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Week 21 - a sumptuous feast

[ 10th of July 1836 to 16th of July 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 21: What's Cooking? ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 21 - a sumptuous feast ]

This week we have eight of the nine ships on the ocean, as the Buffalo makes ready to sail. We also have a rare insight into the thoughts and feelings of one of the ordinary emigrants who is traveling in steerage. Rosina Ferguson and her husband have left their native Scotland to travel to Portsmouth where they have boarded the Buffalo. Although a little annoyed that the ‘ladies and gentlemen’ travelling with them have been much slower to board, she is generally content, and is gratified that a woman in her ‘station in life’ has been shown ‘every kindness’. The berths sound very small and cramped to us now, only six feet by four, and separated by flimsy canvas sheeting. Rosina says they are like her ‘mother’s hens nests’, but she is grateful for her health and for her husband – ‘one of the kindest and best of husbands I could desire’.  We can’t help but hope that all will go well for her on the voyage.

It is a far cry from Rosina’s cramped quarters to those of cabin passengers like Robert Gouger, who is travelling on the Africaine. In his dairy this week he describes how they ‘fare sumptuously every day’ and goes on to detail what seems to be a quite extraordinary amount of food and drink consumed.  We might wonder whether any of these ladies and gentlemen were actually sober by the late afternoon!  Gouger’s diary also points to the differences between the standards of fare served to the different classes of passengers.  While the cabin passengers eat fresh meat every day, those in Cabins of lesser comfort than those occupied by privileged passengers and intermediate between them and the dormitory accommodation afforded the emigrants. intermediate cabins only have fresh meat once per week.  Gouger doesn’t bother to tell us what the emigrants in steerage are served, only that they ‘are all contented, and have reason to be.’ We shall find out whether they agree with him over the coming weeks and months!

Meanwhile Captain Morgan is approaching the end of his journey, as he heads into the Great Australian Bight.  He catches his first glimpse of Australia, but his pleasure is spoiled by wrangling and petty thefts between his passengers and crew.  In despair Captain Morgan reflects that ‘such ignorence and vice I belive seldom ever met together’.

SLSA_B4263_HMS_Buffalo_1836 low res

HMS Buffalo, 1836. Image courtesy of SLSA: B4263


Next week: Passengers on the Africaine are out of sorts – some ill, others discontented with their provisions.  The Buffalo is delayed at St Helen’s, but the Duke of York is closing in on Kangaroo Island.

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HMS Buffalo, 1836. Image courtesy of State Library of South Australia, B 4263.

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