Diary of Robert Gawn Bell born 27th May 1867
Diary of his time spent in travels to and from New Zealand,
his visit back home, and his work in New Zealand .
Commencing Tuesday, 2nd April, 1895
Left Oamaru at 3 pm for Christchurch, Orari, arrived at
Christchurch at 9 pm, at Littleton at 9.15 pm. Left
Littleton by Penguin at 10.30 pm.
Arrived at Wellington at 12.15 and was not sick. Heavy swell
on, went to see D. McGimpsie, went to see Jim Johnston, went
for a drive with him all over Wellington. Went to see Mrs
Park at night from C. Down, good time, stopped until 11 pm,
could not get a berth on board. Stopped at Pier Hotel. Will
make the company pay my expenses.
Left Wellington at 11 am. D. McGimpsey came to the wharf to
see me off. He got two bottles of whiskey for 8s out of
store. Jim Johnstone came down, got a letter to give to his
father. Main steam pipe broke. Put back to Wellington to get
Lying at Wellington all day. Lady passenger bolted to
England to get married. People took her back.
Left at 6am, fair wind in good health. Good weather. There
is a man going back who tried to cut his throat on the way
out. Taking him back to give him in charge of the Police.
Saturday. (Crossing the date line) Two Saturdays in this
week, Fine weather not many sick. Later a wave washing the
deck occasionally, had a good dinner, feel all right.
Heavy sea all day. Bad headache all day, raining. Heavy seas
all day, good health. Pretty cold slept all day. Terrible
rough, sick was not on deck. Waves sweeping right over the
Fine weather. Tucker very bad, could not be worse. Tea
horrible. I have not tasted tea or coffee for three days.
Rough, sick all day, very cold and getting worse.
Miserable. I have eaten nothing for two days, can't go on
deck, waves sweeping right across the boat.
Heavy weather, very stormy can't go on deck.
Heavy weather. Raining very hard seas sweeping the deck.
Stopped in bed all day. Terribly rough. Impossible to walk
on deck and very cold.
Very stormy, could not be worse. Heavy seas all day and very
cold. Much worse. Miserable.
Rough weather, very stormy.
Terrible weather, have not been on deck all day.
Sighted ?????? Island at 10am. Weather fine only very cold.
We can see land now.
Came round Cape Horn at 11am. Weather fine lots of porpoises
round the boat.
Fine weather. Tucker terrible, it is not fit for pigs. Very
quiet. There is not many passengers on board. Service three
Fine weather all day and very warm. I had a beastly headache
all day and tucker no better.
Fine weather. Preparing for anchoring at Monte Video
tomorrow. Head bad still.
Arrived at Monte Video at 11 am, got on shore at 12.30.
Being about 7 miles out we had a great job making the people
understand us. They are Spanish Portuguese and Germans.
Left here at 9.40 pm. It was a bit miserable on board all
day. We were not allowed to go on shore today, it is a
pretty place. The work is mostly done by mules not by
Fine weather, the sea is calm as a mill pond. I hope it will
just continue as we expect to be in Plymouth three weeks
Fine weather, sea very calm. We had church service twice
Rough all day. Seas sweeping the deck all day. It is
impossible to walk about. The tucker is very bad, no
improvement in it.
Beastly weather, can't go on deck. Seas coming over the
forecastle. The boat is pitching frightful.
Wednesday 1st. May, 1895
Rough weather. Boat pitching a lot.
Fine day had a concert tonight, the weather is very warm.
Very warm weather, close and muggy with a head wind.
Getting warmer every day. Was sick all day, don't know what
is the matter. The crew went through a fire drill today and
manned the boats. They also mustered the company's uniform.
Beastly hot am. All right today. I wish we were across the
line, it would not be so hot. With hot weather and bad
tucker this is horrible.
Very warm, crossed the line about 4pm. I am getting as weak
as a cat, can't eat the tucker. Everything we get is steamed
and the smell of it puts me off.
Fine day, only very warm. Time hangs heavy on my hands. Had
a concert last night. I sang a couple of songs. It was a
fair sort of a turn out.
It is a little cooler today and much pleasanter. It will be
getting colder every day now.
Fine day getting much cooler, rather a stiff head wind
making poor runs. We are four days behind time now and not
much chance of pulling it up now.
Head wind all day. Blowing very strong all night. Had a
concert in saloon tonight. Every day seems to be getting
Heavy winds and getting much colder. There is no improvement
in the tucker, it is something beastly.
Fine day but poor time, head wind. Wrote to Dan McAlinden to
be posted at Teneriffe, expect to be there tomorrow.
Arrived at Teneriffe about 10 am. Quarantined and could not
go ashore. The place looks fine but is inhabited principally
by Spanish. Tobacco is very cheap but we could not get any.
Fine day but rather cold. Took on eight passengers yesterday
at Santa Cruze. They are putting on more steam to get into
Plymouth on Saturday.
Fine day but cold. It is very monotonous. Every day seems as
long as two.
Stormy and cold. The sea is coming over the forecastle
Arrived in the Bay of Biscay about 12 9m. Weather cold but
the sea very calm. Head wind still keeping us back.
At Plymouth on Saturday night, stopped about one hour.
Arrived in the docks about 9pm. Hope to be home by Tuesday.
Got our luggage. Passed through the customs at 11am. Got a
ticket to go by Fleetwood but luggage did not come until 8pm
so I went by Larne.
Got home at 8pm. Mother looks very bad and father is very
thin. Mother has been very bad but she is much better.
Went to Carnearney and Tardree, they will not let me do
anything but drink tea.
Went up to see Dave and W Georges', then aunt Mary Ann Bell
came over this morning.
Went to Halftown. Uncle William is very bad and as mean as
can be. Maggie is failed a lot. We drove
Got my Draft all right. Went to Ballymena on Saturday. I
knew all the people that I knew before . There is not any
change on any of them.
Went to church. Tom drove down, I got stared out of a face.
There is a lot of old people dropped off.
Was up with Nancy all day. They have got a fine place. Made
a lot of improvement.
Went to Kells with Martha to Strachan's. Drove George's
pony, he got it at Ballyclare.
Stopped home all day, had tea at Johnny's at night.
Drove Nancy to Ballymena in her own buggy.
At home. Went to a sorrie at night, it was not bad.
Saturday, June 1st.
In Ballymena with Martha.
To church as usual. Got hurt on Sunday night jumping on a
Monday 3rd. Tuesday 4th. Wednesday 5th.
At home all day not able to go out.
Went to Antrim with Martha and Tom's Mrs. Stopped at
Gawn's. He is as big as a mountain.
Drove mother and Martha to Halftown. Uncle Willie is very
Drove Nancy to Ballymena. Johnny Bell came home from
Drove to church. Brought Jim Wilson home with us.
Drove to Kells fair with Tom. He sold a calf at £4-15s.
At home, went to tea with Dave and Mrs.
At home all day.
Went to Antrim with Tom. He sold a mare got £25 for her.
Drove Hessie to Halftown.
Drove Martha to Ballymena.
At home all day on Sunday. Uncle William died at 9pm.
Went to Mrs. Robt. Grey's funeral. Tom's Mrs. aunt died this
morning, went to the wake with Tom.
Went to uncle William's funeral with Dad and Tom. He has
left a nice bit.
Went to Lizzie's aunt's funeral with Tom.
At home all day.
Went to cattle show in Belfast with Tom and Martha. It was
not much account. I saw James McGimpsie.
Went to Ballymena with George and Hessie.
Went to Craigstown with Tom to his father-in-laws. His wife
has been there.
Monday 24th, Tuesday 25th.
At home all day.
Went to Craigbilly fair with Tom to buy a horse. Got none.
O. G. up here. At home then went to Tardree.
At Ballymena with Tom. He bought a horse.
To Bazaar at Bally???? . Got home at 2am Sunday.
Went to church and then to the hill to get berries.
Monday 1st, July 1895.
Drove to Ballymena for stores for George.
To Carnmoney with Hessie and Martha.
Went to Halftown with father and mother.
To James McConnell's and then to Antrim, Drove new horse.
At home all day. Johnny Bell came from London, he is going
to preach in Africa.
Went to Ballymena and to Glenariff. Had a good day, got home
Went to Mrs. Ramsey's with Martha, and to Parkgate.
At home amongst the hay.
At Ballymena at the horse jumping then to Kells with George.
At home. Drove Johnny Bell to Kells station.
Thursday 11th. Wet all day through. At home.
At William S. Bell's funeral. Home early and helped with the
Saturday 13th. As per usual in Ballymena.
Went to Glenwherry to a school Fete.
Went to Ballymena for stores for George. At Robert Wilson's
At Ballyclare with Johhny, Dad and Tom.
At home. Went to James Mulvenna's with father, a long way.
At Halftown with the old folks.
At home all day, went to Sam Todd's at night.
Whitewashed the new barn.
In Ballymena getting clothes tried on with dad.
Went to Belfast with Martha and Hessie. Stopped all night
and went to Exhibition.
Saw Blondin the Great Rope Walker and Flying Lady. Came
In Ballymena with Crucks, got some clothes.
Went to church.
At home pulling lint or flax, holed it in all.
Wrought amongst the hay.
Thursday, July 1st.
In hay all morning. Father drove us to Doagh to catch the
train for Belfast.
Took the 7am train for Dublin. Delivered Mr. Walsh's parcel
to his uncle and took train for Cork. Stopped in Cork all
Went to Brandon Fair with Tom and W. J. Bell. Stopped in
Brandon all night.
Went to Dunmanley to the Fair. There was a big trade amongst
the horses all afternoon.
Went to Ballyboy Fair. W. J. Bell bought three horses and
Tom bought a colt. I came on to Dublin. They stopped.
Went to Newry, took a car out to Crevy Wm Strans. I found
him when I came back to Newry. He is keeping a Public House.
Dan's father died about 2 years ago.
Stopped in Belfast all day at the Fair. Tom came home with
his colt in the afternoon.
Came from Belfast home by the train. Put the colt in the
At home working in the hay all morning. Met Dick Mulvenna's
sister and cousin at Kells. They came up and stayed all
Went to Ballymena with Martha and Miss Mulvenna and cousin.
The school children met at Connor. Tom and I drove the colt
to Kells station. Met some prople that were coming out, went
back in the afternoon.
Working in the hay all day.
Got colt new shoes. Went to Ballybracken to Hessie's father
Went to E. Wilson's funeral to Browndod with Hessie and
Crucks. Doctor Gawn taking mark off baby's face.
At tea party at Rev. Colvin's with Cruiks. Drove from it to
another at Craigstown.
Went to school Fete at Tardree.
At home. Dr. Gawn here and Lizzie's brother and uncle. Went
to Halftown in the evening.
Working in the hay, lazy wee pig.
Went to Ballymena with George to an auction.
Went to Craigbilly Fair with Tom and Johnny. At Johhny's in
the evening, some friends there.
Went to Sam McConnell's and to
W. D. Gawn's. Sarah E. has
another baby girl. Crooks was with Gawny.
To Ballymena with John and Sarah.
At home. Dr. Gawn here and Sam McCord. W went with Crooks to
Halftown with the new colt.
To Halftown with mother and Sarah to see Sarah Eliz and
Turned set of shoes for colt.
At uncle James Gawn's with mother and Mattie Quiney.
At Tamnybrake with Sarah and Crooks seeing Mrs. Owens.
In Ballymena Fair. Tom sold a mare. At party at Wm.
In Ballymena. Took ticket for New Zealand.
Sunday, September 1st, 1895.
At Connor. At Liminary at Mr. Barrs.
At hay and through the Halftown folks.
Auction of hay here. Brothers and sisters here tonight.
Left home. Johhny, Tom and George came to Belfast with me
and A. Barr. Took boat for Liverpool at 8pm.
Arrived in London at 2pm. Stopped all night at Munns.
Left Tilbury at 1pm, have not been sick yet.
At Plymouth 11am, left at 5pm. A lot of Marines on board and
Fine weather, Archy and I doing fine. Eating better than I
ever done before.
Fine day, very warm and not sick, getting on very well.
Fine weather, in sight of land all day. Had a jolly good tea
and in good heart.
Arrived at Gibraltar about 8am, got plenty of fruit cheap.
Had a good concert last night in fact every night we have
Fine concert last night, everything going fine.
Fair weather, a little swell on, a few sick. Archie and I
are all right for so far.
Getting along fine. Sae very calm. Had fire drill today.
Arrived in Naples about 8am on Sunday morning. Lying in
sight of Vesuvius, the Burning Mountain.
Went ashore, had a grand day. Went through three chapels and
all through the Kings Palace, had a guide. Had dinner
ashore, it is a splendid town.
Left Naples at 3am. Had a bad headache and went below before
starting. Came through the Straights of Messina between
Sicily and Italy. Splendid scenery, weather fine.
Good weather, not a roll on the boat, everything going fine.
Had a concert on board last night, a fellow called Mike
Dunn, fighting man on board.
Fine had a light shower in the afternoon. Expect to get to
Port Said tomorrow.
At Port Said at 12am, went ashore, ain't a very nice place,
got a lot of eggs and jam and stuff. They carry the caol on
board on their back and what a row.
Left at 5pm. Came through the Suez Canal, got right through
about 10am. Very barren, seen plenty of camels, getting very
hot. The sweat is rolling off me in streams now.
In the Red Sea and beastly hot, never have felt anything
like it in my life, slept on deck last night. The sweat is
rolling off everyone in streams am going about in my flannel
Fine calm sea but terribly hot, it is like a bakers oven.
Same as usual and as hot as ever. Nearly all hands sleep on
deck without a stitch of clothes on.
Another of the same. A lot of the Trimmers are knocked up.
One fellow was put in the straight jacket today and tied to
a beam for refusing to work.
Fine in the morning but got rough in the afternoon. Had a
few seas over the deck. It is much colder than it has been
Fine again. Hope that it will keep so. Made a good run today
350. The days are very long, expect to be at Colombo by
Monday night. Very calm, slept on deck, came on to rain, got
Fine day and very hot, slept on deck last night getting
along very well, sea very calm. A very agreeable crowd on
board. Wish I was in N. Zealand though.
Weather fine and jogging very well. Had a concert last
night. Neither Archy or I has been sick yet. It is fairly
hot but much pleasanter that it was in the Red Sea.
Splendid weather. Service in the salon this morning. In the
afternoon in third class. Very slow, looks cloudy, might
have a shower tonight. Had a very poor feed tonight, hope to
get a better at Colombo.
Had a shower today and a little swell, boat rolling a bit.
Got a tooth out this morning. At Colombo at 8pm. Coaling all
done by natives, they only wear a cloth around their hips.
Tuesday 1st October 1895.
I went ashore at 6am, had a good breakfast. 5 courses for 1s
6p. Went through the town, had a ride in Gimrickshaw with a
nigger pulling me. They can run like blazes. Enjoyed myself
Left yesterday at 1pm, weather fine. A lot of Afghans on
board, cramped up for room on deck. Raining a little today,
Archie and I in good health.
Showers getting fairly well, seas a bit rougher, the boat
rolling a lot. Crossed the line this morning.
Boat rolling a lot and shipping a good many seas, not very
pleasant on board and very close and stuffy below, wish we
Same as usual rolling a lot got terribly rough in the
afternoon. A few heavy seas came over, very unpleasant,
making short runs. Hope to get to Albany by Saturday, a few
sick on board. Archie and I are alright for so far. Just
wishing we were landed.
Heavy sea all day and very miserable. Service in the salon
in the morning, none in steerage, too rough, rather much
water coming over, a lot of people sick.
Heavy swell and wet on deck. Calmed down a bit in the
afternoon but still not pleasant. Making short runs.
Passengers all crushed up in a heap for shelter. Tied some
Calmed down but the ship rolling a lot yet have fun with the
niggers now and then. Making short runs, weather much
colder. It is much pleasanter than when it was so hot.
Fine weather and going much better, made a better run today.
Managed very well for tucker by giving tips all round. Have
never been so well at sea.
Fine day and getting along better. Sighted land about 5pm.
Getting rather stormy, both of us in good health.
Heavy swell and rolling terrible, stopped below, seas coming
right over and very disagreeable. Boxes sliding about all
over the place.
Very rough. Sprung a leak in the engine room from one of the
bulges. Stopped for a while to repair, got into Albany about
7pm. Discharged cargo and a lot of passengers. Took some on
board, left about 3am Sunday morning. Dreamt I saw Aunt
Hanna Kelly and father.
Fine weather and getting on well, did not write from Albany
expecting to be in Adelaide Wednesday morning.
Fine day and calm. There is a lot of Diggers on board coming
back from Coolgardie, some successful and some not. One man
has got a lot of fine specimens of Quartz.
Fine all day. A lot of packing up to go off at Adelaide in
the morning. Have fun now and then with the darkies.
Arrived in Adelaide at 6.30am laying off a lot of cargo.
Left Adelaide at 1.30pm sea very calm. Alot of passengers
Fine morning very calm. In sight of land nearly all day
expect to be in Melbourne about 6am tomorrow.
In Williamstown about 5am lying out all day, one man sick
and they can't make out whether it is fever or what it is.
We are quarrentined, they have made out that it is small
pox. The ship discharge carp. Went ashore in Melbourne.
This is terrible to think we have three weeks, but thank
goodness it can't be worse than it is here.
Sent ashore this morning at a place called Portsea, we have
had a good dinner so it is not so bad.
Nice Place. They are fumigating all our clothes and
afterwards our boxes and everything we have got. We get
first rate tucker, we are not so badly off.
They are still fumigating the place and washing the
underlinnen, it is very miserable hanging about, the lumpers
went away today.
Same old game going on.
Same as usual, nothing going on to pass the time.
Quiet, all in good health.
Passengers all right.
Sunday 27th. The most of the Marines went away. Went under
an operation for hurt I got at home.
In bed all day.
In bed all day. Archie brings me my tucker.
Getting a bit better, hope to get away by the end of the
Fumigating still going on, it is very miserable, very quiet
feeling, a little pain.
Friday, November 1st. 1895.
Same as usual. Got word in the afternoon to go away
tomorrow, feeling better now.
Got on shore at 8pm, left our boxes at Flinders St Station,
stopped at Falstaff resturant. Had a run up town. Jack
McBeen is stopping at the same place, dropped on him at
Had a walk around the place this morning, went to the Zoo in
the afternoon, feel tired not used to walking.
Went to the Orient office this morning, took my ticket to
Union office, got fresh one for New Zealand. Went to the
Went out to see the cup run, struck nothing. Went to the
theatre to see the Broad Arrow.
Knocked about town all day, went to the theatre.
Knocked about town all day, went to the theatre at night.
Man to man.
Same old game.
Got luggage down to boat after dinner, left Melbourne at
Lay in bed all day. Jack McBeen in bed, not sick was rather
A heavy sea on, not many at the tucker table. Got into
Hobart about 9pm. Went ashore and had a feed.
Left Hobart at 4pm, had rough night, down below all the
Rough all day, never went on deck.
Not so bad this morning had breakfast and dinner. Jack
McBeen on deck today.
Fine morning but getting along well, but rather cold.
Arrived in Bluff about 8am.
Arrived in Dunedin at 5am, stopped at Mrs. Silk's. Went to
see James Gawn, had tea with him.
Came to Duntroon Monday night.
Andy met me at the train.
Knocked about Duntroon on Tuesday, went over Andy's farm.
Came up to Mairewhenna, allright.
Bank of Australia.
Donald Park left us to tucker himself on 12th August.
There is a gap until November 1896 when it recommences.
Wednesday November 17th.1896.
E. F. and self rode to Oamaru to the show, went up in three
and a half hours.
Went up to the show.
Dave Sincla and Rosena went for a ride. R rode the cob, SE
went to the gardens.
At sale was offered £7 for Maud.
Came out left Maud for Edith to ride out on Tuesday. G.
Rodgers offered me £14 for chestnut colt, want £16.
Sick of Mairewhwnna, sent wire. To Haka for place.
Got a place, start next Monday.
In claim bringing new cut up.
Night, finished work.
Paid McGimp for carting pipes.
Knocked off work pm.
Went to Haka.
Feel awkward, be all right in a day or two.
Off colour, very fast crowd.
Wednesday, 1st December 1897
Will be amongst them in a few days. Kennedy grafting now.
Can do Kennedy easy, he is at top pace.
Kavanna is working hard, I think I can do him in a few days.
Kavanna can do no more, have got him good.
Wrote three letters. Liz, Don and Edith. Raining.
Have got to the front and will keep it or bust.
It is all right, could cut rings round them.
Fine, no rain. Hope it keeps so until the finish.
Thursday 9th, Friday 10th, and Saturday 11th..
Went out to see the horses.
Jack Cook killed last week in claim.
Went to Round Hill.
Hope to get down at Christmas.
Went for a walk up the Go.
Fair weather, will finish on Christmas eve if it keeps fine.
Tuesday 21st.Wednesday 22nd.
Nor-Wester, hard cutting. Finish.
Came right down 66 miles rode cob all the way. Packed the
Picnic at Duntroon, Stopped till 2am. Slept most of
Went up to Ferrystown.
At work. Dan had two gallons of whiskey.
At work till dinner time.
At work till dinner time.
Friday, January 1st, 1897
Rode into Oamaru in the morning, went out to sports at
Carnival at night.
At sports. N. Carling won heavyweight wrestling. At play at
Sold cob to C. Adesen for £10-5s, came home by Livingstone
At work. Been doing no good.
Will clear out next week whether I sell or not.
Sold share to Couper for £100.
Up to see Campbell and went to Duntroon.
Sold 7 head of cattle to Campbell at £15. Can get nothing
out of Andy.
In Oamaru, got paid from Couper.
At home all. Sold Maud to young Andy for £5.
Sold the Doctor for £7 to Campbell. At meeting of Trust
Thorp, bring boxes down in the morning.
Left Maerewhenin , came to Oamaru, took train to Littleton.
From there took boat to Wellington.
A bit sick. Got into Wellington at 3.00pm, stopped at city
Could not get a berth for Monte Video under £36.
Up with Jim Johnston, had dinner with hm. Can go to South
America as cheap by going home first.
Booked for London by the Orient, left Wellington 5.30pm for
Sydney. Fine night.
Dirty day, not been sick yet.
All right, heavy sea, a lot sick.
Same as Yesterday.
Fine, calm, getting warm.
Came to Sydney.
Kicking around all day.
Going out on Monday.
Same as yesterday.
Sailed on the Orient from Sydney at 7pm for Hobart.
Fine day, good sea boat, going to tucker with the cook.
Governor of N.S.W. on board.
Fine day, calm. Got into Hobart 2.31pm.
Left last night, drunk but sick.
In Melbourne 12 o'clock, went up town, could not find N.
Loading cargo ashore all day. Lying in port Melbourne.
Left 6am, calm. Getting first class tucker.
Monday 1st, February 1897.
Fine day, a few sick.
Came to Adelaide 10am, did not go ashore.
Left Adelaide 2pm, got plenty of fruit.
Rough, most of them sick, self all right.
Fine all day, had a beastly headache, went to bed early..
Heavy swell on, in Albany 8pm. Beastly luck, all night lay
Very weak but getting better. Be all right tomorrow. Not
many passengers came on board.
Fine, all right again. Splendid sea boat, a few passengers
Fine sea all well.
Wednesday 10th.Thursday 11th.Friday 12th. Saturday 13th.
Same as usual.
Fun with Ginger, going W.S.H.F.
Never have been
in so good health at sea.
At Colombo. On Shore all day. Very hot.
Left at 2am, fine.
Friday 19th, Saturday 20th.Sunday 21st.
Sea calm, same as usual.
Grand sea boat. Fine Latrines. Fine tucker. Steerage
passengers getting very poor tucker.
A bit rough, a few sick. Wish we were in London. Voyage a
Engine is broken down, expect to get it started again
Engines repaired, embarked at 5pm, going a bit slow.
Land quite close. Came through Hells Gates at 7am, in Red
Sea. Oxytava stranded. Orient signalled her.
Came past 12 ??????. Last night concert. Fine weather,
getting along not so bad.
Fine service in the morning and afternoon. Sea very calm.
Monday, 1st March, 1897.
Fine day and calm.
Shrove Tuesday. Came to Suez this morning. Bouhjt some
curios, stopped about 3 hours.
Ash Wednesday in Port Said, midnight on shore until 6am, had
a good night.
Fine morning, rough in the afternoon.
Very rough night, water came into my bunk, wet everything.
A bit rough and very cold, had toothache all day, wrote to
In Naples about 10am, did not get ashore, got some fruit.
Left about 2pm.
Fine but very cold, should get to Gibraltar on Wednesday.
Tuesday 9th. Wednesday 10th.
Fine but cold.
Calm in the morning but a bit rough in the afternoon.
Heavy swell on and cold.
Fine but cold.