Blencowe Families’ Association Newsletter Vol. 22 No. 3 August 2007

Transcription from Alfred Horley’s Diary kept during his passage to Australia in 1884

Alfred Loiusa
Louisa, Alfred and family prior to their trip to Australia

The enormity of the decision our ancestors made to emigrated from England and the trials of the long sea voyage is hard to grasp. Recently we have found the original diary kept by Alfred Horley during his family’s voyage to Australia. His descendant, Penny Chapel, has been kind enough to share it with us. Alfred was married to Louisa Blencowe, the daughter of Thomas b Brackley 1803.

They departed from Tilbury aboard the SS Sutlej on January 3rd 1884 arriving in Sydney some 54 days later. Thomas made an entry nearly every day; many entries just a mundane “Up at 6.45 Weather fine very hot nothing but sea & sky turned in at 10:30.” There are also many entries that give an idea of life aboard ship.

Jan 3 Left Tilbury 2.45 Dined 2 pm very good feed Boiled beef, Roast Mutton, Cutlets, Soup Pastry. Anchored at 5pm on a/c of fog .Tea at 5.30 Cold meat etc chummed up with 2 passengers and played Whist until ten: youngsters medium (unsettled) throughout this night

Jan 4th Up this morning rather late for breakfast. Hot steak, fish cakes, stew, sausages & omelettes plenty of hot tea: spent the morning putting cabin to right. Very cold & raining slightly.

Saturday Jan 5 Had a cold bath; ship rolling in very heavy seas, Louie and all the youngsters sick, except Ferdie, who trotted about with me all day. The sea was breaking right over the bow of the ship which was pitching and tossing very much. It was a grand sight & little Ferdie laughed & shouted at Louie & all the others who were having a very bad day.

Wednesday Jan 9th Had a run on deck before breakfast to look at the town & fortification of Gibraltar which we were quite close to. The rock rises perpendicular from the sea and appears almost in accessible. Had a good view of Tangiers also, although of course not so close. Coast of Spain in sight till about 12 o’clock — now fairly in the Mediterranean, & have had 12 or 14 ships in sight till after dinner, by which time we had left them all behind. Today we had Soup, Roast Goose, Roast, Beef & Mutton Cutlets for dinner beside Pastry & vegetables. The feeding on board is very good. Got another view of Spain this afternoon, a range of snow topped mountains the highest peak of which the chief officer told me was 12000 feet above the level of the sea. With the glasses we could see the slopes of the mountains rising above the clouds. The sea tonight is as smooth as a millpond & the sky perfectly cloudless with the moon nearly full.

Thursday Jan 10th Ship pitching, weather rough & squally. Louie sick again, youngsters rather quiet. Passed the town of Algiers about 7 pm could see the lights quite plainly. Spent an hour in the 2nd engineers cabin after Louie and the youngsters went to bed.

Saturday Jan 12th Reached Malta. 5.30 after the youngsters were in bed, went ashore & had a good look over the town with Louie. We were rowed from the ship in a gondola. The fortifications seem to be of immense strength & cover a very large area. We had a good ramble over them and were driven through the lines in the rear in a buggy on our return to the ship. After seeing the ports we went through the town, the houses are all built of stone, and are the fax-simile of the pictures, almost all the windows have verandas and all seem to be latticed. They have very quaint appearances, the streets are mostly steep, the pathways being arranged in steps one above the other. The women seem to wear a hood over the head, which to a great extent hide the features those we were able to see did not seem to possess a very large share of beauty. At many of the street corners are placed in niches on the houses large figures of David; very many have candles burning in front of them. The place swarms with beggars who are most persistent as are also the buggy drivers who will follow you up two or three streets before they take no for an answer. There are also a numerous army of guides, who are all anxious to show you over the place “Cheap” It was a lovely moonlight night and nice and warm, just right for a walk and we wandered about and thoroughly enjoyed it. We went into the principal Catholic Church, the side chapels & high altar, all had sterling silver candlesticks of great size & were profusely decorated and people were kneeling about at prayer. The people seem very decent, even the men who had been all night coaling the ship struck off and went to Mass at 6 am on Sunday, of course they had to resume their job afterwards. Louie & I took a stroll on to the Piazza Regina, a Colonade (sic) of stone arches up a great height from which we had a splendid view over the harbour. The moment the ship anchored the decks were alive with men who come out in bumboats & sell oranges, lemons, tabac, etc, the ships crew began hauling out the cargo for that port & the coal was being lowered into the ship through the shoots (sic). The work went on all night, & the row was something awful.

Sunday Jan 13th We all went on deck to take a last look at the place as we steamed out of the harbour; it looked well in the sunlight. The vessel was covered from stem to stern in coal dust you could not touch anything not even your cabin without getting soiled. As soon as the ship was under way they set the hose to work to clean her, so we retired to our cabin and did ditto, which was highly necessary.

Wednesday Jan 16 Arrived at Port Said about 1 o’clock — after dinner I took Harold, Claude & Connie ashore for a run — it is a very one-eyed place, just by the anchorage is the European quarter, the Consulate buildings etc. These are of course tolerably clean although the place swarms with Arabs. About 10 minutes walk brought us to the Arab town. This is a beastly dirty hole and in tolerably large. We had a look at the mosque, outside is a bath in which the Arab worshippers wash their feet, face & hands, before entering to pray. They have to go in barefooted & do not put on their shoes until they come outside again. Brought the youngsters back to the shops & had tea. Louie was very disgusted with the Arab quarter. We went in to the El Dorado, a Cafè Chanson & heard some music & singing in French so beyond the sound of music we were not much edified but it made a change.

Thursday Jan 17 Found the ship underway in the Suez Canal. Nothing to see on either side but sandy desert. The canal is only wide enough for one ship at a time but there are stations all the way along about 5 miles apart where it widens. At these stations you have to lie in while other ships pass you. We had to stop about 10 o’clock to let 12 steamers pass and did not start again till after 2 o’clock. The greatest speed you may travel in the canal is 5 mph so it is rather a slow job. Saw one or two Arabs on camels during the day. Louie and I spent the evening with the 2nd engineer in his cabin.

Saturday Jan 19th Arrived off Suez about 8.30 we lay some distance from the shore. Received letters and newspapers which were very welcome. Had a run into Suez; 9 of us went ashore in an Arab sailing boat and had a look around. It seemed to be the ideal of an Eastern town with its narrow bazaars where you can buy oriental laces & nic nacs etc The men all sit cross legged & smoke hookahs, the married women walk about with their faces veiled — like Port Said it is a beastly thriving hole, everybody asks about 4 times as much as they mean to take for what they have to sell. The principal trade seems to be smutty photos, as you are pestered to buy them wherever you go.

Wednesday 23rd Weather fine but very hot. About 11 we passed a French trooper filled with troops. I suppose for China. Passed Jebel Zuker about 5. Saw four wrecks in a 10 minute run — 1 was a large steamer, we passed very close to her & saw 1 or 2 boats bent on a foraging expedition.

Saturday 26 Monsoon still blowing, youngsters rather dickey, Louie still very bad — poor Louie could keep nothing in her stomach all day.

Thursday 31 Sighted Colombo 4 pm - just outside the harbour the reversing gear of the engine stuck fast so did not get to anchorage till 9.30 —four of us went ashore.

Friday Feb 1st 5. Confounded row hauling cargo. After breakfast Louie the youngsters & self went ashore. Hired a carriage & drove to the Hindu temple from there to the Bridge of boats, where the scenery is magnificent. We were surrounded by a large crowd of Hindus men & children. Young Ferdie was rather pugnacious & wanted to go for them. From there we went to the Cinnamon Gardens & the museum & finished up with a good drive round. After tea I & a fellow passenger went ashore for the evening & bought some pineapples 6 for 1/- there were a crowd of natives with all kinds of things for sale as usual in port.

Monday Feb 4 The sea was a little rough; heard we had crossed the line about 4 am.

Sunday Feb 10th Prayer read by the Captain at 10.45 Louie & I went to 2nd Engineer’s cabin & we sung some hymns turned in 11.30

Wednesday Feb 13 Got the first sight of Australia about 10 o’clock this morning — stayed up all night on deck to see the ship into King George’s Sound. As we were entering the harbour we had quite a pyrotechnical display of rockets, blue fires etc.

Sunday Feb 17 Reached Glenelg 11 pm — did not get an opportunity of going ashore as we were hauling cargo, on the move by 8.30 am

I have used Alfred's punctuation. Unfortunately some the remaining pages of the diary are badly damaged and others are missing.

Note: No wonder Louisa was sick for most of the voyage. Shortly after arriving in Sydney she gave birth to a stillborn daughter, Hepsie.

Phil Bailey

updated: 1 December 2007