The Diary of Paul ROBINS

Transcribed by members of Cornish-L Rootslist

(2800 words approx.)


CANADA WEST:-- Arrival of Missionaries.


OCTOBER, 1846.

 (Please ask permission before copying) © Phil Ellery 2000  

The following interesting communication from Br. Paul ROBINS, detailing various particulars of the voyage made by himself, Colleagues, and families, we give entire, as we doubt not it will be read with pleasure by the friends of the Missionary Society.


I shall proceed to make a few brief extracts from the Journal I have kept from the time we left Shebbear.


Tues. 31st, after being up all night we left Shebbear for Launceston, about 3 o'clock in the morning; but were too late for the van that went on to Bodmin; consequently we made the best of our way to Camelford, and thence to St. Teath, where we were glad to lie down to rest, and the next morning hired a horse and cart, and went to my wife's sister's, at Trevine, in the parish of St. Minver. In the afternoon I went to Padstow, and made some arrangements about our sailing by the Voluna, to Quebec; was kindly entertained for the night at Mr. TREGASKIS's at Salt water mills.- Spent till the following Tuesday, in visiting relations and friends at St. Minver, Wadebridge, Luxillian, St. Austell, Polperro, and Roche.


Tues. 7th. Met my wife at Trevine, and the next day went with her and the children to Padstow, where Brs. James THORPE, and J. H. PRIOR, met Br. and Sr. HOOPER and ourselves, and held a farewell service in the chapel. It was a delightful season. I regret that Br. EBBOTT was prevented from enjoying it. The next day I paid another visit to my friends at Roche, and the Friday being Good-Friday, preached at Ebenezer in the morning, and at Gracca in the evening.


Sat. 11th. Went to Padstow and slept on board, but it is so disordered my head, that I was qualmish all the next day.- Our things being on board, it was judged necessary for one of us to remain there, consequently I tarried in the evening, and held a prayer-meeting among some of the passengers.- Br.EBBOTT preached in the chapel. In the afternoon Br. HOOPER preached on board, and I preached in the chapel in the evening, besides which each of us preached once in the country.


Mon. 13th. Busy all day in preparing for the voyage, and taking farewell of the friends who visited us.


Tues. 14th. Early in the morning we left Padstow harbour, and sailed on before a light and fair breeze. Soon afterwards going into the hold to see that the luggage was all right, I became sick, as did nearly all the passengers soon afterwards. We turned into our berths with our clothes on, and did not get out again but little till the Thursday. We scarcely took any refreshment for two days and nights, none of us were sufficiently well to help others, as the least exercise made us ill.


Thurs. 16th. A fine day; scarcely any wind. Had a little walk on deck.


Fri. 17th. Last night about 10 1/2 o'clock the wind rose suddenly; all hands were called up to reef sails; the wind continued strong all night and next day, but it died away this evening.


Sat. 18th Got out of bed early, shaved for the first time since leaving Padstow; and was very busy in righting our things which the rolling of the vessel had thrown into confusion. The other brethren were busy in preparing dinner, as the women are still both ill, especially Sr. HOOPER.


19th. Our first Sunday on board.- A fine, clear, calm day. Br. EBBOTT preached on deck in the morning, from Luke vii. 11,16.- At 11 o'clock we had a bible-class.- At 3, I preached myself, from Psa. cvii. 30;- " So he bringeth them unto their desired haven." After preaching Br. HOOPER led the class in our cabin, and in the evening we had a good prayer-meeting on deck.


Wed. 22nd. Br. HOOPER preached, from Psa. cxix. 59, " I thought on my ways," &c. The sailors carried on their mirth, in the fore part of the ship, all the time of the service.


Fri. 24th. Fine weather and sailing comfortably- a good prayer meeting in the evening.


Sun. 26th. Br. Andrew ELVINS preached in the morning, and Br. HOOPER in the afternoon.- The vessel rolled very much as she went before a fair breeze, some of the women who seated themselves on the deck, to hear Br. HOOPER in the afternoon, slided half way across the deck and back again, through the rolling of the vessel.


Mon, 27th. Spoke with two vessels homeward bound, a French barque, and a brig belonging to Dundee. Afterwards saw a sperm whale on the starboard side of our brig.


Tues. 28th. The wind which was increasing all day yesterday, blew very strongly at night. At midnight all hands were called up to take in or reef sails, and when I went on deck in the morning the sea was running very high and nearly all the canvass taken from the vessel. The fire was not lit by the passengers till towards evening, as several were sick, and the brig rolled so much that there was scarcely any standing. Our company were nearly all sick save myself and the children, and I was qualmish myself. It was Brs. HOOPER and Heal's week for cooking. Yesterday they pared some potatoes, and wetted dough to make a pie, but I was obliged to finish it or we should have had no dinner. We went to bed in a confused state in reference to our things, and by the morning they were much worse. I got up this morning and tried to set things a little in order, and after great efforts succeeded in doing so; but the rolling of the things from side to side, with the upsetting of cups and kettles, and myself rolling about after them, was almost as much as I could bear.


Wed. 29th. The wind died away last evening but rose again in the night; and this morning in fetching the water, Br. Heal by the rolling of the vessel was thrown from one side to the other, struck himself violently against the bulwarks, and broke off the handle and otherwise injured the water-can. Indeed we could scarcely stand, sit, or lie, without holding fast.-- It took three of us to cook a pan-cake: one to hold the pan, another to turn the cake, and a third to hold the dish, for we were each obliged to hold on with one hand while he worked with the other, and after all we proved the truth of the adage, "The more cooks the worse broth,: for the wind blew a plenty of ashes into the pan, and into our eyes also. In the evening I had prepared some fish and potatoes for supper, but before I set them on the fire to boil, the sea broke over us, gave me a good drenching, and upset my saucepan, and set saucepan, fish and potatoes arunning about the decks; and I ran after over my shoes in water, to recover our supper.


Thurs. 30th. Head wind; only went 6 miles in the right direction during the last 24 hours. Had a prayer-meeting in our Cabin in the evening.



Fri. 1st. The day that Padstow people keep up their hobby-horse revelry. This most disgusting scene was acted by the sailors. An ugly mask was worn by one of them, who went astride a pole, shaped in the end so as to be a very bad imitation of a horse's head with a tail behind. The man thus masked and covered with tarred canvass down to the feet, gallopped about the decks after the sailors and passengers, and then having greased and smutted their hands they rubbed them over the faces of each other and the passengers whom they could catch. Most of us kept below, but Br. HOOPER being cook, got a black face, and would have fared worse had he not held up the poker in self-defence; and John Heal and Sampson shared the same fate. In the midst of this disgusting exhibition we passed and spoke the Crown of Orkney Isles, bound also to Quebec. They hoisted a garland in honour of the day, but I was really mortified to think that they should behold such foolish, not to say fiend-like proceedings, in our vessel, and so I told the captain. He said he thought it should be the last time that he would allow it.


3rd. Sun., 3rd. Wet and windy. Had a comfortable class-meeting, but no public service.


Tues. 5th. A calm in the morning; but at noon the wind drove us 8 and 9 knots an hour in the right direction; but by the evening it blew nearly a gale against us, accompanied by heavy rain.


Thurs. 7th. Had a good prayer-meeting during the afternoon in our Cabin, and in the evening we spent some time comfortably in the steerage, singing hymns and joining in prayer.


Fri. 8th. Head wind, squally, and very cold, showers of hail. Had a prayer meeting for fair wind, and was blest.


Sat. 9th. A calm fine day, but had no wind. Nine vessels in sight.


4th. Sun. 10th. Head wind and very cold, a very different day from yesterday. Preached in the steerage in the afternoon to the passengers and Captain, but no one of the ship's company besides was present. Alas! they live as though salvation was a subject that did not belong to them.


Tues. 12th. On the banks of Newfoundland in 40 fathoms of water. All the passengers were cheered by the circumstance. The course of the vessel was altered to keep clear of the virgin rocks. Pretty strong wind all day with a thick fog, and at times heavy rain. This, together with the cold, made it uncomfortable.


Wed. 13th. A dry clear day, though very cold still. We were much refreshed while Br. HOOPER was praying in the evening. In the course of the day I got out the book parcel, and dried the books that were wetted by the rain getting into our chest through the hatchway yesterday.


Frid. 15th. Tacking about all day inconsequence of contrary wind. Saw an ice-berg in the horizon on the star-board side, the next day we saw several more, but happily for us they were all at a distance, though near enough to cause a great coldness in the air. We also saw a great number of ice birds, which would dive and remain under water for a considerable time. They somewhat resembled larks in appearance, though of a darker colour. Some on board cruelly amused themselves by shooting them, and it was very painful to see the distress occasioned to the mate of a large bird which Alfred PENPHRASE shot: it flew round and round the carcase as it floated on the water, and remained with it till we lost sight of them in the distance.


Sat. 16th. We treated the sailors with a cake each and cocoa, and it was intended to hold a meeting afterwards, but the cold prevented it.


5th. Sun. 17th, Becalmed. The sailors and passengers who were not pious let down their lines to catch cod, but did not succeed in catching a single fish, at which we were very glad. Br. EBBOTT preached in the steerage in the afternoon.


Mon. 18th. All hands a fishing: 4 cods only were caught. One for the cabin, one for the forecastle, one for the steerage passengers, and the smallest for us, as we were the smallest party among the passengers. With ours we made a pie, which was delicious.


Tues.19th. Thick fog with rain and a brisk breeze most of the day. The Captain has been unable to take the latitude by the sun since Saturday, which causes him to feel anxious as we are getting in the neighbourhood of land: this anxiety was increased by the circumstance of the land being on our lee side. In the evening the wind changed suddenly, and soon after died away.


Wed. 20th. A very cold night; rain and sleet fell plentifully and froze about the masts and rigging. The sailors were called up two or three times to reef or alter the sails.-- The day however has been fine and clear.


Fri. 22nd. The past has been a severe night, strong wind with sleet and snow. I hardly knew which to pity most, the sailors who had to get out of their warm berths and go aloft to reef the sails in such severe weather, or ourselves who were almost too cowardly to light the fire on deck. In the evening we saw land on our star-board bow; it is the Island of Cape Breton; this cheered all our hearts, as we had been out of sight of land for 37 days. The last land seen was Scilly, on the 15th of April, but most of us were too sick to go on deck to see it.


Sat. 23rd. A delightful day. Sailing all day before a gentle breeze with Cape Breton becoming more and more distinct. In the evening we came in sight of St. Paul's Island, at the entrance of the gulf; and saw the revolving light of its light house. We saw no less than eleven vessels sailing in the same direction as ourselves.


24th. Sixth Sunday. Entered the gulf last night, and just as we were entering, being almost becalmed, suddenly a strong breeze sprang up. The Captain was below undressing, but as there was a great deal of canvass on the vessel, he ran on deck instantly without his clothes, and soon all hands were busily engaged in taking in sail. Br. HOOPER preached in the morning and my wife in the afternoon. I intended to preach myself in the evening, but it was cold and there was but little desire manifested for preaching by some, and a bustle in setting sails by others so that it was omitted. In the evening we passed the Bird-rocks, large, barren rocks inhabited by thousands of the feathered tribe, where they remain unmolested except when some tars are induced to go thither for the purpose of getting eggs. We also saw the Magdalen Islands further on in the same direction.


Mon. 25th. The last night it was heavy rain with thunder and lightning. The sailors got wet jackets while we were snug in bed. A fine day and fair wind making considerable progress across the gulf. The main land has been in sight on our left, and Anticosti on our right, though the latter was nearly obscured by mist.


Tues. 26th. Wind fair except for a few hours when we were nearly becalmed, and carried by the current towards the south coast, which was visible all day, and is very mountainous, and mostly covered with wood. We could see the snow on the mountains in several places, and the Captain told us this is the case all through the summer. One mountain which could be seen in the distance towering above the rest and called St. Anne's, is 4,000 feet high. We also saw several fishermen's houses on the beach, looking nearly as white as snow. At night a pilot came on board.


Wed. 27th. Saw some delightful islands as we passed up the river.


Thurs. 28th. Early in the morning arrived at the quarantine ground. Learned that the Clio passed up 9 days ago, she left Padstow 4 days before us.-- We waited about 3 hours before the Dr. came on board. Several vessels were detained on the ground in consequence of sickness or want of cleanliness.-- One vessel had the small pox on board.-- We passed very readily, and the Dr. told the Captain it was the cleanest vessel and passengers he had seen during the spring.--


Being now very near Quebec, I shall close this that it may be ready for post as soon as we arrive.-- We are all well. Praise the Lord.


All our company unite with me in kind love to yourself, the committee, and all inquiring friends.


I am yours very affectionately,


Paul Robins

Thanks to John Buckingham of Padstow & members of Cornish Roots-L