Journey of the Jane Gifford from Scotland to Auckland

In March I spent a week  in Auckland, New Zealand following in the footsteps of my 3 x great grandparents Arthur Wellesley Hood and Janet Fraser.

St Andrews on the Green, Glasgow
St Andrews on the Green, Glasgow

Arthur was baptized in St Andrews on the Green Episcopalian church, Glasgow on October 5, 1817.  He was the son of John Hood, a merchant and his wife Mary Ann Stewart.  John was a leather tanner, I believe in business with his brother William at Ladyburn in Greenock.  Janet was the daughter of James Frazer, supposedly a mill owner and his wife, maybe Mary.  They left Scotland on board the Jane Gifford in 1842.

The Jane Gifford was a barque of 550 tons, 120 feet long, 30 feet wide and 19 ½ feet deep.   Luckily two accounts survive of the journey of the Jane Gifford.  The first was a diary kept by cabin passenger, Robert Graham and the other a journal written by another passenger, Peter McDonald but written twenty-five years after their arrival. His account was mostly about their day-to-day life.  The Jane Gifford sailed with another ship, the Duchess of Argyle.  The Duchess left a day before the Jane Gifford.

On Saturday 18 June 1842 the Jane Gifford was anchored at the Tail of the Bank, about 2 miles from Greenock pier.  A tug came alongside, a cannon was fired, the tug sailed with them for 15 miles, her sails were then hoisted, the tug pulled away, a cannon was fired again and with three cheers they were off.

In both ships married couples were placed mid ships, single people fore and aft of the ship. There were many children on board who were looked after during the day by a nurse and teachers. There was a surgeon in charge of the health of the passengers of each ship. Each day was carefully planned before they sailed.

Their day began at 8am, breakfast at 9am, dinner at 3pm, tea at 7pm and to bed at 11pm. Miss Adam was the girls’ teacher on board the Jane Gifford and Mr McNair the boys’. Saturday was the day for entertainment. Snowball, a cook on the Jane Gifford would play the fiddle. However one day he’d had too much to drink so instead of dancing they sung.  Pastimes included singing, dancing, playing and  doing the washing. Sea water was used for this and the clothes hung on the rigging to dry. There was also a library on each ship.

They were only two days out when about 200 of the passengers were ill from rough weather.  Two weeks out and there were many cases of measles on board – the hospital was below the cabin stores – which Graham found ‘disagreeable’.  There were also outbreaks of dysentery and fever. Many died on board and Graham says how sad a funeral on board was. They had to bury three children in one day.

There were various incidents on board.  On July 6 two married women from below decks had a fight, they were put on the deck to fight it out.  Then on July 11 one of the married passengers who was tattooed like a Maori told his newly married wife that he already had a wife in New Zealand and had only married her to obtain a passage.  It was more difficult for single men to emigrate than married men.

As they moved into the colder part of their journey they had occasional rough weather where between the decks some of the passengers would be on their knees praying whilst the others were singing and dancing.  During spates of bad weather pots and pans would go tumbling over their heads and boiling water often poured on someone’s legs.

One of the diarists said that unusually in those latitudes they had several days of calm weather.  They took the opportunity to lower a boat and some of them went shooting Cape pigeon & other sea birds.  On board, the rigging and poop deck were crowded with passengers also shooting birds. Some were also caught by trailing baited lines. He noted that the view of the Jane Gifford was lovely from the boat – she carried the maximum number of sails.

Toward the end of August they struck some very stormy weather. The passengers were kept below deck as the doctor was afraid they would break their legs.  Mr Culpan, the minister gave a morning sermon.  At dinner there was a heavy squall that caused all their plates and dinner to end up in their laps.  Mr Culpan gave another sermon in the afternoon and while they were singing the psalms the boat gave such a lurch that the diarist’s stool fell over causing him to fall at the feet of people, who then fell on him with the minister falling on top of them all. Two minutes later a wave broke over the ship sending water down the hatchway and over them. This type of weather had been continuing for the past two days. There was lightning and the rain was torrential.

It seems it was a common theme of the voyage – bird snaring and bad weather.

September 17 was a beautiful day – they ‘ran at 11 miles an hour all day’ and made up for time lost at the beginning of their journey.  But a week later on  September 24 at about midnight a gale sprung up when they were under full sail, the deck was under water and for six hours they were under double top sails. The steerage passengers were very frightened with both men and women ‘roaring with fright’.

On September 28 they sighted Tasmania and the passengers began to get excited about reaching their destination.  Four days later they were engulfed in an amazing hailstorm with stones up to 1 ¾ inches in circumference.   Then on October 6 the Captain saw a sail ahead that he thought was the Duchess of Argyle. They were approaching her quite quickly when they saw the pilot reach her. There had been an unofficial race as to which ship would reach her destination first.

Jane Gifford and Duchess of Argyle, arrival in Auckland
Jane Gifford and Duchess of Argyle, arrival in Auckland

At about 5pm they could see the town of Auckland. Two hours later a boat came up to them with their pilot. There were two Maoris in the boat who attracted the attention of everyone on board. The pilot told them it was the Duchess of Argyle ahead of them but she was stuck on a sandbank.  The pilot went on to thoroughly dishearten the emigrants by telling them that Governor Hobson had died, the trade there was ‘dull’ and of the high price of provisions.  They then sailed gently into Auckland harbour, dropping their anchor in Waitemata Harbour at 10.15 that night, having theoretically beaten the Duchess of Argyle. Their journey had taken 112 days.  The next day the  Duchess of Argyle came off the sandbank and pulled up beside them.  Amazingly both ships had had 17 deaths and 8 births.

Monday the 10th and Tuesday the 11th were wet and miserable days. The emigrants who landed first were able to make it to shore without too much trouble but the others had to make their way through knee high mud as the tide came out.  It was sad to watch the emigrants carrying their children and belongings through the mud.   Apparently some of the single women were engaged before they reached the shore – to the men who had assisted them.

The town of Auckland was built in a hollow and the houses were made of wood and shingles. There was a grog shop for every other three businesses.  Thirty raupo huts had been erected for the emigrants to sleep in. Raupo is a water reed from the same family as the bulrush. They were positioned on Mechanics Bay and on Parnell Rise.

A contemporary account tells us that when they arrived there were only tracks through the tee tree and ferns. Flowing down Queen street was the Ligar Canal with all its noxious odours. There was only one foot bridge in Auckland, called the Waterloo bridge.   People who lived at the east end of the bay had to wait for the tide to ebb before they could return home.

According to the surgeon’s report Arthur was 22 and Janet was 18. Arthur and Janet settled into their life in Auckland.  Their first daughter Marianne Clendon Hood was baptized on February 9, 1844 at the recently completed St Pauls Anglican church in Auckland.  They were living in Papakura and Arthur was a shoemaker.

Baptism Marianne Clendon Hood
Baptism Marianne Clendon Hood

Later in 1844 when he was on the jurors roll he  was working as a shoemaker, living in Albert Street, Auckland. To qualify to be a juror they had to be a male British subject aged between 21 and 60 years old, who resided in New Zealand and  qualified to be a juror.  In the 1845 militia list for Auckland he was listed as living in Shortland street, Auckland.  They were living in different streets in Auckland over the following seven years when Arthur was again on the juror’s roll.  The New Zealand juror’s rolls are listed in the Gazettes.

St Andrews Presbyterian Church Auckland
St Andrews Presbyterian Church Auckland

In March 1851 he was listed on a council list for St Andrews first Presbyterian church in Auckland.  The church was completed in April 1850.  It was not named St Andrews until 1860 well after the Hoods had left.

St Andrews Presbyterian Church Auckland
St Andrews Presbyterian Church Auckland


By 1852 his occupation had changed to laborer instead of a shoemaker suggesting a change in the families fortunes. They had at least another two children before John was born in 1848.

They’d had at least six children before Arthur decided to travel to Australia to try his luck on the goldfields of Victoria.   This was probably influenced by his economic situation. He arrived in Melbourne in October 1852 on the Spencer as a digger – heading for the goldfields.  He had left his family behind in Auckland.

From his obituary we know that he was a great story teller. He told of fighting in the Maori wars in New Zealand and that when he first came to Australia he was a policeman at Forrest Creek, now Castlemaine but left the position as he didn’t want to be associated with the police force after Eureka.  How true this is I don’t know, further research may prove or disprove the veracity.

Anne Hood
Anne Hood

Presumably he was lucky on the goldfields as he seems to have returned to New Zealand enough times to father at least one more child.  Janet and their four children still living arrived in November 1856 on board the Queen of Perth. They were John, 8, my 3 x great grandmother Ann, 6, Christina Brander 4 and an infant under twelve months of age.


Arthur told of returning to his trade of shoemaker after Eureka. He walked from Melbourne to the canton at Ararat as there was no transport to be had with his leathers on his back. He had to sleep under the stars as all the accommodation was full with everyone heading for the goldfields.  Arthur and Janet had four more children over the next few years. He was lucky on the goldfields and was able to establish a farm at Moyston where they lived until the later years of his life.

Box Hill Cemetery Arthur Hood and Janet Frazer
Box Hill Cemetery Arthur Hood and Janet Frazer

Arthur and Janet  spent the last years of their lives in Box Hill where a few of their daughters lived. Their daughter Ann had lost her husband and perhaps they came down to assist her leaving their son Arthur to takeover the farm.  Arthur died in 1904 and Janet in 1906.  They were both buried in Box Hill cemetery.

I don’t have any photos of Arthur or Janet and would love some.  As they died in the early 1900s it is very probable that someone has some photos of them and their children.  If you do or any have any stories please get in touch!  I would love to hear from you.



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