ABC Newcastle (Newcastle)
Day Shift -13/05/2008 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Producer: Bronwen Bashford
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University
Newcastle University Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses a number of treasures from the Dalton Family papers including the 1866 logbook of Captain John Dalton and a prayer book memento circa 1805 from the Norfolk Island Convict Dept.
Web link: The Dalton Family Papers
The collection of correspondence, papers, photographs and artefacts of the Dalton family were transferred by Mrs Gwen Hamment, daughter of the late William Dalton of ‘Riversdale’ Scone (1897-1974), and grand daughter of Captain John Dalton (1833 -1912), to the University of Newcastle in June 1999. Supplementary material was deposited in March 2001.
The papers comprise a range of archival “treasures”, documents, photographs and artefacts across three generations of family members and includes diary and ship’s log books (1866-1870) and naval artefacts (1862-1913) of Captain John Dalton; illuminated addresses and certificates of schoolmaster James Dalton (c1835 – 1909); war time correspondence (1916 – 1919) and WWI photo albums of William Dalton; diary (1909 -1912) of James Dalton (1883-1917); printed works (1800-1990); family photographic albums, garments and handicrafts.
My personal favourite is the Captain John Dalton’s log book. I remember while accessioning the item and reading through the initial pages I really did feel like I was on the ship and experiencing what he was experiencing over 140 years ago. Soon in you come across a storm, the page littered with readings and calculations.
Monday 26th November 1866: have run over 200 miles under Close reefed Loss sails and a fearful beam sea rolling tremendous no sights for meridian..the Gale is still very fierce every body at work below
Then, a ‘prayer’ from William Falconer’s “The Shipwreck: A Poem” (1762):
Perhaps this Storm is sent with healing breath
From neighbouring shores to scourge and death
‘Tis ours on Thine unerring Laws to trust
With thee Great Lord whatever is is just. (The Shipwreck)
A few days later he breaks out in poetry again:
Sir the glad waters of the deep blue sea
With a soul as boundless and a heart as free
Far as the winds they bear the billows loam
We Survey our empire and behold our home.
By Thursday 29th November 1866 he has suffered a number of days of bad seas, hail squalls and storms he is feeling under the weather, but never let that stand in the way of a wonderful sense of humour:
Towards Callis rainy squally heavy tumble of a beam sea my self dreadfull cold and head ache all together make things quite (O be joyfull) no sights for time Have lost our [time] and leave Westerly winds now squalls then calm then squalls again one time next hail just for a change
But there is a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft
That cares for the life of Poor Jack.
The last two lines come from the song ‘Poor Jack’ published in the “Universal Songster or Museum of Mirth” (1834) . By the next day the storms have passed, and you can almost smell the fresh clean air of a fine day through his nostrils:
Nov. 30th the weather as took a decided change been light wind and warm fine weather but a strong southerly sea causing her to be very uneasy got a good meridian
So who was this interesting sea captain with a great sense of humour on the high seas?
His father died when the children were very young, and, owing to the family having to vacate their farm, he joined a North Sea fishing smack (or sloop) and went to work.
His son, William Dalton in Nelson’s Bay: A Facet of its History [Privately Printed by Mrs Gwen Hamment, 1990 p.35] said that he (i.e., John):
“had a long and adventurous association with the sea. As a young man, he was washed overboard in a gale in the Atlantic. He was fortunate enough to grasp a halyard flying loose from the yard arm, and was washed aboard again by the following wave. Tenacity and grit saved John on many occasions from a watery grave. This was surely shown by the fact that John never learnt to swim.”
He was a deeply religious man, and had a varied career at sea. He worked on a Danish transport during the war, and was engaged in the transportation of troops during the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. He served as mate on the S.S. Maitland, and, as Captain served on a number of vessels sailing between Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland and Scotland.
Settling in Australia, he married Margaret Otto. They had one child, Annie, who was born on the 25th September 1881. Unfortunately, Margaret later died of smallpox. He soon remarried, his second wife being Eliza Jane Cox, who was originally hired to care for his daughter. The pair were married in Sydney on the 3rd July 1882, and had six children together. While living there, John Dalton earned a living shipping vegetables to Sydney from the farms dotted along the Hawkesbury River on the ship ‘St. Albans’. A passenger of note was the famous pioneer of aviation, Lawrence Hargrave, who sailed with him on the Hawkesbury run, studying the flights of birds.
The family moved to Port Stephens and settled at Nelson’s Bay. John was now a qualified Master Mariner and sailed the waters around Newcastle and Sydney in the steamer the”Waratah”. He also owned a number of craft, the “Ethel”, “St Albans”, “Kingsley” and the “Tahlee” at Port Stephens. With the S.S. Kingsley he pioneered the fish and oyster trade from Port Stephens to Paddy’s Markets in Sydney, also running trips to Newcastle and Port Stephens.
In 1882 he built his house “Westward Ho” on 40 acres of land at Nelson’s Bay. The property was named by his schoolmaster brother, James Dalton who was a avid fan of the author Charles Kingsley. He later acquired another property at Salt Ash called Burton Agnes in 1898.
On the 27th November 1911 he purchased a property in Stockton, but died there soon after at Pepitee Pah Private Hospital in Newcastle on the 11th August 1912. He lies buried in the Methodist portion of Sandgate Cemetery.
Convict Relic from Norfolk Island Circa 1805.
Another item is a relic of the convict era on Norfolk Island. It is a small booklet, bound in leather with the marking ‘Convict Dept’ on its front cover. On its flyleaf it reads “Norfolk Island Anglican Catholic Prisoners School No.11” It is item A8274(iii) An Abridgment of the New Testament, consisting of Lessons composed from the Writings of the Four Evangelists: For the Use of Schools and Families. By Mrs. Trimmer. London, n.d.
We know that the new edition is dated around 1805.