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Week 15 - high drama on the John Pirie

[ 29th of May 1836 to 4th of June 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 15: Medicine ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 15 - high drama on the John Pirie ]

 

Scene: sunday before a hard gale

sunday before a hard gale. Edward Snell, 1849

It is a week of high drama on board the John Pirie. First bad weather whips up heavy seas. The passengers all huddle on deck trying vainly to escape the leaks, only to be drenched by a sudden wave that washes right over them. This frightens the ship’s cat so much that he leaps overboard and drowns.

But as the weather settles, trouble brews once more amongst the passengers. A violent argument breaks out between Mrs Chandler and the Powells, during which strong language is employed by both sides. Then just when it seems that peace has been restored, Mrs Chandler suddenly throws herself overboard along with all her clothes. We can only guess at the cause of the argument, but there is also a possibility that Mrs Chandler is seriously ill.  After an anxious ten minutes she is recovered alive – but only just.

It is clear that our commentator finds Mrs Chandler’s general behaviour rather shocking.  She does not fit his assumptions about appropriate womanly behaviour. But even so he finds room to record her better qualities. For all her violent temper, she manages to keep her children neat and clean – the first prerequisite of a good nineteenth century mother and a real challenge on a sailing ship!


Next week: There is more bad weather ahead as the ships begin to turn east towards Australia. Everyone on the John Pirie watches Mrs Chandler very carefully whenever she is on deck.

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