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Narrative of Charles James Ward

My Early Days. — A Life Before the Mast

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My Early Days. — A Life Before the Mast.

My name is Charles James Ward. I was born at Bolton, Lancashire, England, on 4th. January, 1856 which brings my present age (1933) up to 78 years. My father was Thomas Ward, a brass-founder of Bolton, who died when I was a small child. My mother was Mary Ann Mallison, she died in 1932 at the great age of 94. I had no brothers but there was one sister named Ann Jane. My sister died a spinster in 1933 at the age of 80. I have been married twice, on both occasions to a member of the Polynesian race. I would like to emphasise the fact that both my marriages were legal and honourable. By my first wife, I had no children but two sons, one of whom died, were born of my second marriage. One, Jim, is now living at Ngatangiia and would be now 17 years of age. I also adopted a native boy, the son of a chief at Rarotonga. He has developed into a fine young man of whom I am proud.

Upon the death of my father, my uncle, James Mallison, took myself and my sister under his care. James Mallison was a member of the firm of Mallison Bros., cotton brokers of Manchester, a very old established firm and known world-wide in the cotton trade. The firm had been in existence for generations. As I will explain in the course of my narrative the association of my early days with the cotton trade, was, after a long period of service at sea, linked up in an interesting manner with my experiences in the South Seas.

My uncle sent me to public schools and latter to a private school of Mr Ridley's, known as Bridge Street Academy, and, afterwards, to Duke Street Academy. But at the age of 12 or 13, I left the Academy of my own free will and turned my hands to work choosing the sea as my future career. At this early age, the urge of the sea was in my youthful bones and my boyish heart was filled with the ambition to sail before the mast. I dreamed of distant shorts; I longed to enter that romantic world of ships which brought to the England I was just beginning to know - the cities of the Midlands throbbing with industry - the commerce of every nation.

I was given my first taste of the sea. It was a voyage of no less an ordeal than a trip to Cape Horn and round into the Pacific. My uncle placed me aboard the sailing ship, the 'Canova', 1800 tons. We called at Monte Video and, after rounding the Horn, reached Callao and proceeded thence to the Chincha Islands. The 'Canova' was in the guano trade and, on our arrival at the Chincha Islands, my youthful eyes were amazed at the number of ships awaiting to load guano. The forest of masts bewildered me and I counted some 300 vessels mostly sailing ships, each seeking a cargo of guano for shipment to England. Here we were obliged to wait three months until our turn came to load. On her way back to England, the 'Canova' called in at Queenstown, Cork, Ireland for orders. Our final destination was Hull whence we proceeded and unloaded our cargo.

I returned now to Manchester where my uncle awaited me in the hope that this, my first experience of the sea, would have knocked the wild-ness out of my spirit. He had hoped that the rough life on the Western Oceans and the howling gales of the Horn would have cured me of my wish to remain at sea, but he was doomed to disappointment in me. Against my wish, he sent me forthwith in the lighographic and letterpress printing trade thinking that I should take to this line of business and eventually settle down to it as my life's work. But the work was too hum-drum for me. The sea was definitely in my blood. The high spirit of the sailor appealed to me more strongly than ever. I liked page 2the merry, happy-go-lucky life amidst the ropes and sails of a ship at sea - a disposition that happily has remained with me all my days.

At the printing trade, I felt a chained man with my youthful ambitions thwarted. My intense longing for the sea at last got the better of me and so I cleared out and went direct to Hull, the port at which I had landed from the 'Canova'. Somehow I felt quite confident of myself in going along to the great seaport of Hull and I certainly had no misgivings as to my ability to get aboard another ship. But my uncle was quickly on my tracks and came to Hull where, with the lively aid of the police, he ferretted me out and took me back to Bolton.

From this determined decision of mine, it was quite clear to my uncle that my choice remained still the sea and not the land. But he made another attempt to turn my thoughts away from ships. He found me a new job in an entirely different line of work. I was placed in the cotton-broking business under the very eyes of the money kings of Manchester. The idea was that I should absorb the fundamentals of cotton-broking, proceed to Germany to finish of my education and to return to Manchester as a member of the Stock Exchange or something of the sort. A very large trade existed at that time between Manchester and Germany. For some reason which I cannot quite explain, I was absolutely blind to the possibilities of the great future that my uncle was so patiently planning for me. Nothing could shatter my dream castles of the sea. There they were and there they remained. At last my determination triumphed, and my foster-father, at last very reluctantly, took me down to a seaport to see what could be done for me.

He took me to the busy port of Liverpool and placed me aboard a ship called the 'Zelica', a full-rigged barque. I walked along the busy quays of the riverside and glanced up at the flags of different nations flying from the many vessels in port. If I had been told then that one day I should be responsible for making an improvised flag from the calico and print of my adopted city, Manchester, and to see it hoisted amongst the South Sea Islands to add another fragment of territory, another community of people to the Commonwealth of the British Empire, I should have felt myself a second Columbus indeed. Yet such a day came, on in the distance of years, and an exalted day for me and for the people thus served a happy event I trust.

The 'Zelica' was bound for the East Indies. A few weeks went by and I found myself at Rangoon and so, at last, I was on the highroad of adventure free to pass from one ship to another. I need not go into all the details of my subsequent experiences at sea; it will perhaps suffice for me to say that I joined one ship and then another - ships large and small, schooners, barques and steamers. I planted my ever-roving feet on the quays of distant ports. I kept on at sea and, at last, joined a vessel called the 'Triumphant', an American ship, and remained under the American flag for some time serving also in other American boats. Then I came again under the Blue Ensign but British ships did not please me as well as American. In American ships, the seamen were better paid and better fed.

As time went on, I rose to the position of second mate. A change of outstanding importance took place in the maritime world. Plimsol came on the scene and his brilliant efforts brought about a great improvement in British ships. I went back to British ships and sailed to many parts of the world; to India, China, and Japan. Many friends I made on those wide and interesting voyages and as the years rolled by, the names of one or two of these men rose high in the annals of marine and naval history. For a space, my service was cast as "ship's writer" for page 3one who eventually became Admiral of the American Fleet which a few years ago visited Australia and New Zealand. My course, however, was set for a smaller role and, in the eighties, I found myself signed on board an emigrant ship bound for Brisbane.

At Brisbane, I became friendly with the mate of a Melbourne barque, the 'Maroon' under the command of Captain Cumming, and shipped aboard her as second mate. A squatter by the name of Muir had chartered the barque in Sydney to sail round to Port Adelaide to pick up sheep and cattle for shipment to Roebuck Bay, North Queensland. I believe I am right in saying that Muir was one of the first squatters to enter that vast hinterland of Northern Queensland.

This charter completed, we said "Good-bye" to Australia and sailed to the Java Archipelago to load sugar. Having loaded, we set our course for Auckland with the first cargo of sugar for the sugar refining works at Chelsea, across the harbour from the city of Auckland. Refining machinery although installed had not commenced to operate. At that time, the Chelsea works were managed by the son of Mr Philson, Health Officer at Auckland. At Auckland, I became acquainted with a Captain Minchin who taught navigation. He had just taken over a schooner called the 'Auroro'. She was a fine little ship and her lines pleased me greatly. Very little persuasion was needed to induce me to join her and as her next trip promised to be of particular interest, I joined her as mate.