(Main notes compiled 14 Aug 1990 by Jean Bremner, Lower Hutt Librarian, Hutt Valley Group, New Zealand)
The original diary kept by Keturah Davies, in 1860, describing events occurring during the voyage of the Schah Jehan from Plymouth to Port Adelaide, is incomplete. It starts part way through 20th August 1860, three days before the vessel left Plymouth, and ends on 24th November 1860, ten days before the Schah Jehan berthed at Port Adelaide on 2nd December 1860.
Keturah wrote her diary in an exercise book that had already been used to copy a number of poems in Welsh. She merely turned the book upside down and wrote her diary from the reverse end.
The missing pages, one or two at the beginning of the diary, and at least eight at the end, while disappointing from a purely genealogical point of view, nevertheless do not detract from the wonderfully observant and revealing record of life on board the Schah Jehan, as seen from the single women's quarters.
Both Keturah (an Old Testament name), aged 23 years, and her sister Jane aged 21 years, were educated young women, the daughters of a Clerk in Holy Orders in Dowlais, near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. No other members of their family were aboard the Schah Jehan and, as Keturah mentions only her mother in her diary, it seems probable that their father was no longer living by 1860.
Many well-written shipboard diaries come from the "cabin passengers" whose life on an emigrant vessel was very different from that experienced by the assisted or free passage emigrants. Keturah's diary mentions many people by name, tells of the organisation into "Messes", responsibilities for preparation of meals and highlights the quarrels and frequently selfish behaviour arising from many varied personalities having to live at close quarters in often extremely uncomfortable conditions. The Captain, the Doctor, the family men, elected Constables for the duration of the voyage, and various members of the crew, Keturah speaks of with warmth and respect for their efforts in maintaining justice and discipline for the comfort of their passengers.
Keturah's reaction to the violent storms at sea reminds us of the terrifying conditions endured below decks in quarters flooded with sea water where personal belongings were strewn around and women lived in wet or very damp clothing for long periods, unable to do anything about drying it out.
The pleasure of sighting other emigrant vessels is mentioned frequently and the plight of the French ship Lizziell from Marseilles, discovered without food, and passengers and crew in starving conditions, brings home to us yet again the courage and determination of those who set their sights on a "better life" in the colonies.
Keturah Davies died in Adelaide Hospital twenty eight days after landing. Her cause of death was given as "fever".
Her sister Jane Davies, who married John Cornish Carter in 1866, was living in New Zealand when her two daughters were born: Elizabeth, in Lyttleton in 1866, and Ada, in Hokitika circa 1869. Jane Davies died in 1892 near Reefton, aged 54 years. Her daughter Elizabeth, Mrs Daniel Young, died in Runanga, Greymouth in 1957 aged 91 years. Jane's youngest daughter Ada, died in 1932 aged 63 years, in Dobson, Greymouth area. Ada was Mrs John Smeaton.
The full passenger list for the Schah Jehan for the above voyage is available on microfilm #0304777 of the State Archives, Adelaide, South Australia, covering the years 1858-1864. Film #0304773, Index to Passenger Lists 1845-1886, also held by State Archives, Adelaide, lists: passenger's name, name of vessel, and year of arrival. Both films may be ordered for viewing through any LDS Family History Centre.
Permission to use Keturah's diary as an archive has been granted by:
Desalination of Seawater
The desalination of seawater for domestic use was on trial on this voyage of the Schah Jehan. The following report is transcribed from the South Australia Register newspaper, dated 3 December 1860:
The condensing apparatus, known as Dr Normanby's Patent, was fitted on board the vessel prior to her departure, and throughout the voyage its merits have been fully tested as an excellent means of economising the space occupied by the.......stock of water for such a number of souls. Its use, however, is open to some objections, especially when it is placed in the hands of a person unacquainted with the mode of operation. In the present case a little exercise of judgement and observation perfected its custodian in its various mechanical contrivances, and with the greatest facility 400 gallons of water could be produced in less than a day with the expenditure of 8 cwt of coal.[This item was contributed in April 2009 by Lyn Brown of Griffith, New South Wales, Australia, whose great grandparents travelled to Australia on the Schah Jehan at the same time as Keturah Davies]
Thanks to Donne Dunn, Pete Hasson, and Earl Brunner for permission to publish Keturah's Diary on my website, and to Lyn Brown of Griffith, New South Wales, Australia, for contributing the item on the desalination of seawater.