Daily Archives: March 27, 2016

This Week in Port Phillip 1841: 16-23 March 1841


March 17, of course, was St Patrick’s Day. As Ken Inglis points out in Australian Colonists, recognition of the day in Sydney dated from 1810 when Governor Macquarie provided entertainment for convicts employed by the government, and the annual St Patrick’s Day dinner at a Sydney hotel was a fixture on the social calendar attended by the most respectable Irishmen- both Catholic and Protestant (p.103). Melbourne in 1841 was not yet so organized, and the occasion passed quietly.

We are glad to be enabled to state that Patrick’s Day passed over without the least infringement upon the public peace. We are almost sorry to have to record the fact that scarcely an additional glass was drained or shillelagh flourished in commemoration of the anniversary of Ireland’s general jubilee, as such might have been done without offence to the Powers that be, a little licence being always conceded on such occasions and a miniature representation of Donnybrook fair would have minded many of what they seem here to forget, that they are Irishmen. Perhaps, however, it is better that the dull monotony of money gathering should have remained uninterrupted than that occasion should have been given Ireland’s enemies to say that her sons in every quarter of the globe are fond of a “row”. Patrick’s Day has now passed over in peace and unmarked by any national display and so much the greater shame for Irishmen say we.  (PPH 19/3/41 p.3)

The day did not go completely unrecognized, though, as twenty to thirty of the men of the Port Phillip Club sat down that night to “a most sumptuous collation”. (PPH 19/3/41 p.3)


Perhaps it’s because I’ve only recently finished reading Roslyn Russell’s High Teas and High Seas (review here) but I find myself reading the Shipping News on page 2 of the Port Phillip papers with a little more interest than previously.  Not only does the Shipping News detail the ships that have arrived and departed from Port Phillip and Sydney, but it conveys the communications that were conveyed between ships as they passed each other.  For example, the Port Phillip Herald of March 20 reported the arrival of the Christina  from Sydney. The Christina “spoke” the ship Victoria from Salem (USA) which it encountered off Bateman’s Bay, describing her as “deeply laden” (possibly with its whale catch?). The next day she “spoke” the barque Susan, sailed by Captain Neatby , off Ram Head (which I assume is Rame Head near Croajingalong National Park). The Susan was 92 days out from Plymouth, taking emigrants to Sydney. (PPH 20/3/41 p.2)

Recent emigrants, with their own voyage still vivid in their memories, might have taken a “there but for the grace of God” interest in hearing of other ships following in their wakes. The Port Phillip Herald  of 19 March carried a report from  Lisbon dated October 15 (i.e. nearly six months earlier) that the English ship John Cooper, bound from Greenock to NSW with a general cargo of 98 emigrant passengers, had arrived at Lisbon after being struck by lightning. A passing merchant vessel reported that he had seen her trying to reach Lisbon but, “owing to her crippled state, she appeared to make very little way”. On hearing this, Her Majestys ship Trimlemo was dispatched to go to her assistance, but returned the same day to report that although the John Cooper was close to the bar, she was in such a poor condition that a steamer should tow her into port. Even then, her troubles were not over, as when towed into port at the cost of £350 sterling, it was “found unprovided with a bill of health” and put under four days quarantine. [The John Cooper finally arrived in Port Phillip on 4th April via Adelaide. She left again for Sydney on 3rd May with a passenger list that included 1 corporal, 3 privates, 28th Regiment, 1 constable, 17 male and 2 female convicts. http://www.oocities.org/vic1840/41/jc41.html]

Melbourne itself was still in a state of excitement about the arrival of the Argyle in early March with its load of bounty emigrants, ready for the picking as employees.  The enterprising auctioneer and commission agent  Mr J. C.King established an agency office for Servants at his premises in Elizabeth Street, offering – for a trifling remuneration- to board the emigrant ships immediately after the official inspection of the emigrants and to engage servants for settlers who were unable to get to the ships to do so personally. (PPH 12/3/41).

By 16 March Mr King was able to issue a weekly list of unemployed servants:

WEEKLY LIST OF UNEMPLOYED SERVANTS AT MR KING’S AGENCY OFFICE: Overseers of sheep stations 3; shophands 3; woolsorters 1; hutkeepers 1; watchman 2; overseers of cattle stations 3; stockkeepers 2; bullock drivers 1; overseers of forming establishments 2; ploughmen 2; farm servants 4; Groom and inside servants 1; Gardeners 1; Bricklayers 1; House carpenters 2; Hut builders and fencers 4; female servants 3; Wet nurse 1 (PPH 16/3/41 p.3)

However, a small article in the Port Phillip Herald of 19 March headed ‘DROWNING’ reminds us that the journey to Port Phillip was not necessarily the bright new start that emigrants may have anticipated.  A body was observed floating on the water by the watermen of Williams Town. The body was salvaged. He was very young, dressed in a blue coat and striped cloth trousers and found to have needles and pins in parts of his dress, a few papers and a smelling bottle. He was later identified as a Mr. Macfarlane, who had arrived in the Argyle just a few weeks earlier.

He had been employed by Mr Rucker as a farm servant, and resided on his estate, about two miles from town, but since his arrival he appeared greatly depressed in spirits, and it is supposed that in a fit of temporary insanity the wretched man put a period to his existence. The deceased was a native of the county Tyrone, Ireland, and was respectably connected.


The Christina came bearing the London newspapers which carried detailed reports of the birth of Queen Victoria’s first child, Victoria Adelaid Mary, the Princess Royal on November 21 1840.  It was such momentous news that the Port Phillip Herald published a special edition on 20th March, to follow the issue that had appeared on 19th.  Even though this is, strictly speaking, not Port Phillip news, it strikes me as strange that Her Majesty’s subjects, so far away on the other side of the globe, would be reading a report of a birth that seems so intrusive to modern eyes.

On Friday her Majesty and Prince Albert walked in the garden of the Palace and again did her Majesty take her seat at the dinner table, and continued apparently in her usual health till eleven o’clock, when she retired to rest, no suspicion being then entertained of the near approach of those sufferings, which providentially have terminated in a manner so satisfactory to every branch of her august family as well as to the delight of her loyal and devoted servants. At two o’clock yesterday morning the first symptoms of uneasiness were indicated, and at four her Majesty with great firmness directed that her attendants should be summoned; among these was Mrs Lilly, who, we have heard, was formerly nurse to the Duchess of Sutherland, and whose experience at once forewarned her of the propriety of immediately summoning her Majesty’s professional advisers. Sir James Clarke, Dr Locock, Mr R Ferguson and Mr R Blagden were instantly sent for and were quickly on the spot. No doubt now existed that Her Majesty was in labour, although certainly some days sooner than had been anticipated, as the impression was that she would have remained convalescent till early in December.

Once labour had been established, all the protocol of a royal birth swung into place. Good grief- ding!dong! the gang’s all here!!

Such preparations as the suddenness of the emergency would permit were made without delay; and by command of Prince Albert, whose conduct was distinguished by the most affectionate solicitude, combined with firmness, the Hon. W. Murray, the comptroller of the household, roused the inmates of the Palace and special messengers were dispatched to her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Melbourne, Lord Palmerston, Lord Errol, Lord Albemarle, Lord John Russell and other Privy Councillors, whose constitutional duty it was to be present at the birth of an heir to the throne…. In her Majesty’s chamber were the Duchess of Kent, Prince Albert and the medical men with Mrs Lilly and some of the ladies of the bedchamber; while in an adjoining apartment, the door of which was open, were the other distinguished individuals mentioned. As the day advanced the Palace was kept in perfect quietness, while all noise from without from the passing of bands or otherwise was interdicted. From those who had the best means of information, we learn that her Majesty evinced a firmness and composure almost incredible- at intervals exhibiting a cheerfulness and patient submission to her sufferings, in all respects consistent with the well-known attributes of her character. The near approach of that interesting moment which was to give to these realms an heir to the throne at last arrived and precisely at ten minutes before two o’clock Mrs Lilly entered the room where the Privy Councillors were assembled, with the “Young Stranger”, a beautiful, plump and healthful Princess, wrapped in flannel in her arms. She was attended by Sir James Clarke, who announced the fact of its being a female. Her Royal Highness was for a moment laid upon the table for the observation of the assembled authorities; but the loud tones in which she indicated her displeasure at such an exposure, while they proved the soundness of her lungs and the maturity of her frame, rendered it advisable that she should be returned to her chamber to receive her first attire. PPH 20/3/41

Apparently, ministers and privy councillors and ladies-in-waiting continued to attend royal births until 1894 when Queen Victoria decided that for the birth of her great- grandson, the future Edward VIII, the home secretary would be enough. Home Secretaries attended until the birth of Prince Charles in 1948, when it was announced that the practice would be discontinued.  Jolly good thing too.