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"Rapid" (Brig) - Colonists to South Australia in 1836

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  • James Lewis (1813 - 1891)
    James LewisJames Lewis, labourer, and his wife Eliza Margaret Hutton, née Bristow. James had arrived at Glenelg on the Rapid in 1836, and Eliza on the Cygnet also in 1836. In 1844 James accompanied Cha...

Th brig Rapid sailed from London on May 1st, 1836 close in the wake of the 3 vessels dispatched by the South Australian Company and reached Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, on August 20th, 1836.

This is part of the Bound for South Australia - Ships Lists Portal Project


This is a great time to add the profile to an Occupation Project and also to the country they settled FROM, Irish ; German and Prussian ; English ; Cornish ; Scottish ; Lancastrian

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Some of the passengers:


NO. 2-COL. LIGHT'S LITTLE BRIG, THE RAPID Represented by Miss M. Bagot By Ida M. Forsyth

THE Rapid was built in 1826 at Yarmouth, and was originally a brig with a finely carved figure head representing a greyhound. Although only 161 tons, it was considered a good seaworthy boat and was bought by the board of commissioners of the South Australian Company as a suitable vessel to send out to Australia.

The company remodeled it, added a deck for passenger purposes, but as the height between decks was only 4 ft. 1 in. it was hardly luxurious. On Sunday, May 1, 1836, the Rapid left the City Canal, Blackwall, and sailed down the English Channel under the command of Col. William Light (who had had naval as well as military experience), and reached Kangaroo Island on August 17, 1836.

On board, in addition to Col. Light, was Lieut. G. M. Field, R.N. (first officer), Lieut. (subsequently Vice Admiral) W. S. Pullen (second officer), Lieut. R. Hill (third officer), Thomas Woodforde (surgeon), W. Clampson, William Jacob. George and Hiram Mildred, W. Bradley. W. Gandy, Marion Gandy, George Penton, William Fremantle, William Lawes. Alfred Parker, William Chatford, John Thorpe, G. Childs. William Tuckey, William Bell, John Duncan, Robert Bush, Robert Bush, jun., William Hodges, Thomas Gepp, James Lewis, Robert Goddard, J. Thorn, Edward Gandy, and Robert G. Thomas (subsequently Government Architect, who designed the Adelaide Post Office among other buildings).

Surveyors A board

There were several surveyors aboard the Rapid, as naturally there was much surveying to be done in this unmapped country. Col. Light was appointed Surveyor-General. Lieut. Pullen, too, joined the survey staff at a salary of £100 a year. A very interesting diary of this voyage kept by her husband has been presented to the Archives by Mrs. Pullen. In this diary Rear-Admiral Pullen writes very happily of their trip. It is difficult in these modern days to picture the little two-masted sailing ship, smaller than many modern yachts, holding much of comfort for the 41 people aboard it. As the ship battled its way round the Cape of Good Hope and on across that vast stretch of the Indian Ocean that divides Australia from Africa-even now a long and often stormy voyage they must often have wondered whether they would ever reach this unknown continent, and what they would find on arrival.

Confined for months in so small a space along with their food supplies for a lengthy period, their surveying instruments, and all their personal possessions, they must have been hopelessly cramped. It says much for Col. William Light that harmony was preserved in this little craft. He was a most gifted man and had had a very varied life. In the British Navy he had risen to the rank of captain, and later in the army had served with great distinction under the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular war. Apart from this, Light was at once artist, musician, and man of letters, and it was a very happy choice that sent him as Surveyor-General to the newly founded Province of South Australia. This State owes a great debt of gratitude to the man who was far-sighted enough to plan such a city as Adelaide, with streets as wide as they are, and the parklands that encircle it. What amazes us is the vision of the man who amidst the bush and gum trees, with a handful of settlers only round him, could prepare for a city such as Adelaide today.

The Rapid will always be remembered as Col. Light's ship, and his painting of it is a treasured record preserved in the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum. The Rapid was used for survey work at Port Adelaide, and in 1837 was sent to England with G. S. Kingston on board to report to. the Colonisation Commissioners on the needs of the Survey Department here.

In 1840 the Rapid was sold to Capt. Arthur Devlin, but unfortunately in the same year, or early in 1841, she was wrecked on a coral island. Mr. Roper, harbormaster at Second Valley, found many years ago an old anchor at Rapid Bay on the eastern side of the beach at very low tide. He felt sure that it was the anchor lost by the Rapid, as it was opposite, according to the sketch of Col. Light, where the Rapid anchored. It must have been there a very long time to have rusted away so much. No doubt it was carried inshore by the seaweed round the chain.

Among the descendants in South Australia of the passengers in the Rapid are:-Mr. Alfred Barker, Mrs. Dean Berry, Mrs. Mary L. Brown, Mr. Malcolm Collins. Misses M. K. and R. Cussen, Mrs. F. Martin. Miss Florence Mildred, Mrs. L. Wray, Mrs. Percival Stow, Mrs. Annie Ross, Mrs. Willis, Dr. Helen Mayo, Miss Mayo, Mr. Hubert Mayo. K.C., Dr. John Mayo. Miss O'Halloran, Miss E. K. Barker. Miss Emily Penton, Mrs. F. M. Pratt, Mrs. M. Stenhouse, Mrs. F. J. Sweetapple, Mrs. H. W. Wunderley. Miss Bagot is connected with the Rapid through her great-uncle, Mr. William Jacob.

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