May 1825

1st May/25. – Since writing the above we have had two Sabbaths, and some more preaching. While Mr Woolley was again officiating, and we were all comfortably seated in a strong sunshine and fresh breeze, the vessel gave a “lurch”, and jostled us sadly, squeezing our hands between the arms of the chairs which we in an instant laid hold of, in hope of preserving the centre of gravity; but they also, not being “lashed”, were reeling like ourselves. There was some suspicion among the passengers that this affair was not purely accidental! This was the last time, during our voyage that the Bethel Flag[1] was hoisted, as the signal of public worship. Morning and evening prayers were continued in all weathers, to the last, though sometimes we could not hear each other, owing either to low voices or high winds; or probably both together. The dull monotonous scene was occasionally enlivened by singing a hymn of praise to God; or one descriptive of Christian experience, in which several of us took delight, & we would have resorted to this blessed mode of edification more frequently but one or two did not enjoy it equally with ourselves. My dear Anna & I often spent our eventide alone on the Quarter-deck where we in an under tone sang the songs of sion, and thought on days never to return & many friends with whom we had taken sweet counsel.

2nd May/25. – It is five weeks this morning since we bade Adieu to our dear country and commenced our voyage. We have just heard the welcome shout of “land!” welcome because it is an island of the West Indies, (Tobago) and from its geographical position we hope soon also to see our destined Port; welcome also as a relief to our longing eyes, weary with the wide expanse of sky & water for so long a period, though delightful for a while. There are a few little incidents, interesting chiefly to ourselves, which it may be both amusing and innocent to record here. They are connected with

1st Accommodations on board the Edd Colson; The ship was about 300 tons burthen, and in good order, both “light” and clean. The Cabin was large, and tolerably well fitted up. Two “state rooms” branched from it towards the “mizzen mast”; and a temporary one which included the lower part of the said mast, had been fitted up for the third party; i.e. my wife & I as we were juniors. Had ours been a voyage to the arctic regions this last would have been the very best lodging in the ship. It had however one fault, it was far too small, and consequently became, under a tropical sun, very uncomfortable. In short for mutual benefit I relinquished my share of a mattress which measured exactly 2 feet 9 inches in width and slept upon a platform of trunks and boxes; for one night, and for several more on a hard mahogany board which covered one of the Cabin “lockers” on this. I sometimes slept well enough slipping all night long a few inches “along” and back again, wrapped up in a sheet and having the Captain’s desk for a bolster. True I had a “soft pillow”, but a hard bed, yet it was cool & wholesome and comported well with my ideas of the toil and hardihood to which a missionary should be perfectly inured.

2nd Diet at Sea: – Enough of good English fare was provided every day; but the want of supper was often felt. The hardy “Jars” sympathised but little with those of fickle appetites, who suffered from irresistible qualmishness, and could not masticate sufficiently to repair the losses occasioned by sea-sickness. We suffered most at first from bad water, being obliged to use what was provided for the stock! A cow & her calf & some sheep, pigs, geese, etc. That abominable water, unfiltered we could not away with and the Capt pretended that the good could not be “got at”, being stowed away lower in the vessel. This was very unkind & worst for those who could not drink the bottled Porter. After a few days we also felt the want of bread. Biscuit, both white & brown, was always at hand, but hard & dry. A very few times them made a show of giving us little cakes for Tea, but never enough of them; as if the Capt delighted to mock the hope of something we could eat, which hope himself had originated. The Steward, poor Antonis! by birth a German – by religion a Lutheran; there was more of seriousness & solid goodness in that man than is commonly seen among sailors, and we should wish to meet with him again; he would have taken the labor of making the desirable “Johnny cakes”, if the consumption of materials (flour, butter & water, with the dreggs of a few Porter bottles instead of yeast) had not been interdicted by his Capt such, at least is my opinion. Unused to the agitating motion of a vessel at sea, and its consequent effect on the appetite; the bravest man “ashore” may seem, at sea, the merest “lubber”. Raisins are good at sea i.e. I mean they are useful – none on board! Preserves would have been a good substitute, but they were kept safely, and only seen a time or two. My dear Wife and I regretted the absence of a few little comforts, though we had many great ones, because we might have had them. Want of time prevented and that only. Well! We acquired a little stock of experience against another time; and strove to endure all the trying circumstances of our present situation. Divine, all-powerful grace, was sufficient for us & we constantly received “the bread of life”.

3rd Company: – I have in my lifetime met with a silly old lady, born perhaps too and, resident in London, who thought, because she said, that she had an idea that ships, being so numerous, might be seen in every direction all round, almost as plenty “as coaches in London”; or words to that effect. We were at sea a considerable time before a single vessel appeared on any quarter. At length one hove in sight, something less than our own. Capt Forster viewed her with much anxiety and seemed unwilling to “hail” first. We were just passing each other rapidly, when Mr. Landers, our Chief Mate (and a Gentleman) “sang out” “What ship a-hoy!” A hoarse voice, most likely through a speaking trumpet, answered us; and added – “From Rio de Janeiro, bound for Oporto.” She looked none the better for her voyage and was externally in need of being turned into the “Carenage”.
Not many days afterwards we were visited by a party from a huge but noble looking “East Indiaman”, of it was said, 1300 or 1400 tons burthen, and homeward bound. Our ship “lay too”, and an officer & a passenger came on board; they were in quest of fresh provisions and English news. A supply of both was furnished & in return they gave us a large live turtle, some preserved tropical fruit, as limes & pawpaws, and a small chest of tea. Some letters were forwarded from this latitude to our friends in England. The officer in command of this little victualing party, was of course in something like the marine sailing costume, yet quite in order; the sailors in the “gig”, for so they termed the buff painted canoe-like boat in which they came, were much tanned with the scorching sun beams under which they had long labored and looked warm enough in their red Woollen shirts, and canvass trousers; the passenger, however, was clad in the most suitable tropical attire; – white, jean trousers, and a fine white Calico jacket, like a second waistcoat with sleeves to it. This gave him an air of coolness and comfort quite in contrast with my sable garments, a hint by which I did not fail to profit on reaching land. One morning a little fugitive “flying fish” was found in the chains of the vessel where it had lodged, and could not re-gain its liberty. It was brought to us dead – was about 7 inches in length, rather a small body, and its wings each about 5 inches by 2 in the broadest part. One of these I dried and put up as a curiosity. As we approached land we were visited by many birds, of the “Booby”[2] & “man of war” species, all of them welcome to us because we knew them to be tenants of the adjacent western shores on which we longed to tread.

4th Crossing “the line”: – The sailors made as much of crossing the tropic of cancer as if it had been the Equator itself; and paid the usual navy & heathenish honors to Neptune, by enfranchising the juniors among the crew. A gentle hint from one of the officers, procured from each of us passengers a present whereby to purchase exemption from the tender mercies of this ceremony, ostensibly designed for all the un-initiated. They did not enter the Cabin, nor would my dear Wife & I, go up on deck to witness their uncouth & disorderly proceedings. It is said that this practice of “shaving” is not so common as formerly, nor so indiscriminately applied. Only “a low minded Captain would rank his passengers with his crew on such a occasion”, and no thoroughly conscientious one, would suffer the least trace of such un-christian work on board his vessel.
A circumstance occurred about this time which proved that our Capt entertained with a very high opinion of his ingenuity or a very low one of our astronomical attainments. He pretended to two or three of us who were making our first voyage of any distance, that “the line” was visible through his spy-glass! My wife & I looked through and each returned it with a smile. It was handed to a third person, who wonderingly believed that it was “the line” which he saw: of course, he was laughed at for entertaining an idea of the possibility of such a thing. All that he saw in reality, besides a clear bright noon-tide sky, was a thread fixed across one of the inner glasses. When this clumsy hoax was discovered, he tartly inquired of some who were yet enjoying it at his expense “Did you know any better?” he was assured they did & this seemed to add to his mortification. This matter has been detailed at length to shew the necessity of, at least, elementary instruction in all the sciences, and whatever else is requisite to render such silly impositions utterly impossible. This instance of sheer ignorance was however something more pardonable than that related of a man in an honorable situation, who had resided several years in New-found-land, and who on returning to England could not inform an inquirer whether he had lived on an island or a continent!

5th Natural Phenomena: – The rotundity of the earth, as a planet, is evidently indicated by the semi-circular form of the horizon so apparent as we sail towards it, when entirely out of sight of land; there seems to be also a prominency on that part of the ocean over which we are making our way; and these two particulars, connected with the concaveness of the sky, showed the terrestrial globe with its mighty waters suspended high in air, a monument of the skill and power of the Divine Architect, whose fiat called it into being & by whose word it is ever upheld. Place an atom on an orange laid due north & south, and trace a westerly course from London or Bristol and the above will partly appear. It is very obvious on a globe; but strikingly so in performing our voyage. The first tropical shower we witnessed was something of a novelty for the teeming rate at which it fell. The evaporation is great under such a sun, and the showers are mercifully proportioned to existing necessities. “O That men would praise” God “for his goodness & declare the wonderful works that he doeth for the children of men!”

There is also something surprising, at first sight, in the colours of the Ocean, varying as they do from a lightish blue to a deep green, rendered paler from the influx of large & muddy rivers, as we observed on approaching the shore of the South American continent. While we were sailing, especially among the dark blue waves, my dear Wife & I often at night leaned over the “bulwarks” and gazed on the beautifully spangled waters through which we were ploughing our course; – the motion of the ship, and the current together, causing in the rolling deep, the development of, as it were, ten thousand little stars; – yielding a momentary phosphoric lustre, as if to rival the glittering regions of the sky which sparkled so brilliantly over our heads. I did not hear a satisfactory cause assigned for this beautiful phenomenon. It was not caused by a reflection of the stars in the firmament; for them the appearance would not have been so ever-changing and momentary. It was not any thing Calorifick, as it did not produce the sensation of heat. Probably it was neither more nor less than marine animal substances either living or dead. They that have seen a shark by night know that it blazes with light though deep in the ocean. The smaller fish posses the same property even out of the water as may be seen if put into a dark room. Experiments at some future time may enable me to decide on this subject with greater certainty.

A watercolour painting of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, in approximately 1840.
Port of Spain, Trinidad ca. 1840

3rd May/25. The wind continued fair yesterday and we soon had a sight of Trinidad. Late in the night we entered the Gulf of Paria by the second of the three Bocas, or mouths, situated northerly, and quite enjoyed sailing by moonlight with the land on either side not a mile distant. Being quite through, the anchor was dropped in or near Chaguaramas Bay till morning, which arose upon us most auspiciously, and we soon had a sight of the metropolis of the island, with its red tiled roofs. Its name is Port of Spain. The romantic wildness of the surrounding scenery formed an agreeable contrast with the cultivated parts & the regular spacious town. This exhibition of the beauty of the Western world was to us both new & striking, but we voluntarily relinquished the various attractions around us, to make the necessary preparations to leave our floating habitation as soon as possible. The anchor had been “up” some time and we were now approaching other vessels & the place where ours was to be finally moored for a time; – the anchor dropped again & all was bustle, every one seemed to enjoy the idea of going “ashore”. The Harbour Master came “along side”, visited the passengers in the Cabin, and took down their names to be officially reported. The Boats ready we descended into them & in half an hour stepped out on the “Kings wharf” thus by the mercy of God was ended our voyage, of five weeks & one day, across the Atlantic. Bless the Lord for his watchful providence & all sustaining grace! Truly he has been with us; prayer has been answered in our behalf; and we will by his blessing never forget his benefits. After walking with extreme fatigue about a mile, our guide pointed out the Mission House situated at the upper extremity of this spacious town, and some distance from the chapel; most gladly did we enter beneath its roof to shield ourselves from the heat and to find for a short season “a quiet resting place.” The Missionaries Messrs Goy & Stephenson were both at home & Mrs Goy also & our kind reception we shall long remember.

4th May /25. Bro: Rathbone preached this evening in the old chapel; a wretched concern all of wood & much decayed. The congregation was large & many present not considered among the usual hearers. It seemed odd enough to me to see such different complexions.

8th Sabbath. – Being requested to officiate this morning I did so with some freedom; the morning congregations are smaller than those of the evening it appears; My dear Wife assisted at the Sunday School and is ready to every good work. At 7 Mr Woolley preached, and gave us a good sermon; many present to hear it who made a respectable apperance.

15th. Another Sabbath in Trinidad, unable to procure a vessel to St. Vincent. We had the means of grace and two of us preached; but we wished for the end of our travelling and to be settled in the station allotted us.

17th Having secured passages on board the mail boat our luggage was put on board from the Colson; and stores etc. etc. were all ready in good time. We sailed today & passed very leisurely by “the little boca”, at about sun-set. We had sailed in this “troubled sea” but a little while before we were all sick enough & glad to get into our berths. The vessel was small and its motion new to us, & excessively violent. There was room enough and to spare; and the Capt (Thompson) was very civil & obliging.

19th May/25 – Landed at Grenada early this afternoon, and walked up to the Mission House, and were welcomed by Mr & Mrs Mortier & Mr & Mrs Murray.

20th – It had been arranged last night that Mr Rathbone should preach this morning at 5 o’clock. My dear Wife and I had slept but little in our clean though little chamber in Lower Montserrat, owing to a Wake not far distant, but we wished to see the Chapel, people etc. and therefore attended. Bro: Murray was in the Pulpit as Bro: R. had not yet made his appearance & had first ended the first prayer when he called me up to address the people, which I did & found myself pretty much at home among them. In the morning I sat some time with Mr Mortier & thought I should like to occupy that study, or one like it, because of its elevation and cheerful prospect. At 2 PM we went on board, accompanied by the Grenada missionaries & others of their Society, and sailed without loss of time.

An engraved view of Kingstown Bay and Fort Charlotte, St. Vincent, West Indies.
Kingstown Bay and Fort Charlotte, St. Vincent, West Indies

22nd May 1825: – Sabbath; When we left our last Port, we hoped to reach our destination in time for the publick services of this holy day but a contrary wind the first night & light winds afterwards detained us at sea and it was P.M. before we landed on the shore of St. Vincent. Mr & Mrs Payne received us kindly and had lodgings provided at the house of Miss Ann Wilson, a Leader in the Society, where we were very comfortable. Mr Rathbone preached this evening in the Kingstown Chapel a large wooden building, said to have been twice enlarged & now capable of holding about 1200 persons, all on the ground floor, there being no Galleries of any kind. The Society here is large, and includes many slaves from the neighbouring Estates. This is the first time I have mentioned the Slaves in this journal, though often & years past my thoughts have been occupied with the subject of their civil condition etc. etc. I pity them much and hope to be useful among them in preaching spiritual liberty. My call to preach in the West Indies is chiefly to the Slaves; – the negro Slaves from Africa, & their descendants.

23rd May/25: – This morning we went on-board to receive & land our luggage, pay the passage money etc. etc. On our return were met by Messrs Pope & Edmondson just from the country whither they had been to preach yesterday. Mr Rayner also returned & was preparing to sail today in a Brig for Liverpool: not being able at present to succeed at Barbados; The wrath of the Chapel destroying anti-Methodistical part of the peoples of that Colony, not having cooled sufficiently to admit of an attempt to re-establish that Mission. Mrs Pope was brought to town in a boat to see the strangers. Mr and Mrs Rayner & children sailed for Liverpool this evening & we sent Letters, as we did also from Trinidad, to inform our dear friends of our safety & happiness.

25th May/25: – This evening I preached in Town, on “praying in the Holy Ghost”; and the Lord gave much energy & life. His blessed presence was manifested in the midst, & it was “good to be there”.

27th – It having been determined that my residence shall be Princes-Town (or Barroualie) my dear Wife & I, with Mr & Mrs Pope went thither today. It is a small town full of shrubbery and large trees & is distant from another about 4 miles & from a third still farther down the coast about 9 miles. The former is named Layou, the latter Chateau-belair, and is about 21 miles from Kingstown the seat of Government.

29th May/25 – Accompanied by Mr Pope, I came up in small canoe to Layou – he assisted me in the other duties, but I preached. We then went forward to Kingstown.


1. The Maritime World Service has published the following explanation of the Bethel flag:

It was seafarers themselves who, on March 23rd 1817, hoisted the first Bethel Flag, as a call to worship on board the sailing ship “Friendship” in the Port of London. The banner shows the Star of Bethlehem, Noah’s olive branch-carrying Dove of Peace, and the word “BETHEL” (Hebrew for “House of God” or the Church), thus symbolizing the three major events in the life of Jesus Christ, celebrated at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, respectively. Seafarers everywhere recognized the banner as their own, and at once helped to make it a rallying-point “for the Gospel around the world, both afloat and ashore.”

2. Any of several tropical sea birds of the genus Sula, resembling and related to the gannets.

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