On 28 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 land.
- 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."
Life on board
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.
Funeral at sea
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 world."
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."