The Warren Register of Colonial Tall Ships

Thursday, March 22, 2012

THE BLACKBIRDER FLEET

               THE BLACKBIRDER FLEET  

copyright R.J.Warren 2011-2012  

                            [The ‘Queensland Recruiting Trade’] 

During the early 1860’s, the entrepreneur and ship owner, Robert Towns purchased land on the Logan River about 75 Kilometres south of Brisbane. It was here that he started his cotton plantation, which was modeled after the American plantations in the south of that country. 

His farm had its beginnings at a time that proved ideal, the American civil war had broken out and cotton supplies were hard to find. Robert Towns named his plantation ‘Townsvale’ and he began his enterprise with German labour which soon proved expensive, when he found that feeding these families had eaten into his own profits, he set about ridding them from his plantation. Towns was a vigorous businessman and he owned a fleet of vessels which ranged in size from schooner to ship. His vessels came to Australia as emigrant and cargo vessels.

Soon Towns was looking for another source of labour. When local natives proved useless, he decided to send one of his many vessels to induce natives from the islands to the north and northeast of Australia. These he hoped would come to Queensland to ‘weed and pick cotton for 10 shillings a month over and above rations’.

The captain of the ‘Don Juan’ was given orders to offer the natives [up to 100 of them] two new suits of clothes. To make the whole episode seem well over and above board, he also wrote letters to missionaries who were giving religion to the natives of the South Pacific. To them he stated his need for laborers in Queensland. And so began the recruiting trade which proved to be a shameful part of Queensland’s history.

Though not nearly as bad as the African slave trade to America. The Kanaka or Blackbirder trade to Queensland and Fiji, were a continuation for the slavers, that had lost business in the America’s after the civil war.

This type of person, who seem to enjoy the pain and suffering of their fellowman, were able to show just how vicious they could be. But the shoe was not always on one foot in the Kanaka trade, many whites were killed and many vessels burned or looted, by the powerful tribes of the South Pacific islands 
                      MAIN REGISTER OF
           RECRUITING TRADE VESSELS 

‘AGNES DONALD’ Wood brig that was owned by Fijian interests. She transported recruits for both the Queensland and Fijian trades.

‘ALFRED VITTERY’ Built 1860. Wood schooner of 122 Tons. Length; 92 ft. Breadth; 20.7 ft. Depth; 11 ft. She had the misfortune to run into a calm off New Ireland and ran ashore becoming a total wreck while recruiting at Kaan Island. The recruiter ‘Lochiel’ rescued her crew.

‘ARCHIMEDES’ Wood schooner that came into the trade in 1885.


‘ARIEL’ Wood schooner that operated from Bundaberg, Queensland. Master; Captain James Howie. She was involved in the rescue of the schooner ‘Frederika’ crew after that vessel was wrecked.



‘BLACK DOG’ Wood Sandalwood trader that belonged to Robert Towns and was used in the recruiting trade in 1865.She had also been an Opium runner in earlier times and was an old schooner when she came under the command of Captain Henry Ross Lewin. He proved to be a thorn in the side of both missionaries and authorities. Especially for stepping over the mark and using questionable tactics while recruiting.


‘BOBTAIL NAG’ Wood recruiter that rescued the castaway whaling-seaman John Renton, who was saved by natives from a small island off Malaita. He lived among this people for many years until Captain Murray of the ‘Bobtail Nag’ found him in 1875. Renton was surprised to find that some seven years had gone by since his ship had been wrecked.



‘BOREALIS’ Wood brigantine that was attacked in 1880 while still a new vessel. Her crew was divided when the attack came and all that were aboard were murdered at Kwai islet near Malaita. The cook survived by hiding during the attack and the rest of the crew who were away at the time, returned to see the attack as it was ending. They quickly rowed away to where other recruiters were operating and returned in time to save the brig. She was taken back to Fiji and then on to New Zealand where indignation was rife and calls for action were many.


‘BOROUGH BELLE’ Wood schooner that was recruiting at Ambrym island when her master, Captain Belbin was shot to death by natives. The Navy was quick to avenge the killing and recruiting stopped at that island. The ‘Borough Belle’ was brought back to Mackay by Captain Adrian of the ‘Jabberwock’ which had been nearby and able to assist. Captain Belbins wife had accompanied him on this voyage so it would have been a rather sad trip homeward for the vessel.


‘BROTHERS’ Wood clipper of 355 Tons. Though not a recruiter, she did belong to Robert Towns who commanded her at the age of 26 and who was very happy to make the vessel work hard for his fortune.


‘CARL’ Wood brig that was bought and sailed by Dr James Patrick Murray who left in June 1871, looking for an adventurous time. He with eleven of his friends and the crew of the ‘Carl’ arrived at Fiji where the good doctor tried to convince the captain that they should take up Blackbirding. This was argued against and the doctor sacked all except the mate who he promoted to captain and he then hired a new crew at Levuka.


After roping a cannon over the yardarm so that it could be dropped into the native canoes that came to trade with the vessel at any island she visited. Soon, the brig had over 140 natives locked up in the holds. This did not go down well with the islanders for they resented being kidnapped and were soon making efforts to escape.


A fight broke out and the captain, crew and the doctor spent the whole night firing down into the holds until the natives became quiet. Afternoon came and the wounded and dying natives were brought on deck where the doctor ordered them thrown overboard. Over seventy natives were drowned. The doctor is said to have been singing ‘Marching through Georgia’ while shooting the natives.

A footnote to this story was that Doctor Murray confessed his involvement in the affair to the authorities and some 18 months after it happened, he struck a deal to turn Queens evidence and blamed everyone else for the crimes he had instigated.


‘CEARA’ Wood schooner that was owned by the Burns Philp Company in the early 1880’s. Master; Captain Carl Santini then Captain William Inman. She almost had an uprising by Kanakas, who were being returned to their islands after they had completed their term of service. The natives had worked hard for three years to save enough money to buy firearms only to find at the end of their time, that the much-prized weapons were banned. This caused a disturbance that looked nasty for a while until the HMS ‘Miranda’ fell in with ‘Ceara’ and escorted her to her destination.


‘CHALLENGE’ Wood schooner that was active in the recruiting trade. For illegally taking recruits, this vessel was arrested by the British ship HMS’ Basilisk.



‘CHANCE’ Wood schooner that was active during the 1870’s and was under the command of Captain Carl Satini who was a rugged Swede that did nothing by halves. The vessel operated out of Maryborough, Queensland and did nothing to enhance that towns reputation.



‘CITY OF MELBOURNE’ Steamship that rescued the disabled recruiter ‘Elibank Castle’ off Double Point near Port Douglas, Nth Queensland. [See ‘Elibank Castle]


 ‘CONSTANTINE’ Wood cutter that was involved in the recruiting trade. Master: Captain James Martin.


‘DANCING WAVE’ Wood schooner that was based in Sydney and that entered the recruiting trade during the 1870’s. Natives at Ngela, in the Florida group of islands slaughtered her crew in 1876. This was caused by returned recruits who had not been paid for their work in Queensland due to their employer going bankrupt. The natives who were in his employ had been returned to their island and the resulting anger were taken out on the crew.



‘DANIEL WATSON’ Wood schooner that was based in Sydney and did her recruiting in the 1860’s. Her captain discovered that other recruiters had got to several islands before him and he decided to make it harder for them to recruit the next time by firing on every village that he passed on his way along the coast.



‘DAPHNE’ Wood schooner of 56 Tons. H Ross Lewin and Thomas Pritchard bought her as an old vessel from the South Australian government. She entered the recruiting trade as the first licenses vessel ever in that trade. She was licensed to carry 58 recruits. She brought her first recruits to Queensland on the 15th of November 1868. Pritchard was arrested in Fiji by the HMS ‘Rosario’ which had as its Master, Captain George Palmer who had been a British naval commander in West Africa and who saw the Queensland recruiting trade as nothing more than a barely covered slave trade. Captain John Daggett of the ‘Daphne’ was also arrested and tried in the Sydney Water Police Courts. The charges were dismissed and costs were awarded against Captain Palmer. Even though the ‘Daphne’ had arrived in Fiji with 108 instead of 58 recruits who had been locked below decks and who, for all appearances were the epitome of would be slaves. This though was brought down by barristers acting for the ‘Daphne’ who showed the good Captain Palmer had been impetuous and had not understood the difference between the Queensland trade and they way the American slave trade operated.



‘DAUPHIN’ Wood schooner commanded by the French Captain Demoselle. She also was involved in the recruiting trade during the 1880’s.



‘DAYSPRING’ Wood missionary 120-Ton brigantine that serviced the Solomon Islands and also others in the region. She was one of at two vessels of this name. She was considered the first of the two vessels. She was wrecked on a reef at Aneityum Island on The 6th of January 1873. The wreck was sold to the French who repaired her and were going to put her into the recruiting trade as ‘Dayspring II’ but another storm arrived and again drove her back onto the reef where she became a total wreck.



‘DAYSPRING II’ [see ‘Dayspring’I]



‘DAYSPRING III’ An auxiliary three-mast wood schooner that was owned by the Presbyterian church missionaries. She was active in bringing religion to the south sea islands during the 1880’s and in 1896, she was wrecked at the entrance to Grand Passage to the north of New Caledonia. On the 10th of October 1896, the crew got safely away and sailed to Australia without loss of life.



‘DEVONSHIRE’ Wood ship that carried Indian coolies to Queensland sugar plantations in November 1883. There are several vessels of this name.



‘DON JUAN’ Wood schooner owned by Robert Towns. Master; Captain H Ross Lewin. She operated as a labour recruiter during the 1860’s. She is probably the same schooner that foundered during a gale off the NSW coast on the 9th of May 1869 with the loss of 9 lives.



‘ELIBANK CASTLE’ Wood schooner of 100 Tons. Captain Augustus Routch, who put Captain James Howie in command of her and entered the vessel into the recruiting trade, owned her as a Copra trader. She sailed from Cooktown, Queensland on the 6th of November 1884 on her first voyage in that trade. With the trade now paying 25 pound per head for recruits, it was seen more as a voyage of kidnapping than of recruiting. During this period, the press from all sides was attacking the trade. The vessel arrived at Rendova Island on the 12th of January 1885 and there attempted, by trickery, to recruit the local natives. 

Chief Poogey was already aware of the plan as many others had tried the same type of ploy. Instead, Captain Howie and two of his crew were accompanied onto the island by some of the chief’s men and were killed. There were only three white crew and three Kanakas left aboard and after some harrowing moments, they managed to up sail and away. Three weeks later the steamer ‘City of Melbourne’ found the vessel in a disabled condition near Double Point, Port Douglas, Queensland and rescued the men aboard. The ‘Elibank Castle’ was repaired and back at work within seven weeks and command was taken over by Captain Routch himself and he took the vessel to the Solomon’s group where he invited the locals on board to trade. The natives suddenly went crazy and attacked the crew with ferocity. The bosun, David Brown had been coming up the companionway when a native swung a tomahawk and hit him a glancing blow to the head. Having avoided being killed, he stumbled down into the hold and managed to hide himself until joined by seaman Hugh Gildie who had also been wounded in the fighting. The two men waited until nightfall and made their way on deck, only to find two natives still aboard whom they managed to kill. The two wounded seamen found that all others had been killed it was decided to try to sail in the general direction of New Guinea as neither man could navigate. The ‘Elibank Castle’ was run onto a reef off northern New Guinea and while trying to get ashore, Hugh Gildie was drowned. New Guinea natives saved David Brown and handed him over to a Dutch Brig, which took him to Queensland.



‘ELIZABETH’ Wood schooner that was owned by Robert Towns, the plantation owner for whom Townsville in Queensland was named. She was a Sandalwood trader that went to Eromanga Island in 1845 and while anchored in Cook Bay, the boat crew went ashore, at the invitation of the local natives and was promptly killed. Towns had his vessel go back again due to the high price of Sandalwood and another two white men were slain but the vessel arrived back with its cargo.



‘ELIZA MARY’ Wood schooner that was based in Bundaberg during the 1880’s. Master; Henry Blaxell. Government Agent; Major Howitt. This vessel was active in the recruiting trade but was barred from operating in 1886 due to the excessive drinking of her master.



‘EMILY’ Wood schooner that operated in the recruiting trade during the 1880’s. She was especially active around the Santa Cruz Islands.



‘EMMA BELLE’ Wood schooner that operated in the recruiting trade in the 1870’s. She was met and spoken by the missionary vessel, ‘Southern Cross’ on her last voyage with Bishop Patterson.



‘EMPREZA’ Wood Brig that was based in Brisbane and took her turn in the recruiting trade. She was active in taking returning natives back to the islands when their contracts expired. One group of 153 natives she took back to the New Hebrides was ill with dysentery and when they arrived at their home island, the locals quickly came down with the sickness and over 200 died.



‘ESPERANZA’ Wood schooner that was taking recruits at Kolumbangara Island when she was attacked and everyone of her crew were killed. This happened in 1880 and after stripping the vessel of her trade goods, Chief Hailey ordered the vessel burned.



‘ETHEL’ Wood schooner based in Maryborough, Queensland. Master; Captain John Loutit. Government Agent; Christopher Mills. Her captain was a master recruiter and had many devious ways of obtaining new recruits for the plantations. One method was to make an arrangement with another vessel that was taking returning natives back to their islands, meet up with them and simply swap returns. The natives knew nothing until they were back in Queensland at another plantation.




‘FANNY’ Wood schooner that was attacked at Nguna island. All her crew except Captain Bartlett was killed. This attack took place on the 9th of July 1871. The vessel was lost when the natives cut her cables and she grounded on a reef at the island.



 ‘FANNY’ Wood Brigantine owned by Rawson and Co of Mackay, North Queensland. She operated in the early 1880’s as a labour recruiter. Master; Captain William Wawn. She was a notable recruiter that enjoyed some luck in a hardy business.


‘FANNY NICHOLSON’ Wood schooner that operated as a native recruiter from 1860 to 1870.



‘FEARLESS’ Wood schooner of the Recruiting trade. She operated during the 1880’s . She remained active for several years and was also used to ferry returns back to their home islands.


 ‘FLORA’ Wood schooner of the recruiting trade Government Agent; Douglas Rannie. She was active around New Britain and New Ireland during the years 1880 to 1890.



‘FOREST KING’ Built 1868. Wood schooner of 172 Tons. Length; 98.2 ft. Breadth;22.3 ft. Depth; 13.1 ft. Built at Plymouth. Owned by S.Hodgson. She was arrested by the British naval vessel HMS ‘Swinger’ for taking recruits at Louisade Archipelago without explaining the terms to the natives. Her captain was tried for kidnapping in October 1884.



‘FREDERICKA WILHELMINA’ Wood Brig-Barquentine that was active around Bougainville. She was wrecked in Empress Bay. Master; Captain Augustus Routch. She was built in Sweden and had been based in Adelaide before joining the recruiting trade.



‘HEATHER BELLE’ Wood schooner that was Sydney based and was actively engaged in the Queensland recruiting trade. She lost one white sailor when she was standing at Oba Island in 1878. The loss of the man was due to the crew interfering with the native women, which caused Chief Sikeri to declare war on recruiters.



‘HELENA’ Wood schooner based at Maryborough, Queensland. She was an active recruiter from 1860 and was usually based at Bundaberg.


‘HERON’ Wood Schooner that recruited native labour during the 1880’s. Master; Captain Rogers. He had the vessel until its demise in December 1884, he was given command of the ‘Young Dick’ in which he also bought shares.




‘HOPEFUL’ Built 1881. Wood barquentine of 231 Tons. Length; 111.4 ft. Breadth; 26.3 ft. Depth; 12.8 ft. Built at Padstow. Owned by Burne, Philp and Co. She was the first vessel to recruit labour from New Guinea. Master; Captain Briggs and also Captain Louis Shaw. She had a particularly bad record as a recruiter and was involved in numerous battles with natives of the islands and of New Guinea. She proved to be more of a kidnapper than a legitimate trader.



 ‘ISABELLA ANNA’ Wood Schooner of the Labour trade. Master; Captain Jones. She obtained her recruits for Robert Towns from 1860 to 1870..



‘JANET STEWART’ Wood schooner that was based at Maryborough, Queensland. She operated during the 1870’ and 1880’s under Captain L Thomas. Government Agent; William Lockhead. The vessel anchored off Kwai Island, Malaita in February 1882 and the captain and two boats went ashore at a place some five miles from the anchorage. The captain had been lured away from his vessel, leaving the government agent and some of the crew aboard. Natives crept on board the schooner and killed the agent and the rest of the crew then set fire to the vessel. When the captain returned, it was too late to save the ‘Janet Stewart’ and those killed were cremated on the burning ship.



‘JASON’ Wood schooner that was Maryborough based. Master; Captain William Coath. She operated in the trade from the late 1860’s onward. Due to her captain’s quiet way of dealing with the natives, they came to respect him and he was able to gain recruits without the usual troubles associated with the trade. He did though, encounter problems with the government agents who found that this captain was indeed using illegal means to get recruits, some of which included dressing native boatmen up in clergy robes and enticing the locals away to labour in Queensland.



‘JESSIE KELLY’ Wood schooner that recruited during the years 1880to 1890.


‘JOHN WILLIAMS’ Missionary vessel that operated throughout the south sea islands during the recruiting era.



‘KING OSCAR’ Wood Bark of 248 Tons. Master; Captain Gibbins. He was also the owner of this Swedish built vessel. She had earlier been a Gunboat under the Swedish flag and was sold to become a coal hauler out of Newcastle, NSW. She became a recruiter in May 1867. She operated from Brisbane and delivered her recruits to that port. She did not last in the trade as she was perhaps a little larger than was required for tracking around the reefs in the South Pacific


‘LALLAH ROOHK’. Wood ketch of 59 Tons. Length; 75 ft. Breadth; 18.6 ft. Depth; 6.9 ft. She foundered off the Queensland coast in 1899 between Townsville and Maryborough.



‘LAVINIA’ Wood schooner that operated in the recruiting trade during the years 1880 to 1890.



‘LIZZIE’ Wood schooner of the Kanaka recruiting trade. Master; Captain Wawn. She was used to retrieve recruits from the Louisade islands for the Burns-Philp Company.



‘LOCHIEL’ Wood brig that operated from Maryborough in the recruiting trade. She spent many years in that work until she was eventually burned at her moorings. Only her figurehead survived and was found in a paddock half charred. The figurehead was of a Scotsman wearing a ‘Tam o Shanter’.



‘LORD OF THE ISLES’ Built 1881. Wood three-mast schooner of 208 Tons. Length;116.4 ft. Breadth; 22.4 ft. Depth; 11.1 ft. Built at Sydney. Owned by H. Beattie. She took a record haul of 178 recruits from New Britain in1883 and was basically a Fijian owned rig that operated in the recruiting trade from Fiji. She was employed by the Colonial Sugar Refineries to do her recruiting and like other companies still operating today, had their survival based upon the cheap labour [6 pounds per year] for the natives that were brought to Queensland.



‘LUCY AND ADELAIDE’ Built c1870. Wood schooner that was one of the nine vessels in the blackbirder trade during 1876. Her master, Captain Anderson was killed by natives at St Bartholomew Island, New Hebrides in that year.


‘LYTTONA’ Wood schooner that operated in the recruiting trade during the years 1860 to 1870.


‘MADELEINE’ Wood schooner that was in the recruiting trade during the years 1875 to 1890


‘MALAITA’ Iron steamship that belonged to Burns PhIlp. She was used to ferry the Islanders back to the South Seas in 1906 after the Government had outlawed the trade.



‘MARGARET CHESSEL’ Wood schooner that was based at Fiji and ran in the Recruiting trade for that countries plantation owners during the 1870’s.


‘MARY ANDERSON’ Wood schooner that operated as a copra trader during the Kanaka trading years. She was also active as a grog seller to the recruiters.


‘MAY’ Built 1869. Wood barquentine of 237 Tons. Length; 114.7 ft. Breadth; 25.1 ft. Depth; 12.8 ft. Built at Sunderland. Owned by J.H.Cock. She operated in the recruiting trade from Bundaberg and Maryborough, Queensland. Built 1869. Owned by W.Turnbull of Wellington, New Zealand in 1881.She was instrumental in the rescue of the Captain and what remained of the crew of the barquentine, ‘Northern Belle’ which vessel was a Samoan labour recruiter. Her master, Captain Spence was given command of the ‘May’ soon after his recovery from the loss of his vessel in 1889.


‘MAY QUEEN’ Wood schooner that was attacked by natives at the New Hebrides in the 1860’s. Her captain [Kilgour] was said to have been killed and eaten. This proved to be a false report and the said captain turned up in Brisbane quite angry at the reports and reportedly received a sum of money in an out of court settlement from one of the local businessmen.



‘MYSTERY’ Wood schooner that operated from Brisbane while in the recruiting trade. She had aboard her the government agent John Renton who was either outright stupid or just extremely cavalier in his attitude to the headhunting, man-eating natives of the South Pacific islands. Renton went ashore on Oba Island and made contact with an English speaking native called Aratuga. The native convinced him that there were recruits waiting in the next Bay and were ready to sign on for work in Queensland. This of course was a ploy and as soon as the boat was out of sight of the schooner, Renton, the mate and four native seamen were killed and eaten. This occurred on the 4th of November 1878.Master; Captain G Kilgour.



‘NORTHERN BELLE’ Built 1877. Wood schooner of 214 Tons. Length; 114.6 ft. Breadth; 25 ft. Depth; 12.9 ft. Built at Garmouth. Owned by W.Whyte and Co. She was wrecked in March 1889 during the Calliope hurricane that lashed the Navigator Group in that year. Her master was Captain William Spence who brought her to Australia in 1884-5, from Garmouth, England. The brigantine ‘May’ rescued her captain and some of the crew, which conveyed them to Queensland. Captain Spence later took the ‘May’ and stayed with the blackbirder trade until he took the ‘Rio Loge’ in the early 1900’s. He and his wife and two teenage children were lost in that vessel in 1909, there were no survivors.



‘NUKULAU’ Wood schooner that operated from Fiji for that countries labour trade.


‘PARA’ Built 1862.Wood brig of 252 Tons. Length; 115.7 ft. Breadth; 23.4 ft. Depth; 14.6 ft. Built at Alloa. Owned by J.MacMillan.


‘PERI’ Wood schooner of 25 Tons. She was carrying recruits from Suva to Queensland. The natives attacked the crew and killed all except one Fijian who was able to navigate. He dived overboard though and the natives [Malaita men] were trapped on a vessel that they could not handle. Eighty natives had been aboard when they attacked the crew, when the HMS ‘Basilisk’ found the vessel some weeks later, only thirteen were still alive, the rest had been eaten one by one until only the thirteen remained.


‘PERCY’ Wood schooner that was one of the early recruiters. She operated from 1866 from Townsville.



‘RELIANCE’ Wood schooner of Auckland. She began her career in the 1860’s. She was supposed to have been a tortoise shell hunter but when she ran up onto Indispensible Reef in February 1868 with Captain John Austin in command, she had seventy natives in her holds. The captain and his crew took to the boats and left the natives to starve or drown. He and most of his men made it to Townsville.



‘RIO LOGE’ Built 1869. Iron brig of 250 Tons. She was a blackbirder through and through. Built by W.C.Miller and Sons at Garston. Master; Captain William Spence. Owned by C.W.Turner of Lyttleton, New Zealand, her master was Captain Munro at that time. She was then sold to J.E.Noakes of Maryborough, Queensland Master; Captain J.Patterson then finally Captain Spence. She went into the Australia-New Zealand trade in the lat. 1890’s and was lost in 1909 off the coast of New Zealand. [See main register]



‘RIPPLE’ Wood schooner of the recruiting trade. Master; Captain Ferguson. Natives killed him while recruiting and only by fierce fighting were the crew able to escape the same fate.



‘RODERIC DHU’ Wood schooner of the recruiter trade. Master; Captain Turner. She operated from Maryborough, Queensland and when trying to take some returning natives back to their home island, found that they had been killed by their own people.


‘SOUTHERN CROSS’ Wood missionary schooner of the South Pacific islands. She was one of a few vessels given the same name by the missionaries. Most of these vessels were destroyed by storms or natives.



‘SPEC’ Wood schooner that operated from Mackay, North Queensland during the late 1860’s. She recruited labour for Robert Towns and various other plantations.


‘SPUNKIE’ Wood schooner that was owned by Henry Ross Lewin. Captain Lewin used the ploy of dressing up like a Bishop while the rest of his crew stood around holding bibles and singing Hymns to lure the natives into servitude. She operated into north Queensland during the later half of the 1860’s decade.



‘STANLEY’ Built 1863. Wood schooner of 115 Tons. Length; 92 ft. Breadth;20.1 ft. Depth; 10.5 ft. Built at Granton. Owned by W.A.Walpen. Master; Captain Joseph Davies. Government Agent; William McMurdo. She ran up onto Indispensable Reef on the 1st of July 1883. The captain and some of the crew took a boat and headed off to get help while McMurdo and the mate remained with the natives and set them to work building a false island from blocks of coral. They used the water tanks from the schooner as cabins set upon the coral they had erected above high tide level and also built a raft in case they were not rescued. Seven weeks after the ‘Stanley’ was wrecked, a passing trader picked them up and all were saved.


‘STORMBIRD’ Wood schooner based at Maryborough, Queensland. She was active in the recruiting trade until 1885, when, like the ‘Lochiel’, she was burned in the Mary River because of her bad condition. She had been long considered unseaworthy but had continued to ply her trade past retirement. Master: Captain Wawn.



‘SYBIL’ Wood schooner of approx. 200 Tons. Built 1854. She entered the recruiting trade in 1874 and was lost near Malekula Island in 1887.



‘SIBYL’ Built 1861. Wood schooner of 120 Tons. Length; 80 ft. Breadth; 20.7 ft. Depth; 11 ft. Built at Milford. Owned by P.Graham. She was one of the nine members of the blackbirding fleet in 1876. In January, 1878, the schooner ‘Bobtail Nag’ [Captain Wawn] was lost in Vila Harbour, the captain and crew made it to shore and all were eventually rescued by the ‘Stanley’ and ‘Sibyl’, both of the recruiting trade. Master; Captain Satini. She foundered at sea in 1902 with 150 recruits and her crew.



‘SYDNEY BELLE’ Maryborough based recruiter that plied the trade during the 1880’s and 90’s. She was one of the better-looking vessels in that trade.



‘TAMBO’ Burns-Philp steamer that was involved in the return of recruits to the islands in 1904.


‘TELEGRAPH’ Wood schooner that was originally a Pearler but became a recruiter from 1860 onward.



‘UNCLE TOM’ Wood schooner that had a dubious record in the recruiting trade. She was reputed to have been a straightforward kidnapper and slaver equipped with all sorts of punishment gear. She enjoyed her career from 1860 onward.



‘VENTURE’ Built 1878. Wood barquentine of 249 Tons. Length; 119.3 ft. Breadth; 25.1 ft. Depth; 12.9 ft. Built at Garmouth, England. Owned by J.Geddie.



‘VIBILIA’ Built 1834. Wood schooner of 108 Tons. Built at Plymouth. Owned by T.G.Kelly.



‘WILLIAM MANSON’ Wood bark of 360 Tons. Master; Captain Joseph Vos. She operated in the recruiting trade during the 1890’s and was also used as a return vessel. Her master had a very bad name in recruiting circles and proved on many occasions, his inhumanity to the islanders.



‘YOUNG AUSTRALIAN’ Wood schooner that was chartered by the South Seas Trading Company in 1868. Master; Captain Albert Hovell. She was originally named ‘Young Australia’ but was forced by legislation in Queensland, to begin their operations in Fiji under a different name. They captured 230 men and 6 women for sale in Fiji on one of their first voyages in the trade.



‘YOUNG DICK’ Wood schooner of the Recruiting trade. Master; Captain Rogers in 1884. John Hornbridge. was almost killed by natives at Malaita when he was lured away from the ‘Young Dick’. She also had trouble on the same voyage at a village a few miles from the first encounter. The boats were away with the captain and some of the crew and the Government Agent [Popham] and the mate, Charles Marr were with a few of the crew were left aboard ship. The local natives realised that the time was right for a strike at the vessel. They did not realise that the whites had been attacked at other times and that they were a little more prepared, When the fight began, the mate and one of the seamen [Crittenden] fought like wild men. The Government Agent was hacked to death with the rest of the crew except for Crittenden and Marr who had armed themselves and began shooting the natives one after the other. The fighting went on for some time and was still going when the boats re-appeared. This battle was for the most part, heroic but even heroes can be unlucky. ‘Young Dick’ was anchored in the Herbert River, North Queensland in July 1886 when she was warned by the local pilot not to sail, as there was bad weather coming. Captain Rogers chose to disregard the advice and she sailed away and went missing perhaps somewhere on the Great Barrier Reef. His new Government Agent, James Fowles and the entire crew including Crittenden and Marr were never seen again.

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