Rev Francis McCleland: From Passage West to the Cape – 1820

This is the third episode in the life and times of the Reverend Francis McCleland [1793-1853]. It chronicles the period from his arrival in Passage West in early 1820 aboard the East Indian from London. Francis had visited the British capital in order to expedite his acceptance as a Settler. Furthermore, William Parker had assigned him the task of escorting the English settlers in his party to Ireland. On his arrival in Passage West, Francis’ spontaneous disposition takes precedence. He engages in a whirlwind romance and marriage to a native of Passage West by the name of Elizabeth Clark. A week later, the couple sailed off into the blue yonder – the Cape of Good Hope.

Main picture:  View of current day Passage West

Passage West is a port town in County Cork, Ireland, situated on the west bank of Cork Harbour, some 10 km south east of Cork city. For the Irish Settlers this was a significant location. It was the embarkation point for their journey to the southern tip of Africa. Being afforded an opportunity to improve their lot in life, most willingly paid a handsome deposit for the opportunity to do so. Alternatively they obtained a sponsor who would pay in their behalf. One such person was William Parker, a native of Passage West.

Considering his options

Considering his options

On board the East Indian were the passengers who had alighted in Deptford on Britain together with the remainder of the Parker party. The other Irish parties – the Butler, Ingram and Synnot – were scheduled to travel on the Fanny.

En route to Passage West

The original intention was for the East Indian to slip her moorings at Deptford, London on Tuesday 28th December 1819. Best intentions and weather did not coincide. Inclement weather forced the postponement of sailing for a few weeks.

According to the website http://www.pascalbonenfant.com/18c/weather.html, the weather over this period can only be classified as appalling. It was reported that “Snow fell widely & heavily towards the end of December, particularly notable on the 28th. During the first three weeks of January, a particularly severe spell produced deep snow across many southern & south eastern counties of England, including the Isle of Wight. The non-tidal Thames froze as far downstream as Kew. There were ice floes in the Thames estuary, with shipping disrupted (very important to commerce in these pre-railway days). At Tunbridge Wells, Kent, a temperature of minus 23 deg C was reported, but there are no details of exposure, instrument etc.(‘Weather Eye’ / Issue 19 / Ian Currie)”

1814-fair-on-the-frozen-thames-river

 

It might have been the last White Christmas that the passengers would ever experience, but trapped indoors on a ship on the Thames would not have raised their spirits. Finally, the bad weather abated and conditions improved sufficiently allowing the East Indian to set sail for Cork Harbour in Ireland.

english-party-embarking-at-deptford-london

According to the Lloyd’s List, the transport, the East Indian, was commanded by Captain Archibald Hogg. The Lloyd’s Register for 1821 records the East Indian as being a ship of 390 tons, a loaded draught of 17 feet which had been built in Hull in 1819 for the owner, a Mr. Boulton. It had been hired from him by the Naval Authorities for the purposes of transporting settlers to the Cape. In all probability, this was the first major voyage for the new ship though one hesitates to claim that this was its maiden voyage.

The East Indian

The East Indian

Interlude at Passage West

On arrival at Passage West, it met its “sister” ship Fanny already at anchor off the hamlet of Passage West. On 12th January 1820, embarkation of the settlers from Ireland began.   

The British contingent, already aboard the East Indian, was now joined by the Head of the Party, William Parker, together with his contingent of Irish Settlers. Simultaneously John Ingram and Captain Synnot led their parties aboard the Fanny, only being joined later on the 17th January by Captain Butler and his party after the party arrived after marching from County Wicklow, a distance of 300 kms.

Map of Wicklow to Cork

Map of Wicklow to Cork

It was during this waiting period of a month whilst in Passage West that Francis had sufficient time on his hands. Undoubtedly one of the issues which occupied his mind was the fact that he would be leaving the land of his birth possibly forever for a foreign land. Unlike most of his contemporaries at the age of 26, he was not married and probably had never even been in any romantic relationship yet. One can only speculate where one would meet eligible members of the opposite sex. In an age when females did not attend school and according to the mores of the era were not allowed to roam the streets but were confined to their homes, one of the few places where one could meet members of the opposite sex was at church.

Passage West

Passage West

 

Description of Passage West

Wikipedia describes the hamlet of Passage West as follows:

 

The Granary, Passage West

The Granary, Passage West

The buildings in the town centre are mainly late 18th and early 19th century, while the architecture of nearby Glenbrook and Monkstown is mainly from the later Victorian period. In 1690, at the time of the landing of the Duke of Marlborough with his army to lay siege to Cork, Passage was described as an insignificant fishing village.

The Duke of Marlborough-Oil by Adriaen van der Werff

The Duke of Marlborough-Oil by Adriaen van der Werff

Its development from an obscure hamlet to a town may be principally attributed to its deep safe anchorage. The advancement of Cork’s commercial trade was an important benefit to Passage. Owing to the shallowness of the channel above the town vessels of over 150 tons were unable to proceed to Cork, and were compelled to discharge their cargoes here. These were either unloaded on to lighters and brought up the river to Cork or put ashore and taken to the city in carts or on horseback. The only road to Cork then was via Church Hill through the site of the present Capuchin Monastery at Rochestown and then through what is now the entrance to the farm-yard at Oldcourt, on to Douglas and Cork.

Whirlwind romance and betrothal

It was here at Passage West that the last of the Parker party congregated prior to departure. Like all villages of this milieu, the church was the centre of the community’s activities. In this case, the little church – St Mary’s Church of Ireland Church, Passage West – was no different.  Among its congregants was the Parker Family who are all buried here. Far more important for a young unmarried Francis was the female talent. Once a young Elizabeth Clarke, only 18 years old, caught his attention, he was smitten. Yet another life changing decision would have to be made by young Francis and rapidly.

Irish immigrants ready to leave Cork Ireland

Irish immigrants ready to leave Cork Ireland

Elizabeth was the daughter of a Frederick Clarke, a landwaiter, a British customs officer who enforces import-export regulations and collects import duties whereas Elizabeth probably did not possess a vocation as most females of the period did not.

With the vessel sailing in a few weeks, the star struck lovers had little choice but to hastily arrange a marriage. Two social conventions conspired against the couple: the contemporary social mores precluded unmarried couples living together – “in sin” as it was it was pejoratively referred to – and to the fact that Francis’ profession was the moral arbiter of right and wrong. Both circumstances  mitigated against any other option but hasty nuptials.

Dating to the 1800s, this mid-terraced home with three bedrooms looks across the harbour

Dating to the 1800s, this mid-terraced home with three bedrooms looks across the harbour

Like a fairy tale, on the 4th February, Francis McCleland and Elizabeth Clarke were joined in holy matrimony at the St Mary’s Church of Ireland situated on Church Hill, Passage West. They would only spend eight days as a married couple in Passage West before their ship set sail on the 12th February 1820.

From meeting to marriage to emigrating from Ireland, could not have been more than four weeks at most but more realistically, it was three weeks.

St Mary's Church from the South

St Mary’s Church from the South

 

En route to a new land

Even before the Fanny and the East Indian set sail for the Cape Colony, discord, dissension and disagreements arose. The reasons for these troubles were manifold. Cramped living conditions was one. Over-imbibing alcohol was another. Interestingly, Francis was also accused of this misdeed. By all accounts, the most serious source of disagreements aboard the East Indian arose between the settlers and their Party’s Head, William Parker. These disputes foreshadowed the disharmony that would plague the party for many months.

Graham Dickason in his superb book, “Irish Settlers to the Cape,” describes Parker as an “ambiguous man.” That is a too magnanimous a term. Even the appellation disciplinarian would have been too charitable a characterisation. Perhaps autocrat or dictator would more accurate exemplify his personality.

Departure from Ireland

Departure from Ireland

As such, William Parker “required the total submission to his authority of all the Settlers on board the East Indian. To this end, he drafted as set ofRules for the Maintenance of Order, Morality and Good Conduct.”

Parker arranged for these rules to be printed as a small booklet. Each and every settler was obliged to sign as acknowledgement of receipt and adherence to its regulations. In many ways, this is akin to the absurd “Room-mate Agreement” that Dr Sheldon Cooper mandated Leonard sign in the comedy “The Big Bang Theory”,   except that in this instance it is not a comedy but real life. Even those passengers that paid their own deposits and hence not beholden to Parker, were forced to comply.

passage-west-new02

However well intentioned by Parker, the rules were indeed a stiff discipline to inflict on those who had dreamed of a freer life, while Parker’s rule of strict adherence to religious duty meant, as he saw it, as a strict adherence to the Protestant faith. No consideration was shown for Catholics in the party.

Dickason remarks that “this fact coupled with the propensity of some settlers, including the man designated to care for their spiritual needs [of course he is referring here to Francis McCleland], to over-indulge in other spirits of an alcoholic content, led to rising tempers as frustrations were compounded with the delay in sailing.

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Furthermore, Dickason states that “On the Sunday night of the 30th January, while still at anchor in Cork Harbour, McCleland, in high spirits [presumable inebriated], vilified the English, including several Englishmen who were in the cuddy with him, to such an extent that John George Newsom, an alderman of the City of York, threatened to horsewhip him. Whether he did so is not known, but he, Newsom, subsequently left the ship and did not sail.

Eventually with all supplies on board and weather conditions having at last improved to such an extent that it was considered a satisfactory climate in which to put to sea, the signal was given from the East Indian. Both ships [set sail] from Cork Harbour in the early afternoon of Saturday 12th February 1820, with the East Indian being the commodore ship taking the lead.   

 passage-west-new03

Word had however spread that sailing was imminent and a large contingent of spectators gathered on the quays to witness the final departure of the two ships with their complement of passengers bound for a new life.

In the words of a contemporary description of the events, “It was an interesting and impressive sight, the most callous and indifferent cab scarcely fail, at such a moment, to form cordial wishes for a pleasant voyage and safe arrivals of the emigrants, and for their future prosperity in their new home.

As the ships left the quayside, hats were raised, handkerchiefs waved, and a loud and long continued shout of farewell was raised from the shore, and cordially responded from the ships. May all prosperity attend those who sailed.

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As it was winter, the fact that most ships bound for the Cape with settlers encountered extremely bad weather on putting to sea can readily be appreciated. For the East Indian and Fanny, conditions were no different. 

Clear of the Cove of Cork by sunset, the wind began to rise and boisterous weather was experienced. Though this was admirable for the purposes of the two captains, enabling the ships to move at a fair speed, it was hard on the unacclimatised passengers who felt quite queasy. All were ordered below and the hatches were fastened down for the night. 

Safely clear of the Bay of Biscay to the south east, they set sail and sped along at a rate of 9-10 knots.

 agamemnon-1855-bw-pai9322

By today’s standards, quaint methods of food provision were the order [of the day] and it seems that many a settler even took on board small livestock, certainly poultry with which to provide themselves and families with fresh meat during the voyage. The weekly allowance made to each adult during the voyage, with children being victualled at half the scale. The provisions, which were served out in proportions daily, were something of the order of:

daily-food-allowance

The original arrangement was that the settler ships would call either at Madeira or at St. Jago in the Cape Verde Islands for fresh provisions. The Fanny arrived first at St. Jago where it was to stay for three days in the vain hope of the East Indian heaving into view.

It was expected that Lt. Wolridge, the Commodore abound the East Indian, would make an appearance at St. Jago, but after a three day wait and no sign of the East Indian, the Fanny set sail southward. The East Indian was to arrive shortly afterwards and after taking on fresh suppliers of meat, water and fruit – oranges, lemons, pineapples and bananas – continued the voyage to the southern hemisphere.

In almost cloudless and windless weather, the two ships were only to proceed at 2-3 knots, and the listlessness of the hot days as they gradually approached the equator, was only interrupted by some more brawling and fighting on the East Indian as the heat brought tempers to the boil.

Porto Praya Island of St Jago Cape Verde Islands. Painted by Sir John Barrow

Porto Praya Island of St Jago Cape Verde Islands. Painted by Sir John Barrow

Not to be excluded from the ruckus, Francis McCleland also became embroiled in an altercation. In this case, it was with a Dr Holditch. These contretemps arose after Dr. Holditch was requested to conduct the daily worship on Saturday 18th March, as the Parson was too sick from the inebriation of the previous night.

The following day, McCleland accused Holditch of interfering in a priest’s work, which seems a rather unjustified accusation. McCleland conducted the Sunday worship as usual paying no regard to the fact that a large number of Parker’s party were Roman Catholics who, under Parker’s regulations, were obliged to listen to the service. As can be imagined, this was not something calculated to endear him to those Catholic Settlers and only served to add to their grievances against both Parker and McCleland.

Ribeira Grande, when it was the capital of Cape Verde Islands

Ribeira Grande, when it was the capital of Cape Verde Islands

Graham Dickason now makes a scathing indictment against the character of Francis McCleland. He frankly states about McCleland: “Repeatedly drunk, the ever crapulent McCleland levelled accusations against all who crossed his path, like Holditch, who he accused of murdering a child on board ship and also against Fryer the accusation of improper conduct, this latter accusation possibly justified by the fact that an unmarried woman accompanied Fryer as his wife.”

What conditions were like for the settlers on board ship

What conditions were like for the settlers on board ship

The crossing of the equator was celebrated with much enthusiasm with “King Neptune and his consort” presiding over a rare occasion when amity between all parties prevailed, giving the settlers on board the East Indian a brief respite from the squabbles and arguments.

What William Parker was not to know that in one of the passing ships, the sloop HMS Sappho, making a trip back to England was Lord Charles Somerset who had been recalled on leave, leaving his 2IC, Sir Rufane Donkin in charge.

HMS 'Sappho' capturing the Danish brig 'Admiral Jawl', 2 March 1808: surrender of the brig'. The painting has been signed by the artist and dated 1808, and has a large number of stamps and inscriptions on the verso.

HMS ‘Sappho’ capturing the Danish brig ‘Admiral Jawl’, 2 March 1808: surrender of the brig’. The painting has been signed by the artist and dated 1808, and has a large number of stamps and inscriptions on the verso.

That stroke of fate would change their destiny irrevocably.

Nevertheless, that fate was still a few weeks ahead of them as the ships were again becalmed in the mid Atlantic Ocean.

How would William handle the charges levelled against the “crapulent pastor” but arguably more importantly, how would William respond to the change in their destination?

 

Wikipedia describes the hamlet of Passage West as follows:

The buildings in the town centre are mainly late 18th and early 19th century, while the architecture of nearby Glenbrook and Monkstown is mainly from the later Victorian period. In 1690, at the time of the landing of the Duke of Marlborough with his army to lay siege to Cork, Passage was described as an insignificant fishing village.

Cork Street, Passage West, the main road

Cork Street, Passage West, the main road

Its development from an obscure hamlet to a town may be principally attributed to its deep safe anchorage. The advancement of Cork’s commercial trade was an important benefit to Passage. Owing to the shallowness of the channel above the town vessels of over 150 tons were unable to proceed to Cork, and were compelled to discharge their cargoes here. These were either unloaded on to lighters and brought up the river to Cork or put ashore and taken to the city in carts or on horseback. The only road to Cork then was via Church Hill through the site of the present Capuchin Monastery at Rochestown and then through what is now the entrance to the farm-yard at Oldcourt, on to Douglas and Cork.

St Mary's Church from the south

St Mary’s Church from the south

 

Crosses Green House, Cork where Elizabeth was born

Crosses Green House, Cork where Elizabeth was born

 

 

 

Google Street View of Crosses Green House, Cork which have subsequentky been modernised and converted into Flats, now slated for demolition

Google Street View of Crosses Green House, Cork which has subsequently been modernised and converted into Flats, now slated for demolition

According to Gabielle Churchouse, “The Reverend Francis McCleland was always extremely proud of his wife’s family. Their marriage notice which appeared in a Cork newspaper on Tuesday 8th February 1820, reflects a lttle of the basis for this pride.

“Married on Friday last at Passage Church. Co. Cork, the Reverend Francis M'(C)Leland, Chaplain to the settlers    proceeding to the Cape of Good Hope, to Elizabeth, second daughter of  Frederick Clarke of Passage and niece of the late Major General Sir William Clarke, Bart.”

St Mary’s Church of Ireland 

Map of the location of St Mary's Church in Passage West

Map of the location of St Mary’s Church in Passage West

Map of Passage West showing Church Hill on which St Mary's Church is situated

Map of Passage West showing Church Hill on which St Mary’s Church is situated

Google Street Views:

Google Street view of St Mary's at Passage West#1

Google Street view of St Mary's at Passage West#2

Google Street view of St Mary's at Passage West#3

Google Street view of St Mary's at Passage West#4

Google Satellite View:

Google Satellite View

St Mary's Church#1Graveyard name: 

St. Mary’s Church of Ireland

Graveyard Code: 

CO-PWSM

LocationSt Mary's Church#2

Church Hill

Passage West, Cork

Ireland

51° 52′ 15.8664″ N, 8° 20′ 14.8236″ WSt Mary's Church#3

See map: Google Maps

Townland:  Marmullane

Number of Memorials:   167

Terrain:  Hilly moderate

Enclosure:  Stone wall

Gateway: Iron Gate

Survey documents

St. Mary’s COI Contact Sheet

St. Mary’s COI Sketch Plan 1 of 2

St. Mary’s COI Sketch Plan 2 of 2

 

Sources:

Internet:

http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=images&county=CO&regno=20854041

http://historicgraves.com/graveyard/st-mary-s-church-ireland/co-pwsm

 

Google Street Views of St Mary’s Church of Ireland in Passage West:

https://www.google.co.za/maps/place/St.+Mary’s+Church+of+Ireland,+Passage+West/@51.8711774,-8.337796,3a,75y,78.16h,88.66t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1snYmjU14Jg_7whYSs_wEdXg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x4d2262a16000a007!6m1!1e1

Books: Irish Settlers to the Cape by Graham Dickason

Comments by Graham Dickason: I’ve been in the church at Passage West. Interestingly, William Parker (the Leader) and all his family are buried there. We couldn’t find Parker’s grave, but it is there. I would imagine that’s where McCleland married. Her family were Cork people. I took photographs. All photos in the book and all those I took in Ireland, including the Passage West Church, are in a collection at the Africana Library in Johannesburg (housed at the old Market) which is a Museum today. They were on exhibition in 1973 when the book was published.

 

 


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