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Title: Beale, Joseph Sr to Beale, Margaret, 1852
CollectionThe Earth between them: Joseph Beale's letters home to Ireland from Victoria (1852-1853) [E.Beale]
SenderBeale, Joseph Sr
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationemigrant
Sender Religionunknown
OriginShip Sarah Sands, near Cape Town
DestinationMountmellick, Co. Laois, Ireland
RecipientBeale, Margaret
Recipient Genderfemale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count2270
Genrediary kept during voyage, account of passage
TranscriptSarah Sands at Sea II mo. 4th 1852
[4 November 1852]
270 miles from Capetown

My dearest Love,
I wrote thee a long letter on our arrival at St. Vincent's on
the 3rd of last mo: which after an hours waiting, I placed in
the hands of the British Consul there, but to my disappointment,
learned from him that there would not be a homeward
bound steamer from thence before the first o£ this month, (and
probably this will not be forwarded from Capetown before the
22nd inst). Jos'h Frs and I had arranged to take an exploring
trip into the interior of the Island, but as I was so long detained,
they went without me, so I soon returned on board. St.
V. is a curious spot, the hills round very bold, with serrated
summits, very diff't from anything of the kind I ever before saw.
On landing the first objects diat struck the attention were negroes
carrying baskets of coals on their heads from the vessels
to the coal yards, females only are employed in this way, they
seem a very degraded race. I remained on board next day, and
the day following went ashore to swim in the tepid tide of this
tropical climate. I never enjoyed a swim in the sea so much
in my life. Afterwards I took a lonely walk thro' the streets of
that miserable village. I enter'd several of their huts, and tho' I could not speak their language, they ail speak suff't Eng'h to
make themselves understood. The poor creatures seemed all
pleased at my notice of them. On coming out o[ one of their
habitations I saw a aegroe girl running ab't in great glee, with
a stick in her hand, I motioned to her to show me the stick
and found she had two huge centipedes fasten'd on it, both
alive. They were ab't 5 inches long each and as thick as a
swans quill. They were most unpleasant companions in a house.
I re I'd the stick and away she scam per'd in pursuit of someone
else—they are a lighthearted race. I examined their beds and
found them well suited to the excessive heat of this arid sandy
country. Their beds were made from the large leaves which
enclose the husks of I. [Indian] corn, made into a comfortable
mattres, over this they spread a mat made from bulrushes, and
cover themselves with clean sheet. Their wants are few in this
climate, and these they supply with little exertion. They are
far better off than the peasantry of freland, except the very
few who are slaves. While passing thro' one of the back streets
I saw a mat drying in the sun. I turned it over when a flock
of cockroaches scam per'd oft'. I killed several, they are not like
ours, they are of an oval shape about 2 inches in length, and
1 ¼ in width.
We left St. Vincents at 3 am. 10/8th [Sunday 8 October]—10th
1st Day, Jos'h Frs. and I read the bible alone at 10 o'clock, in
the even'g I read alone some of D. Wheeler's journal. I open'd
on the part where he rec'd the acc't of his wife's death, it was
as much as I could bear, separated as I am from thee my beloved,
and likely to be for so long a time. This consideration
causes me at times extreme anxiety, but I endeavour after
patience, and am enabled at times to place my entire confidence
in Him who does not willingly afflict, but who knows that we
are but dust. Our prospect in the distant land before us, is
unknown, and whether Sydney or Melbourne may be our resting
place I cannot say. A sober, elderly man in the first cabin
who resides at Sydney thinks it the better place, he says there
will [be] no difficulty in our obtaining good situations there,
that persons like us are always wanted, in fact those who are
sober and steady and who have a knowledge of business. He
says my plan of taking situations for a year, is the very best
plan I could adopt, that there are several frds [Friends] at Sydney,
and that their meeting house and ground is the prettiest spot he ever saw. A great number on board this ship are
bound for "die diggings". I never in my life, even in the even'g
of a country fair, in the drunken times in Ireland, ever heard
such swearing and profane language as in this ship and as for
gambling it never ceases from morn'g till 10 o'clock at night—
many are cleaned out of their cash already. There appeared
DO hope from remonstrating, so three of us formed a plan of
correcting annoyances, tending to lessen the comforts of the
passengers in our cabin. Our rules passed without a dissentient
voice. We have the power by common consent to fine, or to
use corporeal [sic] punishment, or to place in Coventry, i.e.
not to speak to any one, nor hand him anything at table, if
he refuses to obey the mandate of "the Tribune". I was chosen
president, and have to deliver judgment. All our fines were
duly paid and among others my two fellow judges were fined.
They had to leave the bench and take their trial at the bar.
Well, under our laws we fine for swearing, so that in our cabin,
an oath is not now heard, and those who are fined are most
anxious to find out "a case". The fore cabin are anxious to get
tip a similar court, and when we leave the Cape I promised to
assist them. The Captain told me he was delighted at the good
order we keep those unruly persons in, and that he would be
very glad [if] he could establish a similar court in the first
cabin, but he wants firmness and shews a bad example by gambling
with dice, cards, wagers and rallies.
One of our passengers who left St. Vincent's in good health,
died on the 25 of 10 mo. and his remains were committed "to
the deep until the sea should give up its dead" (these are the
words of the service at sea). It was a very solemn occasion. The
poor young man came from St. John's, New Brunswick. He was
a fine looking young man, remarkably quiet and well conducted.
He died from neglect, two companions of his are on board, but
they were both confined with dysentery, and this poor fellow
hud to do everything for himself, or want. He called for one
of his companions a short time before his death, and told him
his end was approaching, his friend told him not to say so, he
s'd he knew it was, gave him his directions about his little property and died a few hours afterwards. We have another young
man ill near our cabin, the result of gross immorality, it was
truly awful one night to bear his cries for hours, calling on the
Almighty to relieve his pains, and to see him suffering such
agony. The Dr. thinks his recovery doubtful, but brothers could
not attend a brother with more kindness than he is attended
by some young men in this cabin.
We had a birth in our cabin last week. We found the weather
at the equator very hot, particularly in our berths at night. I
slept with a sheet only, and one night I had to change my shirt
three times and at length to sleep without one, cover'd only
with a sheet, even then the perspiration poured off my face and
hands, however every morning I enjoyed a bath from the sailors.
I did not suffer from the heat except by "prickly heat", a rash
over the body like nettle rash, which very few escape in the
warm latitudes. We now find the climate quite cool, and wear
our warm clothing. The air is delightful, the sky clear and
serene. On the whole we have every reason to feel thankful for
all the blessings vouchsafed to us five [Joseph, the two boys
and the two Kennedys], Everyone treats us with respect—even
the offscourings of society on board would cheerfully do for me
any kind turn in their power. A voyage at sea, if one had a
few agreable associates, is a very pleasant time. I don't find it
at all monotonous, and tho' old hard beef, cold, which has been
out and home from California, with cold boil'd rice, is rough
food, we manage to get thro', and the days appear to pass over
very rapidly. Several young men have told me confidentially the
history of their lives. I have many a tale to tell thee if we are
favour'd to meet again. I should like to go home for thee,
knowing from experience now, how to manage on shipboard.
It would make a great difference to thee and my beloved children
to have me with thee, but if Australian society be as bad
as society on board this ship, it would be too great a risk to
run, to leave the boys without a head. D. Kennedy has a careful
eye over Francis, he needs it, but Joseph is a truly steady
careful lad. Sir R. Stamford admired him very much, and said
to me "your eldest son, Mr. B. is a very fine young man".
Whenever I wake at night my first tho'ts are with thee. Sometimes
I amuse myself picturing in my mind thy countenance,
my dear E's [Elizabeth, his daughter by his first marriage] and
all the other loved ones, [the children] Sarah, Marg't, poor Bill,
Laura, Nannie and little Octavius. I can (as it were) look at
each as if before me, except Octavius, and I cannot picture him
exactly—then I go over my sister May and all her flock correctly
(including poor William whose countenance I shall never forget) and then most of friends as they sit in meeting.
My dear love is to all and every one of my old friends who may
think it worth the acceptance, including Sally Simpson, also to
[my former partner] S. Sheane and Bess—perhaps one day or
other I may do some of them a kind turn—Oh how i long to
hear from home! I hope thou wilt write weekly, as I shall to
thee, if spared to land at Melbourne and that I feel a humble
but strong confidence will be permitted. I have no anxiety at
all on that subject, my anxiety is on thy acc't as I cannot be
with thee when I might be of use and on Eliz'th acc't at present.
It is very difficult to write here, I can only do so in my cabin
standing near the porthole, while I write on a bed, with sailors
getting out stores behind me, two Frenchmen chattering away
at my right hand and occasionally a question asked of "Mr.
B.". Thou must take the will for the deed, as I know thou
I have often wondered at the very small number of birds to be
seen from the coast of Ireland, to ab't 1200 miles of the Cape,
not a living thing to be seen for many days save flying fish.
About 1200 miles from the Cape we meet the Cape pigeon,
a very handsome bird ab't the size of a woodquest, and an
occasional Albatross. As we approach the Cape there may be
six Albatros to be seen near us, soaring in every direction of the
wind without moving (thou wouldst say) a feather. I regretted
to see them fired at by our boisterous fellows, and occasionally
one shot, or what is worse wounded and left to starve, but to
remonstrate would be worse than useless.
Our passage to Melbourne will be about 90 to 95 days. I expect
the former will be ab't the mark. I have had several
conversations with experienced persons, who have frequently
crossed, either from Australia or from the Cape. They all agree
that thou should not sail in a steamer, nor in a charter'd vessel
unless charter'd by a first rate house, to run in conjunct'n with
their own ships—on no acc't come out in any way but first
class—and then all will be right, so far as human agency or
prudence can ensure success.
I intend to finish this letter at Cape Town, it is very difficult
to write. I sh'd like to do so to Eliz'th but if [our eldest daughter] Sarah will copy all that is worth copying and send it to E. [then married] with my very dear love, it will do. Farewell until
to-morrow. Distance from the Cape at noon this day 84 miles. The ship rolls very much while I write. I just hear a frenchman
saying to his neighbours "de ship has got thoo much

Cape Town at anchor 10/6 a.m. We arrived at this place at 8
last evening, so I have not time to give thee an acc't of our
proceedings here. I conclude my dearest love, with the assurance
of my fondest affection for thee first of all, and then for
all my much loved children.
Thy ever attached and faithful husband
Joseph Beale

Dan Kennedy will be obliged and thankful to thee to tell his
wife and friends, that he and James are (like ourselves) in
perfect health. There are but few on board conduct themselves
like Dan or J;is. They are liked by everyone on board.