So this time we are indeed going to discuss the journey, David and Margaret’s journey on the Stratheden to Australia. But as always, you know I’m going to give you more, so strap in there is heaps of stuff to share.
We left Margaret and David in the last post at the altar in Edinburgh, 11th June 1849 with the twist and realisation that Margaret was pregnant at her wedding. Thanks to Anna at Costume Cocktail and Ann Longmore-Ethridge we have a bit of an idea of what Margaret and David might have looked like on their wedding day.
Before we unpack the issue of being pregnant at the altar, I just want to give you a bit more of that historical context that I love. Two weeks before their wedding, this is the big news in their world.
How incredible, one of the big moments in history, and it was sixteen days before Margaret and David’s wedding. I wonder if they were discussing the assassination attempt while preparing for the wedding? (If you don’t know anything about it, follow the link above, very interesting. This was attempt 5 of 8 attempts in her lifetime.)
So back to Margaret’s condition. I should clarify there was no judgement from me in my last post on their circumstance. It was more an “…aha…” moment. That I might have stumbled on to the reason why they were making this dangerous, life-changing journey whilst Margaret was so heavily pregnant. I of course was basing my reasoning on pure supposition and historic hearsay picked up from years of BBC period drama consumption. They are valid sources, aren’t they?
I have been doing a little reading from some more credible sources, and I realise now that I might have been a bit hasty in my suppositions. According to Charlotte Fairlie from the University of Colorado in an essay she penned back in 2008, “From Croft to Campus: Extra-Marital Pregnancy and the Scottish Literary Renaissance” She cites Andrew Blakie who discussed in his work a study that was released in 1858 by the Registrar General on Scottish illegitimacy rates that measured the “regional bastardy indices”. The study highlighted the fact that bastardy was a rural phenomenon, that being unmarried and pregnant was not seen as a problem like it was in the bourgeois middle class, and that it was quite common to see pregnant women at the altar. https://www.colorado.edu/gendersarchive1998-2013/2008/06/01/croft-campus-extra-marital-pregnancy-and-scottish-literary-renaissance
I wonder if Cavers and Ashkirk were rural enough for Margaret and David and whether this was the prevailing attitude they and their families had? Or did they have major concerns that this could destroy their reputations? Charlotte Fairlie further suggests in her essay that despite changes in early 1803 to Parliamentary Acts that assisted the vulnerability of unmarried mothers, the law of the Kirk was the prevailing code, and it left women with little choice. She states “Concealed or not, pregnancy before marriage led to shame, scorn, and suspicion.” https://www.colorado.edu/gendersarchive1998-2013/2008/06/01/croft-campus-extra-marital-pregnancy-and-scottish-literary-renaissance
Coupled with the knowledge of Margaret and David embarking on a dangerous voyage to Australia so soon after marrying, Margaret’s advanced pregnancy, and David’s ministerial aspirations, my gut feeling is that they were most certainly worried about the shame, scorn, and suspicion that was about to befall them. But again, this is all supposition too. The real reasons for their departure can only be guessed at, and they will never be known now.
What I do know with certainty is, that I have been unable to find any trace of David and Margaret in the five months from their wedding to the time that they leave for Australia in November 1849. They literally disappear. I’m assuming that they might have taken up residence as a married couple in David’s premises in 18 Elm Row, certainly, if he was working in Edinburgh as a Stationer he would want to be living close by.
I’m also, remembering that David would have been well into his theological studies at this stage. He is going to be ordained within 8 months in Melbourne, Australia, and I’m assuming that Reverend Bruce from St Andrew’s Free church who married him and Margaret would have been the most obvious choice of mentor.
The other thing I’m thinking here that might have had a bearing on them being in Edinburgh and not with their families is that Reverend Ramsay, who mentored David in Hawick and who ordains David in May 1850, is already in Australia. Any correspondence with him to confirm coming out to Australia would have to have occurred before the pregnancy was known about, and I would assume that being in Edinburgh would have been more preferable in terms of getting correspondence earlier than being stuck out in the rural areas. I could most definitely be wrong here, but it is just what I’m thinking.
I’m sure that Margaret and David despite the pregnancy were busy preparing for their journey now that the wedding was over. Did their eyes pass over this very advertisement below and could have it have been the reason why they chose the ship they did to travel on?
Now some history on the Stratheden. It was built in 1834. I found the article describing the day it was launched. I know, how incredible, hey? From 1834.
“…amidst the plaudits and gratulations of thousands.” There mustn’t have been much to do on that Saturday afternoon. This is where the Stratheden began its career 15 years before Margaret and David step onboard. This map, following, is 50 odd years later, but it gives us the picture of where the ship came from.
You might have noticed that there is already a discrepancy in the tons burden of the ship in the two sources above. I’m not worried about this, I have seen it noted four different ways so far in various sources I have. I think it was one of those statistics that was very fluid when it came to reporting. Not only that, but I can find no other record of a Stratheden till another appears for the P & O company in the 20th century, so this is our Stratheden.
Historical context alert. At the time, William the IV, Queen Victoria’s Uncle, is on the English throne. It is a full two years before she becomes Monarch. This article below is mentioned the same week as the Stratheden is launched, and this was one of those moments I wanted to give you more.
Just a reminder, these images grouped together are in a gallery. Click on the image, and it will open up fully, so you can read the whole article or see the entire picture.
How funny, just have to share with you. I came across an article online from Ancestry.com talking about what a good idea it is to discuss what events were happening at the time around your ancestors that you might be researching. That it helps to put their stories into some context. I mean, I’m on trend and I didn’t even know it. In view of that, I wasn’t going to put this in, but now I am.
Here is the place that her Majesty the Queen was riding to with her party of Royals, mentioned above. The Roman Ruin Folly in Virginia Waters in Great Windsor Park.
One more, this is what the King and the Duchess of Gloucester were riding around in.
I really hope that Margaret and David got to visit Great Windsor Park when they came down to London before boarding the ship. Talking of, back to the subject.
The Stratheden starts off for the first couple of years doing voyages to India, Singapore, Quebec, and Sydney.
Check out this gem of an article indicating what presents the ship was carrying from the Governor of Singapore for the British Zoological Society. Oh the entitlement, like they were his to give.
I reckon Mr Benson earned his wage on this voyage.
There are a multitude of notices in the British Newspaper Archive about the Stratheden transferring horses to Calcutta, India, and what a feat that would have been. Of course at this time there was no Suez Canal so a journey to India from London was anywhere from 4 to 6 months depending on how many ports you might need to call into.
I then found a couple of interesting articles from the mid 1840s, just 3 to 4 years before Margaret and David take up their berths, describing a very historically important cargo it was transporting to Australia.
Transportation was still continuing at this time. From the height of the practice in 1833 when 7000 new convicts swelled the population, there had been opposition growing towards the practice. Transportation to the Eastern coast of Australia was effectively banned from August 1840 but continued on to other parts of the country until 1868 when the last convict ship docked in Perth, Western Australia. https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/the_end_of_transportation, https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/convict-transportation-peaks
In the three years from that time right up until the beginning of 1849 the Stratheden is running back and forward from London to Canton, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Calcutta. It is in Singapore in January 1849 and departs for London. It stops at the Cape of Good Hope and leaves there on April 6th and arrives in London on June 28th. Six months travel time. This is the trip Mr. Benson is caring for his menagerie of animals.
Did you notice what I did there? I brought us right up to where Margaret and Davids’ story now intertwines with the story of the Stratheden, well almost. Now I just want to share with you what my intention is for the next part of the post, in the hopes that I don’t confuse you.
With the information that I have uncovered, I feel that it just lends itself to sharing with you in a timeline of sorts, what is happening with the ship and what Margaret and David might well have been doing at the same time. Remember, we have a few fixed points in their timeline that we know where they were and what they were doing, but it’s the in-between periods that we are again making assumptions about by using the fixed points we know in the ship’s timeline. (Damn, I think I just plagiarised a Dr. Who script.)
The first advertisement about the ship’s next journey, after returning from Singapore, (which is Margaret and David’s journey, Yay!) is below.
“Entered Outwards“, is a term that was used to indicate that the ship had been registered with Customs House, that it was ready “…to depart for” whichever port it was intended for. https://www.definitions.net/definition/outward
The next appearance is on the 31st of August, stating that it is loading for Port Adelaide and Port Phillip. Bazinga!, our journey. (For those of you reading from the future, a vague reference to an old TV program. Ask the ships’ computer to search information on Dr. Sheldon Cooper)
Next, we have some fascinating advertisements for the journey to Port Adelaide and Port Phillip. I think these are great examples of that gleaning minuscule pieces of information from sources to help build up a fuller picture of something. Each of these has copy on the ship that is slightly different, but when put together they give a great picture of the Stratheden in light of the fact we still have no actual image of it. (Don’t forget what I said about pictures in a gallery, just click on them to get the whole picture.)
Collectively from these ads, we can see that the Stratheden:
- Was, a frigate built ship.
- That it was coppered & copper fastened.
- It had superior accommodations for cabin and intermediate passengers.
- That it had a splendid poop.
- It was well ventilated.
- That it had a tween decks of upwards 7 feet 6 inches height.
- All cabins were enclosed.
- That it provided provisions of the best quality.
- That there was a uniform rate of £18 for passage.
- Carefully selected its Captain and Officers for character.
- Carried a skilful surgeon in the ship.
- Was laying in the St Katharine dock.
- It would call at Plymouth to embark passengers.
- And that Fredrick Turner was the Captain.
What a feast of information to digest. I’m sure Margaret and David would have made up their own list and would have been all too aware of the other piece of vital information shared there, that the Stratheden was to sail punctually on the 25th of September. The first of these ads above places us three weeks away from this sail date. Margaret and David have two options that I can see before them, come to London in time to join the ship on this sail date, or delay their arrival into London and embark the ship in Plymouth an extra 216 miles on their journey from Edinburgh. At this stage, I’m thinking the latter. Why pay for that extra 216 miles with some other type of transport when it is already part of the £18 rate?
According to an online CPI calculator I came across, £18 in 1849 is roughly the equivalent to £2300 today. The average wage of a Shepherd back then was £25, and we can probably safely say that as a stationer David was probably earning a bit more than that. That makes the £36 combined fare for him and Margaret a very hefty financial investment in their future. (https://www.in2013dollars.com/uk/inflation/1849?amount=18) (https://www.mvorganizing.org)
Back to the ship. A frigate-built ship? According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, frigate built means: “…built with a raised quarter deck and forecastle.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frigate-built
Can you believe it, but I have been unable to find an image of a 4 masted barque built like a frigate or one that is labeled as such? I have been able to cobble together a few bits of information that I think give us a good picture of what Margaret and David would be stepping onto.
Of course, this is not a Barque but a Galleon from the 18th century but illustrates how the decks most probably would have been laid out on the Stratheden. See how the forecastle and quarterdeck are raised and in addition to that this diagram shows the poop deck.
This next set of plans is amazing. It is of the HMS Buffalo and these were drawn in 1836 and show the configuration the Stratheden most likely had.
This is a wonderful photo of the Caledonia, built-in 1829, so a contemporary of the Stratheden and a four-masted barque. It had a very similar history, working the routes to India, China, and Australia. It, too, carried convicts. This is most probably what the Stratheden looked like.
Figure 22: Courtesy of Salty old world, Tumblr User https://oledavyjones.tumblr.com/post/184714086159/a-fine-sharp-photo-of-the-4-masted-barque
Another four-masted barque, this time it is the Elginshire pictured in Double Bay, Sydney, Australia. It was built 60 years later to the Stratheden but what I like about this photo is that it shows the raised forecastle at the bow of the vessel and the raised poop deck at the stern. You can almost see Margaret and David standing up there, wondering about their new life before them.
Figure 23: Courtesy of Australian National Maritime Museum https://www.flickr.com/photos/anmm_thecommons/8944094533/
This is the Port Jackson sitting in Gravesend Reach, River Thames. Another four-masted barque. Built 50 years after the Stratheden but the reason I chose it for this collection, it is sitting in an area where the Stratheden was on her journey. (Details to come.) Also, it clearly shows that raised forecastle.
Figure 24: Courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/rmgc-object-1056156
This is the coppered hull of the Cutty Sark on display in Greenwich. Basically, it is what it says on the packet. The hull of the ship is wrapped in sheets of copper and affixed with copper fastenings. The reason copper was specified in the fastenings was when iron was used it rotted away and the copper fell off.
The coppering also assisted with increasing the speed of the ship moving through the water, but most importantly was a barrier to burrowing sea worms that ate through the timbers of the ship and the corrosive effects of the seawater on the underwater hull. https://www.modelerscentral.com/maritime-history/why-were-wooden-ships-copper-plated/
Hopefully, I have been able to put together a good image of what the Stratheden probably looked like. We have explored a number of the items of the dot points above, now let’s check in to where Margaret and David are up to.
Let’s say it is mid-September, I would suppose that they are in London, renting a room somewhere close to where the Stratheden is docked. Maybe something like this room below, or I suspect perhaps something a little more sparsely furnished.
On reflection and a bit more digging into that context issue, I don’t think they are doing any sight seeing trips to Great Windsor Park. These articles are from the 12th of September, less than two weeks before they depart.
Slightly reminiscent of what is happening now in 2021 with the daily Covid briefings. The 1849 outbreak was actually the third cholera pandemic to hit London and was responsible for killing 14,137 people, twice as many as the previous outbreak in 1832. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholera_outbreaks_and_pandemics
I can only imagine that the worry about this disease must have been in the forefront of both Margaret and David’s minds, and the danger that their families were in. Especially with them leaving them behind and knowing that they would probably never be seeing them ever again. And also when you consider that this below, was the impact that Cholera was having on their hometown at the very same time as they were beginning their journey.
I could imagine the stress levels are climbing a fair bit now for both of them. They have probably said their last goodbyes to their families and are well and truly making their preparations for their life changing departure. These preparations and the story of the journey continue in the next post.