Monday, November 28, 2011

The madman!

This is Stephen Hunneyman (Honeyman).
He married Captain John's sister - Caroline Austen in Dover in 1846. Whether he was the father of her child is unknown. Mary Jane Austen was baptised on the 3rd May 1842 in Rye - her mother was 20 years old and is listed as a single woman, Caroline had no other children.
In 1858 the family came to New Zealand and lived in Auckland and Napier. All was not well, however, and Stephen left Auckland and was not heard of again.
Caroline and Mary Jane seemed to have lived with the Austen family and travelled with them around the country. Mary Jane was married in John's house in Invercargill in 1864.
Meanwhile Stephen was working in the Hawkes Bay and then in the South Island in Hokitika. It is in Hokitika that he was charged with being of unsound mind and remanded for a medical examination. On the 20th September 1867 he was committed to the Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum in Christchurch, he died there in June 1868.
It seems Caroline was unaware of her husband's death until 1871, when using the photograph above she identified Stephen and claimed his estate.
Newspaper reports of the inquest into Stephen's death reveal that he was partially paralysed. It may be that he suffered a stroke – stroke symptoms were frequently referred to as “softening of the brain”. The inquest returned a verdict of “Died from natural causes”.
In 1895 there were newspaper advertisements for Caroline Hunneyman or her personal representative. This was many years after her death and John Austen seems to have inherited one hundred pounds from Stephen's English estate.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


"The sea was full of ships gliding through the darkness toward the Turkish coast...At half past eight the tows pulled alongside for the Aucklanders, who were to be the first New Zealanders to land... There was no excitement. Everyone was cool and quiet, but terribly determined to do their best".

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 657-11

The war in the Dardanelles looked good on paper and still authorities say if it had been successful it could have shortened the war by as much as two years. Sadly the reality was very different. Those overseeing the battles seem to have had no idea of the terrain and conditions the men were fighting in. They had also grossly underestimated the Turkish forces fighting for their homeland. Those ships off loading men were several miles north of where they should have landed and the terrain was grim. The Turkish forces were up in the scrub of those high cliffs, sniper and machine gun fire rained down on the Aucklanders.

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 657-5

Casualties far exceeded expectations and there were not enough evacuation boats or hospital ships to cope with the incessant stream of wounded. On the first day the Auckland Regiment lost 78 men with 220 wounded.
Water was at a premium. Dust, heat, flies, vermin, thirst, bad food, the terrible stench of the unburied dead, and the constant danger of sniper fire. Then came disease by July the men were going down with dysentery by the score. Men quickly became "most dilapidated and disreputable scarecrows".
The fighting went on, a truce in May to bury to bury the dead on both sides, a push in August when they captured some high ground then stalemate and winter coming on, a blizzard in November. The evacuation in December was the most well organised part of the mission. The men were bitterly disappointed - they were leaving behind their comrades in all 429 dead from Auckland. The Allies lost 252,000 men at Gallipoli, it is estimated that the Turkish losses were over 300,000.

And what of the Captain's grandsons, George's son Stanley was wounded in May - gunshot wound to the shoulder, he rejoined the unit in time for the August fighting, was wounded again "slightly - in action", and later hospitalised with gastritis. Three of Caroline's sons were at at Gallipoli - Arthur Postlewaite, was hospitalised sick in July and severely wounded by a bomb blast in August. He was evacuated to England and then home to New Zealand in November - his war was over. I have no record of injury or sickness for Sydney Postlewaight. Alfred Postlewaight was part of the third reinforcements and was probably there in time for for the landing, he was hospitalised with gastritis and debility and evacuated to England in October.
They would go on to fight in Eqypt and France and Flanders, but all six of the Captain's grandsons who went off to the first world war survived.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

World War I

On the 5th of August 1914 New Zealand as a member of the British Empire found herself at war with Germany. On the 11th August Stanley George Austen joined up, and two days later, on the 13th, his cousin Arthur Postlewaight did the same. Both men had been part of the New Zealand Territorial Force, Stanley in the No. 2 Native Rifles ("Native" refers to being born in New Zealand) and Arthur in the Eden Cadets. They were now part of the Auckland Infantry Battalion.
Stanley was 23 years old, a labourer working for Dingley & Leonard. He was 5ft 8in weighed 10st 10lb had brown eyes dark brown hair and a tattoo of the Rose, Thistle and Shamrock on his left wrist. Arthur was 20, 5ft 5in weighed 10st 4lb had grey eyes brown hair and tattoos on both forarms. He had been working as a tailors cutter for a clothing company on Elliot Street. Both were single and with the example of their grandfather probably more than ready for a little adventure.
O.E. Burton described the mood of the men in The Auckland Regiment (being an account of the doings on active service of the First, Second and Third Battalions of the Auckland Regiment) - "The food was excellent. Training was not too hard. There was a reasonable amount of leave, and all things were going well, except the fact that the war was hurrying on, and unless the "Heads" hurried up, the Auckland Battalion would arrive too late for the fun"
On the 23rd September 1914 their troopship"Waimana" set sail, only to turn around and return to Auckland!
"Waimana H.M.N.Z. T No. 12" in Auckland Harbour 1914 Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1582A
The German Pacific Fleet had been sighted and she stayed in port before steaming down to Wellington to join the whole of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The fleet of 14 ships carrying 8,568 men set sail.
They landed first in Hobart, where they were greeted with much cheering and joined up with the 20,000 Australians of the Australian Imperial Force. They crossed the Equatorial line where the "fun was fast and furious", then landed in Colombo. "For the majority, it was their first introduction to the wonders of the Magic East". Trinkets were bought to be sent home for Christmas.
The men on board were unsure of their destination, most had assumed they were going to Europe but Turkeys's entry into the war saw the convoy diverted to Egypt. On the 3rd December the "Waimana" berthed in Alexandria, and after an eventful train ride the troops set up camp outside of Cairo, where their training commenced in earnest.
"Hard training it was, too". They marched, fought, dug and drilled for six or seven hours in the desert until they were hardened into "a magnificent regiment, perfectly trained for war." They were free to do as they pleased at the end of the day and in the evenings Cairo was crowded "with high-spirited men looking for fun and finding it".
There was some action when the New Zealanders helped repulse a Turkish attack on the Suez Canal.
But by February 1915 the men were back in Camp and growing restless.
On Good Friday 1915 the "Battle of the Wassah" occurred. Burton describes it thus " a very riotous bit of real good fun carried a little too far." He goes on "The inevitable result was the stopping of all leave, which in turn resulted in the cinema catching fire and the canteen being raided. There was such a superabundance of high spirits that steam simply had to be let off somewhere."
Orders came at last and the Auckland Battalion embarked on the "Lutzow" and sailed to Murdos Harbour where a great assembly of ships and troops waited.
And on the evening of the 24th April 1915 the ships headed for the Turkish coast.
"There were no gloomy forebodings. They might have going to a picnic, judging by the high spirits shown by all that gallant company."

To be continued....

More images of Gallipoli can be found on Timeframes
including this one of an Austin at Gallipoli There is no knowing whether one of these men is Stan as there were several Austen/Austins serving there.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The schooner men incidents of of the Island trade romance and adventure

This article is from The Evening Post 10th August 1912 found on Papers Past


ROMANCE AND ADVENTURE. (Written for The Post.)
(By "Haereere.")
It's curious what memories the most trivial incident can recall. The- other afternoon, walking a Wellington street, where the grit flew fast and free, I was transported in the wink of an eye to a very different scene. It was a whiff from an over-ripe orange that did it. A cart was delivering crates of oranges, just in from the Islands, at a big fruit shop; some of those oranges must have been just a trifle too ripe and the heavy fruity flavour prevailed over all other street aromas. And, in a moment I was back on the deck of a little topsail schooner of long ago, beating up Auckland Harbour, with dark-faced Kanaka sailors, wearing big silver rings in their ears, about me, a lean, cadaverous, black-bearded white man standing near the wheel, and the sticky decks piled with boxes of fruit. The little schooner had been nearly a month at sea with that perishable cargo, a month of warm weather, and we could tell half a mile away that she was an orange carrier. In those days my daily news-gathering work lay largely about the shipping, and many a wet coat did I get boarding the incoming English sailing-craft down at the powder-ground in the lower Waitemata, and sailing off to the intercolonial and Island traders as they worked up the harbour to an anchorage above the wharves. There were some beautiful vessels in the South Sea trade then, but this arrival was a scarecrow of the seas, a grotesque little object, with her stained, unpainted sides, her ill-fitting ancient canvas and makeshift spars, and her patched-up look generally. When we boarded her we found that she was the' Julia Pryce, a New Zealand craft that had been wrecked a twelvemonth before on the great coral reef that rings Aitutaki" Island, one of the Cook Group. She lay on the reef for months, abandoned. Then the whole male population of Aitutaki held a big working bee, hauled her off the coral rocks, hove her up on the beach, repaired her, refloated her, loaded her with oranges, and sent her up to Auckland for re-coppering and overhaul. Every man in the island had a finger in the ship, and so she was run on the co-operative principle, with all hands owners. There were over a score of natives on her when I boarded her — about four tunes as big a crew as she needed— and the solitary white man was a trader and sailor whom they had engaged on the same co-operative plan, to navigate her across the Pacific. They had renamed her, as I remember, the "Ara'ura" — the ancient name of Aitutaki Island, synonymous with our Maori West Coast Arahura. The little old Julia Pryce, alias Ara'ura, scented the wharf side for days until she had got clear of her cargo. Half of it was too fargone for sale, but with the proceeds of the remainder the owners managed to get her docked and coppered and painted, and ship-chandlered generally; and then she was off again to the South Seas with her crew of singing Kanakas, proud as Punch of their Number-One Topside schooner.
Some months later news came of her. She had reached Aitutaki safely, but her white' skipper had not. The crew of owners reported that he had fallen overboard in a sudden squall one night, and that it was too dark or too stormy or something, to launch the boat. The sharks got him, no doubt. But there were some curious rumours afloat, some thing about a disagreement between the captain and the Kanakas over finances and the coppering of the chip, and there were hints that the "papalangi's" disappearance wasn't altogether an accident. Presently news came that the schooner was a-missing. She set sail from Aitutaki for another island in the Cook group, with a native crew, from skipper to cook, and a lot of native passengers, and she was never heard of again. The usual Kanaka way, said the white traders— a calm night and all sail set; all hands peacefully slumbering, and a becket on the wheel to keep it steady — a tropic squall, and over she goes. before the dazed crew have time to- spring to the halyards. This was the end of the Julia Pryce, fruity, smelly, cockroach ridden, old topsail schooner.

And then, on top of those recollection, of the Kanaka craft, there Were memories of other South Sea schooners and the men who sailed them. Most of the Island traders that made Auckland their headquarters in the 'Eighties and 'Nineties were smartly-rigged, smartly-kept, and smartly-handled craft, of which their captains and crews were very proud indeed. There was a whole fleet of fore-and-aft schooners and topsail schooners and brigantines sailing out of the Waitemata, exploring the wide Pacific for copra and pearl shell, and beche-de-mer, and booming in wing-and-wing with holds and decks filled with oranges and limes and coconuts from the Friendly Islands and Rarotonga, and the high-peaked islands of the Societies. It was fine to see the way they were sailed in the schooner races that used to be a big feature of the Auckland anniversary regattas. There were such vessels as the Maile — a handsome three-masted schooner in the Tonga and Samoan trade, making her round trips with the regularity and punctuality almost of steam; the Sybil, the Olive, the Cygnet, the Wave of Life, the Daisy, the Agnes Donald, the Jessie Niccol (she left her bones on the far South Macquaries not long since), the Ryno, a real sea beauty, rigged as a brigantine, built up on the East Coast of Auckland by an old Nova Scotian Highland shipwright. The Ryno — her name suggests that her builder and owners were lovers of old Ossian's pages — was a fast and favourite Island packet; and the brown children of Niue, or Savage Island, had a little song about her, with the chorus —
" Oh, the Ryno is the ship of Niue— e ! Haul away, 0 haul away !"
Like many another smart South Sea craft, she knocked her brains out, as sailors say, on a coral reef.
There were a score or more of other vessels in the trade, kept in real yachting style; the afterguard only were white, the foromast hands mostly Raritonga or Aitutaki or Niue men, and good schooner sailors and splendid whaleboat handlers they were. In the 'Seventies and 'Eighties there were some heavier rigged vessels in the trade, such as the Vision brig, in which Mr. Louis Becke once sailed as supercargo. But the fore-and-aft rig was most favoured, and those fore-and-aft skippers could take a schooner through a Scotch reel, as Robert Louie Stevenson, I think, wrote of one of his seafaring characters. Steam has killed them. Splendid red-funnel liners now cut through the waves where, once the fruiters lay with too-quickly ripening cargoes, tumbling about on the oily blue swell, sails banging uselessly from side to side, skippers whistling for wind and cursing loud and free. Still, spite of calms and head winds, tome of those schooners used to make very smart runs. The Three Cheers passage of six days, the Torea— about the fastest of the Eastern Pacific fore-and-afters — more than once covered the 1500 miles between the Hauraki Gulf and Niue Island in seven days, and frequently sailed all the way from Rarotonga to Auckland in a fort-, night, landing her oranges in fine condition.
And there were schooners from further off islands, the copra and pearl shell hunters that "cleared for Guam" to avoid publicity as to their exact destinations, that were credited with doing a bit of profitable smuggling now and then, and that went up to the islands far to the north of the Equator. And there were some that exploited the dangerous groups of Melanesia, where the fuzzy-headed darkies shot poisoned arrows as well as used the white man's Suider — the Solomon Islands and the Now Hebrides, where boats' crews pulled ashore fully armed, and always backed in to the beach, bow out, and yet in spite of their precautions often lost a man or two. They brought a breath of romance and adventure, back with them, those little white ships from the atolls and islands of the Great South Sea—
"Where Summer on her shelly shore,
Sits down and rests for evermore."

There was a ship-chandler's store down in Lower Queen-street, near the wharf, where the Schooner Men used to congregate. There was the place to hear yarns of the Sea and the Islands! The first time I read Mr. John Masefield's description of the "Johnny Dago's" marine store in the city of Panama, in his " Mainsail Haul," I minded me of that ship-chandlery place. It smelled beautifully of tarred rope and paints and oils; there were rubber seaboots and oilskins and sou’ westers hanging on the walls, and strings of jib-hanks; and there were ships' binnacle compasses, and ships' sidelights, and tomahawks and steering-wheels, and boat-anchors, and everything that a ship wanted. Behind the counter was a presiding genius who fitted the place, a fine whiskered sailorman who had been bo’s’n on big English clipper ships. And about the time the sun was over the foreyard, or a little later maybe, you'd find a gathering of the skippers there - foreign-going, intercolonial, coasting, and Island. The nautical debates and the reminiscences and the "cuffers" there'd be! Often the old blind sailor, Captain M'Cabe, would be there, making rope fenders for his daily bread, for there was no more sea for him, and some of his old friends would bear him company as he worked. There were men who had seen the sharks eat their shipwrecked comrades, and there were men who had sailed with the celebrated "Bully" Hayes and liked him, and there was one man whose hand had been fearfully carved by a New Hebridean hatchet.
There were men like M'Kenzie of the Borealis brigantine,a sea-toughened Nova Scotian Highlander, a grand old sailor of many curious experiences; a man without an ounce of fear in him, and with children like himself. The M'Kenzie didn't talk overmuch of his Island cruises, but everyone knew the tragic story of the Borealis — how the brigantine was suddenly attacked and carried by a horde of Solomon Islanders as she lay at anchor at Ugi one day in 1880, and how the captain returned from the shore to find six of his crew lying hacked to pieces on the bloody decks- — and one of them his son. The marks of the tomahawks where the sailors had been murdered by the savages of the Cannibal Islands were still to be seen on the vessel's deck and rail when she returned to Auckland.
There was Jack M'Liver, tall and powerful and slow of speech, who had seen a thing or two in the Melanesian ilsland labour trade called "blackbirding" for short, and who for years ran an old, Danish- built topsail schooner, the Christine, to Norfolk Island and New Caledonia. Later he lost much money in an unfortunate whaling venture — out eight months from Auckland, and got not a single whale; whenever one was sighted there was a gale, of wind blowing. Hard luck !
There was the grey skipper of the sightly and rakish labour brigantine Ika Vuka, who, with his shipwrecked crew, had to keep armed watch for the "long-pig" hungry "man-a-bush" when his vessel piled herself up on a New Hebrides reef.
There was Captain Tom Fernandez, with .his thin, erect soldierly figure and his tightly-buttoned coat, the most scientific sailor of them all, with an experience ranging from the piloting of gunboats on the Waikato River in the Maori War days to dodging a beachcomber's bullet on Suwarrow atoll. Suwarrow was No Man's Land then, and Fernandez found, when he brought this particular beachcomber up to Auckland for trial, that it was a case of "no jurisdiction".
There was a big, red-bearded Highlander of the Isles, who had hunted for treasure on one of the haunts of the early Spanish navigators in the Pacific, and who had bossed plantations in Samoa. Also, round and jolly Jimmy Dickson, with his merry, honest face, tanned Kanaka-colour by the tropic sun; he was the master of that , fast sailer the Torea.
There was poor Simon M'Kenzie, with the wonderfully broken nose, who was lost with all his crew, if I remember rightly, in the Linda Weber.
A picturesque old salt was Jack Austen, who had commanded all sorts of Island craft, from cutters to brigantines, and who stayed at sea till he was well over seventy; he was "a Devon man, clean-shaved like a man-of-warsman, and he wore gold rings in his ears. Ross of the Ysabel, three-masted schooner — he has her still, the last of the Mohicans — made his pile in the Island trade; an excellent schooner sailer, and always ready for a race — had some narrow squeaks, such as swimming a mile through shark-infested waters after a surfboat capsize in the Friendlies.
Now and then a "Johnny Francewar" from French Oceania, or a Scandinavian who said " Yah" for " Yes." An Eastern Pacific French-Italian trade-skipper by the name of Micheli used to come in with a vessel under the Chilian flag, a venerable, black-hulled, square-sterned brigantine, called the Nautilus. She brought pearlshell from the Gambier Islands, or Mangareva, where Micheli had a trading station, and she knocked about all over the Eastern Pacific, from Tahiti to Easter Island, where the mysterious stone images are, and down to romantic Pitcairn Island, the retreat of the Bounty mutineers. Micheli was well off; he used to exhibit little bags of pearls his divers had got in the Mangareva Lagoons. I think he is a Count, or something of that sort, now in his native Italy.

They're gone now, most of them, like their schooners. Some, like Lane, of the Maile, foundered in foul weather with all hands; one or two are "in steam" ; some are staid, shore-living citizens, who wear bell-toppers on Sundays and sit on the Harbour Board. They were a fine, breed, those schooner men and their names and their smart white ships will be talked of for many a year yet on the Auckland wharfside and on the palm-shaded coral beaches of Rarotonga, and Nukualofa, and Papeete and Apia.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sad times

The National Library has just added "The Auckland Star" from 1870 to 1903 to Papers Past. There are some real treasures to be found there.
The turn of the century was not a happy time for the Austen family. On the 23 November 1898 John James Austen (the eldest son of Anne and Captain John) died of pneumonia.
Things did not get better in the new year in February Mary Jane Ward (the eldest daughter of Anne and Captain John) lost her twins -
Mary Jane had lost an infant son previously in 1893.
Then the Captain himself died after a short illness on 3rd August.
But the year was not over yet Caroline Postlewaight (Anne and John's sixth child) lost her baby Albert Morris Postlewaight on the 2nd October 1899. She, too had already lost a baby girl in 1894 and was herself to die in 1908.
However in amongst all this sad news I found this gem of report of Joseph Austen's wedding in 1906 -

The chief bridesmaid Blanche Ward was Mary Jane's daughter and Joseph's niece - she went on to marry the bride's brother William Henry Smithson in 1914.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The schoolmaster and Mary Jane

Mary Jane Austen was removed from this "select" school.
"Mother told Mr Henshaw one reason for taking me away from school was because she was ill and wanted me at home, and another reason was because he had behaved improperly to me."
On the 4 November 1872 Thomas Henshaw, a schoolmaster at Onehunga was sentenced to four months' imprisonment with hard labour, for indecent conduct towards some girls.
However, his case was re-heard in December and the newspaper reports make for disturbing reading. It seems the young girls, aged ten and twelve, would be called to sit beside the schoolmaster to have their sums corrected: "Saw the girl go up beside the master several times. Could not see her hand."
Several girls gave evidence:
"I was then in a corner by him. He then committed the offence. I used to resist, but he prevented me",
"I did not tell my mother for some time, because I did not like: I knew it was wrong. He often threatened to beat me, and did so twice."
"The master complained to my mother about me, and my mother beat me."
"The master was very angry on one occasion with the other girl Austen, and hit her."
Mary Jane Austen described as a "little girl 13 years old" gave corroborative evidence and also related the offences committed against herself.
The line of defence was conspiracy, and that the origin of these reports "was to be traced to older girls who had so far committed themselves with boys as to induce the master to make inquiry into the matter". Mary Jane's testimony on this was "I was not at school when something happened between Sarah and some boys... My brother denied having anything to do with this."
After reviewing the evidence at considerable length, his Worship dismissed the case.
The Evening Star for 3rd December 1872 summed it up well:

Monday, May 23, 2011

A bold and adventurous life - well lived!

On the 5th August 1899 Captain John Austen died.
His obituary read:
"Captain John Austen, a very old and well-known master-mariner of Auckland, died yesterday at his residence in Union St. at the advanced age of 76 years. The funeral takes place at Waikumete to-morrow. The late Mr Austen was a fine specimen of the old-fashioned sailor, and was to his last days a hard-working and able-bodied mariner. He had been at sea for over sixty years, and had a marvellous experience of sea-faring in all its phases. Austen a native of Devonshire, whence comes so many good seamen, and he went to sea at the age of 14. Many years ago he came to Auckland, and for a time he was engaged in the coasting and South Sea Islands trade. One of the vessels he had charge of was the schooner Charybdis. He also had charge some 30 years ago of the brigantine Reliance, running out of Auckland to the South Pacific and was wrecked in her near the Soloman Islands. He made a long and perilous journey from the wreck in an open boat, eventually reaching the Queensland Coast. During his island adventures he sustained a spear wound in the head, which lately began to trouble him again. He had various small vessels in the South Seas Island trade. A good many years ago Captain Austen was master and owner of a smart little 27 ton cutter called Aquilla, in which he traded along the New Zealand coast to the South Sea Islands. Of late years he served as mate on the schooners Ysabel and May Howard, and his last vessel was the schooner Croydon Lass, of which he was master. He was a very hardy old man and enjoyed good health up to within three or four weeks of his death"

Captain John owned 4 ships, captained at least 12 more, he sailed around the world from England, around New Zealand, around Australia, and around the Pacific to Fiji, Tahiti, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands. He survived many hurricanes, groundings and 4 shipwrecks. He sailed into his old age - as mate on the Asia to Australia in 1897, he was 73. He had 10 children, at least 30 grandchildren and many more great and great, great grandchildren.
His legacy lives on.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Austens 1896

A snapshot of the Austens around 1896!
Anne and John were living in Inkerman Street, Freemans Bay. This street was described as being 6 chains long, with 1 business and 5 residences. In 1939 it changed its name to Herd Street but is "now stopped".
They may have had their youngest sons with them - Alfred (18 years) and Joseph (16 years) would not have been listed on any electoral roll, Arthur Austen (12 years) is listed as attending Chapel Street school.
Their eldest daughter Mary Jane Ward was living in Spring Street, Freemans Bay and her children Bailey, Blanche(8 years), Mabel(12 years) and Walter(10 years) attended the Hastings School. (There was a Hastings Road in Central Auckland at this time).
John James Austen (mariner) was living in Quay Street.
George Austen (gum packer) was living in Nelson Street and his oldest son Stanley (8 years) attended Wellesley Street School. William Austen (gum sorter) in Wellesley Street.
Caroline was living in Riverhead with her husband Arthur Postlewaight (gum digger) and 2-3 pre-school children.

The school records come from a search of this:
In 1897, around 25,000 children in the Auckland education district signed a congratulatory address to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, celebrating 60 years as Queen. The Auckland education district covered all public schools from Northland to Rotorua and Tauranga.
The information available includes the child’s name, which school they belonged, the original manuscript is held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections. You are able to search for the names of children on the Auckland libraries website.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


BLACKBIRDING: the 19th- and early 20th-century practice of enslaving (often by force and deception) South Pacific islanders on the cotton and sugar plantations of Queensland, Australia (as well as those of the Fiji and Samoan islands). The kidnapped islanders were known collectively as Kanakas (see Kanaka). Blackbirding was especially prevalent between 1847 and 1904.
[From theEncyclopædia Britannica]

I discovered the Reliance listed on the Australian National Shipwreck database with this comment:

General history: Crew rescued by beche-de-mer vessel 'Maid of Riverton' after 28 days in open boat;taken to Bowen;labour trade vessel; return labourers drowned.
Australian Historic Shipwreck database

Previous information listed the cargo as "10 tons of coconut oil, 1 ton of tortoiseshell ... & curiosities" no mention of indentured labourers! But then I discovered this in a small index called "Shipping losses and casualties concerning Australia and New Zealand" compiled by Ronald Parsons:

"RELIANCE W 2m brig, 118t, ON31832 84.9 x 21.4 x 11.0, B.1841 Bermuda. Owners: (1865) John Austen, mariner, reg. Auckland. With 70 native labourers or kanakas aboard struck Indispensable Reef, off Qld. Apl.2,1868 and was eventually abandoned as a total loss. When she struck the 'passengers' rushed the boats but the crew got away - with little provisions or water, and all the firearms, hoping to regain the ship when things quietened so the captain ordered the boats to standby but apart from a group leaving the ship in a raft there was little action. The raft drifted in a N.W. direction. The master decided to follow and head for Cape Deliverance, New Guinea, which was reached in 17 days, the raft, meanwhile, disappearing. An attempt to land was made but they were driven off by the locals, the steward being speared in the leg. Subsequent attempts to land at various small islands were equally unsuccessful and after 35 days, during which one boat was apparently captured by native war canoes, the captain and the men in his boat were picked up by the beche-de-mer fisher MAID OF RIVERTON, that landed them in Townsville 21 months after the stranding. No trace of the wreck or others aboard it was found. [Auck.reg. 43/1864: B Guard. Apl.2: B.C. Jul 3: SMH Jul.16, 1868]

Another sad footnote is this from the Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser 4th August 1868:
It will be in the remembrance of our readers that in our issue of a few weeks ago a telegram from Bowen appeared, stating that the captain and portion of the crew of the brig "Reliance", wrecked on Indispensable Reef on the 22nd April, had been picked up by the "Maid of Riverton", and brought into Cleveland Bay; and further, that the whale boat, with the mate Mr George Miles, was missing. A letter receieved per last mail by Mrs Miles, from the captain of the "Reliance", John Austin, states that, as her husband was in the best sailing boat, and they parted during bad weather, the whaleboat sailing away ahead of them, Mr Miles had to run further north, probably to Cape York. Mr. Miles was, for some time, connected with the Pilot Station in Keppel Bay, and that Captain Austin's supposition may prove a certainty is our wish, and that himself and crew have landed in safety.

The Brisbane Courier Tues 28 July 1868 summed it up this way "The brig belonged to the master, whose name is Austin. She is a total wreck and was uninsured, so that I fear her master must be pretty well ruined."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Waikumete Cemetery

One fine Sunday we visited Waikumete Cemetery where many of the Austen family are buried. Waikumete is one of the largest cemeteries in the Southern Hemisphere (covering 107 hectares) and the final resting place for over 70,000 people, it is situated in West Auckland and was established in 1886.
John and Anne are buried here in the Wesley Division C Row 5 Plot 64. Next door to them in Plot 62 are their two older sons, John James who died in 1898 and William in 1911. There are no grave stones, but this is the area below - they are near the top of the little hill, on the right.

Mary Jane, George and his wife Elizabeth are interred in the Anglican Division. Caroline is in the Non Conformist division. Both Mary Jane and Caroline have infants buried here in Waikumete. Alfred and Arthur were cremated and there ashes scattered here.
The only marker we could find was this one for Joseph and Agnes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


After discovering the wonderful Trove site we have found even more about Captain John!
In November 1885 he took over as Captain of the barque 'Deodarus' 286 tons in Brisbane Australia. The 'Deodarus' had been in the news when her captain had been accused of attempting to scuttle her by drilling holes in her side under the water line! She was then sold at auction and Captain John Austen employed as her master. He spent the next 18 months sailing her from Brisbane to Cairns and Townsville and also down to Adelaide and Sydney.
And then she struck the Great Barrier Reef and was abandoned. Yes another shipwreck! This was reported in the Cairns Post:
A COURT of inquiry was held on Wednesday last, touching the loss of the barque Deodarus, on the Barrier Beef to the S.E. of Fitzroy Island, on the morning of Saturday, the 25th day of June, before M. O'Malley, Esq., P.M., and R. T. Hartley, Esq., J.P., with John Mylchreest and Thomas James Chaplin, Master Mariners, as nautical assessors.
The evidence of Captain John Austin, the master of the wrecked vessel, showed that she had left the anchorage in Trinity Bay at about 9 o'clock on the Friday evening, and had tacked down the channel until day-light, when they were between Cape Grafton and Fitzroy Island. He (the Captain) went below at 8.30 a.m., leaving the Mate (Mr. J.E. Connon) in charge. The sand bank was then bearing about E. by N. and distant eight or nine miles. It was not visible, but he judged the distance by the chart. He felt the vessel strike at 9.45, and went on deck, saying to the Mate, " Why, the vessel is ashore," Mr. Connon replied that he had been aloft and seen a schooner standing in from the shore, so that they could not be ashore. Everything was then hove aback and the vessel worked on the reef for about half-an-hour, when she slipped off into about five fathoms of water. It was blowing hard at the time with a fresh sea on, and he had no time to let go the anchor, as she gathered way and went on the reef again. He then got out a kedge and hove her off, but she got on again and knocked a hole in her, and she soon had six feet of water in the cabin. As it was no good doing anything further, everything that could be got hold of was placed on the poop, and all hands left the vessel and made for Cairns in the boats in the face of the heavy sea. They were nearly swamped twice in coming across, but got in safely on Monday evening at 5 p.m. He valued the ship at about £2500, and the cargo at about .£300. Mr. J. Connon, the mate, was examined, and gave corroborative evidence, and said also that he attributed the wreck to the current. Edward Haywood, an A.B., who was steering at the time of the disaster, was also called, as were two others of the hands ; after which the Court considered the evidence, and found "that the cause of the vessel being wrecked was owing to the careless navigation by the mate, Mr. John Reid Connon, who was in charge when she was wrecked, and particularly by his action in not seeing that a continuous look-out was being kept ; his allowing his attention to be taken from his duties by making or mending sails instead of attending to the navigation of the vessel ; also by his not having the log and not determing the exact speed at which the vessel was going." In view of his conduct the Court suspended his certificate for three months. It was also found that Captain Austin had been guilty of carelessness in not taking cross bearings when he left the deck, and he was cautioned to be more careful in the future."
The wreck of the Deodarus was sold for just £20.
John Austen was in his sixties at this time and I have found reports of him still sailing as a mate when he was 70!