MAJESTIC: The Bayswater upon which Ellen Saunder sailed to Australia.
MAJESTIC: The Bayswater upon which Ellen Saunder sailed to Australia. ship

Leaving Liverpool for a new home

WHEN Ellen Saunders left Liverpool, England, bound for Rockhampton in Queensland on the 1500-tonne ship Bayswater on September 11, 1875, she decided to keep a diary of her adventure and here are some highlights.

Ellen wrote: "We arrived at Coburg Dock and boarded the Bayswater and found all confusion as it was preparing to leave the docks as a Mr Jones gave the party a number of their cabin and we were surprised to find it to be part of a first-class cabin which we shared with a young lady and her two children. Our bedding was not delivered to our cabin, so our first night on board we had to sleep on the floor.

"Most of us were sea sick while crossing the English Channel.

"We were delayed at Queenstown for almost a fortnight, taking on more passengers and during that time we were not allowed to leave the ship. Once under way we then crossed the Bay of Biscay and at a church service on deck, protestants held their service at one end of the ship, while the Catholics held theirs at the other end.

"We saw several ships, porpoises and, during the night, the wind blew strongly, and we lost a sail. Then came the squalls. By October 10, we experienced a calm, warm day and all beds were ordered to be taken on deck to air. There is a plentiful supply of lice and fleas on and in them.

"There is a deal of sickness among the children, and three of them died, two of them belonging to the same mother who was a Catholic, so there was no public service for them. The third boy was a son of Mrs Morgan and a Mr Dobbs performed the funeral service.

"The passengers were allowed to view an eclipse of the sun through the captain's sextant on October 19. It was a grand sight.

"On November 4, the crossing of the line at the Equator was celebrated and Neptune made his appearance to perform the saving of several people. The shaving cream was a mixture of treacle and flour, the razor made of hoop iron with a wooden handle.

"Those being shaved were given a pill consisting of salt water, treacle, rotten eggs and sheep dung. From Ellen's account of this ceremony, she wrote "it was great sport for us to see them".

"November 6, 7, 8 and 9, we expected to sight the coast of Brazil, but because of wind change this didn't occur.

"One of the single girls, Matilda Kirkwood, died of brain fever on November 22.

"On December 1, we skipped, jumped and danced to keep ourselves warm.

"Two icebergs were seen on December 9 and on December 11 we saw a large ice berg two miles long which stood 100ft (30.48m) above the level of the sea and the captain said it would measure six miles (9.65km) round. It was almost too close for comfort.

"Passengers were beginning to prepare for going ashore on December 23 after they had a celebration of Christmas with a Christmas tree and were provided with currant cake, ginger bread, bread and butter as much as we could eat, nuts and raisins and there was dancing on deck.

"By December 29, the ship was sailing off the coast of Australia and on January 1866 the captain told the passengers they were abreast of Melbourne. January 17, 1866, was cleaning day. Passengers were busy washing their clothes when sailor informed them there was land on the port bow. It proved to be Moreton Island and we turned towards the lighthouse. It was on January 22 that the ship came near Keppel Island and a signal was hoisted to let people on land know a pilot was needed, so we anchored in Keppel Bay.

"The commissioner came on board on January 25 to inspect the vessel and was very pleased with the appearance of the passengers and the cleanliness of the ship.

"We thought the men looked very curious in their colonial dress, as they wore white linen clothes and muslin turbans on their heads.

"It wasn't until January 26, 1866, at 6pm that people were walking on land at Rockhampton.

"Everyone on board gave high praise for having had such a good captain and crew who were responsible for bringing them safely 20,000 miles in 117 days."