James Heneker, whom I have written about in previous posts, and being my all time favourite relative, my great great grandfather, had the pleasure (for him I am sure) and history making chance to be part of the passenger list on the maiden voyage of the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship. This ship has made headlines in the last couple of years, especially here in South Australia, due to it’s past history, of which I will write about later. James, whose history of arrival in Australia has been well documented, arrived initially in 1839, aged 13 years old, with his family on the Hooghly from London. In 1864, James it seems travelled back to England, and to Kent to visit family and friends he had left behind 25 years earlier. At present I have not been able to ascertain on what ship he sailed out to England on, from Australia, and this is something I will continue to reseaarch. James was 38 years of age at the time of his trip. I had known of this voyage for many years and found it fascinating. It all came to public attention when the City of Adelaide, which had originally plied tried from England to Port Augusta in South Australia. Apparently at some stage, the ship was burned/or badly damaged and was docked in Glasgow. It was in very poor condition and was planned to be scuttled. A group of people in Adelaide had formed a group which they promoted online and in other media, to try to raise funds and assistance in the fight to have the ship returned to South Australia where it had worked so hard for many years. Eventually this happened, and in January 2013[?] to be confirmed, it arrived in Port Adelaide. It is docked at Port Adelaide, for the time being whilst important work is carried out to make her more stable and ship shape, with the idea, I believe, for her to be restored fully. I need to check these details for more certainty. Unfortunately she cannot stayed berthed at Port Adelaide forever, so a new home is being checked out for her at present. In December 2014, my brother , who lives in Western Australia, and his wife, were visiting the family in Adelaide, and the three of us went to see the clipper ship. What an awe inspiring sight. Even though she is just a hull, and at present cannot be boarded except by the experts who are making it safe so that she can be visited on board with guides to assist. A beautiful large hull, it’s original timbers a sight to behold. On the dock there is a small visitors area, where memorabilia can be bought and expert guides can assist. My brother and I spent quite some time with a very friendly gentleman who had so much information to give us. He was intrigued and appeared pleased to meet descendants of the ship and we told him of the voyage that James Heneker took and why. As he pointed out, James must have made some money in all his pioneering ventures to be able to afford a “holiday” back to Kent to visit family. To be on the maiden voyage of this clipper, on his return to South Australia was another “first” for him in his interesting life. On board were many people emigrating for a new life in South Australia. James was in a 2nd class cabin, and as pointed out to us by our knowlegable guide, the 1st class passengers actually had on suite cabins, which could be seen on the plans. It is hard to imagine back in that time such a concept as an en suite bathroom? I wonder if James had a chance to mingle with some of the emigrants, I suppose he did at least with those also in 2nd class, and I can only imagine of the stories he had to tell. Arriving as he did in 1839, only 3 years after the settlement of Adelaide and surrounding areas, one wonders if those stories were positive? I hope they were, and think they may have been, as he had so many adventures, and seemed by accounts in newspapers to have lived a vital, busy rollicking life full of adventure and family. By 1864 of course, things had begun to settle, buildings in the city, shops, hospitals, and lovely old building built in the English manner, and also with verandahs to protect from the heat, were popping up all over the city and in country and far north bushlands. Some of the people emigrating on that journey went on to become politicians, educators, and people who opened up the country and respected business people, such as The Bickford’s one of whom was a chemist and went on to become well known and still in business as Bickford’s Cordials, their large factory at Elizabeth in South Australia. Others, such as Charles Todd and family, (Charles also born in 1826, the same years as James Heneker) was coming to become the Superintendent of Telegraphs in the colony. He had worked at the Royal Observatory in London, and then appointed as an assistant astronomer at Cambridge Observatory in 1847 and then a senior appointment back at Greenwich in 1854. Charles constructed the Darwin-Adelaide Overland Telegraph Line completed in 1872, which linked Australia with Europe. Interestingly James Heneker worked on this project carrying the poles required for the telegraph line up to Alice Springs (in Central Australia) with his bullock drays. Once again it seems James was in the right place at the time of the great events happening for this state. He would have been resilient in this dry sparse and at times frightening place, living as he did much of his life in the North of South Australia, itself very similar in terrain. I myself lived in Alice Springs for a year after going there for a holiday and becoming bewitched by it. I visited the Telegraph Station in Alice Springs and thought about my great great grandfather coming to this place, before the days of running water, television, mobile phones and other comforts. Still the far north can be an intimidating place for many people but at least we have air conditioned cars or buses and trains to travel in. I am sure at the time that James and Charles Todd never knew they would be working on the same project at the same time, with Charles being in charge as well as an explorer. Or did they?? Did these 2 people from such diverse socio economic, cultural and working backgrounds get a chance to have a yarn, and did some of James’ knowledge of the north, and Charles of astronomy and that appointment of his position lead to a meeting of minds. I will never know, but how I wish I could go back and talk to my hero, James, and ask him all the questions burning in my mind. Ron Roberts has written a fantastic book called “Cabin passengers and copper” – on the Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Peacock Publications, Adelaide. July 2014. http://www.clipperbooks.com
According to the book, he plans another two books on the story of the City of Adelaide and it’s many adventures and uses over the years.
There are many stories now online of the City of Adelaide, with a website dedicated to this ship “cityofadelaide.org.au”. There is also a Facebook Page. There are name 1,000 of South Australians who have been directly able to link their ancestry with this clipper ship.