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Title: McIlrath, James L to McIlrath family, 1861
CollectionThe McIlrath Letters: A family history in letters from New Zealand to Ireland (1860-1915) [Bassett, McKee et al.]
SenderMcIlrath, James L
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationemigrant
Sender Religionunknown
OriginPort Philip, Australia
DestinationKillinchy, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
RecipientMcIlrath family
Recipient Gendermale-female
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count941
Genreaccount of passage
Port Philip, Australia
Friday 14th March, 1861
Father, Mother & brothers,
I take this opportunity to let you know we are in the best of health
hoping you are all the same. We left Liverpool on the 8th Dec. and
landed here on the 14th March being 94 days of a passage there has
been smallpox on board during the whole voyage and but for one that
took ill that morning we landed we would not been here as there was
no new cases for fourteen days, how long we will be here I cannot
say we may be only fourteen days or we may be longer it depends on
how long the disease goes on. The laws here is very strict regarding
infectious diseases the boxes are all sent on shore. The ship is to be
smoked, tarred and painted the Captain and crew and Pilot that came
on board the day before we landed sent on shore with the rest - a new
captain and crew to take their place and take the ship to Melbourne
only 45 miles from this, when ready we will be sent by a steamer, all
this for the sake of 17 persons out of nearly 600. Were it not the
loss of the time we could live here fine. No expense has been spared
by Government to make this place comfortable there are 6 houses
145 feet in length and 28 wide two stories high, there is a platform
in front the whole length. We have nature in the purest form an
endless variety of evergreen shrubs and trees beautiful shady walks the
shore for bathing and everything that idleness and curiosity requires
a great change after 14 weeks on sea, we have 1lb each of fresh beef
and potatoes every day for dinner. To give you the occurrences of the
whole Passage would be needless I shall only mention the particulars,
our beginning was everything but pleasant the weather was taking up on the 7th and a steam tug put on each side to take the ship through
the Channel but we were not gone when a sail boat came right ahead
drifting with the wind all force, the steamer on one side of the ship
was tried to be loosed but all not being clear when the steamer was
ran backwards her mast was nipped like a twig and fell on a sailor
and broke his arm. The wind being contrary the fog so close, the
Channel so narrow and the ship so large and too heavy laden in front
the anchor was again cast and some of the cargo taken to the other
end coals put into the steamer and some thrown into the sea. That
night a sailor would kiss two girls by force a man interfered, the
sailor took his knife and said he would have his life on the spot if
not he would before he reached Melbourne. The man met him next
morning he struck the sailor and put the pipe he was smoking down
his throat. He died in a few hours. Another sailor on the 10th fell
from aloft into the sea a man threw him a rope which he got but the
foolish man strove to pull him in over the ship's side when nearly up
he fell in again and was never seen. The cook took ill on the 15th
and died on the 19th all this in 11 days. January 11th a woman was
seen on deck at 4 in the morning and could never be seen again. We
had a heavy storm the night before Christmas it commenced on the
22nd and lasted to the 24th everything was in readiness to cut away
the masts. The weather was very warm crossing the line the sun was
fair overhead and no shadows whatever. The sun on this side goes left
over the horizon. Round the Cape of Good Hope the weather is very uncertain squalls comes like whirlwinds which rents the old canvas like
paper. The Dover Castle which sailed from London the day we sailed
from Liverpool landed in Melbourne on the 5th they seen a ship on Are
off the Cape. The Queen of Commerce that sailed 10 days before us is
not here yet it is believed she is burnt and not one life saved. The news
from the country is good new diggings and 10s per day for labourers they
are scarce as all are to the diggings a passenger here has 35s per week for
splitting firewood which looks well and so many ready for employ.
William Martin is well we have been in one mess and together the
whole time you can let his Mrs know he is well she lives in Newtownards.
William James Alexander is well we have all had good health during the
whole voyage only sea sick the first week and a severe sickness it is. I shall write no more at present but we will write as soon as settled.
Give our best wishes to Joseph Logan Mrs and family and Miss Irwin
James Jellie Mrs and family, Uncle Tom, Uncle William and Aunts, Mr
O'Preys people, Mrs Russell and family. George Logan Mrs and family,
Thomas Scott Mrs and family and Robert Cooper - tell him the box was
well packed and nothing hurt. Hoping you are all in good health which
we are for so far. We are James and Hamilton Mcllrath Australia

You cannot write until we write again as we do not know where we may
be placed. We will send the directions. James Mcllrath