Roma Writer's Group

The Works of Lee Goleby

Frederick's Letter On The Great Victoria

A fictional reconstruction by Lee Goleby, 12 July 2000, based on events described in the reports from the "Great Victoria" in 1866.

Frederick Goleby was my great-grandfather's brother. He was six years old when the family came to Queensland from England. His widowed Grandmother Goleby had remarried by this time to Samuel Elwood.

They came originally from Suffolk, but I have not attempted to recreate any of the Suffolk speech patterns. I simply wanted to look at the voyage through the eyes of a child. Frederick was listed as recipient of a school prize while on board the ship.

He went on to open the Goleby store in Ipswich, and was Mayor of Ipswich in 1906.

"Great Victoria"
23 December, 1865
Dear Grandmother Elwood,

I hope you are happy. I wish I could see you at Christmas. Soon we will be in the Colony. It is a long way on the steam ship.

Mr. Sercombe is helping me to spell this letter. He is the Schoolmaster. We had school for a while but there was no room for us. We tried to have school in a boat but Captain Richards had his stores in the boats. Mr Sercombe gave us slates. We have to try to work by ourselves. Mr. Sercombe says I will get a prize for my schoolwork. I hope it is a new baby for Mum. She told me I would have a new baby but she got sick. Now she says we cannot have the baby. She cries sometimes.

I got sick too. I had the measles and Dr. Scott came to see me. There was no room in the Hospital and I had to stay in our Cabin. Lots of my friends had the measles too. Tommy Raddacliffe's mother and sister died with the measles. Mr. Raddacliffe was very angry and yelled at Dr. Scott. I thought there would be a fight. Some people had the Chicken Pox and some had the Croup and some had the Whooping Cough.

I am growing tall. Mum says how can I grow so tall. We do not eat proper food. I do not like the compressed vegetable or the preserved egg. The preserved meat and milk are better. Not as good as on the farm. Sometimes the bread is burnt on the outside and not cooked on the inside. Mum tells me to eat it. Dad and I throw it over the side.

I drink a lot of water. Dad says it is because of the salty meat. The ship has a condenser and it makes water. There are no wells on the ship. In the Mess I sit on Dad's knee. There is not enough room for everyone to sit. Joey says they cook in a chamber pot in his Mess. They do not have any cooking pots.

Sometimes it is fun. I have learned lots of sailor songs but Mum says I should not sing them when we get to shore. Why does she say that? We have concerts on Mondays and Saturdays. Mr. Davies is a good actor and we all laugh. We helped him build a theatre and Dr. Scott painted the scenes. Mr. Ellis sings but I like the sailor songs better. On Wednesdays Mr. Statham gives Lectures. Everyone has to be quiet but one time Mr. Fulcher went to sleep and he started to snore.

There is nowhere to play on the ship. We played on the engine house roof and Charley Spurgeon fell off the roof and into the stoke hole. He cracked his head open. He has a scar. I wish I had a scar. Jimmy Wylie fell down the engine room stairs. He does not have a scar. Now the door is always locked.

Sometimes we sneak a look at the Vigilance Committee meetings. Old Mr. Grant gets red in the face and he looks very funny. He tries to make everyone sign his petitions. I think young Mr. Grant is scared of his father. He always signs. Mum and Dad say they will not sign any of the petitions. I am learning to sign my name.

It is hot here now. You told me it would be hot at the Equator, but it was cold all the way to Van Dieman's Land. We will land at Moreton Bay tomorrow and then it will be the new year. I will be seven soon. I will mail this letter. I wrote it in one week.

Loving wishes from Mum and Dad and Jimmy and Lenny and little Charley and from me too.

Your grandson

Fred