Friday, October 23, 2015

Extracts from Elizabeth Saunder's letters home in 1887

Elizabeth Saunders sailed on SS " Liguria" from England 18 August 1887 to Melbourne 30 September 1887.

Extracts from Elizabeth Saunder’s letters to family

(Copied in the month of February in the year 1890 by Alice Saunders) 

Elizabeth sailed on SS “Liguria” from England 18 August 1887 to Melbourne 30 September 1887.

……I parted with my sisters on board the "Liguria" on the 18th of August 1887. We were anchored in the river until next day at 9am, the anchors were raised, and we started for Plymouth.  The sea was rather rough through the Channel which made me feel queer all day, I retired to rest about 9pm, all well. 20th we arrived in Plymouth Sound at 9.30am, the waters since the early morning have been very smooth…….

……which has some fine buildings I can see in the distance, it being a fine morning many are going ashore.  Small boats are coming through the bay with things to sell to the passengers, some with deck chairs and tin ware, others with fruit and cakes.  This continued until the evening when the bell rang for all to leave the ship and we again went on our way in calm waters…..

21st August Sunday morning fine and bright up on deck, many are reading as all is calm.  The sailors go to Muster, then the Church service at 11am, after which we went to dinner.  I am not feeling at all well and was not able from this to note down anymore until we had passed through the Bay of Biscay. The Bay was not rough as you will remember I told you, but the boat rocked very much…..

Wednesday 24th August we are now in the Mediterranean Sea going 13 knots an hour. A very smooth sea, all is lovely up on deck and the waters are a deep blue.  Last night we passed the rocks of Gibraltar, today we see the mountains along the coast of Spain, we see the snow on the mountains and I am told it is their summer.   I am up on the deck again in the evening as I feel much better. We are on the wide ocean, a clear night but rather cold.  We have dancing and singing on deck and retire to rest, all well….. 

Thursday 25th August I don’t feel so well, being rocked all night in the cradle of the deep.  One of the stewards took me on deck to move, I have a burnt face on one side only.  It marked so even I look so queer, I feel worse than I look for the sun is getting so very hot in the middle of the day now.  I was taken down and remember no more until……

Saturday morning 27th August when we cast anchor at Naples. Here we took on fresh coals.  Naples is a very pretty place.  The sun was so bright and warm as ever, many went on shore again here, and the Italians came with small boats as soon as we had anchored at 9am. The women had such things to sell as men’s vests and socks and children’s clothing.  The men had baskets and fancy things.  One of the passengers bought Miss Spence and me a basket.  Nell and Kitty will know Miss Spence the young Scotch girl in my cabin, her and I are great chums. The men brought more fruit on board than I can name just now. They was on the ship the whole day and many things that people bought were stolen back again, they will cheat you if you don’t look out and even if you do their money is not like ours.  Well we left Naples at 8pm after a tiring day for the sun was warm and port closed.  We had no air below as they had been coaling all day and the coals were dusty, it being so stifling below we stayed on deck and got almost as black as Niggers.  Soon after the anchor was raised they began to wash the deck we then went down to our cabins for the night.

Sunday 28th August a calm sea and the sun very warm I am always late up on deck we have just come up in time for Church 11am and an old gentleman from the second class is now round our deck with tracts and loves to hold a service on deck sometimes in the week and they sing Sandy’s hymns which you all know. I enjoy, but I am sorry to say a great many of the passengers are against this and the sailors some of them also, so when he begins to preach and sing they begin something just the reverse, but he don’t mind, he bears it well.  Sunday seems the longest day on board as one cannot do anything and the men like us get tired of so much rest and when one cannot do needle work, or go far, mind you the day seems long, the sea air seems strong, for me I sleep day and night. Miss Spence had not been sick once, so dear Nell and Kit, don’t think that as I have been, you both might be well all the way. Don’t let that keep you in old England as I want to see you remember.  It’s lovely on board ship when one is well and the sea calm and of such deep blue I never saw such waters before, so my second Sunday as passed on the sunny ocean.

Monday 29th August another warm day I go up on deck but to sit about some are reading, some knitting, some sewing and others card playing. I when I feel inclined work a little at my cushion cover but I am at present very slow with it. The sea is calm, we see a lot of porpoise or other-wise sea hog as some call them.  There is a great rush on deck to see them, we have not yet seen another vessel.  I did not note down any more until we reached Suez, and then going through the Red Sea, the heat of that and the gale we had in the Indian Ocean.  I lost the date so gave it up altogether, but dear Father and Mother I have a little memory still so can tell you many things, even yet that I saw and things that were done on the “Liguria”. 

We reached Suez on Saturday then we were in the land of Egypt, a sandy desert.  Nothing but sand and the scorching sun, not a bat or a blade of grass anywhere to be seen. As we entered Suez we saw a few buildings which looked built of stone but they was built I was told of sand.  They looked very clean, there was several Egyptians by the water side. They were dressed in long blue smocks like our butchers were at home only much longer and loose.  Most of them had nothing more on, some of the better class had white smocks, nothing on their feet at all.  We took cargo in there so we had them to work on their boat by the ship, they are very ugly and live on rice and dry cakes which they soak in cold water. They all squat round the one bowl or at least as many as can, and pick up their food with their fingers. They seem very pleased to get a bit of waste bread from the ship. We passed a number of ships going through the canal. There is only one ship allowed to be moving at the same time as the Canal is narrow.  We waited whilst some passed us, others whilst we passed them, some of them were men of war, nearly all foreign ships. We were stopped several times with mud.  I was on deck every day as of course there was no rocking or rolling as it is called. Now and again we would pass a nice clean building and see an Arab or two then.  We would see a number of them on the desert with their camels loading them with sand. They have a strap over the camel’s back and a basket on either side which they fill with sand then the camel rises up and they go on their way, but the camel is very careful not to be over loaded. It will shake off all it can, it may well be called the burning plain of Egypt, the sun is scorching hot and not a breath of air anywhere. The boat goes too slow for any breeze at all. As we near port we pass what is called Hell’s Gate. They give it that name as it’s a dangerous spot.  

One of our boats went out and the mail was brought on board, next came the Red Sea.  Oh the intense heat I shall never forget, I cannot tell you what it is like, one is just as hot if they don’t move, you are the whole time wet through night and day. All on board had what is called prickly heat which is not at all nice but much better for all than one death was caused by the heat and several sick. Many of the passengers were on deck night and day and we had a lovely moon all the way until now. The poor boy that died was 11 years of age, the only child ill in the morning and died about 10 the same night and was buried in the Red Sea at 2am long before anyone was about.

Tuesday the 13th of September we had entered the Indian Ocean and we had a heavy swell on all day, the sailors were busy all day as there was a gale expected before the morning of Thursday.  We retired to our cabins on Wednesday night but not to sleep. The boat rocked from side to side, nothing was still, many things were broken, every one sick, men, women and children, some too sick to scream, others doing so, this lasted until Friday morning. Still we had a heavy swell after this all through the Indian Ocean which caused a few of us to be sick every day, but not many. Poor me was one of the number. Hear we run three hundred and seventy knots in 24 hours. The wind being in our favour the fastest run the Liguria has done for 4 years.  We coaled again at Yashea but the coal was not good from there and we still had a heavy swell so that several days we went but two hundred and eleven knot and two hundred and twenty. 

We did not sight land for twenty days after we left the small island, they were all blacks.  One stowed himself away and as soon as the anchor was raised he came up on the deck but he came up too soon.  We were not out of the bay, they blew three times for goodbye but they kept on blowing till a boat came for him.  The Captain had him on the bridge and was begging of him to take him, he expected to be punished for what he had done, he should have kept down below for an hour or two.  Well the weather began to get colder.  I saw many a grand sunset like one never seen on land but I never saw the rise once, and so the day passed the passengers amusing themselves with needlework and reading and card playing, the first class passengers played tennis and cricket.  We had several concerts and dancing almost every night.  I did not join in that, I had enough rocking and rolling.  Some days the sea was quite calm and the sun shining warm and sparkling on the deep blue waters then all of a sudden would come a squall which caused us to hasten below.  They was soon over but left us with wet decks for a time.  I well remember one day we had a heavy swell causing the waters to wash over the deck and sliding the passenger’s deck chairs to the side of the ship, rocking the passengers out of some of them on the wet deck causing loud laughter, this we did not at all fear as we mussed to it. Many of us used to be down in our cabins from two till about four in the afternoon I always well about 3pm. This day all of a sudden she shipped a sea down the ventilators drenching those that was in the cabin near them almost washing them out of their beds, sick or not. Sick Miss Spence and I never got out of bed so quickly, before our cabin was one of the dry ones, so we had a good laugh at those that were running about wet through with their wet bedding. One of the Stewards had not slept for four nights with a poisoned hand. The doctors had just given him a sleeping draught, the poor fellow could not move a finger on that hand, he poisoned it with a pin when cleaning one of the cabins. He thought he would lose his hand as we had not a very good doctor for such cases as that.  Well I am running from what I was telling you, the Steward soon took up the water and the ventilators was turned and all was again quiet, but the rolling of the vessel and now and again a spray over the deck from the port side.  I saw small steamers in the Indian Ocean and one sailing ship, a small one, all the ships was a long distance off and one morning I was sitting on deck the sun shining warm on the calm waters when there was a shout from some a whale was to be seen on the port side not a great way off, it was playing in the air like a fountain glittering in the sun. As we came nearer to it we could see the fin on its back, some said to be about 60 feet long. Some viewed it through telescopes, the sharks too we saw I cannot tell you half I saw and what was done on board the Liguria in the 6 weeks. And one day we was very much startled the first time they had the fire station, we thought the ship was on fire when the fire bell rang but it was only practise. This they do about three time each voyage, they pump the water and lower the life boats just as quick as if there was a fire on board. This was the only time I had any fear at all at 2.25pm.

On September 24th we first saw the land of Australia and Cape Leeuwin. It is like rocks dimly seen in the far distance on the port side at 3pm. The sun is warm today, the ship rolling a little and the race began. It was on the after deck, the boats men had continued to put a pail of soot, a pail of flour and a pail of water which each had to go under. They knew nothing of this and the last time around, the sailors up above upset it on them, first the soot then flour then water. This caused great laughter to the lookers on, but not to the poor fellows for they had dressed for the race the same as on land, and this dirty paste for each, it was all over them from head to foot. One of the runners had his nose broken, there was a lot of races and after the tug of war a good tea was given to all the passengers as it’s a usual thing to have a good tea party before they arrive at Port Adelaide, and we expected to be there in three days.  I went down early as the evening was bitterly cold, we could not keep warm even down in the cabin at night. The next day was Sunday, a bright morning and the water of the deep quite calm, nothing to be seen but the Liguria passengers was talking together of this being there last Sunday on sea.  I could have enjoyed another week or two on board for I have the last week felt well.  I had more than 4 weeks sickness like several more and we had just got the better of it. An old woman and a girl of 11 years was in the hospital most of the voyage with sea sickness. When the child came out she looked nothing but bones, well I am again wandering, to return to Sunday, there was a Service the same as on other Sundays. A child died about 2pm, it was 4 months old, at 7pm the burial service was read and the baby boy slowly lowered into the deep.

Monday 26th September a fine morning but a cold breeze from the star board side all through the day. A concert was to be held in the first class saloon. This was the first concert I had been to, it was a very good one, they was dressed up like niggers they had a piano and banjo. They sang songs and asked each other questions and danced step dances.  One was dressed as a female, it was very laughable.  Kept up until 10pm, we then went on deck, the moon was shining bright, the air very cold. I walked round the deck several times then went to bed looking forward for a letter from Harry by the post in the morning.

Tuesday 27th September, a fine morning, we are now nearing Adelaide.  Miss Spence had been on deck but I late as usual, had to hurry to get on deck to the Purser’s Office in time to post my letter to you.  I had a letter from Harry as the post came on board as soon as we had anchored at 9.30am.  It told me he had left Melbourne and was in Tasmania and gave me full directions what to do and how to get there and Harry said someone would meet me at Melbourne.  I felt rather dull at the thought of a stranger meeting me after such a long voyage but I will tell you about the stranger bye and bye.  There was several passengers for Adelaide and a great many went on shore. We was hear all day, they had lots of bags of mail and cargo to unload, some of the passengers came on board quite merry as they had tasted the Australian wines or something.  Three missed the steam tug and came to the ship in small rowing boats.  We left Adelaide at 10pm, expecting to arrive in Melbourne on Friday.  The waters the last three days was as smooth as glass the sun nice and warm but the night rather cold. 

The passengers for Melbourne, as we neared Port Williamstown where we landed on Friday 30th September were busy in the early morning packing and dressing.  All was in high glee at the thought of being on shore once more and meeting their friends.  There was a lot of ships in the harbour. About 12 noon the anchor was lowered and they began to get the luggage up, all boxes was searched before landing on the platform as the special train was waiting by the side of the ship.  I could not get all my luggage together until the train had gone, so I had to get it to the station and wait there for an ordinary train, where I had to pay my fair to Melbourne, as I should not have done had I went by the special. The ride by train is about 12 miles to the city, we pass green fields where cows and goats are quietly grazing their afternoon meal. Nearer to Melbourne we see the grand race course in the distance of which we got a good view. At last I reach Spencer Street Station, Melbourne where I found a kind friend that has come to meet me.  I was told by Harry in the letter I had that morning on board to put a handkerchief on my right hand for her to know me which I did.  We was soon friends and looked after my luggage and then took a cab to Campbell Terrace,  Collingwood where I was made very welcome and felt quite at home all at once with Harry’s cousin.  The cabs here are very different to London, it’s such rough riding but the streets are nice wide streets and paved well, but to return to my new home I had a good tea after which we spent a pleasant evening with the piano and singing, then we had supper and I retired to rest thankful to have a nights rest without the rocking in the cradle of the deep.  I slept well but I gazed around me forgetting I had left the ship Liguria this was Saturday morning October 1st.  I took some breakfast and at 9.30am Miss Johns and a lady friend of hers, Miss Bernard, she had come 2 hours after me to stay a fortnight with Miss Johns.  Well these two and a Miss Stain and myself went to Mr.Staine’s warehouse, we had a good look round there and from there to the Custom House about my luggage.  I then sent a telegram to Harry in Tasmania to say I had arrived and all was well.  Mr Staines took the four of us to the aquarium where we saw all kinds of fish and many other things, too many to name here.  We went to the top of the tower and viewed Melbourne, a grand old city. Mr Staines calls it marvellous Melbourne. He left England about 20 years ago he was pleased to talk about England with me and asked did I think Melbourne was such a beautiful place, the exhibition and aquarium join each other.  They have the largest organ in the world in the exhibition, it is played by steam Mr Staines tells me all this news.  We walked home to tea and found at Mrs Johns a passenger from London by the Liguria. He had been a second officer on board ship, but this time came out for his health to Sydney.  I introduced him to Miss Johns and as the Liguria was not leaving Melbourne till Tuesday she asked him to come up and spend the evening. We had tea and Mr Ceavith took Miss John, Miss Bernard and I to the Temperance Hall.  We heard good singing, they acted some comical pieces, we had a pleasant evening but it was very wet.  

Sunday a very wet morning could go nowhere, after dinner we went by train to the Liguria. Visitors was allowed the time she was in harbour and Miss Bernard had never seen a ship before.  I felt when on her again I would not mind another voyage.  She is a fine ship.  I saw lots of old faces of the last 6 weeks, they were going to Sydney.  Well we lost the train home, we had to walk to North Williamstown, just in time to catch the last train from there as it was Sunday.  This made us later for Church where we intended going.  Going home it came on a thunderstorm but not like the one in London the last night I spent there.  Monday morning Miss Johns, Miss Bernard and I again went to the Customs Office about my luggage.  I had not got it all.  I saw it all sight and sent to Mrs Johns, or rather my Aunt as she will have me call her. We then went to the Station as we expected two friends from the Liguria to spend the day with us. It was raining all the morning so they did not come.  I went home by train and Mary and Miss Bernard went to the city. After lunch our friend came, it being a fine afternoon we went to the picture gallery.  They were very good but half like they are at Kensington London.  They have a very nice Library, very large but there sculptures are not so very good.  I saw better at Liverpool. We had a wet journey home but spent a very pleasant evening with singing and card playing also. Tuesday we three went to the Museum that is not like Kensington but very good.  Wednesday we went out the whole afternoon through several arcades and looking at all the shops.  Thursday we went to the Botanic Gardens and Fitzroy gardens. 

On Friday I started for the Queens Wharf, another sea voyage to Tasmania where I now am Lizzie Wells not Lizzie Saunders.  Well it was a bright fine morning, Miss Johns and her friend went with me to the steamer and saw me off. Now the smallpox was very bad in Tasmania, I could not come here before as the ships was not allowed to go either one way or the other, and Mrs Johns now my aunt said I should not come until I had seen a little of Melbourne.  Harry wrote to me there and said don’t be delayed by anyone. I was quite a sailor this time, I had a good passage but what a lot of money one can spend traveling about, my luggage in Melbourne cost me a pound without my second trip as I had to book again, that was 25 shillings.  I was not sick at all and when I arrived at the wharf in Launceston Tasmania I was on deck and saw Harry was there to meet me. It’s a short trip but sometimes a rough sea.  I started on Friday and arrived at Launceston on Saturday night. I had a good tea that was prepared for me at Harry’s lodgings and we went out for the evening. Well Harry was sent from Launceston for a week, I stayed there as I had a room where he had been lodging. This I paid 4shillings 6pence a week for board myself.  I could see the steamers all come in out of my room windows.  It was down in the valley and the bush all round look very pretty with the wood cottages dotted here and there.  Launceston is a very pretty place but I like Melbourne the best. The smallpox was still there at Launceston but not so bad as before.  I am not at Launceston now for when Harry came back they sent him away again to Formby where we now are, but we was married at Launceston before I came down here at St Johns Church Launceston by the Rev. E. Champion we was married by special licence as soon as Harry came back again. We came to Formby the same day, a ride by train 5 hours.  Harry had taken a nice little cottage with a nice view and close to the open sea.  I can stand at the door or window and see it come in when we have tea so you may guess we are close we are both at this time well and happy.  I have a colour in fact I am looking well I think after all the voyage did me good.  Formby is rather dull but everywhere so very pretty. Well I could write you a lot more but I will next time send you a long letter as I will try and tell you about this part of the country as well as I have about Melbourne.  I must tell you Collins Street Melbourne is a fine street with good large buildings and trees growing aside of the pavements and there are open sewers running asaide of the pavements and a small stream running steadily along its course but which looks very clear. The streets are all straight and some are remarkably wide and cross each other at right angles, they have a good service of tram cars which are worked on the steam cable system.  I can say that Melbourne is a fine place equal to what I expected to find it.

Well I will not stay to say more this time as I am getting tired, you will tell by my writing.  I am sending you a piece of my wedding cake and be sure and write back at once and let me know if you get it and this letter.  I will soon write again and my boy is going to write to you also.  I got your letter dear Mother and I was glad. Also Nell and Kit, be sure and write at once and Mother dear send this to the girls then they will write to me.  I want a line from Emma as well as the others, it can come at the same time.  I cannot send you a stamped envelope as I always did at home for the stamps would not do here.  They would be no good to you, now dear Mother and Father you need never worry about me as I have one of the best of husbands, there never was a better, not never will be.  He comes home to all his meals and we have our quiet Sunday together, I think we shall get on well in fact.  I trust so.  House rent is very dear a four roomed house is 10 shillings to 13 shillings a week they are all wood houses all on one floor, no stairs at all and the fires are on the hearth we burn all wood, but it is so plentiful we can do without buying at present if we cut our own that helps out with the rent, I have a camp oven to bake with. You hang it on like a pot and to brown your tarts or cakes you put hot embers on the lid when your food is cooked enough. In the large houses they are now getting the kitchen ranges but they are not like those at home.  Had I have taken a place out here I could have been taking a pound or 25 shillings a week with my board and had you known the same as a place at home, but the wages for girls out here go by the week. A house maid gets 17 and more a week sometimes, a girl could save money out here and they like English girls.  But should you or Nell come, don’t come until we have written again.  Harry say we can get you out here cheaper than I came if we see about it, but I don’t understand. He says best wait until we have heard from you to know if you really will come, dear sisters. If one comes out here they must be rough and ready to get on with either girls or men. The natives as we call them or those that are born out here are very rough, some of them oh, I could write you I don’t know how much, but I will write to you again for I begin to write bad now.  I have written this letter at Launceston you will see but its best I did not send it till I knew where we should settle down. Now dear Father and Mother I shall look for a letter from you about the middle of February as I can get one quite by then and perhaps before, but they have further to come now as they have two seas to cross, sometimes when I am alone I do feel I would like to see your dear faces, but I must be content for I have a happy home and in such a pretty place by the sea.  I do wish sometimes you could all come in and have tea with us, the weather is very warm but not like it will be.  Tasmania is not so hot as Victoria. Now dear Sisters, you also must write to me at the same time as I expect Mother’s letter won’t you.  We are going to have our photos taken soon so expect one.  Well its 14 weeks today Monday since I left Bletchley, does it seem so long at home with you. I have not been at home with you one Christmas day since I was 13 years old and before you get this, Christmas will be gone, I wonder if I shall get a card from England.  I have no one to send me one from anywhere else as I am a stranger in this part of the globe at present.  Harry and I went to a children’s anniversary yesterday Sunday. The Churches and Chapels here are the same as at home. We was married in the oldest Church in the island of Tasmania, the Sexton told us, but it looks more like a new Church than an old one. The old Clergy man was a nice old gentleman, he talked to us and told us to be sure and begin to attend God’s house together. He must have thought me young for he asked me if I was 21 and I am now 25 and Harry is 3 years older than me in a few months. We had a lovely day and a nice breakfast and then started to Formby were we arrived about 8pm. We was married at 12.15 noon and left Launceston Station at 3pm. Well now I must close this letter trusting you are all well as we are the same.  I shall look for my answer from this as the time I said you will get the cake about a week after this I think. With much love to you all, we remain ever and always your loving daughter and son I must say now must I not.  Lizzie and Harry Wells.

My brother might like to read it when he can understand it.  Tom may come some day, but never be a sailor Tom it’s a hard life for the poor fellow.

Note: Nell and Kit (Ellen and Kate) were Elizabeth’s sisters. Neither sister ever came to Australia. Elizabeth and Harry Wells never returned to England to visit their parents and siblings after arriving in Australia.

I suggest you take a look at Macdougall Family Archives and Wells Family Archives.
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