Tuesday, 28 April 2015

X marks the spot where Lionel Edgar Laws was born on February 12 1868.

This was an email sent by Helen Butler to many Laws descendants on 2 September 2010 and she has kindly given me permission to publish it here. 

LONDON to BRISBANE in 141 days non-stop.   
 On Christmas day 1867 William and Sarah Laws and 3 of their children left England for Australia in the immigrant ship “Bayswater”.   The eldest son William Camper Laws was left in the care of Sarah’s parents.  
They left from central London, probably from St Katherine’s Dock.  The small steam tug would take them to Gravesend, 50 kilometres  down the Thames along all its curves and bends . At the first bend  they pass Wapping and Shadwell where  William was born and grew up, but had probably not seen for many years.  There would be much to see on both sides of the river.  Only one of them would  ever see these things again.  Only Lily would return.
The Laws family paid their fares and travelled Steerage, the cheapest berths, conserving their funds  So they had no cabin, only dormitory accommodation with double-decker single bunks in one area with many others. William was 38 years old, Sarah was 32,  Florence 7, Lilian 6, and Ernest 3. And Sarah was very pregnant.
It was to be over four and a half months before they ended their voyage on the other side  of the world, where they would sail up  another river along all its curves and bends, 30 kilometres to the centre of another city – Brisbane.


This map is taken from Don Charlwood’s book, “The Long Farewell – Settlers Under Sail .”  It  tells the story of  immigration to the Australian colonies through the nineteenth century. There was the Old Admiralty Route which looked shorter, but was not shorter and there was the new Great Circle Route which used winds and currents to more advantage, and was much faster. Many of the Clipper ships were coming to Australia in 70 days and less, using this route. The ‘Bayswater’ used a composite route, going a fair way south to catch the Roaring Forties for the easting.  But it still took 115 days actual sailing time on the open sea. Only after the Suez Canal was opened in the next year 1869, could steamships travel to Australia and compete with the Clipper  Ships in speed and with more comfort and more safety.
The red line shows approximately the course of the ‘BAYSWATER” in 1868, sketched from eight positions noted in the report of the voyage printed in the Brisbane Courier  on Thursday 30 April 1868 Also using the exact position of the boat when the baby Lionel  was born.

 “Lloyd’s Register of British & Foreign Shipping” for 1870/71 records the “Bayswater’ was a SHIP of 1256 tons with 3 decks.  Its length was 168.6 feet,  breadth 37.6 feet,  and depth 21.7 feet.  It was built in New York in 1847.  It is denoted as a SHIP, so it is a sailing vessel, not a steamer.
The book “Log of Logs” has some further information. The “Bayswater is denoted as a fully rigged sailing ship—with 3 masts and all the sails and not assisted by steam power. This ship was bought by the Black Ball Line shortly before its first voyage to Queensland in 1864,  when it was renamed  “Bayswater”  In 1864 it brought 281 immigrants to Keppel Bay ,Rockhampton.  In1866, Bayswater brought a  similar large number to Rockhampton. In 1868 it made its third and last voyage to Queensland but this time to Brisbane and with only  58 immigrants.
No picture of the ship has been found.  It is very likely there is no surviving picture.

   The Queensland government had many different schemes to attract immigrants.  So there was much official paperwork about the people,   the boats they came on, the related land orders, etc.       These  papers are now in the Queensland State Archives, if surviving, and also  many on microfilm in libraries. The QSA has the 1868` Bayswater ‘s list of all passengers by name, and the medical officer’s report.
There they are – William and Sarah Laws with Florence, Lily, Ernest ,and now the infant Lionel.

 The log goes with the boat and the Captain, so it is lucky to survive til now .  The Greenwich Maritime museum has the “Bayswater” log for the 1864 voyage and all the weekly newspapers printed on board.[ John Oxley Library Brisbane has Numbers 1 to 16 of these }
 Unfortunately, there is nothing  for the 1866 or 1868 voyages.  So there is nothing to tell us the daily detail of their journey.