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Journey on ‘The Arethusa’ from Plymouth to Wellington

28 August to  December 1879

Excerpts from the Diary of Charlotte Couchman, a fellow passenger on the ship that Elizabeth Riley and her daughters Hannah Riley and Henrietta Garnett with her husband James Garnett and daughter Martha Elizabeth age 5, came out to New Zealand on.

Charlotte Couchman age 44 left with her husband Frederick 44 and daughter Martha 10. Her son Charles 24 and wife Elizabeth 22 and their children Emily age 1, and Frederick 5mths. Her other children Frederick 22, John 22, Horace 18, Jane 16 and William13 are also on board. (Ages according to ship manifest – differs in diary.)

 

Plymouth, August 28 1879.

My dear brothers and sister and Mother and all dear and near to me.

 

I am going to try and give you a little description of our voyage to New Zealand.

 

We arrived at Plymouth last evening after a long and tedious journey traveling all day from London. We were rather surprised when we got to the Depot – they had hundreds more like us waiting to embark, but oh, how different to our nice little home in Hastings. I wish they would be contented and remain but it is too late now.

 

This is Sunday, August 31st.

We have been prisoners this three days not allowed out if the gates until this morning. They let us out to church, not allowed any beer nor get the chance to buy any, which is the first great punishment.

 

Monday.

We are ordered to prepare ourselves for the ship this morning. 2o’clock we are taken off by a large three mast ship, ‘The Arethusa’. I never saw any so big. It is like being in a street with houses on each side of you. Well, we have three black cooks on board and three more black sailors, besides nine more sailors and three mates and a steward and cabin boy and doctor and Captain and a matron to take care of the single girls- there are one hundred and fifty singles girls and a a hundred single men and a hundred married men and their wives and children.

 

Now we know what it is to be mixed up with all sorts of people and no means of getting away or you may depend we should not stay here, so we are obliged to make the best of it. I will pass over our fare till Wednesday 12 o’clock September 3rd, the anchor was drawn up and the steam tug came to tow us out to deep waters.

 

Goodbye to England. Dear old England. I shall never see you again but let us hope we may meet again in the Betterland where there will be no seeking for a home far away on foreign shores, but a home of rest for the weary and heavy-laden.

 

Now I must tell you we are 20 miles from Plymouth. The tug is going to leave us. All sails are unfurled and we have begun our perilous journey all alone on the sea. We have passed the Eddystone lighthouse – you remember reading of Grace Darling spending her life there. It is a lonely place – stand out in the sea by itself. We have everything for our comfort and convenience and as yet you would hardly tell we were away from land there such confusion with crying children and the noise on deck with the sailors clearing the decks. We have passed another night is safety – pray God we may pass the remainder as well and arrive safe in that far off land.

 

Father was called upon last night at 12 to take his turn on watch for 2 hours, the men have to take their turn every week. They say the rats do run at such a rate it is fun – but not for us. I lay in bed and found something running over me and when I looked out of the clothes there was a great rat jumping from one bunk to another. We are all separated from the single ones; the single men are at one side of the ship, and the single women the other and near the Captains cabin. The married people are in the centre of the ship. There are rules and regulations laid out – what work is to be done and the days to do it. And so we find quite enough to do to pass the time away, what with the washing every week and the keeping of our berths clean, and we fill up the time with needlework on deck. I bought myself a shut-up chair for 6d in Plymouth and I sit on deck and quite enjoy myself while the men have their enjoyment in a pipe of tobacco, for that is cheap enough on the ship – only 2/- a pound.

 

Well I am thankful to say we are all in good health, and we see the boys and Jane every day on deck. I brought one box with us filled with jam, baking powder, a large ham, tins of milk and tins of lobster – enough to last us about six weeks. We find them very acceptable for we get nothing but salt meat and preserved meat. There are five sheep on board and a quantity of ducks, chickens but they are for the Captain and Doctors table – we poor emigrants will not get any fresh meat until we see Wellington.

 

We have several men on board who have brought music with them such as violins, concertinas and bells so they play of an evening while the people dance on deck and when they get tires of that they sing songs. It all helps to pass the time away for it si daylight from three in the morning until nine at night. We have every sail out full and the ship looks beautiful by moonlight cutting through the water at a rate of 200 miles a day. We have plenty to eat and plenty of tea and coffee, which we can make when we like. I am sure we ought to be thankful for the same. I never thought I could sleep or make myself so contented on the water, for we are now out of sight of land. I get so tired and sleepy by night that I can’t wait to get to bed. We rise by six in the morning and fold up our beds and bedding and get ready for breakfast by 8 o’clock. We go by bells here – no clock – work now. After that we take our work and go up on deck until dinner time.

 

Oh, such a sea – it beats up mountains high and we do pitch and toss all over the place. We cannot stand upright and nearly everybody is seas-sick. Our boys are all bad and poor Jane is so bad. I had a little touch of it this morning and so are Charlie and his wife and children. They are with us in the married quarters. We roll about so much that I cannot write any more tonight.

 

Saturday September 6th:

Very rough weather. I don’t know how we shall stand three months of this. There were two women confined last night – both boys, but one died, the other lives yet.

 

September 7th: Sunday

This is Charlie’s birthday. He is 26 today. They have their hands full with those two little children, but thank God they keep well as yet. I made a birthday cake and Fred and john have come to have a cup of tea and a piece of cake with us this afternoon. We are in the Bay of Biscay. No wonder we roll on in this way. We shall soon be in the Atlantic Ocean. We have just passed Finnestre lighthouse, and seen two big sharks following us along. Now we have sighted Maderia a long way off. We are going along very fast. Out Captain says if we keep going along like this we shall reach Wellington in twelve weeks. I only wish we were thee now. I don’t like this rocking about on the sea, although it is awfully grand.

 

Wednesday September 10th:

This is beautiful weather. The sea is as smooth as a lake – quite a change. We are getting in a warmer climate. You would be quite amused to see us washing on deck and each woman has her line full and draws it up in the rigging to dry – either pinned on or tied on with string.

 

Friday:

Fair wind. We have gone just 1,000 miles from Plymouth and we have 17,000 miles to Wellington. We have a schoolmaster for all the children under 14. They sit on deck and learn. We have not seen land for 10 days – today we sighted a large ship going to America. Out Captain spoke to them by flags and they returned the salute. I am thankful to say we are all getting over sea sickness. We have not been able to eat anything all the week. We are expecting to be at Cape of Good Hope next week. If there is a chance of sending any letters you may depend on one.

 

Sunday:

We have had a church service today on deck which sounded very beautiful amid the rolling sea. We sang the Emigrants Prayer – I think I sent you one from Plymouth. The words are very good and I felt the better for hearing the word of God on the water. We end the Sabbath Day by prayer and by singing Moody and Sankey’s Hymns – with these black cooks for they are real converts. It is fine to hear them. We are all very happy together. May the Lord bless us and keep us so.

The weather is very hot. We expect to be in the tropics shortly and they serve us limejuice for us to drink with water. We all get so burn and brown with the heat. You will be surprised to hear I left my caps off directly we started and I fell lost without them.

 

Monday September 15th:

We want more wind for we are all impatient to get a long quicker. We go 160 miles a day. We are crossing the line – very hot. We had another birth today- a fine boy. The Doctor christened him Arethusa, after the ship. They are going to send to England the first chance we get to have him registered. I expect that will be from the Cape of Good Hope and if he sends any letters we shall all do the same. I know you will be pleased to get a letter – at least I think you will. Well nothing will please me better than to hear from any of you that is all that is left for me, for it is not likely that I shall ever see you again. The time is gone when you might have come to see us but no-one ever came. Nor hardly cared to write, but I do hope Dear Sister that you will write to me now and send ma all the news of home. We expect to be on the sea another 8 or 9 weeks. I do want to get there and settle down again.

 

Wednesday 17th

Another tea party for it is Fred’s birthday today. He is 22 years old. We have spent all day on deck looking at the different islands – the Canary Islands and another island where Lord Nelson lost his arm in an encounter with the Spaniards. One of the islands is 7,300 feet high. We look close to them but we are 7 miles from either of them and they seem right up in the clouds – it is something very beautiful to stand and watch them and the Captain tells us they inhabited. You can see the trees through a glass. They are full of oranges and the little huts are like specks on the hills surrounded by gardens.

 

Friday:

We are sailing around the coast of Africa. We have had our box up today that we packed our treasures in to have after we had been a month at sea. How nice our ham came out and tasted better than all the salt pork and beef that we have had lately. Our jar of jam and tins of milk and lobster have kept well. But they won’t keep much longer now. We have got a fresh lot of clothes out so we shall go on afresh.

 

Saturday September 20th:

Woke early and heard that a poor little baby – 10 months old – had breathed her last. Of, they send the sailmaker to sew it up in a piece of canvas with two rods of iron and at 2 o’clock the funeral took place. Oh what a sight – poor little dear. When the splash came when it was slid down the plank to the sea, every lady cried, even the rough sailors wiped a tear away and the young couple cried bitterly. They lost their only treasure in the sea and as wee are going along almost 200 miles a day it was soon left miles behind and the sharks that have been following us al week left us again. Now it is tremendously hot. Our doctor says that when he sailed around this coast with the last lot of emigrants he bought out three years ago he lost 40 women and children with diarrhea, so it makes him rather fidgety about what we have to eat and drink. They give us a portion of lime juice to drink every week – it is very pleasant to drink. Our water is salty for they condense the sea water for our use, so as to make the casks of water last out the entire journey. We don’t get any beer – only the women who have children suckling get a pint of stout in two days and a glass of port wine if they are not well.

 

Thursday 25th September:

Another night passed in safety and all well, thank God. We are now 4,000 miles from England nearing CapeYard Islands. We are only half way to Cape of Good Hope yet and then we shall be half way to New Zealand. We see such lots of flying fish- they are like herrings with wings – they come out of the water in shoals and fly a long distance and then dive down and fly out again in another place like swallows.

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers, I hope you will all see my diary and read it and say my sister wrote this to us when she was on the sea in her 50th year. What a foolish old women to go from England but I don’t wish myself back again yet. We have had fine fun this evening. The sailors have bee riding the dead horse around the deck by moonlight – the procession passed a round with tins and drums three times and then drew him up to the yard arm and set him on fire. At the same time a lighted tar barrel was thrown over and we could see them burning for miles away. The meaning of it is this – when the ship sailed from London Docks the sailors drew a months pay in advance, so they have been working off a dead horse all this month. Now they have made away with the dead horse and are going afresh.

 

Sunday 28th:

This Sabbath day is not to end without death amongst us again. A young single woman of 18 years old. She has been ailing ever since the sea sickness and this evening she broke a blood vessel and expired in half an hour. She is to be buried at midnight very quietly by express wish of her poor widowed mother. She is traveling with three daughters, one son and two young men that are engaged to the girls. Oh, you should have seen those young men weep over her that was gone. It was enough to break your heart – poor things. They don’t seem as if anyone can comfort them, but they place their trust in One that will comfort them. Only give them time to get over their great sorrow. That young person was quite prepared for another world – she had been ailing for years with consumption. We were surrounded with sharks all yesterday.

 

Thursday: Inspection Day:

We have passed the Doctor satisfactorily and our beds and bedding examined as well.

 

Friday October 3rd:

Fresh breeze springing up, Thunder, lightening and rain. Oh what a night. We know now what it is to have a storm at sea. We can hardly lay in our beds and are obliged to hold on to the woodwork, The ship rolls fearfully. The tins and pannekins and pails are rolling all over the place and the sea comes over the deck and down upon us dreadfully.

 

Saturday:

Still rough and stormy. Charlie’s keeps fainting away. She is very weak and low. She cannot eat the food they give us and is suckling the baby – she has got so she can hardly keep up. I am obliged to nurse the baby entirely and feed him with a bottle and the little girl is continually crying for Grandma, but they have not used us well at all since we started but I must try and return good for evil. She has got thick with some of the voyagers and turns up her nose at me and Father – but the poor children shall not suffer through them.

 

Sunday October 5th:

Another Sabbath on the sea but I begin to feel quite weary of the journey. You may depend if ever I get safe on the land I shall not venture on the sea to return to England. I am thankful to say Lizzie is better – I began to think we should have a death in our family, but thank God all is well as yet. I am glad of it for I do not like nursing and dragging about as I have done. I have had two days washing for us all this week – you would laugh to see it pinned on a line and all drawn up. We often lose some of our clothes; then I bought my irons with me and the black cook makes them hot for me, so I manage to starch and iron fine. We passed two homeward bound ships today and saluted them. I expect that will be in your English papers.

 

Friday:

We see nothing but water everywhere but tearing through the waves. I hope we shall soon make up for the lost time for we are going 210 miles a day.

 

Saturday:

On such a sea. The waves are mountainous high. The water comes over and drenches through. Thank God we have been kept from danger as yet and trust we may be spared the rest of our journey. We are not half way yet. The Captain thinks we shall pass the Cape today.

 

Saturday October 11th:

Has ended with another concert on the main deck got up for our amusement to help pass the time away. It passed off well and makes fine fun for us all and now we have another Sabbath on the sea with our beautiful church service on deck – it does us good. I do enjoy it. I love to hear the singing and the prayers for the safety of us all and our ship are something beautiful. John and Fred with some other young men have started a bible class amongst the young men. Three times a week they meet and form their class – and it would do your heart good to hear them read and sing. I have every reason to be thankful to Almighty God for helping me to bring the boys up so steady and good. They know what their mother has had to put up with and the hard struggle I have and to endure with hard work and harder WORDS – God only knows what I have suffered and do still. I don’t know what will be the end of it but I care nothing now where I go nor what I do as long as I can be near my children. We have some people of all nations on board – Scotts, Irish, Welsh, Swiss, Americans and some of the lowest class of person, but we are obliged to make ourselves agreeable with them for our own sakes. I am sorry to see the boys mixed up with such a set, still they try to make the best of it. I feel sure they are disappointed already – it was not what they thought it would be on board. They tell us the ship is 273 feet long and was built in 1869. It is very large. It is quite like a long street from one end to the other. We have nice walks of an evening I and Martha when it does not roll too much, but sometimes we cannot stand. I am thankful to say we are all quite well and we have splendid weather. Not much wind but very fine.

 

Friday October 18th:

We a becalmed again and sitting on the deck having our tea. We heard something splash in the water and on looking over the side saw a fine great shark going all round and round the ship and on the surface of the water. Our Captain threw a rope and bait and caught him and the sailors drew him on the deck and there was the small pilot fish. They did not catch them. The butcher chopped his head off and the carpenter sawed his tail off then they cut it open and threw some of the parts of it over the side again. He measures 10 feet 5 inches in length. The Captain has the backbone and jawbone for the sake of the pearls. There are two rows of pearls around the jaw – everybody seems to have had a bit but I could not touch it – they have nailed the tail on the bow of the ship and the fun is over. The poor thing was hungry. I always think it is a token of death, but I hope not this time.

 

Monday:

The wind raging and the ship tossing about. The sea looks awfully grand but so wild for the waves are mountainous high. We passed the Trinidad Island today. It is inhabited by Portuguese convicts – this is fearful night. It rains and thunders and lightens dreadfully.

 

Tuesday 21st:

The storm still rages fearfully. Oh God, protect us from the dangers of the sea. We have another woman confined today with twin girls. I don’t think they will live – they are so small – like dolls. The sea still rages – sometimes I think we will never live to send this diary to you, but we shall all go together if we go down. The wind is ripping our sails asunder and carrying them away. The chains are beating against the side of the ship and all is confusion. We cannot stand without holding on to something firm. There is no music or dancing on the deck. None but our good ship dancing on the water at 12 miles an hour. I am thankful to say that Father is better. The rest are well, we are getting quite thin and weak for we only have tea and coffee to drink and a very limited supply of cold water, the rest of the day.

 

Saturday October 12th:

The sea still continues very high. It beats up mountains high. I never saw such a sea before. It is a grand sight – there is a quantity of birds flying over us now. That is all the company we have got – there is some fine large albatross and Cape Pigeons and sea fowls – our Captain has been trying to catch some. Thank God another week has passed. We have had three days and three nights rocking about. We could not keep anything on our shelves and our tables and could hardly lay on our bunks. One night we could not sleep as the noise was something awful. I thought every moment we should go down to the bottom,. I have not been on deck for a week until today and now I have paid a visit to Jane and the boys at their end of the ship. I am thankful to say they are al quite well. We had another death today. A boy 16 months old – poor little thing had consumption of the bowels. Another dinner for the sharks! I should like to have a nice dinner of fresh meat and vegetables like we have been used to. This is something dreadful. We cannot eat the salt beef – and not much pork. It is tainted. Well we have preserved potatoes. They are sickly and our bread we have new every day. The flour is musty. Then we have plenty of rice but no milk, for our tins are all empty. I shall be glad when this journey is over.

Father seems to keep alright. He has no beer but plenty of tobacco. We buy that at 2s. and 6d. a pound so he has plenty of that.

 

Monday October 27th:

Bitterly cold. We are glad to keep below and are almost perished. Another poor baby died this evening at 5 o’clock while we sat at tea and buried at 9. It does seem so sad to see the poor little things sewn up directly and buried in the sea.

 

Wednesday:

Still the same. I have just done a weeks washing. I never thought I could wash in cold water and this hard water too. I am almost frozen to death. It is full moon and looks beautiful over the sea with such a lot of birds flying over us. The albatross are very large – when they throw their wings wide open they measure 10 and 12 feet across. If they get on the deck of the ship they cannot fly up again, so they are caught.

 

Wednesday:

Eight weeks today since we sailed out of Plymouth. This is very cold – it feels like snow. We have daylight at 4 in the morning and not dark until after 8 at night.

 

Saturday:

Another funeral – of the twins that were born a week ago. Poor little things. They are both sewn up in canvas together and thrown overboard. I hope we shall not have much more of this – it is heart-rending.

 

Sunday November 2nd:

We feel the cold more than ever and no fire to cheer us. We dare not go into the galley as it is strictly forbidden. The poor little babies do cry with the cold. I shall be glad when we get into a little warmer climate. We are getting up a tea party for the 5th November. The only way we can celebrate it here.

 

Tuesday:

This is worse than ever. We pitch and toss at such a rate. It doesn’t seem possible that we can get through this sea – God help us!

 

Wednesday 5th November:

Still heavy swell on. This is Horace’s birthday – he is 18 today. The water comes clean over the deck and down upon us like heavy claps of thunder. It is not safe for any of us to go on deck. There are several children with broken limbs for they will go in defiance of everybody. We turn into our bunks quite early to keep warm for it is so cold we cannot feel anything. Our fingers and feet are numbed. We had a heavy fall of snow and hail today and the men are catching albatross for they are tired out and keep falling on the deck. They are splendid birds. They skin them and throw the bodies away, while the plumage they keep for sale and the quills in the wings they make pip stems of. I have got a fine large skin given to me to make Jane a set of furs. The first mat had it dressed and nailed out on a board to dry it. I am afraid we shall have a rough night – we toss fearfully.

 

Wednesday:

We have hail and snow three days running. The cold is very severe. Everybody is complaining of chilblains. We have not seen a ship nor any signs of land for some time. Since I last wrote we have been tossed about and some of our sails carried away, and the bulwarks have given way on one side….... we expected to go down…… laid on her side…...water rushed…...fearfully.

 

Monday 17th:

We have still very rough weather – hail and snow but not so cold as it has been. Our constables are very busy catching albatrosses for their skins. They have caught 16 today. The rocking of the ship has quite upset me. I feel so ill I can neither eat nor sleep. We dare not go on the deck for fear of being washed over and the carpenter has cut a hole through the partition into the single men’s quarters to give us air for we are all shut down and have a lamp burning to see with. There are two men lashed to the wheel for fear of being washed overboard. That will tell you what a sea we are in. Father is on watch from 12 to 2. Goodnight.

 

Wednesday:

Still wet and rough weather. The sea comes over the deck and rushes down every opening it can get if – it is not safe for men to walk about let alone women. We cannot sit still without holding onto something firm. We have been 11 weeks on the sea. Surely we shall not be much longer. I made a cake today which was very nice. I ground some rice and sea biscuits with some sugar and currants and dripping and get our black cook to bake it for us. It is very nice for a change, but we still have new bread every day. We roll about so much I must say goodnight.

 

Friday:

Quite a change for it is fine and the wind in our favour. We cut along 300 miles a day at this rate. Our hatchways are opened and we are taking a walk on deck – now the rain comes on again with the evening. I often wish I had a little brandy for I have got so weak and thin, but no – nothing can we have here. Our Doctor has such a good lookout for number one that he cannot spare any – though there is plenty on board of everybody of everything you could name, but he is so afraid he should have to short at the last. The steward says that when we are landed the Doctor will sell what is left and pocket the coin. He is an old sinner. There is nobody likes him. He is always ashamed to hold the service on Sundays now because we have seen him the worse for drink so we may go for what he cares.

 

This is Sunday again quite calm day until 3 o’clock and it pours with rain again and the sea is very rough. We have seen three large whales and a quantity of porpoises today all around the ship. The heads of them as they come out of the water are just like pigs heads – all black.

 

Wednesday

The weather is dry but cold and the sea keeps washing over the deck so it is not safe to walk about or sit down as we get a drenching.

 

Thursday November 27th:

We have been busy all this week cleaning our bunks and shelves and lockers. Everything about the lower deck is clean ready for landing. We expect to land in about a week. The school children have been receiving their prizes for their lessons and conduct. Martha has a beautiful gilt edged book presented to her. She gained the first prize in each class and Willy got a very nice book of tales. I wish we were going to meet some of our brothers and sisters out here but we shall be strangers in a strange land.

 

Monday December1st:

Very steady – rather a damp on out spirits for we are becalmed. Midday:  Blowing quite a hurricane. Going along 12 miles an hour, so you can see the difference in a few hours. We are troubled to sit, stand or lay the ship rolls about so much.

 

Tuesday:

We have had an awful rough night and the waves are as high as mountains. It is quite a grand sight to see for the water is quite black and we seem to lay in a hollow and cut through the heavy waves. The men have caught 14 more albatross today. We have gone 280 miles since yesterday. We have 500 more miles to go and if the wind keeps in our favour we shall do it it two days.

 

Wednesday December 3rd:

Still on the sea and nothing to look at. I wish we had something better to eat. Our bread is musty, our pork is salty and our beef is rank and the preserved meat is all gone – everything seems stale and bad.

 

Friday:

Very foggy. The sailors are obliged to be using foghorns night and day. We sighted another ship this morning dome distance off – that is the first we have seen for some time. Good new – fair winds.

 

Saturday:

South Island visible. We are running through Cook Strait. We are only 50 miles from land but this being Saturday they will not take us into harbour until another fair wind. We have just passed Cape Farewell and a lighthouse. They are going to hoist a flag (the Union Jack of Old England) to bring us a pilot – thank God. We have sighted land on both sides of us, but oh – it does look a wild country.

 

Sunday December 7th:

We have had a night of it. I don’t think anyone had been to bed. If they sis they could not sleep for we entered Port Nicholson in the night and dropped anchor. Now we can see a sailing boat coming toward us with a pilot and three men in it. Hip Hip Hurrah the men shout as he steps on our deck. We have no wind and being a Sunday they cannot get a steamer to tow us into Wellington Harbour, so we must have patience once more for the last Sunday. We meet our family on deck today and can sit and talk and compare our diary each one has kept of the voyage. Six o’clock – fresh breeze springs up. The pilot has ordered the anchor to be drawn up and all sails set and away we go through the straits, land on both sides all the way. We entered the Harbour just as the lamps were being lighted and Church bells ringing: a joyful sound, and dropped anchor.

 

Monday morning the Commissioners have come on board to see us. They are very pleased with the respectable healthy appearance of all the emigrants and the cleanliness on board the ship.

 

Tuesday December 9th:

Our friend Mr. Jack came alongside this morning with his wife and children and brought us a basket of the finest strawberries from his garden that I ever saw. They were a treat to us and he bought us two letter and two papers, one from Hastings and one from my dear brother John, home from Chatham. I am gald someone thinks of us all. Well we are taken off- after a good roast beef dinner on shore, o a steamer and landed in Wellington. We are now staying in the depot or Barracks as they call it until we get a home and some work. We are very comfortable and all well.

 

This is Sunday 14th December:

Very fine and quite hot for this is mid-summer here. Jane went to a situation at the Empire Hotel as a nursemaid at 10s a week and everything found. Horace went to a baker at Blenheim on the South Island at 10s a week and everything found. Willy is gone to a farmhouse to mind cows and take milk out. He is to have 7s a week and his keep. He has just been in to see us and is very comfortable. Martha is gone to a lady near his place in Oriental Bay as a little nursemaid – 3s a week and all found. The rest have not gone into anything yet but they don’t despair for we have not been here a week yet. I can tell you this is a fine country and the houses are all made of wood with brick chimneys. We cannot get a house under 18s a week so we are going to stay here until we see a prospect of work. We sent a letter to another friend of our 200 miles further on and have had a telegram in return to say we are all to come there at once so Father and Fred and John have gone there tonight by a steamer to Foxton and from Foxton to Bulls town. They are going to see what work is there.

 

Christmas Eve 1879:

Now we are going on the water again tonight. Father has been gone a week and has got a place at 40s a week. Fred is gone as waiter at 1 pound a week and everything found. John is a book keeper and clerk in a hotel a 2 pounds a week. Charlie and his wife and children have come with us though he has not behaved to us as they should; but we paid everything for them and got him work at 10s a day. Now she carries her head so high – we are not good enough for them. I have got Martha, Jane and Willy away from their places and got the other place here in Bulls town. Jane is a waitress at a hotel for 15s a week. Martha has 4s a week at the same house and everything found. Willy has 10s a week and his hiring.

We buy mutton a 1˝d a lb. A forequarter at 2 ˝d a lb. We get a leg of mutton for a shilling but beer is 6d a glass, so we don’t dare look at it. Beef is 4d or 5d a pound but grocery and bread are much the same as England.

Goodbye God bless you all. I have read in a paper John’s ship is ordered home. I should like to see him.

Our love to all of you.

Goodbye.

 

NOTES:

For reference purposes- the Arethusa was 273 feet long and 950 tons.

Captain: John Stiven
Surgeon Superintendent: Dr Edward Husband
Sailed Plymouth September 3rd 1879 - arrived Wellington December 7th 1879

Crew: - 23, including Captain, Doctor and Matron.

Passengers – 372.

It is to be noted that in the Surgeons report, there were 1 birth and four deaths. No mention was made of the births where the infants did not survive to land in New Zealand, I guess if they did not live long enough to be registered, they did not exist! I do not know if this was the case for all voyages!