The Eglinton Adventures
The following is compiled out of newspapers of the time as well as some genealogical books by Leo van de Pas of Perth, Western Australia.
Eglinton. A 464-ton barque 'Eglinton', which had been built in Quebec, left London in April 1852. The boat carried a crew of twenty-one and thirty settlers. The following is a list of those passengers who arrived in Western Australia:
1. Mr. (William) Robert Fauntleroy (1799-1871), 'a man of considerable prospects', his wife Sarah, three sons, a daughter and their servant. In storage they were accompanied by 157 packages, '70 bars' and '2 bundles iron'.
2. Mr. John Henderson, brother of the Comptroller General, Sir Edmund Yeamans Walcott Henderson, with his servant.
3. Mr. Thomas Courthope Gull (1832-1878).
4. Mr. Alfred Perkins Curtis (1830-1902).
5. Mr. William Bartram ( -1874) and his wife Susan (1805-1852).
6. Mr. and Mrs. John Scotthorn.
7. Mr. Lewis Duval (1834-1861).
8. Mrs. Louisa Glaskin (1821-1901) and her 5-year-old son, Frederic Litchfield Glaskin (1847-1920).
9. Mrs. Sarah Husley, with a small boy
10. Mr. Bryant
11. Mr. Jones
12. Mr. Benjamin Fretter, father of Mrs. Sarah Huxley.
On the 6th of May 1852, the ship passed between St. Andrews and St. Vincents, two of the Cape Verde Islands. The next land, Tristan da Cunha, was sighted at 7.30 a.m. on the 16th of June. When they arrived at Tristan da Cunha, the Captain found that his chronometer was reading incorrectly. Before the voyage he had asked the ship-owners for a new one, but this had been refused.
A few days before their arrival at Cape of Good Hope, they observed an eclipse of the moon. The Captain, Robert Bennett, made the observation in order to correct his chronometer. John Henderson, a passenger with whom he was on friendly terms, helped him by taking down the time while the Captain took the sights, and apparently the problem was solved.
They remained for 25 days in Cape of Good Hope, anchored in Simons Bat. The ship left at about 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the 29th of July. Additional passengers boarding here were Mrs. And Miss Walcott with two sons and two servants.
Over a month later, of Friday the 3rd of September, the Captain, assisted by John Henderson, calculated the longitude to position the ship at about 150 miles from land. After consulting his chart, the Captain told his passengers they would see land the following morning, and somewhat shortened sail.
The first mate, George Carphin, was of the opinion that they were much closer, because of the discoloration of the seawater, and suggested to the captain, with whom he was not on very good terms, and who would have none of it, saying that he the Captain was paid to think, not Carphin.
At about sunset that day, the weather was cloudy and hazy, the wind fresh and the ship running at about 7 knots. After sunset it became dark. Instead of preparing anchors and making general preparations for arrival, the crew and passengers embarked on a party to celebrate both their last night aboard and the birthday of a girl passenger.
Disaster struck at 9.45 p.m.. Instead of heading directly for Fremantle, the ship had passed 20 miles north of Rottnest, bad visibility preventing sighting of the island lighthouse. The Captain, by then in his bunk, and the party 'in the cuddy', were aroused by a cry of "breakers-ahead". The Captain, called by the third mate John James, hurried to the deck, but too late.
The ship, which had been running free before the wind, almost immediately struck heavily upon the outer line of reefs which bound the coast. The impact carried away the rudder, but fortunately the ship was borne over the reef by the sea and then carried forward to another reef about a mile from the shore, where she again struck to become fixed with head out of water.
Though the "Eglinton" was hard on the reef and in danger of breaking up, the crew and passengers felt they themselves were in no immediate danger. The ship's back might be broken, yet it was still conjectured that she could last a week providing no storm should hit her. However, had she struck the outer reef with the same force, they were all equally convinced that every soul on board, numbering 51 persons, would have been lost.
At some time during the evening after the ship had struck the reef, George Carphin, the first mate, gave the ship's log to the captain. However, these papers were later to disappear mysteriously, thus complicating the inquiry into the disaster.
Next morning, Saturday the 4th of September, a landing was attempted. The crew, accodring to a passenger, were 'running about in confusion, not knowing what to do'. The long-boat was lowered, only to be swept away in the heavy seas. Then the gig was smashed on the rocks alongside.
The third boat did manage to get clear and, on Saturday and Sunday, was to make several trips to shore. The surf made a landing almost impracticable without great assistance from the shore by people running into the surf, to seize the boat and drag it on to the beach. The passengers were hauled from the Eglinton one by one, by lowering them by a rope tied around the waist and supported by a life-buoy. Next morning, Sunday the 5th of September, the boatswain began drinking heavily. Suddenly he seized the ship's chronometer, the instrument blamed for the shipwreck, and flung it into the sea. Then he jumped in after it, to drown before the eyes of the horrified passengers. The loss of the chronometer was to hinder the inquiry into the disaster even further.
The captain, together with some of the passengers and several of the sailors, did not leave the ship until Sunday morning. On one trip, with the boat filled with female passengers, it was just attempting to land when it was completely turned over in the surf and, with one exception, everyone was under the boat. It was here that the second loss of life occurred, that of Mrs. Bartram, sister of the Messrs. Carter, of Fremantle, who was thought to have been struck by the boat and so drowned. In the same accident, Mrs. Huxley was seriously injured.
Family tradition has it that Mrs. Louisa Glaskin and her son were also involved in this accident, and that she had to swim ashore while supporting her 5-year-old son.
Mr. John Henderson, together with the ship's mate and another crew member, left the scene of the wreck and, keeping to the coast, went for help. It took them twenty-four hours to reach Fremantle. Taking into account the country they had to traverse, and after already having gone through the ordeal of being wrecked, this was regarded as a 'most praiseworthy instance of determination and perseverance'. Immediately, on hearing the news, every exertion was made at Fremantle to send assistance. The 'William Pope' (with diving apparatus to recover the treasure in coins amounting to 15,000 pounds), the 'Typo' and two other boats reached the wreck the same afternoon, but were unable to hold any communication with the shore until the following morning.
John Henderson, although suffering severely from the effects of fatigue and want of food and water, returned in the Water Police boat which, together with the Harbour Master's boat, had also been despatched by the Fremantle authorities who, on this occasion, were considered to have 'displayed a promptitude and energy which did them much credit'. Food, clothing and blankets, of which the party were destitute, were also forwarded.
Eight or nine sailors broke open some of the passenger's boxes, stealing a silver cup and other plate, money and jewellery. Then, at about seven in the morning, they left without permission with their loot. On Monday afternoon at about five o'clock they arrived at Mr. Shenton's at Wanneroo, having been found on the beach by a native herdsman. The next morning, Mr. Shenton persuaded the men to return to the wreck. With them he sent his bullock-cart, by which two of the female passengers (one probably being the badly injured Mrs. Huxley) and a child reached his house the same evening, and were forwarded on to Perth on Wednesday.
From one of these sailors who returned to the wreck, a quantity of jewellery belonging to Mrs. Walcott was obtained upon her paying him five pounds; this, however, was taken from the thief when the authorities arrived.
The 15,000 pounds in coins, together with the mail, had been in the stern; when that section broke, it all went down in about 10 feet of water. A ticket-of-leave man, Rodriguez, under the direction of Lieutenant Wray, recovered this treasure by Tuesday afternoon, the diver remaining below twenty minutes at a time. However, it did not then seem that the mail was recoverable.
The scene on the shore was "almost melancholy, the unfortunate passengers lying there without shelter, and short of water and provisions, a severe initiation into colonial life". However, their ordeal was still not over, as apparently they then walked all the way to Perth.
Later on, Rodriguez also recovered the mail after all, together with cases of gunpowder which were then sent to Fremantle under escort of the 99th regiment. Rodriguez was recommended for a 200 pounds reward by the Governor, Mr. Charles FitzGerald, who rather loftily reported in a Colonial Office despatch: "he behaved with much commendable daring and unusual disinterestedness."
Mr. Fauntleroy had had his property insured for 2,800 pounds, but several other passengers were not insured and had lost everything. Two of the sailors were gaoled for looting and the captain was found guilty of negligence; however, "in consideration of his misfortune", he was fined only fifty pounds, and even then this sum was raised by sympathetic colonists. The ship's dog, having already survived the previous wreck of the Birkenhead, was washed off the Eglinton by mountainous seas. It managed to make its own way to shore and, subsequently adopted by a Fremantle family, became "the most famous canine in the colony."
Credit must go to ** Leo van de Pas ** Centraal Bureau
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