A Journey to New Zealand by A. Marjoribanks
Published in Travels in New Zealand, 1846
On the 28th of October, 1839, I accompanied my esteemed friend, Mr. Dunlop
of Craigton, then Lord Provost of Glasgow, and a large party, in a
steamboat hired for the occasion, attended by some of the officers, and
the band of the 1st Royals, from Glasgow, to the barque called the Bengal
Merchant, lying off Greenock, and chartered in London, for the purpose of
conveying the first Scotch colony to New Zealand. Dinner was served up on
board of the steamer, at which champagne flowed in abundance.
On reaching the vessel his Lordship delivered an appropriate address to
the emigrants. He told them, that though going to a beautiful country, and
to enjoy a salubrious climate, they must lay their account with enduring
many hardships, and must labour hard before getting fairly established in
their adopted country. That even greater difficulties than they would
probably have to encounter, had been overcome by the first settlers in
other parts of the world. He exhorted them to cherish kindly feelings
towards each other, and reminded them, that as their tenure of life was
short and uncertain, they would derive great consolation when traversing
the stormy deep, and when tossed about by its mighty waters, from the
hopes which the Christian religion afforded, of more enduring felicity
hereafter. That they were about to lay the foundation of a colony, which
in time might become a great nation--a second Britain, --and that numbers
would no doubt follow, when, as he trusted the accounts of their
successful enterprise, and happy settlement, had again arrived on those
shores which they were about to leave.
On the 31st of October, having weighed anchor, I bade adieu to my native
"Adieu! Adieu! my native shore
Fades o'er the waters blue;
The night winds sigh, the breakers roar,
And shrieks the wild sea-mew.
"For pleasures past I do not grieve,
Nor perils gath'ring near;
My greatest grief is that I leave
The friends I hold so dear.
"Yon sun that sets upon the sea,
I follow in his flight;
Farewell awhile to him and thee,
My native land good night.
"A few short hours and he will rise
To give the morrow birth;
And I shall hail the main and skies,
But not my mother earth.
When nearly opposite to Largs, in Ayrshire, we received the parting cheers
of Mr. Crawford, the New Zealand Company's zealous agent in Glasgow, and
those other friends who had accompanied us down the river in a steam-boat,
who took that method of testifying their good wishes for our success. It
may easily be supposed that we were not slow in returning these
congratulations. We were all full of hope and anxiety to see what had been
represented to us as a sort of earthly paradise--a smiling land, the very
sight of which was at once to have banished away all our cares and all our
sorrows. But man seeth only as through a glass darkly. Within a few short
months I was doomed to witness those very beings who were cheering and
shouting as they left the land of their nativity, cast, as it were, upon a
barren, dreary, and inhospitable shore. I saw them turned out into a flat-
bottomed boat every morning, for three weeks, nearly up to their knees in
water, in order that they might erect for themselves their future
habitations in the wilderness. I saw them at last, when that period, that
short period of only three weeks had elapsed, driven out of the ship like
oxen upon a Saturday night, in the midst of a storm of wind and of rain,
of which you can hardly form any conception, many of them having no place
to which they could fly to for shelter, until the fury of the storm was
overpast. I heard their sighs; I witnessed the feelings which overpowered
them, when they thought on those peaceful shores which they had so lately
left, and on those happy days which had then for ever vanished from their
view; and were those amongst them, who still survive in that distant
region, now standing by my side, I am confident that many of them would be
ready to exclaim with the prophet Jeremiah, "Weep ye not for the dead,
neither bemoan him, but weep sore for him that goeth away, for he shall
return no more, nor see his native country; but he shall die in the place
whether they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more."
And long, poor wanderers, o'er the ecliptic deep
The song that names hut home will hid you weep;
Oft shall ye fold your flocks by some strange stars above,
In that far world, and miss the stars ye love.
After giving you this brief outline of the hardships to which the first
settlers in every new colony are so apt to be subjected, but from which
subsequent adventurers are in a great measure relieved, I must bring you
back to where you had left us, namely, receiving the parting cheers of our
friends, nearly opposite to Largs, and the wind being both strong and
favourable, most of us had soon to take our last look of this happy land.
We left our homes, around whose humble hearth,
Our parents, kindred, all we valued smil'd;
Friends who had known and lov'd us from our birth,
And who still lov'd us as a fav'rite child.
We left the scenes by youthful hopes endear'd,
The woods, the streams, that sooth'd the infant ear;
The plants, the trees, that we ourselves had rear'd,
And every charm to love, to fancy dear.
We left our native land, and far away
Across the waters, sought a world unknown;
But did not know that we in vain might stray,
In search of one so lovely as our own.
We kept to the north of Ireland, passed near to the Giant's Causeway early
on the following morning, and, after a splendid run of nearly five hundred
miles, during the first two days, got into the Atlantic ocean, clear of all
land, a circumstance to which sailors attach great importance.
With the exception of one gale of wind when off the Bay of Biscay, we had
scarcely occasion for even double reefed top-sails during the whole voyage,
so that it was more like a pleasure sail than anything else. Lieutenant
Breton says, in like manner, of the voyage to Australia, which is the same
as to New Zealand, with the exception of the last thousand miles, after
passing Van Diemen's Land, --"I have been twice to New Holland, and a
friend of mine four times, without having experienced aught resembling a
gale of wind." Mr. Waugh, of Edinburgh, says, "It is as pleasant a life on
board as one can desire; there is so much to be seen every day, between
flying fish, porpoises, sharks, whales, albatroses, &c. that one can hardly
settle to any thing."
Nothing appeared to me so grand as to see the ship dashing through the
waves, particularly on a fine moon-light night, and oft have I remained on
the poop for hours, admiring the scene, and reflecting on Lord Byron's
beautiful description of the sensations which it produces: --
"Oh! who can tell save he whose soul hath tried,
And danc'd in triumph o'er the waters wide,
Th'exulting sense, the pulse's madd'ning play,
That thrills the wand'rer on that stormy way."
Lord Byron, though accused of having been an infidel, has left upon record
the following striking testimonial, if not to the truth, at least to the
advantages of Christianity: --"Indisputably, the firm believers in the
Gospel have a great advantage over all others, for this simple reason, that
if true, they will have their reward hereafter; and if there be no hereafter,
they can be but with the infidel in his eternal sleep; having had the
assistance of an exalted hope through life, without subsequent disappointment."
Including cabin, intermediate, and steerage passengers, there were about one
hundred and fifty emigrants on board, including children. We had dancing
occasionally during the early part of the voyage, and the Rev. Mr. M'Farlane
gave prayers every night in the cabin, while the steerage passengers gave
prayers among themselves. We, who were in the cabin, or cuddy, as it is
generally called at sea, consisting of nineteen individuals, fared sumptuously
everyday; a circumstance highly creditable not only to the New Zealand
Company, but to the liberal captain of the ship, In fact, it may be said that
we did little else but eat, drink, and sleep, during the whole voyage. We had
four meals per day, and at dinner had always five or six dishes of fresh meat,
with a carte blanche of claret and other wines, besides a dessert of fruit.
The supply of fresh provisions necessary for the cabin passengers daily, and
the intermediate passengers twice a-week, you may believe was very great. In
addition to preserved meats, now so universally used at sea, we had on board
sixty sheep, twenty-one pigs, and nine hundred head of poultry. Pigs thrive
best at sea, as they make it a rule to be quite at home in every climate, from
the equator to the pole; whether under the torrid or frigid zone, provided
they get plenty to eat, but woe be to those who impose any restraint upon
their appetites, as the noise of a hundred pigs is almost equal to that of a
clap of thunder.
Talking of pigs, Mr. Dickens, in his late work on America, gives an amusing
anecdote of one he met with in the streets of Washington. This pig had only
one ear, having parted with the other to vagrant dogs, in the course of his
city rambles, though he gets on very well without it. He had lost his tail in
the same cause, but notwithstanding these severe losses, he leads a roving,
gentlemanly kind of life. He leaves his lodgings at an early hour every
morning, throws himself upon the town, gets through the day in a manner highly
satisfactory to himself; and appears regularly at the door of his own house
again at night. He is a free and easy, careless, indifferent kind of pig,
having an extensive acquaintance among other pigs of the same character, whom
he knows rather by sight than conversation, as he seldom troubles himself to
stop and exchange civilities.
During the voyage, we had one marriage, one baptism, one birth, and one death.
Those born at sea, whether of English, Scotch, or Irish parents, belong all by
law to the parish of Stepney, in London, where their births ought to be
registered, otherwise they have no parish to which they can legally apply for
relief, should they come to require it; and no place where their names could
be found, in the event of any succession opening up to them, a more agreeable
event no doubt.
The death that occurred was that of a boy about ten years of age, the son of
one of the emigrants. A funeral at sea is a very striking event. To consign a
body to corruption, without pomp or ceremony, amidst the roaring of the waves,
with nothing but the ocean for a grave, and nothing but a sheet for a coffin,
is well calculated to excite a deep and solemn emotion. The pageantry that
attends the funerals of the great in civilized countries, produces a very
different effect. The splendid hearse drawn by six stately horses, richly
caparisoned, and the lengthened train of carriages which follow in its rear,
has more the appearance of a coronation procession than any thing else; and
the gazing, the giddy, and the thoughtless multitude, are infinitely more
taken up counting the number of the carriages, than in thinking of the
lifeless body that is dragged along, now confined to its narrow house; which,
having escaped from the turmoils and the vanities of the world, is about to
find repose at last in the silence and in the solitude of the tomb; for
"How still and peaceful is the grave,
When life's vain tumult's past;
Th' appointed house by heaven's decree,
Receives us all at last."
On the 16th of November we came in sight of Madeira, and entered the tropics
on the 21st. The heat increased after this every day, till we passed the
equator, or the line, as it is generally called at sea. For two or three weeks
at that period, the thermometer ranged from 75 to 82 in the shade, and the
nights, in particular, were very oppressive.
The commanding officer of our ship, Captain John Hemery, from the Island of
Jersey, was a handsome young man of good address, and though said to be
opulent, preferring a sea life to any other, --a singular choice I must admit.
He had some faults, and who has not; but he was an excellent seaman; very
sober and attentive to the duties of the ship, and a strict disciplinarian.
He was disposed to be somewhat haughty in his deportment, --keeping very much
aloof from us all; but this, I am inclined to think, arose, in a great
measure, from the situation in which he found himself placed; and really, when
we consider his youth, and the difficult part which he had to act, amidst the
jarrings and quarrels that invariably occur in emigrant ships, I cannot help
thinking that this feeling was highly commendable, Every Sunday when the
weather permitted, we had divine service performed upon deck to the whole
passengers and crew, by the Rev. Mr. M'Farlane. After service on the first
Sunday, he distributed amongst us copies of a Pastoral Address by the
Presbytery of Paisley, of which he had been a member, to the First Scottish
Settlers of New Zealand, which concludes thus: --
"And now, dear countrymen, we sympathise with you in your feelings, which are
no doubt tender, on leaving the land of your fathers, it may be for ever, and
are persuaded that, as Scotsmen, you are not likely soon to forget your last
view of its rocky shores, as these fade and disappear in the distant horizon.
Other lands, rich and sunny though they be, will, to those of you who have
reached maturity, still want the tender associations of early life, and the
hallowed recollections of a Scottish Sabbath, with its simple but affecting
accompaniments. We have no need to be ashamed of our common country,
comparatively barren though it be, and however ungenial our climate. Scotland
has proved the nurse of many adventurous sons, whose conduct in other parts of
the world reflects honour on the land of their birth; and you will not forget
that you, also, are now to be enrolled among her expatriated children, and
that she expects you will be distinguished amongst the natives of other lands
for your high moral bearing, your honest and persevering industry, and your
habitual reverence for God, and the things of God.
"And now, brethren, we must bid you adieu! Our first meeting will probably be
around the judgment seat of Christ; but then we will not be as now, in the
attitude of addressing, and of being addressed; the world itself will then
have passed away. --time will have ceased to be counted by the revolutions of
seasons and of centuries--eternity will have begun--the sentence will then
have gone forth:" "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is
filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous
still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still."
On the 10th of February, 1840, we came in sight of the middle island of New
Zealand; and when coasting along its shores for nearly a hundred miles, were
wonderfully struck with the enormous height of the ridge of snow-clad mountains,
which, being near to the west coast, we had almost constantly in view. Matthew,
in his work entitled "Emigration Fields," in alluding to these, says, "the
mountains themselves, the sublime southern Alps, more elevated than the highest
of the Alps in Switzerland, upheaved from the depths of the great South Sea, in
some places to more than three miles of altitude, and from their volcanic
character, of the boldest and most abrupt outline, are perhaps unequalled in the
The first place at which we landed was at D'Urville's Island, on the west entry
of Cook's Straits; but not finding, as we had reason to expect, any of the
Company's officers to give us directions in regard to our future operations, we
remained there only two hours. During that time, a family of natives paid us a
visit in their canoes, the first we had seen, but a worse specimen of them
cannot well be imagined. It was when off this Island that I composed the
following poem, under these circumstances. Mr. M'Farlane offered a prize for the
best poem, and though I believe that mine, upon the whole, was considered the
best, yet our reverend friend contrived to keep the money in his own pocket in a
very ingenious way; asserting that it did not come up to what, according to his
views, a prize poem ought to be. But though rejected by this eminent divine, who
must have been a bad judge of poetry, it does not follow that it must also be
rejected by you--
SCENE--On board of the Bengal Merchant, at Ten o'Clock at night, off D'Urville's
Island, Cook's Straits, New Zealand, on 11th February, 1840.
The bell tolls four, the knell of parting day,
The night watch sings "let lights extinguish'd be;"
Save where the cuddy darts its glimm'ring ray--
The only light that now remains at sea.
No more the fiddlers play their wonted airs,
No more the dancers trip the highland fling;
No more the Doctor banishes our cares,
With stories told amidst th' accustom'd ring.
Oh sleep, thou harbinger of peace below,
Thou only refuge from the children's scream;
Thou only leveller of friend and foe,
And emblem of thyself without a dream.
The cry of water dealt with wine-like care,
Awakens those still lull'd in "Murphy's"arms;
And chance of finding breakfast boards laid bare,
Soon rouses those quite dead to other charms.
Once more the hubbub on the deck is heard,
Once more the sextant fills the Captain's hand;
Once more the gallant Lawyer 3 mounts his guard,
Prepar'd for fight in yonder savage land.
And now the Butcher takes his wonted stroll,
'Midst pigs and fowls that know full well his tread;
Or stopping, listens to some story droll,
Tho' not before his num'rous flocks are fed.
And now the Doctor goes his daily round,
And feels the pulses of his children dear;
And tells them that the best relief is found
In soups and salts, and sicklike good old cheer.
At night we offer up our prayers sincere,
To him who doth the mighty deep command;
That he would bless the friends we've left so dear,
And guard us still through our adopted land.
And when the cry of " Land" was heard at last,
How eager all that land were to explore;
Though some shed tears on scenes for ever past,
Fair far away on Caledonia's shore.
And now that we have plough'd the stormy deep,
And anchor'd safely on a foreign strand,
Let's sing the praises of the gallant ship,
That's wafted us unto this smiling land.
There is one thing connected with a sea life which I have seen noticed only by
one author, and that is, the effect produced upon the temper, --those with good
tempers on shore, becoming often irritable at sea. This author asserts, that too
close a conjunction of human beings without relaxation, tends to beget
selfishness; and states his conviction, that if twenty philosophers were shut up
in one cabin during a six month's voyage, they would all come to hate one
another by the end of it.
On board of our ship we had one or two quarrels, but nothing compared to those
that occurred in some of the others. On board of the Adelaide, in particular,
they were so numerous, and of so deadly a character, that the ship actually put
in at the Cape of Good Hope for no other purpose but to fight duels, --the
captain himself being one of the number. One of the combatants, however, became
so much alarmed for his personal safety, that, instead of appearing on the field
of battle, he appeared in the courts of law; having applied to the authorities
there to have the warriors apprehended, and bound over to keep the peace. This
request having been granted, they were seized at an unexpected moment, namely,
when attending a ball given at the Cape; being anxious, no doubt, to have a
little more of the dance of life, before engaging in the dance of death. Captain
Cole, an English gentleman, one of the trustees I appointed on leaving New
Zealand, who was in that ship, informed me that some of the passengers actually
carried loaded pistols in their pockets during part of the voyage, to be ready
in case of an assault; a melancholy picture of the frailty of human nature.
We arrived at Port Nicholson in 113 days from Greenock; and though, after
landing, we were exposed for a time to the hardships almost inseparable from a
new country, and to which I formerly alluded; yet, when I reflected on the
exemplary order and propriety I had witnessed on board of the ship which had
conducted us in safety to the promised land, and on the devotional exercises in
which we had been daily engaged, when crossing the mighty deep, I could not
help considering this a favourable omen of our future prosperity, and offering
up a prayer to the almighty disposer of all events, that he would bless us in
this the land wherein we had come to dwell, as it is written in the 26th chapter
of Genesis, he blessed Isaac of old, "And the Lord appeared unto Isaac and said,
go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn in
this land, and I will be with thee and will bless thee."
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