Henry Alfred Coggan’s Diary 1865. London to Calcutta

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My Diary from London to Calcutta on board the good ship Staffordshire by Henry Alfred Coggan



Apr 20th Left home and went to the ship, worked there all day and in the evening was told to be on board by 4 o’clock next morning- I therefore did not go home but slept at Mrs Ives’s Coffee House in East India Road and was on board by 5 o’clock on the morning after.

 21st When a tug was attached to the ship to tow her out of the dock, after about half an hour of ineffectual pulling they got her off as she was stuck in the mud. As we got to the entrance of the docks I saw Mother, Father and all my brothers and sisters standing on the quay but was not allowed to go ashore. I could only speak to mother from the ship and when we were out of speaking distance, stood on the taffrail and waved till they were out of sight. The ship was then taken in tow by the steamer “Enterprize” and took us to Gravesend where 280 barrels of gunpowder were sent on board and also 5 dozen duck and six dozen fowls, the live stock to last us the voyage. All this time the ship was swinging to a buoy opposite the Terrace Pier of Gravesend. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/kent/content/image_galleries/weekly_gallery_gravesend_town_pier.shtml?20)

 22nd Moved a little higher up the river and were swinging to another buoy. Here the Pilot and Capt Cameron came on board and on the

 23rd the steamer “Enterprize” again took us in tow and we were off, on we went, past the green fields and rocky shores of Old England. Past Eastbourne, Harwich, Brighton and Beachy Head. Perhaps the last time I shall ever see the shores of my native land. We did not stop at night but set sail and by 10 o’clock the Enterprize left us and turned her head towards home, while we turned ours towards the Bay of Biscay. I wrote a letter today to send by the pilot, Mr Branston, who is a perfect specimen of an English gentleman.

 24th This morning a smack came alongside and we bought some fish and a few oysters. We are now out of sight of land. At 6 o’clock a small sloop took Mr Branston off at Dungeness – and we took our anchor up from the hanging position, over the side, set all sail and with a favorable breeze, were fairly under way. Tonight my feet were swollen very much and a rash broke out on my legs. The crew who came aboard at Gravesend are all intoxicated and can hardly do their work.

 Tuesday 25th. We are now fairly out at sea and my duties have fairly commenced. I have to rouse at 5 in the morning and get the coffee from the cook, wait on the Capt. and officer and clear away and wash up, then get breakfast ready and clean and make myself useful in any way I can, to the steward, who, from what I have seen of him, is a decent fellow. My feet, tonight, were very bad being swollen to twice their natural size. I am comfortably installed in a cabin with the 2nd mate and find him an agreeable chum- there are four midshipmen, very nice lads.

 Wednesday 26th. There is not much wind today and we are only going along slowly. I arranged my box and find that as yet my outfit is all I could wish for. A sailor, who was intoxicated when he came on board, had so bad an attack of delirium tremors that we had to handcuff him till he was better. I don’t feel at all seasick yet but am low-spirited and thinking much of home. Took my last glimpse of England, this evening. At 10 o’clock at night, in the distance, were two small light. These were to mark Lizard Point, Lands End, Cornwall. Farewell old country, I feel sad at going but you have never paid me for my work, so I consider myself perfectly justified in leaving you for richer land. In many years I may revisit my native land in very different circumstances to those under which I am leaving it.

 Thursday 27th. A freshening breeze, we are going through the chops of the Channel and across the Bay of Biscay. Capt. Cameron asked me about my prospects in India and promised, if it was ever in his power, to assist me. I read mothers book of poems today and also a chapter in the Bible. A thing I intend to do every day while at sea. This evening, I had a conversation with the Carpenter about the Far East. He told me that if I was on that ship I would have to carry coal and do many dirty jobs that I have not to have to do here. He, the Carpenter, was on his last voyage.The sea air does not seem to agree with our ducks – they are dying one by one. The poultry sent on board were not in first class condition, but as it is all we have to depend upon for fresh meat, we are going to fatten them.

 Friday 28th. The breeze has gone away and we have got a strong head wind instead. A head wind is one that blows right in our face. Now, in this case, we must go tack for tack. That is steering like this.


When on the starboard tack she leans over to larboard or port and when on Port tack she leans over to starboard. If we did not tack about like this we could not make any way at for the wind is in our teeth. To change a ships tack on course requires great skill. The Captain is on the poop and gives the word of command and at the word “manual” haul- over goes the ship with a heavy lurch from starboard to port or vice versa. The whole operation of tacking takes about half an hour, everybody on the ship has a particular rope to, my rope is the mainsheet rope which I have to hold round the tills and at the word of command, let it go, as the ship heels over. There is a heavy sea running and as soon tacking or “bout ship” was over, I hung my head over the side and suffered a horrible five minutes of sea sickness, after which I ate a grand dinner and don’t feel it any more. Now there is nothing like eating a heartily in case of seasickness- Bout ships at 8 o’clock tonight again. Got out my tobacco and pipe and had a good smoke before I turned in. I am now beginning to get used to the ship and have learnt the following information:

 This is the 3rd voyage of the Ship Staffordshire- 1175 tons, registered owners Boult, English and Brandon, Liverpool.

 Captain: Alexander Cameron

 Walter Finer 1st Mate

 J Jarvis Fincher 2nd Mate

 Owen Strickland 3rd Mate

 K.C. Gregson Midshipmen

 A Dunbar Midshipmen

 C Rose Midshipmen

 W B Burnett Steward

 H Coggan 2nd Steward

 J Macdonald Sail-maker commonly called “Sails”

 C N Dougal Carpenter commonly called “Chips”

 Robert Barr Boatswain commonly called “Boats”

 James Gordon Cook, a negro, Commonly called “Doctor” and

 2 Ordinary seamen £1.00 per month

 15 able seamen £2.15 per month

 Steward £5.00 per month

 Cook £4.10 per month

 Sails £5.10 per month

 Carpenter £6.00 per month

 Cargo- Assorted.

 The Steward is a Barbadian, W Indian, The Cook a Negro, one of the seamen a native of St Helena., one a Portuguese and the rest English, Irish and Scotch. Thirty souls in all and two dogs- Jack and Toby.

 Saturday 29th. This morning a duck flew overboard. I tried to get him up with a bucket tied to the end of a rope, but the silly thing thought he was better off on the sea and would not be caught. His strength soon failed him and he could not keep up with the ship. As regard to the weather, the head wind still prevails and rain at intervals. “Bout ships” at 12 o’clock in a heavy sea. I feel rather giddy but don’t intend to be sick if I can help it. Since we left London the colors have been flying and any ship that likes can report us. There are no ships in sight now, so we hauled down our flag. Each flag means a letter and so we make ships understand our name and destination. Several have seen us so I hope we shall be reported in London.

 Sunday 30th. The head wind much stronger, this tacking about is slow work for we must travel 300 miles before we make 120 of our right course- “Bout Ships” at 1 o’clock and again 8 at night. Every Sunday the midshipmen dine in the Cabin. They did today and so on the day of rest I have double the work to do. We have been a week at sea today. It is a fortnight since I took Syb down to the ship in East India Dock.

 Tuesday 2nd May. Strong head winds still prevail and very rough seas. At 11 o’clock this morning saw two large ships laboring heavily in the sea. We ran up or own signal and so did one of the vessels, but the weather was too rough for us to make out her name. I hope she did but I doubt it. We tack every four hours. The Staffordshire has very sharp bows and in consequence cuts through the sea instead of riding over it and rough seas as at present, the decks are now and then, flooded from stem to stern- everything on board is lashed. I got drenched to the skin this morning when a great sea came over the side. The deck is very slippery and the ship on a sharp angle so none but old salts can walk without holding on from one thing to another. The most ticklish job is to get the dinner in from the cooks galley which is situated amidships. The table in these times is laid were 3 bars across to keep the things in place. At two o’clock she gave a lurch which knocked the soup off the table, and the steward coming in at the time, slipped on the soup and knocked the inkstand off the other table. Soup and ink mingling on the white deck- a fine job for me to holystone it all up.

 Wednesday 3rd. Last night was the worst since we left London. The win still right ahead and blowing a perfect gale, the rigging creaks at the strain on it- all hands kept up in case of an accident happening. At 10 this morning we were “Bouting Ship” when the main-top-gallant-yard fixing gave way and the great sail flopped in the wind like a kite. I was standing right under with the 3rd. Mate and several lumps of iron fell round us, neither of us were struck- all hands aloft but am obliged to work on deck in bad weather. We are now off the Western Islands and out of that horrible bay At 1 o’clock the wind changed and is now favorable so we are all in better spirits. One of the midshipmen gave the Steward a fine meerschaum pipe in exchange for a bottle of rum and we all enjoyed it in their cabin at night. Thank God for this change, I shall get a little rest tonight. At 7 o’clock a strange sail hove in sight but the Captain completely worn out, had thrown himself down in his clothes, directly the wind changed and so we did not signalize her- she showed Portuguese colors.

 Thursday 4th. Rain! Rain!Rain! Nothing but incessant rain but we don’t so much mind this as the wind is fair and the ship correspondingly steady. I wonder if they have such weather in England. I hope not as they will be fretting about me, who am perfectly safe. Everybody says the Staffordshire is a “Good sea boat”. We sighted a shark this morning but the Steward would not serve out any pork to bait the hook, so we could not fish for him. An English robin is flying about the ship, it has lost its way in migration and flies to us to rest its poor weary little wings on the rigging giving a thankful chirp as payment for the accommodation. Weather cleared up fine.

 Friday 5th. A glorious fair wind, fine weather and a ship in site right astern of us. The captain thinks she is the Kent which left London the day after us , and not liking to be beaten, clapped on all the sail, but it was no use for by 3 o’clock she was near enough to signalize. We ran up English colors and she did the same. We then ran up the colors for “Staffordshire”, but she did not show her name, but the captain is sure she is the Kent. A fine sight, the Kent is slowly forging ahead of us.

 Saturday 6th. This morning the Kent is right ahead of us on our starboard side- but as she is a passenger ship and we are heavy with cargo, she has not much credit in beating us in point of speed. It has been raining heavily this morning, but at noon cleared up and we have a fair wind and things looking cheering.

 Staffordshire 1

 Sunday 7th. A fine day as regards weather but little or no wind, sometimes a dead calm. Six ships in sight but all outward bound, so we did not signalize.

 Monday 8th. A glorious fair wind, ship going 11 knots an hour, we ascertain this by heaving the log, which is a line of a certain length and knots tied in it at distances. This is dropped over the stern and we see how much runs off the reel in 3 minutes and then calculate how much would in an hour, which is the distance required. If we could only keep up this speed we should be in Calcutta in 60 more days. We are fast getting into hot weather. “ She walks the water like a thing of life”.

 Tuesday 9th. Splendid weather and fine fair wind, it gets hotter every day. This morning a large shoal of porpoises were playing around the ship. A swallow kept us company for an hour or two and two immense birds called Albatross flew past us. The Captain got the harpoon shark hooks ready and when the weather is calm we can fish as there are plenty of all sorts in these waters. We are now nearing Madeira. This afternoon spoke to a schooner homeward bound and she will report us in London.The sunrise and sunsets are very beautiful here, there is very little or no twilight. Ship going fast but not at such a rate as yesterday as the wind has gone a little ahead of us.

 Wednesday 10th. A lovely day. A glorious sunrise and warmer weather but very little wind. Some parts of the day only going 2 knots (miles) an hour. The sea as calm as a millpond. The Captain caught some sea anemones in the net and preserved them in gin- I turned my tobacco out of the jar and gave it (the jar) to him. Opened my small box today to get out my boots. My slippers are very bad and boots cracked at the sides. At 4 o’clock this afternoon a barque was in sight . We ran up

“The flag that braved a thousand years

 The battle and the breeze”

 She showed French colors and as it was dusk we did not signalize any more. Tonight the moon on the water is a splendid sight. There is scarce a ripple on the water and far away, as far as the eye can stretch comes a broad stream of silver sparkling and glittering and where there is no reflection of the moon the stars seem down in the blue water. The sea at night is a magnificent sight- on such a night as this I sit on the taffrail smoking Fred s tobacco and Franks pipe and thinking of home, England and the loved ones there. I wonder what the are all doing, and if they think of me all day as I do of them. May God in his mercy permit me to return some day to be comfort and a helping???? to them all. It is now half past nine and the ship is as steady as a die.

 Thursday 11th. The time at sea is divided into watches starting at 0 o’clock in the morning and every 4 hour’s is a watch. The men are also in watches, half in the port watch and half in the starboard watch. The officer of the port watch is the 1st mate. The officer of the starboard watch is the 2nd mate. 8 o’clock is 8 bells, 1 bell is struck more every half hour, ½ past 8- 1 bell, 9 o’clock 2 bells, ½ past 9 3 bells, 10 o’clock 4 bells, ½ past 10 5 bells, 11 6 bells, ½ past 11 7 bells and 12 o’clock is 8 bells and the watch on deck goes below and the watch below turns out. It is the same night and day but in bad weather all hands are kept on deck. When a head wind the ship is to be put about and all the men are turned out to do this. In a head wind the ship is close hauled. That is the sails and yards are level with the ship.



There has been rain all day and the wind is a little ahead. Sighted another shark this morning but the steward would not serve out any pork to bait the hook and so we could not fish for him. A swallow came on board but did not stop for long.

Friday 12th. A very warm day, at 8 o’clock this morning we sighted the Island of Madeira, a very pretty sight from the sea with the aid of a telescope could distinguish houses and Kes could not make sketch of it for me. We are 12 miles away and could only see the outline with the naked eye. There is again a head wind and the sea is running very high making the ship roll heavily. The ship gave a lurch and threw the armchair right across the cabin. Indeed it is quite impossible to keep such things as chairs, stools etc still, everything possible is lashed but those that are left loose dance about with an energy and perseverance worthy of a better cause. This used to trouble me at night but I am now quite used to it and can sleep soundly on the roughest night. At 2 o’clock we passed a large ship low in the water with little or no sail set and laboring heavily in the trough of the sea. We could not speak to her as we had enough to to to attend to our own vessel as a heavy squall was on and all hands putting the ship about. We were soon far away from her. The wind is strong and we are flying through the water. This would be fine in a fair wind but we are making very little leeway, the wind right in our teeth. The steward who has for the last week been complaining of rheumatism is now completely laid up. He lays groaning in his bunk and besides having to do all the work I have to attend to him. Too much to do for one hand to do in bad weather.

 Saturday 13th. The steward is worse this morning. The sooner he is up the better I shall like it. The weather is the same as yesterday the ship rolling very heavily. Every time she rolls the crockery in the pantry goes crack-crack against the sides of the boxes in which every set of things are put away. Burnett is savage as a bear with a sore tail.

 Sunday 14th. At 7 o’clock this morning (as if there was not enough to do already) the Captain made me and Dunbar was 3 dozen ducks in fresh water, the poor wretches have had a wetting with salt water every day for a week and today, for a change,nothing will please the Captain. But we will wash them well in fresh. Vexed at having to do this Ed and I half drowned them, ducking them under and scrubbing away, the consequence was half of them dead and a good job too, poor skinny things, not fit to put on the table and tough as leather- besides it is my job to feed all the stock and it is not so many to feed and look after now. We sighted the Island of Palma today. Palma rises a solid and lofty rock out of the sea, it is a fine sight, at 5 we pass it and sail away.

Monday 15th. A splendid fair wind, everything going on jolly except the stewards rheumatics, if can only keep this up we shall enter the tropics by the end of the week.

 Tuesday 16th. Burnett is a little better and got up for an hour or two this morning. At 4 o’clock sighted a Portuguese barque and signalled her, she showed that her name was the “ Devine Providence” from Portugal bound to Rio Grande. She will report us there. The weather today is fine and the wind fair being a trade wind it will carry us to the C de Verde Islands or farther. We are from 10 to 11 knots per hour with very little motion or rolling of the ship and as much sail on as the ship will bear. Fore and main masts crowded sails. Stay-sails reefed and spinnaker and jibs stowed. All studding sails set and the mizzen topsails bent. The sea is smooth and the ship throws the white spray from her bows and flies onward clearing her way through the water and long behind us can be seen the white track of spray showing where our path through the ocean has been.

 Wednesday 17th. Burnett is much worse, he had a warm bath but it did not do him any good. A growling surly black fellow. I could do things much better without his supervision. There is so much trouble with him that I sometimes wish he was overboard. The Captain told us today to write letters for home and if we met a homeward bound ship he would stop and put them aboard her. I wrote 3- 1 mother, 1 father, 1 M K. The boat was got ready and suspended over the side, ready to leave at a moments notice. Nearly all on board have written letters and all are hoping we shall meet one for news too.

 Thursday 18th. Still fine weather, a fair wind, a large ship is on our lee quarters going the same way as us. We did not signalize- a ship with all sail set is a very pretty sight at sea.

 Friday 19th. Burnett still very ill, moping away in his bunk, a misery to himself and everybody else. Notwithstanding I have all the work to do, I have also to wait on him, to get salt water hot for him to hold his leg over the steam and all sorts of fads fancies. I would much rather throw the water over him and make him get up and do his duty. I don’t believe he is half as bad as he says, he is only shamming to throw the work on me and to mend matters the Captain has made himself ill by drinking too much sherry so that my hands are full of work.

 Saturday 20th. We are passing the Cape de Verde islands but not near enough to get a sight of them. Still fine weather and fair winds. Two large ships on our port side but not near enough to signal. Burnett says he is worse. The Captain is all right again. It is a month today since we left the shores of England. In a few days we will cross the line.

 Sunday 21st. Turned out at 5 o’clock, got coffee ready- fed fowls and ducks- then gave cook orders for dinner and breakfast. Cleaned knives and laid breakfast table for 4. Bill of Fare- Corned beef- Boiled Pork- Fish balls- hot rolls. Waited breakfast, cleared away and got the stewards breakfast,I wonder he does not want me to eat it for him. Got dinner ready for 7. Chicken soup- boiled fish- boiled fowls and pork- plum pudding- cheese- sauce and the old Buffer always has the Midships men to dine with him on Sunday. Cleared away and washed up. Made Captains bed, swept and dusted cabins and got supply of fresh water for tomorrow. The water is kept in large iron tanks and is issued out every day. Got tea ready , cleared away. Had a bath in a tub of salt water. Read my bible as I do every night and then turned into my bunk and glad enough to get there. As the weather was hot and fine it was white ducks for the first time today. It is very hot and light at 4 in the morning. We are now in the Tropic of Cancer. Fish are plentiful, the sailors catch them. Bonitos are the best, large fish like mackerel. A shoal of porpoises are splashing around the ship, jumping out of the water and playing under the bows and rudder. The wind is fair.

 Monday 22nd.to Wednesday 24th. Still fine weather and fair winds. We going fast towards the Cape where it is mid-winter at this time of the year. At present it is very hot, the sun sets the tar boiling out of the seams in the deck. Lime juice is served out regularly to the crew to prevent scurvy. Sailors would rather see the ***** on board than scurvy. Wednesday the Queens birthday. Many happy returns to her majesty.

 Thursday 25th. Mr midshipman Rose fell off the boat onto the deck this morning but no bones broken, only a severe shaking. The Captain gave him a dose of castor oil, his favorite remedy for all ills. That fact is here to the 2nd mate when he fell off the top gallant fore-castle and bruised his head seriously- dosed with C O.

 Friday 26th. No sign of a homeward bound ship yet. It will be a disappointment to me if we don’t meet one. At 12 o’clock caught up with and signaled the “Tangier” a ship as large as the Staffordshire bound from Boston to Bombay. This was a very leaky ship, the men were all hard at the pumps. I thank my stars I am not on such a craft as that’s crawling along. We soon passed her and left her out of sight for a time.

 Saturday 27th. Crossed the line at 12.30 today. No homeward bound ships in sight. No ceremony on crossing the line, the Captain would not allow it. Fine weather and fair wind, I washed all my dirty clothes today and hung them in the riggings to dry.

Sunday 28th. Squally with rain all day. These squalls are very quick in coming on. Away in the distance we can see a black cloud of wind and rain and in a few moments it is upon us like a little hurricane. When we see them coming we furl sails till they are over and then set sail again, but if a squall look us by surprise it would blow away every stitch of sail from the mast. This is the way many ships go down in squalls and are never heard of .

 Monday 29th. Fine again and a jolly trade wind began. Arithmetic tonight, passed a homeward bound but both ships were going so fast there was no chance of sending letters, so I contented myself with wishing the homeward bound ship aforesaid to Jericho and hoping that we may meet another in calmer weather.

Tuesday 30th. Burnett got up today, he says he is a little better. Two of the sailors laid up with sickness (real)!

 Wednesday 31st. Went up aloft today to get a stern-sail in, up the mainmast onto the main top, up the topmast rigging and then by a single guy line, climbed up to the top gallant mast head. Found no difficulty in climbing except the cat harping which are so called because a cat would hesitate if desired to ascend them, but I managed to get over them somehow. The ship looks much larger from aloft and the sea with the moon on the waters is a truly splendid sight for miles I could see one unbroken waste of waters, and the moonlight sparkling on the waves.

 Thursday June 1st. Burnett got up and walked about for an hour or two. I think he is getting bored of laying idle in his bunk, he, however, did not exert himself much.

Friday 2nd. and Saturday 3rd. Although the weather is lovely there is no wind , the sea is so calm that we can see to a great depth. There is not a wave in the water. These calms are always met with on or about the line. At night when work is done I sit on the rail and smoke my pipe and spin a yarn with the sailors but I must say I don’t find the yarns our sailors are either funny or interesting. I would much rather have my pipe and my own thoughts for company. I wonder what they are doing at home. In my minds eye I can picture the scene at 1 Duke Street, but then it is now 8 o’clock at night here and only 4 in the afternoon at home. I had a good bathe tonight in the tub.

 Sunday 4th. Had service today for the first time since leaving England. The Union Jack was over the capstan which served for a pulpit. The captain acted as parson and read or pretended to read the prayers of the establish Church but left out half. The fact is I don’t expect the old infidel opens his prayer book from one year end to another, and it was only one of his fancies to have them today. He does know what to do to pass his time away and he has read all the books on board, he has not regular work to employ his mind as everybody else has, poor fellow, so he gets bad tempered sometimes especially when there is no wind for he always prides himself in making a quick passage. He passes an hour or two every morning before his looking glass, dressing. He shaves and dresses himself up, scents his pocket-kerchief and puts on polished patent leather boots and all to pass away time, I really believe he is happier in bad weather. Tonight he called out to us that there was a shark under the rudder. We got the hook, myself and two midshipmen, backed up with a large piece of pork and let it fall with a splash into the water. The shark sniffed at it, swam around it and fin-nicked over it like a cat does and the rolled over on his back, opened his great jaws and took it. “He’s got it” cried Rose- “Yes and we’ve got him” I said, “haul away boys” but when he was half way up he fell off. He had only got the pork and not the hook. Half the pork remaining on the hook was torn in shred by his saw like teeth.

 Monday 5th.- Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th. Calm, Calm, Calm. Porpoises, sharks and flying fish in plenty. All sorts of strange fish. We catch them in a net, the Captain puts them in gin which first makes the tipsy, the kills them and finally preserves them till their arrival in England, when they are sent to a museum and lectured upon. Burnett has taken to his bunk again.

 Thursday 8th. Hurrah! Caught a large shark, myself and midshipmen baited the hook with pork and a great hungry shark took it so greedily that the hook went through the upper jaw and out the eye. We hauled her up to the side and dropped a slip noose over the tail of the fish and one strong pull brought it on deck and the ran out of its reach. Oh what a passion, it flew in jumping up off the deck, snapping with its jaws and banging its powerful tail on the deck and against the sides. A blow of a sharks tail has been known to break a man’s leg. At last we got hold of the rope and dragged it to the fore part of the ship where we cut its throat, then cut its head off. I cut out the jaw to send home. The sailors cut out the heart, a little bag thing which beats long after the shark is dead. The shark did not seem to see the necessity for all this and signified his disappointment by banging its tail on the deck. Sharks are as tenacious as eels. After cutting it about, we threw the still quivering remains overboard. All this may seem heartless cruelty to a landsman, but sailors have such a deadly hatred to sharks that they cannot die to painfully a death once caught and indeed to see them swimming in the sea, casting their hungry eyes up and opening their great mouths is something awful. And I for one, think Jack has a perfect right to revenge on his dreaded enemy the shark. A large fish 20 foot long is swimming round the ship and occasionally diving under the bottom for a change. The Captain says it is a young whale. I comes up to the top of the water and blows out of a hole in the top of its head, but does not spout up water as I have seen whales in pictures. Thursday evening the calm which has lasted a week is succeeded by a strong head wind. We are flying through the water 11 knots(miles) per hour, a very rough sea on and large quantities of water coming on deck. The ship rolls heavily. What a change in a few hours. Tonight at 8 o’clock the moon was, notwithstanding the wind and a cloudy sky,very bright and by the light we could see a brig coming directly across our track. We were going at a terrific rate and so was she. We hung out a light but she took no notice of it. Perhaps did not see it and it became evident that if both vessels continued their course the3 could be a collision. She was close to us and we seemed to be running into her. She eventually passed within 10 yards of us and our bow strut seemed to touch her. Had we done so, the sharp iron bow of the Staffordshire would have cut her completely in halves and their would not have been a soul left of her to tell the tale. The crew seemed well aware of this, for they stood in crowd ready to catch at our bowsprit gear which would have been their only hope had we struck her as she passed. We could see their decks to as plainly as our own when she was past us. The surf which our ship threw from her bow spun her around like a cork, but she righted and in less than a minute was far out of our sight. It was a wild scene I never want to see the like again. The cabin table which was screwed down was thrown across the cabin by a lurch of the ship when fresh gusts hiked her over, she goes nearly on her beam ends.

 Friday 9th. Wind abated but still violent. This is worse than the Bay of Bisquy, the sailors say that it will be worse still, going round the Cape.

 Saturday 10th. Steward still very ill, confined to bunk. I am busy all day and every night after work I study arithmetic getting much assistance from a midshipman named Dunbar, who is a first rate hand at figures. Sometimes the weather is too rough and I am obliged to leave it for a night or two.

 Sunday 11th. Things going on the same as ever, steward laid up, me busy as the ***** in a high wind. The wind is contrary but the weather fine.

 Monday 12th. There are some Cape pigeons flying round the ship, they are very pretty birds. Doubly pretty as they tell me I am half way on my voyage, pretty little black and white birds something between a duck and pigeon. The captain tried to catch one with a bent pin and a small piece of pork thereon, but the birds are too wide awake and wont bite.

 Tuesday 13th. The wind has shifted and is now fair but there is so little of it that we hardly seem to move.

 Wednesday 14th. Fine but almost a calm, Barnett got up and walked about an hour or two but soon turned in again. I am getting on capitally in arithmetic, now studying fractions and decimals.

 Thursday 15th. Burnett is now up and dong his own work. I wonder how long this industrious fit will last. I give him a week.

Friday 16th. A barque caught up with us today. We spoke to her and she proved to be the “Esperanza” from London to Bombay, 5 days out, up to 10 o’clock tonight she was still in company. The weather is fine and the wind is the same as yesterday, very calm. There are always lots of ships in sight in calm weather. Today there are 5 besides the “Esperanza”. We don’t speak to them as the are all outward bound like ourselves. The weather is rather colder now. It will be very cold round the Cape of Good Hope.

 Saturday 17th. The Captain is not well in consequence of drinking too much sherry yesterday, the old boy is very fond of his wine, but it is only justice to say that he only drinks in fine weather and sticks to his work in squalls and head winds. The Esperanza has gone ahead but still in sight.

 Sunday 18th. Fine fair weather, a light NNW breeze, saw a dead cow floating in the water, how it got there I don’t know, suppose it fell overboard from some ship. Had for dinner today fowls, fish soup, fruit, port and cheese. The Cape pigeon are still flying round the ship and when the cook empties his waste bucket into the sea, they all crowd around it . Got it! The Captain caught one with a hook and line. He got some wool and chloroform out of the medicine chest and put in the birds mouth and killed him. He will be skinning it tomorrow. Some larger birds called albatross are flying about but they are very shy. When the pigeon was brought on deck he was seasick. This proves that it is the motion of the ship which produces seasickness and nothing in sea air. I turn in tonight hoping to find the ship going a little faster when I turn out tomorrow.

 Monday 19th. We are now about 1000 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. The nearest land is the island of Tristan da Cunha which is 300 miles off. The Cape pigeon live entirely on the water, only going ashore for a few weeks in the summer for the purpose of breeding. Almost directly the young are hatched, they take to the sea where they live in safety, careless of storms, gales, wind or weather.

 Tuesday 20th. A strong S Easterly breeze which drives us away towards the Cape of Storms at the rate of 10 knots an hour. The evening looked very dark and threatening but towards evening cleared up fine. It is really very cold and no wonder considering it is midwinter at the Cape. This will be the most dangerous part of our voyage. Once round the Cape there is nothing to prevent us making a fair run right straight to Calcutta. I shall continue arithmetic doing 10 sums every nigh and if I may judge my own work I have made great progress. Three of the men before the mast are ill, but nothing catching. We dose them regularly with Castor Oil. Men before the mast will often sham in order to be supplied with fresh food, but castor oil is all they get out of Capt. Cameron. Burnett is quite well again and I am in excellent health, never more so in life. I am sometimes low-spirited and think much of home. Sometimes fancying all sorts of things have happened which I am ignorant of. There is a dream I have had at least a dozen times that I was again in London and never started and everybody was jeering me on not being able to get a ship. I always wake up in a cold sweat from the dream. At 5 o’clock this evening the man on the look out called out “strange sail on the port bow.” She is a large vessel, clipper built, and rigged with all sail set and steering W by NN West, not near enough to signalize and at 7 o’clock had disappeared. There is now no hope of sending my homeward bound letters. We have not having been lucky enough to meet homeward bounders in fair weather.

 Wednesday 21st. Still a fine fair wind doing 10 knots an hour. Some very large albatrosses about. I noticed one in particular that must have been fully 12 feet across from wing to wing. Today there is a heavy chopping sea on and a stiff S E breeze. Weather dull and cloudy and extremely cold. I envy the English their fine warm summer in this month. Now my nice thick blankets are a real comfort to me. I button my monkey jacket up close to my chin and wear underclothes day and night, and smoke a double allowance of tobacco thanks to Fred K and Frank.

 Thursday 22nd. Dull, cloudy weather, heavy sea on, rain at intervals and the sea covered with a heavy ragged mist, which the wind drives into a sort of rain. We have however got a fair wind and are going 10 ½ knots an hour. We passed 2 large ships today but did not signalize.

 Friday 23rd. The breeze still continues, going round the Cape we are lucky in getting this breeze. Head winds being generally met with here. Weather dull and lowering lots of pigeons about.

 Saturday 24th. The wind stronger than ever, we don’t want it to increase any more as it no joke in the rough seas and set 2 stay-sails instead. At 2 o’clock a heavy squall and looking as black as pitch to windward. We are now expecting a blow of wind. The Captain goes on the deck frequently during the night and extra hands are posted on the lookout, Every preparation made for a gale.

 Sunday 25th. This morning at 5 o’clock sighted a ships light on our starboard quarter bearing down for us. As soon as it was daylight we found it to belong to a large ship. She ran up alongside of us. We spoke to her . The “ Young Mechanic” from Boston in America to Madras 61 days out. She ran up the stars and stripes and we slung the union jack to our masthead. Being a light wooden ship she passed us very quickly and at 3 in the afternoon disappeared from our sight with colors flying. I did not like to see an English ship beaten hollow by a Yankee, nor indeed did anybody on board, especially in the flaunting way in which the “Young Mechanic”did.It seemed as if she said to us “You see you are no good Britisher, get out of the way and let a Yankee craft show you how to sail” and then with that rakish flag flying, she set an extra sail or two and flew away ahead of us. As the “Staffordshire” is heavy loaded and deep in the water we could not have gone a bit faster to save our lives, so quickly hauled down our colors and pocketed the affront.

 Monday 26th. Sill a stiff breeze which causes the sea to run high and sometimes to wash over our decks. The weather is somewhat finer perhaps even now we may get around the Cape without experiencing one of those fearful Cape storms in which so many ships have been lost. We are now in the most critical point of our voyage, for a storm may come with little warning at any time.

 Tuesday 27th. Squally with rain. Squalls in these latitudes come on very suddenly but Captain Cameron is a first rate navigator. He understands them and they generally find us prepared.

 Wednesday 28th. Alas those squalls were the fag end of our fair wind which is now replaced by a light breeze with which we can only screw 4 knots an hour out of the ship. There is a heavy swell on the sea which is otherwise smooth. It heaves the sea up not in short waves but long rolling waves causing the ship to roll heavily and dip her yard arms in the water. I would rather have rough weather than this.

 Thursday 29th. Still light wind and heavy Cape swells, this swell is a most unpleasant thing, it makes my Lady Staffordshire roll and pitch and every time she heels over crash-crash goes every thing moveable flying about. Its so meal times every thing is wedged somehow and even then the cups will persist in a general rush to the lee side of the ship and accompanying her in the roll the sugar tongs fly over the butter dish, which in its turn rolls against something else, and sometimes the whole lot go off the table. It is enough to do to keep on ones legs without looking after crockery. At 5 o’clock this evening a fine breeze springs up and we are flying before it at 11 knots an hour. We don’t feel the Cape Uncle so much when going fast through the water. This evening we sighted a vessel behind us and Lo! Behold who should it be but our Yankee friend the “Young Mechanic” the boasting American who so gaily passed us last Sunday. But how come he fell in the background- it is a light wooden ship, can’t show so much canvas to a stiff breeze as a heavy iron one and while we were going 11 knots an hour in a strong wind, he had to take in sail and so we must have passed him again at night and had not seen him, besides he is a bad navigator and squalls might drive him miles out of his course and when we spoke to him last Sunday his chronometer was wrong. We shall, I hope, keep ahead of him and show him how a British ship can sail in a stiff breeze and not go sneaking along in a light wind as he did on Sunday. Like his Yankee Independence but he had the pleasure of seeing the Union Jack go ahead of him this time

 Friday 30th. I don’t like Fridays and almost wish the week could pass without them. Last night the crew and myself- all hands called to reef the topsail, as the wind was blowing a perfect gale. We were hauling on the main top gallant halyards when the ropes and lashing broke and the sail was ripped like a rag by the violence of the wind, and this morning it is no better. The sea running very high in huge and angry waves, the ship dashes through it, throwing the white spray from her bows and occasionally taking a great wave over the side which wets anybody to the skin who is unlucky enough to be in the way. At 1 o’clock, I was going to the cooks galley which is just amidships, when I was halfway there, whop splash over came the sea and I jumped on to the main hatch just in time to escape with wet feet. This did not matter as I do not wear socks and I did not wear boots until lately when it became too cold to run about barefoot. Friday afternoon the wind still in the right direction but so violent that we only dare show 4 sails to it and those 4 take us along at a rate of 11 knots per hour. If we set more sail it would wrench away the masts. This is the Cape in real earnest. The pigeon and albatrosses seem all the happier for the rough weather and fly around in circles. The sky is overcast by day and pitch dark at night.

 Saturday July 1st.We have entered another month at sea. The wind that was so violent has now gone down a little. I got a line and bent pin and caught a Cape pigeon which I will stuff and send home. Towards evening a fresh breeze sprung up which drives us through and not over the waves and so the decks are wet fore and aft with water she takes.

 Sunday July 2nd. The breeze which rose yesterday has freshened and is now blowing very hard. One after another we take the sails in but still the wind increases and forces us nearly to strip our masts. We had some good poultry for dinner today and now have only 18 live fowls left. The ducks are all gone after we got into the tropics the fowls turned cannibal and took to eating each other. They had plenty of food too. 2 of them used to have a pitched battle and the one that got vanquished got eaten by the others. Sunday afternoon. The storm so long brewing , has come at last. We are scudding before the wind under almost bare poles and the wind even bends the naked masts like canes. At 5 o’clock a sea came over the side and washed the gratings from before the cabin door and bent in the door, large quantities of water rushed into the cabin and my work was to bale it out, but it was no use, no sooner was it out than a fresh supply came in, thundering down on the desk and throwing ropes and spars and pins about in endless confusion. The vessel rolls gunwale too and the decks are deluged. No rain but a cloudy night and the moon now and then shows us a ray of light. At 9 o’clock the gale was fearful and the scene awful and unforeseen one for me. As far a could be seen on all sides the sea rose in angry waves boiling and seething. The clouds flew with great speed before the moon and the albatrosses, which in fair weather, never utter a cry are screaming and screeching as they fly around the ship. Walls of water are foaming on each side of us, sometimes on the top of a huge which elevated and exalted position we can see the sea in all its awful grandeur and the again we are nearly sunk in the hollow as the huge waves tower above us. Tossing and laboring heavily the sails are all in but two, and with these we hope to weather the gale. This is the time to test the rigging of the ship, for the masts bend and creak, the decks open and strain. The wind howls through the rigging like a railway engine in a tunnel. At 12 o’clock tonight the gale was at its height. I was still baling water out of the cabin when the iron ventilator of the main hold was washed away and down poured the water in a torrent into the hold of the ship. Sails, blocks, rope , anything was brought and rammed into the leak and stopped none to soon. At 2 o’clock a great sea came over the stern and washed away the gratings by the wheel leaving the men steering only the piece they stood on, a case of drugs which was banded down to the deck with iron bands was washed about the deck like a cork and a thick plate glass window was stove in, and in rushed the water into the forecastle setting the poor sailors chests floating about and swamping the lowermost bunks. I had turned in to get half a wink of sleep when I was roused out to serve out grog to the men and knocked about and wet to the skin, the poor fellows were truly glad of their rum. At 5 o’clock this Monday morning this terrific gale moderated and by 8 o’clock we were enabled to set more sail, though the sea still runs very high and the ship labors heavily in heavy swell of the sea.

Staffordshire in gale

Monday 3rd. This morning I opened my box to ascertain damage. Beyond my neck ties being wet and the paper outside, Home in the Psalms, soaked. There was no harm done, I chiefly set this down to Fathers excellent packing, as the cabin was flooded and my box afloat. This afternoon I skinned my Cape Pigeon and rubbed chloride of lime on to preserve it and I shall send it home along with the jaw of the shark, which I have got in my box. The mate, Mr Finn went down the hold today to see what damage was done to the cargo in the gale and found several cases of percussion caps were wet and large bales of oilmans stores soaked through. The water has gone through into the lower hold where it is impossible to ascertain the damage until the ship is unloaded in Calcutta. All hands are busy repairing the rigging, which strained fearfully last night, Several ropes having snapped, but those on which our safety depended, namely the rudder chains and tiller ropes, held beautifully. The greatest shock was when the man at the wheel let the ship go off four points to the wind, shaking her from stem to stern, but taking it altogether we have got through it very fair. For a long time we had expected the gale and were fully prepared. I was glad to sleep for an hour or two this afternoon after the fatigue of being up all last night working on the deck and baling water out of cabin.

 Tuesday 4th. A fine fair wind and a SW current, the sea runs high but now slowly going down. All hands still busy repairing sail to mend damage done by the gale. The carpenter, whose business it is to sound the hold, reports only 4 inches of water. We expect the breeze will carry us far away from the Cape. It is very cold here but in a few more days we shall again be in fair fine weather.

 Wednesday 5th. 12 o’clock this breeze is taking us along fast, during the last 24 hours we fave gone over 200 miles. I gave my Cape pigeon another rubbing with chloride of lime today.

 Thursday 6th. Heavy sea on, but fine weather and SSE breeze, going 10 ½ knots an hour. I tried to catch an albatross today but did not succeed.

 Friday 7th. I went aloft with Rose today to take in the main top gallant studding sail. It was full moon and a clear night. The moon looked splendid on the sea, our track lay right in the line and it seemed as if our path was laid out in silver.

 Sunday 9th. Burnett complains of another fit of rheumatism. I hope he won’t take to his bunk again, at least, this side of Calcutta. We out to get there in 5 more weeks at the latest. There is a heavy swell on the sea today and we hauled the ship around to eastward. Since rounding the Cape we have been steering south and now the ships head is pointing up right to the Bay of Bengal. It has been very cold, especially off Cape Agulhas where the gale was. We passed the Mauritius on Saturday but were 1500 miles to the S of it. The ship is going 8 knots an hour. This evening a squall struck the ship and broke the shedding sail boom clean in half. The carpenter is now making another.

 Monday 10th. Fine warm weather and SE trade winds, some large albatross about. These birds are a sort of brown and white color and have large awkward feet which hang from them when on the wing, but are of great use to them in the water. They live entirely on fish and such offal as is thrown from ships at sea. They are very strong on the wing, keeping up with the ship night and day for weeks together. When a man falls overboard, when these birds are about,there is little help for him. They would settle on and pick out his eyes and the sailors have a superstition that they are the ghosts of deficient old sea captains who have been strict in their lives. It is pretty to see a flock of them asleep on the water early in the morning. They live entirely on the ocean except for a few weeks in summer when they visit some remote and rocky island for the purpose of breeding. 2 o’clock and heavy squalls of wind and rain has just struck us on the port side making the ship heel over to starboard. The wind in this squall veered round six point of the compass and the back to SE again. A sort of little cyclone. It was in this spot last voyage that the Staffordshire was in a cyclone or whirlwind.

 Tuesday 11th. To Saturday 15th. Fair fine wind and weather. The crew have been engaged in cleaning the ship and holy-stoning the decks. She is to be painted all over and will look fine going into Calcutta. Sailors are jacks of all trades, they carpenter, paint and no job seems to come amiss to them. They call holy-stoning going to church and their holy stones are bibles. This holy-stoning is a nasty job every Saturday. It is my business to do the cabin and passage. It takes me all the forenoon to do, rub rub with the hard stones onto the harder deck. Evening- The wind is shifting about but we must not complain as we have made a splendid run from the Cape. We have not sighted a ship for a long time, but we are right in the track of vessels and hope to meet one soon. I like to see ships as they are a break on this monstrous waste of water and sky.

 Sunday 16th. Just what we were all afraid of, a dead calm. We are “As still as any painted ship upon a painted ocean.”

 Monday 17th. Still calm, calm calm and there is no more motion in the ship than when she was laying in the East India Docks. One of the dogs had a narrow escape- it was Jack. The other one is Toby. They are quite studies those two dogs. Toby belongs to the port watch and Jack to the men on the starboard watch and at eight bells, when the watches are changed, the dogs change too. Jack is seldom on deck in Toby’s watch or Toby in Jacks. Toby is a sharp little dog and rather quarrelsome, but Jack is a comical fellow with a long body, long tail, big head and very short legs, rough coat and big ears. A good tempered dog and the men play with him sometimes rather roughly. Jack was found in Calcutta and made the voyage to London with Lloyd, an able seaman and is now going out again. But Toby was never at sea before. This morning one of the sailors named Black, took the dog Jack and passed a slip noose under his shoulders and hung him to the forecastle rail and the left him. Now Jack struggled to to release himself and the rope slipped over and tightened round his neck and he was only seen and cut down by the boatswain just in time to save his life. We have just found 12 tins of preserved beef gone bad, the contractors having sent very badly preserved stuff on board and the Captain wont have any pigs as they make such a mess on the deck. In the cabin our provisions consist of Fowls, preserved tripe, corned beef, preserved potatoes. All our fresh potatoes (40 baskets) are used. Preserved soups and meat of all kinds, fresh bread baked twice a week, plenty of fresh water and lime juice ad libation. The men get 1 1/2lb pork and 1 ½ lb beef daily with pease soup and treacle pudding or duff 1lb and on Saturday 1/2lb boiled rice and treacle. As much biscuit as they can eat. There used to be only 1lb daily served out but now altered because they did or could not eat it and saved it to sell when they got ashore. So the now eat all but pocket none. All their provisions are good except the beef which is the color of mahogany and quite as hard, but they are all well and thrive on it.

 Tuesday 18th to Saturday 22nd. A fine steady breeze, but very rough sea running which comes over the side in an unpleasant manner. Today we are going over the line again and steering north and straight up into the Bay of Bengal. The crew are all day employed in mending the rigging, painting the ship, holy-stoning the deck, she will look like new in Calcutta. Thursday evening at 8o’clock a squall broke the fore top gallant studding sail boom and carried away the middle staysail. The wind blew very hard but the only damage done was the loss of the sail which was whisked off like a feather. On Saturday afternoon another squall broke the mizen topsail yard clean in the middle. This is a great bar of wood 36 feet long and 18 inches thick. The carpenter is set to make a new one out of a spare spar.

 Sunday 23rd. Mr Carpenter who is “scooch”declined working on the “loords day” but was presented with a bottle of beer which overcame all his scruples. Of course we can’t do without a main topsail yard and he must make it. Joe Manuel, an a.b. is very ill with Asthma and John another seaman has his hand festered. Manuel gets castor oil and John linseed meal poultices out of the medicine chest. I have been bad with gumboils and toothache but it is now better. I am having extracted an old stump. Today there is a fine breeze but very squally from the S.S.W.

 Monday 24th. The Captain has been teaching me the Calcutta money and various rates of exchange and Dunbar als0 is a great assistance to me in arithmetic. The Captain says I give him great satisfaction and he will not forget to give me a good discharge and a few rupees in Calcutta. The heat now becomes quite oppressive. The ship is painted and cleaned and very nice she looks too. The companion ladders and gangways we got out and cleaned and we are at last near Calcutta. I looked at my Cape pigeon today and found it quite spoiled, so I reluctantly threw it overboard. There are 2 boobies flying round. These are birds with one long feather hanging out of their tails and are so called because they go to sleep up on the rigging and then the sailors go behind and knock them down, but they have great protection being so full of fleas that no one with any regard for their rest at night would go near them.

diary fish0002

Here is a flying fish. I caught him, cut off his wings to dry and send home and then had him for breakfast.

diary fish0001

Here is a fish the Captain caught in a net and preserved it in gin to put in the Liverpool Museum.

diary fish0003

diary fish0004

A sucker fish which not having fins of its own is furnished by providence with a set of suckers by which it fastens onto larger fish and thus gets a passage gratis.

Friday 28th. Very calm today, a sail in sight but soon disappeared. The sun is very hot, we are all getting darker in skin. The Captain is laid up with drinking too much sherry. I have enough to do to attend to him. I have got holy-stoning to do tomorrow again.

Sunday 29th. Fine weather and steady breezes, going 6 knots per hour. Today we caught a shark and cut a great hole through his dorsal fin, through which we put a spar of wood and made it fast there with cords. Then after cutting his lower jaw through, we threw him over again and the wood kept him up where he must be on the top of the water to be a warning to all other sharks. He can get down, the wood is so secured to his back that it will stop there the whole of his natural and unnatural life. 0This afternoon work all done, myself and the midshipmen got an oblong box and rigged it up with a mast and bowsprit and put sail thereon and the lowered it over the side into the sea. It could not sail as fast as the Staffordshire and so was soon left miles behind.

Sunday 30th. Very little wind is showing, ship is only going 2 knots an hour. Towards evening a breeze sprang up which increased our speed to 5 knots. I went aloft to stow the mizzen royal this evening the ship rolled heavily and the mast described semicircles in the air but I managed it. I go so often aloft now that I am quite at home in the rigging. I know the ropes, can box the compass and knot, reef and splice.

Monday 31st. To Monday 7th August. Going up the Bay of Bengal at the rate of 6 knots per hour but the has lately fallen off a point or two. Yesterday we caught 3 large dolphins and had them for dinner. There are lots of dolphin about. They are caught with a line and hook baited with a piece of rag which they think is a flying fish. They are pretty fish in the water, looking gold and green and when dying they change color to all hues of the rainbow. It is now fearfully hot. The Steward and myself employed washing and polishing the paint in the cabin. I of course doing the lions share.

Tuesday 8th. A dead calm. I write a letter to post to uncle directly a chance presents itself. It is annoying to be becalmed, the very time we ought to be at Calcutta.

Wednesday 9th. Becalmed still, small turtles having been sighted, the Captain sent out the boat under command of the 2nd. Mate on a turtle expedition, but though they went close alongside the turtles they were too frightened to take hold of them and were dished out of our anticipated turtle soup and steak. The Captain blew the 2nd mate up about it. Poor Fincher, he is always in the wars and will, I expect, get discharged in Calcutta. His first voyage as 2nd. Mate too.

Thursday 10th. I got up this morning and found the ship going 5 knots with a steady breeze. We are now only 45 miles off Sandheads where there is a light ship and where we expect to get a pilot. The water is loosing its blueish tint and becoming a thick green. At 12 o’clock have the lead and took soundings, “32 fathoms and a little blue mud bottom”. A ship is in sight on our starboard bow. We think it is the lightship and we are steering for it. 8 o’clock. Alongside the lightship. They sent off a boat manned by lascars and we gave them pork and rum and they told us not to go much further till we get a pilot on board. 11 o’clock at night- just found the pilot boat and lay too till the morning. At 5 o’clock Friday morning when the Staffordshire was slewed alongside the pilot boat and all hands on deck to receive the pilot, the Captain went onto the poop and hailed them- Ship Ahoy! –

the pilot boat called out- Ship ahoy what name.

“Staffordshire from London”

“ Do you want a pilot?”

“ Of course I do”

“We’ll send you one”

Mr Cox, the pilot the came on boarding a small boat rowed by Kalashes or black sailors. He walked straight into the cabin and the ship is now completely under his charge. We soon hailed a steam tug which took us in tow and by 11 o’clock we sighted land, or rather the man at the mast did, we did not see it till 12 o’clock. By 4 o’clock the tug named the “Defiance” had taken us as far as Sangor Lighthouse where we dropped anchor till the next morning.

diary lighthouse0001

The pilot had not much news for us. He said the “Far East” had arrived after a 65day passage. President Lincoln assassinated- Road Minder???? confessed- and other minor events. We were boarded by lots of boat crews of black fellows and by one of them I sent my letter ashore for Uncle.

Friday morning Aug 11th. Hove up the small anchor and again got underway. At 12 o’clock today we went over the most dangerous place in the Hooghly a sandbank called the James and Mary bank. At 5 o’clock again dropped the anchor, the scenery on each side of us is lovely in the extreme, but the country is very flat. I saw the dead body of a Coolie floating down the river and two vultures on it making a good meal- Ugh!

Saturday 12th. Went further up the river and dropped anchor again. The river can only be navigated by day on account of the many dangerous banks and shoals. At 5 in the evening again dropped anchor and landed 250 barrels and a lot of kegs of gunpowder which we took on board at Gravesend.

Sunday 13th. Early Early this morning the Defiance again took us in tow. By 10 o’clock we were at our destination. The City of Calcutta laying on our right and the the village of Shalimar on our left. The Captain called me in the cabin and said he could not spare me today, but I might go tomorrow. I passed the day looking over the scenery round about and longing for the time when I shall again go ashore, and above all get letters from home.

Monday 14th. 1 o’clock. The Captain was going ashore and he offered me a seat in his boat and buggy, which I accepted and we got in and pushed off from the ship. We soon touched land and my voyage is over, after a rather long and rough passage of

3 months

3 weeks

and 3 days


Henry Alfred Coggan

P.S. End written with bad Bengally pen. (enclosed)


I have transcribed the diary to the best of my ability, leaving in his errors such as passing Harwich- I think he meant Newhaven!

To-date I can find n0 mention of the Staffordshire do far. An earlier vessel of this name was an American vessel, but this sank 10 years earlier. Also a later Staffordshire steamer was built in in the 1900’s.

Most interesting was a reference I found about the “Young Mechanic.”  This was a medium clipper ship launched in 1855. After some repairs she was chartered by the Tudor Company. The purpose of the voyage was to take a cargo of ice to Madras and Calcutta. She left Boston on May4, 1865. Soon after arrival in Calcutta Cholera broke out on board and on 9 Sept the captain McLoon and 4 others died! In 1866 carrying a cargo of pitch, she was lost with a fire destroying her. This was from Vol II American Clipper Ships 1833-1858 by Octavius T Howe and Frederick C Matthews.

Henry Alfred Coggan was born on 19 Aug 1845 in London, thus turning 20 soon after arrival in India. He married a 17 year old Eva Madeline Price in 1867 and they had eight children. I have not established his year of death, but Eva lived until the age of 75.

 The journey was approximately 11700 nautical miles (13500 miles.)







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  1. Fascinated to read this. My greatgrandfather, subsequently himself a ship’s captain, first went to sea as an apprentice in a vessel commanded by Capt. Cameron, who was his uncle. Capt. Cameron of the Staffordshire is listed as a member of the Literary & Philosophical Society of Liverpool, whose proceedings mention specimens presented by him, so it is interesting to read about him preserving specimens.

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