'Dunedin' - a remarkable passage for so small a vessel

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New Zealand Bound
London to Port Chalmers, arrived 21st January 1856

Otago Witness Saturday January 26. 1856

Arrived. Jan 23, Dunedin, 208 tons, McNeur, from London; T. Jones agent. Passengers, Mr and Mrs Mason, Mrs Blair and Mr John Blair, Mr and Mrs Wilser and 3 daughters, Mr and Mrs Hardy, 4 sons and 2 daughters, Mr and Mrs Green and 4 sons.

Quick Passage of the "Dunedin," England to Otago. The "Dunedin" which arrived on the 21st., made the passage from port to port in 84 days, the quickest passage which has ever been made to this port. She is a smart little vessel of 208 tons, and has brought 25 passengers and some cargo for this place. We understand that her owner is on board, and may probably settle in Otago. Should such be the case, the "Dunedin" will be a valuable addition to our native shipping.

Following two documents were found in Otago Settlers Museum Archives, both apparently written at time of various (?) ship reunions in 1897. Sighted and copied 28/3/95.
Document #1:
Waimate 2 Aug 1897
Dear Sir,
I see in your paper that you are advertising for names of the early settlers in Otago.   I wish to state that my father John Hardy, with wife and 6 children of which I am the eldest 'T.S. Hardy' arrived from London by the Barque "Dunedin" at Port Chalmers on the 21st January 1856, 28 first class passengers all told was the total list.   The ship being only 280 tons and did the voyage in 84 days the record trip at the time.  James Green late M.H.R. Waikouaite (sic) is a cousin of mine and came out with us.  You could get all information from him. Arthur and James Morris late of Dunedin owned the ship.  The Hardys settled in Tokomairiro. My father was in 1863 Provincial Secretary for Dunedin and member for Toko for some years. 'Gabriel Reid' the discoverer of Gabriel's Gully lived with us and was directed to that locality by my father to prospect for gold which turned out to be the best in N.Z.  I drove his 3 months provisions to the gully, with a 6 bullock team, my brother and a man named Brookes joining him. They took out 900 pounds of gold from Reid's claim in 6 weeks.  In 1867 the Hardys left Toko for Dunedin and in 1872 left Dunedin for Oamaru.  My father died in 1882 and left 13 in family.  If I can give you more information shall be happy to do so.
Yours truly, T.S. Hardy
Document #2:
Passengers by barque "Dunedin"
Capt James McNeur, from London;
arrived 21st January 1856. 84 days out [port to port].
"Dunedin" owned by Messrs A.W. & James Morris
Messrs A. W. Morris Dunedin
James Morris (dead)
David Mason (dead)
Mrs Mason sister to John Blair
John Hardy (dead)
Mrs Hardy & six children w. eldest being T.S. Hardy, Waimate
Isaac Green (dead)
Mrs Green (dead)
Isaac Green Sr NE Valley
Henry Green NE Valley
Mrs Blair & her son John Abbotsford
Of that limited number four were returned as Members of the Provincial Council, Messrs A.W. Morris, John Hardy, John Blair, and James Green, the latter also having a seat in the House of Representatives.

Following info from the Comber Index:
Agent Ship Captain
Young Dunedin James McNeur
4/9/1855 sailed Deal
23/1/1856 Otago Harbour (84 days)
22/2/1856 sailed for Nelson
27/2/1856 arrived Nelson

J.Hamlin Dunedin McNeur
9/1/1857 sailed Gravesend
16/4/1857 Otago (98 days) No passengers
6/6/1857 sailed for Melbourne

Dunedin Stewart
17/11/1859 sailed Dundee
19/ 4/1860 arrived Dunedin Passenger Mrs Stewart and child

Information courtesy of Don Ferguson (Australia).  Please contact Don if you have further information on the 'Dunedin' or her passengers. Don's ancestor (Arthur Wm. MORRIS) was part-owner of the 'Dunedin' with his brother, and this trip was a 'private' voyage, with some fare-paying passengers and a general cargo, hence would not appear in 'immigrant' ship lists of the normal shipping companies.

A smart little vessel


David Mason who travelled on the "Dunedin" was an an engineer and started the first iron foundry in the South Island in 1860. His obituary can be found in the Otago Daily Times, 7 Oct 1896, p. 4. Information courtesy of Greg Morgan, USA. Posted 25 May 2002

Papers Past Images online. Otago Witness Thursday 8th October 1896
We regret to record the death of Mr David Mason, who passed away on Tuesday after a long and trying illness. The deceased was an old colonist, arriving here in February 1856 in a small vessel called the Dunedin. The owner (Mr A.W. Morris) and Mr James Green, M.H.R., were fellow passengers, and though only of a small tonnage, they made the trip from Southampton to Dunedin under 90 days. Mr Mason, being of a quiet and retiring nature, took very little part in public life, though many industries in and around Dunedin have benefited through his skill as an engineer. He brought out with him plant to start ironworks and in January 1860 he opened the first foundry, which was called the Otago Foundry. In 1874 he entered the employ of the Otago Harbour Board as engineer on the dredges, and afterwards inspector of works, during which, when the Dredge 222 sank at Quarantine Island, he was successful in raising her, and a high compliment was paid by the Harbour Board for his services. In 1889 he undertook the management of the Sew Hoy Mining Company, and acted as manager for two years, while three dredges were prepared in accordance with his ideas. The last five years he spent in quiet life, and until until a year ago enjoyed first-class health. During the last six months he declined greatly in strength, culminating in his death at the age of 70. Though of a retiring nature, Mr Mason was much respected, and his death will remove a kind and much-loved citizen. He leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters.

Ships with identical names.
There were at least two 'Dunedin's - the one mentioned above of the 1850s (208 tons), made another voyage arriving in Dunedin April 18 1857, the passage occupying 97 days and one built for the Albion Shipping Co.  In 1874  [broken link[ (1250 tons) an iron clipper ship, - the latter being associated with the first shipment of frozen meat (4909 carcasses lamb & sheep) from New Zealand which left Port Chalmers 15 February 1882 and reached London ninety-eight days later.  She made approximately 16 voyages to New Zealand and disappeared without trace probably around Cape Horn possibly due to a storm or collision with an iceberg.  She was carrying a crew of thirty four and had sailed from Oamaru for London March 19, 1890 with a cargo of frozen meat and wool.   Reference: White Wings Vol. 1 by Brett.  

While some subsequent cargoes of meat were lost - the Dunedin herself went missing in March 1890 - and the trade did not stabilise until around 1900, the symbolic value of this first shipment was, nonetheless, considerable. Farmers in New Zealand had been trying for years to find a way to transport meat to the lucrative European markets. In all, the Dunedin made 17 round trips to New Zealand before she was wrecked off Cape Horn. Captain Whitson who was master of the ship for 13 of her trips and was the original owner of the painting is buried in the Northern Cemetery, here in Dunedin.

"Lambs for London"
In 1881 the Dunedin had the latest Bell Colman refrigeration machinery installed at the request of W.S. Davidson of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company of Scotland. W.S. Brydone the N.Z. superintendant of the company had  killing sheds built at the Totara Estate near Oamaru and the freshly killed carcasses were railed to Port Chalmers and frozen onboard the ship. On the 7th of December 1881 Davidson and Brydon personally stowed the first frozen sheep ever loaded on a ship in N.Z. Loading was completed 11th of February and on February 15, 1882, the full-rigged sailing ship Dunedin left Port Chalmers bound for Britain with 4,909 refrigerated carcasses of mutton which sold for nearly 22 shillings each compared to the 10 to 11 shillings the company was getting in N.Z. The vessel arrived on 26th of May voyage, after a voyage 98 days, was successful and marked the beginning of a trade in frozen meat exports from New Zealand.  The cargo of frozen meat which was sold at Smithfield market the next day. The Otago Museum has a model of the Dunedin. The model was built in 1884.  The Otago Settlers Museum has a further six models of ships involved in the meat export trade, in addition to house-flags of the companies involved and original bills of lading.

The Times, Tuesday, Feb 16, 1932; pg. 9 Jubilee of the trade with Britain
Mr J.H. Coggins, a retired railway stationmaster, of Luton, went out to NZ as a boy of 13 in the Dunedin in 1878, making the outward voyage in 88 days. On the way out they landed mails and stores at Tristan da Cunha. He remained in NZ  four years, and decided to return by the Dunedin in 1882, because Captain Whitson, who was then in command, was a personal friend and reputed to be one of the finest sailors of his day. Sixty passengers had booked their journey, but Mr Coggins and  a Mr Berry were the only two who actually sailed. The rest were afraid to sail in her because while in Port Chalmers the driving shaft of the refrigerating machinery on board broke, and they thought that if a similar thing were to happen in mid-ocean the broken shaft might bore a hole though the bottom of the ship. A delay of several days was necessary while a new shaft was made, and in this interval some hundreds of carcasses of mutton and lamb which has been loaded into the ship were removed and sold to local bidders, others being thrown into the sea. Finally the ship sailed with a cargo of 4,909 carcasses.

Otago Witness Saturday 20th January 1883 pg 27
Messrs W.A. Young, W. Irvine and Co., and W. Fowler succeeded in getting four beautiful trout on Wednesday evening last for the purpose of sending Home in the refrigerating chamber of the ship Dunedin. They are intended, I believe, solely for scientific purpose. The four fish would weigh about 35lb, and were caught by means of a net in the Shag River.

Otago Witness Saturday 20th January 1883 pg 27
The Wellington Frozen Meat Company is making good progress. The first cargo was placed on board the Lady Jocelyn on Wednesday. The first shipment of frozen meat from Wellington. The ship is fitted with machinery of the latest design, and the freezing of the meat will be conducted by three properly qualified engineers. The cargo will consist of about 6000 carcasses of mutton and 150 of beef. The necessary number of sheep and bullocks have been purchased in the Wairarapa district and will be slaughtered at the abattoirs at Petone.

Otago Witness 20th January 1883 pg 8 col. a
The ship Dunedin which sailed on Saturday for England, took in her freezing-chamber 8271 carcasses of mutton and lamb, 20 carcasses of pork, 5 carcasses of beef, besides a few hams, fowls, groper and barracouta. With the exception of 241 merino wethers, from Mr J.M. Ritchie's Connington Estate, the whole is shipped by the New Zealand and Australian Land Company (Limited). Two thousand six hundred and seventy -six crossed wethers were furnished from their Pareora Estate; 369 from Moeraki, 2982 crossbred wethers, 421 crossbred lambs, and 154 merino wethers were brought from the New Zealand Refrigerating Company's Burnside Works. The beef and pork was sent from Totara, where it was slaughtered.

Otago Witness 9th June 1883 pg 9
That with the establishment of the frozen meat trade a new agreeable means of intercourse and interchange between colonists and their friends in England has come into existence. When the ship Dunedin, Captain Whitson, left Port Chalmers in January last with her cargo of frozen meat, her freezing compartment contained some pukakis from Dr De Lautour for friends in England. They reached their destination in excellent condition, and the fact that presents of game can thus be sent will no doubt be extensively taken advantage of.

Timaru Herald, 30 June 1886, Page 2
The following extract from the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette of April 12th - "New Zealand mutton. - Yesterday, a couple of sheep, frozen for transport, arrived in town from New Zealand, sent by emigrants to friends in Paisley. This is probably the first time that New Zealand mutton has come here direct; and one of the senders was mindful enough of the Gazette, to request that a portion of one of the sheep should be sent to the editor. His wish was faithfully attended to; and the sample left at our office looks well, and will no doubt taste equally well when prepared for the table. The sheep were reared in the colony by E. Acton, Esq., of Fordlands, pleasant Point; and the vessel by which the cargo of frozen meat was brought home left Timaru on 8th January last - being three and a half months on the voyage, yet landing her cargo, if the carcasses sent here may be taken as a sample, in excellent condition.


The full rigged ship Dunedin Off The English Coast
Oil on canvas. Signed by Frederick Tudgay (1841-1921)
Dated 1875. 47x77 cm.

Otago Daily Times Wednesday, 25 April 2001
`Dunedin' picture may fetch $50,000
 Wellington: An historical painting of the cargo ship, Dunedin, is expected to fetch up to $50,000 when it goes under the hammer at a Dunbar Sloane auction next month. The Dunedin Off The English Coast, by British painter Frederick Tudgay, was signed and dated, Dunbar Sloane jun said. The 47cm by 77cm oil on canvas was estimated to fetch $33,000 to $50,000 at the auction on May 2 and 3, he said. Dunedin was built in 1876 for the Shaw Savill and Albion line of London and made world history by being the first sailing ship to transport frozen cargo when it left Port Chalmers in February 1882 for London. It carried 4909 carcasses of mutton and lamb to the lucrative Smithfield Market. Mr Sloane said the painting was originally given to the ship's first captain, John Whitson, in 1876 and passed to his daughter Elizabeth on his death. Miss Whitson saw a picture in the Otago Daily Times in 1956 of a wreath being laid at her father's grave in the old Dunedin North cemetery to mark the 75th anniversary of the first shipment of frozen meat. She began to correspond with Malcolm Barnett, personnel manager for the Wellington office of Shaw Savill and Co. Before her death in 1965 she offered the painting to Mr Barnett and it has been in his family since. - NZPA


Hocken Librarian, Stuart Strachan, says the oil painting of the cargo ship 'Dunedin', by Frederick Tudgay, is an "iconic work". It represents the first shipment of refrigerated meat from Otago and is the most contemporary painting of its time, as it is the only one painted in the original Albion Line colours of black hull and gold band and pink boot topping, under which it sailed to England with the frozen meat. The Hocken made a successful bid, then sent the painting to Auckland for conserving.  Because of the accuracy with which he depicts a ship and his realistic handling of the sea, the work of Frederick Tudgay is these days much prized. Tudgay employs a characteristic light green-blue palette that often identifies his work. Not much is known about his life except that he often collaborated with his brother, John, on paintings. The National Library in Wellington has a painting of a full-rigged, three-masted schooner of the P& O Line, the Waimate, which was painted at much the same time as the Dunedin.  

Otago Daily Times Saturday, 15 December 2001

Frozen on canvas and in time . . .

If you were 126 years old, you might expect to have a wrinkled and colourless complexion. But at that great age, who would bother with a face lift, cleansing and revitalising? You would, if you were an oil painting of historic value. The Dunedin off the English Coast by Frederick Tudgay has gone through such a process. As principal conservator for the Auckland Art Gallery, Ms Sarah Hillary spent many hours restoring the oil on canvas painting.  She stretched the shrunken old canvas, removed every vestige of unflattering varnish and repaired the cracks. "It was an elaborate treatment because of the condition it was in." The painting had several problems, especially cracking due to people knocking the canvas, moving it and exposing it to moisture, which had caused it to shrink and unfortunately, the treatment it had before had resulted in uneven cleaning and discoloured retouching. Ms Hillary said her work involved consolidating the unstable paint of the work, flattening it out under tension and humidity so the paint could again lie flat on the canvas. "It was a complete overall consolidation and was attached to another canvas, a method not so common now but it was an extreme situation. It was reasonably complicated and we had to be very careful when cleaning it to ensure we did not remove any paint." The result is a precisely detailed, white-sailed ship sailing on a sea of green beneath a pale blue sky.  The restoration was not able to remove all distortions. The 1875 painting belonging to the Hocken Library was unveiled at a function this week attended by the funders of its purchase and restoration, and descendants of the crew that sailed on Dunedin's historic voyage from Port Chalmers to deliver frozen meat to England in 1882. Representatives from the Community Trust of Otago, the Otago Maritime Society, the Otago Daily Times, Port Otago, Friends of Hocken Collections and the University of Otago welcomed Prof James Wright, Joan Aburn and Reg McLellan to the function. Prof. Wright's forebear, James Simpson, was a close friend of the ship's captain, John Whitson, and Prof. Wright was instrumental in the securing and sending of the painting to New Zealand. Mrs Aburn's grandfather, Robert Starr, was the mate, and Mr McLellan's grandfather, Alexander McLellan, the bosun on the vessel. The painting was purchased for $30,000 and is the only known contemporary painting of the ship. Restoration has cost an additional $5000. It will hang in the Hocken Library foyer. The work is considered important because of its name and the historic journey the ship undertook. The Otago Maritime Society and the Community Trust of Otago helped buy the painting.  The 'Dunedin' is believed to have foundered during a storm in 1890 when on the way to London with frozen meat and wool.


Passengers on the "Dunedin" which arrived at Port Chalmers from Glasgow on November 11 1882. Reference:  Otago Witness

Mr and Mrs Edmiston
Mr J Colder
Mr R Duke

2nd Class and Steerage
Mr and Mrs Vint
Mr and Mrs Morton
Mr and Mrs Dunbar & child
Mr and Mrs MacDonald
Mrs Ayton
Miss Rennet (2)
Miss Mollison
Miss Vint
Miss Charters
Miss Wilson
Miss Young
Mr Scott
Mr Welsh
Mr Orr
Mr Dunn
Mr Gibb
Mr Ayton
Mr Murray
Mr Wells
Mr Young
Mr Bryden
Mr Crawford
Mr Stewart
Mr Philip
Mr Sinclair
Mr Wedderspoon
Mr Dunbar
Mr Cameron
Mr Gilchrist

The Albion Shipping Company's clipper ship Dunedin arrived off the Heads at 3 am on the 11th inst. The refrigerating machinery is under the charge of Mr McAllister who was here last year in the same capacity, while his assistant is Mr Murray. The Dunedin brings 1400 tons of cargo. She also has 38 passengers who have enjoyed excellent health during the voyage and who speak in flattering terms of our old friend Captain Whitson. The passage from anchor to anchor occupied 79 days and land to land 75 days- by far the best made by any of the vessels which have reached us lately.

The Dunedin sailed 11 June 1883 and arrived in Port Chalmers 30 August 1883. 80 days. Captain Whitson.

Otago Witness Friday 7 May 1886 page 17
WHITSON - On the 4th May, at Oamaru (suddenly), Captain John Whitson, of the ship Dunedin. The ship Dunedin left Oamaru for Home on the 4th inst. being towed to sea by the Koranui. At the first attempt to tow her out the tug-rope broke and an accident happened to the steamer's winch. The ship had to anchor outside the harbour, but after a delay of two hours she was taken out, and left with a fair wind. The flags of the vessels were half-mast yesterday as a token of respect to the memory of the late Captain Whitson, of the ship Dunedin, who died at Oamaru on Tuesday.

page 18
We regret having to record the death at Oamaru on Tuesday evening of Captain Whitson, of the Shaw, Savill, and Albion Company's ship Dunedin. Captain Whitson was in delicate health when the Dunedin arrived at Port Chalmers on March 1, and has since been under medical care. Indeed he was in so precarious a state that it was not deemed advisable he should proceed Home in the Dunedin; and his death occurred within 24 hours of the departure of that ship from Oamaru. He was on the wharf when the vessel left, and the slight accident which occurred affected him prejudicially. Captain Whitson has for many years been associated with the passenger trade between Great Britain and the port of Otago, and his kindness of heart, manly demeanour, and general courtesy won him respect and esteem of a very large circle of friends. We are given to understand Captain Anderson, the marine superintendent of the Shaw, Savill, and Albion Company, proceed to Oamaru on Wednesday for the purpose of bringing Captain Whitson's remains to Dunedin for interment. The flags of the vessels in port and on the shipping offices were at half-mast on Wednesday as a token of respect. Captain Whitson was a widower, and leaves two daughters, who are present in Scotland. He was a native of Montrose.

Burial Register No 77811 Northern Cemetery, Dunedin
Surname WHITSON 
Age at Death 45 Years 
Date of Death May 4, 1886 
Date of Burial May 8, 1886 
Cemetery Location Block 8 , Plot 0023

1868. The Kent was a distinctive vessel, if only because she was the first ship in which an attempt was made to bring a cargo of frozen meat from Australia to Europe. In those days refrigeration was of a primitive kind. The meat was packed in ice. Off Cape Horn the captain, being in need of a fresh supply of ice, tied the vessel up to an iceberg, and the crew set to and helped themselves. The enterprise did not meet the reward it deserved. When the manager, who went to welcome the ship on her arrival home at Blackwall, he was greeted by the captain, who sang out from the rigging in a stentorian voice, "All thrown overboard, Sir!" As history has shown, that misfortunate did not long check the development of the export of meat from New Zealand and Australia.

The Daily Picayune, (New Orleans, LA) Thursday, November 06, 1890; pg. 3;
A missing ship is reported belonging to Glasgow, the Dunedin, commanded by Captain Roberts, official number 67,085, which sailed from Oamaru for London, with a cargo of New Zealand goods, on the 19th of March last; no news has been heard of her since.

St. Paul Daily News (St. Paul, MN), (St. Paul, MN) Saturday, October 24, 1891
This Ship "Fired" with Sugar

When the Coal and Wood gave out they burned the Cargo.
The steamship Dunedin sailed from Cienfuegos, Cuba, on Oct. 3. She had a big cargo of sugar consigned to Waydell & Co., of New York. Immediately after leaving Cienfuegos the little ship encountered strong adverse winds. Off Cape Hatteras she caught the hurricane of Oct. 11. This drove her miles out of her course. In battling with the elements the ship exhausted her supply of coal. All the wood work aboard the ship was utilized to keep the furnace going. When all the wood was gone Capt. Mckechnie drew upon his cargo of sugar. Bag after bag of this was hauled into the furnace. It was quite expensive "firing" . The vessel made New York and replenished the coal bunkers. Capt. McKechnie says sugar is a great steam generator. The only objection he has to it is the cost. He used fifty tons. Estimates that it was worth $3,000.

The Galveston Daily News, (Houston, TX) Thursday, October 29, 1891
The steamer Dunedin, which arrived at New York on Saturday, October 24, had a sweet time getting in. Coal giving out, the furnaces were kept with sugar. Fifty tons of it consumed for this purpose, as was also all the oil and wood on board.

The last 70 years of the sailing ship (roughly, from 1850-1920), were full of change and experiment, as iron supplanted wood, and chain and wire replaced hemp. Extraordinary ships were produced. Most of these ships were small, a few of them lived long; and now they are gone. wrote John Masefield Sep 11 1944

Timaru Herald, 30 March 1894, Page 2
A Wellington young lady, who spent last Christmas at an English country house, writes to her friends here, says the Post, that the weather was very severeó frost and snow óbut she rather, enjoyed it. One of the servants, remarking this, said to her, You don't seem to feel the cold, miss, but I suppose you come from a very cold place." The young lady explained that New Zealand was not a very cold place, and that such weather was quite unknown time. The servant girl replied, But isn't New Zealand the place the frozen mutton comes from, miss?"