Wednesday, November 30

(Leaving Southampton on September 24, 1842)

By Hugh Karunanayake

(We are indebted to Sir William Twynam (a passenger on this historic voyage) who was known as the Rajah of the North having worked as Government Agent. of Jaffna for 50 years, for his memoir which is the basis for the story of the voyage. The memoir was published in 1916 at the request of Miss Barbara Layard, one of his co- passengers on that historic voyage which took place in 1842. Sir William Twynam born in Ceylon was the son of Thomas Holloway Twynam Master Attendant of the Galle Harbour. He settled down in Jaffna after his retirement from the Ceylon Civil Service after a period of 50 years. More on Sir William Twynam could be found below)


Until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1865, the P & O Company (established in 1837)plied two large steamships “the Great Liverpool” and “Oriental” between Southampton and Alexandria. Passengers and mails were transported thereafter from Alexandria to Cairo in canal boats on the Mahmoudieh Canal. From Cairo to Suez passengers were carried in cars or vans over a stretch of desert. Thus the route was called the “overland route” .

Since there was no service between the Suez and Bombay, the Government of India used the Indian Navy to transport passengers between Suez and Bombay, liaising with two P&O vessels “Great Liverpool” and Oriental which plied between Southampton and the Suez. The mail to Ceylon were conveyed monthly to and from Bombay by the steamer “Seaforth” operated by the Ceylon Government. The arrangement continued till the inauguration of the service to the East by the P & O Company. Two vessels the “Hindostan” and “Bentinck” each of 1,800 tons and 500 hp wooden paddle ships were built by the firm Wilson of Liverpool. Bentinck was sent out in 1842.

Ms Barbara Layard at whose request Sir William wrote this memoir, was a fellow passenger in the “Hindostan. She was one of the 26 children of C.E. Layard of the Ceylon Civil Service, and a long time resident of Nuwara Eliya.

SS Hindostan (1842)

was the first ever steam auxiliary ship to run between the Suez Canal and Calcutta; During the early colonial period, when the East India Company became well-established after having taken over the whole of Bengal and adjacent lands, regular navigational shipping services between India and England became a dire necessity.  This was to bring in workforce, cargo and mail from England.

The East India Company entered into a contract with the P & O Co. for carrying mail. The “Hindostan” had three masts for sails, and paddles run by 520 horsepower engines, and was carrying 2,017 tons; 249 feet in length, it was made in a  Liverpool dockyard under the direction of  Charles Wye Williams, marine engineer,  It began its long voyage on  September 24, 1842 from Southampton to Calcutta. It took 91 days to sail to Calcutta harbor;  it was a 4,787- mile journey from Calcutta to Suez in 25 days three hours, made despite SW monsoon winds and rains. It proved to be a boon for the mercantile traders. In July 1849 Queen Victoria requested to visit Hindostan at anchor in Southampton water close to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Indeed, a great honour for the shipping Co., the P&O. The “Hindostan” plied via Suez and Calcutta with stopovers at Colombo and Madras. Its very first passage round the Cape of Good Hope to Calcutta was faster than the overland mail to Bombay via Mediterranean  and the Suez. There was provision for 102 First Class passengers, including their servants. It was a bimonthly service between Suez and Calcutta.

An interesting feature was giving due importance to the comforts of the passengers on a long journey; the ”passenger cabins” were in the middle of the ship  where the effect of pitching and rolling will be much less.


Sir William Twynam describes the departure of the Hindostan from Southampton on the first voyage by the P & O Co. as follows: ” Amid much cheering, display of bunting, firing of salutes, and manning of yards and rigging and the hearty good wishes of sympathizers and friends (a fitting send off to the pioneer of a great enterprise) the good steamship “Hindostan” of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, under the command of Captain Robert Moresby, late of the Indian Navy, steamed out of Southampton and down the Solent, on the afternoon of September 24, 1842, on her way to Calcutta to start the great steam mail service to the East.

At the time of the launch of the ‘Hindostan’ steam powered navigation was in its infancy, and there were no coal depots at the ports between Southampton and Calcutta. Ports of call had to be arranged, and colliers sent in advance to await the arrival of the steamer. Six ports of call had been arranged for the “Hindostan”, viz Gibratar, St Vincent, Ascension, The Cape, Mauritius and Galle in Ceylon.


The “Hindostan” on its first voyage brought out a full complement of passengers for the Cape, Ceylon, Madras, and Calcutta, chiefly military officers and civilians returning from furlough – cadets and writers of the East India Company’s service for Madras and Calcutta. In the words of Sir William Twynam “Passengers for Ceylon included Mr Charles Layard of the Ceylon Civil Service, father of Sir Charles Peter Layard, retired Chief Justice, Miss Tammy Layard who died in Colombo. Miss Layard who married Mr David Sabonadiere of Delta Estate. Miss Babara Layard. Another young Miss Layard whose name is forgotten.

Other passengers included Nurse Miss Llewellyn who came out to marry Mr Ritchie of the firm of Wilson, Ritchie, and Co. Mrs Hudson wife of Mr Frank Hudson, a well known character in Ceylon, and soon after head of the firm of Hudson, Chandler and Co. She became Mrs Holsworthy, wife of Captain Holsworthy of the Rifles Regiment: he exchanged into West India and was drowned in Port Royal owing to the capsizing of a boat carrying a pleasure party. She, I was informed, married again, but I do not know to whom. Mr Shaw and Mrs Shaw, I do not know on what account they came to Ceylon. She was more or less an invalid during the voyage, apparently from sea-sickness.

They were joined at the Cape by a brother of Mrs Shaw. Mr William Shand came out to go in for coffee planting. Lieut Werge came out to join the Ceylon Rifles. Captain Scott of the mercantile marine who had just given up command of the Indian “Robert Small” to go in for coffee planting. A gentleman and lady whose name I do not recollect, with a relative somewhat off his head. Another gentleman who came for sugar planting near Galle from the West Indies.On board from Southampton to Calcutta were Cadets Emerson, nephew of Sir James Emerson Tennent. Thompson Fowle and his brother a writer who married in India Miss Caroline Garstin sister of Rev Norman Garstin sometime chaplain of Galle and sister Mrs Lindsay of Rajawella.


With the exception of a few squalls of rain in the channel and Bay of Biscay, the weather was fine on the run from the Solent to Gibraltar, the Bay of Biscay was on its best behaviour and gave no trouble.

On the morning of the September 28 the coast of Portugal was sighted. On Thursday September 29 we sighted Gibraltar and anchored at 6 pm near the company’s coal hulk. On the 30th coaling was carried on, and most of the passengers went on shore and amused themselves sight seeing, shopping, and going up the rock to see the fortifications and excavations. Fine weather was experienced during the run to the Cape Verde Islands. Passed the Canaries on the forenoon of October 5, had a beautiful view of the Peak of Tencriffe, sighted San Antonio of the Cape Verde Islands on the morning of Saturday the 8th and St Vincents in the evening. The steamer was taken into the harbour between 7 and 8 pm.The firing of signal guns and the discharge of rockets and blue lights giving notice of the arrival of the steamer off the port.

There was not much to be seen in the town, the population of which consisted of Portuguese, Negroes, and Portuguese and Negro half castes. The passengers amused themselves with occasional runs on shore, fishing (fish being plentiful round the ship) attempts at shooting by few in the neighbourhood, these were not however successful. Coaling having been completed by the afternoon of the 13th the steamer left the Cape Verde Islands for Ascension at 6 p.m. Ascension was a great place for turtle which were plentiful. In those days the advent of a steamer like the “Hindostan” full of passengers, many of whom were ladies, was a great event.

On the morning of November 8th the vessel crept into St Helena Bay about 120 miles north of the cape. A Dutch farmer and his family, of about a dozen, a Dane and two or three others seemed to be the only inhabitants at St Helena Bay. The “Hindostan” cleared out of St Helena Bay and anchored next morning November 15th at Table Bay. During the stay at Table Bay the ship was open to visitors who were charged a small sum, the amount collected to be paid over to a charity. It was astonishing to see the number of people who visited to see the “wonderful steamer”: !

On the afternoon of the November 18, ‘the table cloth’ was spread on that extraordinary rock the Table Mountain. The white cloud signifies the ushering in of a gale. On Monday November 21 two days after leaving Table Bay the steamer began to pass through the centre of a cyclone or hurricane. Whilst at dinner the ship tumbled around causing some alarm although after about two hours the Hindostan steamed out of it.

At the Cape there were new passengers joining the ship. Among them the Pattles bound for Calcutta. The family has had long an enduring connections with Ceylon. Mr Pattle of the Bengal Civil Service, Mrs Pattle, two Misses Pattle, Mr Pattle(Junior) comprised the family. One of two Miss Pattles could well be the famous photographer Julia Margaret Cameron who married Charles Hay Cameron of the historic Colebrooke/Cameron reforms which recommended the foundation for an administrative and legal framework within which Ceylon could be administered.

According to John Penry Lewis in “List of inscriptions on Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon” Colombo 1913″Mrs Cameron(ie Julia Margaret) was “one of the beautiful Misses Pattles who took the City of Palace by storm 60 or 70 years ago”.The eldest, Virginia, married General Colin McKenzie; the second,Henry Thoby Prinsep; the third was Mrs Cameron; the fourth married Dr John Jackson, Professor of Medicine at Calcutta; the fifth,Henry Vincent Bayley, a Puisne Judge of the Calcutta High Court; the sixth, Earl Somers; and the sebenth John Warrender Dalrymple, B.C.S. They were the daughters of “old Blazer Pattle the Nestor of the East India Company’s Covenanted Service. The Caemron;s eldest son Ewen lived and died on Rahatungoda Estate. The Third son, Harding Hay was in the Ceylon Civil Service 1870-1904, retiring as Treasurer of the colony, and died September 16, 1911.”

Mauritius was reached at about 8.30 am on December 2. At noon on December 4, the “Hindostan” steamed out of Port Louis on her way to Galle. The “Hindostan” must have left Galle for Calcutta on December 16 or 17, where she arrived on Christmas Eve December 24, 1842 having left Southampton September 24 1842. The collier dispatched from Calcutta to meet her at Galle, the “Mary Bannatyne” had not turned up, but fortunately a supply of coal to take her to Calcutta had already been secured.


Unlike modern cruise ships and ocean liners, the shipping vessels of the nineteenth century faced many a maritime hazard during long journeys. The “Hindostan” was no exception, and had its share of events and tragedies that are not heard in modern deep sea voyaging. Fortunately Sir William Twynam has recalled some of the prominent incidents that the vessel endured and we are able to present them here.

Attempted stowaway – On the evening of October 9, the six gun brig “Heroine” commanded by Lieut Stuart with Mr Mark Spain as Master came in. Some of the crew were told to help on board the “Hindostan”, and left the steamer in a boat in charge of Mr Mark Spain. There was some trouble and abuse from a petty officer who tried to stowaway in the “Hindostan” but was caught and forced into the boat just as the steamer left.

Man overboard! On the afternoon of 28 October one of the oldest and best seamen in the ship, Tulloch by name was washed overboard and lost. He, with another seaman Miller were securing the port bower anchor amidst a long rolling swell which made the ship plunge heavily. One wave went over both men and nearly took them off, another followed and took Tulloch off. He was clear of the paddle wheel and was seen struggling in the water as he passed under the stern, being unable to swim. He then disappeared.

Another serious accident

The collier “Cleopatra” helped in coaling the ship after it reached Mauritius. On the evening of December 3, before leaving for Galle an unfortunate accident occurred. One of the guns with an unfired charge in it was set off accidently, carrying away the tompion from the mouth of the gun and breaking it to pieces. A nurse standing near was struck on the leg smashing it and rendering amputation necessary. The ship’s doctor was on shore, but fortunately the surgeon of the “Cleopatra” was on board. He sent at once for his instruments and with the able assistance of Mr Mountjoy, a cadet, who had studied surgery earlier, amputated the leg above the knee, a tent having been run up for the procedure. She survived the operation and was provided for in Calcutta by the P & O Company.


Our thanks and unreserved appreciation go to Sir William Twynam to whose sense of history we are indebted for the insights into this historic voyage recounted by him over 50 years after the voyage was completed. Born into a nautical background in Ceylon, his father was Master Attendant in the Southern Port of Galle, then the main harbour in Ceylon of that era. He belonged to a family which traced its descent from the first Saxon invaders of

Britain, and who settled in Hampshire about the year 1560. He made his first acquaintance with the Northern Prince in 1848 when he was appointed Assistant Government Agent of Jaffna. It has been said that ” to his ability as an administrator he joined rare sympathy with the needs an aspirations of the people. His sympathy was felt not only by the educated classes, but by the poorest and most ignorant section of the people. JR Toussaint in his book “Annnals of the Ceylon Civil Service(1935) quoting JP Lewis who had observed Sir William’s handwriting and described it as ‘execrable’ .He stated that Sir William wrote in three different styles of handwriting—one that could be read only by himself and his office assistant; another that could be read by himself alone, and a third which neither himself or his office assistant could read !! A man who loved Jaffna and its people immensely, he retired on January 1, 1896 after being knighted. His roots were so firmly fixed in Jaffna that he chose to make it his home and took the same interest in the people of Jaffna and their welfare as he had done before. He had amassed a large collection of curios, and antiquities of the North which he presented to St John’s College which set up a Twynam memorial Museum for enjoyment by the people. Sir William lived out his retirement in Alfred Villa, Beach Road, Jaffna where he died in March 1922 in his 95th year. His remains lie interred in a grave at the Jaffna YMCA of which he was the founding President.


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