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Title Letter, Robert Beckett's Migrant Voyage on the Clipper Ship 'Underley', England to Melbourne, Australia
Author Beckett, Robert
Date 18 Dec 1866 - 7 Mar 1867
Document Type Correspondence
Reference HT 30146
Library / Archive Museum Victoria
Collection Name Diaries / Journals / Letters
Description Handwritten letter from Robert Beckett to his brother recording his journey from England to Australia in 1867. The letter is formatted as a diary beginning on 18 December 1866 when the Becketts say farewell to their friends before leaving for Birkenhead. Robert describes the emigration dormitories, interviews and various aspects of ship life such as boarding procedures, family obligations, work and general conditions on board the 'Underley'. Robert details how passengers endured low quality food and water, illness, stormy weather, cramped sleeping quarters, rambunctious children and a near collision with another vessel. The diary concludes with a letter from Robert to his brother Cole following the family's arrival to Melbourne. Robert intended to send his diary home to his family and friends and suggests that his letter be shown to his mother and friends. Robert also notes that his health has improved and is optimistic that the move to Australia will be beneficial to him and his family.
Biographical Note / History Robert was born on 6 June 1838 in Cambridge, England. Prone to frequent illness, he was advised by his doctor to migrate to Australia. Robert departed Birkenhead (near Liverpool), England in December 1866 together with his wife Eliza and their four children. They travelled to Australia on board the clipper ship 'Underley'. Following a 74-day journey the Becketts arrived in Hobson's Bay, Melbourne in March 1867. Robert obtained employment at Walker, May & Company, a printing firm in Bourke Street West in the city. The family initially resided in the inner city suburbs of Carlton, Fitzroy and Albert Park before finally settling in their home 'Guildford Villa' in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne in the late 1880s. Robert died on 4 November 1890 following a prolonged period of ill-health. He was 52 years of age. The 'Underley' was a White Star Line iron-hulled clipper sailing ship of 1,295 tons register, on her maiden voyage to Australia. She left Liverpool, England on 22 December 1866 and arrived in Hobsons Bay, Melbourne on 8 March 1867 under the command of Captain Charles Browne with Dr Newbold as the Surgeon-Superintendent. Passengers included Mrs Doolittle in the first-class cabin and 255 in steerage. Lorimer, Marwood & Rome were the Melbourne agents. After discharging a large cargo, the 'Underley' departed Melbourne under ballast for Point de Galle, Colombo, Ceylon, passing through Port Phillip Heads at noon on Thursday 11 April 1867. Five nights later the ship was almost capsized after her ballast shifted during a violent hurricane and was only saved by her mizzen top mast and main mast being cut away, with the latter also carrying off the fore topgallant mast. She turn back for Melbourne and limped into the safety of Port Phillip Bay a week after she had departed. After being thoroughly repaired at Williamstown with new iron masts fitted and rigged, the 'Underley' departed once more for Colombo and Calcutta with 11,685 cakes of copper and 127 horses on board.
Theme(s) Departures: Port Conditions and Organisation; Journey Conditions
Country (from) Great Britain
Country (to) Australia
Ports Liverpool, England; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Nationality English; Irish
Ships Underley; Castlemaine
People Beckett, Robert; Beckett, Eliza
Keywords journey conditions, food, health and sickness, disease, children, shipping, emigration, employment, White Star Line, accommodation, family, surgeon, religion, women, sailor, animals
Additional Information Please note: Some of the metadata for this document has been taken from the Museum Victoria catalogue.
Catalogue Link Museum Victoria Catalogue
Language English
Copyright Museum Victoria