A true story of life, love,
disaster and survival
in the early days of the British Empire
Memoirs of Sarah Speedy
Waterloo to Waikato
Sarah Speedy’s wondrous tale
‘Contain so much of interest that we obtained permission to publish
them…Very few women have lived through such a varied and interesting
career as she did’ Henry Wily, The Franklin
Born near Waterloo into a British
army officer’s family, the authoress accompanied her parents and
later her husband on military tours of duty to India and beyond.
Sarah travelled countless miles by land and sailed on a dozen
voyages before settling forty years later as pioneers on the
opposite side of the world in the Waikato region of New Zealand.
On the way she journeyed to the Malay Archipelago, into darkest
Africa, up the holy Ganges River to the heart of India, and to the
land of the Arabian Nights.
|Visiting the outposts of Empire in the early 19th
century and meeting famous people, Sarah experienced storms,
plagues, the reality of war…
…and survived to write her story.
A woman’s first hand account of colonial life at the dawn
of the British Empire
EDITED BY ALLAN SPEEDY
Allan Speedy was born in 1959, educated at The University
of Auckland and is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain
and Ireland. He first visited the Orient in 1981 and has backpacked overland
through Bali, India, Java, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sumatra and Thailand.
His interests include Eastern history, language and philosophy. Allan is a
great-great grandson of Sarah Speedy.
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*FRONTPAGE 267KB Word document file (.doc)
*FRONTISPIECE 469KB Word document file (.doc)
*TITLE PAGE 38KB Word document file (.doc)
(with footnotes) 676KB Word document file (.doc)
|*CONTENTS 91KB Word document file (.doc)
*LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
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|*MEMOIRS OF SARAH SPEEDY
(with footnotes) 834KB Word document file (.doc)
Valenciennes – Army of Occupation – Father protects a convent –
Sir Edward Blakeney
|Ireland and England 1818-22
Cork – Paddy MacGirk re-thatches our cottage – Making butter and meeting the
Irish – Father exchanges regiments – London, school and fairies – Lions at
the East India Docks – Grandfather and Uncle William
|Voyage to India 1822-23
The sailing ship “Kent East Indiaman” – The “Kid”, Colonel Sale &c. –
Fifteen foot shark – Flying fish
Masoola surf boat – Madras – First experience of the East – St Thomas' Tomb
– Landing at Calcutta – Bishop Heber – Fort William – General Dallzell –
First Burmah War – Idols from Burmah – Father’s illness – Blistering
|Bay of Bengal 1825
The sailing ship “Anna” – Aground off Pondecherry – Fire on board the ship –
A gang of galley slaves
Acheen – A nice native chief – Law and punishment – Boat-load of Pepper –
Pursued by 300 Armed Malay canoes
|Indian Ocean 1825
The British officers take command of the “Anna” – A Pirate vessel
Port Louis – Musk rats – Hurricane – Sago plantation and slaves
|Voyage to Cape Town 1826
The sailing ship “Lady Hayes” – Monkey bite
Cape Town – Stellingbosh – Purchase of the female slave “Sarchee” – The
Orange River – ‘Asbestos’ – ‘Plan for camping’ – Travel to the desert –
Lions – Bones and horns – Crossing a mountain – Wildlife – Dancing in the
desert – “Stink Fontayne” – King and Queen of Bechuana – State of the
Karaners – Tale of Jacob von Exteen and the lion attack – Kaffir land –
Robert Moffat – David Livingstone’s future wife – Christmas in the
wilderness – Animals – ‘Kaffir tent’ – Friendly natives – Griquatown –
Worcester – Sir David Baird – Utinhague – Grahamstown – A female slave
|Indian Ocean 1827
The sailing ship “Ellen” – A hurricane at sea
Calcutta and Fort William – Dinapore – Meeting James Speedy –
Lord Combermere – “Bon(e) amie” – A flying dragon – Cobra
Cape Town – Stellingbosh – Wynberg – A farm in Africa – Snake in the grass –
Chased by hyenas – Secretary birds – Dutch families
|Voyage to India 1832
The sailing ship “Alexander” –The sad story of Rebecca and her ayah
Calcutta – The East India Company – Lord William Bentinck – A Fight between
an elephant and a snake – Slowly up the Ganges River – Colgong – Catching an
alligator – Jumuna River – Typhoon – Agra – Taj Mahal – Romance at the Taj –
Honeymoon at Futeh poor Sicri – Meerut – Life as the wife of an army officer
– First son – Kurnaul – Preparations for war – “Eagles Nest” at Landour – In
the Himalaya – Lady Havelock and the fatal lightening – The Great Maharaja
Runjeet Singh – Koh-e-noor diamond – Kurnaul – Plague – Meerut – Simla –
Bird collecting in the Himalaya – First Afghan War – Down the Ganges River
to Benares – Calcutta
|Voyage to England 1842-43
The sailing ship “Agincourt” – Storm at Masulipatum – A derelict boat called
“La Bengali” – St. Helena – Mr Solomon’s Hotel
|England and Ireland 1843-45
Portsmouth – Dublin – County Galway – Hastings – A lucky rescue from
drowning– Sheerness, Chatham, Chichester, Winchester – Eel pie at the Lord
Mayor’s dinner – Gosport
The sailing ship “John Fleming” – Bombay – A drunken babysitter – Poonah –
First and Second Sikh Wars – Colaba – Kurrachee – Tale of the thief, the
moneychanger and the tracker – Hyderabad Scinde – Tornado – Reviewing the
troops – By camel to Beebee Zindu’s fort – In the zenana – A game of chess
– Sailing to Bombay on a native dhow
|Voyage to England 1850
The sailing ship “Herefordshire” – St. Helena – The curious
story of John Raw – Man overboard
England, Isle of Man and Ireland 1850-55
London – Tragedy on the Isle of Man – Dublin – Family record
|Voyage to New Zealand 1855-56
The sailing ship “Oriental” – Mutiny – Auckland
|New Zealand 1856-59
Auckland – Some land in the Mauku – Captain John Campbell Johnstone
*MAPS 1 192KB Word document file (.doc)
*MAPS 2 766KB Word document file (.doc)
*ILLUSTRATIONS 1 7401KB Word document file (.doc)
*ILLUSTRATIONS 2 3780KB Word document file (.doc)
*ILLUSTRATIONS COLOUR 26001KB Word document file (.doc)
(with footnotes) 6592KB Word document file (.doc)
AND BIBLIOGRAPHY 95KB Word document file (.doc)
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*END ILLUSTRATIONS 5188KB Word document file (.doc)
*BACK COVER 5683KB Word document file (.doc)
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AS my children have asked me to write my recollections of my life, I will try
and do so, promising only, that what I pen has been my own experience, or from
my dear mother’s lips.
My father was an officer in the
7th Fusileers, and was stationed at Valenciennes in France in 1818, where I was
born on the 7th January.
It was a very ancient house that my father was billeted in. I had one sister
nearly five years older than myself named Mary. The day was bitterly cold. The
snow had covered the old fashioned casement windows with their little diamond
shaped bits of glass, so that no light could penetrate into the bedchamber. So
there were lights in the room.
The route came to a convent some distance away. The nuns feeling insecure had
applied for some protection against intruders, (it was during the Army of
Occupation’s stay in France) so when I was a fortnight old my father was ordered
to go, and my mother would not be left behind. Not a vehicle of any description
could be found, not even a wheelbarrow, nor a donkey so she had to walk. Our
colonel was Sir Edward Blakeney and as saw how unfortunately we were situated he
offered to carry me, and he put me into his shako and carried me in it on his
horse. Six and twenty years afterwards we met in Dublin, when he remarked “I had
grown so much that he didn’t think he could carry me in his shako then”, as I
was the mother of five children, I should think he was right.
Ireland and England
We remained at the convent
some time and the Regiment went back to England when I was ten months old, and
my father was stationed at Cork in Ireland recruiting.
We had an Irishman named Paddy MacGirk, and the cottage we lived in required
re-thatching, while this was being done, (I was then two years old) Paddy was on
the ladder, and his trousers had many holes in them, it is said that seeing the
sad state of his trousers, I said, “Paddy! When I am married I’ll give you a new
pair of trousers.” From this, and many other little things, they named me the
My mother bought a cow and she gave a large quantity of milk, and when the
churning was over, my mother gave the buttermilk away to anyone who came for it.
Consequently a large crowd assembled in our yard every churning day, and in this
way I suppose I learnt Irish. We were there two years.
My father exchanged from the 7th Fusileers into the 13th Light Infantry, which
Regiment was then expecting to go out to the East Indies. We came to London and
stayed with my maternal grandmother Mrs Eastfield. I can remember being sent to
school to Bow, and some of the older girls would carry me in their arms to a
field where there stood a circle of old elms and they said the large hole in one
of them was where the fairies slept, and the bright green ring inside the circle
of the old trees was where they danced at night. I can well remember this even
now, after so many years!
Many of my father’s old friends came to see us. One, a major of the Fusileers,
took me on board a large ship in the East India Docks to shew me two lions that
had just arrived, a present to the King. I can recollect two dogs, as I
supposed, in a cage. They didn’t look very fierce, and were about the size of a
mastiff dog. I can recollect being carried up the ship’s side, not in a chair,
and the person who carried me wore a jacket, not a coat.
I could read at this time, and my grandfather used to sit me on the tea-table
after tea, and make me read the newspaper, and it pleased him so well he gave me
a pair of gold wires for my poor ears! I also could repeat my catechism without
a mistake, and my Uncle William was so pleased he gave me a half sovereign, with
which my mother bought a locket and put hair in for me, and I had it till I was
seventeen, and then I lost it, to my sorrow, for I do not wish to boast of what
I could do, but I valued it for my uncle’s sake.
Voyage to India 1822-23
We received the order for India,
and in December 1822, we were to sail in the Kent East Indiaman, 1000 tons, Captn Henry Cobb, Commander. She was frigate built, a very fine vessel. I can
remember my Grandma Eastfield hooking my pelisse. It was purple, trimmed with
swans down, and the dear old lady kissed me while she knelt to hook it for me
when we were leaving her to go on board.
We had another ship named the Kid in company with the second half of the 13th
Light Infantry on board. The Kid carried our Headquarters, Colonel Sale &c. We
had Colonel McCreagh, officers Riely, Tinling, Meredith, Stehelin, Guines, Dr
Hamilton, Mr Leith, Sutherland, Vigors – and others whose names I forget. We
were three sisters on board the Kent, Mary, myself, and Ellen.
During the voyage we caught a very large shark. I believe it was fifteen feet
long, and after being shot at by the officers, it was pulled up at the poop, and
the sailors ran down the poop ladder with the fish onto the quarter deck. Our
Sergeant Major’s wife was sitting on a gun carriage just at the foot of this
ladder. When the fish got down to the level, it raised its tail and struck this
poor little woman so hard on her head as to render her insensible. She was
carried to her berth, and could not leave it for weeks.
I need not mention porpoises or bonneeters, as everyone knows them, but one day
just as we were all in the cuddy at lunch, a very good sized flying fish flew in
at the round port-hole near the shrouds of the main mast, and the steward first
handed it round on a dish for us all to have a look at its beautiful wings, and
then it was given to Dr Hamilton to preserve and stuff.
We put into Madras Roads for a
short time, and I can quite remember the masoola boat that came to take us on
shore. Madras is celebrated for its high surf. In some months a black flag is
hoisted on the beach, and no one dare go to or from the shore.
Before we left the ship, I saw what looked like a black man kneeling in the
water. He had a small cap on his head, but nothing on his body. The waves washed
over him, and wetted him constantly. He put his hand to his cap and pulled a
small note out of it, and handed it to one of the masoola boatmen, and he gave
it to a sailor and he brought it to the Captain.
I heard afterwards that these poor men have a few bamboos tied together. This is
called a cattermaran, and they go out without any fear right through the surf
and back again.
The masoola boat was red. The men’s coats were red, and they wore red, tall caps
like night caps. At either end of the boat was a tall iron stanchion about six
feet high, with a round hole at the top of each, through which a hawser was
rove. When we were all in the boat a signal was given, and away twenty four
oarsmen pulled with all their might, and when we neared the surf they all
shouted in chorus. Through we went, and covered with spray. We ran up on the
In a moment all the red coated men jumped out, and pulled the boats higher up.
Then two men seized one poor passenger and leaped overboard. Some said they were
carried head downwards, but as everyone was dripping wet, they were so glad to
get on dry ground once more, they soon forgot that little disagreeable.
We went to a cousin of my dear mother’s, a Solicitor named Proctor. We soon got
dry clothes and were made comfortable, and as this was our first experience of
Eastern customs, manners and dwellings, of course we tried to find out as much
as possible in the week we stayed there.
The house was very large, with many rooms, very lofty ceilings, all white,
everything white. As the hot season had not commenced the windows were open, a
lovely flower garden, with the doors of one side of the house opening into it. I
can only remember a few things. One was that on a small table in the entrance
hall lay three strange looking sticks, with a hand carved in ivory at one end.
The fingers were folded over the thumb, just leaving the nails, so as to be
felt. Childlike, I must ask what they were for, and was told they were back
scratchers, to be used in the season when the prickly heat tormented you, and
you cannot reach the spot with your fingers, then these are used. One had an
ivory handle, another carved whalebone, the third I do not know.
Another strange object was the first sight of a punka, or fan, about three feet
in diameter, quite round, with a border of fancywork in bamboo or cane, the fan
itself made of a huge palm leaf. The stem turned on one side to form the handle
about five feet long. A man holds this upright by his toes, and swings the fan
to and fro, firmly and quickly, causing a very agreeable cool stream of air to
pass across the room or verandah. On sultry evenings when all are usually
sitting out in the charbutra or raised chunam verandah without a ceiling,
generally beyond the side verandah about twenty feet square, it is very pleasant
to have this punka and ices.
We went to see the Tomb of St Thomas, who is said to be buried on a small hill
called The Mount, or St Thomas’s Mount. We then returned to the ship by the
masoola boats again, and commenced our way to Calcutta.
The first appearance of India, in my idea, was like a row of pins. Coming nearer
to the low banks we saw that they were cocoa-nut trees. The land lies very low.
The Sunderbunds, as the mouths of the Hoogly are called, are low, marshy, sand
or clay banks, the channels often changing between them. No one stops near them
as they are very unhealthy, but pass up into the river as soon as they can.
I think we were three days going up the river, no steamers in those days. As we
got higher up many canoes and dingey came alongside with fowls, vegetables,
fruits, toys, and birds for sale, and other things. I remember telling my mother
that the naughty black men had no clothes on. They really had scarcely any.
When we had all landed we went to Fort William. The Kid had not then arrived,
but did after a few days, when we heard that Colonel Sale’s wife had a little
girl on the passage, they named her Alexandrina, and she married Captain Sturt
of the Engineers, and after him she married again, and she and her husband were
both murdered by his own Russalah in the Mutiny. As they were out driving they
We were taken in by Bishop Heber and most kindly treated, until proper quarters
had been given over to the officers of the regiment and everything was ready for
us. My sister Louisa was born about a month after we landed, on the 6th
About this time, many
rumours of a war in Burmah began to excite people, and many officers used to
come of an evening to talk over these reports and decide on what was to be done.
We were then living in the Rampart Barracks, from whence a very good view of
river and shipping is to be had. The Fort is a large place, and it has four
gates. Over these gates are the quarters of the Commanding Officers and staff.
The Plassey Gate was occupied by General Dallzell (afterwards Earl of Carnwaithe).
When it was found to be true that all the available European and native troops
were to proceed to Burmah, this kind man begged my mother would remove from the
Ramparts to his quarters as soon as he left, as there would always be a guard of
Sephahis there to take care of us during the absence of our Regiment. So we went
to live in the Plassey Gate, the General only asking, “Shelter when he came
back, just one room for himself,” so we always had a room ready for him, as
there were many more than we could occupy.
A young son of the General’s arrived from England before the troops left for
Rangoon, to be his father’s aide-de-camp. His father would not hear of his
having a bed prepared, so this young man rolled himself in a blanket, and slept
on the floor of his father’s room. When the old man retired for the night, he
looked on his sleeping son, and seeing a pillow under his head, he pulled it
away, the son’s head coming down with a loud noise on to the floor, exclaiming
at the same time, “Feather-bed soldier, feather-bed soldier!”
Soon after this, the Regiment,
with the rest of the English and Native Troops, embarked for Burmah under Sir
Archibald Campbell. This was early in 1824. We often heard from my dear father,
by return vessels and native boats. It would be vain my attempting to give
extracts, as I was too young to take much interest, until, after some little
time, my father sent my mother some curiosities.
The first place they were sent to attack was a Fort in the river called
Cheedubah. The night before they went, as my father was sitting in his tent, a
young brother officer named Jones, a handsome tall Welshman, came in, and sat
down and said, “I have come to ask you a great favour.” My father replied,
“Anything I can do for you, I will.” Jones said, “These letters I have written
for my mother, and I have sketched my own portrait for her, by standing before
my mirror, and I wish you to forward them to her if I fall tomorrow, as I have a
presentiment I shall.” My father promised, and took charge of the parcel, and
tried to cheer the young man as much as he could, but when they attacked the
Fort, Jones was the first man killed! Of course the letters &c. were forwarded
to the poor mother as he had wished.
Among many other curios sent to my mother were rolls of Deva Nagree characters,
or Ordoo on beaten leaves of silver about two inches wide, as thin as paper, and
more than a yard long. These were in ivory boxes neatly carved. My mother sent
them home to England.
There were many small idols, some standing, some sitting, one inside a snake of
silver (all the small idols were of resin or gum, covered with silver leaf) and
two wooden idols – of about three feet height, gilt all over – a man dressed
like a native, holding his hands clasped in front as if in prayer.
Nothing could equal the joy of our native guards when they saw these images. My
mother had put them at the end of the verandah upstairs. After their arrival
every morning we would find chaplets of sweet smelling flowers on their heads
and around their necks, and rice and sweetmeats on the ground at their feet, and
sometimes cowries, (a small shell, money.) We three eldest children were well
pleased to see the sweetmeats – for we could eat them, but my mother tried to
persuade the men that the idols were only wood, but to no purpose. The men would
insist upon it that some great blessing was to come to us, on account of these
idols having arrived. However, my mother gave the measure of a case that could
hold both, to a native carpenter, and when he brought this box and he saw what
it was for, he said, “If I had known it was to shut up my gods in, I would not
have made it for all the wealth of India.” They reached England, and I believe
are now in the British Museum.
The campaign in Burmah was a most disastrous one. When the rains commenced, they
found that the ground that had been selected was so low that it was soon
completely under water, and soon fever, dysentery, ague, &c. began to thin the
English force. After standing in water for three days, my dear father lost the
use of his legs; and soon after was sent to Calcutta to go before a Medical
Board. This was in 1825 – the beginning of the year. My father came back an
object, carried helpless, miserably thin, with long hair. The doctors ordered
blistering ointments to be rubbed on legs and feet. My dear mother’s hands and
mine were blistered, but it had not the slightest effect on the poor legs.
A Board of Medical men sat, and decided on sending my father to the Cape of Good
Hope, with full instructions for the doctors there, how to treat him if he
lived. We had some very kind friends in Calcutta, and they immediately set about
procuring a passage for us all, five in number.
Bay of Bengal 1825
No English vessel happened to be
in Port then, but there was a French Ship named the Anna, Captn Sons, on board
of which we sailed away as soon as we could, taking advantage of the
opportunity. Captain Eglan of the Madras Engineers, and Andrew Grant of the
Indian Army, also took their passage in the Anna. We sailed.
The crew were a motley set, dressed in all styles and colours, French, Portugeze,
Italians, Lascars, Negro cook. Our chief mate’s name was Monsieur Lammê. The
second, Monsieur Mass. The supercargo’s name was Pilbrow.
Of an evening Mons. Lammê would bring out his violin, and the sailors would
dance in the moonlight. We sailed and sailed, till one day all of a sudden, we
ran aground. The commotion must be imagined, I cannot describe it. At length we
got off, and that day month we grounded again at the same spot! on the Pullicat
sands off Pondecherry. After a consultation it was decided that my father and
Captain Eglan should accompany the Captain to beg the assistance of the Governor
of Pondicherry to get us out of our trouble, so off they set in one of the
ships’ boats, and we fast on the bank.
When evening was coming on, the second mate, who had charge of the cuddy lamps,
came to light them. There were two large swinging lamps, one at each end of the
cuddy table. We were all on deck watching for the boat to return before dark. My
mother went down for something to her cabin, and seeing rather a greater light
than usual, went into the cuddy, where to her great horror she saw the hot
blazing liquid falling from the lamps on to the cuddy table, and still flaming
there. She ran at once and got a blanket and spread it on the table, and with a
silk handkerchief she stifled the flames in the lamp, but they had very little
left in them, so much had boiled out. Her arms were burnt, and her hands, and
her eyebrows singed, but she did not seem to think much about it.
As soon as the party arrived in the boat enquiries were made. They had thought
at first it was to shew them where the ship lay, until it was put out so
suddenly. Then they didn’t know what to think. It came out upon investigation
that Mons. Mass thinking he was quite safe, had indulged rather freely in some
favourite liquor, and not seeing very clearly he had trimmed his lamps, and
replenished them with fine spirits of turpentine, instead of oil!!! They never
thought of my dear mother’s presence of mind, which probably saved the vessel.
Next morning about seven o’clock a large red boat came alongside with about
twenty or twenty five rowers. These rowers were all dressed alike in red shirts
and caps, and they each had one arm chained to his oar. We were looking at a
gang of galley slaves! Alas! Poor things, who could not pity them. A man stood
on a locker at the stern, armed with a long whip! These were sent to tow the
Anna off the sandbank. While waiting for some arrangement of ropes, &c., some of
our sailors threw overboard several pieces of salt beef (raw) and it had
creatures in it, yet these wretched men, after merely dipping it in and out of
the sea water, we saw them eat it!
We got off the bank and again set sail, and came in sight of land, but found it
was Sumatra, quite in an opposite direction to Cape of Good Hope.
Here we went on shore at the invitation of a very nice native chief, named “Poett”,
who told us that a sick English lady had lived for a while in his house, but
that she had died, and he had her tomb in his garden, and would shew it to us,
which he did. Poett took a great fancy to us children, me he gave a pretty
headdress made of eight little small bags filled with pepper, very finely
plaited, and all joined at the top with a scarlet knob! which he put on my head!
He also gave my mother other things, among them some delicious preserve. A huge
plantain about nine inches long, when opened was found to contain about 100 or
more wee bananas about an inch and a half long, preserved most deliciously
either in honey or sugar. Poett was very kind, affable and generous. We stayed
with him about a week.
One day he came and told my father, (who walked with crutches) that there was
going to be a great meeting held, and that if he would like to go and see it he
would take him with him, as he was going as one of the head men of Acheen. It
appeared there had been a quarrel between two young men, and this was a meeting
to decide it, according to the law of the land.
My father was very glad of the opportunity to know something of the customs and
manners of the Acheenese, so he said he would be very much pleased to go.
Accordingly they set off into the forest. The trees grew thickly giving a
pleasant shade. After walking about an hour, they came to an open space of
cleared timber, about a quarter of an acre, in which seated on the ground were
about fifty or sixty natives in a long circle. Poett motioned silently to my
father to sit down, which he did, then Poett seated himself beside him, and they
all kept silence. After a while a native appeared, and with him a younger man
with his head wrapped up in a quantity of cloth, and these two walked into the
centre of the circle and sat down. Very soon after from another quarter, a
native and a younger man came up, and these also silently walked into the center
of the group and sat down opposite the first comers, and a little distance off.
Still not a word, when after a long pause, the elderly man, who had first
arrived, stood up and addressed the assembly.
As Poett afterwards explained it to my father, it appeared that the two younger
men, (one of whom was the speaker’s son) had quarreled, and the other young man
then present in the center with his father, had drawn his sword and struck him
on the head with it, inflicting a severe blow. At this, the young son of this
speaker, arose and unbound the cloth that had been round his head, and shewed
the marks that were where the wound had bled. Then the old father re-seated
himself, and the other old man rose up – acknowledged his son had done wrong,
and he was ready to punish if they gave their consent.
All hummed something, when the man who had spoken last, quietly took up his
son’s sword, (which was the guilty weapon) and deliberately struck his son’s
head, which was uncovered, then turning to the father of the other young man, he
said something, on which the same man struck his son a second time on the head –
from which there came signs of its being no light hit, on which the
complainant’s father acknowledged by a bow of the head that he was satisfied, on
which, the whole assembly rose and dispersed, the punished man coolly putting a
cloth over his head and following his father. This is the law in that country.
We spent a very pleasant time in Poett’s house, delighted with all the new
flowers and fruits and insects that we saw.
When we returned on board the Anna we found the deck piled up in every direction
with whole pepper, in fact they had loaded her with that spice, and so we
surmised that they had had no intention of steering for the Cape, as we had
understood. Some suspicion having arisen that there would be bad feeling between
the natives and the crew or the officers, the Captain slipped the cable and we
put to sea that night. We met a vessel afterwards, and the men on board of her
told our crew that it was well we had left then, as on the morrow after our
leaving, about 300 canoes with armed Malays entered the Bay, in search of the
Anna, as they declared the supercargo had cheated them with false weights, and
they had come to punish him. Well for us they could not reach us, as we feared
the charge was true. We were so loaded with pepper that when the men pumped the
ship, the water came out filled with pepper, and great quantities went overboard
in this way.
Indian Ocean 1825
In consequence of the
delays on the voyage, the provisions began to run short, and our fresh water was
curtailed, each person being put on an allowance.
We had not been long at sea, when grave doubts as to the capability of the
Captain of the vessel to take us to our destination, began to be entertained by
the passengers. Accordingly, a council was held, consisting of Captain Eglan of
the Engineers, my father and Grant. It appeared that Captain Sons spent many
hours at his toilette, had scent and pomades, tooth-brushes by the dozen, was
even suspected of sleeping with his hair in papilotte! and further, he left the
entire management of the ship, in the matter of taking sights and directing her
course to the chief mate, Mons. Lammê, a very nice person to talk with, but
whose fitness for the position of Captain of a vessel was not known, and didn’t
appear. Under these circumstances it was resolved that Captain Eglan should be
requested to take command of the vessel and convey her to the nearest Port,
which accordingly was done, and he took command.
We were very fortunate as regarded weather, but one day we were much disturbed
by seeing a vessel coming towards us, whose rig and appearance was against her
being an honest cruiser. The poor deposed Captain grew frantic, his all was on
board this vessel, and he shewed such fear that he was told to remain in his
cabin. The Chief Mate then recommended some of the sailors being dressed up in
any old red coats that my father had, so as to impress the approaching vessel’s
crew with the idea that we had soldiers on board, and would fight. Our vessel
was a large one, but indifferently manned. However, my mother produced some old
red coats and raggees, and all we children ordered strictly below, and after a
long delay and suspense we had the pleasure of seeing the strange ship pass
astern, with every yard covered with human beings dressed in all kinds of
costume, proving that she was a pirate vessel, and we should have had scant
mercy had the Lord not preserved us from falling into their hands. The vessel
was so light that as she passed slowly by, her copper shewed between two or
three feet! I can see her now as I am writing, crowded with her cruel crew,
passing slowly away.
The first land we sighted was
the Mauritius or Isle of France, and very glad and thankful we were to see Port
Louis Harbour. We had one glass of water on board when we anchored, and had been
four months on board, when any vessel could have run from Calcutta to the Cape
of Good Hope in two.
We received great kindness from the residents of Port Louis. My dear father
hired a house in the “Champ-de-Mars”, where we lived some time. The “Pues”, a
tall mountain with a rock like a thumb on the top of it, (from which it takes
its name) seemed quite close, but I daresay it was a good day’s journey away.
We found fruit plentiful. Every day young girls would bring frambois, ie
raspberries, wild plucked on the mountain, and they were delicious. A large dish
for something very trifling was our usual feast – the scent alone was
delightful, I can well remember it.
We were much annoyed by musk rats that came in the evenings and ran round the
rooms chirruping to one another, such ugly, sharp nosed little rats, with such a
horrible odour that would pervade anything they touched. The houses are built
high off the ground, but perhaps we forgot to pull up the steps, and they may
have gained an entrance that way.
We had the experience of a coup-de-vang, or hurricane while we lived there.
Clouds of dust came. Some houses had wheels under them, and these were pulled by
men close to the foot of the “Pues”, for shelter. Our house was a fixture, yet
it didn’t get much hurt. I saw one poor man throw himself flat on the ground and
try to clutch the grass to prevent himself being blown away. Hens and a turkey
were carried high up and away ever so far. I saw a hay-stack lifted up over the
fences and deposited in a field, not next, but one beyond again. We heard that
the sentry-box with the sentry in it had been carried into the sea. The 22nd Fusileers, or 23rd, I forget which, were stationed there at that time. Every
door was blown off the hinges, and the roof blown away. A Mrs Carr, one of the
officer’s wives, had not long before arrived from home. On being told of these
dreadful hurricanes she said, “I would like to see one,” and she did, her
husband being from home. When the storm began, she felt frightened, and made her
way to the mess house, in hopes perhaps, of finding someone there, it could not
be known. After the storm had passed over, she was found cold and wet and
shivering in a corner of one of the smaller rooms of the Mess House, but quite
bereft of sense! She was sent home to her friends. I never heard of her again!
On the 1st September, 1825, our little sister, Tristiana was born at the
“Champ-de-Mars”, in the Isle of France. She was my dear mother’s eighth
daughter. We never had a brother. When we took her to be christened, the
clergyman asked, “What name?” My mother said, “I don’t know. We had hoped it
would be a boy, and then it would have had its father’s name, Tristram.” “Well,”
said the clergyman, “there’s Georgianna, and Christianna. Why can’t we call her
Tristiana.” So she was called by that name. At the time of her birth, my dear
mother had the whooping cough, and little Triss was not an hour old before we
found she had the same distressing complaint. She was out of one warm bath into
another for several days. We didn’t think she could live. She would turn black
all over and turn stiff as if dead, and then we were obliged to get the hot bath
and put her in.
Now, as I am writing, 1890, she is 65, and a Grandmother many years!
We lived some time after little Triss was born at the Mauritius, and were
invited to Grand Riviere by a Mrs Kent, a lady of property living there, whose
daughter had married Major Dennie of the 13th Regiment, and we went to see her.
Among other things she had a sago plantation, and as this was the season we were
just in time to see all the usual process. The river ran nearly level with the
plantation, at one end of which were the slaves’ huts, close under a high rock
covered with a creeper with snow white flowers that opened at night as large as
saucers. We were called to see a sago palm cut down. They are not unlike a
plantain tree, but taller. We were told that the tree shewed when it was ripe
and ready to be cut down, by the little pearls of sago dripping from the end of
the long broad leaves onto the ground, so that any careful overseer would notice
this as he passed by at any time. When the men were cutting the tree down, Mary
and Ellen and I all stood by. Mary was 12, I was 7, and Ellen was 5, and we were
delighted at the novel sight of so many black slaves, men and women who
doubtless came as much to look at us as at the tree.
At last it nodded, shook and fell! And then two men split it in two, and there
of a pale pinkish white, lay the sago. They made the tree itself act as the
first trough for preparing the sago, which was by merely rubbing the harder
parts until they became pulverized. Then the women and children carried each a
quantity of this wet, doughy looking stuff to square vats about three feet long,
and one broad, Then water was poured on and it was stirred up, repeated as long
as any colour appeared in the water. It would be perhaps two days, they told us,
before the water came off quite clean, and then they would spread the wet sago
upon mats about three feet long and two broad, and two children would have
charge of one mat while drying the sago, in case of rain, when these two
children would have to take hold of the mat at either end, and run with it into
a long shed that was built on purpose for it, as any rain would spoil the sago.
When perfectly dried the sago would be put into mat bags and brought down to
Port Louis to be sold to the merchant there. We were much amused with all we
saw, and delighted with our trip.
Voyage to Cape Town 1826
We left the Mauritius for the Cape
of Good Hope on board a brig, Lady Hayes, commanded by Captn Thomas Allport, on
which the sailors had a pet monkey, a very large one. He soon shewed a strong
partiality for me, and a corresponding hatred of my eldest sister, Mary. We had
a goat on board to give milk for us children, which goat was put into the
longboat with the sheep, and every morning and evening Mary milked Nanny. The
monkey always shewed his displeasure by grins and chatterings, as long as he saw
Mary, and it was my task to endeavour to keep his attention from her by every
means in my power, cake, nuts, biscuit, sweet potatoes, anything I could get, I
did. But one day he grew more angry and desperate, and as I held him by the paws
to keep him from hurting or frightening Mary, all at once he bit me through my
clothes on the left side, but I would not let go till Mary was safe in the
cabin. I think some of the sailors gave him a few strokes with a ropes end, and
the matter was forgotten, but twenty one years afterwards, I had to have the
lump which had grown painful to anything over it, cut out, and our doctor said
that if it had not been taken away, it would have turned to a cancer.
Our voyage had nothing else of consequence, and we in due time arrived at Cape
Town in February, 1826 I think, I cannot speak quite positively.
After seeing the medical men
belonging to the Regiment there, my father was advised to go to Stellingbosch, a
village 22 miles from Cape Town, and they gave him letters of introduction to
the Landrost or Mayor, Mr Reyneefeldt, also to a Doctor O’Flynn, so that on our
first coming into Stellingbosch, we did not feel so lonely or friendless as we
might have been. We also became acquainted with several Dutch families, Mr Kenniburg and his daughter Mildred, a Mr Hugo, a Dr Neetling, Mr Newmaan, a Mrs Anderman, a Mrs Bestandig and Miss Heinermann, and many others.
The doctor and his wife we found truly kind and hospitable, and we soon grew to
be very glad when we saw him on his fine grey horse Paddy, who could do several
odd things. He could lift a knocker to save his master dismounting, could let
himself into the kitchen by lifting the latch, could carry a lanthorn on a dark
night, to light the road, and in fact he was a wonderful horse and a great pet.
After resting a while to recover the effects of our two voyages, several
consultations were held with Dr O’Flynn as to what was to be done to restore the
power of walking to my dear father’s legs, as up to the present time he went on
crutches, being quite unable to use feet or legs. We frequently spent a day at
Mrs O’Flynn’s. They had no children and seemed to like us all very much.
One day the doctor said to my father, “Would you have any objection to travel?”
My father said, “No, why?” “Because,” said the good doctor, “I have heard of a
hot spring a good way over in the desert, and I have an idea it would benefit
you, if you follow my instructions.” “I would willingly bear anything or do
anything that would cure me,” said my dear father. “Very well,” said the doctor,
“I will see you again soon.”
A few days after this, the doctor called, accompanied by two other persons named
Kenneeburg and Pope. These O’Flynn introduced to us all, telling us that Mr Pope
was a trader with the natives of the interior, had been for some years among
them, and that he was now fitting out his wagons to go again, bartering as
usual, and recommended my father to go with him, for security and guidance. Mr Kenneeburg was an old friend of both – the arrangement was made – the terms I
never heard. My father bought red bead necklaces, a bag full of colored beads –
particularly large red ones, tin snuff boxes, tobacco, small looking glasses,
gay colored handkerchiefs, knives, hatchets, gun flints, gunpowder, and others I
do not remember, gilt buttons I know, large needles, of course under Mr Pope’s
advice and direction. We bought a large wagon and had it fitted up to make a
sleeping place for us all. We all learned to speak Dutch.
After a little delay we started.
It took time to get everything ready and then my father had to get permission to
cross the boundary and get credentials to any magistrate he might be near in
case he required any assistance on the journey or provisions or fresh oxen.
The Landrost of Stellingbosch then was a Mynheer Van Reynefeldt, who was
intimate with our family and behaved very kindly to us. He had a very nice wife
who was also very kind, giving us letters and advice which proved a great help
to us. They gave us some nice quilts made of sheep and kid skins that proved
very acceptable in the cold weather.
To cross the Orange River we had three large four-wheeled wagons, each spanned
16 oxen, fine fat good sized animals. Each wagon had a driver and a boy or girl
to lead the oxen when necessary. Besides the drivers we had our own servants,
and Mr Pope had his. We had a very tall Negro named Tom and a Hottentot named
Hans, and a cook named Sarchee. Our driver had his daughter to lead, a girl
about five small of her age. While leading the front oxen, if she felt tired,
she used to skip up and sit across the neck of one of these quiet quadrupeds. We
had a spare team or span as the Dutch call them.
When my father purchased the female slave named “Sarchee”, I went with him to
the slave market and I shall never forget it. A low room half filled with black
figures squatting close together, at one end near the door a round table stood
upon which the individual to be sold was lifted and those wishing to buy, came
up and examined legs, arms, mouth, just as anyone would a horse. If approved of,
bidding commenced first. Another was put on the table, the first taken down. I
saw boys sold and one poor woman was sold while her baby was sold to another
party. I cannot say what price was given. At the time I write of no servants
were procurable, but slaves.
We left Stellingbosch and travelled till we came to the Orange River which then
formed the boundary of the Cape districts. The first thing I can recollect was
crossing the Orange River, clear as crystal, and not very, very deep. You could
plainly see lovely pebbles lying under the water. The river must have been
unusually high, for when we were in the middle of the stream the wagon floated,
and the bullocks all were swimming, and the water came into the wagon so we were
all in fear that it might turn over, but it did not, and we got up the bank all
right and stayed there that night.
My mother went down to the river and collected some very beautiful agate stones,
among others, and a cats-eye, and a bit of asbestos, which was a marvel to us
all, for when cracked a thread would unfold itself as long as you pulled it.
The Romans used to weave sheets from this asbestos stone to burn the bodies of
their warriors in and so preserve their ashes. We also got a blue stone, rather
clear, of a lozenge shape, and every bit that was broken from the stone had just
the same lozenge shape, no matter how small the bits might be. We also got some
fine moss agates.
After commencing our journey we arranged the plan for our camping. I must tell
you how the wagons were placed to afford a secure space for the oxen, to prevent
the lions from carrying one off in the night. The three wagons were to form the
three sides of a square, thus:–
One wagon, the one with goods in it, was placed so, then our wagon on one side
and Pope’s on the other left a good open space in the center, and fires were
kept up all night where the circles in front are numbered, and the bullocks all
to be in the enclosed space the open side to have constant fires till daylight,
and one man as sentry every two hours. We had one woman servant and 8 men
servants, so we were not a small band. Mr Pope and my father made 10. We could
hear the bullocks knocking each others horns during the night and when I asked
Hans why they did so, he replied, “They smelt a lieu, or lion!”
I regret I have not the map my father made of the route we took and that I
cannot find my dear father’s diary of this journey, which was undertaken solely
on account of his health. I cannot say how many days we were travelling before
we saw any dwelling or human being. We often travelled on sandy plains, with the
loveliest flowers that were ever seen, all bulbous rooted. We had left the land
of heather behind us, such flowers, blue and scarlet and white and grey – iris
of all colours. We dug many up. One had a stem so tall that when it was tied in
under the top of the wagon, it was long as the roof! We sent home to England a
large collection of bulbs, but the basket was stolen out of the London docks –
to our great regret and never traced!
As the bullocks or oxen could only keep up a walking pace, we children could
easily walk at the same rate, and if we were detained by the attraction of a
flower, or anything, we could call out, and Hans would halt the wagon for us to
come up with it.
We often came to empty pools that had been water holes, round which lay bones
and horns in a circle, some large and straight, of many deer killed by lions or
hyenas or some beast of prey. One of these my father had afterwards topped with
silver and his name engraved on, and used it as a walking-stick. It was about 2
foot 8 inches long, quite black, half way up from the head as if turned in a
lathe, rings on rings, the other half quite smooth and shiny as if polished.
Some horns were of different shapes, the small spring-bok curiously twisted,
horns of eland and gemsbok, and hartebeaste, and gnu, and others I forget, and
sometimes we could see the print of a large foot in the sand, and our Hottentot
man servant would tell us how those horns and bones came there, saying that when
any water remained in these holes, the poor deer and antelopes always came at
night to drink. The lion, knowing this, would come and hide behind any shrub or
hillock until the deer had begun to drink, and then he would spring upon the
selected one and kill it and eat it there, so from time to time the skeletons,
heads, bones &c., accumulated, till the water dried up, and then the deer had to
look for other drinking holes, when doubtless the cunning lion would soon scent
them out and have his meals as usual.
It was such a happy time to us
children. I can remember so well the white sand, with high mountains in the
distance. We only skirted the desert for some time, till we had to cross a tail
of the desert three days without water. We carried as much as possible, each man
in the company had a horn made for the purpose and clamped at either end to
allow a band of rope to pass thro’ a ring to sling the horn on the back. More
than 3 feet long and a good width at the broad end. The oxen of Africa are
celebrated for their very long and very large horns.
Every evening while crossing the corner of the desert, we had to throw every
bullock in turn and pour down its throat a measure of the water. To help in
doing this we outspanned earlier than usual to have all over before nightfall,
as the wild animals of that region used to patrol around us. I have seen at
night, when we heard the loud roaring of the lions, the shining eyes, like two
stars, moving slowly as they paced along. The driver Hans told us that the lion
was so crafty that he roared louder and louder as he went away that we might
suppose that he was still near.
While on this part of our journey, we came to a settler’s place. There was a
house, of several rooms, an orchard, fences and gates. The trees were all dead,
not a blade of grass! Not a living thing! It was deserted for want of water.
Their well had dried up and they were all obliged to leave. It was a dreary,
We also had to cross some mountain range, with merely space for one wagon to
toil up and down, so it was the custom, whichever side you were, to send a
driver on with his whip to the top of the pass, as the road is called over a
mountain, and to crack his whip three times, listening after each crack to hear
if it is returned from the other side. If no reply, then go on, but should there
be another traveller on the mountain track, you must wait patiently till he has
crossed over to your ground before you can start to go up, delaying you perhaps
more than a day. No other wagon being then in the road, we prepared to go up.
Here we saw on one side a hill of slate, light purple in colour, about 6 or 700
feet high, a mountain it sloped in one slice from the top to the valley on one
side, about 45 degrees. No foot could have walked upon it. It looked exactly
like a giant slate!
When the wagon was descending on the other side, we remained behind to make an
examination of the wonders near us. We had all walked up, as our united weight
would have made the wagon harder to pull up the steep, and such a view we had
from thence, as far as the eye could reach.
Away at a little distance in a valley were numbers of deer of different species
from the splendid eland and gnu, hartebeaste &c., to the little spring-bok and
mouse deer, a mass of living, moving creatures, migrating to the better pasture
in the low-lands. It was a sight never to be forgotten.
One of our men, Tom, a tall Negro slave, went, and with the gun got one and
wounded a second, and, unwilling to lose it, followed it till evening, and
returned delighted with it on his shoulders. We were very glad of the venison,
and greatly applauded Tom’s skill. We sometimes had a halt, after any extra
pulling, so we stopped a day at the foot of the hills we had crossed.
We found a pretty spot near some thorny acacias, called there, the camel’s boom,
as only the giraffe can browse on the leaves, protected as they are by such
formidable thorns. I got Tom to gather me some, and I knitted with them!! They
must have been eight inches long with yellow tips as sharp as needles.
Our driver, Hans, was a musician, and had manufactured an instrument for himself
out of a calabash and some original cat gut, on which he used to serenade us of
a moonlight night. This evening happened to be a bright night, and after all the
necessary arrangements for the night, and seeing the bullocks all safe, and the
fire well supplied, they determined to make a grand affair. This evening of the
dance, all turned out in their very best, and Miss Sarchee, our girl, got some
wild flowers round her head. Hans, seated with his back against one of the
trees, made sweet melody, while the rest danced to their heart’s content. We
looked on and enjoyed the fun, also, my father offered to buy the wonderful
banjo, but Hans declared no money could purchase it!! Mr Pope, to illumine the
scene, set fire to a tall camel thorn – quite green – a fine tree, and it burned
like a torch, and certainly looked grand. I can fancy I can see it now, the red
flame wrapped the tree till it was a column of flame!
All through our journey we collected anything uncommon or beautiful. One day we
got an eaglet, a superb young bird. He would have lived, we think, but a fox or
jackal one night stole him out of a large basket we kept him in, slung under the
wagon. He was nearly as large as a hen turkey, and not nearly fledged.
We went on our way the day after the halt, and some days on the way came to a
farm. We found a little old Dutch woman in the house, who was very kind to us.
My sister Mary, then about twelve years old, had got inflammation of the eyes
from the sand of the desert, and was suffering very much. This kind old lady got
some herbs and applied them to poor Mary’s eyes, and she found immediate relief.
This old lady’s story was most interesting. While we stayed here the old woman
told us a little of her history. Many years previously she and her husband and
her sons had come over the frontier to settle. Her husband was dead some time.
She had six sons, giants, she told us, and dead shots. “For the matter of that,”
said she, “I am a good shot myself, as when we first came we had to be on our
guard at all times, so we all learnt to skeet”, (Dutch for shoot). “Come here
and I will shew you what I can do still,” said the old frow, taking her gun. She
went into the backyard and we followed her. She put a knife on the little gate,
went about 40 yards off, and fired. We picked up the halves of the bullet. The
knife had divided it! This may not be believed, but I saw it done. None of her
sons were at home then, not expected till evening. We went on, after giving her
something for her kindness.
We travelled on and on till we
came to a place called then “Stink Fontayne”, from the very horrible odour that
escaped from the little lake. We called a halt for some time, and several went
out to shoot a deer for fresh meat. My mother was very glad of a rest and we
hoped great things from the water. The pool was oblong – about 10 yards wide and
20 long – a dead trunk of a tree, quite white, lay in the water, and a constant
cloud of steam lay over the whole. Not a bush, not a bird, it was as solitary
and sad as the Dead Sea. This was the mineral spring Dr O’Flynn had recommended
my father to go to in hopes of restoring the use of his legs. Till now, he
always went on crutches.
We outspanned. Some took the oxen to get water and feed for them, and some put
some potatoes in a net, and said laughingly, “We’ll try if it is hot enough to
cook them”. One of the servants wishing to take the hair off the head of the
deer that had been brought in, dipped the head into the water and in doing so
scalded his hand! Then we discovered it was a boiling spring – the odour from
which betrayed the brimstone or sulphur in it.
Mr Pope assisted my father to dig two holes, as near the spring as he could bear
the heat, and putting a leg into each – for about a quarter of an hour every
day, he was left sitting there, we children only too happy to roam about and
My mother thought it a good opportunity to wash papa’s flannels, as he was
clothed from head to foot in flannel, so getting her tubs out with Sarchee’s
assistance, was soon busily employed. She collected what she wished to wash and
dipped up some of the hot water. What was her horror to find they were all
turned black! After a little, she thought, “Well, I may as well finish washing
them. They will be clean, if black,” so she completed her task, and then went to
rinse them in clean cold water, for strange to say, a spring of cold water is
very near the hot spring, when lo and behold, when she wrang the rinsing water
out the flannels regained their whiteness and my dear mother was comforted. It
was the effect of the soap and the sulphur together. We often afterwards laughed
at the black flannels!!
Every forenoon my dear father buried his weak legs, according to the doctor’s
order. We stayed a fortnight at this sulphur spring. At the end of this time
papa could walk with a stick and left off the crutches, and he gradually
recovered the use of his legs and by the time we returned to the Cape they were
quite cured and never had any return of the rheumatism. I have heard that a
large hotel and boarding houses, &c. are now where we were in the wilderness.
We then went on through
the Bechuana country, and the King and Queen of the state came to see us. I
don’t remember much of the King. My father told me that he begged so hard for
one of his bright buttons, that papa cut it off, and gave it to him, when he at
once put a bit of hide through the shank, and tied it round his neck! I believe
he had very little clothing on, a skin on the shoulders merely, but the Queen I
recollected distinctly. She had two servant women with her. They laid a deer
skin down for her to sit upon. Round her waist was a strip of hide or leather,
and in front a huge bunch of leather strips, about half an inch wide, about 150
strips, I should think. This bunch she took hold of and very adroitly flinging
the mass behind her, sat upon it!! We could only converse by signs. Having heard
that they liked snuff, we had brought some with us. I had a pretty little tin
box, and we filled this with snuff, about the size of a pullet’s egg. She
eagerly seized this box, and tried to explain that she would give me a cow in
milk for the snuff box and snuff. I agreed, and we did get the cow next day,
according to promise. The woman put the whole of the snuff onto her upper teeth!
And then very calmly shoved the empty tin box into a hole in her right ear! Her
ears were nearly on her shoulders!! Mama made her some presents of blue and red
bead necklaces, which pleased her very much, and she tried to say that she would
give us something in return. On the morrow, with my cow, a pretty quiet
strawberry, she sent a riding bullock to my father, and some young trek oxen for
our wagons, which gave us all great pleasure.
We next went through the state of
the Karaners, a very thievish race as we found to our cost, for one day a large
number of them, some on horses, some on oxen, came and drove away our cattle!
and left us on the prairie.
Then Mr Pope and papa went to the nearest Dutch Landrost to complain, and try to
get some new oxen for our wagons. Each wagon had from 12 to 16 oxen to draw it,
and we had three wagons and the odd bullocks in case of accident and my cow, and
papa’s riding one. There may have been 60 head of cattle.
The Magistrate or Landrost’s name was Jacob von Exteen, a giant of a man, very
civil and kind. He immediately sent off his own teams to drag our wagons to his
farm house, and we stayed several days with him. He shewed us all over his
place. He had three nice lion cubs about 6 months old that he had found when
very young and tamed. He intended sending them to the King of England when old
enough he said, and then he told us a story of himself, why he could not ride on
Some two or three years before the time we saw him, he had been a fearless rider
and sportsman and he used to go to the Boer’s meetings and cattle sales, and
rode a strong grey horse, a great pet of the children’s, who always had a ride
after papa’s return home, just round the house. One day, he was rather later
than usual, and as he got near home he began to think how the youngsters would
be waiting for their ride. It was growing dark and he forgot to keep up his
usual pace. He had let the horse go into a walk, and holding the reins slack,
all of a sudden, a large lion sprang out of a clump of bushes, and leaped on the
horse’s neck. With the hind paw, he tore Exteen out of the saddle, and the horse
startled, flew off with his fierce rider at speed, and left the master on the
sand. At first he did not know he was hurt, and tried to stand, but could not.
The lion’s paw had taken a piece of his left thigh out as large as a 2 pound
load! And of course it was bleeding dreadfully. As he lay on the sand, he untied
his neck cloth, which was a large one, and managed to put in the lump of torn
flesh in its place, (but it had got sand in it, and never united) and tied it
round with the neck cloth, and then tried to drag himself along the ground.
He was about three miles from his farm, and night would soon come on, so he
pulled and scraped along as best he could, not in very much pain, but weak and
helpless. He recollected that somewhere near an old herdsman had a kraal, and if
possible he would get there, so after a long time he came to this kraal and
fainted at the entrance. When the old man found him, he pulled him somehow to
his hut, and gave him some water, and made a bed of heather or dry grass, and
laid him on it. Then he made a poultice of herbs and put it on the poor leg.
Next morning, Exteen was in fever and delirious, and the third day the old man
got frightened, and went, after fastening up the door, to tell Exteen’s people.
They came bringing a litter of boughs and carried him home, where he was a long
time before he could try to walk.
As soon as they had got him home his friends called a commando, or gathering, to
search for the lieu, as they call the lion.
While he lay sick his brothers, relatives and friends, to the number of 22
arranged for a hunt to shoot the lion. They easily found the spot where the lion
had sprung on the horse and the footprints of the frightened animal led them to
where the horse had been eaten – the bones were there as white as ivory – picked
clean by the hyenas, those scavengers who complete what the lion began.
But where could the lion be? After three days search, guided by the poor grey’s
tracks, they came to the saddle, much torn and scratched by the lion in his
ride. No bridle was found, but they tracked the old monster to his den under a
large rock, hidden by brushwood, so they threw lighted torches in, and on his
springing out with a terrific roar, he received the bullets of twenty-two
rifles, and fell.
They skinned him, and returning home with it, they brought the skin to poor
Jacob, while he was sick and spread it on a couch and told him to sit upon it,
and when the story was told by him to us, my father and myself sat each on one
side of him on the lion’s skin!
He took up the hind paw on the right side, and shewed us the claws that tore his
thigh. He shewed the wound to my father alone, who said it was a hole you could
have put an infant’s head into, and he could not mount a horse. He trembled so
if he tried.
After replacing our lost oxen, we
left the good Landrost with many kind wishes, and travelled into Kaffir land,
intending to go as far as Latakoo, where Mr Robert Moffat the missionary lived
with his family. We arrived at Moffat’s one afternoon and were met with a hearty
welcome. We found both Mr and Mrs Moffat kind friendly persons, and I soon made
friends with a dear little girl named Mary who was about two years younger than
myself the same who in after years became the wife of Livingstone the traveller.
We stayed a week at Latakoo, saw how much Moffat had been able to do with the
poor Kaffirs, went with him all over his nice little homestead, inspected garden
and orchard &c, which indeed were blooming and promising a sweet reward for all
their industry. The morning we left, on looking out of our window, we could not
at first take in the contrast to the evening before. Where the green leaf, the
sweet flowers or garden had smiled, all was black, black. We did not know why.
On going outside, we met Mr Moffat, who told us this was the work of the
locusts. They had come in the night in millions, and lighting down, had
destroyed every vestige of cultivation. In one night the work of 5 years was
entirely swept away as if it had never been. I saw the poor Kaffirs with their
heads covered, weeping for their loss.
We only went one days
march further on to say we had gone beyond the last English homestead in the
wilderness, then we turned to go back to civilisation by another route. Having
lost the map I am not quite certain of the relative places we travelled thro’ on
our way back to the towns.
We had our Christmastide in the wilds, and Mr Pope lighted a fire with the flint
of his gun snapped in the pan, and mama made a pudding and baked it in the
frying pan under some camel thorn trees, a species of Acacia very much liked by
the giraffe. We found they would burn green.
In the desert we saw ostriches in the distance, and quaggas and zebras and gnu.
These last would dance on a hill, much to our amusement.
One day Hans came running to us. “Mak how! Mak how!” he said. “Make haste. I’ve
got something to shew you.” So we ran and came to a round shallow hole in the
sand, about 10 feet across with a ditch all round it, and in the center 28
ostrich eggs! How we danced for joy to think we should see an ostrich nest and
eggs, so we went to take one, and Hans broke one, when there was a young bird
nearly hatching. My mother took an egg and brought it to the wagon. We kept it
as warm as we could, and it hatched on the 3rd day after we took it out of the
nest. In the ditch lay six eggs much smaller than those in the nest, so we asked
Hans why they were there. We think he said, “The young birds cannot follow the
mother to feeding for some days, and these eggs are to feed the chickens,
perhaps!” Our dear pet did not live as we did not know how to feed it. It was
grey with black spots as big as a half crown and stripes all over one colour,
with a wedge shaped head and two toes, and as big as a very large dorking hen.
One day a Kaffir brought a lovely black skin of an ostrich to sell, and papa
bought it, and he and I went to the Kaffir’s tent where he had a zebra just
killed. We got the skin and some meat. It was like hard beef. The tent was of
skins shaped like an extinguisher, and had a pole in the middle.
We met another Kaffir another day while in the desert, guarding his cattle, and
mama had a cold duck which she gave him. It was only the body, without either
legs or wings, but he put the whole of it into his mouth at once and chewed it
Papa asked him what time it was. We wished to know if they had any way of
knowing the time of day and asked him thro’ our Hottentot servant girl to tell
us. He looked round till he saw a piece of straw, then he put it upright in the
sand, looked at the shadow, and answered “It is 12 hour”. He was only five
minutes out by our watch!
This man had a tiger cat’s skin hung round his neck, and a long stick in his
hand. His hair was wooly and all over his body was a red powder that glistened
like mica or glass. He invited us to his hut and we went. His fellow Kaffirs had
killed an ostrich and a quagga, and we found the body of this animal lying by
the leather tent that was the home of the Kaffir and his family. They gave us a
portion of the flesh of the quagga, and when cooked it tastes like rather tough
beef. They had also killed a large ostrich, a black one of course, the females
being brownish. We bought the skin of this bird and preserved it.
So many years have elapsed since I travelled through this desert that I cannot
exactly say which place we arrived at first, but we came to the Swart River, a
river that flows over black marble or granite black as ink which makes the water
appear black. The sides of the banks were high and rugged. We enjoyed being near
fresh water again as only they who have been deprived of it can tell.
We frequently saw the little prairie dogs sitting on the ridges above their
holes. At first we took them for children in the distance, and while we looked
they vanished. Then we asked our driver Hans and he told us they were animals
and easily tamed. We got one and tamed it and took it with us to India. It lived
five years and crept under an oven and was scorched to death in the winter one
We came to Griquatown and stayed
at a Mr Melvilles – a missionary – for a few days to rest ourselves.
Then we left again and came to Worcester where we met Sir David Baird, and at
his house we tasted an omelet made of ostrich eggs. It was excellent and we
enjoyed it greatly.
Then we came in time to Utinhague, where we saw the ivory tusks which the
natives were bringing to Captain Andreas Stockinstrome, who was afterwards
knighted by the Queen. Some of the elephants teeth – as the Dutch call them –
were more than six feet long, curved, and very wide at the broad part.
It must have been in 1826 or 27 that we came to where Grahamstown now stands. We
met Colonel and Mrs Graham and a son about my own age. When Colonel Graham
marked out the site and measured the streets, I held one end of the rope and he
the other, and so the township of Grahamstown was marked out.
We returned to Cape Town delighted to find my dear father so much recovered, and
commenced our arrangements for India, where we would be due on the expiration of
my father’s sick leave.
We got a young slave girl named Elsee to wait on my mother and nurse the baby,
and left for Calcutta in the Barge Ellen, Captn James Patterson, in February
1827. Young John Taylor was a passenger with us.
Indian Ocean 1827
When we were about a hundred miles
to the east of Mauritius, we had a very heavy gale, it commenced the 21st March,
and continued for three days – it increased to a hurricane. Our bulwarks were
washed away, and the long boat with the sheep was taken clear away, as well as
the top mast, and some spars and the foremast and bowsprit carried away. No fire
was lighted on board for those three days. The seamen were lashed to the safest
places, and the man was lashed to the wheel. One of the sailors named Nicholson,
an old man with white hair, told us that he had been at sea for eight and thirty
years and had never before seen a vessel live through such a storm. My dear
father said on the third morning, “I shall lock our door so the sharks shall not
eat us alive” when the old sailor Nicholson put his head down the companion
ladder, and said something we could not hear, and the vessel trembled and then
rose, and my mother called out, “The storm has broke! The storm has broke!” and
it was so.
Gradually the wind grew less and the men untied themselves, and we got some tea
and biscuit. In a week the masts were mended. I can recollect how curious the
sea looked so near without the bulwarks for some time, but we arrived quite safe
at our journey’s end. During the height of the storm two shells were washed on
board, and given to my mother who had them for years with the latitude and
longitude of the place they were found in.
We only stayed in Fort William to
prepare for our journey up to Dinapore where the 13th were then, and we went up
the river in boats. We lived at Dinapore some time. I had a sister born there in
1828. I had a severe fall from my pony and was ill for some time. While living
here I saw a curious thing. I was very fond of specimens of any kind, and
seeking some one day I came to a swamp. I saw a curious looking thing in the
swamp – it seemed like eyes on each side of a large toad’s back, so I tried to
make it move, and I found that the eyes shrunk down lower when I tried to touch
them, and at last I got the toad (for it was one) to move out of the hole he was
in, and away he jumped with the bright eyes on his back. I was laughed at by
everyone I told of my discovery, but now, sixty-one years after, it is known to
be a fact, and I can laugh at them.
My eldest sister was married at Dinapore on the 19th March 1829, and soon after
we came down to live at Chinsurah, the depot of the English troops, Colonel
Sydney Cotton commanding, and Henry Havelock as Adjutant, and my father as
paymaster. He had as clerk, Jay Rissen Mvokerjie, and I was able to help
sometimes. We had a very indulgent father. He gave us permission to keep pigeons
and we had some beauties.
During this year it happened one morning while we were at breakfast mother
exclaimed, “That’s James Speedy’s voice,” and a young man came in, tall, very
thin, with curly brown hair, and dressed in white. He said he was in “The
Buffs”, had just arrived in the Windsor and had brought letters from his father
and mother, old friends of my parents, and of course we made him welcome. He
used to come very often as there was only one time in the year that any English
person can travel. Of course until then you must wait as patiently as you can.
Well, James found us a pleasant party, I suppose. He took great pains to make us
as much like his own sisters as possible. He gave us books, birds, flowers,
walked and talked with us more than any other of our friends. We were all very
sorry when he went away to Berhampore where “The Buffs” were then stationed, but
not many months after this he was bled carelessly and nearly lost his life, and
was sent away on sick leave, and came to stay with us for a change. I had charge
of the poor invalid, as I was the eldest then, and used to rub the poor, stiff,
useless arm every day, and sling it for him, and so we came to be very much to
each other. But James never made love to me, although I should have liked it if
My sister Mary had been married at Dinapore to a young Cavalry Officer named
Richardson. Her cousin came down to stay with us, and James rejoined his
Regiment. In 1831, my father’s health began to fail. He had a sever attack of
liver, and the doctors all said he must try change of air.
We were very intimate with the Cottons – our Commanding Officer’s family. They
had a little son, who was to be christened, and I was allowed to carry him. His
father’s uncle, Lord Combermere was to be Godfather. Baby was to be named Lynch,
and after the ceremony there was a grand breakfast, and Lord Combermere went up
to Mrs Cotton, who was sitting on a sofa and putting his hand in his pocket drew
out a very pretty turquoise bracelet and ear-rings, and put the bracelet on Mrs
Cotton’s arm, and the ear-ring in her ear, and said, “Do you think my taste
good?” Mrs Cotton replied, “Yes, very good. They are very pretty indeed.” Then
undoing the clasp of the bracelet and taking the ear-ring out of her ear, he
said, “I am glad you like them, I have bought them for Lady Combermere,” and put
them back in his pocket!
Our doctor was George Russell
Dartnell, a clever good-tempered Irishman. He took great interest in collecting
curios and induced my little sister to collect bones and teeth &c. from the
banks of the Ganges. We lived close to the river, and the little child of six
only wished to please her kind friend who played music for her, and she would
carry a skull or any bone she found, in her pinnie to her dear doctor. He called
her his “bon(e) amie.”
One evening we heard a noise at the back of the house near the go-down or
cellar, and with a light we went to investigate, when we saw a most uncommon
sight. A thing like a flying snake was hurrying from side to side in a small
room. The servants soon knocked it down, when Dartnell found it was a snake
which had captured a bat, the wings of which were unable to enter the mouth of
the snake, and he would not let go – hence the appearance of a dragon.
Our friend, James Speedy came down to see us, his arm nearly well, and we
enjoyed our trips on the river &c. very much. But my father’s health continued
very bad and we made our arrangements for leaving Chinsurah.
One evening we were at tea and we heard suddenly a loud noise of bottles
breaking coming from a room at the front of the tower that lead onto the roof.
Of course we all went to see. The bearer with a lamp first, then James, then I,
then sisters &c. In a moment the breakage began again, and the man with the lamp
cried out sarpe, sarpe (snake, snake) and James struck at something among the
bottles with a stick and killed a cobra – 5 feet 2 inches long. He skinned it
that night and we had it stuffed and kept it for years.
We went down to Fort William to allow papa to go before a board of doctors, who
ordered him away to the Cape for two years. So we went. And Mary and her son
went with us.
We arrived at the Cape and went to
live at Stellingbosch, all our old friends of course glad to see us back. We
stayed a short time. I went to Colonel Cotton’s at Wynberg and my father’s
health improved greatly.
He bought a farm 22 miles from Cape Town, and we went to live at it, and it was
a very happy time. My eldest sister and her husband and two children lived with
We had a nice large vineyard, and made wine, something like sherry, pale in
colour, but very pleasant flavoured. One day, as my pet goat was sick, I went
out to cut some nice young grass that grew in the vineyard, and to cut it more
conveniently I half sat down. When I had cut sufficient to fill my apron, I
essayed to get up but found I could not, something had tied my legs. I jumped I
do not know how high in my fright, and one jump caused a black snake to untwine
itself from me and drop. I saw it and fled as fast as I could to the house a
little distance away. When I got in and reached a chair I could not speak. My
mother was alarmed and scolded and petted in turns, but till my breath came I
could not speak, and all I could utter was “snake,” “snake,” for some time. When
they comprehended all that had happened they went to look for the snake. Of
course he couldn’t be seen, and my account was not quite credited, however it
Charles my brother-in-law was often away on business. He had a splendid English
horse named “Barnstaple”. One evening Charles was rather late on his way home,
and when he had some miles yet to travel he heard a curious noise behind him
like a low chuckle, and looking round he saw two large hyenas, evidently
following him for the horse! He did not alter his horse’s pace, but thought he
would only put him at his full speed if they came nearer, but this they soon
did, and he started at a gallop, the horse evidently smelling the horrid
creatures behind. The time seemed long before the farm came in view – just as
these wretches seemed determined to spring, the gallant horse leaped the
farm-yard gate and saved his master, who never went without his pistols after
that – this was in 1832.
We had a pair of secretary birds who lived on our farm. It was a curious sight
to see the male bird fly away up into the sky with a good sized snake, (we had
plenty) and after noting a stone fit for his purpose, he would drop the snake in
such a way that his head would be smashed on the stone, and then both birds
would quietly feed together on the snake. No one was allowed to hunt these
birds. We considered ourselves very fortunate that they had selected our farm to
The name of our place was “Maitjes Ruik oor Waarberg”. We had a stream of water
running through it, which was a great acquisition to us. We formed the
acquaintance of many Dutch families, Wessels, Neiburg, Byers, Bestandig,
Heiderman, Vanderbyle, Reynefeldt, besides others, Dr Neetling of Rose Cottage.
Voyage to India 1832
As my father had only a
certain term of leave, he had to return to India before it expired, so he made
over the farm and everything on it to my sister’s husband Charles Richardson,
and we went to Cape Town to make the necessary arrangements for our voyage to
We secured a passage in the Alexander, Captn Waugh, and sailed about October
1832. We had a very pleasant voyage. The officers were nice well bred men, one
named Edward Weston Stanley Howard, became like a brother. We became so much
attached to each other, he called our dear mother by the same name, and we were
really sorry to lose him when we arrived and he had to return to England.
Some years before in 1829 or 30, my father’s youngest sister Louisa, came to us
from England, and was very soon after married to Parke Pittar a diamond merchant
and jeweler of Court House Street Calcutta, who had two sons Parke and William
by his first wife, a Miss Younghusband; they had a nice house and I often stayed
with my Aunt Louisa, enjoying myself very much – but in a year or two great
sorrow fell upon them. They had a little girl named Rebecca. One evening both
Uncle Parke and Aunt went out, and left the babe with its ayah – not fearing –
but when they returned the baby had fallen out of bed and fractured its skull.
It didn’t live long, and they never had another child. They went home to England
to the Isle of Man where uncle died. I never heard where aunty died.
Shortly after our
arrival in Calcutta there was great excitement, the renewal of the Charter, on
the 21st January 1833. Great preparations were made. The Government House was to
be illuminated, Ochterlong’s Monument in front of Government House, a house
composed of inflammable material was built, the Queen in front, and 24 Directors
to represent the company in Leadenhall, were seated round a table in this
edifice, dressed as Rajahs and decked with false jewelry and stuffed with
fireworks. A fight between an elephant and a boa constrictor was to take place.
Fireworks were slung all round Ochterlong’s Monument to the top.
Lord William Bentinck had a grand evening party that evening to witness all
these rejoicings, and my mother and self received an invitation some days
previous to it. So anxious to witness such a grand sight as it was expected to
be, we were delighted at the idea, and went.
Alas for hopes. Just about dark the vessels in the river that had guns on board
began saluting, the batteries replied, and a fog that had begun to rise from the
river all combined to make such a mist and fog that nothing could be seen. Of
noise there was enough and to spare, the hissing of the serpent, the cracking of
fireworks, all invisible, made such an uproar that once heard could never be
forgotten, but the house in which the Directors were sitting in course of time
caught fire and after a while blew up, as was intended, but nothing could be
seen, only smoke, everywhere. Some young scamps from the vessels came on shore
and ran away with one of the figures that represented the Directors in the
bamboo house, and did not get into trouble, much to everyone’s surprise.
The 26th Cameronians lay in Fort William at the time, and the 49th. Captain
Reynolds of this Corps was walking on the Ramparts to see the fun, and fell into
the fosse-tray and broke his arm – in consequence of the fog being so dense.
During the month of January and parts of February, we lived in the Staff
Barracks in Fort William. Holcombe, Forbes, Sinclair, and Forester, came out to
join the 13th, my father’s Regiment, and James Speedy came down to see us on our
return from the Cape, and then I found that I never thought of anyone as I
thought of him.
We went up the country by water,
our Regiment was then at Agra – and as was the custom recruits for all up
country regiments went at the same time, to be distributed as their stations
were reached. We had more than 500 soldiers and many officers under my dear
father’s command. We made very slow progress – each boat had to be tracked or
pulled by the boatmen against the stream all the way. We went by the Ganges to
Allahabad, and from thence by the Jumuna to Agra.
Every day the boats were stopped at 4 o’clock to allow the laggards to come up
with the front boats before dark. Some of the boats were missing till nine or
ten at night, and the men searching for them would holloa and yell to each other
in the dark, making as great a noise as a squadron would. After the boats were
fastened securely the mariners or dandies as they are called in India, proceed
to cook their evening meal, all day they work, halting at mid-day for a rest and
a drink of water, a handful of parched gram called chubaynee, and a smoke out of
the hubble tubble which goes all round, one after the other, till the tobac is
exhausted, and then to work again. But at night that was their time for rest and
enjoyment, the tales they listened to, for a story by a story teller is as much
to an Indian as a play or pantomime to an Englishman. The pipe they smoked, the
supper they eat, the sleep they so thoroughly enjoyed because they knew no-one
would disturb them till morning, made it a time they always looked forward to
In some parts of the route, the river ran between high banks of sand, a grayish
soft sand that did not hold well together, and frequently during the night we
could hear the fall of a heavy cliff of this sand which the flow of the river
had gradually undermined. One time a large boat had incautiously lagoed or made
fast to the shore under one of these overhanging banks, and at night when the
dandies were asleep the bank came suddenly down, filling the boat but not quite
crushing it, but it was very near wrecking it.
I wish I could describe the pretty sight of the river bank when the men were all
cooking the evening meal on a low bank about six feet above the water with a low
brushwood from about 18 or 20 feet from the waterside. At every boat (we had
about 50) there was one or two fires, as the caste of the dandies might be, only
those of one caste can eat or cook together. These fires dotting along the side
of the river with the natives walking about them and the voices of soldiers
singing and playing bugles, flutes, or any other instrument, and above all the
moon, shining out of a blue sky without a spot on it, making the nights almost
as clear as day. It was like a gigantic Gypsy camp. Although many years have
passed since then I can remember it as if it had only been yesterday.
We passed Colgong, a couple of huge rocks near Rajhmahl. They were sugarloaf in
shape and looked as if two giant boys had built them with enormous boulders. No
trace of vegetation appeared. A stunted tree grew at the edge of the river on
one and we were told that a fakir or devotee had his hermitage on one, but we
did not see him.
The jackals amused us every night with their ludicrous yelling and they stole
anything that was forgotten in the land. We frequently saw the alligators
floating down the river, and a little white bird about the size of a plover
picking out the leeches off the alligators’ teeth, and the hideous brute would
never close his mouth while the little white bird was in it, but kept the upper
jaw wide open all the time.
The officers in our little fleet often made targets of these monsters, but we
did not get one by shooting at them, although the boatmen did. They were
promised a gift in money by some of our young men if they would catch an
alligator for them. Accordingly there was a consultation held of all the boatmen
to find the most experienced sportsman among them, and we were greatly amused by
the whole thing.
They waited until we came to a narrow part of the river, and then prepared a
trap made of bamboos. This was floated and one part so arranged as to fall down
as soon as the head of the alligator passed through between two strong bamboos.
The natives watched the trap. We did not wait very long. The shouts told us
there was something captured, and when close enough we saw a good sized
alligator struggling in the water, and some men beating its head with sticks to
kill it. Then it was drawn to the shore and skinned for these young officers as
a specimen, and preserved. These reptiles swarm in the Ganges, the attraction
being the number of dead bodies constantly floating down stream, as the place of
burial among the Hindoos is the Sacred Gunga or Ganges River.
We arrived at our journey’s end in May, not without encountering one of the
dreadful sand storms or typhoons of India. One morning we noticed an unusual
calm, no wind. The birds all winged their way to the trees. Our mangee or head
boatman came and said he thought a typhoon was coming, and recommended all the
boats to be fastened by extra ropes as a precaution against the wind, so all the
boats were made as secure as possible, and as natives love noise of any kind,
they made as much shouting and screaming as they chose while doing this, and
when all was secure as they thought, then we wrapped our heads up in towels or
handkerchiefs and hid ourselves under the deck of our boat where the ballast was
and the water. The air grew suddenly red, then such wind as only they who have
felt it can image, and every crevice admitted the hot red sand, until eyes,
mouth, and everything had sand in it. All over the cabin, everywhere red sand.
We all looked red. The atmosphere was a dull red, and this typhoon continued
We were very glad to exchange the
boat for a bungalow. Ours was a nice large one, cool and comfortable.
Dear father bought us each a good riding horse, and my next sister Ellen and
myself went out every day with several young men of the regiment as our escort.
We soon became acquainted with all the Lions of Agra – which had been a royal
city in the times of Ackbar, Aurangzibi, and Jehanglish. Not far from the city
of Tomb of Ackbar is situated, and about three miles out the beautiful Taj
Mahal, or Tomb of Taz Beebee Zamanee.
This I can hardly describe, as no pen can do justice to it. A large garden
surrounds the Tomb itself, walled in by a high wall, and square, with four
gateways of rich red stone. From each of these, East, West, North, and South,
extend white marble walks. All of these meet at the Tomb but terminate in a
fountain. Each side of these walks are flowers of every size and scent, and
large trees line the whole way behind these. The marble building with its dome
stands on a raised platform – which platform is of white marble to represent
jasmine flower, with red granite to fill in between the mosaic. At each end of
this raised part is a minaret, not quite so high as the large dome, which is
said to be four hundred feet high, as white as snow.
You enter on the platform by steps that meet at the top about 16 feet above the
garden, and then you see the entrance arch way of the Taj before you. Just above
the entrance is a sentence from the Koran in letters of gold a foot high, and
each side of the doorway, beautiful mosaic of flowers and leaves – and round the
archway – before you enter, square basso rilievo of lilies, trees and flowers in
pure clear white marble about three feet square as a basement. You pass under
the entrance doorway, and are in a vast hall. Looking up the Dome a large egg is
suspended about a hundred feet above you and all round the tombs a veil of white
marble like a screen octagon in shape runs all round, the pillars of which have
rich coloured flowers in stones, the center only perforated like a honeycombe.
Inside this are two Tombs – intended for the lovely Nour Mahal and her husband,
but she alone was buried here, not in the upper tomb but in a lower storey under
a similar tomb to the upper one, highly decorated with gold let in and mosaic,
very chaste and beautiful. A lamp burns continually by the lower Tomb. The lamp
is of silver and hangs by silver chains from the roof. Over the lower Tomb, a
Cashmere shawl is thrown, which the persons in charge remove when you visit the
place. The echo in the dome is splendid, and we used to bring a musical box of
good size, and set it playing under it, and often sang hymns there.
We often rode out to this place. I have seen the sun rise and set and the moon
rise and set, but nothing can compare with the full moon from the top of the
Taj. It made us think of the Arabian nights – so soft, so clear, such a sky and
such a moon! It was as if it was hung in the arch of heaven and we could see
beyond it far, the bluest of blue skies. I shall never forget the lovely Taj by
To make it complete I was not alone. James Speedy had asked me to be his wife
after we had been at Agra about eighteen months, and he was with me. No wonder I
enjoyed my rides to the Taj then!
We were married in October 1835,
my sister Ellen and I on the same day. She married George Tytler, in our own
Regiment. My husband was in “The Buffs”. They were then stationed at Meerut,
about 30 miles from Agra.
We spent our honeymoon at a pretty old fort near Agra, where Ackbar was buried,
called Futeh poor Sicri. An old man named Sheik Selim Christee is also buried
there, and a pilgrimage to this place is accounted a worthy thing by the
natives, consequently many do come every year.
Numbers of peafowl range over the fort, which is ruined in many places. One
Archway with 150 steps to the valley below was measured by George 120 feet high.
A colony of swallows had made themselves comfortable in the top of the arch and
in countless numbers were flying in and out. We could hear their shrill cries
but could not distinguish any bird as they careered along! After a very pleasant
sojourn at this old fort, where we saw a very small tomb not a foot long, and on
enquiring were told that a great warrior went out to battle from this fort many
years back, and fell in battle. His body never was found, but after great search
they returned and found that a tooth of his had been preserved – so they buried
the tooth with all the honors that would have been paid to the body had it been
found – and this was the Tomb of the Tooth!
We marched the 13 marches between Agra and Meerut. We had two tents – one went
on over night, to be pitched ready for us in the morning with breakfast ready –
bath &c. The other we slept in and had our dinner. We carried with us a number
of fowls to eat. After the first few days these were let go – allowed to roam at
liberty – and feed, and in the evening they would walk into their baskets of
their own accord and were of no trouble.
We arrived at Meerut and got a very nice bungalow, with a large garden. We kept
our cow, fowls, and peafowl, and a number of birds, bul-buls, minahs, parrots,
as many as I chose. A man in our service took charge of them and fed and cleaned
them. We had a khansamah and a kitmutgar cook and mausaletee,
mater, dhoby, mallie, bheestee, groom and coachman and grasscutters, besides men
to pull the punka and water the tatties in hot weather, a chowkedar or watchman,
a chuprassie or poom to carry notes or messages. So the Christmas of 1835 came
The next year passed by very
pleasantly. My sister Ellen’s husband, George Tytler, was interpreter to the
16th Lancers, also stationed at Meerut. We often spent the evening together, and
several of our officers with their wives would also come in. We had a chubestra
or chunamee platform at the back of our bungalow, and a row of lemon trees along
the wall of our garden – with flowers and fruit all round the year on the
branches. The sweet scent of the lemon blossoms always came in. We used to have
ice creams here before we separated and made them ourselves. In this way each
person chose the kind they preferred, pineapple or raspberry, or strawberry &c.
The cream was then mixed with the preserve and brought to us in kulfees – tins
with covers – the shape of an ice cream ready closed and packed in the
preparation for making ice, in an earthen chatty with a cover. The kulfees were
buried to about an inch from the top of the ice, and each person in turn shook
the chatty round and round until the creams were solid. Laugher and singing and
fun went round all the time until the khansamah came to say it was time to stop,
and brought out a little table, on which cakes and plates and spoons were
placed, and then we eat the ices. It was a very pleasant way of spending an
evening, and we frequently had it, while at Meerut.
November of 1836 my eldest son was
born. We had a dear friend named Sawyer, and we named our boy after my dear
father and this young friend, “Tristram Charles Sawyer”. We called our boy
“Charley”. Of course we thought there never could have been such a son, and when
travelling was safe we went to shew him to my dear father and mother, who were
then stationed with the 13th at Kurnaul.
So one evening we started in our buggy, but somehow missed the road, and after
wandering and wandering for some time in the dark, we saw a light and made for
it, and found a small cluster of thatched huts, where some buffalo herders
lived. They treated us very kindly, gave us all the shelter they had – i.e.,
part of the tent where the buffaloes were kept. They brought a charpoy – of
course shorter than we were used to, but we were very thankful to get anything
to lie down upon. In the night the buffaloes next our strange bed licked my dear
husband’s toes. As he was six feet five inches, of course his feet were far
beyond the charpoy. We rose with the first streak of light – and drank some milk
these kind cow herds gave us – and rewarded them as well as we could, and left
On the way back to the road which these poor people took us to, we saw an animal
asleep. James got very quietly out of the buggy, and succeeded in capturing a
wild cat, striped like a tiger. We put it into a pillow case, and eventually it
was stuffed, and added to the collection of curiosities my dear husband had
We set out to Meerut after a short stay at Kurnaul.
Rumours of disturbances
were rife, and talk of assembling an army on the Sutledge began among the
officers. Everyone was excited and preparations for a move were begun even
before any public announcement had been received, but we soon had orders to
march to Kurnaul to join the 13th, and other regiments, cavalry and artillery.
The war of 1838 to 1841 is too well-known for me to mention more than came under
my own observation. I went with my dear husband, as my mother was at Kurnaul,
and I could stay with her until the regiment returned from active service.
The army assembled at Kurnaul and was reviewed by Sir Henry Fane before it
marched to Ferozepore. I rode with James to see the troops encamped. The line
extended five miles, and I never saw a finer sight. The white tents regular as a
cantonment, and the cavalry tents with the horses of each troop tethered in
groups, looked splendid.
Then the camp followers, then the elephants, twenty five or thirty, all pegged
by the front foot, enjoying the evening air. While we paused in front of a large
elephant, a woman passed going for water, with her ghurra on her head, and close
to the huge creature’s fore paw lay a young babe on a mat, about a year old,
kicking in delight and rolling on the mat. It got very near the edge of the mat,
when the elephant quietly took hold of the little foot, and pulled the child
back to the middle of the mat!
As my mother was going to the
Hills (the name given to the Himalayas in India) we agreed to go with her, and
went to Landour close to Missouri. The first was a Sanitarium for English
soldiers, and Dr Robertson of the 13th was in charge there. We lived in a house
called the “Eagles Nest” on the top of a hill called “Lall Tiibar”. The hospital
was below us. A nice long drive called “The Mall” run round the mountain, then
round Missouri, about three miles altogether.
Every evening “The Mall” was the resort of the fashionables on pony back or
jaunpaun, a chair slung so as to be carried by four men called jaunpaunees, and
a man in charge of these four men, called a mate, who with a carved stick which
he held up in the air, now and then ran on and called out encouragingly to the
jaunpaunees. It was a very pretty sight to look on “The Mall” and all the busy
Sir Henry Havelock’s family lived close to us, but lower down near the hospital.
The storms in the rainy season are very heavy, accompanied by loud thunder and
strong lightning. During this season the house occupied by Mrs Havelock was
struck by the lightning, and caught fire. The door had been locked, so that when
it was perceived no entrance could be obtained, at last a Sergeant forced an
entrance through the back room, and carried Mrs Havelock out in a blanket much
burnt. The two boys could not be found. The Nepaulese ayah, a young girl, was
found with the infant girl on her lap. The poor girl’s legs were burnt to the
knees, and the infant’s head was fractured by a beam falling down on it, and of
course quite dead when taken out. The nurse girl lived a day or two in hospital,
and the baby and nurse were buried side by side at Landour. The boys Harry and
Josie were found behind a chest of drawers, with their feet much hurt by the
fire. Mrs Havelock was a long time ill. Her face, her back, her left arm, and
one leg were fearfully burned, but in time she recovered. Of course the scars
At the end of the season, we all returned to Kurnaul. In December 26th my eldest
daughter was born.
Dear James was absent with his
Regiment at Ferozepore where there had been a grand interview between Sir Henry
Fane and Runjeet Singh. The plain on the banks of the Sutledge had been watered
by order of Runjeet some days previous to the meeting, and mustard and cress
seeds sown all over it so that when our Envoy and the English troops came to the
meeting, this mydaan was one sheet of green.
Runjeet’s tents were of Cashmere shawls and his troops lined each side of the
way, which was covered with red cloth to the tents. The Durbar tent was the
centre one and largest, my husband as Interpreter of the Regiment was admitted
to the Durbar where Runjeet and Golab Singh, and many other chiefs were sitting.
Golab Singh, had a suit of steel armour on, damasked in gold, and fine jewels on
his turban, and round his neck. Runjeet, a small thin old man with a long white
beard and one eye, he had lost the other from smallpox many years before. He
wore superb jewels on his head, and on his arms, one a ruby as large as a
pigeons egg, he unclasped and shewed to James. On the same arm he wore the
famous Koh-e-Noor, or “Mountain of Light”. It had names engraved on it, but
still it was a lovely gem.
After the usual ceremonies there was an exchange of presents. Sir Henry Fane
gave Runjeet a life size, half length of the Queen. This Runjeet put to his eye
as a token of his respect and esteem and then he sent for his present. I cannot
remember all but one thing was a small tent of Cashmere shawls, and a charpoy
with tassels of pearls at each corner, some armour shirts of chain, as fine as a
steel purse. There were guns from the Queen, and clocks and musical boxes, but I
forget many things.
During the interview Golab Singh left his chair and my husband mounted into the
chair and looked down upon the scene below, which was a splendid one. The Seiks
are many of them splendid men, and often clad in chain armour with their
peculiar turbans and glittering jewels and shawls worked in gold – few
Englishmen in those days had been at such a Durbar.
The Buffs were left to secure the
frontier when the army of the Sutledge marched to the war, and we remained in
Kurnaul. “The Buffs” marched back to that station and remained some time.
When the rainy season commenced the water in the canal began to rise, until
before a month it overflowed and as the men’s barracks were close to the canal
they were surrounded by water, and very soon in the August fever and ague began
among the soldiers. During this month we buried 80 men and Captain Lacy – and
nearly everyone living in cantonments had fever and ague, natives as well as
Europeans. The hospital assistants were all ill, we had a friend staying with
us, Mrs Souter, and her family – one an infant of a few months old. Every day I
had to take the doctors orders, and physic for Mrs Souter, her son Tom 18 years,
two daughters Sarah and Emma. My sister Tristy and my dear husband all were ill
with fever and ague. Quinine had to be given when the fever was off, and other
medicine at the time of the ague. It was a terrible time.
The native wet nurse that I had to engage to nurse the infant as the mother was
too ill to know anyone, had the fever, and would lay the baby down in its crib
and then shiver in a corner until the fit was gone. The servants who brought my
dinner in after putting the dishes down, would go and have their fit on the
verandah. I never took the fever, but was able thro God’s grace, to nurse all
the invalids back to health.
We returned to Meerut, and Kurnaul ceased to be a station for European troops
I think mama went home to England about the middle of 1839, I am not quite
certain. Charles Richardson came to Meerut in 1839 or 40, and Sandy Dewar got
him appointed, as Captain Commandant of Ross Bells Sowars, or bodyguard. Charles
after a while got Ross Bell to put these men into some kind of uniform and
increased their numbers to 150 and from the dress being red – they were called
In August 1840, my son Octavius Anson Speedy was born. His father was suffering
from ophthalmia at the time, and could not see, so he felt the little face to
know what he was like. But he soon left us. He was a very fine boy, and died
very suddenly when not three months old. George Tytler put a pretty monument
over him in Meerut Churchyard.
In 1841 we went to Simla, in
consequence of my dear James having a sunstroke. The doctors preferred sending
him to the Hills rather than England, hoping that the change would recover him.
In the two years he got a little better, but not quite recover. He employed a
native shikaree to bring him all kinds of birds, large and small, and during our
stay in Simla he collected and stuffed quite a large collection, among others “monauls”,
“cheer,” “pheasants”, “peafowl”, “kingfishers,” a beautiful silver fox, bats of
diverse kinds, which he hoped to take or send home.
During our stay at Simla, the news of the dreadful Cabul outbreak was received,
and then tidings of the massacre in the Kaffir Thungee – of the English force.
We saw fifteen widows walk into Simla Church afterwards. It was a sad, sad
sight, and we knew many among the slain.
At last a Medical Board was called, and they decided that my dear husband should
go home to England, as soon as possible.
In August or October 1842, we left
Simla, but we sent our heavy baggage a month before to care of a dear friend Dr
Chas. Madden. When we got down to his place we found the driver of the cart had
mistaken the ford of the river at the foot of the hills, and had filled all our
boxes and drawers with water. These standing wet a month in the sun in a verandah, had gradually melted into pulp, and when after using a hatchet to open
them, we came to the contents, there was nothing that was not ruined. Everything
was rotten. All the Indian curios we had collected for seven years, all the
birds, and skins &c., ivory and other carved ornaments, all in a pulp or
blackened, uniform ruined, epaulettes &c. not to be recognized, India muslins
all rotten, everything lost. We felt it very much as our time was short, my dear
husband ill, and I not at all well.
When we got to Benares the natives were holding high holiday, and our boat was
very near a pagoda. We had an Irish woman for a nurse with us, and she very
foolishly wanted to see what was inside this pagoda. A multitude of natives with
fireworks and drums, and pipes, dancing and shouting, filled the steps from the
pagoda to the river. A boy who had a lighted firework in his hand, seeing the
white face near his cherished temple, called out to her and threw the firework
at her. It hit her on the back. She screamed and fell down fainting. I managed
to get up to her and seeing a native with a government badge and breastplate on,
called out to him, “Come here and protect us. My husband is a government man and
so are you. Tell that boy to bring a lota of water for this poor woman whom he
has frightened.” The man came and made the boy bring the water, and we got her
into the boat after a while. I was very glad to say goodbye to Benares, and I
scolded the foolish woman for her heedlessness.
We got down to Calcutta when Charlie became very ill, so we had three invalids
instead of one. Of course as our clothes had all been spoiled we had to get some
for the voyage, so we had to sell whatever we could, plate knives, shawls, and
any jewelry I had, to pay the passage home and fit us out. When we were in
Calcutta the cholera was making great havoc. Our Dr Corbyn advised us to lose no
time in getting away.
Voyage to England 1842-43
We obtained a passage on board the
Agincourt for England, about the end of December 1842. When we went on board
Charlie had not opened his eyes for three days. After a few days on board he
opened them, but was weak for a long time.
After ten days we were at Masulipatum, and stayed there for passengers until the
21st when we had a storm. During the night of the 20th, a piano in the cabin
that had not been lashed, suddenly in the night fell over on to where our two
children were sleeping, and broke the little girl’s right arm just at the elbow.
The storm and the child being hurt made me ill, and we had an addition to the
family next morning.
We had been a week at sea after this when a lady died on board, and a week after
that we sighted a ship in distress with her anchor hanging down, and a lanthorne
at her main yard mast. The swell was great, yet the boat we sent managed to get
close enough to allow several men to board her. They found she was a French
barque, laden with nut oil, preserves, and spices, mail bag on board – a good
chronometer, which they brought away with the mail. The fires were out, but the
caboose was warm, and the sailors’ bedding was gone! And the vessel was
scuttled!! We were sorry to leave the ship, but the Captain of our vessel could
not spare hands, or they could have saved the barque and got a large reward.
We arrived at St. Helena, where of course we told the wondrous tale of the
scuttled barque – of the name La Bengali, and we went to a Mr Solomons there.
While we were taking lunch a gentleman came in, and said the Captain of the
vessel was in an adjoining room, so we were silent after that, but when we were
on board again, we heard that the Captain had shot himself that evening.
We had our little baby girl christened here, and called her Helena Agincourt.
England and Ireland
We arrived at home and landed in
Portsmouth, and then went to mama at Chigwell. We then went to Dublin to see
James’ father and mother, and also went to County Galway to see his sister
Augusta, and then we left the children for a while with grandma in Dublin and
went to Bristol and Clifton and other places, and enjoyed ourselves greatly. We
went to St Leonards and Hastings and stayed at my Aunt Wilkinsons.
While here during a gale, my husband wished to feel what the surf was like under
Hastings Castle, so he went into the sea. A policeman some time after noticed
what he thought was a good hat in the water, so he tried to hook it in with the
handle of his umbrella. My James had very curly hair, and the hook caught in
this, and soon the policeman found that it was a head and not a hat, and
together they managed to get him out, but he had tried so long to get out, and
the waves sucked him back again, that his fingers were all bleeding. We sent for
a doctor, and for a fortnight we did not know if he would live or not. Then he
slowly recovered. When my dear husband could be moved, and the inflammation of
the lungs was quite reduced, we went to Sheerness, where the depot of “The
Buffs” was stationed, awaiting the arrival of the Regiment from India.
In April 1845, Alfred was born at Sheerness and a fortnight after the Depot
received orders to join Headquarters in Chatham, 3 hours notice, and a baby a
fortnight old, cold wet day. We were on board the steamer at the appointed time,
and arrived safe at our journeys end. We were soon ordered to Chichester, and
just when we had made a few acquaintances, we were ordered to Winchester. We
went of course to see all the Lions of the place, and eat eel pie at the Lord
Mayor’s dinner. The place is famous for its eels.
After many moves that made us feel the expense very much, we were ordered to
Gosport, to Hasler Barracks, and my dear James got his promotion to a Captaincy,
and then exchanged into the 8th The King’s Regiment.
And when Alfred was a year old we
left England for Bombay in the John Fleming where we arrived in due course of
time. On landing we were rather late, and had a soldier’s wife of the name of
Browne to take care of the children. Charley we had left at Cheltenham at Dr Bayley’s, who had promised to educate him as his own for ₤80:0:0 a year. Charley
was not quite 9 years old, and we had every confidence in Dr Bayley, who was a
cousin of my mothers and Principal of Oriel College, Cheltenham.
The Captain of our ship had given a little paper bag of raisins and almonds to
our little girl Eme, now about 61/2 years old. We sent Mrs Browne to arrange our
room as well as she could, and were invited to a friend’s house to tea. After
tea we went to our quarters, and found the sentry walking up and down, and the lanthorne in the passage giving rather a dull light, but no light was visible in
our rooms, so we scrambled in out of the dark as well as we could, and soon had
a match and lighted a candle. Never shall I forget the sight that met our eyes.
My dear James was on duty, so couldn’t be with us. I had my baby asleep in my
arms and Eme was crying, “So sleepy mama.” The baggage had all been stowed in
this one room, altho the whole bungalow was for us, the bedding had not been
unpacked. I put Eme on the bundle of bedding, where she dropped asleep, and I
laid the baby down. In doing so I stumbled over a bundle, as I supposed, and
nearly fell, baby and all, but I managed to recover myself on my knees, and put
the baby out of my arms, and covered him up with a shawl. It was July and
raining, not very cold. Then I turned to examine the bundle, and you may imagine
my horror and vexation to find it was Mrs Browne, as drunk as she could be,
quite insensible. In my shaking her, out of the bosom of her dress fell the
little bag of almonds and raisins the Captain of the ship had given to Eme, but
– it was half burnt to a coal!! The pipe the unfortunate women had been smoking
must have dropped on the dress, as she fall into the stupor she was in, and
caught fire and smouldered until it pleased God to put it out, else she would
have been burnt to death as she slept. The shock was so great from the
unexpected way it happened, that I felt stunned, and when my husband came we
managed to lift her up and drag her into the hall, when a bottle (empty) rolled
out of her clothes!! My James sent for a Sergeant and had her carried to the
hospital, and we never saw her again. Our thankfulness was unspeakable, we had
escaped so great a danger!
We soon got orders to march to
Poonah where we found the 22nd under Colonel Boileau, (Tom Speedy had married
his niece) and the 72nd Both these shortly afterwards marched by Scinde to Moultaan and many were killed at Sobraon, Aliwal and Chillianwalla. Among these
were Colonel William Havelock, Pennefather and son – and many whose names I do
We remained at Poonah for some time and in August 1847 we had a little son born
to us, our fourth son living, and we had two daughters. Married nearly twelve
years – and I was 29.
We were ordered to Colaba near Bombay, and my James was to command one wing of
the 8th while there. We lived there ten months. Our dear James Arthur in cutting
his teeth, got dysentery, and when he was eleven months old he died, beloved by
everyone who knew him. He was 32 inches in height, had never cried, and his
brother Alfred wore his pinafores, who was more than three years older! The
little fellow was such a favourite with our soldiers that they used to run away
with him from the ayah, and mount him on their shoulders, and run away with ever
so many men chasing, much to his delight. His nickname was Hercules, and I never
saw a finer child. When the news of his death reached the barracks, four of our
Sergeants came and begged they might be allowed to carry the dear boy to his
grave, and they did so, putting the coffin in their sashes, and so carried him
away. We buried him in Colaba. The soldiers called it “Cold Harbour”.
Then we got the route for
Kurrachee, and stayed there a short time, then went to Hyderabad Scinde.
While at Kurrachee a curious thing happened. A Captain Stanley was our
Treasurer, and he left on a short leave leaving someone acting in his room. A
few days after we heard that two boxes of coin silver half rupees had
disappeared, and two empty boxes had been put in their places. As the boxes hold
4,000 rupees each, they are heavy. Therefore an elephant is employed to pile up
these treasure boxes, one pile of full ones, and one pile of empty so when the
officer in charge of the Sepoy Guard came to relieve the other, he wanted to
know the number of treasure boxes there were left in his charge. When it was
made manifest that the officer who had delivered up charge had never counted
them, and in his defense he said as the man who gave them over to him didn’t
count them, neither did he. When the elephant came to the empty box among the
full ones, he walked quite quietly across the grass and put it down on those
that were already there. Then there was a tomasha!! The officers both ran to see
what reason the elephant had for turning a box that they supposed full out of
the treasure pile. When they opened the box it was empty! Then everybody talked
of what nobody knew, while the elephant went on with his work, and presently
number two empty box was brought across the lawn and put on top of the first.
Then the uproar grew furious, and many things were proposed and dropped.
At last it was decided to keep it as quiet as possible, and all the interpreters
in the station were summoned for advice as to how they should act to recover
such a large sum, and they decided the best way was to lull the micoes (for one
man could not have done it) into security, and bide their time.
What was wanted was a clue. Now, being fresh from the mint, these half rupees
were bright and clean, so the chief money changers in Kurrachee were interviewed
on the quiet, and advised to give any man, woman, or child into custody, who
should present such a coin as these for change.
Some time passed and all was quiet. It was just a nine day’s wonder and had been
forgotten, when a mahagan shroff, or money changer, came and told Captain
Stanley that a poor man who caught jackals for the officers and sold fowls
sometimes, a pariah, had brought some very new 8 anna pieces, and he had put him
in chowkee until Hussoors pleasure should be known. “All right,” said Stanley,
“keep him there.” Then Stanley called on some of the wise men in Kurrachee, and
asked their advice. There was some good shikarees, or puggies as they are
called, in Bombay side.
A few days after the man was confined, an old man came to the same shroff and
wished to have change of a bright half rupee, so he was taken up and put in a
separate cell, and word brought to Stanley. The old man was told that his son
was in prison for theft, and that he had confessed, so the old man said, “If my
son has confessed, I can do so too. I know nothing of how my son got the money,
but he gave me some.” They asked the old man where he lived, and he told them.
Some policemen were sent to the house, and found a very old woman lying sick on
a charpoy in a hovel ready to tumble down. The men asked for some water. The old
woman said she was too sick to get up, so they helped her up, and under her was
a quantity of these bright half rupees. Then they searched the hut, and in a mudden chattie
they found some more. They brought these coins to Stanley, who
saw they were the stolen coin. Then some of the officers sent for the young man,
and told him that the father had told them he got the money from him, and they
must know how and where he got this money. When he saw there was no use denying
any longer he said,
“As my father has confessed so much I may as well tell you the whole. I was out
late one moonlight night snaring jackals for the sahib logue, in a small jungle
not very far out of cantonments, about two miles perhaps, and was hiding myself
among the brushwood so as to cheat the jackals, when I heard a sound of men
quarrelling, and I saw one digging a hole, or I thought. So I said to myself,
“here is murder going to be done. I will run out and stop it.” So I ran out to
separate these men. When I came up to the hole I looked into it, and saw much
money on the clay ground, and these men were quarrelling about the division of
it. They caught hold of me, and I said, “I will not tell anyone if you will give
me a little,” so the tall man (there were two men, one short and one long) said,
“Hold out your cloth,” so I held out my cloth and he poured in one, two, three,
large handfuls of money, and I came away, but I saw as I was standing there that
the short man had a scar on his left leg – this is all I know – it was bright
moonlight – about midnight.”
Now they sent for the shikarees or trackers, and with this young man they went
to look for the hole which the men had hidden the money in, and when near it,
no-one but the trackers went up to it. They crept along the ground until they
came close up to it, and there were footsteps all round the hole. The trackers
measured the footmarks, and examined them so as to know them again, and one old
shikaree said that he was quite sure he would be able to identify the same
prints anywhere. Now they had to find out what native regiments furnished the
guards about the time of Stanley leaving Kurrachee, as everyone suspected that
must have been the time the thieves took advantage of. While the old shikaree
was kept to recognize the footprints, the other trackers were off on a voyage of
discovery after the money.
They discovered that a camel had been employed to carry the boxes somewhere,
before dividing the treasure. They were able to trace the camel, and so well did
these men manage, that they recovered nearly all the missing money.
The Regiments were paraded, and the shikaree walked behind each company in
turns, until he picked out two men by the footprints (of course they had no
boots on) and on lifting the left trouser of the shorter man, there was a scar
just as the jackal catcher had described it. Great praise of course was given to
the old tracker, and a substantial reward.
The men were tried and sentenced to ten years if I do not mistake. It made a
deal of talk at the time at Kurrachee.
After living at Kurrachee for
sometime we were ordered to Hyderabad, to the station where the 86th had lost
800 by the cholera. We bought a bungalow from Major Weston, and were very
comfortable. Mary, my sister came down from Larkanah to meet her daughter Susan
and son Trim, from home.
During our stay at Hyderabad Scinde, we had a severe dust storm which are common
to that locality. My dear husband had ridden to the barracks after breakfast,
and I was watching some heavy clouds that seemed to be rising behind the house
in the direction of the desert of Scinde. The custom here was to allot a window
to each servant in case of storms, as they came so quickly and suddenly, that
unless so prepared, the shutters, doors, or venetians would most surely be
carried away. As soon as the signal was given that the storm was near, every
window and door was securely fastened by the person in whose care it was, and
then the storm would burst in all its fury.
But this day I watched, as I felt very anxious for my dear husband’s return
before the storm came, as no animal can stand against the strength of a tornado,
and I was gladdened by the sight of the white horse in the distance, coming from
the men’s barracks, – just as I had seen the approach of seven or eight gigantic
pillars of sand about 100 feet high, twisting and turning violently round, and
all approaching quickly and steadily together. As soon as he arrived my dear
James threw himself off the horse and we went into the house, both very thankful
that he was inside. Then the storm broke, such a wind, and sand, red, sharp sand
that stung your face and eyes and teeth and could not be kept out, covering
everything. No rain, nothing but raging wind and torrents off dry, harsh, red
sand – scarce light enough to see each other by. Lamps were lighted to allow us
to see to eat our tiffin, or lunch. About five o’clock the sand storm began to
abate. Not a drop of rain fell the whole time, and when it was quite over and we
were able to open the doors and windows, the space around looked as if newly
swept. Not a thing that could have been moved could be seen. It was clear all
It was a very hot summer and the engineer discovered that the barracks for both
officers and men had been built on a lime rock! So that when the sun was at its
height the air for three feet above the ground was trembling, just as the air
from a blacksmith’s forge trembles and quivers. I often noticed this to my
husband, but did not know what caused it. A sentry one evening was found dead in
his box, and a poor man in our D Company, named Bell, whose wife was ill, ran
across from the men’s barracks to the hospital to call the doctor, and he had no
hat on. Before he got to the hospital the poor man fell. When he was lifted up
he was dead, and they dared not tell his wife as they feared it would kill her
in her weak state!
There was a grand Review, and we
all wished to see it, so it was arranged that myself, and three of my friends,
two of them unmarried girls, should go to a young friend of ours named Cameron,
whose house was just on the edge of the parade ground, and had a fine view.
We started early so as to get in before the sun was any height, and of course
expecting the young fellow was with his Regiment on parade we mounted the
staircase, which is always outside, to the sleeping room on the top of the
house. Sleeping in the house during certain seasons renders anyone liable to
Scinde fever, a fearful scourge. I suppose there were 20 steps or more, and we
laughed and talked as we went up to the room, which I will describe. Four
pillars hold a roof up and chicks or purdahs, can be hung up if desired, but
being a good height above the ground, few take the trouble, preferring open all
round. As there is neither rain nor wind they run no risk.
Our friend Cameron was about 22, a Highlander, and about six feet in height, and
about 15 stone in weight, an enormous man, but good nature itself. He was very
fond of our eldest daughter Eme, now about ten years old. We were great friends.
We saw the Parade or Review. It was grand. Cavalry dashing, Artillery cantering,
soldiers forming square to resist cavalry – and a bright summer morning. We
enjoyed ourselves exceedingly. At last we hastened down, mounted our horses, and
When my dear James came home, he asked us had we seen the Review, and we said
“Oh yes, saw it splendidly from Cameron’s house.” He said Cameron was not with
his regiment, not being very well he believed. We said we had not seen him, so
it ended at that time. Next day James went to see Cameron, and when he came back
he told us that poor Cameron had heard us laughing and chatting as we came up
the stairs, while he was in bed! and as usual, a pair of pyjamas and muslin
shirt was his costume. He had but a moment. His bed was a charpoy, of course, a
handsome one, but just the usual height from the ground, barely eighteen inches.
He rolled himself off the charpoy, and then rolled under it, and there he lay
all the time, I don’t know how long, but it must have been more than hour,
steaming, listening and laughing himself, hearing all the nonsense the whole of
us were speaking, admiring one officer, and not admiring another and so on. He
said he often had half a mind to call out, or to cough, but he feared the
result. One thing he hoped to escape unseen if he lay quiet, and he did. Poor
chap, he told my dear husband, “Really Speedy, I think I lost a stone as I lay
there, in a perfect bath!!” He was just as great a friend after, he was so good
natured he forgave us all.
Of course Sir Charles Napier
fought at Dubba and Meanee, and subjugated the Scindians before this time, and
we were merely garrisoning the conquered districts. My sister Mary, on her way
from Bombay to Larkanah where Charles was stationed, must have stayed at
Hyderabad, for when the poor wives of the Scindian chiefs Mahomed Bey and his
two sons Shah Daad Khan, and Hoosain Ali Khan, were in the fort after it had
been taken by the British Troops, Mary sent them her palanquin and bearers to
remove to Joosuf Ke Tanda, a small mud fort, so as to escape the rude gaze of
After we had been some little time in Hyderabad, I received a Persian letter
from the widow of Mahomed Bey, Beebee Zindu, sent by a camel with the usual
trappings, necklace of bells and all, and a present of sweetmeats, of her own
making, bringing me a warm invitation to visit her, to name any day, and her own
sowarree camel would be sent. The servants who brought the invitation were all
fine Pathans and well dressed.
Of course I was very glad to make her acquaintance and fixed a day, and the
camel came to time. I took my little son, Alfred, with me, but had to leave him
with the guard outside, as being a boy he was not admitted to the woman’s
apartments, but he was taken every care of, and I never felt any alarm on his
account. I often went to see Beebee Zindu. I liked her very much. She was a very
superior woman. Her father, a Pathan, had brought her with him from his own
country, when he made a raid on Scinde and conquered it. She married Mahomed Bey,
who was father to the two princes, Shah Daad and Hoosain Ali, whom Sir Charles
Napier had taken as prisoners and sent to Dum Dum, after the Battle of Meanee.
Beebee Zindu frequently sent her own sowarree camel for me to bring me over to
her house. This camel had a pair of carjowars slung across to allow of someone
to travel in them. They had a woven bottom and sides on a frame of wood, and
cushions in plenty to make it comfortable, while over both of these was
stretched a cover like an umbrella with curtains all round to conceal the
occupant from vulgar eyes. It was not an unpleasant pace the camel walked at,
rather a swingy one.
In about an hour or a little more we would arrive at Joosuf Ke Tanda, and be
warmly welcomed by the kind native. She always insisted on my changing my dress
for a native one, similar to her own, and I had to wear the silken pyjamas, and
short embroidered jacket, with a chuddar of muslin for my shoulders and head, as
long as I remained with her, and she would not allow me to leave the dress
behind me, so that I have even now some of the dress she gave me forty years
ago! Besides herself and her daughter, still unmarried, named after herself and
called Chota Beebee Zindu, the wife of Shah Daad called Beebee Sanbye, and an
old lady called Beebee Banaw, were living with her, with a large number of
About twelve o’clock lunch would be brought in, sweetmeats, cakes, and sherbet,
two or three different kinds. After lunch all the ladies withdrew to a large
apartment, where half a dozen swinging bedsteads were, with pillows and carpets
to make them comfortable, and two or three got into one of these, and one would
swing while the other would tell stories or sleep.
In the mornings, after coffee and cakes, with delicious candied sweetmeats, the
women had their bath. Each one had her own bathroom, not like ours, but a small
room with a seat made of chunam like marble, and her attendant poured water out
of a hand lota until her mistress desired her to stop, then dried with soft
towels, and rose water.
Khuskhus, or Attar of Roses were used liberally to perfume the body, hands, and
head, then the hair was fixed, oiled, scented, and plaited, then the eyelids
were touched with scormah or antimony, and the nails of both hands and feet were
made red by tying little bags with bruised leaves of the Henna plant on them for
a time, the whole proceeding taking an hour and a half or more.
Then the jewels would be brought out to select from, the rings for hands, and
rings for feet. These latter were different from hand rings – made of silver
with a lozenger shaped ornament of enamel, blue and red and white, and some with
cornelian stone for the big toe, a large round bit of mirror glass about the
size of a florin, anklets of gold, some made like an Albert watch chain and
about an inch wide, gold chains to encircle the waist above the pyjamas, eight
chains confined with a stud every six or eight inches, and a clasp to fasten
with. Even the sash of the silken pyjamas had tassels of gold.
I was present when Chota Beebee Sanbye received from her brother Shah Daad by
dak a pair of gold tassels that had been given up by her off her person at the
request of Sir Charles Napier, and added to the loot of the fort, and bought
back by Shah Daad at Calcutta at the sale of the prize jewels when they were
sold by auction! And I felt ashamed that such a man was an Englishman. He had
sent a woman of infamous character into the zenana and demanded the jewels from
the wives of the Princes, and they pulled the earrings out of their ears, and
the necklaces off their necks, and flung them at her, not allowing her to come
near. Truly the name of Sir Charles Napier has become a byword in Scinde, but
not for manliness.
With evening came the chief meal, consisting of pillans, sweet and salt, curries
various, cutlets &c. and after that sweetmeats again. They are very fond of
sweets. The pillan is a truly Oriental dish. It usually has a fowl boiled in it,
and the rice coloured pink or yellow, or any colour preferred, then studded over
with pistachio nuts and raisins and then covered with gold leaf. Some are cooked
with sugar, some with salt, everything served in silver or gold salvers, large
and small. For plates we had leaves, very large thick leaves, and to receive a
bit out of your neighbour’s leaf was a mark of the highest affection! I had the
honour of being fed by the Dowager Beebee Zindu, an honour seldom given to
anyone! With her own hand!!!
I spent many a pleasant day at Joosuf Ke Tanda, and we had many pleasant talks.
They found out that I could play chess, and their chamberlain was considered a
first class player, so I was pressed to play with him. I wish I could have had a
photo of that scene – a large hall, about 30 feet square, with niches all round
the walls for china, real old china, with alcoves – carvings – and curtains of
every colour, dark blue, crimson, and bright yellow, crammed full of attendants,
in one corner the chess board of the Hagee ready to begin – the group of my
friend, her daughter and self on a carpet with cushions to lean on and every eye
fixed on the chess party.
We began, and the Hagee won! Great was the clapping and sabashing – a second
game, and I won! The deafening noise of “Cutl Cutl”, meaning I suppose, check,
but it really means “Killed,” and as I had won I did not wish to lose the credit
of having beaten him, so it ended. I was as good a player, and that was
everything – perhaps the Hagee gave me the game out of Indian courtesy.
While I was at Hyderabad I vaccinated many of the Scindees children, the small
pox being a fearful scourge there, several of the children of Beebee Zindu’s
household, and one day, after a long talk about her dear sons in exile, she
asked me if I thought a petition to the Queen would get their liberty. I told
her the only way would be to petition to Governor, Lord Dalhousie, and I doubted
not he would attend to it, and do his best to get justice for her. Beebee Zindu
asked me if my husband would take her petition to Queen Victoria, that if he
would she would pay him liberally. I tried to explain that my dear husband,
being an officer in Her Majesty’s Army, could not take leave of his own accord
and do anything but what the rules of the service laid down, therefore he was
not at liberty to take her petition to the Queen. Then she said, “Ask what you
will, I will give it to you,” but at last I prevailed on her to send her
petition to the Governor General, and after she had written it in Persian, my
dear husband translated it, and I wrote the English for her, and sent it off
together with her Persian one, and seven years! after, they released her two
sons. Whether the poor mother lived to see them return I never heard.
We found the station so very trying from the heat and sand that we were very
glad when the orders came to go down to Kurrachee. Our eldest girl had a bad
attack of fever and the doctor said she ought to go home. I had a young baby
about a year old, and we did not stay very long at Kurrachee. The invalids were
to be sent to Bombay for home, and they ordered my dear husband to take them
We had to travel in a native dhow
– a boat without a deck or covering for the poor sick men. We had 48 men, women
and children on board, besides ourselves – with four children. A small stage in
which the old Makodar or Captain sat to steer was all we had to sleep or sit in,
and glad to get even that. The usual time for a passage from Kurrachee to Bombay
in such a vessel, was a week. We had calms and no wind some days, so we took ten
days, and just as we got into Bombay Harbour one poor man died! We had been on
short allowance for several days, and had one glass of water when we arrived
We landed the sick, and went again to Colaba, and as the Government refused to
let my dear husband go home on leave, he went into Bombay and met the Captain of
the Seringapatam, and very nearly concluded an arrangement with him to take me
and the children home, as Eme our eldest girl, had been very ill in Hyderabad,
and I had also had Scinde fever.
Returning fatigued and vexed from the town to Colaba, he left the doors of the
palanquin open, and fell asleep. The bearers, not perceiving the doors were not
shut, carried him over the Valache, and the strong sea breeze blowing at sundown
came in and gave him a chill, and when he was put down at our door he had to be
carried in, and the doctor sent for at once. In a few days he was so ill that a
Medical Board was called, and they decided that he was to be sent home on
So we all went away together in the good ship Herefordshire, Captn Richardson.
Voyage to England 1850
We sailed on the 3rd January 1850,
and had a splendid run to St. Helena, of 42 days. It was like a pleasure trip on
a yacht. We had one of the mates named John Raw, who had been picked up at sea
as an infant in a boat with a dead sailor. No-one ever knew whose child he was.
Green, the great ship-owner took care of him, named him, and when old enough
sent him to sea in one of his ships. Raw had a wonderful eye. It had rays (from
the pupil) light coloured, grey eyes, and he loved wild animals and could do
anything he wished to them. We had on board a black leopard, full grown, besides
a young Tiger and other animals and birds. The collar of the leopard wanted
renewing, and I saw Raw with his head and shoulders in the leopard’s box sewing
on a new collar! and Raw could take the raw flesh out of the teeth of the
leopard, and when he saw Raw he would purr like a cat, so loud that his cage
would shake and tremble. Raw told us he never saw any animal he could not touch
and stroke. He possessed the rare quality of governing wild animals.
We took as long to go from St. Helena to England as we had taken to come from
Bombay Harbour to the Island! and arrived off Gravesend early in April. During
our trip up the river the soldiers assisted the seamen in dismantling the
vessel, and when we cast anchor she was only a hull.
In the night one of our mates, a very nice young man named Pettingale, fell
overboard and was drowned. It was a dark and windy night. That day month his
body was recovered without any head! And he was buried in Erith Churchyard. His
father was a Governor of Bonnaventura near Corfu, and he was not to go again to
sea, but was to be married to his lady love and his mother were waiting for him
on shore! When he fell overboard it was thought that he had heavy boots on, and
a rug round his shoulders pinned round him which caused him to sink, for he was
a first rate swimmer. It was long before we forgot the dear fellow. He had given
us his likeness, and I sent it to his poor mother, whom I never saw.
Isle of Man and Ireland 1850-55
We stayed with my dear father and
mother in Poland Street a little while, and we went to see the Exhibition, which
amused and interested us greatly.
After a week in London we went to the Isle of Man, and stayed at Peel with my
dear husband’s father for a little while. Then we took a nice cottage in
Victoria Terrace, Douglas, and there lived for a good while. Charlotte was born
here the 4th April, 1852, and when she was a few months old, our dear child Mary
met with a serious accident, and in August 1852 we left the Isle of Man for
Dublin to take dear Mary to Robert Speedy, papa’s elder brother, a very clever
surgeon, but in spite of all that skill could do, she sank and died on the 28th
September in Dublin, and was buried in St. James Churchyard where Robert’s
sisters and brothers and children are buried. Then I went to meet my dear
husband at Chatham, and we lived there until 1855.
My dear mother died in March 1853. We were three sisters, Sarah (myself), Ellen
(then Mrs Tytler, now Mrs Houghton) and Louisa (Mrs Holcombe, Colonel Alexander
Essex Frederick Holcombe’s wife), all present when mama died, but Mary Margaret Woolmore Richardson, our eldest sister, was in India at the time, also Tristiana
our youngest sister was also in India with her husband, John Taylor, a
Magistrate under Government. At the time of our dear mother’s death, she was in
her 68th year. Her birthday was 15th October 1785. Mary, her eldest daughter,
was at the time (1853) in her 40th year, having been born 28th May 1813. Sarah
was 35, being born 7th January, 1818. Ellen was 33, being born 1820, Louisa 30,
being born in 1823. Tris was born 1st September 1825. We had a sister named
Susan Augusta, but she died from an accident at Hoogly on the banks of the river
of that name, and was buried at Bandel, near Chinsurah.
Our two eldest girls, Eme and Lena, had been left at school at Villa Marina,
under the care of a very dear friend, Miss Dutton. Kind Bessie Chartres, a
cousin of my dear James, brought them over from the Isle of Man to Chatham, as
we intended returning to India in 1855. Our dear father, who had never quite
recovered from the loss of his dearly loved Margaret, died, and as my dear James
was very ill indeed the doctors decided he should go to some more temperate
Voyage to New Zealand
We sailed for New Zealand in the
Oriental, Captn Charles Macey, a half-caste of some kind, on the 3rd November,
and arrived in Auckland Harbour, 28th February 1856.
On the passage the crew mutinied, and the ship was taken aback owing to the
steersman being drunk, and the Captain collared him and threw him off the poop
onto the quarter deck, and then put him in irons. The cook (a Negro) fought with
the chief mate, Mr MacKay, and bit his shoulder! Altogether the voyage was a
dreadful one, and I had a young child, sixteen months old, to care for. We were
very glad to leave the vessel.
New Zealand 1856-59
We had taken our passage to
Taranaki or New Plymouth, but all the Auckland people told us that Auckland was
by far the warmest climate, and that snow and ice were common things in Taranaki,
and as we came only on account of health, we decided on remaining at Auckland,
and remained until we got some land in the Mauku, when we went up and resided
Our children had grown up by this time. Charlie had got a commission in the 81st
and left Chatham for India in 1854. Eme, our eldest girl, was in her eighteenth
year, Lena in her 16th, Alfred in his eleventh, Charlotte four, and Harriette
near two years old.
So we managed very well on our farm for a few years. 1859, our daughter Eme
married a Captain John Campbell Johnstone, a nephew of Lord Campbell, Chancellor
At this point the memoirs of the
late Mrs Speedy, as written by her in the year 1890 come to an end. Very few
women have lived through such a varied and interesting career as she did; and no
doubt when she came with her family to New Zealand she thought her adventures
were over. Such, however, was far from being the case. It is a pity her memoirs
do not cover the momentous period preceding and during the Waikato War . But it
must be remembered that they were written entirely for the benefit of her
children, who by the time they had reached New Zealand had arrived at an age
when they could observe events and remember them for themselves. But, as we find
that people generally take a great interest in records of the early days of
settlement here, we will try to give a short account compiled from the scanty
materials at our disposal.
LIFE AT MAUKU
MAJOR SPEEDY, early in 1856, bought about 750 acres of land at Mauku, divided
into two portions by the Mauku stream. On the western half of this, a
picturesque slope of open land crowned by a large patch of puriri bush, he built
a seven-roomed house, which he called the Grange. A number of other families
came to Mauku about the same time, the Crispes, Vickers, Mellsops, Morleys,
Matthews, Parsons, Findlays, Dr. Giles, Captain Heron, and a few others. Of
these Dr. Giles, aged 94, is the sole survivor, although several who were
children at the time still remain. These settlers were strung out in a long line
running south from the Mauku estuary for about four miles. They had to make
their own roads, and bridge the streams, but being courageous and self-reliant
people, they took it all in the day’s work.
Social life seems to have been particularly lively. Day pastimes consisted in
shooting wild cattle and pigs, and the native pigeons, then very numerous.
Pheasants were early introduced, and increased amazingly. The salt-water creek
gave them good sea-fishing, and the streams plenty of eels, some of which
reached an enormous size. They must have worked, as the results showed, but
certain it is most of the stories the old hands used to recount with gusto were
about their frivolities. And gay as the days seem to have been, the nights were
gayer still. They had a chess club with weekly meetings, concerts, at which they
acted little plays and charades, card parties, and a weekly dance, held in turn
at the three largest houses. Scarcely an evening passed that there was not a
gathering at some-one’s home, and to plod two or three miles home along a rough
bush track by the dim religious light of a colonial lantern (a bottle with the
bottom knocked out, carried upside down with a candle in its neck), was looked
on as part of the game that only added to the zest of life.
THE LOCAL NATIVES
BUT to return to the immediate subjects of our sketch. Not very long after his
arrival at Mauku, Major Speedy was appointed Resident Magistrate, his district
extending from Papakura to Port Waikato. He filled this post till he died in
1868. In those days the R.M. was also Native Agent, and at that time Maoris were
numerous in the district. In Patumahoe was a large kianga , which Major Speedy
took much interest in. He was a man of great stature, with a sonorous voice
which it was said enabled him to drill a battalion at a distance of half a mile,
and these qualities inspired great respect in the native mind, while his kindly
disposition gained him the affection of many of them. This stood the early
settlers in good stead on two or three occasions, as he was warned by some of
his native admirers of projected attacks, and was enabled to take measures to
VISIT FROM SELWYN
GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN was Bishop of New Zealand then, and paid
frequent visits to Mauku, making the Grange his headquarters, and frequently
bringing with him a number of others. In her later days Mrs Speedy used to
recount with chuckling satisfaction how she had managed to, on one memorable
occasion, eke out the contents of a scanty larder. The Bishop and three others
arrived unexpectedly one afternoon, and all she had for their dinner and
breakfast was a small and skinny chicken. But so seasoned a campaigner as Mrs
Speedy was not to be caught napping. She boiled a large potful of rice and
curried the chicken so ardently that no-one desired a second help, and there was
plenty left for breakfast. It is said that thereafter the Bishop preached about
the fiery torments that awaited the evil-doer with an energy and conviction that
he had never previously shown.
IN 1858 DR. FERDINAND VON HOCHSTETTER , the famous Austrian
geologist, paid a visit to New Zealand. He stayed at the Grange for several days
while he examined the country all around. According to his book he found life at
Mauku quite idyllic, but let him speak for himself:-
…….. The merry settlers of Mauku, the happy neighbours of Waiuku. Let him who
intends writing novels about the farmer life of the colonist of New Zealand take
up his quarters here: let him make himself at home in the farm-houses of the
Mauku district, so abundantly blessed with rosy daughters, and he will never
lack material to suit his purpose. Quite romantic is the situation of their snug
and comfortable country seats at the edge of the bush. Forest alternates with
meadows, gardens and fields, waving their rich luxuriant growth upon fertile
basaltic ground. Upon the heights charming views open to the Manukau.
and so on, at some length. It is plain the good doctor was not regaled with Mrs
Speedy’s special curry. He planted a gum tree at the Grange, which is still
standing as a memento of his visit nearly 70 years ago.
But the settlers’ lives were not all fun and frolic. About 1860 the Patumahoe
natives, exiled by the Kingite movement in the Waikato and the Taranaki war,
which was then raging, began to get seriously threatening. The settlers had to
make preparations for defence. Things became so serious at last that a schooner
was sent up to take away the women and children, while the men garrisoned the
Speedys’ house and prepared to defend it. However, the interposition of the Rev.
Dr. Maunsell, a missionary who had a good deal of influence with the natives,
brought about an understanding, and the schooner, which had dropped anchor a
mile or two down the creek, was brought back and the women and children returned
to their homes.
Another occasional visitor to the Grange in the late fifties and early sixties
was Sir George Grey, then Governor of the Colony. Like Bishop Selwyn he also
used to bring three or four others with him, and the house was often taxed to
its fullest extent to accommodate them. On one of these occasions he was
accompanied by Mr and Mrs Fox. Mr Fox was afterwards Sir William Fox, Premier of
FIRST FAMILY WEDDING
IN 1859 the eldest Miss Speedy married Captain John Campbell and went
to live at Raglan. Not very long after Mrs Speedy, accompanied by her second
daughter, Helena, went to visit them. A journey to Raglan in those days was
quite an undertaking even for a man – for two ladies it was in the nature of an
adventure. In charge of a Maori guide they rode to Port Waikato, swam the horses
over the river, and after three days’ ride reached their destination, having had
to spend the nights in Maori whares . They were most hospitably treated by the
inhabitants of the villages they stayed in: and before very long a native chief,
William Thompson, came to the Grange to return their visit, accompanied by a
dozen retainers. They stayed several days, and were treated as hospitably as was
possible, but William was much hurt that Major Speedy did not give up his bed to
him. “Did not I”, he said, “turn out of my whare for your women?” This man must
not be confused with the celebrated Wiremu Tamehana (William Thompson) commonly
called the king-maker, from the part he took in getting the natives in the
central part of the Island to join together and accept Potatau as their monarch.
The last-mentioned Wiremu was chief of the Upper Hauraki Plains natives. Major
Speedy’s friend belonged to Te Akau, on the West Coast.
About eighteen months after Major and Mrs Speedy arrived in Mauku they had the
misfortune to lose their youngest child, a little boy named Essex. It is
believed he ate either tu-tu berries or some poisonous flower. He was buried on
the banks of the Mauku stream, just where it falls into the salt-water, and this
became the cemetery for the early settlers until about 1864, when the burying
ground at the church came into use, and here some of the settler volunteers,
killed in the war of 1863, were interred. Last spring it was enclosed by the War
Graves Department, and it is understood a monument will be erected there
HERE perhaps may be a fitting time to mention Charles Speedy, the eldest son,
who is spoken of in his mother’s memoir as having joined the army. He got on
well in his profession, and in 1868 was with Sir Robert Napier in the expedition
to Abyssinia. After the taking of Magdala, and the release of the European
prisoners, whose long detention had led to the dispatch of the British force,
the young prince, Alamayu, was placed in the charge of Captain Speedy, who had
learned the language, and remained in his care for some time. Captain, or to be
more correct, Major, for he had by then received promotion, came to New Zealand
on furlough about 1875, and the writer remembers him well, because he used to
put on Abyssinian court dress to show what it was like. He was a very tall man,
credited with being six feet seven inches in height, but present deponent
vouches not as to an inch or two.
In the early days church services were held in one or other of the houses of the
young settlement, but in 1859 St. Brides Church was built. About this time also
Major Speedy sold the eastern half of his farm to Mr George S. Walters, who
built an inn at the Mauku estuary. At this time the track to Auckland crossed
the Mauku stream at this point on a ledge of sandstone rock, the bridge, which
is still standing, not being built till 1865.
Editor’s note 2006:- Henry Wily does not mention James Henry Havelock Speedy,
born to Sarah and James Speedy in 1859. When he was about two, an old Maori
called at their homestead at dawn, and lay down in a corner of the verandah. He
stayed there all day. Sarah was worried, lest he be ill, as he refused all
offerings of food. As darkness descended, he rose and spoke. He told her that a
Maori raiding party was coming that night to kill them, and they had to get out
as fast as they could. Naturally Sarah and James were alarmed. They asked him
why he hadn’t told them earlier so they could pack up their belongings. He
explained that the raiding party scouts would see them go and run after them.
They hastily gathered up a few belongings into a drey, putting young Havelock
into the back of it and set off as fast as they could. The track was rough and
the springless drey bounced around. After about a mile or two, they stopped to
catch their breaths and to check up on young Havelock, only to find to their
horror…no Havelock, he was missing! They anxiously retraced their steps in the
dark and eventually found Havelock who had bounced off the back of the drey but
thankfully he was safe and sound.
EARLY in 1863 the King movement among the Maoris of the Waikato began to cause
grave apprehension. The hapu at Patumahoe sympathised with the Waikatos and
began to grow so threatening that it was deemed necessary to protect the
outlying white settlements. Major Speedy was placed in military command of the
district and redoubts were established at Major Speedy’s home, the Mauku
estuary, the church, at Mauku village. The settlers at Waiuku, Mauku, and
Pukekohe East were enrolled as rifle volunteers, and were known as the Forest
Rifles. A little later all the settlers had to gather in the church for several
days under the guard of the rifles of the volunteers. Then women and children
and non-combatants were taken by boat to Auckland while the able-bodied men
remained to guard the district. While Mrs. Speedy was in Auckland, her youngest
child, a daughter, was born in October, 1863. In December the Speedy family
returned to the Grange.
TRIP TO PORT WAIKATO
IN December, 1863, Major and Mrs Speedy, with four of their children, made a
trip to Port Waikato as guests of the officers of one of the gun-boats lying
there, the Eclipse. They spent a few very enjoyable days at the port, which was
at that time a very busy place, as it was the rendezvous of the Navy vessels
whose crews were aiding General Cameron in his advance up the river. While they
were there the gunboat Calliope, dragged her anchors and drifted out over the
bar, but was towed back by the Pioneer, a river steamer constructed in Sydney,
but put together at Port Waikato.
AFTER the war came to an end Major Speedy devoted what time he could spare from
his duties as magistrate to getting his farm in order. He died in 1868, and was
buried beside little Essex, and not very long afterwards Mrs Speedy sold the
Grange to Mr Walters, and went to live near Waiuku, where she remained until her
death in 1897.
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