Southern Founding Sisters – Diary Extracts

Sisters Diary of the Voyage from Plymouth to Hokitika

August 1 to 15 October 1878

August 1

Left Plymouth accompanied by Father Moloney, who by a special privilege obtained permission to accompany us in the tender to the ‘Garonne’.

August 3

Left Bay at 3am. Sisters better, sea calmer. During day sighted several sailing vessels homeward bound, one with French colours. Athletic sports on deck after dinner. Rough night……

August 5

……..Trunks bought up from hold onto deck. Got to ours, procured some needlework. So glad to have something to do. Feel today as is we were in a Convent…..

August 6

……..Glorious sights by sea and land. Waters beautifully blue and clam save where crest of a tiny wave near the ship’s keel ruffles into silvery foam……

August 7

In the tropics, cool and refreshing, all Sisters quite well.

August 8

Sea pretty rough, wind gone down, vessel heaving, heat increased many degrees……. In the morning saw several flying fishes…..

August 12

Cross the Line at 2pm. All as cool as on a mild May day in Ireland. Sisters all in grand health, thank God. Ball playing and fencing on board……..three balls get a watery grave. Eclipse of the moon at night, see the Southern Star.

August 13

In Southern Hemisphere….Sisters go with First Officer through the ship. Nearly 400 feet long and 50 feet wide. 400 passengers, great many Germans and Scotch, not many Irish. Ship is like a little village….

August 17

Steamer halted again at 4.30am…. caused, we believe, by heating of some part of the machinery. Bounding over the waters again in less than half an hour…..

August 20

…..Sea rough, day cold. Sisters qualmy.

August 22

Sight coast of Africa at 9am. Cast anchor at Table Bay…..several boats lying at anchor….most of the passengers go ashore…

August 25

…Say farewell to Table Bay and Capetown.

August 27

A dreadful night with ship swinging to and fro most awfully. One lady dashed out of her berth…..Truely we have got a stormy introduction to the Southern Ocean….

September 1

Very rough sea, high wind, waves dashing over deck, two sails thrown away….

September 5

Gale and heavy rain. Great rolling of vessel.

September 6

Day fine. Athletic exercises on deck in the forenoon

September 8

During service we go forward thro’ ship, distribute some Agnus Dei and crosses to the few Irish Catholics

September 14

Sight Kangaroo Island at 5pm…..Pilot and Officer of health come on board…..no sickness of any account and not a death during voyage. May God be always praised!….

September 18

Cast anchor at Port Philip. Busy all morning seeing luggage et cut to rights. At noon Mother Mary Cecilia comes out to tender and gets on board the ‘Garonne’. Welcomes us warmly to Australia. We spend a week in Melbourne……..

September 25

Embarked in the ‘Albion’ for the land of our adoption. …Weather continues rough until Sunday when it gets worse….many made up their minds that they were going down; very few slept……at 10am sun peeps thro’ clouds and all things assume a brighter aspect. At noon we sight land – grand scenery – snow-capped summits of Southern Alps rear their giant heads to the clouds. Into Foveaux Strait – sight Stewart’s Island and cast anchor there for the night.

September 30

Anchor outside Bluff, go ashore to Port Chalmers to have letters posted…….

October 2

Arrive at Port Lyttelton- a beautiful harbour and pretty town. Several people, Irish, and old inhabitants of Hokitika, come down to see us……

October 3

In Cook’s Straits at early dawn and cast anchor near Wellington……Leaving the Cathedral we have a processions of school children to the convent which is gaily decorated for the occasion and where we are greeted right joyously and heartily.

October 9

Leave Wellington in the ‘Tararua’ for Hokitika…..

October 13

Call at Westport at 4am, at Greymouth 9am and finally lie out opposite Hokitika at 11am.

October 15

Can not get over the Bar until high tide, so have to bide our time. Get into the Tender at 6.30pm and are soon beside the wharf, crossing the dreaded Bar so quickly……It is now 11.30pm yet, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, we have a vast concourse of the good people on the wharf, who are actually wild with delight at the arrival of the Sisters. Our saintly pastor, Reverend Father Martin conducts us to the carriages in waiting which wheel us off rapidly. We are soon domiciled in a charming cottage with kind friends to greet us.