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Christopher Berriman MARTIN & Elizabeth Ann BRAY

The Piako - Alexander Turnbull Library, NZ

Cornwall to New Zealand 1878-1879

My Great Great Grandfather, Christopher Berriman MARTIN was born about 1840 in Towednack, Cornwall, England.  He was the son of Christopher MARTIN and Wilmot Edwards BERRIMAN. At the time of the 1851 Census, Christopher was living with his parents in Towednack along with his siblings Suzanna, William, John, Wilmot, Thomas, Mary Jane and Ann. His brother Andrew and sister Kate were born about 1854 and 1856 respectively.

On 13 November 1858 at the age of 19, Christopher married Elizabeth Ann BRAY, who was then aged 20, at Uny Lelant, Cornwall. Elizabeth was born in Uny Lelant about 1840. She was the daughter of Richard and Catherine (Kitty) BRAY nee DAVY.  At the time of the 1851 Census she was living with her parents in Lelant along with her brothers and sisters, Samuel, Thomas, Mary Jane, Christian and Nanny. Elizabeth's sister Mary Jane BRAY married Christopher's brother William MARTIN in Lelant on 18 July 1863.

By 1871 Christopher and Elizabeth had the following children (all of whom are listed as living with them in Lelant at the time of the 1871 Census):

  • Elizabeth Ann MARTIN born 10 March 1860, Lelant

  • Wilmot Jane MARTIN born about 1862, Lelant

  • Emma MARTIN born about 1864, Lelant

  • Nanny MARTIN born about 1866, Lelant

  • Christopher MARTIN born February 1868, Lelant

  • Catherine (Kate) MARTIN born about 1870, Lelant

Their daughter Mary-Ellen MARTIN was born in 1872/73 

Their son Andrew Thomas MARTIN in 1874.


In 1878, Christopher and Elizabeth and their children (with the exception of their daughter Wilmot, who died in August 1875, emigrated as assisted passengers to New Zealand. Andrew, their youngest child, was only 4 years old.  They are all listed as passengers aboard the Piako  which departed Plymouth 10 October 1878.


Built by Stephens, of Glasgow, in 1876-7 for the New Zealand Shipping Company, the Piako was one of the last three of 1,000 ton sister ships built for that firm. Launched in December 1876, she sailed on her first voyage under Captain Fox on February 5th, 1877 leaving the Thames for Lyttelton, New Zealand.


On her second voyage a new Master, Captain W.B. Boyd, a noted seaman, took over the Piako, leaving Plymouth on November 20th, 1877 and arriving at Port Chalmers of February 12th, 1878.  The voyage on which the MARTIN family travelled was the ship's third and Captain Boyd's second passage to New Zealand.  The family cannot possibly have anticipated what lay ahead on what was to be a quite remarkable voyage. The details are documented in reports to the New Zealand Parliament, held at the New Zealand National Archives.  Extracts from those reports follow.



Journal of the House of Representatives, New Zealand

Session 1, 1879, Vol. I Sections D1, D2 & D6

[D1, Pages 17-22, No. 34]


25th March, 1879

To the Assistant Secretary, Marine Department,
Board of Trade, London
The Hon. J. Ballance to the Agent-General
Immigration Office, Wellington, N.Z.


I have the honor to transmit for your information copies of the undermentioned documents relating to the immigrant ship "Piako", which arrived at Lyttelton on the 5th instant, after having put into Pernambuco, on fire:- 1. Commissioner's report. 2. Extract from the Surgeon-superintendent's journal. 3. Surgeon-superintendent's report. 4 Extracts from Christchurch newspapers. 5. Minutes of proceedings of Court of Inquiry as to cause of the fire. 6. Certificates of births and deaths. 7. Copy of letter to Captain Boyd. 8. Copy of letter to Dr. Green. 9. Copy of letter to Captain Conning, of the "Loch Doon". 10. Letter to be forwarded to Captain Conning.

You will observe that an inquiry was held immediately after the vessel arrived, but no information could be obtained as to the origin of the fire.

It is gratifying to observe that the immigrants arrived in such a satisfactory state after the many hardships they had to endure.

I have, &c.,
J. Ballance (for the Minister for Immigration)


Sub-Enclosure to Enclosure 1 in No. 34

29th November, 1878

The British Consul, Pernambuco

To the Assistant Secretary, Board of Trade British Consulate , Pernambuco


I have the honour to inform you that on the 15th instant I transmitted a telegram to the Marquis of Salisbury reporting the arrival, on the 13th instant, on fire, of the emigrant ship "Piako" (Official No. 73,745), Captain Boyd, Master, bound from London to New Zealand, thirty days out, with 288 emigrants and four first-class passengers. The fire broke out on Monday, the 11th instant, in latitude 10o 27' S. and longitude 32o 11' W. in the ship's hold, dense volumes of smoke coming up, and the commander of the said vessel finding that it was impossible, after using every exertion to put out the fire was of no avail, transferred the whole of the emigrants on the "Loch Doon," of Liverpool (Official No. 65,963), Mr Conning, Master, which fortunately hove in sight about this time. The "Loch Doon" was on her homeward voyage from San Francisco to Cork with a cargo of wheat, and the master thereof brought the whole of the passengers and emigrants to this port, and treated them most kindly during the two days they were on board.

The "Piako" was scuttled in the harbour and the fire extinguished, and after some delay a steam pump was employed and the vessel raised, and since has been surveyed, and, owing to the whole of the lower deck from the hatch forward having been burnt, as well as more than half of the sleeping quarters of the emigrants, as well as the clothes of same; the greater portion of the consumable cargo has also been burnt, or damaged by salt water, and will have to be sold. I have convened two surveys on the "Piako," and it has been ascertained that the vessel has not been strained by the submersion, and that the repairs will take three weeks or a month to carry out.

The emigrants I have had landed on an island some three miles from the town, where they are lodged in a house, suitable beds having been provided for them, clothing bought, and other arrangements made for their comfort until the vessel is in a fit state to carry on the same.

I shall require the master of the "Piako" to give me a guarantee to carry on the emigrants within six weeks of the date of his arrival, as per regulations contained in 26 and 27 Vict., cap. 51, but, owing to the uncertainty that occurs at this port with contractors fulfilling their contracts to repair ships within the time stipulated, I much doubt if Mr. Boyd, master of the "Piako," will be able to do so.

I propose holding a Naval Court of Inquiry on the 2nd or 3rd of December, to investigate into the origin of the fire on board the "Piako."

I have, &c.,
S.H. Walker H.M.B. Consul

Enclosure 2 in No. 34

Extract from the Surgeon's Journal

Ship "Piako"

November 11th - After breakfast, went on deck as usual till 10 a.m., when I went to the single women's compartment, then to the dispensary, and attended all who came there, and afterwards went to those who were not able to come, &c.; then, as usual to single men's compartment, then to my cabin to write medical-comfort list for the day; having done that, I put down the temperatures in my table, and while doing so heard the fire-alarm sounding, but went on writing till I had finished, thinking it was only a practice without notice, to test the men in their efficiency; came up on deck and found it was real, and smoke was coming from the fore end of the galley. I saw the single men, some with blankets in hand, standing in a row on the port-side of the quarter-deck, others, about twelve in number, on the lee (starboard) side of the poop, talking to the single women. I was told that the captain was down the fore hatch in the 'tween decks or "hole". I sent all the single women to the after end of the lee side of poop at once, asking them all to keep cool, keep their places where they were, and on no account to interfere with any of the men. I then sent one of the single women's constables to keep the girls from coming forward. Then the captain came aft and told me the fire was in the hold, and flames in the 'tween decks. My time was then (soon after 11 a.m., I should say,) fully occupied in trying to pacify the single women, and together with the constable, keep them in their places. I then sent for the married women and children, and had them up on the poop with the single women, keeping them all as quiet as possible by trying to make them see the folly of interfering with their male relatives, who were working at the pumps, fastening down the hatches and covering them with wet blankets, plugging up cowl-heads and other ventilators, &c., with wet blankets, &c., helping the crew, and working the ship, clearing the boats, and breaking up wood for the steam fire-engine, and generally making themselves useful for the safety of all on board, under the directions of the captain and officers.


About this time I saw the captain standing on the taff-rail, on the port-side of the poop, and heard him asking a man whom he had sent aloft if there was a sail in sight; the man said "Yes," and pointed out where - namely, on our port bow. I then heard the captain give orders to the man at the wheel to change the course, so as to steer for the ship in sight. By this time the port and starboard lifeboats were almost in the water, and soon after I told off about seven or eight mothers, with their children, to each boat. There was some delay in getting them in, owing to the swell at the time. I saw water put into each boat, and some biscuits into one or two. The sail was soon made out to be a homeward-bound English barque. Our ensign was hoisted at the main with the Union down, and rockets were let off at frequent intervals, and the flags N M (I am on fire) I saw hoisted at the usual place on the spanker gaff. The ship was stopped, or nearly so, some time before that, and before the boats went off. The other boats were lowered as quickly as possible, and all the women and children, except four or five single women, went off in the first five boats. These remaining single women went off in the last boat - viz., the forward boat on the port side; with these last, the boatswain, sail-maker, emigrants' cook, two of the crew, and as many single and married men as were consistent with safety; I went myself. The barque, which proved to be the "Loch Doon", Captain Conning, from San Francisco to Liverpool, had by this time passed us on our port side, and was about half a mile astern of our ship. We reached her without accident, and went on board without delay. I saw the captain at once, ascertained , as far as possible, what provisions and accommodation there were on board, and went back for anything which I thought might be of use. I then came off, having sent five sheep, and as much water, preserved meats, and soup, also as many blankets as I could get, some wine and brandy, and some of my own personal effects, together with the ship's medicine chest, on board the "Loch Doon".

The captain of the "Piako" told me he intended to run for Pernambuco, and stay by the ship as long as possible, using every possible and available means to get the fire under. When I was last on board, the fire had made considerable way and it was utterly impossible to go down even the after-hatch to the single women's compartment; smoke was even coming into the saloon through the lazerette. When I got on board the "Loch Doon" again I made arrangements at once with the captain for the suitable disposition of the people. The single women I had confined to the poop-deck, as in the "Piako", the married people on deck amidships under the skids and boats, and the single men forward. I then spoke to each set separately, telling them that they must have the same discipline here as on the "Piako", the single women to be under the matron, as usual, and the married and single men to be overlooked as usual by their respective constables. I then counted out the blankets, which were nearly all double ones, and divided them, making about thirty-nine single blankets, which I gave first of all one each to those women who were weak and ailing, and then to those who had infants and young children, after which I distributed the remainder equally to the single women. I then got some condensed milk from the captain, sent for the hospital assistant and had it mixed with water and distributed to the infants and children. After that I had all the passengers arranged in their messes, and having told off two men previously to get up biscuits, served them out from the poop to the captains of the messes, in the proportion of two biscuits for each person, then about a pint of water for each person was served out in the ship's fire-buckets, the emigrants using such vessels for drinking as they had brought with them or could find, such as cups, tins, empty meat-tins, pannikins, &c. A small tub of butter, too, was sent round among the women, but as the supply on this ship is small, the men did not get any.


The next thing was sleeping accommodation. To meet this, the captain kindly placed at my disposal the after-hold, in which is stored wheat in bags, and in which there is an interval of about 4 feet six inches or 5 feet between the wheat and the main deck, with an area of some 20 square feet, or perhaps more, available for lying down; the saloon, capable of holding ten or eleven people on the deck, seats and table; the fore hatch, in which is wheat again; the lower forecastle, and the top-gallant forecastle.


The mode adopted for dividing the people was as follows:- Mothers with very young children in the saloon, as far as possible, then in lower after-hatch (which was left off), on the wheat bags. All the married women with children managed to get in these two places. The captain then kindly allowed a sail to be rigged as an awning, under the skids, and another sail spread on deck, under the awning. On this area all the single girls slept, except about ten, for whom there was not room, and these last went with the matron and sub-matron down on to the half-deck, where they slept in bunks vacated for them by the apprentices. The married men went forward to the lower forecastle, and the single men slept in the fore-hold and top-gallant forecastle. I appointed two men for each four hours of the night, from among the married men, to keep watch, one on each side of the deck, from the poop to the forward deck-houses, so that they kept watch over the single women, and over the fore-hatch, and reported to the officer of the watch as usual every half hour.


Particular instructions were issued to all constables, indeed to all passengers to guard against anyone using matches, &c., below.  All emigrants were in their respective sleeping places before 10 p.m.


I forgot to mention that, after the biscuits were given out, a small amount of tea was served round to all; owing to the small size of the ship's coppers, much could not be made at once. The women first had some, then the men.


I then went on the poop, and lay down on deck till about 12.30 p.m., when the second mate came on deck and offered me his berth, which I was glad to accept.


November 12th -This morning I had some sago boiled for those who are weak, and the infants, and the hospital assistant prepared milk as usual. Left orders last night with Leach, one of the emigrants, to kill a sheep this morning, which was done. The captain informed me that we must reduce the amount of biscuit used to-day, as he had not enough on board to last two more days at that rate, so served out one biscuit each for breakfast to all emigrants, and tea, about half-a-pint each. After breakfast, served out 2 quarts of water for each adult emigrant, and 1 quart for each child; had three large casks, in which the water was put-one for the single men, containing 52½ gallons, one for the married people, containing 40½ gallons, and one for the single women, containing 35½ gallons.


All the sheep, except a leg which we had in the saloon, was made into a soup, the meat being served with the soup, so that each person received nearly a pint. This evening I got another tin of milk from the captain, and had it distributed among the infants.


Concerning our treatment on this ship, I can only say that we could not have been more fortunate, receiving at the hands of the captain and officers every possible consideration and assistance. They all seem to be most anxious to do anything at all, no matter what trouble, to add to the comfort of our passengers-cabin and emigrants. The "Piako" has not been in sight all day.


With regards to the emigrants themselves, they are all, as far as I can find out, contented and thankful, and are all pretty well. Some of the children are weak, and have taken colds. Mrs. Forbes' baby is still very weak, and Mrs D. Randel is improving fast. As far as I have heard, the emigrants unanimously, and I consider very justly, applaud the cool and untiring energy of the captain and officers. The boats were got out in good time, order, and condition; the fire was speedily got at, and though not at once quenched, it was not for the want of energy on the part of the captain, or those under him, but rather from the impossibility of getting to the real seat of the fire, and from the insufficiency of the fire-apparatus, only three engines, two hand, and one steam, being available.



Enclosure 3 in No. 34

Surgeon-Superintendent's Report, Ship "Piako"


To the Emigration Commissioners, Port Lyttelton




Annexed is a classified summary of the principal events which occurred on board the ship "Piako", and of the observations which I have to bring under the notice of the Immigration Commissioners.


1. The Ship and its Accommodation. - As far as I am able to judge, the ship is in every way satisfactory, but some of the accommodation, I think, might have been better; e.g. the bakery is too small for the requirements of so many people, and the oven accommodation is so limited that the bread is seldom as well done as it ought to be. It has to be made in small batches, and each batch has to be hurried out of the ovens to make room for the next. This also reflects on the emigrants' cooking those raw materials which are served out to them, for, as the ovens are required for the bread baking, it is impossible for them to have the use of them more than once a week; they were, therefore, under the dietary scale with which I was supplied at Plymouth, unable to use the flour issued to them, so that, by their own consent and wish, I substituted the scale on their contract tickets-viz., 12 oz. of flour daily instead of 10 oz., and 8 oz. once a week instead of 11 oz. twice weekly.


The berths in the single women's apartments are conveniently arranged, but the same cannot be said of those in the married people's quarters, which are so arranged as to render it necessary to have at least five lanterns burning in order that each row of berths may have a little light. The lying-in hospital is almost underneath the main hatch, and an occupant of one of its berths more exposed to cold and draught than in her own berth. This, in high latitudes, constitutes in my opinion an unnecessary danger to patients. The bathing appliances for single women are sufficient, but there are none for married people nor children, nor for the single men. The last-named, however, can manage on deck with tubs, hose, &c.

2. Officers of the Ship. - On this head I have nothing to say, except that I am much indebted to them all for their ready help whenever I have required it. At Cocoanut Island, Pernambuco, Mr. Banks, third mate, and Donaldson, the emigrants' steward, were with me all the time, and, beside supervising the cooking and giving out stores, &c., were of the greatest use in the maintenance of discipline and the preservation of order.

3. Provisions and Water  - received in London were very good, but those sent to Pernambuco from Liverpool were inferior, especially the salt pork and preserved onions. The tanks, being rather rusty, tainted the water shipped at Pernambuco, and which was otherwise good.


4. Medical Comforts - with exception of port wine, were ample and good. The port wine was, I considered, of very inferior quality.


5. Medicines - from London were ample and good. Those procured in Pernambuco were not good, but were the best obtainable in the place.


6. State of Health. - In the early part of the voyage, before the fire, there was once case of scarlatina, of a very mild type, and two or three of chicken-pox. The former was at once isolated, and no one else had the disease. The latter were convalescent in due course. With these exceptions there have been no serious illnesses at sea, but while on Cocoanut Island diarrhoea, sometimes of a dangerous kind, prevailed more or less all the time. Since leaving Pernambuco various conditions, indicating depraved or impoverished state of the blood, have been prevalent, generally remedied by the free use of haematinics or other tonics. These I attribute to the inferior quality of the food supplied by the Liverpool house, but chiefly to the six weeks' residence in an enervating climate. These conditions have shown themselves more among the single women than the married people or the single men, I believe because the ventilation is least effective in their quarters.


7. Emigrants. - The general conduct of the emigrants has been good. Among the single women discipline has been well observed, and, though I have had to interfere several times to support the matron in discharging her duties, with one exception I have no complaint to make. The exception refers to S_____ B_____, who has throughout the voyage been very unruly and insolent, as will be seen on referring to the paragraphs in my diary. Among the single men, S_____ was on the island persistently drunk and unmanageable. He and several others were imprisoned in Pernambuco for that offence, shortly after we arrived there, in the hope that it would be a salutary warning to all. The others behaved very well on being released, but S_____ got drunk on several other occasions.


8. The Regulations - have been on the whole well observed. Any breaches in their observation which have come to my notice have been checked at once. The constables have assiduously done their duty, and I may especially mention Smith and Osborne, the single women's constables, whose duties are the most arduous of all, as worthy of praise for the way in which they have carried them out.


9. School. -  This has been ably conducted and regularly attended, and there was also a well attended class among the single men, before the fire, in which the register and books, &c., were destroyed. Since the fire there has been no school because no materials.


10. Water - The distilling apparatus on board is that of "Winchester", made by Starne, and is very inefficient. In a day of eleven hours it requires 7 to 8 cwt. of coal to produce from 200 to 225 gallons of water, working at a pressure of from 25 lb. to 30 lb. per square inch. It has no cooking apparatus attached to it. The water produce is of good and wholesome quality, but is insufficient for daily use, for, though the figures I give would nearly comply with clause 22 of the charter-party. Still when it is worked for a whole day and night it does not give proportionate results.


11. Ventilation. - There is no definite apparatus on board, but cowl and mushroom-head ventilators. On the whole, they were sufficient, but in the single women's compartment they were certainly not effective in purifying the atmosphere. The air-shaft opening on the poop is, I consider, badly constructed, having a hinge-lid on the top, which it is necessary to shut when raining, thereby closing the most efficient ventilator in the single women's compartment.


12. General Remarks -  With regard to discipline, I have found it much more advantageous to divide the single men into two groups, English and Irish, and to have an English constable over the English group, and an Irish one over the Irish, instead of the usual arrangement; and to let each group understand that they are required to act under their own special constable only.


I would suggest, also, that the single men and women be provided with some employment in which skilled labour is not requisite, such as making sacks, nets, dresses, &c., and paid small wages, according to the work done. This would, I think, tend to keep them more contented, and leave less scope for mischief-making and disputes.


To insure the cleaning and sweeping being done efficiently, I made a rule that all the people, except those whose names were on the cleaners and sweepers' list for the day, and those suffering from sickness, should be on deck, weather permitting, between the hours of 9 and 10 a.m., and have found it to answer exceedingly well, though sometimes they have difficulty in carrying it out. I would suggest that a clause to that effect be printed in the regulations.


I would suggest, also, that the hatches be made to open sideways, instead of fore-and-aft, so that the flaps on the weather-side could always be closed when any sea or spray was likely to come on board, and so prevent the wetting of the 'tween decks, which is constantly occurring from that cause.


For the extinction of fire, I think it would be well, in all emigrant ships, to provide three large barrels or hogsheads of chalk, oyster shells, unburnt limestone, marble chips, or other carbonate of lime, one to be place in the bottom of each hold-fore, main and after- and from each of these to have a suitable leaden tube leading to the main deck, and a sufficient supply of hydrochloric or other acid, kept in a place at all times accessible; so that by pouring the acid on the lime, large quantities of carbonic gas would soon be evolved, and extinguish the fire.


This is my first voyage with Government emigrants.


I have, &c., T. Beaufoy Green

Surgeon-Superintendent of Emigrant ship "Piako."


No. 29

The Agent-General to the Hon. Minister for Immigration, Wellington

7, Westminster Chambers, London


5th December, 1878.


Referring to my letter No. 1027, of the 21st November, in which I reported the ship "Piako", with emigrants for Canterbury, had been obliged to put into Pernambuco, and land her emigrants at that port, I have the honour to transmit copies of further correspondence which has taken place concerning the matter.

On receipt of the letter from the Colonial Office, dated 29th ultimo, intimating that there was a risk of fever and small-pox breaking out amongst the emigrants should they remain at Pernambuco until the ship "Piako" was ready to sail again, I deemed it right, under such circumstances, to take such measures as would give the emigrants an opportunity of leaving Pernambuco and returning to England.

You will see by the correspondence that, with that object in view, I lost no time in placing myself in direct communication with the English Consul at Pernambuco, and also in endeavouring to make a special arrangement with one of the companies despatching steamers from Pernambuco to England, for the conveyance of such of the emigrants as do not elect to wait there until the "Piako" is repaired. I have been able, through the British Consul, to arrange with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (as you will see by the telegrams attached) to convey the emigrants back to Plymouth on comparatively reasonable terms.

I have taken this step, feeling assured that the Government would wish me not to too closely consider the question of expense, when the health, and possibly the lives of a large body of emigrants may be placed in a position of considerable danger from the probability of such serious diseases as yellow fever and small-pox breaking out amongst them.

I felt that, although it was roughly stated that the vessel would be ready in a month, there was no guarantee that such would be the case, but that, on the contrary, there would in all probability be delay beyond the appointed time. Meanwhile every day would add to the passengers' risk

You will observe that the Manager of the New Zealand Shipping Company has made a protest to taking this step, but I do not think I should be justified in regarding it, when, in so far as I can judge, the health and even the lives, of so many people (for whose safety the Government would be looked upon as morally responsible) are at stake.

I have, &c., Julius Vogel

Sub-Enclosure to Enclosure 6 in No. 32

Mr. Soulsby to the Agent-General for New Zealand



I am directed by the Lord Mayor to send you a letter he received yesterday morning from a gentleman writing from Cocoanut Island, Pernambuco. The Lord Mayor does not see his way to starting a fund here for the aid of the emigrants; and he thinks the best plan is to forward the letter to you, to see if you, in your official capacity, could arrange that aid should be rendered the people on their arrival in New Zealand.

I have, &c., W.J. Soulsby

Sub-Enclosure to Enclosure 6 in No.32

Mr. T.B. Green to the Right Hon. the Lord Mayor, London



I beg to address a few lines to you on behalf of the two hundred and eighty emigrants rescued from the burning ship "Piako" by the barque "Loch Doon," and now under my charge on this island during the refitting of the "Piako".

Many of the emigrants belonging to trades, besides having their clothing spoilt by fire or salt water, and losing their savings, have also lost the tools of those trades, and are therefore in a very bad way for beginning business in New Zealand. I have no doubt you have heard particulars of the accident to the "Piako," how she took fire at sea on 11th November; how we, fortunately, sighted and signalled an English barque, the "Loch Doon," Captain Conning; how we were received on board and of us being very kindly treated, and accommodated as well as the resources of so small a ship would allow; and how, on the 15th, we were transferred from the barque to this island.

The damage to the baggage by fire and water is very considerable, and many of the emigrants will land in New Zealand utterly destitute, unless a small sum can be raised to be distributed amongst them.

If, Sir, by using your great influence in London and elsewhere you raise a sum of money, to be given to the emigrants in such manner as the Agent-General or New Zealand Immigration Officers may think fit, then to those already numerous recipients of your kindness there will be added about two hundred and eighty more grateful people, who have, as far as I can ascertain, no legal claim on any one for compensation for their loss, brought about "by hand of God."

Hoping you will see fit to use your influence in this cause, and apologizing for trespassing on your time.

I have, &c., T. Beaufoy Green

Enclosure 1 in No. 34

The Immigration Commissioners, Lyttelton, to the Hon. the Minister for Immigration.

Lyttelton, 12th March, 1879

Ship "Piako"

The Commissioners report the arrival of this ship on the 5th instant, after a passage of 144 days, including a detention of 34 days at Pernambuco. The general health of the immigrants had been good throughout. The Surgeon-superintendent reported five births and three deaths.

The Commissioners cannot speak too highly of the creditable condition in which this ship came into port, considering what she has passed through. The different compartments were exceedingly clean, and the light and ventilation ample.

The provisions which had been placed on board in London were very good, but those sent to Pernambuco were somewhat inferior; no complaints of any kind were, however, made.

The regulations respecting boat and fire drill had been carefully and regularly attended to, and the discipline on board the ship was highly satisfactory.

Extracts from the Surgeon's journal, giving full particulars of what took place at the time of the fire are attached to this report, together with the evidence taken on arrival at Lyttelton.

All the immigrants, without any exception, spoke in the highest terms of the kindness and attention they had received from Captain Boyd, the Surgeon-superintendent and the officers of the ship. They also expressed their gratitude to Captain Conning and the officers and crew of the barque "Loch Doon" for their kindness towards them.

The Commissioners, in recommending that full gratuities be paid, desire to bring under the special notice of the Government the conduct of Captain Boyd, his officers, and the Surgeon-superintendent, Dr. Green. Through their courage, firmness, and assiduity, order and discipline were maintained throughout in a manner beyond all praise; and the Commissioners are of the opinion that a substantial testimonial should be presented to them, with the view of showing that their services are justly and fully appreciated by the Government of New Zealand.

The Commissioners recommend the further employment of the Surgeon-superintendent, should he desire it.

John T. Rouse, H. McDonald, M.D., J. E. March.

From The Press [Christchurch], 6 March 1880

"The long-expected and unfortunate ship 'Piako', Captain Boyd, anchored in the harbour shortly after 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon, 66 days from Pernambuco, and 155 days from London. Before she came to an anchorage signals were made stating 'All well on board'. [One sentence illegible] The Immigration Officer, Mr March, chanced to be absent at Ashburton, and will make his inspection this morning.

The 'Piako' left London on October 1st, with the following Government immigrants:- Farm labourers, 104; general, 3; gardeners, 5; carpenters, 3; wood turners, 2; masons, 7; bricklayers, 2; boot-makers, 3; collier, 1; hatters, 2. Single women - General servants, 49; cooks, 2; housemaids, 5; dairymaids, 7; charwoman, 1; teacher, 1; nurses, 4.

Nationality - English, 192; Irish, 82; Scotch, 6; Welsh, 1; Channel Islands, 7; total, 288 souls.

Summary - Male adults, 139; female adults, 104; male children, 19; female children, 20; infants, 6. Total, 288 souls, equal to 262 statute adults.

In sailing down the Channel she met with a slight accident, particulars in brief of which have before appeared. This was followed by the unfortunate disaster of fire, which occurred when the ship was in the neighbourhood of Pernambuco. A report of this and of the transhipment of the immigrants to another vessel, and of their landing at Pernambuco and re-embarkation in the 'Piako' , is within the remembrance of our readers, having appeared in the 'Press' of a recent date. It is pleasing to learn of their arrival at last at their destination, and of the news signalled from her that 'All are well on board.'

The secretary to the New Zealand Shipping Company, Mr Selwyn Smith, states that no communication will be permitted with the ship until after the Government has held the inquiry it proposes holding. This will probably take place this morning.

Of the 288 immigrants who left London, 24 have returned home from Pernambuco. The remaining 264 have arrived in good health. There have been 5 births during the passage and one death, that of a boy. No contagious disease has occurred; in fact the immigrants have been remarkably exempt from all sickness whatever.

Captain Boyd appears to be highly esteemed by everyone on board. The inquiry held by H B M Consul at Pernambuco resulted in exonerating him from blame with respect to the unfortunate disaster that occurred on board before he made that port. The ship has brought on a considerable proportion of her cargo."

  • Mr Vogel reported to the Minister for Immigration in Wellington that the "Piako" had sailed again on her voyage to New Zealand, news of which had been received by a letter from the Surgeon-superintendent of the ship, dated 29 November, 1878.
  • Captain William Boyd and Surgeon-Superintendent Green were eventually paid double the gratuity ordinarily allowed for the "very valuable services rendered" by them to the immigrants.
  • Captain Conning, of the barque Loch Doon, was paid a gratuity of £50 for his "gallant conduct in standing by the ship 'Piako' while on fire, and conveying the immigrants from that vessel to the Port of Pernambuco".
  • The Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, holds the Journal of Fanny Horrell (October, 1849 - 10 May, 1910), later Mrs. Daniel Mulholland, and passenger aboard the Piako. Fanny states that a nine month old child (a boy) died and was buried on Cocoanut Island, and that a baby died just prior to the ship's departure from Pernambuco and was sent ashore to be buried. A baby was born on January 26th 1879 aboard the ship, near the "Cape", another during the week of February 11th, and two births and one death (that of a single man), who had a mother, two brothers and a sister on board) during the week of March 1st.