The "Marlborough"

The "Marlborough"
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The Arrival of the Marlborough

as reported in the Otago Daily Times on January 10th 1880.

On the afternoon of January 7th the signals at the heads announced the arrival of the Albion Company's ship Marlborough, Captain Anderson, after a passage of 75 days from Greenock.  Shortly afterwards the tug Koputai steamed down and took her in tow, crossing the bar at 7pm and bringing her up as far as the Quarantine ground where she anchored at 7.45.  The customs launch, having on board Dr Dysdale, medical officer to the Board of health; Mr Monson, emigration officer; Captain McCallum, health officer; and Captain Logan, marine superintendent to the Albion Shipping Company, proceeded down, and upon getting close to the vessel ascertained from captain Anderson that there were some eight or 10 cases of measles on board.  After receiving the bill of health from the surgeon of the ship, the officials ordered the yellow flag to be hoisted, and returned on shore, when we were kindly shown by the Health Officer the bill of health, from which it appears there are on board 385 souls, in addition to 48 of a crew.  Once during the passage there had been 45 cases of measles, and only in the first cases were the patients isolated and their clothes and bedding destroyed, disinfectants being freely used.  There have been six deaths, all children, the eldest being 10 years; four from measles, one from suppurating sore throat, and one from acute bronchitis - the last death occurring on the 7th, when rounding cape Saunders, the body being still on board the vessel.  there have been three births.  It has been decided that the steerage passengers shall be landed on the island this afternoon, while the saloon passengers will remain on board.  The ship will be thoroughly cleaned and fumigated before being admitted to pratique.  We are unable to publish a report of her passage out, but must congratulate Captain Anderson on making the best passage of the season.

The Report of the voyage was later printed in the newspaper:-

We are indebted to Mr Colin Allan, the immigration officer at the port, for his courtesy in supplying our representative with the following details respecting the passengers of the Marlborough:-

The majority of the cases of illnesses which have occurred have arisen from measles, which first broke out on November 4th, 12 days after the ship left Greenock.  The case was immediately isolated and every precaution observed in order to stamp out the disease.  This apparently succeeded, for on November 22nd the patient was discharged in what appeared to be perfect health.  The disease, however broke out again on December 1st in another family, and rapidly spread on both sides of the 'tween-decks, and as there were no less than 113 children located there, the number of cases which occurred is very easily accounted for.  However, every possible care and attention was bestowed upon the sufferers, and all things considered, the mortality has been slight.  Dr Pinkerton, the medical officer in charge, speaks highly of the conduct of the passengers, especially the single females, who appear to be a most respectable class of young women.  Boat and fire drill were constantly kept up, and everything that could conduce to the amusement of the passengers was carried out with the greatest of spirit. 

The following are the vital statistics:-

Births: On November 15th, Mrs Mary Ann Leggatt of a daughter; November 24th, Mrs Margaret Crowther of a son; November 25th, Mrs Margaret Stewart of a daughter.

Deaths: December 22nd Robert lees, aged 8 years of suppurated sore throat; December 24th Mary Smith, aged 3 years, of measles; December 29th Elizabeth Thwaites, aged 11 years of measles; January 3rd Mary M Wilson aged 2 years of acute bronchitis; January 4th Mary Hydman aged 4 years of acute bronchitis; January 7th Sarah Baty aged 4 years of measles. 

One cabin passenger was attacked with pleurisy and one steerage with pneumonia during the voyage.  Both have recovered, and are now in good health.

The following report of the passage out has been furnished us by Captain Anderson:-

Left Greenock on October 23rd, and proceeded to sea by the South Channel; experienced favourable winds and fine weather across the Bay of Biscay, and picked up the N.E. trades in latitude 23N; they were moderate and gave out in latitude 8N, where the first of the S.E. trades began.   She crossed the equator in longitude 30W on November 11th after a smart run of 19 days from Greenock.  The S.E. trades were moderate and failed her in latitude 12S; thence she encountered baffling winds until she passed the latitude of 30S.  The meridian of Greenwich was crossed on December 7th, 45 days out, and that of the cape of Good Hope on the 50th day out.  On December 15th, three days after she rounded the cape, the steady westerly winds set in; they were moderate and studded with fine weather, and some excellent running was made one weeks work giving as its result a total of 1026 knots.  She made the Snares at 2pm on January 6th, and stood in to the Point on the next day, arriving off Tairoa Heads on the 7th, and being towed into port as above.

NOTE: Due to very bad copy it was hard to type the above accurately and some words have been inserted where I could not make out the correct text.

On board the Marlborough were the Gilchrist family:- John aged 36 years a Labourer from Dunbartonshire and his wife Elizabeth aged 37 years.  William, aged 5; Thomas, aged 3; Robert, aged 1 and George aged 1 month shared the family quarters with their parents while the older boys, Alexander, aged 18; John, aged 15; and James, aged 12 were all in the single men's quarters

marlborough.gif (546804 bytes)

The Marlborough at Port Chalmers

From "White Wings" by Henry Brett

Lost with all hands - A Remarkable Story.

And she is gone, the ship! His last command!

Whereon remembrance, tantalising falls

Like shadows from her sails. No use to search

The worlds reef-ridges for her rusting ribs;

Her wreckage strewed no coastline; homeward bound!

She mustered on the roll of missing ships,

And bore her famous English soldier’s name

To grace the gallery in Neptune’s halls.

And greybeards wagged their heads and talked of ice!

Of berg and floe! Of fire! Of broaching-to!

But my heart whispered, "No, ‘twas none of these!

‘Twas love of gain the wrought the vessel’s doom."

From "Shadows of Sails." By John Anderson, a relative of Capt. Herd.

The actual fate of this beautiful ship will never be known. After making fourteen rapid and successful passages to new Zealand she sailed from Lyttleton for London on January 11,1890, with a cargo comprised of frozen meat and wool. She had a crew of twenty-nine men and one passenger. The Marlborough was a handsome ship of 1124 tons, and was built by Robert Duncan, of Glasgow, and launched in June, 1876, for her owner, Mr j Leslie, who subsequently sold her to the Shaw Savill Co. Captain Anderson commanded the ship from 1876 until 1883, making some remarkable runs to Lyttleton and Dunedin. He also made several rapid passages home, on one occasion, in 1880, being credited with covering the distance from Lyttleton to the Lizard in 71 days.

In 1884 Captain W Herd succeeded Captain Anderson, and he was on the ship when she went missing on her homeward journey in 1890. As already stated, the ship sailed from Lyttleton on January 11. Two days later she was spoken to by a passing vessel and she was never heard of afterwards. One of the cadets on board was young Crombie, a stepson of Captain William Ashby, so well known in Auckland. When no tidings came after long waiting an inquiry was made as to her condition when sailing, and it was proved that the cargo was properly stowed and the ship was well founded and manned in thorough good trim for the voyage. After many months had passed the ship was posted at Lloyds as "missing" and the general opinion was that the ship had been sunk by icebergs, so frequently met with near Cape Horn.

The Marlborough Mystery

After the ship had been missing for over twenty years a remarkable story was published in a Glasgow paper in 1919. According to this report, the Marlborough had been discovered near cape Horn with the skeletons of her crew on board. This is the story as it appeared:-

"It is stated that the crew of a passing ship in 1891 saw men, whom they believed to be British seamen, signalling off one of the islands near Cape Horn, but it was not possible to get near them owing to bad weather.

"Further details of the discovery of the missing ship come via London. It appears that some considerable time back the sad truth was learned by a British vessel bound home from Lyttleton after rounding cape Horn. The story told by the captain is intensely dramatic. He says: ‘We were off the rocky coves near Punta Arenas, keeping near the land for shelter. The coves are deep and silent, the sailing is difficult and dangerous. It was a weirdly wild evening, with the red orb of the sun setting on the horizon. The stillness was uncanny. There was a shining green light reflected on the jagged rocks on our right. We rounded a point into a deep cleft rock. Before us, a mile or more across the water, stood a vessel, with the barest shreds of canvas fluttering in the breeze.

We signalled and hove to. No answer came. We searched the "stranger" with our glasses. Not a soul could we see; not a movement of any sort. Masts and yards were picked out in green - the green of decay. The vessel lay as if in a cradle. It recalled the "Frozen Pirate" a novel that I read years ago. I conjured up the vessel of the novel, with her rakish masts and the outline of her six small cannon traced with snow. At last we came up. There was no sign of life on board. After an interval our first mate, with a number of the crew, boarded her. The sight that met their gaze was thrilling. Below the wheel lay the skeleton of a man. Treading warily on the rotten decks, which cracked and broke in places as they walked, they encountered three skeletons in the hatchway. In the mess-room were the remains of ten bodies, and six others were found, one alone, possibly the captain, on the bridge. There was an uncanny stillness around, and a dank smell of mould, which made the flesh creep. A few remnants of books were discovered in the captain’s cabin, and a rusty cutlass. Nothing more weird in the history of the sea can ever have been seen. The first mate examined the still faint letters on the bow and after much trouble read ‘Marlborough, Glasgow.’ "

Another Story.

A most singular story was told in 1913 by a Seattle pilot, Captain Burley, who, in course of conversation with the skipper of one of the Shaw Savill liners, gave a description of a wreck that bore the name ‘Marlborough’. This pilot said that in his youth he was wrecked off Staten island, and he and the only other survivor set off to look for a whaling station, and while searching they came across, in a cove, a large ship with painted ports. The pilot said he distinctly saw the name ‘Marlborough’ on the wreck. Lying near were the skeletons of twenty men, and heaps of shellfish told how they had tried in vain to fight off the starvation that eventually overtook them. This story only came to light many years after the pilot saw the wreck. Why it was not reported at the time seems strange, nut it is none the less likely to be true.

The ship Dunedin, another fine vessel, sailed from Oamaru a few weeks after the Marlborough, and was also posted as missing.

Below follow the record of outward passages made by the Marlborough:-

To Wellington





Aug. 22

Nov. 20, 1887



To Lyttleton

Sep. 27

Dec. 14, 1878



Dec. 12, 1880

Mar. 18, 1881



Oct. 5

Dec. 31, 1881



Aug. 5

Nov. 1, 1882



July 3

Oct. 1, 1888



July 13

Oct. 12, 1889



To Dunedin

Oct. 27, 1876

Jan. 20, 1877



*Aug. 16

Nov. 8, 1877



Oct. 22, 1879

Jan. 7, 1880



Land to Land


Sep. 12

Dec. 16, 1883



July 19

Oct. 12, 1884



Land to Land


July 24

Oct. 18, 1885



July 29

Oct. 22, 1886



To Bluff

Aug. 16

Nov. 4, 1877



* Via Bluff

To read about the conditions expected on a trip to New Zealand click here ship6.gif (10566 bytes)

I do not know anything more of this ship so please do not contact me asking for more information. Everything I know is already here.

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Last modified: December 29, 2012