HELL SHIP – Michael Veitch

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This is a fascinating book – especially for readers with Scottish heritage and an interest in our own historical background.

Set in 1852, I found it particularly interesting as one side of my own family also arrived from Scotland that same year but under very different conditions.  

Another element that makes this book so fascinating is that the author’s own great-grandfather was the Assistant Surgeon on the TICONDERAGO and the nursing aide who worked with him subsequently became Michael’s great-grandmother!

As with all his books, Michael has diligently and painstakingly researched his material, visiting numerous reference libraries and exploring the background to this tragic story.

I had not been aware that Scotland, as with Ireland, suffered virtual famine at that time in history.  Crops failed and small shareholders were driven from their properties by the wealthy land owners who had invested in Cheviot sheep for the sale of their valuable wool and needed the land for grazing their flocks.   

With financial assistance from the Government, many struggling families decided to migrate to Australia, where gold had recently been discovered and where workers were desperately needed.

A splendid clipper ship, weighing over 1000 tons, was commissioned and laden with over 800 passengers, who were crammed into tiny spaces which offered no privacy for families and couples.

The ship sailed, farewelled by 15,000, and passengers resigned themselves to at least 4 weeks at sea. There are fascinating descriptions of the oddly assorted provisions it carried, none of which provided very much nutrition.

The ship sailed, with the predictable mixture of grief excitement, apprehension and anticipation. However, this changed to shock and despair as family members succumbed to a deadly disease which was blamed on “bad air”, but which we now know to have been typhoid fever, a disease spread by the body lice which attacked the crowded bodies of sleeping passengers.

During this nightmare journey a quarter of the passengers died and were buried at sea – resulting in many who started out as families or couples arriving alone or in a depleted family situation.

Their joy and relief at sighting Australian land was short-lived as the the dreaded yellow fever flag they flew ensured they were banished to a remote port settlement.  

This is an enthralling book, enhanced by the poignancy of knowing it involved the author’s own family. Michael shares family photos, as well as others relevant to the journey, and these serve to personalise the whole sad story.

I loved this book and highly recommend it as a great holiday read.

Ann Creber Producer/Presenter of The Good Life 3MDR 97.1 FM streaming on www.3mdr.com (Live to air every Monday 3.00-5.00 P.M.)

TITLE:  HELL SHIP     AUTHOR: MICHAEL VEITCH PUBLISHER:  ALLEN & UNWIN – GENRE: HISTORICAL (AUSTRALIAN)

This is a fascinating book – especially for readers with Scottish heritage and an interest in our own historical background.

Set in 1852, I found it particularly interesting as one side of my own family also arrived from Scotland that same year but under very different conditions.  

Another element that makes this book so fascinating is that the author’s own great-grandfather was the Assistant Surgeon on the TICONDERAGO and the nursing aide who worked with him subsequently became Michael’s great-grandmother!

As with all his books, Michael has diligently and painstakingly researched his material, visiting numerous reference libraries and exploring the background to this tragic story.

I had not been aware that Scotland, as with Ireland, suffered virtual famine at that time in history.  Crops failed and small shareholders were driven from their properties by the wealthy land owners who had invested in Cheviot sheep for the sale of their valuable wool and needed the land for grazing their flocks.   

With financial assistance from the Government, many struggling families decided to migrate to Australia, where gold had recently been discovered and where workers were desperately needed.

A splendid clipper ship, weighing over 1000 tons, was commissioned and laden with over 800 passengers, who were crammed into tiny spaces which offered no privacy for families and couples.

The ship sailed, farewelled by 15,000, and passengers resigned themselves to at least 4 weeks at sea. There are fascinating descriptions of the oddly assorted provisions it carried, none of which provided very much nutrition.

The ship sailed, with the predictable mixture of grief excitement, apprehension and anticipation. However, this changed to shock and despair as family members succumbed to a deadly disease which was blamed on “bad air”, but which we now know to have been typhoid fever, a disease spread by the body lice which attacked the crowded bodies of sleeping passengers.

During this nightmare journey a quarter of the passengers died and were buried at sea – resulting in many who started out as families or couples arriving alone or in a depleted family situation.

Their joy and relief at sighting Australian land was short-lived as the the dreaded yellow fever flag they flew ensured they were banished to a remote port settlement.  

This is an enthralling book, enhanced by the poignancy of knowing it involved the author’s own family. Michael shares family photos, as well as others relevant to the journey, and these serve to personalise the whole sad story.

I loved this book and highly recommend it as a great holiday read.

Ann Creber Producer/Presenter of The Good Life 3MDR 97.1 FM streaming on www.3mdr.com (Live to air every Monday 3.00-5.00 P.M.)

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

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