Diary of William Young

from The Advocate, Tasmania 1931
by H. Stuart Dove

Almost 90 years ago, in July, 1842, there shipped aboard the Thomas Sparks sailing vessel numerous emigrants bound for New Zealand. Among them were William Young, of Kelvin Dock, near Glasgow, his wife, Margaret Hughes, of Denbigh Co. Wales, with a family of a son John, and two daughters, Agnes and Margaret. They joined the vessel at Deptford, and were towed down the Thames by a tug.

The Thames

Agnes early distinguished herself by falling down the cabin steps, and next day tumbled down the ladder to the main deck. A similar accident happened to her brother the same day, but both got off lightly. A scotsman whose child had become very ill was so upset that he dropped a bucket into the sea, and then leapt in after it, but was rescued without ill effect.

On July 31 the ship lay at anchor off Porsmouth, and shipped livestock for the voyage-cow and calf, sheep, pigs and poultry. Then they sailed down the channel, and after several days spoke a vessel from the Black Sea bound for France, by which they sent home several letters. On August 9 a school was begun for the children on board. Divine service was held at 11 a.m on Sundays. Mr Young notes that their rice and preserved beef for dinner was spoiled by the cook's carelessness, but the superintendent would not take any notice. A few days afterwards they ran short of water through the gross neglect of the third mate, and this water trouble became serious. It got low in the tanks and became offensive, but although William Young applied more than once to the captain, on behalf of the passengers, for an allowance of spirit to counteract the badness of the water, he was refused. They sailed down the Atlantic, sighted the Cape de Verde Islands, had gales and calms like other vessels. One morning a little variety was caused by a fight between a Norfolk and Lancashire man, but it is not stated which county came out on top.

Quarrels and Gales

There is a pathetic little entry in Wm. Young's dairy under September 4: "Fox's child died" and next day at 6 a.m: "Very large porpoise caught" and at 11 a.m: "Fox's child was consigned to the deep." Three days afterwards they spoke a vessel bound for Liverpool, and sent 50 letters by her. On September 19 there was a serious quarrel between the captain and a Mr. Anthony, which ended by the former ordering the crew to lash Mr. Anthony to the rigging, at the same time swearing that he would ram a handspike down his victim's throat!

In Lat. 34 S. a hurricane set in at 9 p.m. which lasted all night, carried away many of the sails, and caused a panic among the passengers.

They were off the Cape of Good Hope on October3, and the captain determained to try for Table Bay, although the wind was contrary. This resulted in disaster, as they struck Whale Rock at the entrance, and when got off the ship was making water at the rate of one inch per minute, to the great alarm of those on board.


Table Bay, Cape Town
showing Whale Rock just below Robben Island which was struck by the "Thomas Sparks"


Twelve of the emigrants were working at the pumps, and William Young took his turn from noon till 2 o'clock. The passengers were at length enabled to get ashore on October 7, 1842, and the ship had to stay two months at the Cape for repairs. The emigrants taken to a depot in Capetown and found in everything. The crew evidently went "on a bender" when they got ashore, for the last entry for this part of the voyage is: " The crew all in the chockie for some days, but afterwards liberated."


From the Cape to New Zealand

"Set sail in the Thomas Sparks from Table Bay, after being detained 64 days for repairs, on December 8, 1842. Beat out of the bay against a head wind, and were in sight of Table Mountain for several days. Mountainous sea running. On 18th one of the horses which had been shipped at the Cape died, and was committed to the deep, and a sheep shared the same fate. On 20th there was a row between two of the officers, both of whom Captain Sharp ordered below until we reached New Zealand."

Just before Christmas an interesting event happened- a daughter was born to Mrs. Reddley. That part of the Southern Ocean must be favorable to increase of population, for two days afterwards (on Chistmas Eve) a similar event occurred to Mrs. Fearon, wife of a captain who was taking passage. On Sunday, which was Christmas Day, two sheep were sacrificed, each emigrant being supplied with 1 lb. mutton, 1/2 lb. flour, 1 oz. raisins, same of suet. One glass of Arrack was served to each adult at 11 a.m. The day was very fine; daylight lasted until 8 at night."

A perfect gale was blowing on 29th and 30th December, with a high sea running, the vessel being near St. Paul's Island, in the Southern Ocean, with many albatross flying round. On the last day of the Old Year they were 162 days out from London, including the long stay at the Cape. New Year's Day, 1843, was ushered in by more strong winds and high seas, the ship rolling heavily, and some of the smaller sails were carried away. On the 3rd one of the boys had the unpleasant experience of being flogged by the captain for some misdemeanor.


On January 6 a fine and steady breeze set in. Numbers of whales were in sight. The chief officer was in disgrace a few days afterwards, having been found asleep while on duty, and was sent down for 24 hours, after which he resumed work. There was some excitement on the 16th because the men of the starboard watch to come on deck, alleging that they had not had time to eat their breakfast. The captain accordingly withdrew their provisions, but two days later he called them aft and told them that if they would turn-to they should have their provisions, which they did. Starved into submission!

The Sunday following a mountainous sea was running, and a stunsail-boom was carried away, but prayers were held as usual. A welcome sight was land at 6 o'clock on the morning of 27th, when the South Island of New Zealand came into view. The winds were adverse, and in tacking about to try to enter Wellington Harbor the ship had a narrow escape from running upon Deverall Island at 2 o'clock in the morning and becoming a total wreck. The day following the brig Margaret hove down upon them, and the captain came aboard. On the last day of the month (January) they made a final effort to beat into harbor, and at 10 a.m the brig Margaret collided with them and lost her figure-head, had her bow split, and came to anchor, leaking heaviliy. Their own vessel anchored in the harbor at 2 p.m, being six months and seven days from home. The damaged brig entered next day.

Wellington Harbor

After remaining a year at Wellington Wm. Young and family shipped on the Sir John Franklin for Van Diemen's Land. So bad was the weather in Cook's Strait that it took them ten days to reach Nelson, which, says Young, is "beautifulfor situation." There they remained eight days, then sailed again, rounded Cape Farewell, and "bade adieu to New Zealand and its wild tribes." After a rough passage across, and a visit to
Twofold Bay (New South Wales), they finally entered Bass Strait and landed in Launceston on March 9, 1844.



Joseph Young
4 years


Mrs. Margaret Young
nee Hughes 1811 ~ 1880

Wallace Young
2 years


Agnes Young
20 years


Mr. William Young
1810 ~ 1892


Margaret Young
16 years


Robert Young
10 years


William Young
12 years


Ronald Young
8 years

All sketches drawn by unknown artist "by J.H."


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