Letter 1856

Whampoa   China
September 7th 1856

My dear Fred

You will see by this if it should ever reach you that I have left the diggings & am now in another part of the world.  My luck was very bad in the Colonies for I found little gold.  My mate robbed me to after 10 months of hard work for nothing.  I took salt water for it again & shipped in the Salsette for 12 months bound for anywhere.

We sailed from here to Sydney & got a cargo to Calcutta & from there got a cargo for this place. 8 months of the 12 expired as yet we have not heard where we shall go from here, but I think back to India bad luck to us as wages are low there & it is too hot for me & I am half afraid the Jew of a skipper will try to cheat us for my time will be up & I won’t stop 5 minutes after.

[?] of our men sacrificed part of their wages & left in Calcutta & we have 5 of us white men left on board 2 mates & 2 boys & 22 natives of India. Kalashees they are called & our captain don’t treat them well & they are discontented &

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& the other day they pitched into the captain & would have killed him but we interfered  when they had given him enough, but we were not quick enough (& did not intend to be) to prevent him from getting what he deserved for his bad treatment of us, but however it was attended with bad effects for us since they were too cheeky, because they will leave here, & last night pitched into the mate, they knocked him down & all hands were on him but when we got aft & got a word or two in there was a change in affairs we drove them with anything we could get hold of before that main mast & the mate got pistols out of the cabin & we kept them forward & I suspect this will help to get them out of the ship & I hope so for they are a treacherous lot & if they make up their minds would murder [?] us and put themselves after & we are too few to guard against a surprise when at sea.  Well, I cut this yarn about those copper complexion devils and just wonder what you are all doing now for I have never heard anything from you since I got my dear mothers letter in Plymouth.  I have called at the Sydney Post Office but

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never was fortunate enough to get a letter but I do hope you received mine.  I think father must have removed from Exeter  & I hardly think you can still be at Mr Haytons I think I must ship home next for I long to see you all again.  Fanny & Sophie must be getting quite woman & all the little ones. I dont suppose I would know them.  I hope you are doing some good for yourself but I have heard things are very bad in England.

I am sure we could all do well in Australia if father could manage to get out.  I was never ill until I came to Calcutta when I really thought I should never leave. I had the fever & it pulled me down very low, but I had great reason to be thankful for nearly all of us had it & 2 men died & every day you could see the ensign half mast high for some poor fellows, although I am pretty slight & about as long as a 50 year old poplar my constitution is as strong as anyones & since I left home I have been through some hoops that would have killed many a strong donkey.

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This is Sunday with me my dear brother & I hope your time is better employed than most of our Sundays, for I can assure you that I have found out that old sailors saying is quite true, “There is no Sunday in 7 fathoms of water.”

I have written this in the expectation of getting some money to pay for these letters for as yet our old man has said he give us none: wish all now finished for the present finish by & by when I hear where we are bound for – Shanghai

Dear Fred you see I am in another ship.  We are discharged after kicking up a row with our lousy skipper but I will tell you about it.  Please God I have to get home.  We are bound for London & I expect to get home about the beginning of May.  I have taken up my pen to conclude this for there is a most awful row in the forecastle, though this is Sunday we feel very uncomfortable

I hope you are well for myself I am not quite right but I hope to see the land in a short time side & find you all well & my

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fatter in comfortable circumstances & now my dear brother hoping to see you all well & hearty.  I am ever

Your affectionate brother

W H Small

Original digital file



Letter sent to Frederick Small by his brother, William Henry Small, great-grandfather of Mick Small

Date published

7 September 1856

Format of the original

Handwritten letter


  • Frederick Small
  • William Henry Small

Accession number


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