The Voyage of the ship Flora to South Australia in 1855.

Above “Flora” 1852 by Artist Lorenz Petersen (1803 – 1870)

As mentioned in my previous post, in 1854 the Bastable family decided to leave Ireland to seek a better life in Australia. These are some notes about the voyage and arrival of the passengers aboard the Flora.

Embarking at Birkenhead Docks, the passengers sailed to Australia aboard a 728-ton ship called Flora that left Liverpool on 28th December 1854 . The Flora was built of hackmatack, birch and pine in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada in 1837 and underwent some repairs in 1852 when yellow metal was used to sheath it to improve her speed. The Flora could carry 300 emigrants in uncrowded accommodation and was advertised as a first class and fast sailing ship.[1] Arriving in Adelaide on Saturday 7th April 1855, 310 passengers had embarked on the voyage to begin a new life under the command of Captain James Withers.

Upon arrival, the Flora was anchored in stream and the passengers were put ashore by lighter. The vessel remained in stream until it was brought to Prince’s Wharf on 10 May to unload cargo. It returned to stream on 23rd May and sailed for Calcutta on 24th May with no passengers.

During the voyage there were seven births and seven deaths, including that of three children who were already in an advanced state of disease when they boarded the ship. Two other children passed away, one who had been born aboard ship, and one adult who died of pneumonia. A note beside his name says that he had ‘a constitution considerably impaired by drunkenness’. The Surgeon Superintendent reported that there was diarrhoea among the children in the first and middle parts of the journey. Catarrh, Fever and Influenza appeared as they advanced from the warm weather to the higher latitudes with Southerly winds being prevalent.[2]

The owners, John Bonus and Son, were paid by the Emigration Commissioners the sum of seventeen pounds, four shillings and nine pence for each passenger 14 or over and half that amount for each passenger under 14.[3]

The Emigration Agent, on arrival of the ship, commented:

that the ship was well adapted for the conveyance of immigrants, that the immigrants had no complaints and their conduct was satisfactory with no corporal punishment necessary.

He also stated:

that they were in generally good health and that they appeared a generally eligible class for the Colony except for the single women who are too exclusively Irish.[4]

Obviously the women were judged solely by their nationality, as seemed common at the time.

Among the passengers were various tradesmen needed in the Colony including Carpenters, Blacksmiths, Joiners, Sawyers, Bricklayers, Miners, Masons, a Cartwright, a Quarryman and many Labourers with female Domestic Servants, Farm Servants, Seamstresses, Laundresses and one Dairy Maid.[5]

Some of the passengers were employed on board the ship in various roles including Schoolmaster, Matron and Sub-matron, Nurse, Constables, Cook and assistant Cook and Baker. The Baker was to supply the Emigrants twice a week with soft bread on Wednesdays and Fridays in lieu of 4 days allowance of flour. This bread was to be baked on Tuesday and Thursday, as it was not to be eaten new. On every other day of the week the oven was to be heated for baking food, which the Emigrants may have themselves prepared, for any three consecutive hours as fixed by the Surgeon Superintendent. This food was to be baked by the Baker. When the Bakehouse and Oven were not in use they were to be left thoroughly clean and locked up with the key kept in the Baker’s possession. Remuneration for this position consisted of a free steerage passage and a gratuity of three pounds payable in the Colony, provided his duties were discharged to the satisfaction of the Surgeon Superintendent and the Local Authorities. Failure to do so required that no gratuity would be paid and repayment of the cost of passage, which was nineteen pounds, from the Bond which had been given to the Crown.[6]

The day after their arrival was noted in the newspaper, the following article appeared referring to the new arrivals:

By the arrival of the Flora, the Lady McDonald, and the Northern Light above one thousand souls were on Saturday last added to the population of this province. Most, it not all, of these new arrivals left their native country in search of brighter fortunes on these shores. Most, if not all, of this multitude surveyed with beating hearts and rising hopes the long-desired country then outspread before them. We bid them all a hearty welcome, and wish them every success in life.

Our new fellow-colonists will not, however, feel themselves annoyed, or think any less favourably of the land of their adoption, if we admonish them that at the outset of their colonial life, they must hold themselves prepared for a certain measure of disappointment. The circumstances of their arrival will necessarily entail temporary inconvenience. To many, however, this will be no disappointment at all, because they will have come hither fully prepared to encounter a little jostling and roughing to begin with. They heard before leaving Eng-land that South Australia presented a remunerative market for the labour of the working man; but they also heard that it might demand the exercise of forbearance, moderation, and firm perseverance in order to gain a footing. That footing once secured, the rest is easy. We are anxious, therefore, that the new arrivals should summon all their courage and prepare themselves manfully to grapple with whatever present difficulties may surround them, not doubting that they will soon take root in the soil, and draw from the resources of the colony a steady, adequate, and independent living.

The first few months will be the hardest, both on account of ordinary and extraordinary causes. Ordinarily the influx of a thousand people into a city of less than twenty thousand must produce a temporary derangement. If all Birmingham were to be poured into London — men, women, and children — all entering at once, all at once demanding food, house-room, employment, and wages, it would not be greater in proportion than the present influx to Adelaide. Our new friends will therefore see at a glance that their arrival in such force must necessitate arrangement before they can all be comfortably settled, and the more so as other large influxes of immigrants have preceded at brief intervals.

We say again, the colony is large enough for all; but settlement is not effected simultaneously with arrival. Adelaide is the port of disembarkation for the whole colony, and it is not one part, but every part of the colony that offers a home to the immigrant. Therefore, al-though landed, the new comer must consider himself as having yet one other stage of his preliminary business to fulfil — he must find his location. And to do this will require good heart, patience, and enterprise.

We said that just now there were not only ordinary, but extraordinary causes of passing difficulty. The new arrivals may not all have learned as yet that the past twelve months have been the most remarkable in respect of weather of any recorded in the history of the province. A winter of unprecedented drought has been followed by a summer of unusual and protracted warmth, which has only just left us, although we have been already favoured with copious and invaluable showers of rain. The result of the combined drought and heat of the past year has been to reduce our harvest to far below average, in many districts destroying it altogether, so that trade is somewhat depressed by the failure of the cropland, the price of meat is enhanced by the drying up of the pasturage.

There are other reasons affecting the high price of provisions, but all this our new friends will find out in due course. Our present object is to show them that they have landed just after a bad season, creating, with over-importation and other causes, mercantile depression, and necessarily rendering their first experience of colonial life less cheering than it would have been under more auspicious antecedents. Our position, however, is thoroughly sound, financially and socially. We have already the prospect of an abundant and early harvest, so far as a most favourable seed time gives hope to the reaper.

Even now there are symptoms of improvement in general trade; and the markets of Melbourne and Sydney, by the tone of which our own is very sensibly affected, are steadily improving. We have passed through a trying time, though we have had no panic. Our new citizens must therefore do them-selves and the colony the justice to bear all these things in mind, and to remember also that a more hopeful complexion is gradually being assumed by the various interests of the province.

New comers frequently manifest a preference to remain in or about town; but the result of our own observation and experience clearly proves that very many, now indifferently off in Adelaide, would have been worth money had they gone up the country. If an immigrant fails to obtain suitable employment in the city, let him at once try the country. In the country many of our wealthiest colonists have amassed all their property; and the life of the country is the only true colonial life.

It has never been said that Adelaide could absorb all the surplus labour of England, but that Australia could. We have an immense territory only needing to be developed, and the wealth of the colony consists in the development of its soil. In respect of the current rate of wages, it is to be hoped that new arrivals will not feel themselves unwilling to engage for such rates of remuneration as circumstances allow of being paid, and that any difficulty felt in consequence of the present high cost of living may be endured man-fully, until the advancing season shall increase our command over the various necessaries of life.

At the present moment we trust the Government will see the desirableness of prosecuting with energy those public works for which the votes of the Legislature have been taken. Every effort is needed to provide temporary employment for the people; and in the formation of our roads and great public undertakings a legitimate and profitable field of employment is presented. Old colonists may do much to advise and encourage young ones; and we trust the new arrivals of the past few days may fall into the hands of judicious and useful friends.

The colony may not, after all, realize all the sanguine expectations of home ; but those who have left England in search of a land where ‘ labour stands on golden feet,’ and ‘ a fair day’s wage’ is given for ‘ a fair day’s work,’ will not regret the day of their arrival in south Australia. We have thought it desirable to hazard these few remarks for the encouragement of those who, recently arrived amongst us, may be harassed by the contemplation of imaginary or temporary difficulties ; but whose prospects in this land are in reality ten times brighter than they could have been in the land which they have left. [7]

I wonder if this was the first the passengers knew or were they informed before they left that there was a considerable effort required on their part. My family quickly moved on to another State and so quickly that I suspect that may have been their intention from the start. Perhaps many others did too.

[1] F. Chuck, The Somerset Years, The Book Printer, Maryborough, Victoria, 1987, p. 178.

[2] Various papers and reports regarding voyage per ship Flora arriving Adelaide S.A. 8 April 1855, Public Record Office, Adelaide, S.A. GRG 35/48/1855.

[3] ibid.,

[4] ibid.,

[5] ibid.,

[6] ibid.,

[7] ‘Population and Employment’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), Tuesday 10 April 1855, page 2

Arthur Bastable a Patternmaker from County Cork

My ancestors came from many walks of life and many counties of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Several of my ancestral families came to Australia but not all did by their own choice. One family that did come by choice was the Bastable family and their story, while not complete, begins with my Great, Great Grandfather Arthur Bastable.

Arthur was variously described as a carpenter or pattern maker from County Cork in Ireland. He was the son of George Bastable and Jane Bourke who were married at Mourne Abbey on 8th January 1811[1]. Arthur was baptised there in 1812, as was his sister, Jane in 1814[2]. Mourne Abbey is situated about 5 miles south of the village of Mallow where Arthur was born.[3]

The surname Bastable is interesting in itself. Obviously of English origin it is said to be a corruption of the town of Barnstaple in Devonshire. There is also a Bastable pot or oven which is a three-legged cooking pot, that looks rather like a Dutch oven. It is placed over the fire in the hearth and is used to make stews and roasts, but also to bake a Bastable loaf or as it is sometimes called, a Bastable cake. I wonder how it came to be called a Bastable – did one of my ancestors make them?

Getting back to Arthur, as is the case with most people’s ancestors, there has been no information come to light on Arthur’s childhood nor his early adulthood. It does appear that he was reasonably well educated though and he certainly could read and write. So, we know nothing from the time of his baptism until he was about 30 years old and marrying in the Parish Church of Ballyclough. I can confidently speculate though that he would have been learning his trade and that would have probably taken seven years.

Arthur was married by license on 19th Feb 1842 to Catherine Ludgate.[4] Catherine had been baptised in Kilshannig by Mallow on 28th Dec 1817 and was the daughter of Michael Ludgate and his wife Elizabeth.[5] From the marriage of Catherine and Arthur three surviving children were born in Kilshannig, two daughters Jane in 1844, Kate in 1846 and a son, my Great Grandfather, George Ludgate Bastable born in 1847.[6]

These were the years of the Irish famine and Mallow was one area hit particularly hard. People were clamouring at the workhouse doors for food and the dead and dying lay about in the ditches. Typhus was also rife in some places. The winter of 1846/7 was the worst ever and soup kitchens were started to help feed the starving masses. The workhouses also raged with fever. In 1848 Cholera was taking its toll.

In 1849 another child, Charles Arthur was born. The Bastables lived through this horror until unfortunately Catherine and her infant son Charles succumbed, probably either to starvation or fever or both. Catherine was buried 5th Sept 1849 and Charles, aged just 6 months was buried 12 days later on 17th September 1849.[7] Sadly, one wonders whether baby Charles died from starvation after his mother died as there was probably no wet nurse to feed him.

Arthur was then left as a widower with several small children to care for three until three years later when he married Mary Ann Burchill on 14th September 1852 in Fermoy Ireland. Who helped him until then? Perhaps his family helped out. Mary Ann was born in 1823 at Desert Serges, Bandon the daughter of Thomas Burchill, a farmer. She had previously been a lady’s maid. [8] Arthur and Mary Ann’s son, Arthur was born in Ireland in about 1853.[9]

Above “Flora” 1852 by Artist Lorenz Petersen (1803 – 1870)[10]

In 1854 the family decided to leave Ireland, perhaps to seek a better life in Australia. They journeyed from Liverpool on 28th December 1854 embarking at Birkenhead Docks aboard a 728-ton ship called Flora pictured above. Arriving in Adelaide on Saturday 7th April 1855, they and another 300 or so passengers had embarked on this voyage, under the command of Captain James Withers. [11]

Arthur had worked as the Hospital Assistant to Surgeon Superintendent, Herbert W Swayne on the voyage. It is assumed that, like other passengers employed on the journey, he was also entitled to free steerage passage as well as the sum of three pounds that he was paid upon satisfactory attention to his duties.[12] This sum no doubt helped to pay their steerage passage aboard the Swordfish departing on 25th April and arriving in Melbourne on 10th May 1855.[13] They then boarded another ship believed to be the Hellespont, another regular on the coastal run that departed Melbourne 23rd May and arrived in Sydney on Friday 8th June 1855.[14] Mary Ann must have found the travelling difficult, not only with 4 children to care for but also as she would have been very pregnant, for on 9th July 1855 in Sydney there was the birth of another son, Charles.[15] I have to say that finding them arriving in South Australia was a big surprise. I knew they were in Sydney in 1855 and so I only looked in NSW and Victoria for their arrival. It was by accident, thumbing through the index, that I found them in the Biographical Index of South Australians 1836 – 1885. Figuring out how they got to Sydney also took a bit of time to research too, painstakingly searching through shipping notices in newspapers.

Why they did not stay in Adelaide is not clear. Perhaps they were so desperate to get out of Ireland they took the first ship heading this way. The Gold Rush was on at that time and so passages were in demand as people flocked to the goldfields of Australia. Perhaps they arrived in Adelaide, which was a very young settlement at the time, and conditions were not as they had expected. Food would have been expensive and comforts scarce. They may have also realised that they were not going to make their fortune on the goldfields and headed to Sydney the best way they could. Cities were experiencing an extreme shortage of labour due to the mass exodus to the goldfields and Arthur’s skills as a carpenter would probably have been in demand in the growing city. Whatever the reason, Sydney seems to have suited them.

The family settled in the Sydney suburb of Ashfield, which at that time was very much a rural area with small farms and market gardens and still had some areas of virgin bush. Here several more children were born to them, though not all survived. Arthur’s occupation was described as a fitter at the time of his death in 1875, however in the first Ashfield Rate Book of 1872 and the one for 1873 he is shown as owning and occupying a brickyard on his land.[16] The claypit that he used to make his bricks would have been on the nearby creek bank. Birch Villa was the family home and it appears from the rate books to have been built in 1873, most probably from bricks Arthur made himself.[17] Birch Villa was a two-storey house of ‘six (main) rooms and attics, built of brick and roofed with slates containing about 4 ½ acres of grounds.’[18]

When I was doing my research it was speculated that the house was most likely ‘built in the Victorian Rustic Gothic Style, with a steeply pitched roof with dormer windows, and two tall chimneys on the western end gable wall.’[19] However, the house that is there now and advertised by real estate at 18A Frederick Street as Birch Villa built 1890 is quite different.[20] I tend to think it may be the original house built 1873, not 1890 and although it has an attic, I don’t believe it was built quite as speculated or else there is a possibility it is not the original Birch Villa at all. There has been a lot of development in the area and street names have changed. A few streets away is a street named Bastable Street.

The assessable annual value of this property was 30 pounds in 1874 but there is no mention of the brickyard so it is unclear what his source of income was after that.[21] Perhaps he used his skills in carpentry and patternmaking to earn his income. He quite possibly had a tool chest like this one.

Above and below a 19th century Patternmakers Tool chest owned by C A Jewett. Photos Patrick Leach, 1995 with permission. [22]

Arthur bought the four lots that were part of the Ashfield Estate, which made up the grounds of Birch Villa on 4th October 1872.[23]  He also mentions in his Will two other properties, some land of 31 ¼ perches in South Kingston and a house in Denison Street, North Kingston.[24] So it appears Arthur & Mary had done very well financially.

Arthur passed away 31st January 1875 at Birch Villa aged 62 years and he is buried in St John’s Church of England Cemetery at Ashfield.[25] Mary Ann, his wife passed away 4th December 1913 aged 80 years. She was still living at Birch Villa at the time and is also buried at St John’s Church Cemetery.[26]

[1] – Online Genealogy, Irish Records Index, 1500-1920, 596422 2627, p. 24 6 of 8 (accessed 2 Feb. 2000).

[2] ibid., p. 24 6 of 8

[3] Marilyn Rowan, Transcription Agent, Death Registration Transcription of Arthur Bastable, died 31          January 1875, Register Births Deaths and Marriages NSW, 1875/2905

[4] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Parish Registers of the Church of Ireland, Ballyclough, County Cork, Ireland, Marriage of Arthur Bastable and Catherine Ludgate, married 19 Feb 1842, Film Number 597159.

[5] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, International Genealogical Index, 1994 Edition Version 3.04, Batch & Sheet C700351

[6] South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc., Biographical Index of South Australians 1836-1885, South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc., Adelaide, SA 1986, entry under Bastable.

[7] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Parish Registers of the Church of Ireland, Ballyclough, County Cork, Ireland, Marriage of Arthur Bastable and Catherine Ludgate, married 19 Feb 1842, Film Number 597159.

[8] Mallow Parish Centre, Parish Database Records, Parish Registers of the Church of Ireland, Kilworth, County Cork, Ireland, Marriage of Arthur Bastable and Mary Anne Burchill, married 14 September, 1852, p. 7.

[9] South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc., loc. cit.

[10] Artnet, Flora” 1852 by Artist Lorenz Petersen (1803 – 1870) last accessed 18/9/2020

[11] South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc., loc. cit.

[11] Various papers and reports regarding voyage per ship Flora arriving Adelaide S.A. 8 April 1855, Public Record Office, Adelaide, S.A. GRG 35/48/1855.

[12] Ibid.,

[13] Shipping Intelligence Column, The Age – Melbourne, Friday 11 May 1855, p 4.

[14] Shipping Intelligence Column, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June 1855.

[15] Marilyn Rowan Transcription Agent, Baptism (Early Church Records) Transcription of Charles Bastable born 9 July 1855 baptised 5 Aug 1855, Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages NSW, Vol 42B No 4209.

[16] Chris Pratten, Secretary Ashfield & District Historical Society, pers. comm., 4 March 2000.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Nora Peck, Transcription of the Will of Arthur Bastable, died 31 January 1875, Land Title Office NSW, Old System Book 148, No 960.

[19] Chris Pratten, loc. cit.

[20] [1] One the House,

[21] Chris Pratten, loc. cit.

[22] Patrick Leach, The Superior Works: C.A. Jewett’s Patternmaking Chest last accessed 18/9/2020

[23] Nora Peek, Transcription of Records of Land Title Office NSW regarding Lots 48, 49, 50 and 51 of Section 3 Ashfield Park Estate.

[24] Nora Peek, op. cit

[25] Marilyn Rowan, Transcription Agent, Death Registration Transcription of Arthur Bastable, died 31 January 1875, Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages NSW, 1875/2905.

[26] Marilyn Rowan Transcription Agent, Death Registration Transcription of Mary Ann Bastable, died 4 December 1913, Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages NSW, 1913/16146.