Story: The voyage out

Clara Skelton’s diary

Clara Skelton’s diary

Travellers on the saloon deck, usually referred to as cabin passengers, paid their own fare and were of a higher social class than those crowded into steerage. Clara Jane Skelton, pictured here later in life, came out to New Zealand on the Halcione in 1879. This description from her shipboard diary shows that most cabin passengers were educated or professional people who were going to the new colony with some capital:

I will just give for the benefit of those at home a little idea of what sort of people I am in daily contact with and they will be able to form some opinion as to the kind of company I get etc. To begin my end of the Saloon my snuggery is No 2 so I will proceed to describe my next door neighbour at No 4. Mr Tresselyn George Bowen Nicholas eldest son of the Rev T. G. Nicholas Rector of West Molesly Parish Ch Suffolk, he is 30 years of age, 6 feet high, very dark black hair whiskers moustache (heavy) & beard educated at Harrow, I need not add that he is exceedingly kind and nice, does not know what [he is] going to do at the Antipodes, he came out two years ago in consequence of the cruelty of some fascinating girl who had promised to become his wife, but who thought better of it at the end of two years engagement … the Captain tells me he has a good income and that he will probably be a rich man some day as he is the eldest son of a wealthy and aristocratic family. No 6 inhabited by Messrs Masters and Burns, the former is the son of a Bishop. I might almost say he is related to most of our Church dignitaries, in appearance just such a man as our friend T. W. Thomson, educated at Eton and Oxford is an M.A. and the most learned Latin scholar of the day, a very gifted man indeed, and a poet, he has, sad to say, a fearful propensity to drink and his friends have sent him to New Zealand with an allowance of ten pounds drinking money paid down to the Skipper. … Mr King is a tall, lean, ungainly overgrown schoolboy of 24 years who is taking the voyage for the benefit of his health, consumption being his and the family complaint, he does not however go on the way to get well, for he drinks so much brandy in everything he eats and drinks and spends money at cards and betting as if it was sand …
On the opposite side of the saloon comes Mrs Stewart and her two children of 3 years and 11 months. She is a very young nice looking, well educated Scottish lady, wife of a gentleman who started the same day as ourselves in a Steamer to take the oversight of the Bank in New Zealand. Next door Mr & Mrs Cornish and child a lonely girl of 4 years, he is a merchant and evidently considers himself the biggest personage on board, which is rather amusing to the other passengers …

About this item

Private collection, King family

How to cite this page:

John Wilson. 'The voyage out - Cabin and steerage', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 15-Nov-12
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/2564/clara-skeltons-diary