Emigration & Mutiny in one

Emigration & Mutiny
the Cathcart

From a painting by Henry Foz of the Lyttelton Immigrant Hostel about the time the Cathcart arrived


The Cathcart was an iron clipper ship of 1,387 tons built in 1873. In 1874, she sailed from London with 481 Government immigrants on the 11th June, and from the Downs three days later, making the passage in 70 days 12 hours to the Snares, and arriving at Lyttelton on the 29th August, only 76 days from the Downs to port. The equator was crossed on the 21st day out. On the 28th July she made a run of 304 miles, and the following day 293. It is interesting to note the evolution of shipping – the Cressy one of the first four ships to Canterbury was about 720 tons so in 20 years the ship size had more than doubled.

On board was Timothy Bradley aged 23 travelling on his own. He was the third GGF of Chris Bradley.

The voyage was notable not just in speed but also that there was a mutiny on board. The following is the relevant newspaper report of her arrival and the mutiny which happened at sea.

Early on Saturday morning, the signal was made that two ships were off the heads from the South, and by-and-by the distinguishing numbers were run up, and they proved to be the Cathcart and St Lawrence from London, both with immigrants on board.

It was nearly 2 p.m. when the s.s. Clyde left the Government wharf with the Health Commissioners, Drs Donald and Rouse, the Immigration Commissioner, Mr March, and the agents and reporters

She proceeded to the Cathcart, which, although the last signalled, was the first to get inside the heads. The passage down the harbour was delightful, there was little range on, merely a nice ripple, and it was a pleasant sight to see the Albion leave the wharf just as we were nearing the ship, and come sweeping down the harbour like lightning, passing our poor little steamer as if it were asleep on the water, and steaming close to the counter of the Cathcart, giving the new arrivals a hearty cheer, to which we may be sure they responded with real good will. There is always a certain dread in approaching a vessel after a long voyage, and when the Clyde got alongside, and we knew that all were well on board, it was a relief to all.

The Health Commissioners having proceeded on board to testify as to the sanitary condition of the ship, we had time to have a good look at her. She is a line iron vessel with painted ports and very square yards, and puts us much in mind of our old friend the Ballochmyle. She looked in splendid trim fore and aft, and is certainly one of the finest vessels in the harbour.

After a short interval the word was passed, and the agents and reporters clambered on board. We found the decks occupied by the new arrivals, who all seemed in excellent health and spirits. On the poop were as nice a lot of those very desirable individuals domestic servants as it has been our lot to witness for some time, nice healthy, cheerful, goodlooking girls, who spoke well of their matron, and whose matron spoke well of them. There were seventy-three of them of all ages, from sixty to eight we should say. All the three nationalities were represented, and we were shown down in the berths, the English, Irish and Scotch corners. They seemed very happy, and one jolly looking girl they called their queen was said to have been the life and soul of the ship. Miss Johnson, the matron, had, however, been ill during a portion of the voyage, and a Mrs Bradshaw, a kind motherly woman had taken her position, and seemed quite to have won the giris’ hearts. Their berths were very clean and well ventilated. During the passage prayers were held night and morning by the matron, and the younger children were instructed in secular matters by Mr McCallum, the schoolmaster, who had gained the respect of his pupils. It is a great pity that there is no provision made for teaching the elder girls during the voyage out, as many of them are woefully ignorant, and although it would not be possible to teach them much at any rate a foundation might be laid. There was no serious illness, and all spoke of Dr Chapman, the medical officer, as kind and attentive. A few days ago the girls sent a letter to the captain, the doctor, and officers, thanking them for their great kindness to all of them- The other compartments of the ship were also in a highly satisfactory condition, and the people seemed well satisfied with what had been done for them, and thought the country looked pretty, though one poor Irishwoman said to me, ‘ Shure and is it all like that? It breaks my heart to think of climbing them great cold hills; faith they told us it was a rich country, but it don’t look so ;” but she was reconciled to her lot when told of the plains that lay behind. Among the single men there were a large proportion of agricultural laborers, who will be heartily welcomed by our farmers. The Immigration Commissioner seemed well pleased with his look round, and told us that he thought the whole of the compartments were in a very creditable condition, and the class of immigrants exceedingly good

consisting principally of agricultural laborers and domestic servants, the two classes most required in this country.

There were five deaths on board and four births. All that died were little children. There were three sailors in ions aft who had been concerned in a mutiny on the 24th June. It is a good job that the ship possessed a firm captain, or there might have been great trouble on board; as it was his determination seems to have entirely stamped out the seeds of the rebellion.

We append the chief officer’s account of the mutiny, and the report of the voyage. On 24th June, lat. 2043 N, long. 245 W., some of the crew having during the night broke Into the hold, broached cargo, and got drunk, one of them was brought aft and placed in irons, another having attempted to rescue him was also taken in charge; but while securing him, the first prisoner escaped to the forecastle. Captain Crawford and the officers going forward to recapture him, were prevented from doing so by several of the crew, who made use of threatening language. The captain finding that the mutineers would not listen to reason, came aft, and after deliberation with his officers, armed himself and went forward the second time, and finding the doors of the forecastle closed, demanded admission. Previous to this, part of the crew had left the mutineers. Those within refused to open the doors, threatened the captain, and said that they meant shortly to be masters of the ship. Finding argument useless, the door on starboard side of the forecastle was, in spite of much resistance, partly forced open with handspikes, and the captain again warming them, fired three times amongst the mutineers, three of them being wounded; by this means an entrance was effected and the mutiny quelled, the ringleaders and two others being placed in irons.

The following is the report of the passage:—The ship Cathcart, 1387 tons. Captain Crawford, left Gravesend on Thursday, 11th of June, and proceeded in tow to Beachy Head, and made all sail with a light breeze from the north. On Friday, June 12th, the pilot left the ship at eight p.m. when she was going free off Start Point with a moderate breeze from the north -east, and from this we date our passage. On the 14th and 15th made moderate runs of 290 and 200 miles respectively. On the 16th and 17th had light winds from the northward. On the 18th and 19th light winds from the N.W. and beautiful weather. On the 19th the first death occurred, that of an infant five months old. Its decease appeared to cast a gloom over all on board. On the 20th the island of Madeira was sighted and passed about two miles off, and several vessels going in the same direction were sighted and left behind. At three p.m. same day caught the northeast trade winds in latitude 32.9 north and longitude 17.40 west. On the 21st, 22nd and 23rd had moderate trades and fine weather. On the 24th and 25th made runs of 250 and 260 miles. On the 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th moderate trades and fine weather. On the 30th of June came up to the ship Oxford from London to Auckland with emigrants. Went close to her, and had pleasant interchange of good wishes, and then made sail and left her behind. On July 1st and 2nd had light winds from the southward. On July 2nd the last trace of the Oxford faded out astern ; during’ the day had light variable winds and calms. On July 3rd we got the S.E. Trades, in 4.31 north latitude and 20.57 west longitude. On the 4th had moderate winds. Crossed the Equator on the 5th, twenty-one and a half days from the Start. On the 6th made a run of 210 miles, and signalled and passed the ship Renown, from London to Melbourne, 23 days out. On the 7th made a run of 233 miles, and on this day also occurred the second death, that of an infant 9 months old. On the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th, runs were made of 242, 249, 264, and 214 miles respectively. On the 12th. in latitude 23.14 south, longitude 31.40 west, lost the S.E. trade winds. On the 13th and 14th made distances of 141 and 184 miles. On the 13th of July spoke and passed the ship Loch Tay, from Glasgow to Melbourne. 39 days out, in latitude 25.33 south, longitude 30.15 west, On the 14th, 15th, and 16th, made runs of 211, 359, and 248 miles, with moderate south-westerly winds. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th had moderate unsteady winds from the south-west, and on the 20th, 2lst, 22nd, and 23rd, light airs from the southward, with fine clear weather. On the 23rd, in latitude 40.33 south, longitude 2.10 east, spoke the barque Nama, from Callao to Mauritius, 56 days out, all well. On the 24th, 25th, 26th, and 27th had moderate winds from the northward. On the 28th made a run of 304 miles; the third death, that of an infant 6 months old, also occurred on that day. On the 29th a run of 293 miles was made, and the fourth death, that of an infant also six months old, occurred. From that date till August 6th, nothing of any moment occurred, but on that day in latitude 44.47 south longitude 79.3 east, we spoke the ship St Leonards from London to Wellington, On August 10th. had a. very low barometer, viz., 27.70 with the wind from the northward, this was in latitude 46.16 south, and longitude 99.55 east. On the 15th of August the fith death happened, viz., that of an infant eleven months old. From this date to the 33rd of August, on which day we reached the “Snares,” we had steady winds and fine weather. We reached this latitude’ in seventy days and twelve hours from home. From thence to port had light baffling winds veering all round the compass, the time- occupied was five days. On the 26th instant, we spoke the ship Corona, from London to Otago, with emigrants, she was ninety-two days out. We spoke her in latitude 47.59 south, and longitude 169.15 east. Five deaths occurred during the passage and four births. The whole duration of the passage was seventy-six days and twelve hours to port.

  1.  Press, Volume XXII, Issue 2827, 31 August 1874