Thursday, March 22, 2012


Five months at sea in a small sailing ship was a very long time. Nearly 200 people, packed into tight spaces, had to find their own amusements, and the passengers of the ship Euterpe managed to entertain themselves during their voyage to New Zealand in 1879 with nothing but ingenuity and high spirits to help them.

There was music and dancing in the evenings, and George Lister wrote in his diary that "You will think that the time passes away dull on board ship but it is not on board the Euterpe, for at nights are Concertinas, Tin Plates, Bone Rattlers, Fiddles and Fifes." The passengers had formed the Tin Plate Band using, among other "found" objects, tambourines made out of the skylight reflectors off the top of the hatch which had been carried away in a storm. "So" wrote Lister, "there are playing, singing and drumming going on until about twelve o'clock. I am sure if we were on land they would think we were all heathens."

It wasn't long before things became more orderly, partly due to the tireless Mr Tichbon who had apparently taken charge. The first concert was held on deck at the end of August with a proper programme pinned up so all could see what was on offer. A week later Lister commented that the second concert was held but "tune had left a good many of the singers".

Nobody cared. The decks rang with song: Oh the Fairies, Welcome my Bonnie Lad, Gorging Jack and Guzzling Jimmy, Won't you buy my pretty flowers, and If we only had the holding of the reins. And when Mrs Foat let rip with Come where my love lies dreaming, it "brought forth a wild encore". Recitations were given, including Miss Atreed with The Old Clock on the Stairs, and Mr Skinner declaiming about The Maniac – oh to have heard those! Anyone who could sing, fiddle, shake a tambourine, blow through a harmonica or bang a drum was welcome to join in, and the concerts ended, as they did in those days, with God Save the Queen.

Enthusiasm might have waned a little because Mr Tichbon got tetchy. He said he had heard a jolly chorus swelling out from near the fo'csle late one night, evidence that there were a number of singers aboard who had not yet offered their services. He asked them to come forward. A huffy notice in the next issue of the ship's newspaper reported that Mr Tichbon had decided not to hold an entertainment that week because so few persons had volunteered.

Thanks to Mike Wood Photography for the picture

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