To the Board of Immigration Commissioners
Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
At the conclusion of the present voyage of the "Tintern Abbey" I beg to present to you my remarks and report of the voyage.
The Immigrants embarked after a fortnight's delay in the Blackwall Depot during the severest winter that I remember, where they seemed to suffer a great deal from exposure to cold and its results.
The ship was not ready to sail by the appointed time and when the people embarked many of the children were suffering from colds and when we got into the channel the weather was as bad that most of the children were laid up with inflammation of the lungs & bronchitis - indeed three had died from these causes before we sailed.
I now come to the ship. There were no extra skylights for the hatchways. The Deck lights were put in very badly and constantly leaked, keeping the 'tween decks & beds wet until the first fine weather, when the Captain had them all taken up & set in afresh. As usual, in all the ships I have come out in, the plumbing work was badly executed - that in the single woman's compartment got out of order and leaked badly, and, although there was a plumber among the immigrants, it was found impossible to do much good with it. There was no place for the baker to make his bread in: I consulted the Captain, & said the bread must be issued to the immigrants, & asked him to find a place for the baker, but everywhere was so crowded up that it was impossible to find room for him, & the Captain suggested that a place be erected in the single men's compartment, but I objected to this, as it would interfere with the light, ventilation & cleanliness. He then suggested the single men's hospital, and, as I considered it highly important that the bread should be made I consented on condition that he should vacate the hospital if I should want to use it. I consider this a serious omission, as the quantity of bread required by the new scale is so great that it requires a special bakehouse to make it in. I would strongly recommend that the amount of bread to be issued to each person be stated in the dietary scale instead of the amount of flour. The dietary scale was altered before we sailed from Gravesend. This gave rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction although the Immigrants profited by the alteration. It would have been much better to have given them all new contract tickets with the new scale printed on them.
Another fact which gave dissatisfaction was that on the contract tickets it states that one egg, or two tablespoonfuls of condensed egg is to be issued to each child. This should have been "its equivalent in condensed egg". The dispatching office corrected a copy of the scale for me & put his initial to it but when I shared this to the Immigrants they were not satisfied.
The fresh eggs in small kegs were not at all good after the first fortnight, indeed, of these a large proportion were broken and, like the rest of the stores, were found all mixed up with the cases & could with difficulty be found when wanted. Two kegs were found late in the voyage, and were unfit for use. Towards the end of the voyage it was represented to us that the suet issued to the Immigrants was not good, and I found that it was rancid, & I told the storekeeper to take it all back, and issue from a fresh cask - but all on board was found to be alike rancid - dry salt & pickle on it. So, after consulting with the Captain, I told the storekeeper to issue butter instead of suet, as I considered the latter not "suet, & in good condition".
I expect to report that the officers of the ship have all shown themselves to be very unsuitable for a ship like the "Tintern Abbey". There has been great difficulty in keeping the sailors from too great familiarity with the Immigrants especially with the women, and I have been annoyed & threatened by the sailors throughout the voyage that they would assault me when going round the deck at night etc. etc. There have been very great trouble with them, and yet, when I appealed to the officers they have afforded me little or no assistance or protection. They have, rather, seemed afraid of the men. The Storekeeper in particular is not at all qualified to hold such an office as has been entrusted to him. He is, in fact, one of the apprentices, although he calls himself third mate. I have, throughout the voyage, had the greatest difficulty & anxiety with respect to this young man, and, had there been anyone else to take his place I would have asked the captain to remove him. I consider the office of Storekeeper a very important one, for, independent of the responsibility, nothing conduces to breed dissatisfaction among Immigrants sooner than carelessness, want of punctuality, suspicion of not having all they are entitled to, or any other irregularities connected with stores, and I think there should be proper & experienced men as storekeepers. The passengers' cook and Baker were, to my mind, not good men, and I had, particularly at first great trouble with them. The ship's steward, an old man of 60, - behaved as badly - getting so excited, & trying to raise disturbances, besides being almost useless as a steward, that the Captain had to disrate him, & put one of the apprentices in his place. There was a man appointed as passengers' steward, but it was proved that he was not honest, & was, therefore, not allowed to continue as such. I appointed one of the Immigrants to assist the Storekeeper in his stead. It will be, thus, seen that I was placed under very great disadvantages, being the only person connected with the Government, or knowing anything about Immigrants.
The preserved potatoes & arrowroot were all finished shortly before we arrived. This I attribute to the careless stowing of stores. The fresh potatoes could not all be found, & several sacks were found late on in the voyage and were so rotten that they had to be thrown away - hence the extra call on the preserved potatoes.
On Jan 11th, when the weather was very bad, the port storeroom gave way while the ship was sailing, & one man was severely hurt in the face, & the whole of the stores contained in the storeroom were scattered far and wide about the deck. The storeroom was put up in a very flimsy style, & the Storekeeper had filled it with all kinds of stores - milk - sugar - flour - arrowroot - butter, raisins etc. and when I came on the scene the ship was rolling heavily, & the stores flying about in all directions, & the Storekeeper looking as helpless as a child - so, as the Captain could not leave the deck, I took charge, and told the storekeeper what must be done, and, with the assistance of the Immigrants, I had the main hatch opened, & most of the stores out of the storerooms put below. I was much afraid for the other storeroom, & had it supported until the pressure- from within was removed. -On going below on this occasion I discovered that the medical comforts had been broached - wine brandy stout etc. - as part of these were found poached in the storeroom, & the Storekeeper could give no account of them, the Captain ordered then all to be brought up stairs, with the exception of the stout, & placed under lock and key. With regard to the stout, it seemed to have been extensively broached in the hold - possibly by the sailors - but the casks were not found all together, but mixed up with cargo & other stores, all over the main hold. I accompanied one of the officers below, and suggested that all that could be found should be put far back, & the luggage piled in front, & this was done.
The single women's compartment was not at all (to my mind) well lighted or ventilated. It would have been much better had there been a ventilator on each side; and it would have saved me much trouble & annoyance if there had been an entrance from the poop to that compartment. This could scarcely have been managed, however, on this ship, as it would have further interfered with light and ventilation. I had punkahs put up in the hot weather to help to keep the single women cool.
Several of the tanks of water were brackish, & on complaints being made to me, I had others opened, & the issue from these tanks stopped. The condenser did not produce more than about 200 gallons of water (on an average) during the 14 hours it was kept working. Whether the fault was one to the Engineer or to the engine I cannot say; but the Captain & I tested it & we found that if it kept on working for 12 hours as it did when we tested it, there should be about 245 gallons of water distilled.
There was a large quantity of biscuit on board, but the Immigrants would not touch it, & would not take the trouble to come for it. This, I consider, is due to their having sufficient soft bread without it. I may here record my sorrow that so much waste should go on among the Immigrants. I notice that they would always draw the full amount of provisions, although they had plenty left from last issue, & I have been furious many a time to see the amount of good wholesome food they have thrown overboard. - whole tins of preserved meat - beef - pork - bread, oatmeal pudding etc. etc.
The forms, or benches, were, as usual, badly made, and were broken up in the first bad weather.
I now come to the cleaning department. The water cans leaked badly, having bruised badly in the bad weather - the solder put on board to mend them was almost useless, & appeared to be little more than common lead. The small pump for getting water out of the tanks was found to be practically useless, & the large force pump had to be used, & this, not having sufficient length of hose, had to be taken below, & leaked badly. The deck at the after end was frequently sopping wet - this would be avoided if a fixed pump were placed somewhere on deck & a sufficient length of good hose attached.
The cleaning implements were not at all to my mind. The combined brushes & squeegees were miserable substitutes for what was wanted. The India rubber is so thin that it breaks off the first time it is used. One good squeegee would last as long as 20 of these. The brush at the back, I find comes off directly. The brooms were not of good quality and not sufficient in number. I could have done with three times the number. A larger number of scrubbing brushes should be supplied, for, although I always forbid wetting the 'tween decks when they are dry, it may frequently happens that they are unavoidably wet from other causes that a good scrub does good. The hoby stones were very bad in quality, being almost as soft as dry mortar, & wearing away fast. I have always recommended proper sandstone for this purpose. It cleans the deck better & lasts longer. I attribute a great deal of the sickness on board to the fact of the force pump leaking below & also the leaking of the head lights keeping the 'tween decks & beds damp.
The conduct of the Emigrants generally has not been amiss, although I have had trouble with some of those, & I think the sailors worked a great deal of mischief among them. It is a pity they cannot be provided with some employment, for I find that unless they have something to do they always get into mischief. The Captain had only sufficient tobacco on board for the sailors - this tended greatly to produce dissatisfaction among the Emigrants, for the sailors could make them do whatever they liked if they would only give them tobacco. I would strongly recommend that tobacco be carried at a fixed price for the Emigrants.
The single woman's matron was, to my mind, anything but a suitable person to take charge of so many single women, so I had some difficulty in keeping order. My notes under this head will be found in my diary.
I have always had Divine worship on Sundays, but, there being a mixture of religions and denominations I had great difficulty in carrying out this object, & was frequently annoyed (purposely) during prayers. Many Roman Catholics would not touch meat on Fridays, & were constantly coming to me for potatoes or other things. When many Roman Catholics are carried the Surgeon should have special instructions about them.
There was no fit place for school, & the children had to be put under the after hatchway, &, when weather permitted, on deck. I should strongly recommend that in the case of a ship where the Captain has never before had charge of Emigrants the surgeon should have a qualified assistant or clerk to help him to maintain regularity & order among the Emigrants.
I am sorry I cannot make a happier report, but hope the Commissioners will see that I have done my duty as well as could with fairness have been expected under the circumstances. I have the honour to be your obedient servant
Wm W Dunkerly