Great Grandfather’s Diary #2. Off to Barbados.

Due to illness and a broadband outage I’ve been off the blog for a while so to kickstart things again  thought I’d top up a fresh chapter from Great Gramp’s Diary.  This section sees him despatched to Barbados to make his fortune.

“After correspondence and consideration it was decided that I should go to Jamaica to the care of a Mr. Wortley who for some time had been in charge of property in the island that belonged to our family, and I was to carve out my fortune in the West, instead of the East, Indies as I had been led to expect.

When this was settled, I was allowed to go to Wiltshire for a short time to see Ralph and my sister. I first went to Bishopstrow where Adelaide was living with Uncle John Griffith, and from thence I walked over to Corsley via “Cley hill” I can never forget my first view of the old place as I topped the hill after a 3 years absence. It was a fine bright day in summer, and I sat down on the grass and after a long and loving gaze, like a good little boy I knelt down and prayed that I might one day return to the much loved place, “covered with honour and laden with riches!”

I spent a very happy time at Corsley, Bishopstrow and Elm, making love to various young ladies in a mild calf-like way, but still very delightful, and then one bright autumn morning, on the 1st of October, 1847, Ralph came on the top of the coach from Marlborough and picked me up at Bishopstrow. We arrived in due course at Southampton the same evening, dined, went to the theatre and saw “Black Eyed Susan” performed to my great delight, this being the first play I had ever seen. At 10 o’clock on the 2nd of October 1847, I went on board the Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company’s S.S. Severn and at half-past-twelve, said goodbye to England, getting under way at 3 p.m.

Not The SS Severn but in fact The Demerara probably quite similar.
Not The SS Severn but in fact The Demerara probably quite similar.

When this poor orphan had sufficiently recovered from the first forlorn feeling, natural at finding himself being carried away “into the regions beyond”, he began to look about him with interest, and, acting on good advice, dived down below to open his boxes and take out what appeared necessary for the next 3 or 4 days before getting into the open sea, as there was a stiffish breeze on. When off the ‘Needles” the bell rang for dinner, and I made a hearty meal thinking, in my innocence, that it was all very delightful! Towards evening however dreadful noises began to resound through the ship, for the wind had freshened and many of the 108 passengers were French with a sprinkling of Spaniards, and wherever I have met the former under similar circumstances they cease not day nor night to deliver themselves of the most dreadful yells, till, exhausted and well plied with stimulants, they sink into a comatose state.

Added to the noise made by the sea-sick men, a number of children kept up a squalling accompaniment to the mournful howling of the wind through the rigging, and the baying of a couple of bloodhounds on their way to Cuba, the “racing” of the paddles as one side of the ship now and then rolled out of the water, altogether made a weird and saddening lullaby for this poor child on his first night at sea!  As he rolled from side to side in his narrow bed, with the motion of the vessel: “The gale increased – its icy breath, Froze every thought of mirth, And first I prayed to meet my death, Then asked to see my berth”.

5th October: The air pump is out of order and the engineers do not seem to see their way to remedy the defect and there are rumours of our having to put back to England under sail and one engine. Such an ignominious event was however unnecessary, and on the 6th we were sailing on again. This was a lovely day and the male passengers began to appear, many seats being occupied at dinner, and on the 7th the climate was beautifully warm and sunny and all the ladies were able to join us at meals.

11th October: We dropped anchor in Funchal harbour, boats were alongside at once, with oranges, apples, figs, grapes, and most of us went ashore as soon as possible for a ramble in the town, a picturesque but queer place, streets paved with round stones, but with paved ruts in which the runners of wheel-less carts had to slide along. Overhead were vines growing on trellis work with fine bunches of grapes hanging through but far out of reach!

The fort is beautifully situated on a large rock in the harbour, but though it may have been strong enough in the days in which it was built, our 100 ton guns would have little trouble with it now-a-days. Madeira is a beautiful little island clad to the water’s edge with verdure, abounding in subtropical plants and flowers, with pretty villas dotted about on the hillsides above the town. The climate mild and relaxing but withal pleasant. We sailed again the same evening after having laid in a large store of fruit.

15th October; Today we first saw flying fish. 23rd October: Arrived early at Bridgetown, Barbados, a very flat, hot, island, but with every inch of land highly cultivated, saw humming birds first here while on our way to Church on Sunday. I was amused at the cool way in which the negroes behaved in and around the Church, walking in and squatting down for a few minutes, then going out again and thus making room for others, while several were looking in at the open windows, but all well behaved and quietly attentive. “


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