1877 - 1882 Placid Hazel Holme

Peaceful Days and Good Voyages - The diary of Captain T W Millican

Hazel Holme all sails set Captain Millican writes so lovingly Sea Breezes June 1927
Hazel Holme the smart little vessel of which Captain Millican writes so lovingly. Sea Breezes June 1927

Placid Hazel Holme

1877 Hazel Holme Diary of Captain T W Millican from 1927 edition of Sea Breezes the PSNC Magazine of commercial sailing ships p6-10

Peaceful Days and Good Voyages

In May, 1877, I joined the barque Hazel Holme, as mate, at Swansea. where she was loading a cargo of rails for Rockhampton, Queensland. Of 105 tons register she belonged to Messrs. Hine Bros., of Maryport, who had built just a year or two before a lovely quartette of clipper vessels, which eventually became so well known in the Australian trade. I refer to the Brier Holme, Castle Holme, Eden Holme, and Myrtle Holme. These, with the Robert Hine, Abbey Holme, and Hazel Holme, made up the crack vessels in the Holme Line fleet of sailers.

Hazel Holme bare masts Captain Millican writes so lovingly Sea Breezes June 1927
Hazel Holme bare masts Captain Millican writes so lovingly Sea Breezes June 1927

Bad for the temper.

After loading we were delayed about a week, owing to a dispute about the weight of the cargo. In the end we sailed, having taken on board a beam scale and weights with which to weigh it out. Nothing of note happened on the passage if we leave out the thought and anxiety of having to go all through the cargo at least twice a day watching the wedges and toms. This was indeed a serious business, especially in running our Easting down, and we were all glad when we dropped anchor in Keppel Bay.

It was a very awkward job weighing every rail before it left the hold, and in the awful heat of the place we got a foretaste of what is supposed to be the experience of the unregenerate. However, we survived it, and after discharge, loaded wool for London. This was my first visit to Australia, and as for Rockhampton I had never heard the name until I joined the Hazel Holme. Here we experienced to the full the wonderful hospitality of the people, and everyone was made so comfortable that it was a hard matter to leave as heart-whole as one entered it. To myself this port remains the first milestone on life’s journey. Being a young man of 23, it was natural that I should fall to the charms of one of the many charming girls of the place, and it makes me rather proud of my good judgment to be able to say, after nearly 50 years’ close acquaintance, she is as charming as ever. I would have said more so if that were possible.

Maryport harbour coaster and general trader ships Sea Breezes June 1927
A view of the Old Harbour, Maryport, from seaward, looking up to the aptly named Shipping Brow, showing the closely-packed coasters and general traders which frequented the port in busier times. Sea Breezes June 1927

Quick promotion.

We sailed on 20th December and it was a slow passage to Cape Horn, much light winds and fine weather. On February 6th in 54 deg. S. Lat. and 80 deg. W. Long., we saw one small piece of ice just awash, big enough to have done damage if we had hit it. Soon after rounding the Horn the captain complained of not feeling up to the mark, but no one thought of it as serious; but on 1st March, in 28 deg. S. Lat. and 25 deg. W. Long., he succumbed to what we diagnosed as an apoplectic fit. This sad event cast a gloom on all the crew and upon myself, who had the double pressure of a sudden responsibility cast upon my young shoulders, beside the sorrow of our loss.

The second mate was a bit older in years and experience than I, and our first question was the appointment of a man to take his place. The four apprentices were all first-voyagers, as was also the carpenter; it then remained only for us to choose one of the crew. Three of them had joined in Swansea and made the voyage, but one had deserted in Rockhampton, been caught about a week before sailing, and kept in gaol until we left, when he was put on board by the police. He was an excellent sailor but just a bit troublesome on the passage out, and wasn’t much improved by having to come home with us against his will. Still he was the best seaman, so calling all hands aft I said a few words about our loss, and bluntly told them I had selected him to act as second mate.

This was a bit of a surprise to all and had an electric effect upon the man himself. He stepped in front of the men and asked if there were any objections. As none were raised he continued, “Now, men, any complaints you have on the passage tell me, and I will tell the chief officer and he will report to the captain.” So then I heard the title applied to me for the first time.

Myrtle Holme clipper ship of Hine Brothers fleet Sea Breezes June 1927
The clipper ship Myrtle Holme, one of Messrs. Hine Brothers' fleet, the most notable out of Maryport. Sea Breezes 1927

Ship ready – ticket to get.

Reaching London we berthed in the West India Dock. I went up to the city and found the agents were Messrs. Devitt & Moore, who entered the ship and got everything in readiness for paying off the crew. In due course Captain Robinson came on board and the condition of the ship seemed to please him, which was satisfactory to me. Then later the owner came and made many inquiries as to the death of the captain, and having said a few kind words to me, promised that if I passed my examination, he would give me command.

Words fail to express what I felt at this promise. I, at 24, and looking but 19, with barely ten years’ experience, to have command! But I daren’t let the thought run away with me for there was that small fly in the ointment, my certificate still to get. Moreover, time was getting on, and I could not be released until she was discharged, dry-docked and in her loading berth for her next voyage to Yokohama. I had passed for second and first mate in Liverpool, so felt I must go there again for my master’s certificate. After two weeks’ coaching I made up my mind to put in my papers, but I had the damping assurance of Captain Coggle that I would fail-and the further bogIe of the rest of the school that Captain McNab was taking seamanship that week. However, I carried out my intentions and it came off O.K. The first part in navigation was quickly over and the rest of the papers were easy. Then came the orals, and Captain John, who was very good, considering his reputation. Anyway, one left his room satisfied that one knew something about a ship.

Appeal of the ship.

Having secured my master’s certificate, I had just a few days at home and then the final interview with the owner, who was, as I always found after many years’ service under him, most kind and considerate. Among other things he said that I, being young, might come across some difficulties in port re chartering, &c., but that I would always find some elderly shipmasters who would be glad to give me a helping hand. I got to London in time to sign on the crew, and with the guidance of Captain Robinson, the overlooker, everything went well. Having some business still to finish, the Hazel Holme left dock with Captain Robinson in charge. I stood on the pier-head until she was out of sight. During that short period I was overcome with a wondrous love for the beautiful little barque . that was now, as it were, ” all my own.” To me she was not a mere construction of wood and iron, but a something which had come into my life as a living force that meant all the world to me. What I had always striven for – the command of my own ship – had come to pass in what, looking back, seemed a very few years and, as she faded away in the distance on that fine June morning, I turned away with a happy heart and some little moisture about my eyes.

Having finished the business, I joined and left Gravesend 4 a.m., June 12th, 1878, anchored in the Downs the same night and left on June 14th; Made very poor progress to begin with, got the trades on 28th in 37 deg. N. Lat., 16 deg. W. Long., sighted Madeira on the 30th, crossed the Equator July 20th in 21 deg. W. Long. The first little trouble arose on the 27th when we found one of our two water tanks, which we had filled in the doldrums to the north of the Line, was nearly empty. As our second tank only held 400 gallons we certainly had not enough to last us out. As to further progress we sighted Trinidad Island on the 30th July, Tristan de Cunha, August 13th, and Amsterdam Island 10th September.

Sverre barque outside Maryport harbour like the Cutty Sark Sea Breezes June 1927
Barque 'Sverre' making sail outside Maryport Harbour. A contemporary of the 'Cutty Sark', she, like her famous sister, was composite built. Photo by Mr. J.B. Hodgson Sea Breezes June 1927

In good company.

Our water supply being insufficient to last us to the Islands we decided to put in to a port in W. Australia, and on September 23rd anchored in Champion Bay and replenished, but it was a slow process as the water had to be carried off to the ship in hogsheads.

Left Geraldton on September 25th, sighted and passed Sandalwood Island on our way to the Ombay Passage on October 9th. Then we began to whistle for wind, for with contrary currents of 1, 2 and, at times, 3 knots we made little progress. A little bit ahead and a big bit astern and then the reverse, so it went on for ten days when two more vessels joined us, one no less a ship than the Sir Lancelot, but much cut down in masting and barque-rigged. We kept in company for the next 16 days, sometimes ahead or astern of each other, but never far away. On the 5th November we got a fresh breeze which lasted till we both cleared the straits together, but she soon left us and showed us the way with the fresh breeze. Two or three times we had a yarn with each other and found we were both bound to Yokohama.

The last time I had seen the Sir Lancelot was in July, 1869, when she made the record passage of 89 days. Somewhere about abreast of Hong Kong we were standing to Northward on the starboard tack when we saw the Sir Lancelot coming down with a fair wind on his starboard quarter with every imaginable sail set and drawing. We passed across her stern close enough for the two captains, who were old acquaintances, to hail each other.

We reached Yokohama a few days after the Sir Lancelot and had a very pleasant and profitable time with Captain Brokenshar, of that ship. The Lothair, Captain Bolton, was there also. Having part cargo for Kobe, we proceeded there and afterwards loaded a cargo of rice for Melbourne and sailed on 15th February 1879. On the 23rd had a furious gale, which caused our cargo to shift and gave us considerable anxiety for some time. We had not a stitch of canvas set, indeed I think it would have gone to ribbons if we had.

Deep sea surveying.

On March 22nd, making our way southward between New Caledonia and the Fiji Islands, with a very light air and smooth water, on looking over the side we got a rude surprise, being able to see the bottom, where on the chart it showed by odd soundings there should be 1,000 fathoms. Thinking, by the look of the bottom, we were in less than five fathoms, we got another shock when on sounding we found 18, 19 and 20 fathoms. We took about a dozen casts and then found no bottom at 90 fathoms, this quite suddenly from 20 fathoms. We collected the coral from the lead and with this and our report, the Admiralty located the bank and surveyed it.

We arrived at Sandridge on 13th April without any further incident, and a few days later moored for discharge at the Town Pier. The Myrtle Holme was discharging at the Railway Pier, and as Captain Ritchie had his wife with him, I was invited, and gladly accepted, to take up my quarters on board, and a right royal time I had during my stay.

After discharge of this cargo, I was ordered round to Newcastle seeking, and on that understanding I shipped two A.B.’s for the run, but my destination was changed to Port Pirie. When I spoke to these men about the change one of them refused to go, but the other was quite agreeable and a good sailor man he was, but he left in Port Pirie. I few years later I met this same man at Adelaide. He was then an official of the Sailors’ Union and had become a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Silvana originally the clipper Hesperas Sea Breezes July 1927
Ship Silvana. originally the clipper Hesperus but later a training vessel for the Russian Navy. She returned to the Red. Ensign for a time but those who sailed in her were more unfortunate even than the ship. She was seized for debt and they had to wait years. Sea Breezes July 1927

A little bargaining.

We duly loaded at Port Pirie and sailed for Hong Kong where we arrived on 7th August after a passage -East about- of 61 days. When we got among the islands near Hong Kong a pilot made signals about 10 p.m., so we backed our main yards when he came aboard, and the bargaining began by his asking had I been to Hong Kong before? “No.” Had I a compradore? “No.” “Well, you takee my compradore, I takee you in for 30 dollars.” “You no takee my compradore 40 dollars.” But these figures were absurd. I offered him five dollars and his compradore or 10 dollars without compradore. He refused both, so I told the mate to brace up the main yards and the pilot got into his boat but before the ship got away on her he clambered aboard again and said quite contentedly, “Can do, captain.” A very capable pilot he was and well deserved the five dollars he got for himself.

After discharging we took in sand ballast and seven tons of cash -Chinese currency- with only one Chinese to watch all this money. We sailed 26th August, 1870, for Quinhon, in Cochin China, arriving there 11th September. We were fixed to load a cargo of salt -principally- some Chinese general merchandise and to carry back to Hong Kong deck passengers. We were a month at Quinhon. The port was under French jurisdiction, but apparently there were no regulations, and a good port seemed in a fair way of being spoiled by every ship dumping her ballast overboard just where she was lying.

As this was the end of the season for trade purposes there was observed a great (what one might call) Harvest Thanksgiving. In the Hong we were loading for, they were busy making bamboo pyramids, about 4 feet high, and folding silver and gold paper into shapes like pounds of tea, but nothing inside. I got quite an adept at making these airy nothings, but they were to represent silver and gold. Then rice was boiled and stuck on to the bamboo pyramids; this gave the idea of mountains of rice, but they, like the silver and gold paper bags, were all hollow. Then real pigs and chickens were roasted and fish cooked, &c., &c.

The ceremony commences.

A platform was erected outside the end of the Temple on pillars about 8 feet high and 20feet long and 10 feet wide. All the good things were piled on the platform with a large lath and plaster Joss at the extreme end. Inside the Temple were seven priests, three at each side and one at the end of the table, each had a book in front of him and they were intoning at the rate of knots, while every few moments the one at the end, who had a bowl of uncooked rice in front of him, would pick up some rice in his hand, sprinkle it all along the table, over books and all. But this did not disturb the others one bit, still the intoning went on and on without a break.

Barcore at Antwerp a fine and smartly kept vessel Sea Breezes July 1927
A very fine and smartly kept vessel, the Barcore, at Antwerp. From photo lent by Captain J. Garriock. Sea Breezes July 1927

Placid Hazel Holme

Peaceful Days and Good Voyages

PART 2 in July Sea Breezes

Outside the Temple all the inhabitants seemed to be gathering, the poorer class fighting for places in front of the platform where all the good things were on view.

Then four men appeared on the platform and some kind of ceremony was gone through which I took to be offering all these good things to the Joss, and on his refusing them the men set upon him with sticks, smashed him to pieces and bundled his remains off the end of the platform into a fire underneath, and all the baskets full of gold and silver paper bags on the top of him, so all were consumed together. All the eatables were thrown off on top of the rabble underneath, when for a moment or two it was pandemonium. The first man to appear from this tumult was a strong muscular native with a good-sized roast pig over his left shoulder. two men ran behind each grasping a leg and a third man trying to secure his share by getting hold of the tail.

Profit made on the spot.

I was so interested in watching this helter-skelter race with the pig for a prize that when I turned round everything was gone, and there remained only the maimed and the lame starvlings who were picking up the loose bits of rice with their finger and thumb from among the trodden dirt—a most pitiful sight to watch.

Immediately our cash was delivered to the Hong (or house of our charterers) many young women were set to work to re-string it from 1,000 cash per dollar to strings of 750 per dollar, which was making some profit. In use in the town and market were zinc cash, value four to a copper cash, and when one went to market one had to have a man with his shoulder stick and basket at each end to carry the money, and a measuring (half bamboo) stick marked to measure out the cash. There was some weight in 10 dollars’ worth of zinc cash. The charterers had to provide all stores and water for the deck passengers as per charter party. As most of them had one or two children the longboat, which was very large, was housed in for the youngsters, but there was no accommodation for the rest, who had to do the best they could. How these children were related to the men who were fathering them I could only surmise. A man and woman came on board one day and offered me a boy about 12 and a girl of 14 for five dollars the pair—they said they were too poor to keep them—but I refused the offer.

Maryport from Brow Street Sea Breezes July 1927
Last month Sea Breezes contained views of old Maryport: here is one of the town and harbour as it is to-day [in 1927]. Photo by Valentine & Sons, Ltd., Dundee. Sea Breezes July 1927

Any children for sale?

We finished loading in the outer anchorage and got our passengers all on board—50 Chinese men and 45 children, the latter ranging from 6 to 11 apparently. We left October 11th and on the 16th had the tail of a typhoon to contend with, but nothing serious happened, it being the bare end of the tail. We arrived at Hong Kong October 20th glad to see our passengers safely landed. As soon as the authorities knew of our children they came off, and after interrogating their owners took charge of the lot and carried them ashore for further investigations.

I heard afterwards that the owners were able to satisfy the authorities that the children were for household servants and not for sale. We had visits on board from Chinese who wanted to buy any that the crew might possibly have, but, of course, there were none.

After some waiting we chartered and proceeded to Tai-wanfoo (Formosa) where we loaded a full cargo of sugar, and after a long uneventful passage arrived in London (St. Katherine’s Dock) via Queenstown, F.O., on 8th August, 1880, after a voyage of two years and two months.

A gentleman’s agreement.

After discharging our sugar cargo we went on the berth for Fremantle and sailed from the London Dock on November 11th, 1880, and, taking in gunpowder at the powder buoys, proceeded and anchored in the Downs on the 12th, but owing to heavy westerly gales we were unable to sail finally until the 17th. Despite this bad start we hoped our luck would improve, but there was nothing doing, and we simply drifted to the Equator and made an average run of 87 miles per day, our best day being 204 and our worst was 9. Nothing of outstanding interest occurred during the rest of the passage. We reached Fremantle safely on March 8th, and anchored in the Roads, where we discharged our cargo with our own crew, finishing on April 5th.

Our next engagement was a cargo of sandal wood for Shanghai. Two firms at Perth agreed, simply on a note of hand, to load the ship and despatch her as quickly as possible, each firm loading its own chosen end or the ship. There was no charter party, the contract was based on good faith, which prevailed throughout, and all went well, otherwise I should have been in the soup. Two stevedores packed the wood and got wages of 7s. a day. I wonder what they’d get to-day? Began loading April 8th, finished May 14th. It was a long job stowing the wood, which was in pieces from 18 inches to 8 or 10 feet long and 4 to 10 inches thick, every piece as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, carefully cut and each piece stamped on both ends with the private mark of the shipper.

Chartered for life.

During the time of loading I had to make another kind of charter party; for after a correspondence or over three years, it was mutually agreed that the ideal young lady I had met in Rockhampton, should come to me to be married, as I could not get to her, and so it happened, as the stories used to say, “They lived happily ever afterwards.” My agent, Mr. W. D. Moore, a wonderfully fine man, met the steamer on her arrival early one morning and took the young lady under his fatherly care. which was exceedingly kind seeing we were practically strangers in strange land.

Left Fremantle on May 17th, passed Java Head on the goth. Got through Banka Straits on June 5th, arrived at Shanghai on July 5th, and on the 30th left for London with a full cargo of tea. took the Eastern passage and passed through the Ambay Passage on September 14th.

A long weary journey through the Indian Ocean brought us to the Cape on October 23rd, and our thoughts to the conclusion that stun’sails would have been worth much on this voyage of light winds. Nothing of special interest happened during the rest of the passage.

Running up Channel with a heavy gale from S. W. , we were thankful to get into the Downs before the weight of it broke, and with both anchors down rode out the heaviest gale. that I ever experienced, when at anchor the barometer fell to 28.$0. We discharged our cargo in Hay’s Dock, near London Bridge, on the Surrey side.

Something like a sea.

Our next voyage was to Launceston. We left London, March 16th, 1882. and after taking gunpowder at Gravesend, towed as far as the Downs. On the 26th, when just west of the Lizards, we had a heavy gale which shifted to N.W. and blew harder. A heavy sea coming over the. bows took the forecastle scuttle clean off by the deck and, of course flooding the forecastle the watch below thought their last hour had come. The same sea smashed in the side of the galley, breaking one side of the stove. We had to do our cooking for a day or two on the small cabin stove. The crew thought we should put into Falmouth to get a new stove, as the carpenter said he could not repair it, not having tools to drill the side of the stove. So we took charge of his tool chest, found something that did the work, and with a little ingenuity repaired the stove and kept on our passage, which was completed without further trouble.

We made Cape Otway on June 29th, and got a pilot at the entrance to the Tamar River and, with a fresh wind, sailed up the river 40 miles to the bar about half a mile below Launceston, where we anchored to It was a very pleasant experience this sail up, discharge our powder for we were braced sharp up on both tacks to round the many bends and the weather leaches of the upper sails almost touched the trees over- hanging many of the high banks. Our stay in this beautiful little town is a particularly pleasant recollection. We were made welcome by the Y.M.C.A. inviting all hands up to a tea at their Institute, and soon all made good friends, and the time passed very pleasantly for everybody.

No homeward cargo offering on completion of discharge we ballasted and proceeded to Talcahuano seeking. We made an ordinary passage across the Pacific and after waiting some 14 days for instructions at Talcahuano we sailed on 3rd October having been fixed to load nitrate at Iquique and Mejillones. Eight days later we anchored in Iquique and began loading the first part of our cargo, which was bound for Germany. We left on October 3rd, and on the 11th anchored in Iquique, where we loaded part cargo. During our stay here the usual hearty custom of celebrating the final loading of a vessel’s cargo was duly observed. Three cheers were given for all the good ships, with an occasional groan for one which was unpopular. On sailing there was always a double crew to get the homeward bounder under way, as several captains with boats’ crews went on board to say good-bye.

Verbena Sea Breezes July 1927
Verbena Sea Breezes July 1927

A sudden send-off.

A very unusual incident arose out of this latter custom which I will relate. Another ship, belonging to the same employ as Hazel Holme, had finished loading and was lying at single anchor, her sails loosened and, seemingly, all ready for sea. Five captains went on board to see her away and found her captain having his dinner. Captain Stoddart, of the Remonstrant, a big man with a loud hearty voice and manner, looked down the skylight, and seeing this, asked why he was wasting the nice breeze and why he could not eat at sea. So the old man came up on deck in quite a flurry, and could hardly speak. Stoddart took charge of the deck and before one could say the proverbial “Jack Robinson” she was under way with every stitch set. We then said good-bye and left, but his special friend went out a bit further.

Later in the evening this friend came on board my ship and said that the captain had not finished his business on shore and had no papers with him. Would I get them in the morning and carry them out to sea as he would stand off and on through the night waiting for them. As I had a boat rigged for sailing I was ashore pretty early, got the necessary papers and started out to sea. with nothing in sight it looked somewhat lonely. There was a nice breeze and we got along very well and soon saw a ship coming end on, so we made for her, but it was not the one we sought. Later we saw her coming in on starboard tack. About noon we got along-side and gave the captain his papers. He insisted on our going up for something to eat. In shaking her up to take the way off her she got aback, and at my request she was put on the port tack so while we were eating our dinner she was leaving Iquique behind. When we came up on deck all that was visible of the port was the zig-zag railway up the mountain side. We left him about 1 pm and had a pleasant sail, but towards sundown the wind began to die away and when a couple of miles off it fell dead calm. We had a heavy boat with only two boys to row. However, we dumped all the ballast and got on board safely some time after dark.

Escort Of sea lions.

At 9 a.m. on November 10th, left Iquique and anchored in Mejillones 5-30 p.m. Our cargo was all in a warehouse near the beach where it had lain for a year or two and was perfectly dry. It was the last cargo to be shipped from this port, as Caleta Buena was just then opened as the port of shipment. We finished loading on the 20th November, and had to go to Pisagua, 17 miles north, to clear. The vessel had a light 12-ft. punt to pull, with two pairs of sculls, so started at 3 a.m. with two boys to make the trip. As usual at that time it was dead calm, so we started lively enough, yet when we lost sight of the ship’s light and had nothing but darkness around us, the outlook was (to say the least of it) appalling. The sea lions were continually coming to the surface, and at times they came closer than was at all comfortable, and we felt like uttering the prayer of a Provencal fisherman, “Lord be good to me; Thy sea is so wide and my boat is so small.” However, we got there safely by 8 a.m. and were made very welcome on board one of Phillip Nelson’s ships for the day.

A dip to happy memories.

Left in our boat 7-30 p.m., and had a calm passage, arriving on board at 1-30 a.m., November 23rd. Sailed for Cuxhaven for orders on the after- noon of the same day. Had nothing but light S.E. winds for 21 days, and it was December 25th before we reached the Horn. We did better to the Equator, which we crossed in 2S days, and thence to the Lizards in 22 days arriving at Cuxhaven on February 19th, 1883. We got orders for Hamburg, where we discharged our cargo which turned out dry enough to earn me the maximum gratuity.

After discharging this cargo I left the Hazel Holme to join the Myrtle Holme. As a passenger on the steamer bound to London I gazed at the sweet little barque that had been my home for nearly six years and my heart was heavy within me as I watched the officer (left in charge of her) dipping the Ensign as we passed, and I thought lovingly of all our happy associations together and how in fair weather and in foul she had always been faithful and true.

Captain T. W. MILLICAN.

Hazel Holme all sails set Captain Millican writes so lovingly Sea Breezes June 1927
Hazel Holme the smart little vessel of which Captain Millican writes so lovingly. Sea Breezes June 1927