A Trip to Port Chalmers and an hour aboard the H.M.S. Dido. 1872

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A Trip to Port Chalmers and an hour aboard the Dido.
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Otago Witness 7 December 1872

Arrived Nov. 30 - H.M.S. Dido, 1300 tons, 8 guns, Captain W.C. Chapman, from a cruise.

Otago Witness Saturday 14 December 1872 pg 6

Sauntering recently near the Rattray street Jetty, Dunedin, I was invited to accompany a friend, who was acquainted with the people and customs of that peaceful town, with a trip to Port Chalmers, down the Bay. After a brisk walk along the Jetty, we jumped on board of the Peninsula, just as she was shrieking her final warning to intending but tardy passengers. The day was one of the finest of fine days. The little steamer wriggled herself into a go-ahead position, began puffing so furiously as she cut through the water. The 'breezy little village" burst on the view. There were several new buildings in the course of erection, as well as to the busy scene on the Railway Pier - which has been considerably lengthened and alongside which some of the largest homeward-bound vessels, the E.P. Bouverier amongst them, were either being loaded or discharged. Here and there too, were railway trucks, well packed with bales of wool, awaiting removal to various vessels; while other trucks, loaded with articles tarried only until the Josephine should rush them away to Dunedin. The water, also, was literally dotted with tiny crafts of energetic boatmen, ever ready to carry visitors to recently arrived ships, there to welcome long parted friends. Hearing I wished to proceed on board the Dido, a dashing young midshipman kindly expressed his willingness to take me to her at once. I accordingly jumped into the boat. The water was smooth, as the most tranquil lake - an always welcome fact to nervous landsmen. The signal for our departure was given; there was a momentary flapping of sail, but as it almost immediately caught the gentle breeze that blew, the boat sped away at something less than ten knots an hour. After a lapse of a few minutes, we reached the stately vessel, and following my new conductor up a sort of hanging staircase, I soon stood face to face with the first lieutenant, and several other officers, of whose kindness, many visitors, no doubt, as well as myself, will long entertain a lively collection. Of course most men-of war are very similar, and therefore it is not necessary for me to enter into a minute description of eth Dido. Her model forward is very much like that of the Blanche; her length is 212ft, beam 36ft, draught 16½ft maximum, and she can steam up to 14 knots. She is composite built; her masts are of hollow iron, and performed a double service by acting as ventilators. She is constructed to carry 230 tons of coal, and 90 days' provisions; her tonnage is 2518, and her boats are fitted with rockets for incendiary purposes. On the upper deck there are eight guns, two being 7- inch muzzle-loading, Woolwich rifle guns, each 6½ tons. The other six guns are of smaller calibre, and there are also several light field pieces. Her small arms are chiefly Sniders, with cutlass bayonets, all polished bright as mirrors. The Dido carries 180 souls, including 20 officers, and 20 marines. The men have an admirable physique. The officers and the men all looked as cheerful and happy as though they have never known a monument's disquietude.

The Dido let England on the 6th May 1871, for the West Coast of Africa. Heard there was a serious disturbance between the natives of Bonny and New Calabar, and consequently Captain Chapman, the Commander of the Dido, who was also at that time senior officer of the squadron, comprising the vessels Bittern, Hart, Seagull and Pioneer, proceeded up the Bonny River to quell the outbreak, which had been caused by some disputes in connection with the palm oil trade. A "palaver" which lasted three days, took place on board the Dido. George Pepper, King of Bonny, who was educated in England, conducted the proceedings on behalf of his men; and Prince Will Amacree, brother to the King of New Calabar, acted as spokesman for the Calabar men. The matter was satisfactorily settles. The Dido sailed for the Cape on 16th may, and arrived in Sydney on the 2nd August, and arrived in Wellington on the 12th; visited Lyttelton and Akaroa.

The following is the list of her officers:
Captain W.C. Chapman
Lieutenants - A.M. Ducat, Knox and Martin
Navigating Lieutenant - Petley
Sub Lieutenant - W. Tooker
Surgeon - P. Comrie
Assistant-Surgeon W.H. Goode
Paymaster - J.N. Robinson
Assistant-Paymaster Reginald O. Bray
Chief Engineer -Samuel Swan
Assistant - Engineers - Freak, Guthbridge
Sub Lieutenants -Cutfield, Harvey, O'Callaghan
Midshipmen Bidulph and Kean.

pg 15 - The trustees offered to place the Dock at Captain Chapman's service for the purpose of docking his vessel free of charge, undocking &c. at their own expense with the view of obtaining a valuable opinion respecting the facilities for docking large vessels afforded by the Port Chalmers Dock, as compared with those of other ports. Captain Chapman stated that although the Dido did not requiring docking - having been docked in July last at Sydney - he would endeavour on his return from the Bluff and Southern Ports comply with the Port Chalmers Board of trustees and try the dock free of charge and dock his vessel should the Dock be then vacant.

pg 16
On board the H.M.S. Dido, commissioned for two years, no flogging has taken place on board, and her Commander sincerely hopes that he may never be required to resort such measures.

Otago Witness Saturday December 21 1872 pg13

Arrivals - Dec. 19 - H.M.S. Dido, Captain Chapman from Bluff. Passengers: His Honour the Superintendent and Mr Pearson.

H.M.S. Dido left Port Chalmers on the 14th at 1.45 p.m. and arrived at Port William, Stewart island at 1.40 p.m., the next day. His Honour the Superintendent landed, and the site for the Immigration Barracks was chose. She left at 8 a.m. on the 16th and arrived at the Bluff at 11.30 a.m. bringing up close to the railway Wharf. Left Bluff on the 18th and reached Port Chalmers on Thursday. Captain Greig, Harbour Master of the Bluff, accompanied her on the trip. On arrival she was brought up off Observation Point, and at high waster was taken in the Graving dock. A large number of the populace and visitors from Dunedin witnessed her docking; The ship's band struck up stirring airs as she was entering the gates. Mr Martin, Chairman of the Dock Trust, and his Honour the Superintendent were on board when she was docked.

December 21 pg 16
Bluff. Dec. 18th
To-day was observed as a general holiday. Several hundred persons were conveyed by train to visit H.M.S. Dido.

Otago Witness Saturday 28th Dec. 1872 pg14 col. d

An accident occurred on Saturday afternoon to one of the Dido's men - Richard Biggs, captain of the forecastle. While bringing a bag of ashes ashore, he slipped from the gangway on to the first step of the Graving Dock, and broke his leg. He was immediately carried on board, and attended to by the ship's surgeon.

Otago Witness January 4 1873 pg13

Port Chalmers - Departures
Dec. 27 - H.M.S. Dido, 8 guns, Captain Chapman. on a cruise.

Otago Witness January 4 1873 pg13
Port Chalmers - Departures
Dec. 31 - Cyrene, barque, 527 tons, Wood, for Newcastle. Passengers: Mrs Wood and child.
Jan. 2 - Albert Victor, barque, 384 tons, M'lauchlin, for Newcastle.

Otago Witness January 11 1873 pg12 col. a

Letter from Captain Chapman, of the H.M.S. Dido,
26th Dec. 1872.
To His Honour the Superintendent of Otago
I have much pleasure in bringing to your notice that, in conformity with an invitation received from the Otago Dock Board, I docked Her Majesty's ship under my command in the graving dock at this port on the 19th inst., and I beg to express my great satisfaction with the dock and the manner in which the service was performed; and believe it will be of greatest importance to The Province of Otago and benefit Her Majesty's ships employed on the New Zealand station. I also consider that when the £10,000 additional is expanded dredging the channel deeper and in erecting workshops &c., it will be equal to any dock in this part of the world.
I have, &c., W. C. Chapman, Captain and Senior Officer, New Zealand Station.

Jumped ship:

Otago Witness January 11 1873 pg15
One of the able seamen who deserted from the H.M.S. Dido, viz., William Murphy, captain of the main-top, was received into the Gaol on Wednesday, having been escorted from Invercargill by Constable Boyce. He will be detained in custody until delivered in due course of the law. Eight seamen and one marine deserted from the Dido during her stay at Port Chalmers. £3 reward is given for each deserter arrested.

MANTLE William - deserted twice.
HMS Dido  13.10.1875
AB, 24yrs, born in Sussex, 5’ 6", light brown hair, blue eyes, light whiskers and moustache, fresh complexion; tattooed on both arms and chest. £3 reward.
Deserted 1st December 1875. AB, born in Sussex, 24yrs , 5’ 5", brown hair, blue eyes, fresh complexion, little whiskers and moustache, tattooed on both arms and chest. £3 reward.

O’CONNOR Michael
HMS Dido
from Sydney on 4.10.1875 AB, b. London, 20yrs, 5’ 7½", brown hair, very blue eyes, fresh complexion, no whiskers &c. He will probably endeavour to make his way to Nelson or Greymouth, NZ. £3 reward.

Otago Witness December 14 1872 page 8  2 columns
Why and Where the Blanche Cruised.

H.M.S. Blanche, 6 guns, Captain Cortland H. Simpson, left Sydney, NSW on 12th May, 1872 for the South Sea Islands with orders to visit as many islands, beche-de-mer fisheries, and pearl stations as possible; to obtain all the reliable information with regard to British subjects reported murdered, the practice of skull hunting, treatment of islanders employed on fisheries and plantations, ten practice of kidnapping and to collect information of these and all other subjects of interest........

Summary - The Blanche arrived in Sydney, 189 days since leaving, during which time had been over 13,000 miles of water, being 70 miles a day, anchored at 25 islands, passed close to 30. The engines made 226, 671 revolutions, and the ship's company had eight days fresh meat and 181 days of salt meat.

At Boham Island, Marshall Group, Lieutenant T.T.A. Smith died of fever; he was buried on shore with the usual salute of three volleys, in a native cemetery and the ship was detained while the carpenters made a headstone of wood for his grave.

New Zealander, Volume 2, Issue 91, 27 February 1847, Page 4


The state-vessel pitched on a tumbulent tide,
Twas a stormy political ocean,
And there wanted a helmsman the vessel to guide,
Amid the wild billows commotion :
The pilot look'd pale, as he stood on the deck,
At the dangers that gathered around him,
For he saw through his errors she'd soon be a -wreck,
Though for nautical skill fame had crown'd him.

John Bull was the owner, and groan'd for his craft
For she seem'd in a crazy condition,
Though she'd cost a great deal to be rigged' fore and aft,
And was splendidly put in commission.
"She's trim-built," said he, "as if just out of dock,
So the error must bo in the steering,
"Why not change the course from Monopoly's lock,
While the trade winds arc varied and veering?"

"Change the helmsman," was echoed by all the ship's crew,
On the forecastle gathered together,
"We've one of our mates all the business can do,
And make the ship ride out the weather ;
One tack to the starboard would be quite enough
To make our skill famous in story,
For she'd shine on the billows, though stormy and rough,
Like the star of the sea in its glory."

The Pilot in Peril then look'd at his berth,
Well stor'd for the port he was making, -
And he thought what his honor and office were worth,
And how wrong was the course he was taking:
"All hands up aloft !" then, with firmness, he said,
" Let the land-lubbers now cease their roaring-
Hurrah, boys! the port of Free-trade's right a-head,
And she'll safely ride there at her moorings."