The Christian McAusland

The Christian McAusland 
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From "White Wings" by Henry Brett

A vessel that was very well known in Otago in the early ‘seventies was the Christian McAusland (a sister ship to the Jessie Readman), built in 1869 by Scott, of Greenock, for Patrick Hendeson. She was an iron craft of 962 tons, and was especially fitted up for the conveyance of passengers to New Zealand. The only port she visited in the early colony was port Chalmers, to which she made six voyages between 1870 and 1874. She made good average passages out and home.

In 1873 the ship had an exciting experience when bound home round the Horn, and Mr R E Smith, who is living in Auckland and was an A.B. aboard at the time, has been good enough to let me have some particulars of that eventful trip. The skipper was Captain Tilly, who had as his first mate Mr Kerr who subsequently commanded the Wild Deer and other vessels trading to New Zealand. The second officer was Mr Angus, who afterwards joined the P and O Company, commanding their well known steamer China, and now for many years past has been nautical advisor to the company. The late Hon. J A Miller of Dunedin was an apprentice aboard the Christian McAusland on the trip I am speaking about.


Berthed at Port Chalmers

Christian McAusland.jpg (546058 bytes)

A Smashed Wheel

Sailing from Port Chalmers in March, 1873, the Christian McAusland experienced strong westeries on the run to the Horn, and early on the morning of the ninth day out a heavy sea broke aboard, smashed the wheel, and washed the chief officer and the man at the wheel (James Kay) right forward, Kay being swept into the top-gallant forecastle before he could pick himself up. Fortunately the ship did not broach-to, or there would probably have been added the name of another gallant craft to that long list of "missing". The watch was just about to turn in at the time, but all hands jumped aloft, and relieving tackles being manned the ship was kept on her course until temporary steering gear was rigged. Topsails were then set, and the ship behaved splendidly.

Later in the day, when the weather moderated the carpenter unshipped the nave of the wheel, and a search for some temporary gear revealed the fact that one of the main winch handles fitted the spindle nicely. When this was rigged the ship was steered by the helmsman facing the ship’s side and turning the handle as though he were hoisting a winch. To watch the course he had to look over his shoulder at the compass - a very awkward job, but rather ingenious. Subsequently this make-shift device was improved upon by the captain who lashed a small hand-spike to vertical arm of the winch handle, and this allowed the steersman to stand upright. Within a few days the carpenter had fitted the rim and nave of the broken wheel with a new set of elm spokes, and made such a good job of it that when the ship got home the wheel was not replaced with a new one.

The Christian McAusland made the following voyages to Port Chalmers:-





Oct. 30, 1869

Jan. 18, 1870



Oct. 28, 1870

Jan. 23, 1871



Sep. 28, 1871

Dec. 28, 1871



Sep. 6, 1872

Dec. 2, 1872



Aug. 22, 1873

Nov. 24, 1873



June 21, 1874

Sep. 27, 1874



After the arrival of the ship at the Bluff a complaint was made by one of the passengers regarding the conduct of the captain during the voyage. It would appear the captain tended to indulge in a little too much wine at the table, which the passenger felt, was inappropriate. After extensive investigations by the local police and company officers the report came back that Captain Taylor was held in the highest regard by both crew and passengers alike. The following page shows the reports from the Otago Daily Times

Throughout the above report Henry Brett refers to the ship as the Christian McCausland. No-where else does this spelling occur. He also has not documented the voyage on which the McGregor family came to New Zealand. This voyage left Glasgow in May 29th, 1875 and arrived at Bluff on August 29th, 1875, a voyage of 92 days. On board were 330 souls of which were 276 adults. The price of passage per adult was �14 10s.


Otago Daily Times


There has been much illness among the immigrants by the Christian McAusland, which arrived at the Bluff, on Sunday night, from Glasgow. She had on board 332 passengers, being equal to 281 statute adults. From a telegram received by His Honour the Deputy Superintendent, and kindly placed at our disposal, we learn that there are now two cases of scarlatina, two of whooping cough, four of bronchitis, one of typhoid; that there had been twenty cases of illness on the voyage; one death from typhoid, six deaths form whooping cough, one from dropsy, two from convulsions, and one from some other cause. The Central Board of Health met at the Government buildings, Dunedin , yesterday, to consider matters, and adjourned to half past ten o’clock to-day, to receive further information. The suggestion had been made that there would be less mortality among the sick, and less expense to the Government if the immigrants were brought round from the Bluff to the Quarantine Station at Dunedin, the accommodation at the Bluff not being sufficiently large.


Otago Daily Times


The Board of Health met yesterday. There were present - The Deputy Superintendent (Mr Turnbull) in the chair, and Messrs Fish, Davie, and Dr Brown. The meeting was convened to consider the case of the Christian McAusland, which arrived at the Bluff with disease on board. It had been resolved on the previous day to telegraph to Invercargill for information as to the barrack accommodation. At the meeting yesterday a telegram was read from the Immigration Officer, Invercargill, to the effect that the barracks there would be ready for the immigrants by the time the lay days of the Christian McAusland had expired and that there was no necessity to send them to Port Chalmers. It was resolved that the immigrants be landed on the Quarantine Island as soon as the barracks are ready, that the sick be separated from the others in the usual manner, and that the necessary arrangements be left to the Local Board of Health. Resolved, further, that Mr Colin Allen be asked to proceed to the Bluff to assist and advise. We understand that Mr Allen will leave for the Bluff to-day.

To read about the conditions expected on a trip to New Zealand click here: ship6.gif (6644 bytes)

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Last modified: November 30, 2008