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Bad ship Beejapore, Scottish immigrants arriving NSW 1853

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  • Lockhart Agnes Auld (c.1829 - 1903)
    David and Lockhart Auld came from Paisey, Renfrewshire Scotland, to NSW as assisted immigrants on the "Beejapore" in 1853.David (26yo) a weaver, Lockhart (22) and children David (2) arrived safely 9 Fe...
  • David Auld (1825 - 1872)
    David and Lockhart Auld came from Paisey, Renfrewshire Scotland, to NSW as assisted immigrants on the "Beejapore" in 1853.David (26yo) a weaver, Lockhart (22) and children David (2) arrived safely 9 Fe...
  • Elizabeth MacIntosh (1838 - 1906)
    Elizabeth, her parents and siblings were part of a contingent of weavers from Paisley, Scotland. The had assisted passage on the BEEJAPORE 1852/3 SCOTTISH HAND-LOOM WEAVERS from Paisley RFW per BEEJAP...
  • Anne Cruickshanks (1835 - 1912)
    November birth date is taken from gravestone at Rookwood. Family celebrated birthday on December 28. SCOTTISH HAND-LOOM WEAVERS from Paisley RFW per BEEJAPORE arrived Sydney 9 February 1853 departed ...
  • Mary George (1834 - bef.1889)
    Arrived on the Beejapore in 1853. Employer: Mr Richd Blair, Redfern near Sydney; Wages: £19, Term: 1 month with Board & Lodging. SCOTTISH HAND-LOOM WEAVERS from Paisley RFW per BEEJAPORE arrived Sydney...

The bad ship Beejapore brought 967 government-sponsored emigrants from Scotland to Australia in 1852-3, including about 240 Paisley weavers. Half of the adults were said to hail from the Isle of Skye (Source: The passengers included 342 children; 56 passengers died en route, mostly of measles, 55 of them children (including newborn infants) and one a teenager. The makeup of the passengers was weighted towards families with children, rather than the younger single men generally preferred, because the recent discovery of gold fields made it more likely that such younger men would join the gold rush (Source:

Beejapore made a second such voyage to NSW in 1857, and another to Queensland, carrying more than 700 immigrants, landed at both Rockhampton on 28 June 1863, and Brisbane (see:, surely the largest single cargo of passengers ever landed in Queensland. The passengers were colloquially known as "Be-japers." (Beejapore also sailed from Liverpool in 1851 carrying migrants from Ireland and Germany to New York, landing 19 November 1851; see: She was lost without trace on a second voyage to Chile.

Due to distress in the weaving industry in the 1840 and 1850s, Emigration Societies sprang up to help emigrants. The Paisley New Zealand and Australian Emigrations Society sponsored the weavers aboard the Beejapore who departed Liverpool 12 October 1852. They arrived at Port Jackson on 6 January 1853, after a passage of record speed, 85 days non-stop on the longest regular oceanic voyage during the age of sail. The Great Circle Route entailed heading straight south to pick up the roaring forties that drove the ship eastward to Australia through high seas.

// The Beejapore and her identical sister ship the Marco Polo were full-rigged clippers built in St. John, New Brunswick. They displaced 1.652 tons for a keel length of 182 feet (55 meters), with a beam of 36 feet (11 meters), and draught of 29 feet (8.8 meters), and with 22,000 sq. feet of sail. No pictures survive of the Beejapore, but many of her twin, the Marco Polo, which was celebrated as the fastest ship in the world after making the return trip from Liverpool to Sydney in under 60 days in 1862.

These massive ships had several decks with two dormitory steerage decks between decks to accommodate up to 1,000 passengers, livestock and provisions for a three months' voyage. Her keel length measured the same as restored tall-ship James Craig, now anchored at Sydney's Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour. The Marco Polo and Beejapore both comprised 3 decks of cabin berths and dormitised steerage "tween decks," with a height of eight feet, to fully accommodate up to 1,000 passengers, and stow livestock and enough provisions to sustain a three months voyage. The Marco Polo was converted to cargo use in 1867, she foundered in a gale and the captain grounded her on Port Edward Island in the 1880's. The fate of the Beejapore is unknown.

The "assisted" emigrants traveled in steerage in conditions dramatically different from the cabin passengers, who enjoyed strolls on the poop deck and meals in a windowed saloon with a maple ceiling, stained glass-panelled doors, windows boxed out in perforated zinc to permit natural ventilation and ornamented with gold picturesque scenes, pilasters ornamented with silvered glass, coins of many nations studded around as decoration, and upholstery of embossed crimson velvet. Those in steerage were placed in berths 6 sq ft (0.56 m2) with four to six people per berth. The two steerage decks were divided left and right between men and women, with the insufficient ablution facilities at the rear. To make matters worse, the ship was chartered to carry twice the usual complement of steerage passengers, crammed into the dark belly of the ship, lit by few lanterns due to the risk of fire, and with little ventilation.


One of the first-class passengers, Mr. W. Usherwood, provided a vivid account of conditions, particularly the criminal neglect of the Surgeon Superintendent, Dr. Barnett, who took to a hammock strung up under the spanker boom, where he subsisted on brandy, champagne, and water along with rich dinners at table, but hardly ever ventured below deck to check on his charges (See: W. Usherwood’s journal of a voyage to Sydney, New South Wales, in the ship Beejapore)

Here is the passenger list:

See also: NRS5316/4_4790/Beejapore_9 Feb 1853/ from the Assisted Immigrants (digital) Shipping Lists on the New South Wales State Archives and Records website at:

See also:

When the ship had moored, full of sick passengers, local officials came out to inspect the ship's papers, which they handled gingerly with tongs and deposited in a metal case.

Upon arrival SS Beejapore quarantined five weeks. She was towed to Spring Cove, where the hulk Harmony was purchased as a hospital ship to supplement the facility ashore which was designed to hold 150, whereas over 1,000 passengers had to be processed. Those who were deemed to have had no contact with the sick where allowed to remain aboard Beejapore. Cabin passengers and married emigrants were housed ashore in wooden cabins and tents, guarded by troops to prevent escape. During quarantine, a further 10 adults and 52 children died, mainly due to typhoid. "The dead were buried in the First Cemetery, on the sloping ground above the Wharf Precinct. Because the graves were within easy view of the passengers on Healthy Ground on top of the hill, some of whom were frightened by the proximity of these reminders of human mortality, the First Cemetery was levelled in May 1853 with the fencing and the headstones removed, despite the recent Beejapore burials. The Second Cemetery came into being on the upper grounds behind the Healthy Ground, with the first burial there taking place in June 1853" [Source:], thus further removing the burials from the view of the Healthy Ground.

The large number of single women among the immigrants had to be quarantined in segregation as social attitude at the time frowned upon pre-marital sex, which was a punishable offence during voyage and quarantine, and there was great concern for the morals of the women in general, particularly the "200 single women let loose in the bush." Barracks for the single women were built in the former Sick Ground, "surrounded by a double fence with a sentry stationed between them, to prevent communication with the women. Two new buildings were built in the Healthy Ground, each to house sixty people, with verandahs for dining. Once on the Healthy Ground, the view over the Cemetery was a constant reminder of the closeness of disease and death, as well as a reminder of those who had already died.

The quarantined immigrants began to feel deserted. They appealed to the citizens of the colony to forward to them the regulations regarding quarantine. See:Sydney Morning Herald, January 19th, 1853:

After 35 days of quarantine, the emigrants finally began reboarding for transshipment to Sydney. Upon arrival there, several of the Scottish immigrants complained about conditions, and an inquiry was embarked upon. The Select Committee on Emigration deemed the 1853 voyage of the SS Beejapore a failure in light of the unacceptably high number of fatalities. The deaths caused the maximum number of steerage passengers to be reduced, and it to be decreed that each family should include no more than two children under the age of seven, or three under the age of ten.

For sources and further reading, see :

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