In 1982 author June Neale researched the old records, ships logs, diaries, and letters, and had the following to say about the voyage of the Bombay in her book called 'Pioneer Passages'.
"The voyage of the Bombay was not a very happy one and was noted for a high number of infant deaths, the hot weather and the deprivation of rations as a punishment for not adhering to the regulations. A Barque of 400 tons, and commanded by Captain James Moore, the Bombay left Deptford on the 30th July 1842, taking 135 days for the voyage. The ships surgeon was Dr Hodgkinson who later became a noted pastoralist and public figure in Invercargill.
The emigrants on board the Bombay had ample time to wave farewell to familiar landmarks. From Deptford they were towed to Gravesend where final luggage and rations were taken on board and a Government Inspector mustered and inspected the company. The pilot vessel left at Deal, and over the next few days the barque sailed past the Portland light, Lizard light and the Scilly Isles. The weather was reasonable, but there were a number of cases of seasickness until the eleventh day when a smooth sea brought a good recovery rate.
Passengers were lucky in that for over two months they had mainly fine hot weather and were therefore able to spend a lot of time on deck. A number of small children suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting in the early stages of the voyage and the first infant death occurred after three weeks at sea. However, on the seventeenth day the older children were mustered for school and a teacher appointed.
On 19th August Dr Hodgkinson recorded that 'Richard Power's wife, aged 36 years appointed Hospital Nurse'. Three days later Madeira was sighted and the following day's entry reads 'Very fine day. Thermometer 85ºF at noon. The verandah put up and the between decks ventilated as usual.' Another child, Margaret MacRoberts aged 1 year 7 months, died on 24th August, and the next day one of the steerage passengers, aged 20 gave birth to a boy — her first child. Two days later one of the emigrants was 'Delivered of a male child--- her 12th'.
There was a small flutter of excitement after almost a month at sea. Dr Hodgkinson wrote, 'several of the people being absent from morning muster at 7.30am were deprived of their rations for the day except Biscuit and Water. Cloudy day with a little rain and strong breeze. Thermometer 82 ºF.' Later in the voyage the same punishment was meted out to the single women because 'Their apartment having been found in a very dirty state.'
In early September there was another birth and several infant deaths, and a railing was erected around the hatchway because 'several of the small children had the misfortune to fall down it'.
Two more children died in the latter part of the month, and there was a great flurry when two men were discovered asleep when they were supposed to be on watch between decks. The following morning they were bought before the Captain and the Surgeon, reprimanded for their neglect of duty, deprived of their rations for the day except for biscuit and water, and put on watch again for the ensuing night. One of the men became very insolent, used insulting language and refused to comply with the orders given to him. After deliberation it was decided to have the constables handcuff him and bring him before officialdom again. He was sentenced to be locked in the Men's Hospital, (then empty), and kept on bread and water until he repented. He was visited by the captain and surgeon over the next two days and on the third day surrendered to the constable and was released.
By the end of October the weather was cold, some rough seas were encountered, and the hatches were battened down. It was discovered that biscuits had been damaged by salt water getting into the hold through the water closet. This was blamed on the Second Mate who was found in a state of intoxication and quarrelling with one of the ships company. Enquiries bought forth the information that the mate and one of the constables had been frequently seen worse for wear and that the constable had been observed coming from the hold with 'something secreted under his frock shirt and that he and the cook have been in the habit of having more cakes cooked than could probably have been made with their fair share of flour and rations. Only five bags of rice can be found in the hold although enough was put on board for all the passengers and ships company for six months'.
This discovery meant that only half rations of rice were left, and the Second Mate was removed from his office of serving out provisions in the hold.
The following day an inquiry was held in the cuddy to investigate the disappearance of rations and also to inquire into the conduct of some of the single women. The committee consisted of the Captain, surgeon, and Messrs Bradley, Hughlings, Parkinson, and Strong. Many emigrants were called upon to give evidence and it became clear that a quantity of flour was missing and that the constable, besides visiting the hold, had made himself objectionable to the single women. He was consequently removed from office and the cook was severely reprimanded. It was also established that one of the women had left her cabin on several occasions and had visited the Steward in his cabin and stayed for some length of time. In company with her sister and another woman, she had found a way of dislodging some lattice work and creeping through to the crew's quarters. The girls had been supplied with wine spirits and fruit. The Steward was dismissed from office by the Captain and it was decided to take the precaution of nailing a board over the hatchway leading from the single women's apartment and of locking the door at 9pm each night.
On the 7th October however, one of the constables reported that some of the single women had left their quarters disguised as men, and had gone forward on deck. Dr Hodgkinson immediately ordered that a watch be kept on their door, and Captain Moore searched and found two of the girls dressed in men's clothes and the other in female attire. They tried to make a dash for their apartment via the Hospital, but found the doctor waiting! When they were called before the Captain and the surgeon in the cuddy, one of the women behaved in a very impudent manner and it was decided to keep all three apart from the other emigrants, put them on a diet of bread and water, and to shave their heads, the last decision was later reversed by the Captain who ordered the carpenter to partition their apartment off from that of the other women passengers and to keep the door locked. The girls threatened to open the scuttles and sink the ship but were thwarted when the carpenter was called in to do some more nailing. One of the girls, who had a previous good record, was then removed to the hospital to prevent her being contaminated by the others! It was 12th November before those in the cabin were released in the daytime and their rations restored. They were still locked up at night.
On 26th November Dr Hodgkinson performed a memorable feat in preparing a blood transfusion on an emigrant ship, single handed, and without special equipment. At this time, procedures for blood transfusions were still being established. His journal reads, November 26th, 'About the same, being very weak and prostrated, articulates with difficulty and the respiration difficult. At 5am transfusion was had recourse to, and by means of an apparatus made up with a funnel, and a elastic gum tube and a cannula and the quill feather of a fowl, about half a pint of blood from a healthy man was introduced into the median cephalic vein of the right arm. After this was done the patient said she felt much warmer and appeared a little revived, the pulse being slightly improved'. The patient, Joseph Cook's wife, aged 22 years, had given birth to a son on 19th November. Both mother and child survived and landed safely in Nelson.
New Zealand was sighted on 12th December at 2pm on a fine day. The following day the Bombay sailed from Cape Farewell across Tasman Bay to Pepin Island where she dropped anchor. At 3am on 14th December the barque 'made sail for Nelson and soon after the pilot came on board and took us down off Nelson where we cast anchor. The emigration agent came on board and inspected the ship and contingent.'
Most of the emigrants landed on the 15th December but the three single women who had caused such a commotion, were kept on board until the following day"
This then was the voyage that brought William and Sarah half way around our world to New Zealand. With only 16 single females on board the ship, was Christina, Sarah's sister, was one of the three naughty girls?
Further insights into the voyage are gained from two diaries, one from a passenger named Thomas Parkinson.
Thomas kept a detailed 70-80 page diary of the journey and happenings.
According to a Mrs Crabbe of Devon, England — "Thomas was with his employer Harry Hughlings to look at parcels of land Harry was trying to flog under the Wakefield scheme."
Thomas was 18 years old in 1842, the diary is a tribute to his observation of detail, with daily weather and position notations and an extensive range of information..
Saturday 20th August 1842
A good wind tho' light sea very still. Lat 36. 31 Long 14. 57
Sunday 21st August
The Doctor this morning read the church service, just when commenced a man called Flower struck McGowan on the face for which he had his rations stopped.
Thursday 1st September
Partridge shooting- very hot. Flying fish plentiful. Lat 14. 44 Long 26 10.15
Friday 2nd September.
9 O'clock plus - an Irish woman safely delivered of a girl - and a little girl* belonging to another Irishman died. - lat 13'24" long 25'23'45'
Saturday 3rd September
Lat 11. 31 Long 24. 8 The child buried.
*William & Sarah's son, the reference to the child being a girl is an error, cross reference to Dr Hodgkinson's diary below verifies this.
Another child had died on 24th August, and a child died on the 4th September, the day after William & Sarah's child was buried, followed by another infant death on the 6th September.
The ship was west and north of Capetown, heading south prior to rounding the Cape of Good Hope when the son John McGowan died.
Two further entries of interest from Parkinson's diary.
Monday 5th September
Lat 9. 19 Long 21. 48 – Day attempted to stab Foster. Bennett's child buried. Fair wind.
and a little later this entry.
Thursday 8th September
Lat 6. 37 Long 20. 30 A fair breeze this morning. Mr Strong and the Doctor quarrelled, Mr Strong having refused to dine upon deck, the Doctor stopped his rations……
Seems like the journey was never boring !
Dr Hodgkinson's diary has these entries —
Wm McGowan's infant becoming worse, being frequently purged with much tension ( ? ) & occasional vomiting. Mist Hydrarg. c Creta.
Wm McGowan's child died during the night. In a state of ? The symptoms have been diarrhoea, vomiting with coated tongue ? great instability and wakefulness and thirst.Was buried at 2 o'clock p.m.
Hodgkinson's writing is much more difficult to read. The question marks are the authors. The 'Mist Hydrarg. & Creta' is the latinised prescribing detail of the day — meaning Chalk and Mercury Mixture, not the sort of treatment we would give nowadays.
Compare this voyage with that of the LLoyd which sailed from Gravesend on 11th September 1841.
This ship was bringing out the families of the men who had gone on the first three vessels (Fifeshire, Mary Ann and Lord Auckland) and the ship had only one married couple on board.
The 73 adults included 65 married women and 7 single woman, plus 139 children. The sailing was hastened to meet company requirements rather than good safe standards.
The captain was incompetent, the doctor inexperienced in the requirements for a voyage such as this, and a family with whooping cough was allowed on board. Captain William Green spent much time with the women, the food was inadequate, the doctor unable.
A female passenger was quoted 'There were four women ill-conducted and insubordinate at the very onset of the voyage, the number increased to 10 or 12. There was open prostitution with the sailors...the water closets were of no use… the bread and food was bad.'
After the arrival of the Lloyds on 22nd February 1942, Wakefield wrote 'we have got the Lloyds at last, but what a sad mess. She has lost 65 children and been a floating bawdy house throughout the journey, the master at the head of it'
Interestingly, Doctor Bush it seems never received his payment on arrival, instead the money was spend building the memorial to the Wairau Massacre.
This same Dr Bush was later to build a flour mill on the banks of the Maitai river in Nelson, this site being still known as Millers Acre, a car park. (See the 'Mill on the Maitai' painting below)
The Lloyds was 402 tons, very similar to the Bombay; she was 92 feet (28 mtr.) long, 29 feet (9 mtr.) wide, most decks were 6 feet (1.8 mtr.) high.
Not very large at all !