Maria Cockrell Part 7: Sailing around this ‘sea girt’ isle

7 queens gate
Queen’s Gate, Kensington

Maria spends winters in London as usual. From Christmas 1870 to Easter 1871 she is with the Hamilton family who have taken a house at 7 Queen’s Gate, Kensington.  She spends Summer 1871 and 1872 in Scotland at Armadale, Row.

Summer 1872 turns out to be terrible as Maria says to Jimmy on 11th July:

…a great many people ill here…it’s the wet cold summer. It pours with rain nearly every day. There has not been such a wet summer known in this part of Scotland for thirty years.

During Summer 1873 Maria goes sailing around the western coast of England, Wales and Scotland aboard the Yacht “Julia”, from Gosport on the south coast. I’ll let Maria tell the story of the trip with extracts from her letters written between late June and November:

I am sure Jimmy and you will be glad to get a line from me now that I have been a week at sea. In the first place, tell Mrs George she was quite right about my being bilious, for I do not think I ever had it worse. It began Friday night and lasted me till Sunday morning. The worst of it was we were in a heavy sea a great part of the time. We got to Southampton Saturday night and I went on shore to Church twice on Sunday. Monday morning we left for Torquay but did not reach it till Wednesday morning.  We were lying off Portland, where they send the transports, for a day and a night in a heavy swell without a breath of wind so we saw plenty of it; more than I hope to see again or any one that belongs to me*.

*Was Maria thinking of James Feltham, her wayward husband, here? Although the transport of convicts had been reduced since the passing of the Penal Servitude Act of 1857, the last transports reached Australia in 1868.

I saw a good bit of the Isle of Wight and now I have seen a good many miles of our own sea girt isle, and the more I see, the more I love her.

Torquay was delightful. I went ashore both days we were there and called on some old friends and as usual was much warmly received. I went over some of the walks and went to see the house where I had lived*, and I could not help feeling very thankful for the mercies of the past six years.

*The house Maria had lived in with Lady Bisshopp and Walter Long.

We went from Torquay to Dartmouth, a very pretty place where there is an old church, 5 hundred years old, also some very old buildings, so I spent a very pleasant day in Dartmouth. From thence we went to Plymouth, where we spent Sunday. A very large place, full of Soldiers and Sailors, and very strong fortifications. They seem to be building very strong fortifications all round the coast, but I trust they will not be used in real combat in our day.

This is what the Sailors call a dirty day, raining and blowing hard, so I am very glad we are anchored here. We are taking in water and provisions to going round the Lands End, as we are now very near it in Cornwall.

I was able to keep on deck till we passed the Lizard, but I did not see the Lands End as I was too sea sick. When the wind is against us, instead of keeping straight on, we are obliged to tack about like a horse with a heavy load behind him would do going to Ansty (Chitterne Ansty – a reference to the hill on the B390 there).

I am very well and very comfortable and have got every thing into my own way again, and every one is very kind. The Captain is a Baptist and I believe every one of the crew are Dissenters. It must cost a pretty penny as there are twenty of us altogether. The lowest sailor gets 25/- (shillings) per week and two suits of clothes, and the Mate, Captain and Steward much more.

Wales is very pretty. I went to Church in the morning and Chapel in the evening at Milford and went into several shops. The women’s high hats looked very funny. When we arrived at Holyhead on Wednesday morning, there was not a single vessel in the harbour, but it soon began to blow a gale, so that by Thursday middday there were more than 50 ships had put in for shelter. It was very grand and it shows what traffic there is on the sea.

There is a beautiful breakwater 2 miles long, which makes it very snug, for as soon as the vessels get inside, the water is comparatively smooth. It abated a little on Friday and at 4 o’clock in the afternoon we left for Scotland and before ten at night I could just discern the Irish coast on the one hand and the Isle of Man on the other. It was a nice night and we had a fair wind and kept on and dropped anchor at half past 1 on Saturday at Stranraer.

Then I packed, took the train at 5 o’clock and came through quite a new part of Scotland, to us very wild and mountainous. We got off the train at 9 at night and then had 9 miles to drive. So you may think we were all very tired. We expect to remain here till Thursday and then join the yacht and go back to Armadale, which we hope to reach by next Sunday.

I did not go ashore till Sunday morning as the dear Children were in bed and asleep before we got in sight of Armadale. We were only there 8 nights after being away so long, and 1 day I was in Glasgow and 2 days in Helensburgh, so there is no rest for me.

Yesterday was a pouring wet day and heavy squalls of wind, but in spite of this we left home and were just driven to Rothesay, where we anchored for the night. And this morning we came on to Lamlash. We had a dreadful sea this morning, her bows under water at times and 3 or 4 times a big wave dashed right over her stern completely, drenching us as we sat on deck.

There were grand doings at Oban, Highland Games, of which you would not understand, but the dancing was very nice. Gentlemen dancing for prizes, the Sword Dance, Scotch Reels and Highland, all dressed in Kilts and no music but the Bagpipes, and no Ladies allowed to compete. All the yachts in harbour were dressed from stem to stern. The “Julia” looked beautiful. And, a grand display of fireworks from the yachts, answered by those on shore at night. It was really very pretty.

Maria Cockrell Part 7: Sailing around this ‘sea girt’ isle

Maria Cockrell Part 6: Maria goes sailing and Jimmy is apprenticed

hebrides

At the end of July 1870 Maria accompanies her two charges, Eva aged 6 and Beryl aged 5, and the rest of the Hamilton family on a six-week sailing holiday around the Hebridean islands off north-west Scotland. First traveling by steamship for 8 hours from the river Clyde to Fort William before joining the Yacht ‘Columbine’. Maria has her first taste of sailing in bad weather during the following weeks, as she writes to her mother on 25 August 1870 from the yacht anchored off Isleornsay (village on the Isle of Skye overlooking the Isle of Ornsay):

You will be thankful to hear that I and all on board are quite well, but we have had fearful weather. Tuesday we left Tobermory in the Island of Mull, but the wind was against us. I never expected I should see such waves. I went on deck about nine and before tea we were every female on board, 7 in number, stretched on the decks in sea sickness. We did indeed feed the fishes. We wanted to get to Skye. Before we had got far, we heard a tremendous crash, and looking up, found the wind had torn our top sail, so we were obliged to reef our mainsail, which caused the vessel to toss very much.

We then put into the first shelter we came to, which was a natural harbour in the Isle of Rum, and rum enough. I thought it was only one house on the Island, belonging to the chief called McLeod, dressed in Highland Kilts. There were a few servant’s huts but no shop of any kind, nor Carpenter. But he was very kind and sent a large basket of Vegetables, fish, Grouse and Venison. We stayed one day just to recover from our sicknesses and yesterday morning weighed anchor to come to this place.

It was blowing hard when we started, but when we got into the open sea, it was a tempest, the sea at times washing clean over the decks, and as we could not get up, we just stopped in our berths the whole day, and the steward had as much as he could do to empty the basins, but we are all well today and it does seem good to be in a calm again.

We are to remain here today to get the sail repaired, and as there are a few houses and a post office, I thought I would embrace the opportunity.

The dear Children love this life and are so good and uncomplaining. I think I have seen the best and worst sides of yachting. It certainly is lovely in fine weather, such wild grand Mountains, and at every turn they seem to break out into fresh beauty. And in stormy weather it is grand in its terrible majesty. The wind comes rolling down the sides of the Mountains and the Yacht, like a thing of life, just mounts up on the crest of the waves and dashes down again into the trough of the sea, and you feel that if it would stop for one moment, you would be quite well.

By the end of September Maria tells her mother:

I have enjoyed it so much and feel so much at home here now that I don’t care to go and live on land again.

Meanwhile back in Chitterne Maria’s son, 13-year-old Jimmy, is about to start a seven-year apprenticeship with Mr Exton of Boreham, Warminster, as a wheelwright. She has some words of advice for her son on 9 December 1870:

I need not tell you how glad and thankful I was to get your welcome letter and to hear that you think you shall like your place. I hope you will and get on well in every sense of the word. It is very good of you to give your Grandmother something regularly. By doing so, you are helping her and me and it is a great comfort to us both, and you may depend upon it, it will not lose its reward.

It’s a great mistake to think a young person will be any the worse off  for what they do for their parents. As well may you say that a Father would be ruined by providing food for his helpless children. If all would do it, there would be much more happiness and greater prosperity in households, and in the country at large, but apart from all this, what a pleasure and comfort it is to oneself to know that we are adding but one crumb of comfort to those who have done so much for us, especially when we do it in a spirit of thankfulness to the giver of the health and strength and kind friends.

I am sorry to hear the water is so high (a reference to Chitterne’s problem with the winterbourne that runs through the village). I do hope you will be able to go home nearly every week, as you are all the comfort dear Mother has got, as Walter (Walter Isaac Windsor 1854-1921 youngest son of Issac Windsor) is only a trouble to her, who does your washing. I am glad to hear you have such good wages and I am sure you will be as careful as you can. You don’t know what is before you, but whether it is prosperity or adversity, you will find that it’s a good thing to know where to lay your hand on a pound, and if you don’t begin to lay by now, you will find it more difficult bye and bye.

I was very much interested in reading that account of the Rifle supper (Jimmy became a keen member of the Wiltshire Volunteer Rifle Corps) in the paper, and trust that whenever your name appears in print, it will always be in connection with something honourable.

The last two paragraphs show Maria’s concern that her son should not turn out like his father James Feltham, who spent his earnings on alcohol and as a result was often in court and in the newspaper. At this point in Maria’s story we have no idea where James Feltham is. He does not appear in the 1871 census as far as we can see and Maria makes no mention of him, but he is due to turn up in Chitterne again in the 1880s.

Maria’s mother Euphemia and her second husband Isaac Windsor were living on the St Mary’s side of Bidden Lane at this time, next door to the shop run by Thomas and Lydia George. This shop appears to have been directly behind The White Hart Inn and no longer exists. Maria frequently asks about the George family in her letters to her mother.

 

Maria Cockrell Part 6: Maria goes sailing and Jimmy is apprenticed