Letters to P.E.I. - Sarah BAGNALL, nee WALLACE Pakeha off, Cape Town to Mrs. Donald CRAWFORD, New Glasgow, March 18, 1864


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Transcribed by Anne Brooks, anne.nosworthy@gmail.com


The following is a copy of a letter written on the "Pakeha" by Sarah BAGNALL, nee WALLACE, to her sister, Mrs. Donald CRAWFORD, in New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island, and posted in Cape Town. - Bagnall, Margaret. Memories, 1936. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS 855.

See also:

A compiled passenger list of those on the voyage is available on the Island Register at: http://www.islandregister.com/pakeha.html

See also related letter: Lemuel Bagnall en route to New Zealand to John C. Clarke, Cavendish, March 19th, 1864

Paper written by Margaret Bagnall regarding the Bagnalls resettling to New Zealand in 1864

Paper Regarding Islanders Resettling to New Zealand in 1858

New Glasgow
Prince Edward Island
May 18th 1864

Dear Father,

We have after a long time heard from the New Zealanders. As Sarah had not much opportunity of writing many letters and wished us to send you a copy of the one she wrote us I now enclose it.

Cape Good Hope
Brig Pakeha
Cape Town March 18th 1864

Dear Sister,

"After a long silence I again take my pen to write you a few lines but hurried and confused they must seem to you in your Island home. I didn’t keep a journal as I intended to when I last saw you. My reason is I could not write with my sore finger. You remember all about it I know. It was a long time getting well. The nail came off. By the time I could write without pain every thing of interest on our journey was over. But you are anxious to hear what kind of times we are having. Well, very noisy at present for they are taking in cargo and provisions for the rest of the journey and I have to retreat in to my stateroom and write sitting on the floor with my paper on a box but that is only a novelty and no hardship.

After we left the Island harbour we had a pretty rough time to make Canso. The wind was dead ahead. Once we had to run back into Georgetown but we only remained at anchor one night and then onward again. Another rough day and we were again at anchor in Canso Strait. Our stay at Canso was not very pleasant, it was so cold and we were all glad when our pretty "Pakeha" once more spread her wings and sailed oceanward. But our first lesson of ocean life was not very pleasant. We had a blow which lasted three days and nights, nearly every one of us was sick, but I must not complain for I have not been seasick since and did not throw a pint of food off my stomach altogether. I never lost a meal since I came on board. I enjoyed the trip much and love the broad blue seas with all my heart. You never saw the sea so sweetly blue as it is in mid ocean. It is beautiful to watch a cloudless sunset without a tree or hill to intercept the view.

We had a very pleasant passage so far as the weather is concerned. We never had a storm after the first. It seemed strange when we were in the trade winds to have weeks of such lovely weather without a cloud. It is a region of perpetual sunshine where a storm was never known. Our little brig did wonders in sailing as far as she had winds. She often sailed nine, ten and eleven knots an hour and you ought to have seen how she gracefully parted the blue waves so delicately fringed with old ocean’s foam as purely white as the first day that ever it was roused by wind or ship.

After we left the Cape Verd Islands (which we only saw like a great rock in the sea) we had light winds all the way to the Cape which made our passage longer than it ought to have been.

We left Charlottetown as you know on the 12th of December. Were delayed a week at Canso taking in Ballast, laid to 24 hours in the storm after we left Canso on account of breaking in the storm, some of the rudder fixings and on the 5th of March floated slowly in to Table Bay and dropped anchor half a mile from Capetown. The water is so shallow that we dare not come nearer. There are no wharves, only for boats of which there is any quantity. The ships are loaded and unloaded by large cargo boats. Some of them really little ships and all of them carry anchors, some more than one. It is so windy here that they cannot keep their boats in the water without anchoring them. The small ones are all drawn up on the wharves by machinery before the blow begins which at this season of the year (which is their autumn) begins about 3 or 4 o’clock p.m. They can tell when it is going to blow by the "table cloth" as they call the white cloud that covers the top of Table Mountain.

Cape Town is very pretty. It is spread along the shore for miles. The houses have nearly all flat roofs, they are all built of stone or brick and are low, none more than three stories and many only one. Many of them are built of rough stones and then plastered with plaster of some kind looking just like the inside of your northern houses. Some of their floors are made of stone, smooth and glossy, and they are cool and nice.

Back of the Town between the houses and the Mountain are the vineyards and gardens and very beautiful they look from the harbour. Then back of all come the mountains, 3 in number, Table Mountain the highest is 3500 feet high. The others come near up to it but are more slanting and consequently more accessible. At some seasons of the year a cloud rests on the Table, but now it is clear most of the time. It appears from the water quite perpendicular and is so near the Town that I often think when it blows so hard that it will come tumbling down and crush the City to death and fill up the Bay with what rock is left.

The population of Cape Town is 35,000, 10,000 of which are Mahomatans. They (the whole population) are composed of every nation under heaven, mostly coloured of some tinge. The colored people do all the work. The white are all gentlemen. The white ladies are very white and pretty. They do not expose themselves in this hot climate. Their summer is past, and their clothing is changed and now it is thinner than any we have been used to seeing. It is now the season for fruit and they have nearly everything you can think of. The nicest of all are the grapes. The pineapples are not quite ripe yet.

We went to the Presbyterian Church last Sunday. The first thing they did was to sing the 100 Psalm to the tune of Old Hundred and I never heard better singing. I tell you it sounded quite like home. But I must draw to a close. You wanted to know about our health. Well we are all very well. I never had better health in all my life. The children were well all the passage but some of the big folks were dozey about the line when the weather was warm and we were becalmed, but it was not near so warm at the line as we expected. If we had no meat cooked but what was toasted on the anchor, we would be hungry enough. My sheet is full, I am as ever very affectionately your sister.

Sarah Bagnall

Please give my love to all our friends, I will write some letters from N.Z. We have every encouragement to go on. The War is over and everybody wants to go. I am not disappointed in Lenny. He is very kind to me and I like him much and his father and mother are so good to me. Pappy bought me a new dress here. They are corking over my head – I cannot write any more. My feet are both asleep."


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