The Royal Saxon off Cape Town South Africa

As Related by John Brickhill

This is a first hand account of the voyage in the words of John Brickhill (1817-1900) as reported in the Launceston Examiner on Saturday 31 August 1912:

"The good ship 'Royal Saxon', Captain; Lodge, chief officer; Mr. Charlesworth; second officer, Mr. Chapman; and third officer, Mr. Brown; with emigrants for Van Diemens Land, left the shore of old England, at Gravesend, on Saturday, June 10, 1842. 

We weighed anchor, and took two steam tugs on Sunday morning, 20th, and proceeded to sea, and had beautiful weather all down the Channel. We proceeded by the North Channel to the then Cove of Cork, now Queenstown, where we laid for four or five days waiting the arrival of emigrants from the Green Isle. They having arrived, the good Ship was again put to sea with a smart breeze, and I may here remark that on leaving Gravesend and coming down channel we had got over the worst of our sea sickness, or partly so. It was not so with our friends who had just embarked from Ireland, as some of them had parted from their parents and friends on shore, and had been, as usual, feasting, etc., and, as a matter of course, on getting to sea, would feel its effects.

So they did in reality, as some of, or most of, them had never seen a ship, or had any idea of one. As soon as the vessel began to jump about those who recently came on board had to go below, according to orders, and not being A1 sailors, they had a little idea of how to get below, not understanding the companion ladder; but eventually they did, and many of them came down that ladder in a very unpleasant manner, and felt much inclined to stay at the bottom, as they were not only seasick, but helpless, and had to be removed to their quarters, according to their sex, as there were married and their families, and single maids and men.

After a few days things were pretty well regulated, and the large company of over 400 began to settle down and feel hungry. Their wants were amply supplied. The food left nothing to grumble at. It consisted of beef, pork, soup, and boulic biscuit, oatmeal, split peas, flour, tea, coffee, sugar, rice and other articles, and plenty for all if properly used, but, as a matter of course, amongst a number there must be some grumbling. As a whole, we had much to be thankful for. There is a trifle I omitted, fish, which was a very fine kind of ling, and in good order. As many of our fine young fellows from England had never seen any of the kind of fish before, they commenced skylarking with them by hanging them about one another until a gentleman, a cabin passenger (Captain Towns) spoke to them on the matter, and told them they would smack their lips at them before they got to the end of the voyage, which they did. 

The time of sailing went on with a fine general run and fair weather, sometimes a little rough, but never over severe; there were very few spars lost. On one occasion I remember a fresh youth was put to the wheel, and the ship was running full under stud sails, when she was luffed too quickly, and down came the stud sails. That youth was soon removed for an A1. The time passed on merrily. On Sunday prayers were read by the captain on the quarter deck while the Catholics held their service in another part of the ship.

We met or saw but few vessels, but I forget if it were this side of the line or the other, we were in company of a fine barque, I think called, the Albion, bound for Sydney. We sailed together for several days-the captain visiting our ship, and our captain returning the compliment-until the Albion was on our port side astern for some distance, and she caught the wind first and came down upon us that fast that had it not been for a smart action on the part of our captain there would have been a very serious and melancholy accident, as she came so close that her jib boom passed over our rail, which was rather too close to be comfortable.

Sometime after, I think, we arrived at the island of Tristan de Acunha. Our captain went ashore and took biscuits, flour, and other articles, and returned in the evening with live pigs, poultry, vegetables, potatoes, etc., but they were mostly for the use of the cabin, etc.

I must now say that we were not all well, as there were several cases of fever, and several deaths, but mostly children. Seven of them died during the voyage, and two adults-a fine young woman from Scotland and a very promising young man from England. Both the latter were ailing the best part, of the time. There were also some wonderful escapes. Some poor fellows were very near the grave, but were providentially spared to their families, our much-loved Dr. Purrier being well up to his business, but some of his patients sorely tried his patience. The writer (John Brickhill) was chosen as doctor's mate.

Now we must be about arriving at our destination. A look-out was kept, and the welcome sound of "Land, oh." was heard. I straightway may say we arrived off the Heads on November 20, 1842. There was only one person amongst the crew who had been at the port before, and that was the third officer. I well remember as we reached the Heads a pilot boat came out to meet us, and a flag was waved to alter the course, - as we were getting rather too close to the Hebe Reef. The boat came along side, and the pilot on board, and I should here state that old and respected pilot, the late Mr.Bellion, was the first that brought the 'Royal Saxon' in the harbor or river.

Previous to entering the Heads the orders were given for men to go below and start the water tanks and barrels, as they were filled with salt water as ballast after the fresh water had been served from them for the supply of the ship. After they were started the ship was pumped out, which caused her to be light. We sailed in on a wind principally from W., and before reaching George Town a sharp squall caught the vessel and almost laid her on her beam ends. The writer and family were is their berths with port holes all open, and the ship heeled over that the water was up to the ports, and came in, causing much alarm, but only for a short duration. I think we sailed up as far as the quarantine ground, and came to anchor. We were several days getting up the river, and a small steamer, I forget the name, came down and took us in tow, and we dropped anchor over the bar, after a pleasant voyage of four months and a fortnight.

I forgot that we had as passengers on deck that noble horse 'Jersey', and a beautiful filly called 'Lady Villiers', consigned to Mr. Alexander Rose, and in charge of J. Baker, the jockey. 'Lady Villiers' slipped her foal on the voyage out, and poor Baker was broken hearted over the misfortune."