations and some preconceptions of what Adelaide and the colony would be like. I am sure that for at least a few of the emigrants the reality was vastly different.

 

The Stags passengers’ infact arrived at a time when there was an increasing spirit of optimism, energy and confidence emerging in the colonies. Landing in Adelaide in 1850 they would have sensed and doubtless contributed to this optimism about the future. Although growth in South Australia had been slower than in the eastern colonies, nonetheless there had been steady population growth and there was a sense of vigour and enthusiasm prevailing in the colony. The plans for Adelaide were also emerging from earlier confusion. By 1850 the population of Adelaide was slightly under 15,000 and the total population for the colony was around 60,000. The Immigration Agent released a report in May 1850 that may have caused some concern in the colony, as it indicated that in the first quarter of the year, immigrants arriving in South Australia were only one third of that in either of the previous two quarters. Throughout the January to March period seven hundred and twenty two colonists had arrived, including three hundred and seventy seven Germans. However, while there may have been variations from quarter to quarter the overall population growth in the colony continued.

Growth had been taking place at the Port Township and there was some confidence stemming from the apparent prosperity being enjoyed by the traders and residents of the area. A seaman’s hospital was under construction in June 1850 and a steam driven flourmill was also underway. Port facilities had also been improved and further development was planned. It was now possible for larger ships of 800-1000 tons to discharge and load safely. Despite the growth in construction and continuing growth in population Adelaide was still a relatively small community, with still a sense of it being a pioneering township. In 1850 the Stag’s passengers would have had a shared experience with others arriving in the colony at that time including having experienced the considerable discomforts of a very long sea voyage, having an enormous sense of relief at finally arriving safely and of needing to adjust to life in a frontier type society.

 

Earlier in 1850 there had been concern in the colony about the state of some of the vessels on arrival, including some arriving with passengers who had been exposed to cholera.

 

The most memorable instance had been the arrival of the barque, from London and Plymouth on 12 January 1850, carrying 125 passengers and reporting 25 deaths from cholera on the voyage. There was public outrage at the conditions on board. The captain and the surgeon were apparently drunkards, had acted with inhumanity during the voyage and both were thought incompetent at their respective jobs. There were further deaths after her arrival and she thus quickly became known in the colony as the ‘Death Ship’. The Douglas was a major topic for discussion during the month until the return of very high temperatures above the century (Fahrenheit), accompanied by the outbreak of a number of serious fires.

 

Later in the year there was a change in weather as cold gusty winds arrived in May heralding the coming of winter. The bad weather brought tragedy in the Gulf with a shipwreck. A small Jane a local vessel, came to grief soon after leaving Port Adelaide with the loss of ten lives. The day after leaving port she was sighted drifting on her side towards the beach at Glenelg. She was later grounded in heavy seas and quickly broke up.

 

Not far from Port Adelaide a number of passengers from the were suffering out a period of quarantine in a tent village on Torrens Island. The local Health Officer had ordered this period of quarantine as a result of a number of deaths on the voyage out.

 

In addition to the wreck of the Jane Flaxman there had been four other shipwrecks during the past year. All four ships had run aground due to problems in sighting the light ship near the Troubridge Shoal. All ships came close to this point on the way to Port Adelaide in order to keep to windward and remain in calmer waters. Despite these mishaps and the risk of encountering the shoal, ships continued this practice on their way to Port Adelaide.

 

The problems associated with shipwrecks and cholera didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the local people of the colony for the arrival of any vessel. It was thus in this spirit that the South Australian Register announced on Wednesday 12 June 1850:

 

‘SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE

 

ARRIVED

 

Tuesday June 11 - The ship 678 tons, Baker, master, from London 22 February. Passengers - W. Thomson, Esq (surgeon), Mr H. Minchin, Mr Richard Minchin, Mr and Mrs Brooks and three children, in the cabin; and the following Government emigrants: A Adams wife and child, C Brady, Catherine Byrne, T Bell, W Baker, J Beazley wife and three children, T Burnett, J Border wife and five children, Philip Brook, J Cassidy, H Cayser, W H Cock, H Cliff with wife and five children, - Chilcock wife and two children, J Cheers, Eliza Crarkee, D Carew wife and five children, Sarah Dower, E Davis and wife, R Edwards and wife, A Flesh wife and nine children, T Gamin, G Goodrich and wife, J Gregg and wife, J Harris wife and four children, Elizabeth Holman, S Hill wife and five children, J Hooper wife and child, R Harvey, John Johns and wife, Francis Lafolly wife and child, Emma Manning, J Mason wife and eight children, E Metcalfe, W Moak and wife, P Moyle and wife, Mary, Joseph and Henry Collins, Rd Newells, G Nation wife and five children, S W Parss, W Brissons wife and two children, Mary Pocock, Sarah, Louisa, and Geo Plowman, G Rossiter, M Browne wife and two children, J Rossiter and wife, Rd Reeves, T Roder, R Rosuggan, Mark Reid, T Rickard, J Skinner wife and child, S Lee, Mary Lee and child, S Sims wife and two children, Alfred Smith wife and two children, J Spice wife and five children, S Saunders, Harriet and Mary Saunders, Robert Tucker, S Harris, T Passmore wife and child, T Weekes, S Webb wife and three children, R Warren and wife, G Wright wife and six children, Jane Barge, Ann Ford, Mary Bird, and W H Harris. Seven deaths, 1 women of sea-sickness, and 6 children, and 3 children born.’

 

This was clearly not a complete passenger list as only some 192 passengers are listed. It also has some errors in spelling of names. According to Francis Taylor the first group of 114 passengers joined the vessel at Deptford and “upwards of 150” at Plymouth (i.e. some 264 passengers). There are various reports on the number of passengers that made the voyage, including some that cite the number as 300. However, I suspect that these higher counts may have included the 40 crew. It is interesting to note that 78 children under 18 were on the voyage to Adelaide, with several families having 7 or more children. A complete official list of passengers is apparently not available, but a list, which I derived from shipping and other records, can be found at Appendix A.

 
 

Customs House Warf, Collectors Office, East View, Port Adelaide, by S.T. Gill (184?)

[By permission of the National Library of Australia]

Not only were the Stag’s passengers pleased to have arrived safely at Adelaide, but also the people of Adelaide were pleased to see the arrival of the Stag, especially because she brought news of England. News of the world outside the colonies was a commodity highly sought after by the colonial settlers. This is clear from the notice in the South Australian Register also appearing in the June 12 issue, viz:

 

‘The Fatima and the Stag from England

 

These welcome arrivals, yesterday, brought us, as will be seen on a perusal of the particulars, elsewhere given, an addition of more than five hundred souls to our population, and news of the 8th March on which day the Stag sailed from Plymouth.

 

The reports of both ships are favourable but of the Stag especially. She arrived after her short passage in splendid order, and seems to be in every respect one of the gems among our arrivals.”

 

(The report went on to provide news brought by the two vessels of activities “at home” and in Europe and America.)

 

That passage by the Stag was thought to be a quick trip by 1850 standards. Ships were generally taking about five months to make the passage to the colonies in Australia at that time. For example, the Fatima was reported to have departed Plymouth a month prior to the

 

While, the speed of the Stag passage was cause for celebration it was nevertheless an eventful journey and fairly typical of most passages to the colonies by square-rigger at that time. Firstly, it had started with seasickness for a number of the passengers before the vessel had reached Dover and then in a few days there was a sense of sadness as they lost sight of land and said good-bye to England. In the words of Francis Taylor recorded in his diary, as he said farewell:

 

‘Adieu my Native Land, Adieu.’

 

Some very rough weather followed after the Bay of Biscay and all on board were concerned for their safety as the vessel was forced onto her side. A number of the passengers thought that their journey was about to end, but Taylor, although concerned, trusted in ‘God’s divine providence for protection.’ Despite the relatively quick passage to Adelaide it was a long arduous trip for the passengers and time seemed to pass slowly during the last couple of weeks. The sense of tiredness and frustration with the time the passage was taking was made worse by several deaths so close to the end of the journey and some very rough weather.

 

“The night has been more blusterous than any we have had, every sail folded all night and the wind has been blowing a complete hurricane, we got no rest until daybreak.”

 

This sense of frustration towards the end of the passage appears to be a common experience of those who emigrated in the nineteenth century to the Australian colonies.

 

When the Stag finally arrived in Port Adelaide there were already a number of vessels in harbour and others had arrived on the same day, as follows:

 

Harvey (barque), 292 tons, Smith, master, arrived from Leith 29 May; discharging cargo.

 

(brigantine), 150 tons, Arthur, master, arrived from Sydney 5 June; discharging cargo.

 

(barque), 392 tons, McLeod, master, arrived from England 14 May; about to sail for Melbourne.

 

(barque), 521 tons, Ray, master, arrived from London 11 June; discharging cargo.

 

Catherine (brig), 294 tons, Reis, master, arrived from Gottenberg 11 May; laid on for Moulmain.

 

Ashburton (ship), 1009 tons, Forest, master, arrived from Liverpool 8 June; discharging cargo.

 

(ship), 180 tons, Marsh, master, arrived from Sydney 27 May.

 

(cutter), 15 tons, Dowsett, master, arrived from Port Wakefield 10 June.

 

(schooner), 83 tons, McCracken, master, arrived from Mauritius 11 June; discharging cargo.

 

(ship), 661 tons, Boyce, master, arrived from Melbourne 7 May; loading for Liverpool.

 

(cutter), 15 tons, Mills, master, arrived from Port Lincoln 10 June; about to sail for Port Lincoln.

 

(brig), 180 tons, Allen, master, arrived from Mauritius 29 May; about to sail for Hobart Town.

 

Syers (barque), 312 tons, Morrison, master, arrived from Sydney 5 June; discharging cargo.

 

(schooner), 124 tons, Scarbrow, master, arrived from Mauritius on 27 May; loading for Calcutta.

 

Queen (barque), 404 tons, Wood, master, arrived from Launceston 22 May; discharging cargo.

 

(barque), 350 tons, Jolliffe, master, arrived from London 12 May; about to sail for Honolulu.

 

Some 317 vessels arrived at Port Adelaide during 1850. The Stag remained at Port Adelaide some three months and then departed on 5 August for Bombay with a cargo of copper and lead. There were no passengers on the passage to Bombay only the 40 crew.

 
 

Port Adelaide, 1840-49 (artist S T Gill)

[By permission of the National Library of Australia]

 

The weather had not been good during May with strong gusty winds and continued to be cold into June. However, the Stag managed to arrive in port safely and unload its passengers without incident. In addition to passengers and news from England the Stag also brought cargo that would have been welcomed by the traders of Adelaide. The South Australian Register listed the cargo, including reporting the name of the recipient, but the contents were largely a mystery as the report listed the cargo as so many boxes, trunks, barrels, bales, casks, pieces, bundles and packages, without actually stating the contents. For example: ‘65 kegs, 1 cask, 1 bale and 13 cases, Blyth Brothers’. Two items of cargo were however mentioned by name: beer and a piano.

 

While the new emigrants were pleased to arrive in the colony and the colonists pleased to see the arrival of another vessel the local Kaurna Aborigines had little reason to rejoice about colonisation. They soon lost their land and identity. There was considerable friction between the Aborigines and the settlers and relations between the two groups deteriorated. Aborigines killed a number of settlers and punitive expeditions led by the police chief, Major T.S. O’Halloran, avenged such attacks.

 

On their arrival in Adelaide the Stag passengers would have found Sir Henry Young in place as the Governor of South Australia. He arrived in the colony some two years earlier on 1 August 1848 in the Forfarshire. The Governor ruled with a Council appointed by him until 1851, when a partly elected Legislative Council was introduced. The Stag passengers arrived at a time when there was mounting criticism of the unrepresentative nature of the system of government. The people seized on any issue to attack the current system, including the dray tax that had been introduced to fund improvements to the roads. Petitions were put to the Governor. It was not until 1856 that the colony became fully independent for all internal matters.

The origins of the colony lay in the disturbed circumstances of British society of the 1820’s. The colony was shaped around the ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who first propounded the notion of “systematic colonisation” in 1829. Wakefield believed that a contrived balance between capital invested and labour available to exploit the “waste lands” of the empire, combined with dense agricultural settlement and maximum freedom for the settlers to manage their affairs without government interference, would maximise returns for investors and create new opportunities for English labourers. Following negotiations with various promoters a compromise was reached in 1834 with the passage of the South Australia The South Australian Company, formed in London on 22 January 1836, grew from the arrangements provided for in this legislation. The purpose of the Company was to encourage investment and development in South Australia.

 

The new colony experienced financial difficulties during the early years. Many early investors went bankrupt, but the colony began paying its way by 1844. There was initially some tension between workers and employers, which eased after 1846 as prosperity returned to the colony.

 

The development of the colony had been influenced greatly by the South Australian Company. The company was driven largely by profit motives rather than philanthropic motives, but it did render important service in assisting with the founding of the colony. The company brought the first colonists to South Australia in two small vessels, the John Pirie and the Duke of sailing from England in February 1836. The Duke of York arrived first, anchoring in Nepean Bay on 27 July. The plan was to settle on Kangaroo Island, but this location was soon abandoned as unsuitable and thus the settlers moved to Holdfast Bay on the mainland. By Christmas 1836 there was a temporary village with a population of about 300. The South Australian Company had brought out a large number of these people. The Company had been responsible for construction of shipping accommodation, the construction of numerous buildings in the Port and in Adelaide and planned and carried out the construction of the Port road. By 1850 when the Stag arrived the Company had grown considerably in size and continued to influence development in the colony. The Company ended its activities in South Australia in 1949.

 

Transport was difficult in the colony because of poor roads. In 1840 a Central Road Board was established to assist building and repairs. There was an attempt in 1850 to open up the River Murray as a means of transport with the South Australian Government offering a prize of £2,000 for each of the first two steamers to travel from Goolwa at the Murray River mouth to the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers at Wentworth in NSW, a distance of some 500 miles. It took some three years for this to be achieved. The Government had felt that this link would enable South Australia to capitalise on the pastoral trade with graziers who were having difficulty selling their wool and in obtaining supplies.

 

There was also a move to develop rail links as a way of improving the system of transport. In 1850 an Act was passed which authorised the Adelaide City and the Port Railway Company to build a line from the Legislative Council building in North Terrace along Port Road to Port Adelaide. The scheme quickly collapsed but was revived by the Government taking over funding. The line opened on 19 April 1856. Adelaide was connected to Gawler some 25 miles away in October 1857, and then to Kapunda in August 1860, followed by Burra Burra in 1870.

 

In considering what the Stag passengers would have found when they arrived in 1850 it is of interest to read what a nineteenth century writer had to say about Adelaide in the middle of the century:

 

‘… the city of Adelaide appears in the midst of trees, often full of the most rare and curious birds, which migrate periodically from the colder to the hotter climates, in a warm, pretty and dusty valley. Adelaide, although very unlike a city according to European notions, presents a much more pleasing appearance than Melbourne, which is crowded into a narrow valley, without squares, park or boulevard. In the park lands surrounding and intersecting the straggling streets of the former, which are as picturesque as Wiesbaden or Cheltenham, although less finished, Colonel Gawler encouraged the blacks to camp by frequent feasts of flour and mutton, and there strangers had an opportunity of seeing, sometimes to their amusement, often to their surprise, their peculiar customs, habits and sports. Many pretty cottages are to be found in the suburbs as neat and highly finished as in England.

 

South Adelaide is considered the commercial quarter of the town, and contains the principal streets, one of which is 130 feet wide and Government House, in the centre of a domain of ten acres.

 

Hindley-street is the Regent-street of Adelaide, and has the distinction of being paved. For want of this luxury of civilisation, coupled with the nature of the soil, Adelaide is terribly afflicted with dust, at all times a nuisance, which is indeed common to all Australian towns…..

 

In the surrounding suburbs many pretty villages have been founded, both inland and on the shore….. ‘

 

Although Adelaide was taking shape as a city and building progress was occurring there were some complaints, which started around 1848, about the filthy state of the city. The critics pointed to open drains, unpaved roads and smells that arose after any rainfall. In May 1850 the Governor announced, much to the surprise and delight of the population, a scheme to provide reticulated water to Adelaide.

 

The new arrivals one would suspect disembarked with little money (the majority were assisted steerage class passengers) and would thus have been keen to start work and to take advantage of the better working conditions that they no doubt had heard existed in the colony. Looking at the Stag passenger list it is clear that a large number of the men came with a trade and a further number were from an agricultural/farming background. The most common occupation listed for women was that of domestic servant.

 

The kind of wages that Stag passengers could have expected to receive in South Australia in 1850, based on average wage rates, were:

 

With board and

 

Bakers

4/- per day

Butchers

3/- per day

Domestics, male

£25 to £30 per annum

Domestics, females

£12 to £20 per annum

Farm servants

Couple £30 to £40 per annum

Farm Servants

Single £25 to £30 per annum

Millers

4/6 per day

Tailors

7d. per hour

Without board and

 

Blacksmiths

6/- per day

Bricklayers

6/- per day

Brickmakers

30/- per 1000

Bullock drivers

£25 to £30 per annum

Carpenters

6/6 per day

Carriage makers

7/- per day

Coopers

6/6 per day

Day labourers

4/- per day

Masons

7/- per day

Painters

4/6 per day

Plasterers

5/6 per day

Saddlers

5/- per day

Shopmen

£60 to £100 per annum

Tanners

5/6 per day

Wheelwrights

6/6 per day

Miners

35/- per week

Sawyers

9/- per 100 feet

 

As an example of South Australian prices on 11 June 1850 Charles Robin, located in Clark’s Building, Hindley Street, announced in the South Australian Register a sale of “valuable French and English goods”, including 30,000 yards of 30 inch white super calico at 3d a yard, 300 pairs of Whitneys blankets at 9/9 per pair, reduced from 14/6, ladies best French kid gloves at 2/- per pair, 1000 silk neck-ties at 9 1/2d each and 1000 pairs of buff slippers at 15d per pair, reduced from 2/-. While these prices demonstrate something of the range of goods available in the colony they probably would not have been items that the new arrivals would be interested in or able to purchase. They may have been more in need of “ladies lasting shoes” at 3s 6d a pair or “mens double-soled boots” at 8s 6d per pair on sale from M&S Marks. I suspect that the price of food would have been of even greater interest. For example: beef was 1d to 3d per pound, mutton 1d to 3d per pound, butter (fresh) 1s 4d per pound, milk 4d per quart, bread 6d for a 4 pound loaf, flour 20s per 20 pound bag, eggs 1s 2d per dozen, tomatoes 2d per pound, green peas 1s 3d per pound, carrots 2d to 4d per bunch, onions 2d per pound, cabbages 2d to 4d each. You could also purchase fowls for 4s per couple, chickens for 3s per couple and ducks for 5s per couple.

 
 

Sketch of Hindley Street Adelaide from corner of King William Street, c. 1847 by S T Gill.

(By permission of the National Library of Australia)

 

The Adelaide Grain Market announced for the same day, 11 June, the following prices:

 

.     wheat  

3s 9d to 4s per bushel;

 

.     oats

3s to 3s 3d according to quality;

 

.      barley

2s 6d to 2s 9d;

 

.     flour

£11 firm, with an upwards tendency; and

 

.     bran

9d to 10d.

 

In the South Australian Register on 13 June:

 

-  the Railway Hotel, Port Adelaide was looking for a cook;

 

-  Lucas, Hindley Street wanted an experienced saleswoman, a first hand milliner and an errand boy; and

 

-  Disher and Milne, Hindley and Currie Streets announced the arrival of 900 dozen bottles of ale and porter received per the Jenny

 

Thus on arrival in June 1850 the Stag passengers would have found a small but vibrant and growing colony offering opportunities for employment and a better life.

 

The story of those who came on the Stag in 1850 is told in some detail by passenger Francis C Taylor in the daily diary he kept during the passage. The Taylor diary is very significant, not only because it provides a detailed account of a passage to the colonies on a small ship, but also because it is one of a small number of accounts of such a passage by a steerage class emigrant. The importance of this is clear when it is realised that the majority of diarists came to the colonies cabin or first class, while a majority of the nineteenth century arrivals came steerage class. For example, only 4 adults and 3 children travelled cabin class on the 1850 Stag passage to Adelaide.

 

Although the diary gives us considerable detail about the passage and some insights into the author, we know little about Taylor from the ship’s passenger register other than that he came from Shropshire (described as one of England’s most rural and sparsely populated counties), his previous occupation had been as a groom (according to the passenger list but he described himself in the diary as an agriculturalist) and he was a member of the Church of England. He was apparently born, Francis Childs Taylor, around 1820 in Sal. England (Sal is probably short for Salop which is a common alternative name for Shropshire). Taylor was thus about 30 years old during the passage to South Australia. It’s clear from the diary that he is well educated, he comes from a caring extended family, he has strong emotional ties to England (particularly those areas of Shropshire that he is familiar with), he supports good order and authority, he believes in and abides by rules and that he has a strong belief in God, (“…. thanks be to God who has been our guide, and mercifully preserved us from all the perils of this long and arduous voyage”). The primary reason that he wrote the diary was clearly as a record to be passed on to his family, who he misses and regards highly. He gives few clues as to why he decided to emigrate to South Australia except that it does appear to be an adventure and an opportunity for new experiences. He does comment that he believes that anyone willing to try should succeed in the colonies and that he was “determined to try in earnest”. His reasons for emigrating must have been strong enough to overcome the separation from his “esteemed” family and friends and the county and country that he clearly had very strong bonds with. Departing may have been a little easier for Francis Taylor as he expected that he would one day return to see family and friends. This was not an expectation commonly held or indeed realised by most nineteenth century emigrants, particularly those who came as assisted emigrants.

 

Details of Francis Taylor following his arrival in South Australia are very limited. The latter part of the diary make it clear that Taylor was very keen to get to shore and to get to work. It appears that Taylor quickly obtained employment. The last thing he reported in his diary on June 13 was that:

 

‘..I have just made an engagement with a farmer to work at twelve shillings per week, board lodging and washing included….’

 

(This engagement would have provided Taylor with an annual income of just over £31 per year, which was at the higher end of remuneration for farm labourers at that time)

 

Having read something of the story of nineteenth century emigration to the colonies as described in this and the previous chapters, the reader is now invited to come on board the Stag for the long sea passage to South Australia in a small three masted square rigged sailing ship. The story of the 1850 passage of the Stag as told in the diary of Francis Taylor provides a clear and matter of fact account of the passage. His story is undoubtedly the story of many of the nineteenth century emigrants that came under sail ‘tween decks to the Australian colonies.

 
 

Stag in big seas - watercolour by Alexander Weynton

[By permission of the National Library of Australia]