Shipboard Diary of John Fraser, 1887-8. Of Ballindalloch, Banffshire (Provided by a descendant, reproduction requires their permission) Plymouth to Port Chalmers by Ship, then to Christchurch by Train.
December 28th 1887 Arrived in Plymouth at 4.30pm after twenty five hours travelling, per rail, were assailed by the usual fraternity of Cabmen Porters & all anxious for a fare. After studying the “pros and cons” of the situation we decided not to go to the Depot tonight: as we were told that we would not get out after we once went in; so we went to Liddicotts Temperance Hotel, had a refreshing bath & tea then wrote some letters and went out to post same. Had an hour or so walking about the place but as it was dark we did not get a very good sight of it so we soon went in to bed. Thursday December 29th 1887 Rose after a refreshing night’s rest, had breakfast then went out to purchase some small sundries for the voyage, before going into Prison, i.e. Depot. Returned and paid Hotel Bill, (which was very moderate,) then started for the Depot, at which we arrived just before dinner & in time to be initiated into the mysteries of serving table & be elected to the “honourable position” of Captain of the Mess. Helped to carry in boxes into the Luggage room in the afternoon. After tea I wrote some letters then had a promenade within the limits of the prison yard & were told to go to bed & all duly warned to keep very quiet, which injunction was sadly neglected. Friday December 30th 1887 Was wakened by the bell about 6am, and by the time we got up, folded our beds Soldier fashion, washed & dressed the bell was ringing again to warn us to prepare the prison fare “Bread and water”, the water by the way was very black and dirty looking, but then it might have been intended for tea. Passed the day in the liveliest way available got my boxes examined & they passed muster. Helped to load small boat with Luggage in the afternoon. In the evening we listened to a very instructive address given by a Clergyman who came to visit us. There were a good many new arrivals during the day & our number is nearly completed now. Saturday December 31st 1887 Rose early to prepare for embarking. We were all (about 200) examined again by the Doctor got our contract Tickets & went on board a small steamer to be taken out to “Ionic” which was lying off. The “Ionic” sailed at about 1P.M. after which we had dinner /first meal on board. As there was something new to look at I spent a pretty lively afternoon “dodging” about on deck. I went down to Cabin to tea but got a little squeamish when I saw the people sick so I went on deck again. As we are entering the Bay of Biscay it is getting rather rough & I am told that we will have thirty six hours of it. Went early to bed in bad fettle. Sunday January 1st 1888 Awoke after a pretty good nights rest, dressed as unceremoniously as possible & went on deck as I was not hungry for any breakfast. Had rather a dull day of it, as it was rather rough to make much of reading and there was no service as the majority were sick. We sighted two sailing vessels during the day. Went to bed early but not to sleep as the rough weather continued & increased. Monday January 2nd 1888 Passed a very amusing but restless night, very rough, every tin plate, pannican, box and bucket contrived to break loose and roll from side to side every heave of the vessel and the Constable joined in chorus shouting from time to time “Tie up them dishes can’t you.” But everyone seemed to disclaim proprietorship to the offending articles, so they rattled away till morning when their respective owners had an exciting scrimmage for their property which they found almost all in numbers or otherwise damaged. Rose a little better but did not partake of anything at breakfast time. Recovered “slow but sure” & was rather hungry for dinner, “Oh hunger, thou canst tame the lion And now wi’ John thy strength art tryin” It soon calmed down when we got out of the Bay. We did not see any ships today but plenty birds & porpoises. Tuesday January 3rd 1888. Got up in splendid fettle sickness altogether a thing of the past, washed & dressed & had a walk on deck before breakfast, this being the first morning I managed to shake off laziness. Passed most of the day reading & walking about on deck. Wednesday January 4th 1888 Still in good spirits & fully prepared to make a vigorous attack on the porridge at breakfast time. Sighted a sailing vessel in the morning. The vessel is shipping some heavy seas today & it is rather amusing to see people who are quietly sitting reading or talking, get totally drenched by a heavy sea and more especially so if you are out of reach of it yourself. In the evening the wind turned more favourable and about 10P.M. I happened to go on deck & helped the sailors to hand ropes as they were putting up sail. I had a good half hours work then I went below, had a good feed of oatcakes & cheese & went to bed. Thursday January 5th 1888 Rose to find it a very nice morning, washed & dressed had a walk on deck then had breakfast after which we sighted a steamer. Most of the passengers engaged writing letters to post at Teneriffe. Went to assist in the store with other three fellows, had a jolly hour’s work for which we were fully repaid with some nice lunch. After which we went on deck and discovered a nice corner at the Stern where we could sit in the fresh air and have a chat with the girls unseen by the Matron, who who was very strict and and would hardly allow any one under her charge to look at any of the other passengers. Reached Teneriffe about 11P.M. Spent most of the night on deck being somewhat amused by the manner in which the Portugese & Spanish effected sales of their fruit, tobacco, cigars etc. On asking the man the price of some hats which he had for sale he informed me they were “six’ee peeny” taking that for six a penny I thought to myself that hats are a cheap article of clothing in this part of the world, but not wishing to have so many as six I was about to purchase a halfpenny worth when someone informed me that he meant six pence each, which was more like the thing. The natives continued coaling the vessel most of the night at which they were very active but they made a hideous noise. Fruit and tobacco are very cheap here, oranges at 40 to 60 for a shilling tobacco1/6 a lb. cigars 3/6 to 6/- a box of 100. Friday January 6th 1888 Left Teneriffe about 7A.M. After dressing had a look to Island of Teneriffe, the scene is interesting in the extreme. The conical peaks sloping almost from the shore covered with fruit trees of all description and terminating in different peaks looked very pretty in the morning sun. The volcanic peak looks very barren towards the top but with the aid of a glass trees can be seen a long way up. The houses are nearly all white brick, low and flat roofed mostly one storey high but there are a few distinguished looking buildings and they all present a clean lively appearance from here but some of those that have been ashore say that the streets are very dirty. January 7th 1888 Rose in splendid spirits getting to like sea life better every day. We are enjoying very fine weather now and it is very pleasant to sit on deck reading, or having some game to pass time. Passed no ships and no appearance of land today. Sunday Jany 8th 1888 Rose and dressed as usual. The Captain conducted service in the First salon in the forenoon and in the Second Salon in the evening both of which I attended and as we were allowed to visit the ladies in the afternoon I went to bed thinking I had a busy day’s work. Monday January 9th 1888 Always fine weather, no sick people now. Some commotion taking out boxes wanted on the voyage. Saw a great number of porpoises during the day. In the evening we had a nice dance & some songs and violin music. We are now fairly into the tropics and it has been pretty warm during the afternoon and especially so below at bedtime. Tuesday January 10th Weather is somewhat cool today as the sun is clouded and a few drops of rain falling. My day of the “dish cloot” today so I have a little more exercise than usual. Read most of the spare time during the day & in the evening we had some music & songs. Wednesday January 11th Heavy shower of rain in the morning, which cleared up after breakfast time and continued fine during the day. Weather nice and cool taking into account the latitude we are in. In the evening there was a religious meeting which I attended and liked very well after which I had a walk on deck and then tumbled into bed. I am sure it would feel rather cold at home at this date if you would turn in with only a thin sheet & counterpane to cover you, but I find that articles quite enough here. Thursday January 12th Weather continues fine, not half so hot as I expected it would be. We crossed the line at 10A.M. this morning. Sighted a four masted steamer in the afternoon. Friday January 13th 1888 Nothing of interest to take note of today. Saw some flying fishes. Always busy reading or some such employment to pass time. In the evening there was a dance, but as I did not feel inclined to dance in this latitude I had a promenade round the deck instead. Saturday January 14th 1888 Rose in bad fettle with a headache – and without an appetite and the ship’s fare though good enough when one is hungry is not very appetising. My day of serving table, washing dishes & so that amused me for some time. In the evening there was a sort of concert among the third class passengers. It was well attended and there was some of the songs very good but the performers were no doubt placed at a disadvantage having to perform in the open air as there was none of the cabins large enough below after the concert there was a short dance. Sunday January 15th 1888 The orders for Sunday are that everything must be kept clean but do nothing that can be conveniently left till Monday. After breakfast there is some time to walk about before service as it begins at 10.30A.M. Attended service in Salon in the forenoon it was well attended but there seemed to be a great many like myself who were not accustomed to the English Church. Some time after Service we had dinner. I enjoyed dinner better today as my headache is quite gone. In the evening I attended Presbeterian Service which some of the passengers conducted among themselves. It was very well attended and at the close it was arranged to have a Bible Class on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Monday January 16th 88 Got up at 4.30A.M. to see the sun rise as I have never seen sunrise in the Tropics yet but I was disappointed as it was a cloudy morning and the Sun was not seen untill pretty well through the day. It was not all loss however as I got a splendid walk on deck before there was many to interrupt me so that I enjoyed breakfast better today than usual. After breakfast we got orders to take our beds on deck to air them, so that between that and the taking up of boxes from the hold we had a little diversion today. Dined on deck today, our table being removed; as it was on top of the hatches under which they kept the luggage wanted. Tuesday January 17th 1888 Nothing of interest today, indeed it is the same as other days in that respect as it is always the same as other days in that res thing over again with very few exceptions. In the evening there was a Bible Class which was pretty well attended. The sea has been a little choppy today but the weather is splendid. Wednesday Jany 19th ‘88 Still fine weather. Went through the usual performance of washing dishes & then some of us began to write letters to post at the Cape which we think we will reach Sat. night or Sunday morning. Saw no land, ships, birds or anything but water today. Thursday Jany 19th ‘88 A little rough today but nothing to complain of. Nothing unusual happened today. Spent most of the day walking about on deck or amusing ourselves at some game or anything for pass time. Friday Jany 20th 1888 A little rough today yet there are a few of the passengers sick but none in our place for which we have reason to be thankful as it is very disagreeable to see people sick, much more so to be in that pitiable condition yourself. Saw a few birds today. In the evening a party of us had some Scotch songs, after which I performed the usual constitutional walk and went to bed. Sat. January 21st 1888 The week for our mess to clean out the Cabin began today so that we have a little work after breakfast. Then I walked about on deck for some time. After dinner everyone was busy writing letters to post at the Cape which we are told we will reach by 6am tomorrow. Sunday January 22nd 1888 Wakened by the sailors heaving Anchor about 6 o’clock. Saw land through a port hole at my head as soon as I got my eyes opened, so I got up and dressed as soon as possible. They did not Coal hear but took in a fresh supply of water. There were a few people came on board and sold fruit but they had not much else as it was Sunday the shops were shut so that they could not get anything else. Fruit is about the same price here as it is at home except Grapes which are very cheap. As far as we can see it is a very pretty place here. Cape Town is surrounded on the Island side by steep hills mostly covered by trees and scrub. There are some very nice looking houses here with gardens and fruit trees growing all through the town. It is summer here just now they say the heat was intense yesterday on land, 105 Deg. in the shade and 130 in the Sun but there is a nice breeze today so that it is quite cool. There were a few passengers went ashore but they had not long time as they had to be on board again by 10.30PM. We picked up fifteen new passengers and started again just before dinner time and soon lost sight of land as there was a thick fog. The Single Woman’s relatives are allowed to visit them on Sunday afternoon from 2.30 to 4.30PM so I spent most of the afternoon with Maggie. After tea there was Presbeterian Service on deck and after one of the passengers had given a short address there was a clergyman ( who came on board at the Cape) introduced himself and gave a very good address which we were all happy to hear. Monday January 23rd 1888 Rather rough today and a good many of the passengers sick but I am getting used to the sea now and never felt better in my life. Had some fun keeping the dishes on the table at meal times as the rolling of the boat upset them every time if we did not look out. Those who are on deck are amusing themselves as best they can trying to keep out of reach of the water and laughing at those who are not fortunate enough to manage that. Some of the 3rd class passengers went on top of one of the upper decks to be out of reach of the water as there were some heavy seas breaking over her and after they were all comfortably seated, some reading & some enjoying a cigar there was a heavy sea broke right over them totally drenching them all to the great amusement of those who were looking on. Although I was on deck most of the day I did not even get my feet wet while most of the passengers got drenched more than once. We saw a great many birds today called Albatross they are very large birds some I am told measuring as much as sixteen feet from tip to tip of the wings. Tuesday January 24th 1888 It is splendid weather this morning and a fair wind but the Current is against us. It is getting a bit cold now as they are steering south. Wednesday January 25th Weather still continues favourable but cold. We are getting along splendid today with full sail. Nothing worthy of note occurred today. Occupied most of spare time reading. Thursday January 26th 1888 After breakfast we got orders to scrub out our cabin with sand and water, which took a considerable time as we were all green hands at that. It was my day washing dishes too and I washed some towels after dinner so that I went through a great performance today. The birds are still following us from the Cape. There was one man tried to shoot some today but I don’t think that he even hit any. Friday January 27th A little foggy this morning, the watch continued on duty till after breakfast when it cleared up a little. Today finishes our week of cleaning the Cabin. The Sailors came to take up boxes wanted on the voyage and disturbed us before we were done but we managed some how, and we won’t have to do it again for some time at any rate. Passed the rest of spare time reading and had a dance in the evening to keep us warm as it is rather cold tonight. Saturday January 28th ‘88 After breakfast I read most of the morning as I had no cleaning to do. The weather is still somewhat cold but the wind is favourable. In the afternoon the Barber was on deck hair cutting and as he had to find a substitute to do his other work which he was absent I consented to do it for him and went to fill some cans with water and carry them into the freezing room to be made into ice. There was a prayer meeting in the evening which I attended. Sunday January 29th The weather is much warmer today. No appearance of land yet, we passed near some island yesterday but not within sight of it. There are some birds still following us up. I attended service in the Salon in the morning which was conducted by the Captain as usual and after it Mr Varley addressed the audience, he gave another in the afternoon on deck both of which were well attended and attentively listened to. Monday January 30th 1888 Nothing worth mentioning occurred today. The Sailors were busy giving the ship an extra cleaning. I spent most of the time reading and running about deck in the evening there was a dance. Tuesday Jany 31st Today is the anniversary of the captain’s birthday. The First and second Salon passengers had a special dinner and Concert in the evening in honour of the occasion but there was no difference in our fare. Wednesday Feby 1st 1888 After breakfast we got orders to take our beds on deck to air them. We put them on the Upper forecastle deck so it was a sort of holiday to us as we were not accoustomed to get up there. It was about dinner time before we got permission to take them down again. In the afternoon I spent most of the time reading. It has been grand weather this last few days we made a good run yesterday & today both. Thursday February 2nd 1888 The weather still continues fine but the wind is not favourable today. I was reading all day till it grew dark when I had a dance and a walk on deck and then turned in. Friday Feb 3rd 1888 Our day of washing dishes today or as we style it of being “butters” Occupied spare time reading with an occassional walk round the deck to vary the amusement. Saturday Feb 4th 1888 After breakfast when we came on deck we saw a small whale, probably a young one, it came above water three or four times but we soon lost sight of it. It was the only fish of any considerable size we have seen. Sunday Feb 5th 1888 Very cloudy and a few showers of rain in the morning but it cleared up as the day advanced. There was the usual service in the salon after which Mr Varley gave a short address. He gave another in the afternoon on deck and another in the evening in the married men’s cabin after which I had a walk on deck and then turned in. Monday Feb 6th 1888 The weather is still all that can be desired. After breakfast they took out the boxes wanted on the voyage and almost everyone were taking out their clothes to be ready to dress to go on shore. February 7th to 16th. I unluckily caught a bad cold and did not make any entries after 6th Feb. But we reached Hobert on the 11th discharged cargo and sailed again on the 12th. I did not see Hobert town as I was confined to my Cabin all the time we were there and most of the remainder of the voyage. We reached Port Chalmers on the morning of the 16th and after waiting there a little over a day took the train for Christchurch, which we reached about 8PM. And now I have fulfilled my promise to keep a dairy during the voyage, as best I could. If I had not promised to do so I would most assuredly not have done it, as there was really nothing of interest to take note of, so that I am ashamed to turn it over to read it myself. If anyone does happen to read the fore going entries I am sure I give him or her credit for their patience and humbly appoligise for putting them to so much trouble, for nothing. John Fraser Table of Distances Homewards Wellington 4400 C. Town 6570 2350 Rio Janeiro 10240 5840 3490 Teneriffe 10445 6575 3695 205 Madeira 11655 8386 4905 1415 1210 Plymouth 11946 8671 5196 1706 1501 291 Inverness Transcribed from the original by Pam Fraser, United Kingdom.
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