FRANCES PHENEY ON BOARD THE DALLAM TOWER
Kindly provided by a descendant, any reproduction requires their permission.
I have just finished braiding my jacket so thought I would write a few lines of
my diary, whether it will come to more than a page or two I don't know. I am not
if I go on as I have begun, a fortnight out today and this is the first attempt
I have made.
I am writing this outside under difficulties, a camp stool for a table, and the
ship rolling gracefully; I cannot write in our saloon - it is not only too close
but so dirty. We procured a steward after a great deal of talking and enquiring,
a bright specimen he is now we have him, poor man, he has to work 17 hours a day
according to his own account. We think 7 hours ordinary working is as much as he
gets through, the rest he spends in talking; today is the first time that dirty
black floor has been scraped, and now it is only scraped near the door where it
can be seen;-the cups and saucers are hung up as they are after tea, and wiped
in the morning with a dirty cloth. At dinner the plates, knives and forks are
thick with grease, and wet with salt water, the knives are never clean though he
does profess to use Wellington polish. This clean young man explained to me how
he managed. In the first place the water he washes up with is the same as the
salt junk is boiled in — well, he first washes out his tea towel, (he has only
one) then washes the plates and dries them on the towel, so "they are bound to
be clean Miss, you know".
This young man is a volunteer, that means he is working his passage and is of
course obliging the company. He is going to make his fortune pig-hunting I
believe. The rations have been very bad up till now, everyone has recovered I
think so we are beginning to enquire into the whys and wherefores of things.
Today for instance, the cook sent some preserved potatoes as he called them.
Mrs. Shaw took them to the first steward who showed them to the Captain. In a
few minutes in came a dish of very nice baked potatoes, plenty for us all and
some to spare – not as we had them before, about 1/2 a one each; we had ham and
hot rolls for breakfast, quite a feast, for dinner we had a sauce with *****
capers and boiled neck of mutton, plum pudding after with melted butter; the
puddings are boiled in a mould with the salt junk. All this feasting was the
result of speaking to the head steward, for we were nearly starved yesterday. It
is true we had stewed duck but stew it was, so tough you could not get the flesh
(what little there was) off the bones, so we looked at it and had some sour
bread, cheese and onions.
Everyone except two of the Midshipmen are new to the ship, the running gear
aloft (as they call it) is so bad, and a great many of the ropes are brought
down in the wrong places, so that the muddle the company seemed to make on shore
is continued here as you may suppose. I daresay we shall get straight as soon as
they know where all the ropes are and put them in their right places.
The folks are beginning to look around them a bit. I will now try to discribe
the people we are located with for the next three months, taking the first cabin
first. There is a lady and gentleman with their 10 children. The eldest is 13,
the youngest 16 months, all very pretty except for the youngest who is a very
peevish child. He cries night and day much to the disgust of the officers who of
course have only a certain time to sleep. Then there is that auburn haired
gentleman (Mr. Ayrton) you pointed out to me and his sister Mrs. Atkinson, both
belong to Otago. Mrs. A does not approve of the 2nd Class passengers going on
the Poop. The 2nd Class folks are 6 adults and three children.
Since writing the last there has been such a row that I feel rather shaky. It
happened thus; as we were sitting at tea last night, (which bye the bye we have
at 6 o'clock and dinner at twelve) some thing was said about smoking. Mrs. S.
immediately said she thought it a dirty, disgusting, filthy habit, and Mr.
Richardson (that tall gentleman who came on board at Gravesend) was very much
offended, for he a great smoker, in fact his pipe is never out of his mouth
except at meals, but he had never smoked in the cabin in case it should annoy
anyone. Mr. R. was not only offended but he displayed a temper we did not
suppose he possessed, so violent that he was hardly master of himself. He did
not know at first how to be revenged on Mrs. S. At last he hit upon a plan of
annoying her through Mr. Nicholson, that peculiar young man in the cabin next to
ours. Mr. R. first gave Mr. N. some beer and whisky and left him until it had
got well hold of him and he had gone to bed. He then pulled him out at about 11
o'clock, gave him some more whisky, pushed him about, and made him swear
dreadfully just outside Mrs. Shaw's door. Of course some of the sailors came to
see, that game they kept up until after 12 o'clock. Mr. Shaw tried to stop them
but Mr. Richardson threatened to black both his eyes if he spoke to him again.
The Captain was spoken to next morning by Mr. Shaw, because they had upset their
pails and things and it had all run into Mrs. S's cabin - how it will end I
Mr. Richardson will never forget the insult I believe. He has not spoken to them
yet, it will be very pleasant if they go on like that all the voyage, and we are
likely to have a long one. Although we have been out a fortnight we are not more
than 4 or 5 days sail from London. The ship is a good sailer, but we have had
head winds all the time except one day.
I will now proceed with my description of the passengers. Of the 2nd class you
know enough except Mrs. Cooper and children. Mrs. C. is exceedingly nice, in
fact as nice cabin companion as one could wish to have; she has brought such a
lot of apples, wine and champagne, and makes me as welcome to them as if they
were my own. The children are very nice too, they take it in turns to come up
into my bed for a cuddle. This ship rolls tremendously. The other day our bucket
tipped over, I thought to save the water going on the floor so placed it very
carefully in my basin. With the next roll over it went altogether. Mrs. Shaw's
cabin being the lowest it all ran in there, and wasn't she in a pretty rage. I
thought we should be eaten up without any salt - of course we were very sorry
but it was an accident that happens very often on board ship I should think. I
know I had a nice treat to mop ours out after breakfast.
The 3rd cabin passengers are rather a funny set. There is a Mr. & Mrs. Charles
who are poorly but nice people. Mrs. C has attached herself to us — her husband
who is much older than she is waits on her hand and foot; there is a Mr. &. Mrs.
Garson with three children, (Irish) would be aristocrats that don't mix with any
one. There is also another Irish family, 7 in number, the children are very
rough. The rest are all single men, 5 in number, 3 are paddies - of course they
mess together much to the disgust of the two Englishmen In Ireland fists are
more useful than forks. There is a regular farmyard round me as I write, sheep,
pigs, ducks and fowls, all taking an airing. We ought not to begrudge them a
little more space for a time, but really they are a nuisance - they make the
decks so nasty. There is plenty to laugh at on board and will be more bye and
bye I have no doubt.
I will now tell you of the Captain and Mates. The Captain is a nice fatherly old
gentleman, he never speaks sharply to any one not even the men, but always in a
quiet firm voice yet very kindly, he does not say very much. Mr. Barrow, the 1st
Mate, is pleasant but very strict, that stout lady who went on shore in the tug
with you was his wife; the second Mate is a Mr. Pankhurst of Hastings, it was
his sister-in-law you took such a fancy to, he lost his mother about two months
before he came on board; Mr. P seems very nice but quiet at present, it is early
days yet; the third mates name (now don't laugh) is "Enoch Odling" - you will no
doubt remember that short man we took for the Pilot's assistant - that's the
man, he has lived in N.Z, for years and knows Cobbs coaches very well. He has
some land at Wellington, and a nice little mare that will carry a lady. Mrs. C
and I have many a laugh with him and walk too when the ship does not roll too
much. Mr. O has a concertina which he plays very well, (so does the cook) I
daresay we shall have some singing by and by.
Last night we had a dance on deck, to the music of the concertina played by the
cook, and a cornet by a third class passenger. I danced with the third mate,
Mrs.C with an aristocratic looking sailor, it was nearly dark. The next morning
Mrs. Cooper could not make up her mind which one it was; we tried to get Mr.
Nicholson to dance the Polka, but his feet were too heavy and his legs seem to
dangle as if they did not belong to him.
The sailors seem a very decent set of men, they were all sober when they came on
board, and now there is no chance of getting tipsy, there is not a drop of rum
on the ship. The Captain is a teetotalar.
I forgot to mention part of the inhabitants of the 2nd cabin, in the shape of
cockroaches. I sleep with my mouth shut now, but the other morning I woke up
spitting something out of my mouth. It was too dark to see what it was I thought
it best not to enquire. It is a wonder my pillow does not walk away for when I
move it in the morning, I disturb about a hundred. I wish I could scetch. I
would show you some fine sights, Mrs. Cooper's partner of last night for
instance. They are washing the decks and are attired accordingly. I must leave
off now, this is Saturday and I am going to scrape out our cabin, don't you wish
The wind was very cantankerous last night — as soon as the sails and stunsails
were set, down they had to come and the yards to be squared, our position is
lat. 37 W long 15 S. The 3rd Mate wrote me out an account of last night - here
it is; light variable winds and fine weather. 0.30 P.M. wind veering round to
the north-east, squared our yards and set the fore topmost studding sail, on the
starboard side, 9.30 wind hauling round to the southward, hauled the stunsail
down again, and braced the yards on the Port tack 10 o'clock wind backing round
to the northward and settling into a steady breeze.
We were very dissipated yesterday I think I drank as much as three or four
glasses of old port wine. It was Mrs. Cooper's sister-in-law's birthday so we
had wine and cake, that is Mrs. Charles, Mrs. Cooper, the 2nd mate and 3rd mates
(who are great friends of ours), and myself. In the evening we tried to get some
more dancing but the decks were too wet. About 1/4 past 8 the 2nd and 3rd mates,
being off duty, brought some wine and we stood around the capstan and had a nice
little chat till 1/4 to ten. I felt rather inclined to try someones cap on but
I was very tired last night after my Saturdays cleaning, and this morning I am
so stiff I can hardly move; we had church again this morning, the Captain read a
sermon out of A Leisure hour I think, from the text "Do as thou hast said" 17
Sam 7 Chapter 25 verse. We had no singing.
last night we had the lanterns outside the cabin and had some fine singing, my
Moody and Sanky coming in very handy. It is the only one with the music on
board, the 2nd Mate has a fine voice, we sang till my voice was nearly gone;
there is to be a concert tonight I believe, Mr. Shaw being the conductor and
general director. There will of course be a programme written out - if I can get
it you shall have a copy.
There is a talk of my setting up school for some of the children. I don't know
if it will come off. We have seen several ships, one homeward bound with two
masts gone. We can see Madeira in the distance but very faintly, no chance of
Our concert was not a great success, in the first place it was wet and the folks
were shy and did not come until very late. In the second half. that very
agreeable young man put a stop to it at eight precisely. He was so sharp that
one of the sailors who was singing at the time left off in the middle of a word.
To spite him we passengers sang several songs at the top of our voices.
Today I finished making my jacket as far as I can. It wants a bit of fringe at
the bottom. I am the only link between married people and children. The folks
consequently take notice of all I do and who I speak to. I expect I shall get
finely teased - they began already. There is a ball on tonight I believe.
The Ball fared worse than the concert but not from the same cause. The musicians
did not seem inclined to play anything but a polka. I danced that for ever so
long with one of the sailors (such a nice dancer).
Today I commenced some of my lacework. I don’t seem to take very kindly to it
but I shall have to do it; I can't read, I have not read one book since I came
on board, though I have made several attempts. There has been plenty to look at
today in the shape of Whales. They came very close to the ship and we had a very
good sight of then.
Ten o'clock last night we were going 11˝ knots an hour. Today we are going about
7. When we catch the trades they expect to go 13 or l4 won't that be fine? I
have been doing a little dressmaking this morning, anything for a change. It is
getting rather warm but I am still wearing my green dress and flannels. I shall
feel the comfort of leaving then off bye and bye. I have opened two pots of jam.
One I was obliged to use for the pot was literally smashed to pieces tho’ it
held together till I got the jam out. We are allowed jam once a week so I shall
have plenty. I have not opened my biscuits yet. The sailors are very busy this
last two or three days putting up new ropes.
It is a week today since I wrote the last. The weather has not been favourable
for writing outside and I really can't write inside. I should be stewed, the
heat is dreadful in the berths. You may be sure we do not retire very early. You
know how I take the heat, everyone else is to be seen mopping their faces and
fanning themselves. The last three days the ship has been turned into a huge
We had some tropical rain, something like a water spout let loose so all hands
have taken advantage of the soft water to wash all their "togs". Of course we
were not behind hand and very soon had the cabin hung full of towels and
handkerchiefs. We have seen several ships homeward bound but we were running too
quickly to send letters on board- we must wait until we are becalmed. The
cottons are all come out. I have worn mine three days and it is dirtier than a
weeks wearing on shore.
The provender has not improved. They seem to be short of everything but salt
junk. A sheep died the night before last of what disease I know not, but I do
know that it was cut up yesterday morning and given to the 1st and 2nd cabin to
eat. We declined. The 1st cabin knew nothing about it until afterwards. There
was a row about it, the steward declared he and the cook killed it but the cook
had nothing to do with it. Yesterday afternoon the remainder was thrown
overboard. I don't think we shall have any more dead sheep for dinner.
As for the milk we have some dirty water to put in our tea (which is no better)
and none for breakfast. We used to have plenty of bread but now we have it when
we can get it. The dirt is not on the decrease rather the other way. Mrs. Cooper
and I have taken to washing our own cups etc. We enjoy our meals the better for
it for though we wash in cold and the steward in hot water we can always get the
grease off and he can't (strange but true).
Our bunks are so large that we only used three so last Saturday we pulled the
top one (mine) down and got the carpenter to put up a shelf instead. We then
nailed up a lot of pictures out of the Band of hope review and taped the looking
glass in muslin, bound the edge of the berth with red cloth put a curtain up to
hide the washing stand and with two or three other little arrangements we shall
be very comfortable and look very nice.
We expect to be at the line on Sunday. Tomorrow (Saturday) the dead horse is to
be worked I believe.
Yesterday was a day of adventures. We were first hurried up to see a shark that
was caught and of course we afterwards partook, (a piece the size of a bees
knee;) the next excitement was a row at dinner. They sent us for dinner salt
junk, biscuits, cheese and sago pudding which last was mixed with fat off the
grease (salt) pot and it stank. Accordingly we had biscuit and cheese and sent
the pudding into the cabin. After dinner the Captain came and he decided it by
saying if we were not satisfied we had better draw our own provisions and make
them up ourselves - just what Mrs. C. and I had been wanting. But Mr. and Mrs.
Shaw would not agree to it and the Captain had forbidden the steward put it out
separately so we got in a nice fix. We did not know what to do. At last we took
them and with a pair of scales belonging to Mrs. Cooper we measured out Mrs.
Shaw's and we have taken the two single men and are going to do for them. The
first result of this arrangement is that I had a proposal at the breakfast table
this morning. One of the gentlemen not knowing what he should do with his
provisions he told two or three people last night that he should get a wife then
she would cook for him. Accordingly at breakfast he asked me if I could cook. I
said I could manage it I daresay.
"It is no use for you to get married if you don't" he said.
I said "No".
I was going to ask you to marry me he said. I will go and ask the Captain if he
could get a ring and marry us!
You will no doubt guess who it is - that nice looking gentleman who came on
board with his brother. We had a laugh about it you may be sure. The wedding was
to have been today but after considering it until dinner, I told him I was
exceedingly sorry to wound him but I must decline his offer.
We began our first cooking this morning in the shape of hot rolls and plum
pudding. We made them all before breakfast and had a bath as well (that we have
every morning). We turned out at four bells (6 o'clock), they all turned out
very well for a first attempt. There was one thing about them which made up for
any slight deficiency there might be, they were clean!
Last night we had the dead horse put up for auction. The sailors got a pound for
it. There was only two out of every dozen on board who had seen or heard of it
before, it caused a deal of amusement seeing this thing drawn up to the yard arm
with a man on his back. I should like to have gone up myself, I am afraid I feel
rather wild I quite long to go up the rigging.
We had church this morning, the sermon was from the same text as the last sermon
I heard at Pimlico though it dwelt on the second verse rather than the first. It
was the 7th and 8th verses of the last chapter of Galatians. We sang two hymns
this morning; the Captain is a chapel man.
There is a homeward bound speaking us for our longitude (the New Orleans).
I made a loaf this morning and it turned out beautifully, better than the baker
makes it; we get on very well with our new arrangement at present. We know
everything is clean and we can do what we like with it. We don't get any fresh
meat but that we must put up with, ve have plenty of the tinned; we had porridge
for breakfast but no one would touch it but Mrs. C. and I.
This morning at 1/2 past 9 o'clock we crossed the line. We have not been
becalmed yet for longer than an hour or two. We go along on an average from 5 to
11 knots an hour so we shall in all propability reach our destination under 90
days. I am thinking of staying there for a few months at all events, and longer
if it is not convenient to go farther, or I find I am doing well there.
We are still spinning along but the ship is so on one side that it is as much
toil to dress in the morning as it would be for you to whitewash a ceilling. I
have cut out another cotton, being the third since the hot weather commenced. It
is fitted and stitched and the buttonholes nearly made. My accomplishments are
numerous. I turn my hand to any thing — making pastry, mending boots, carving
boats or picture frames & varnishing, cutting tobacco and striking the bells. My
friends are numerous. I can have almost any thing I like and have any thing done
More bread this morning but I don't know how it will turn out; we are to have
soup and boulli for dinner. I wish you could see the moonlight, it is splendid.
We can see to read by it quite plainly.
The time has passed so very quietly the last three days that I have not troubled
to get out my desk to write about it. On Thursday and Friday evening we had
dancing. Though we are just under the sun we enjoy it very much. I dance with
one of the sailors, a very nice dancer. It does not give me a chance of seeing
how any of the others dance for he is sure to be at hand directly the music
begins – that is if I am there. Sometimes I am otherwise engaged, talking to the
The carpenter has made me such a nice chopping board with back and sides and
string to hang it by. I shall keep it against I go into housekeeping, so we can
make pies and cakes or anything our provisions will run to.
We have come to the end of the first week of cooking for ourselves. We find it
very comfortable and we have given entire satisfaction to the two young men we
do for. I make all the bread. It has all turned out very well - flour and th***
rum to having hot cake for tea about twice a week, rolls and bread every other
day which last is set to rise in the aproved style namely, under the pillow. We
have besides pies, puddings and other little messes.
The moon has been splendid but it is going down now so we have some dark nights
again I suppose, but not very dark for the stars give almost as much light as
the moon. The southern cross will be visible soon, it is now but not until 4 in
the morning. I don't get up quite as early as that. I cannot settle to my lace
work, so I have taken to knitting a stocking for one of the third class people
just to learn. We shall have Sanky and Moody tonight, we generally do on Sunday.
Sunday again. So little happens now that I thought I would leave it all to write
today, so as to have more time for needlework, or cooking or cleaning as the
case might be. At the beginning of the week we had a very sharp squall. The rain
came down beautifully and the sea rolled mountains high. The sailors looked like
drowned rats with nothing on but a shirt and pair of trousers, which they could
wring the water out of when they had finished. On Wednesday night it was rather
rough but Mrs. Cooper, Mrs. Charles and I took a walk up and down of course on
the weather side when over came a big sea and gave us a nice wetting. Mrs.
Cooper fell down on her back but did not hurt herself.
The next day the sea still continued rough but Mrs. C and I were not to be done
out of our walk nor our wetting either for a sea came over and drenched us. It
swam along the deck and wetted me up to the knees besides washing my head for
me. I stood in the sun to dry with no hat on (I have not worn mine more than six
times the last month) and got my face sunburnt as I stood talking to Mr.
Richardson and drying myself I had another wetting and another after that — so
there was three baths in one day. However I would not put anything dry on.
On Thursday was the third mate’s (Mr. Odling) birthday. Our cabin was the
reception room. Now just shut your eyes and look on this picture. Of course you
know the size of our cabin, just remember the alteration I told you of a while
back and imagine it put all nice and straight fit to receive gentlemen in; at
eight bells the company came. Nine people sitting inside and five outside on the
table and form, some with coats on and some without in all sorts of attitudes
partaking of cake (made by Mrs. Cooper and one of the nicest home-made cakes I
have tasted) and sherry and gin with lime juice mixed in it. That with a little
water and sugar is a very nice drink; my bed was the table and the chopping
board with a white cloth over it was the tray to hold the plates and glasses.
Mrs. Cooper was hostess and entertained the guests until about eleven when the
third mate, Mrs. Cooper and I went on deck until twelve. The dissipation did not
stop me from getting up and making my bread the next morning. I have not had a
failure yet but of course I may. I had some difficulty in setting it the other
night, the ship was rolling so. Yesterday I made a pudding and I left it on the
board while I got my cloth and string. The ship rolled, the basin slipped off
and turned upside down on the clean deck. It was very nice when it was cooked.
It is colder again: we are in a line with the cape I believe though a good
distance from it. We had some nice hymns this morning "Sun of my soul" and
"Guide me o thou great Jehovah" but I can't sing very well unless I unbutton my
dress - it is shrinking.
A fortnight today since I wrote before, but you really must excuse me. It has
been so cold and the ship rolling so, that I have not had the courage to sit
down long enough to do any writing. The order of the day now is as soon as the
domestic work is done to fly up and down the deck if you can or if not slip
down. I have fallen down several times, but I am glad to say I have not hurt
myself at all yet tho’ I may say my left foot is so painful again. Mr. Jones did
not cure it. I find it is so swollen sometimes in the morning that I can't get
my boot on for a little while. It worries me rather because it being so cold I
want a good deal of exercise to get warm and that is not easy when your foot is
painful and swollen.
There is very little news to tell up till yesterday except that the weather has
been very cold and that we have had a good deal of small rain which is
unpleasant enough at home when you have a good fire, but here, with no fire and
always exposed to the air, it is very dreary. However our spirits keep up
remarkably well under the circumstances for we are always laughing and singing.
We all look so well, brown and rosy and fat except Mrs. Cooper and the children.
They are well but they don't seem to get fat.
Now for yesterday it was a day of mutiny. It was my morning to cook and as usual
we had rolls for breakfast. Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Richardson do not get up to
breakfast until we have nearly finished as a rule so Mr. N was afraid he should
not have any roll. He sent out for it. I was at the table so sent his breakfast
into him. Presently out he comes with his roll squeezed up in his hand and a
piece taken right out of it, swearing and calling us all manner of names saying
we cheated him out of his allowance and never gave him any thing to eat, which
is a story as every one says for when he has had his fair share at the table if
there is any left we always gave it to him to clear up; he was so nasty over it
and insulted us so that we both declared we would not cook for him. So when we
took the stores in the afternoon Mrs. C and I made some bags for him, put his
share into them and gave them to him. It has made him very wild. He is always
declaring he will go to the Captain and make us cook for him. He went to the
Captain yesterday because he said we had not given him his fair share. The
steward was told to weigh them and found them over weight.
I was obliged to finish up there on Sunday as I had other duties to attend to,
in the shape of a drop of hot water which as you know is a luxury not to be
neglected on board ship.
Our row has settled a little. Mr. Nicholson manages to get his things cooked for
him and above all his flour is turned into bread for him by the baker who will
of course expect something for it which I am afraid he won't get for Mr. N. has
only 8/6 with him and some of that he will spend at Christmas.
I forgot to tell you that on Friday we had half the fore upper-top-sail blown
away. It was as if it had been cut with a knife. Up went the men and cut the
rest down. The next morning the starboard watch brought up another sail out of
the hold (at 3 o'clock) and bent it on the yard or commenced to. The Port watch
relieved them at 1/2 past 4, half an hour after the proper time. I think you
would agree with me that they do not hurry themselves on board this ship either
in turning out or in boutting ship which takes them three times as long as it
took the men on the Hydaspes to do it.
On Saturday there was slight mutiny on board. The Captain ordered the brass work
to be cleaned on the Poop after six o'clock. The men refused to do it at that
unreasonable hour. Accordingly he logged them. Now it appears he wants them to
work from 5 in the morning until 7 at night which of course is five hours over
the usual time. Wether they will be obliged to do so or not I don't know.
Last night we had another small shindy. Mr. Richardson got very tipsy and
tumbled down giving himself a black eye. The first mate had to come and put him
to bed. Mr. Nicholson lost a pair of trousers, braces and a sock and a hat. Of
course no one knows where they are. I think some of the men must have taken them
for a lark for the things were dropping to pieces and very dirty.
Today has been a day of excitement rather, icebergs are visible - one large one
came to within a mile of us I should think. I wear my ulster so continually that
it got so dirty I was obliged to wash it yesterday. It is drying in the galley
now as it has been rain all day today and oh! so cold! but I don't wear a hat. I
can't be bothered with one, only just at churchtime. As soon as we come out off
it comes again; it has gone 4 bells (10 o'clock) so I had better turn in. I am
writing this on our dining room table with the ship rolling and the lamp
swinging so that sometimes I can see and at others I can't so under these
distressing circumstances you must not be surprised if all the words are not
quite straight — goodnight.
Now I suppose you would like to know how we spent Christmas on board. I will
tell you as well as I can remember; we had some very rough weather before
Christmas, the ship was rolling terribly. We of course expected rather a treat
getting the dinner ready. However it was a very nice day indeed; the cooking
came to me, also on my birthday, on the Saturday before. I went as usual to see
the stores were out and I talk very nicely to the steward and got him to give us
some extra things such as spice peel and a bottle of fruit. So our dinner on
Christmas day was roast leg of mutton, preserved potatoes, plum pudding a proper
one, (almost as good as Granny's) with brandy sauce and all on fire, then mince
pie. After dinner Mr. 0, Mr. R, Mrs. C, the two children and myself had some
desert and wine and champagne that was Mrs. Cooper's - saved all this time and
very nice it was to. Mr. Pankhurst could not come - it was his watch on deck.
I forgot to tell you we had a small party the night before from 6 to 8. We had
intended having it on Christmas night but Mr. and Mrs. Shaw had complained to
the 1st mate about the 2nd and 3rd mates coming in and out and had made such a
fuss that it is all very quiet. The Shaws had their dinner at the table and
retired to their own cabin for the rest of the day. If they had made themselves
agreeable we should have had a nice party in the evening and had some singing,
but never mind, perhaps it was well though it was not very lively being at
loggerheads with any-one at Christmastime; in the evening Mr. Richardson went to
visit the people in the 3rd Cabin and came up or was brought up about 1/2 past
10 tipsy - not able to pull off his own clothes. The Boatswain and one of the
sailors put him to bed. Of course there was a complaint made to the Captain next
day by No. l as we call the Shaws because theirs is the 1st Cabin in the row.
The Capt. came and spoke to Mr. R who then got up and made a complaint to the
Capt and said that Mrs. Shaw had been drunk all the week which of course was
untrue. Mr. Shaw heard of it and wasn’t there a row. The mop was picked up by
Mr. S who attempted to strike Mr. R. The Capt. had to come and part them. I was
at the table making pastry and of course had the full benefit of it all; in the
evening of boxing day Mrs. Cooper had a plate of snapdragon for the children and
two of the third class. There again we could not have all the children as No. 1
would sure to have complained. To give you an instance of how nasty they were –
Stirling, (one of the Apprentices) a very nice lad and one whom all the ship
have a good word for came in while Mrs. C and I were making the pastry on
Christmas morning and said Oh this smells something like home Mrs. Cooper. He
stayed a few minutes but he was very quiet. In the course of the day Mrs. Shaw
asked Mr. Odling as a personal favor to speak to him about coming in there as
she would not have it. If he did not do so she would have to speak to the Capt;
On my birthday — my 21st birthday - I shall forget it in a hurry.-We woke in the
morning the ship rolling fearfully. All the box under the bed came out and slid
from side to side on to Mrs. C who was moping up the floor, as the bucket had
turned over and the basin of course; over went the bucket again with all the
dirty water in off the floor. This time it went flying into the passage — I beg
its pardon the dining room — and all the day 1ong the sea was very high. It came
sweeping over the decks and in at the door, so that was the amusement I had
nearly all day dabbing, up the cold water and wringing out the flannels. Of
course I have my hand covered in chilblains through it, I am very glad to say
they are not very painful, those on my feet are better ever since I put them
into hot salt water and gave them a good rubbing.
On Christmas Eve "Jo" the second steward got so tipsy that he was not able to
work the next day. The consequence was we had to go without and we have done so
ever since. Our bright youth is laid up with a bad foot, he is not shaming, his
foot is very bad and our place looks very much cleaner and with less noise than
when we were continually telling him to do it; Mrs. Shaw never attempts to do
anything in the clearing up line except her own plates but we don't mind that if
she will only mind her own business.
Another fine Sunday — we have only had one bad Sunday since we left the Channel,
have we not been favoured. I think I must be getting fat inwardly, I can't sing
for want of breath. I don't know what else to put it down to. Washing day
tomorrow if it is fine enough.
January 7th (Monday)
Only fancy, we do not expect to spend another Monday on board as we shall most
likely sight land on Friday next. Everyone is looking up their things and
putting away all they don't want. On Saturday the hold was opened so I got a hat
out to go ashore in. I don't know how I shall get on for a dress. I am afraid to
fasten my grey one in case it should break away. I must let it out I suppose
New Years Day was very quiet, we had the last of our Christmas fare - the rest
of the plum pudding. On New Year's night we stayed up till 12 and heard the bell
ring in the year. It was very nice but very mild. The first mate did not ring
the one in the poop in case the Captain might object. We are going through that
very pleasant process — being painted. Of course I must help so sometimes I take
a brush and assist. I sent Stirling on the poop for a small brush one day. The
Captain gave him the one he was using; five minutes later he came down and saw
me using it. He only said "Well Miss Pheney are you trying your hand"
We are having the most delightful weather you can imagine - beautiful sunshine
every day. The wind is rather cold sometimes but that is all. The other evening
I amused the folks by walking up and down the deck with the big Irishman as we
call him – a man about 6 feet 6 or 8. I must have looked like a shrimp beside
him and I am not small I assure you. People are always telling me how stout I am
getting. I am always having compliments paid me on the colour of my cheeks so
you may know that I am very well. Indeed I have seldom a spot on my face. What a
mania people seem to have for cutting their hair.
On Sunday morning when I went out to prepare the breakfast I had quite a shock,
the 2nd Mate who had a very thick head of hair and wore it brushed up in the
front had had it cut close to his head and looks just as if he had been
sentenced to six months hard labour. I can't think why folks will make
themselves look such frights. I must now close for tonight and go and make my
bread ready for the rolls in the morning. I have not done any lace work, it is
too fidgeting especially when you have to keep swaying from side to side to keep
ourselves straight. One gets so tired. That is one reason I shall be glad to be
on shore for to be able to sit still for a little while.
January 11th (Friday)
Great excitement! Land just visible like a cloud on the horizon. I must stay to
write much because I have my box to pack. It is as well to be ready to go shore
as we are going about 13 knots an hour. We have been going l6, is not that good.
This is really a splendid ship to sail. The more she is going the steadier she
seems. I had a talk with the Captain last night about going to Wellington. He
says he thinks I shall be able to stay in Dunedin for three or four months if I
like and then go on to Wellington with the same ticket should I feel so
disposed. It cannot make any difference to the Company that I see, whether they
take me on now or later on. Now for my packing - perhaps I will write some more
bye and bye.
Saturday night 9 o'clock. Great excitement prevails all over the ship. Mrs.
Cooper and I were up at 5 this morning. It was a splendid morning. We proceeded
slowly along round the different headlands looking at the houses, cliffs, fields
and anything fresh there as to be seen as we passed by: in the afternoon the
Pilot was seen approaching. Of course there was no settling until he was safely
on board and had been properly stared at together with his boats crew two of who
were Maoris and one a chinese; the Pilot had no sooner put his foot on to the
poop than down came a storm, thunder, lightning, hail and wind. Oh how it did
blow. Away went two staysails and a Royal; the wind blew so that we could hardly
hear ourselves speak. The mates and men must be hoarse with shouting and
bawling. I was so anxious to see what was going on aloft that I stepped off the
grating outside the door on to the deck and down I went knocking down that big
Irishman I spoke of before in my fall. It seemed to amuse the folks. They all
laughed but did not offer to pick us up. At present we are riding at anchor, the
tug not being strong enough to pull us in tonight I believe; both watches have
been on deck all day, they will be glad enough to get to bed tonight I should
think; Mrs. Cooper thought she was going on shore tonight but she is
dissapointed. I am sorry too, she had so made up her mind to it.
January 13th (Sunday)
The wind has continued too strong for us to venture in until this evening. They
have just started to heave up the anchor. How I should like to help. All the men
passengers are at it - however I must go and look on, so adieu. I thought I
would just tell you what I was doing while you were sleeping.
10.30 P.M. The tug has had us in tow this last hour and is taking us in in
fine style. I wish it had been daylight so that we could have seen the shore as
we went in. We shall anchor about two miles from the port to unship the powder
so we shall have plenty of time to see what it looks like by daylight in the
morning. The anchor is just dropped as I write this so we shall be at rest for
tonight I suppose.
January 15th (Tuesday)
Here we are on shore. How fortunate I am to have found such kind friends. Mrs.
Cooper's Father and Mother have taken me in until I can hear from Uncle and look
round me, it is such a nice little house. Oh! so clean and light everything
looks after the ship. I have been twice into the town and I am going again this
morning. It is a treat to look at the shops again, but I would forgo all that
and more to be at sea. I did not like leaving the ship at all. Mrs. Cooper and I
are going on board again to see the folks before they start.
This is our first Saturday on shore. Mrs. Cooper and I have been doing a little
marketing, and quite enjoyed it after being so long without seeing any shops.
They have some fine buildings here and some still in progress, mostly of stone.
Some of the houses though built of wood are very pretty. They seem to invite you
to come and live in them and such pretty gardens in the front. There is the
Botanical Gardens we have not seen yet - open free every day until sunset. We
sha11 most likely go there tomorrow. I think I will bring this diary to a close
and continue all the news in the letters which you hope to recieve and I hope to
be able to write every month. I hope some day to be able to read a diary written
by Milly and yourself on the voyage out. I can only hope that you will have as
pleasant a passage as we had and as quick a one.
This diary you will of course show to anyone who you may think may feel
interested in my doings. I hope I have written it distinctly- Please excuse any
mistakes you may find for some times the ship was rolling so that I could not
even spell properly. Now goodbye with love and good wishes to all, hoping you
have found pleasure in reading this volume.
I sign myself
Frances Pople Pheney.
Transcribed by Natalie Sinnott
Converted to electronic form by Rex Sinnott
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