Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole - Chapter 5

 The Chapman -- the vessel on which the Hoole family sailed to South Africa in 1819-20.

A romantic painting of the landing by the first settlers in 1820


On 9th August 1819 James went along to a public meeting at the Crown and Anchor tavern on the Strand, at which John Baillie (an ex-naval officer who was now a civil servant) spoke rousingly about his plans to gather a party which might emigrate to South Africa under a new scheme under-written by the Government.  Baillie and many others at the time were working hard to gather together a sizeable number of emigrants who would be given free passage to the Cape of Good Hope -- and also allocations of land when they arrived.  Each of the signatories to the first agreement was to receive a one-acre plot of land in a planned village and a hundred acres of land capable of being farmed.

James was excited, and he was one of 600 people who entered his name as an applicant.  He was even more excited when Baillie selected him as one of a hundred to join his party of skilled tradesmen and professional men, who were intended to create village centres and develop commercial activities in the new settlement of Albany.  Other groups were made up of farmers and labourers, and in Baillie's party there were also a number of minor gentry families and their indentured servants.  We can only assume that Jane was also swept along on a wave of enthusiasm.   It may even be that she was the driving force behind the decision to emigrate -- for the old records suggest that she was very forceful and determined, whereas James was kind, intelligent and affectionate but not particularly decisive or ambitious.

The politicians hoped that the colonists might, by sheer force of numbers, secure the colony of South Africa both from the predations of native tribes and also from the designs of the Dutch and other expansionist European states.  In reality there were huge dangers involved, but the prospective settlers were utterly naive about the dangers they would face in the frontier zone.  From the government's point of view, this frontier needed to be settled and defended at a cost which was manageable -- and settlers were cheaper than military garrisons.  There had already been some settlement by a few hundred men (including time-expired soldiers and sailors) and others from around Edinburgh, in 1817, but those settlers had caused more trouble than they were worth, dispersing into the fledgeling towns of the colony and refusing to move to the frontier zone where life was uncomfortable and dangerous. 

This time, in 1819, things were more organized.  Twenty-six vessels were chartered by the Government.  All the settlers were told was that there was a wonderful climate, with limitless opportunities for occupying land of their own (without cost), and a landscape of lush green meadows and parkland.  James and Jane had nothing to lose and a lot to gain.  They were both orphans, and  in spite of a partial reconciliation with Jane's uncle and aunt, and the presence in London of several of Jane's sisters and her brother, there was nothing to hold them back, and they were still young and energetic.

During the last months of the year 1819 about 90,000 people applied to the Colonial Office for permission to join the emigration, enticed above all else by the offer of free land.  Only 4,000 were given permission, including James and Jane Hoole and their family. (To increase his chances of being selected, James recorded that by profession he was a "harness maker" although he had earlier recorded that he was a "straw plat dyer."  He had obviously calculated that on the South African frontier there would not be a great demand for straw hats....... and that the Colonial Office would be less than impressed by his skills in the matter of lady's fashion.)  At first James tried to organize a party of his own, but when several families dropped out or were refused permission to travel, he and Jane joined Baillie's party, still with James in charge of his own group.  Although he was young and somewhat diffident, he was obviously identified by Baillie as a trustworthy man with considerable leadership qualities.

The families belonging to the Baillie party were allocated to the sailing ship Chapman, with 256 men, women and children on board.  The Hoole family members said their farewells, and the ship sailed from Gravesend on 3rd December 1819.  On 9th December the pilot was dropped off somewhere near Brighton, together with some seasick settlers who had decided that enough was enough..........  and soon the old country was far astern.

We know little of the voyage except that two ships, the Chapman and the Nautilus, were sailing together.  On board the Chapman there was considerable friction, not just because of the cramped conditions and illness on board, but also because of Baillie's authoritarian manner, which did not go down well with the gentry families.  In addition, there was a greater social mix on this ship than on any of the others, and the gentry were not used to living cheek by jowl with skilled tradesmen, merchants, farmers and labourers.   In the middle of January the ship passed through the Cape Verde Islands, and on 17th March it anchored in Table Bay.  It was immediately placed under quarantine, because there had been a whooping cough epidemic on board during the voyage which claimed the lives of six small children -- including Jane Hoole, who was just one year old, on 28th February 1820.

Then the ship moved on to Algoa Bay or Port Elisabeth, arriving there on 9th April.  Again the Chapman was ahead of the Nautilus, and on that day James and Jane, and their surviving children (Abel, aged 8, and James, aged 4) stepped ashore as members of the first party of settlers who would face the rigours -- and the endless possibilities -- of their new homeland.

To be continued........

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