John Curry (my husband) knew that the Currys had come to Australia by sailing ship, arriving in Melbourne in 1870 before heading off to the Gold Fields of Victoria. John Currie (wrong spelling), Miner, is listed on the shipping records of the Percy with his wife Margaret, son John aged 9 and then on another page is 17 year old Andrew (John’s Great Grandfather) also a Miner and his brother James aged 12.
Andrew didn’t keep a diary as far as we know but we have the next best thing.
A 20 year old quarryman called Thomas Pierce kept a journal of the voyage. He may have even swung his hammock near to Andrew and John. I have summarised the highlights of the trip.
Thomas boarded the Percy on Christmas Eve but the ship didn’t sail until January 2nd. In the meantime it snowed and the younger passengers had a great time throwing snowballs across the deck. Sadly one infant died before the ship left shore.
As they tacked across the Channel many of the passengers were “shooting the cat” or to put it simply, vomiting over the side. When they approached Gibraltar the passengers enjoyed dancing on the fo’c’s’le accompanied by a concertina, fiddle and tambourine. Nearing the Canary Islands they all suffered from the intense heat, lying about the deck trying to catch a breath of air.
Crossing the Equator was fun, with some acting as barbers and shaving the men. Rockets were let off and a man scared the girls by dressing up in a sheep’s skin.
After many days they sighted Pernambuco (South America) where they traded with the natives and were able to send letters home.
Convento de São Francisco – Olinda – Pernambuco – BrasilBy Valdiney Pimenta – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22443202
Every few days another child died of fever. Church services were held by lay and religious people on various parts of the ship and rousing sermons formed part of the entertainment.
By March the weather was as cold as it had been in England. On April 16 the ship hove to off Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne. All on board were examined by a shore doctor and on the 18th they were sent ashore to the Quarantine Station for a week.
To those from the ship it must have seemed like paradise. It resembled a magnificent park fringed on one side by a beautiful beach. Andrew and his brothers would have enjoyed bathing at the beach, fishing, rambling in the woods, chasing kangaroos and sleeping in the large barrack style rooms.