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Diary of a passenger aboard the Oxford.- 1883.

Printed with permission of , Cassandra Robinson (great-grand-daughter of Buchanan Drysdale)


The Mother, Brothers and Sisters had a fateful voyage.  On January 20th
1883, the barque Oxford, 1281 ton with 302 immigrants left London.
Seven days later she cleared Plymouth on her long voyage to Wellington.

The voyage was fated to be broken before long, for in the Bay of Biscay
the Oxford met strong winds.  On February 6th conditions became worse
and on the following two days mountainous waves rose, accompanied by
driving rain and sleet.  The storm reached its height on the night of
February 8th.  The barques masts were snapped off at midnight, and for
the next four days she drifted helpless, being carried far out into the
Atlantic Ocean.  In the same storm the vessel Kenmure Castle foundered
with the loss of 32 lives.

Totally disabled and with over 400 passengers and crew on board, the
Oxford continued to drift westward.  On the afternoon of February 12th
the British Paddle Steamer Troutbeck was sighted.  The gale still raged
and the Troutbeck stood by through the night, flares being lighted on
both ships.  Frequent attempts during the next day, to get a tow line
aboard the Oxford failed, until, in a gallant effort a boat from the
Troutbeck eventually carried a hawser to the barque.  It parted, but a
new line was run aboard by the same means.

During the gale several of the crew were injured, though none fatally.
None of the passengers were lost.

Ten days after the mishap the Oxford was towed into Cardiff.  A special
train took the immigrants from Cardiff to Plymouth where they were to
await the refitting of the Oxford.  "A three week task" but at Plymouth
further disaster for the travellers.  In a short time 55 emigrants
contracted typhoid fever.  Nine of them died.

On April 26th 1883, over three months after leaving London, the Oxford
sailed from Plymouth with 325 immigrants on board.  Further distress was
in store, for another outbreak occured.  Three passengers died and
others were infected.  Eighty-eight days after leaving Plymouth she
reached Wellington on July 23rd.  Her passengers were quarantined on
Soames Island, and the Oxford was fumigated and cleaned before she was
allowed to berth.

The Oxford was under the command of Captain Braddick, who was well known
in New Zealand for his unflinching pluck, cheery encouragment and
excellent spirits, the safety of over 400 souls aboard, is mainly
attributed.  He was seriously, but hoped to be only temporarily, injured
by the long exposure. When the Oxford was refitted Captain Seymour was
appointed to the command.

(This was an extract from the "Evening Post" dated July 25, 1933.)

This is an extract from John Drysdale's note book, on the second attempt
of the Oxford.

The ship set sail out of Plymouth Sound on Thursday, April 26th 1883.
We got a fair wind until 3.30 p.m.  The same afternoon the wind blew
dead against us, and was very hard, but towards Saturday it bated a
little, we lost of spanker boon sheets, and one of the cooks got badly
scalded and washed out of the galley.  On April 29th we sighted a French
barqueand we signalled her to report us alright.  Then we came on and
passed the island of Maderia, then next we saw the peak of Tenerrieffe
with its noble mountain towering up so high with snow on it, altough it
was very warm at the time.

The next view we got was the Island of Nalmo and Pommo, commonly called
the Canary Islands.  Futher on we saw shoals of fishes and porpoises.
We sighted many vessels homeward bound.  When we were within a few days
sail from the Equator we were becalmed and we sighted ships homeward
bound, and signalled to the nearest and sent home some letters to show
that we were going on alright.

We got a nice gentle breeze which took us across the line.  Then we had
another calm there.  There was not a breath of wind, so some of the
sailors got overboard and bathed and got back on again.  The next day,
Sunday, was till calm.  They saw a small fish, they call it a Pilot
fish, and they knew there was a shark near the ship.  They saw it before
long and threw out a large hook with about six pounds of pork on it and
caught it; it was a young one about 5 ft. long.  Many of the people had
a piece of the shark for breakfast.

We had a fine wind to take us to the Cape of Good Hope.  Then we sighted
the Prince Edward Islands.

We had two births and also two deaths.  We saw a funeral at sea which is
a very sad sight.

This is where John's notes finished.

(& the programme.....)