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The Ship William Nicol

1834 -

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  • Name The Ship William Nicol 
    Born 1834  Greenock, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Unknown 
    Associatn 1834 
    Voyage 06 Jul 1837  Isleornsay, Isle of Skye, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • with 321 passengers aboard and arrived in Sydney on 27 October 1837.

      The William Nicol (408 tons commanded by Captain John McAlpine) had been purpose built and was the first ship to be chartered by the Government for carrying aided emigrants to a new life in the Antipodes. The Edinburgh Courier of 10 July 1837 reported on the embarkation on Monday 3 July 1837 at Ornsay on the Isle of Skye and described the ship as being fitted in the most commodius manner possible and all who visited her were satisfied that the comforts of all the emigrants has been minutely attended to. She was furnished to accommodate 250 adult passengers, each being allowed 18 inches width to sleep in!

      The ship set sail three days after embarkation, carrying in all 323 passengers of which 69 were men, 75 women, 72 children aged seven and above and 107 under sevens. For sleeping purposes two children over seven and three under, equated to one adult. On top of this there was the crew who had their own quarters amongst whom was the ship's doctor and surgeon, Dr George Roberts of the Royal Navy. The good doctor must have had big problems with his emigrant patients as they were all, by and large, gaelic speaking and according to reports, two shepherds of good character were given cabins as they were to act as interpreters. A midwife, a Mrs McDonald, undertook to act in similar capacity for the women and children.

      During the voyage it appears that everyone spent as much time on deck as they could to escape the overcrowded and evil-smelling sleeping quarters which were on the same deck as the hospital. Below deck was fumigated as often as possible and, whenever practical, aired. The deck of the sleeping quarters were scraped daily in an effort to keep the area clean. The doctor, although not being specific, stated that the people were not very clean in their habits. His log shows that as the ship sailed into the tropics the smell, along with the suffering, increased with the heat. The young children, in particular, were hard hit.

      The diet on board was not what the children were used to and although they didn't get scurvy, they suffered bouts of fever and diarrhoea and frequently refused food. At home in Scotland they had been used to milk, vegetables and porridge but whilst on board they had biscuits with salt beef and pork. Looking through the doctor's log, large numbers seem to have suffered at first from sea sickness but it soon became apparent that the women and children were suffering most. In the beginning constipation was the most common problem but diarrhoea soon took over as the chief complaint. Fever and sickness often followed in its wake and, with the very young, sometimes resulted in death. There were 19 deaths during the voyage; all children under the age of six apart from the two women who died after childbirth.

      After 66 days at sea, the William Nicol put into port at the Cape of Good Hope on 11 September 1837 to take on fresh water. The Governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban, was horrified at the conditions on board and instigated a private collection to help the emigrants. ?150 was raised in one day and was used to buy, amongst other things, changes of clothing as well as sago and rice. Dr Roberts, himself, arranged for fresh beef and vegetables to be bought to supplement the children's diet; the receipts were sent back to London for payment. After four days the ship continued the voyage and arrived in Port Jackson on 28 October. The doctor's log records, the emigrants throughout were in perfect health when they were discharged the following day
    Passenger List - William Nicol
    Passenger List - William Nicol
    Person ID I21147  Mote/McInnes
    Last Modified 13 Jan 2012 

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