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Diary of John Augustus Milbourne Marsh (1819-1891) 1840

John Augustus Milbourne Marsh 1819-1891

1840 Ship diary on Mary Ann from Plymouth to Sydney


Monday 18thMay 1840

I embarked this afternoon at 4 o’clock on board the ship, Mary Anne for Sydney. I left shore (Plymouth) accompanied by Mr Daniel O’Sullivan my companion to be during the voyage, he is as his name testifies, an Irishman from Mill Cove, Berchaven, Cork, he is to  share the Poop Cabin with me. I hope we may agree, there is too I think, every probability of our doing so; appearances are against him certainly being a very awkward looking Irishman, he stands about 5ft 10 inches having incipient whiskers, wears a jacket, and with his collars turned down, thus making a disagreeable expose of his by no means ala Byron throat: he is about 18 years old: so much for Dan O’Sullivan.

At 5 o’clock we sat down to dinner: we are eight in number i.e. the Captain, Bolton, a very gentlemany man about 40:- The first Mate, one whose fortunes no doubt have gone hard with him: he is a man about 60, and whose grammatical errors are to numerous to mention. The second Mate, is the antipodes of the first, a gentlemany fellow indeed, about 22, one of the handsomest men I ever saw; he tells me he had been shipwrecked three times, the last time, about a month ago, he was the only one saved; his name is Mann. The Surgeon (Mr Ernest Elliot) or rather the “Doctor” as he is termed on Board, is a very (and to me particularly) civil person about 38. He, however, poor fellow, fancies he does everything in the most gentlemany manner possible, whereas his manners and his person are vulgar in the extreme. His father keeps the Hotel at Devonport.

The only cabin passenger besides O’Sullivan and myself, are a Clergyman and his wife by the name of Thompson, he is sent out by the Church Missionary Society: he a very tolerable person, not so his wife alas! She is a Dane by birth and mutters or rather murders the Kings English to a vile extent. I flatter myself before I embarked that as there was one Lady on board, we might contrive to pass the time somewhat more agreeably than had there not been any, but I think now we could readily dispense with all the Ladies in the Universe, if they were not different from her in every respect, more particularly that of germandizing.

In the Evening, after tea, all the Emigrants 250 in number were summoned when Mr Thompson read prayers and gave them a short lecture, which had some effect as many of them were crying. They are to have prayers every evening.

About 9 o’clock I went to  my (not  downy) bed, where I found O’Sullivan already ensconced, but labouring under the dreadful effects of sea sickness: thank heavens my berth is above, not underneath his!


Tuesday 19th May 1840

I did not get up to breakfast: the dreadful feeling that I am about to be sick seized upon me, and my conjectures were right: for in a few minutes I was following O’Sullivans plan, or as they here term it “shooting the cat.” I was glad to remain in bed the whole day.

The Latitude we are in is 49°.44” North and the longitude 5°.13” West having seen (from the time we weighed anchor up to 12 o’clock today) 58 miles. A very fine day.


Wednesday 20th May 1840

I am happy to say I have very nearly recovered from my sea sickness, I got up to Breakfast (1/2 past 8) and am almost naturalized as it were to the pitching and rolling of the vessel. O’Sullivan is still in his berth and suffering every moment. I made a tolerable dinner / 3 o’clock / which is a proof of my convalescence. Today is a most beautiful day, in fact we have been most fortunate in the weather every day fine. Our Latitude is 47°. 47” North, Longitude 7°.59” West having run (from 12 at noon yesterday to 12 today) 160 miles.


Thursday 21st.May 1840

I am nearly myself again, still however rather melancholy, the idea of having left my relations and friends, perhaps forever, rushes upon my mind and makes me feel wretched in the extreme. Where is the enjoyment in this World, to be torn from every tie, from precepity, to go God know whither. Another beautiful day. Our Latitude 45°.45” North.. Longitude 10°.26” West, having run 157 Miles.


Friday 22nd May 1840

Another beautiful day. The ship rolling from side to side owing to a very heavy swell. We have now nearly passed the famous “Bay of Biscay.” Our Latitude being 44° 23” North and the Longitude 12° 10” West having run 111 miles. Saw a Brig today homeward bound, she was however about 12 miles off. Today the poor Emigrants bid farewell to fresh meat during the voyage. Poor animals to see their terrible mess that is called food, and likewise the crowded manner they are stowed below! It does not however, much matter after all, for of all the low lived and blaguardly set I ever saw, this beats them all, nearly the whole cargo is Irish, which of course is (in their case) synonymous with dirt. There are only about 20 English but they are respectable.


Saturday 23rd May 1840

Another beautiful day. The ship still rolling from side to side, in a most hateful way. We have now passed the Bay of Biscay. Saw numbers of porpoises, speared several but they managed to disentangle themselves from the harpoon.

Latitude 42° 29” North

Longitude 12° 19” West

And the distance we have run is 125 miles.


Sunday 24th May 1840

Fortune still favors us with a continuance of fine weather, today is a beautiful day. At 10 o’clock all the Emigrants were called on Deck, (the Roman Catholics however, went below) when Mr Thompson read Prayers and also preached: the text was “Be Ye Doer as well as Hearers of the Word.” It as a very impressive sight, and I think every one present felt it so. Unfortunately 2/3 of the Emigrants are Roman Catholic, to my astonishment I found out O’Sullivan is one. There is a famous wind just springing. Latitude 40° 5” North, Longitude 14° 50” West, and we have run 160 miles.


Monday 25th May 1840

Another lovely day the temperature quite tropical. The ship again rolling about in a hateful way owing to the swell: we are however going at the rate of 8 knots an hour which is some consolation. Saw several Nautilus floating about, they are I hear the forerunners of fine weather.

Latitude 37° 16” North

Longitude 16° 35” West

And we have run 188 miles the best day’s sail so far.


Tuesday 26th May 1840

If possible a more beautiful day than yesterday. Not so much wind today, hardly going 2 knots an hour. I was much annoyed this evening in looking over my trunk, to find that Silver (the Outfitter) had not sent me any Night Shirts, although his Bill will show he has been paid for them. The drawers he made for me are likewise another imposition being so long and large that it is impossible to wear them: and the Candle which in his account he charges as wax are merely composition tallow.

Latitude 35° 17” North, Longitude 17° 37” West. The distance run is 129 miles.


Wednesday 27th May 1840

Rather hazy this morning, turned out however, a very fine day, but rather warm. Almost a calm today. In the evening the Emigrants had a dance on the quarter deck, one of them playing the fiddle in a way peculiar to himself, they made much of him however, as he is the only musical genius on board.

Latitude 34° 9” North

Longitude 17° 57” West

We have only run 70 miles, the worst days sail yet.


Thursday 28th May 1840

Another beautiful day. We saw Madeira in the distance at 12 o’clock at noon. We were only 70 miles west of it.

Latitude 32° 51” North, Longitude 18° 28” West, and we have run 82 miles. The Thermometer stood at 70° today and there was hardly any wind.


Friday 29th May 1840

Another beautiful day. The heat rather oppressive, obliged to put on summer clothing. The Thermometer at 75°.

Saw numbers of flying fish. Fight between two of the Emigrants, the one having accused the other, and with just cause, of theft: he is to be put on bread and water today.

A curious looking bird lodged on the main yard, O’Sullivan wished to have it shot but the Captain said no; making as the excuse the change of his firing into the ropes, he however did not wish the bird destroyed.

Latitude 31° 22” North

Longitude 19° 3 West

The distance run 94 miles.


Saturday 30th May 1840

A very hazy morning, and I hear from the middle watch a little rain fell about 4 o’clock a.m. The Thermometer at 75. Latitude 29° 29” North Longitude 20° 14” West and we have run 126 miles. Another fight between two of the Emigrants.

The waves put on tonight a very ominous appearance like fire: some account for it by the friction of the Vessel passing quickly over the sea: others again believe it arises from putrifications: and others that it is occasioned by a sort of half vegetable, half animal substance called Molusca. Saw a Brig today 4 miles ahead, she is bearing westward so we should overtake her.


Sunday 31st May 1840

Another hazy morning, the sun “peeping” occasionally through the clouds. At 10 o’clock we had service at which many of the Roman Catholics were. Mr Thompson also preached, the text was from the 1st Acts, X and XI Verses 18th. Jist of the sermon was relative to the ascension. We have now passed the Canaries. Latitude 27° 13” North, Longitude 21° 21” West. And we have run 149 miles. The Thermometer at 70°.


Monday 1st June 1840

A very fine day. Saw a Swedish Brig before breakfast about a mile East of us. Saw a few flying fish today. The Captain imagines we have got into the Trade Winds. Great confusion on board today, all the Emigrants boxes being brought up form the hold to give them the opportunity of getting clean “Paraphernalia” as Armstrong would say: once a month this nuisance is take place. Latitude 25° 4” North, Longitude 22° 23” West, and the distance run is 141 miles. The Thermometer at 70. °


Tuesday 2nd June 1840

A fine day. We are now in the Trade Winds. Latitude 23° 2” North, Longitude 23° 33” West. The distance run, 137 miles. Thermometer still remains at 70°. The water tonight put on a far more luminous and beautiful appearance than I have yet seen it, at the head of the vessel it is on perfect blaze. Finished Gray Mass----ing.


Wednesday 3rd June 1840

A very beautiful day. A fine breeze just sprung up and we are going at the rate of 8 knots an hour. There is a vessel about XV miles ahead of us, the Captain thinks it is the Kelso bound to Sydney, which sailed some days before us, from Plymouth.

Today we had roast pork for dinner, I mention the circumstance, as neither O’Sullivan nor myself partook of it, having been informed beforehand by two Emigrant girls that the pig had died a natural death, or rather that it was killed in its dying moments: we hinted our misgivings to the “Doctor”, who said that there was certainly something the matter with the said  animal, but nothing that shall make it unfit for food, he called the disorder the “Staggers” similar, he said, to “Apoplexy” in men. What an idea, that of eating and apoplectic pig!!

Latitude 25° 57” North, Longitude 24° 33” West. The distance run 137 miles.


Thursday 4th June 1840

Another very fine day. The Thermometer in the sun at 85°.

Latitude 19° 19” North

Longitude 25° 19” West

And the distance run 107 miles.

Reading the whole day, the memoirs of Lieutenant John Slipp (Shipp?) of the 87th Regiment.

A great deal of wrangling on board today, owing to one of the Emigrants having stolen water. Several of our ducks got overboard.


Friday 5th June 1840

Another fine day. Thermometer at 71°. Latitude 17° 28” North. Longitude 25° 57” West and the distance run 117 miles.

We are now very near, about 40 miles, from St Antonio, one of the Cape Verd Islands: no doubt we shall see it this afternoon.

Numbers of the female Emigrants taken ill this evening with fainting fits.

Several of us, viz. the Captain Mr Thompson, the Surgeon, the 1st Mate and myself had our hair cut by one of the Emigrants, (who says he has lately taken to the trade) he has hardly left any hair on our heads, so that we look the queerest set ever lived: just like prisoners.


Saturday 6th June 1840

Another fine day. We did not see St. Antonio yesterday, as we expected, it being rather hazy in the distance.

Latitude 14° 56” North

Longitude 25° 36 West and we have run 154 miles. The Thermometer at 76°. Flying fish in abundance today.

We have now most beautiful moonlight nights; you certainly see the moon to a great advantage at sea, appearing much more bright and lucid than on shore, and the stars likewise put on a much more beautiful appearance.


Sunday 7th June 1840

Another fine day, and a very capital wind just springing up.

At 10 o’clock we had service, and also a sermon, the text was from XIV St John XV and XVI verses; it was a particularly bad one, and not at all adapted to the minds of the Emigrants: Mr Thompson’s apparent aim being to account for the derivative of the word “Whitsunday.”

Latitude 12° 27” North

Longitude 24° 32” West and we have run 163 miles which is rather a good day’s sail. The Thermometer at 78°. The Emigrants had a glass of wine each, served out to the: they are to have a glass of lime juice alternately each day.

A flying fish was caught today, its length from head to tail was 6 inches, and each wing was nearly 5 inches, it has a peculiarly large eye. I hear it is a very fine flavoured fish. A very heavy dew fell this evening.


Monday 8th June 1840

Another beautiful day, but excessively warm, the Thermometer being at 85°.

Latitude 10° 8” North

Longitude 23° 39” West.

And the distance we have run 149 miles.

There is a shark “following our lea.” They are trying to catch him. A ship in sight homeward bound.



Transcribed from record on the flyleaf of the book "The Genesis of Queensland" by Henry Stuart Russell. By J.Milbourne Marsh Esq to whom the copy of the book was autographed.




"Bengalla Races 1842"




What memories of the past arise, on the mention of the name! Nearly half a century ago, and yet the scene itself, and the very actors in that scene, pass as vividly before one's eyes as an event of yesterday.


Though many races were named in the Programme of the day, one in particular was looked forward to with more than ordinary interest - that of the "Race for Gentlemen Riders." The distance to be run 3 mile heats, and the weight to be carried not less than 11 stone. The Course was laid out on Captain Scott's Estate "Bengalla." Friends and neighbours from all parts had been invited - the Scotts of Glendon, Ogilvies of Merton, the Bells, Bettingtons, Blaxlands, McDougalls, Glennies etc.


For this particular race there must have been at least a dozen riders - Mr West, the village  Doctor mounted on his horse "Melancholy," Frank Allmann (The Police Magistrate of Muswell Brook) on "Flambeau," Bundock on "Planet," Ogilvie on "Pickle," Cox on "Silver Tail," Stuart Russell on "Hair Trigger," and myself on "Peter." Being only a lightweight at the time, I had to carry two double-shot belts around my waist, so as to qualify for entrance. This was trying in the extreme, and even now as I write, fancy makes me think I feel the self-same pressure on the back that I then felt! I was comparatively a New Chum, but having some experience of riding in England, was a tolerable horseman (though not known to be so). It was not surprising therefore that, after we were all well started in the race, I should find Frank Allmann (the P M) coming alongside of me, as near as he could, and in a low voice saying to me that I had not a "Ghost of chance" and might as well play with the others and let him take the lead and win. I did not see the force of his argument, for I was sure of the endurance and pluck of my stead, who though nominally a stock horse, was a very well bred scion of old "Sattelite."


I therefore kept him well in hand, never touching him with whip or spur, the whole time, and not until within a few hundred yards of the winning post did I let him go at his full speed, passing all the rest of the field with ease, and winning the first heat to the surprise of all.


In the second heat I was still more ahead at the finish, and had the gratification of winning, par excellence, the Race of the Day! So confident was I of victory, that I actually carried my whip in my mouth, as I neared the goal, and was cheered by the spectators with whom my horse was favourite.


How many of this present generation may say, I ask, that they have ridden a race of three-mile heats with a double-shop belt around the waist?




26th December 1887 J.M.M.


This book was given to Keith Dowling Esq., by Grace and Helen Milbourne Marsh in the 1930's J.M.M.'s  Grandaughters, Sydney.


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