George Robinson, Vancouver Island Pioneer


Secretary Smith's letter to Chief Factor Douglas, advising him of the forthcoming departure of the Princess Royal, goes on to say "Arrangements are being made to engage twenty colliers from Staffordshire. These men will be accompanied by Mr. George Robinson, also from that County, who has been engaged as Manager of the Coal and Brick works in Vancouver's Island . . ."

From the same letter we learn that a Mr. Clark has been engaged as schoolmaster for a new school which is planned "in the neighbourhood of Mr. McKenzie's farm", that Mr. Clark has been educated at Battersea Training College, and that he intends to marry before proceeding to Vancouver's Island. (In due course, Mr. Clark will become the first schoolmaster at pioneer Craigflower School, which is still standing as one of the buildings of historic Craigflower Farm.) It seems that Mr. Clark's intended bride is a young widow with an infant child.

Further details followed later in April, when Secretary Smith again wrote to advise Chief Factor Douglas that "The Cabin passengers consist of Mr. & Mrs. Clark, and Mr. & Mrs. Robinson with two children. - Mr. Clark is the Schoolmaster about whom I wrote you on 21st April, and Mr. Robinson the intended Manager and Superintendent of the Company's Coal Mine and Brick Works at Nanaimo.

"Four females take their passage in the intermediate accommodation, three of them are wives of men employed in the engineering department of the Steamer Otter, and the fourth the Servant of Mr. Robinson.

"The steerage passengers consist of 23 Miners and their families (numbering together 83 persons) - 10 Norwegians, & a Mrs. Laing and her family of 5 children, who are going out to join her husband on Vancouver's Island. The miners have been selected by Mr. Robinson, & will accompany him to Nanaimo immediately on arrival of the vessel, and the Norwegians have been engaged for general service, to be employed where they may be most required."

We do not know what were the thoughts of these prospective passengers when they arrived on board the ship at 6:45 p.m. on 2nd June, 1854, and were shown their quarters. Present-day travellers would be horrified. Although our forefathers were made of sterner stuff, even they must have had their qualms. Cabin passengers and those in "intermediate accommodations" had bunks, but steerage passengers were allotted only enough space in the main cargo-hold to spread a mattress on the bare deck amid piles of their belongings. There was not enough room for an adult to stand upright. Only a couple of smoky oil-lanterns relieved the gloom and added their pungent odours to the dank air.

The ship's log does not provide us with a list of passengers and crew. The entry for 2nd June states that "23 men & 23 women" were received on board "with a Quantity of Children". Later entries in the log and lists compiled by more recent research give us a total of seventy-four men, women and children3. Add Mrs. Laing and her five offspring and the ten anonymous Norwegians, and we have ninety souls all cramped into the steerage accommodation of a six hundred and thirteen ton sailing ship.

Even the ninety persons for whom we can account may well be fewer than than the actual number. Secretary Smith's letter, written shortly before the sailing, states that the miners and their families number eighty-three persons. Our list identifies only seventy-four, leaving nine unaccounted for. If we add the occupants of the cabins and intermediate accommodation, eleven people, the total number of passengers is one hundred and one. When the Princess Royal called at Hawaii during her voyage, her arrival was noted in a list of ships' movements which was kept by the authorities at Honolulu. The list, which is now in the Hawaiian archives, bears an entry "October 20, 1854, Princess Royal from London, 110 emigrants for Vancouver's Island, including men, women and children". This again is nine people more than our one-hundred-and-one total.

Whatever the exact number, we can be quite certain of one thing; conditions on board the Princess Royal were several notches below the standards of a present-day cruise ship.

Return to Index.

Website by Word Crunchers, Etc. ([an error occurred while processing this directive] )