The Annals of the Annals
James Annal, my great grandfather, was born in 1831 on the small island of South Ronaldsay, Orkney. His parents were William Annal, farmer and fisherman (b. 1802) and Ann Wylie (b. 1804). His grandparents were Alexander Annal, farmer (b. approx 1780) and Isobell Louttit (b. 1772).
James’ siblings were William (1829), Ann (1833), Alexander (1836), Isabella Wylie (1839) and Mary (1842). William was a farmer, seasonal fisherman and he had a butcher/meat business in the little village of St Margaret's Hope. His younger brother Alexander built the shop for him. William had blond hair and long whiskers, and was known by his nickname "Thrifty". He travelled regularly throughout the countryside with his donkey and wagon, selling beef and mutton. The story goes that a commercial traveller found the shop closed one day, with Thrifty lying on the floor asleep. This traveller wrote the following short poem about Thrifty on a piece of paper and pinned it on the shop door.
"Jeaney's at Sime
I am not dead
Just lying here
Labouring under Reid's Beer"
The oldest brother William had four sons, William (known as Young Thrifty), John, James and Robert. William Jr, James and Robert later settled in America. An interesting point is that William Jr married an American girl, had four sons and a daughter named Mary, then they returned to South Ronaldsay. William and his wife both died from tuberculosis within a year of their return.
James’ third sibling Alexander lived on a twenty-acre farm at Giraquoy, Grimness Head. He also owned a large, sturdy fishing boat and had sailed extensively around the Orkney Islands and across to the Scottish mainland, and even as far north as the Shetland Islands. He was described as having a dark complexion and was considered very prosperous. Between 1860 and 1870, he built a substantial house of two stories for his retirement but he never actually retired. This large house became known as the “Castle”. It was larger than other homes in the area and was sited about a half mile from the herring fishing port. Alexander was known at the time as “Sanny of Giraquoy”. The building was still occupied as late as 1948, but by 1991, the only stones to be seen were those outlining parts of the walls. There is no visible evidence of the building today, but its location can be found on an 1882 map of South Ronaldsay, found at the website for Old Maps.
Working as a fisherman with his father, James Annal first went to sea in 1844 at 13 years of age. On 24 June 1845, he obtained a Mariner's Register Ticket No. 267365 from Stromness, Orkney. This described him as being a fisherman, five feet one inch tall, with fair complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes. On 25 April 1849, he obtained a second Mariner's Register Ticket No. 451406 from the Port of Shields, Northern England, describing him as ‘growing’, with brown hair, blue eyes, fair complexion, small pox mark, and being an apprentice. Details of his voyages or the ships he served on during those years are unknown.
The next time we hear of him was at Falmouth, Cornwall. On 31 January 1851, he signed on as an ordinary seaman aboard the Mermaid, a three-mastered barque bound for Australia. He advised the name of his last ship as Emanuel, but the crew list for that ship has not been found at The National Archives in London.
Mermaid left Falmouth on 1 February 1851 carrying 209 male convicts, the ship’s crew, plus 91 passengers who comprised 29 pensioner guards, 23 wives, 20 sons and 19 daughters. After a voyage of 123 days, the Mermaid dropped anchor at the Swan River Colony (later renamed Fremantle) in Western Australia on 13 May 1851.
Some information on the Mermaid's voyage is recorded in the journal of Surgeon Superintendent, Alex Kilroy. Copy of the transcript follows. Source: http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/deep/theo/mermaid.html.
“51 convicts embarked on 20 December at Woolwich; 24 from Pentonville Prison; 27 from Justinia Hulk; then to Gravesend, on 21st wives and families of guard embarked, then sailed for Portsmouth and arrived at Spithead on 25 December, then measles appeared amongst families of guard, then to Cowes to embark remainder of convicts. On 27th, two children removed to Hospital by Admiralty order, their bedding and berths pumped with chloride of zinc. Remaining 159 convicts embarked on 28 December, ship returned to Spithead, no further measles until 6 January, then several cases of measles, put into Torquay, then Falmouth. 1 February finally sailed for Perth.
Convicts were healthy and continued so though at first there were many slight cases of diarrhoea, cured by chalk mixture. Only one convict death, a 53-year-old man who “gradually emaciated during the hot weather and sank without any apparent active disease.” Guard and families not as healthy as the convicts.
The 123-day passage was long. 209 embarked, 208 landed, 1 died.”
Following is an interesting insight into some aspects of life aboard the Mermaid during its long journey to Western Australia. This excerpt was taken from a story about George William Steele, one of the many convicts aboard the Mermaid.
Source: Convicts to Australia, Perth DPS Project. Author Caroline Ingram
“...He stayed there for a further six months until 28 December 1850 when he was sent on the ship “Mermaid” to Western Australia. The “Mermaid” set sail from Portsmouth. George came on board with 115 other Portland prisoners wearing plain worsted hats. He carried a parcel of regulation clothing containing several shirts, a smock, trousers, drawers, stockings, shoes, handkerchiefs, braces, brush and a comb, towel and a cap. The prisoners’ quarters were below decks. Each side of the deck was fitted with two rows of bunks so George had his own sleeping place separated from his neighbour by a board ten inches high. The berth was furnished with a mattress, a pillow and two blankets. He had to get out of bed at 6 o’clock, rollup his bed ready to be taken on deck at quarter past six. Bread was served out between 6 and 7 o’clock; breakfast was ready at quarter to eight. All prisoners went on deck at 9 o’clock. He was employed at making up grey clothing and duck trousers. Dinner was at 12 o’clock and supper at 4 o’clock. The prison was locked at half past five and George had to be in bed by 8 o’clock. Smoking was forbidden. Soap was only allowed for shaving, utensils were provided for this twice each week. During the warm and sultry weather, salt-water baths were provided and each man bathed at four in the morning.
On 22 February two fiddlers were given their violins and henceforth the prisoners were allowed to listen to the music on deck after tea. This was accompanied by dancing, singing, hooting and clapping from the prisoners. It appears that the ladies also made an appearance at these gatherings. At six the men were ordered below decks.
George arrived in Western Australia on 17 May 1851”
Most of the ship’s crew appear to have been discharged at Swan River in late May 1851, but James Annal was not one of these. While the ship lay idle for the next few weeks, James decided not to return with the ship to England, perhaps because he took a fancy to a young lady. The master, Captain J P Anderson, gave him a brief testimonial dated 25 June 1851 recording his satisfactory work as an able seaman, rather than ‘ordinary seaman’ as described when signing on at the start of the voyage.
This is to certify that James Annal
James Annal’s whereabouts and occupation during the next eight months remain a mystery, but on 1 March 1852, he was appointed as a constable at the Fremantle Police Station. The Colonial Secretary’s Office in Perth confirmed this in the Western Australian Government Gazette Number 352, dated 31 August 1852. (Annal was misspelt as Annall.) Reference to the Western Australian Almanac of 1854 indicated the salary of a foot Constable at the Fremantle Police Station in that period was fifty-two pounds per year.
James Annal married Margaret McElmuray at the Fremantle Church of England on 21 April 1852. At this time, they were 21 and 19 years of age respectively. Not being able to write, she had to make her mark on the Marriage Certificate with an "X". She was born to parents Daniel and Margaret McElmuray on the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean in 1833. Daniel was a soldier, and it is believed he was sent to Mauritius as part of a military contingent along with his family. England had taken control of Mauritius from the French in 1810 and kept a large contingent of soldiers and marines on the island. It is not known if the family first returned to England before migrating to Western Australia.
Margaret gave birth to a daughter, Ann Jane, in 1853. Ann was the only child born while James Annal and his wife lived in Fremantle.
James Annal’s occupation as a policeman is something of a mystery and is likely to remain so because government records for the period no longer exist. In any event, many members of the police force were adversely affected by the introduction of convicts to the colony. They were expected to keep law and order in a society where violence was relatively common, but there was insufficient manpower for them to operate effectively. To make matters worse, members were poorly paid. They received a lot of criticism from free society for not doing their jobs properly, and often suffered badly at the hands of convicts as they tried to make arrests.
Perhaps James became disillusioned with his police duties and yearned for an opportunity to return to a sea life. Late in 1853, he learned that the Colonial Office had contracted for the construction of a suitable vessel to be used as a ferry on the Swan River between Fremantle and Perth. (At that time, the colony lacked the skills and facilities needed to be able to construct and fit out a vessel of the required size locally.) James applied for the position of Master to sail the finished vessel from England.
His application was apparently successful and he resigned from the Fremantle Police Station. He must have taken passage on a ship back to England or worked his way as a crewmember. Perhaps he had the opportunity to visit his family and friends in Orkney.
The vessel, described both as a schooner and a steamer, was built in Kent, England in 1854. It was registered under the name Les Trois Amis (French for The Three Friends). Scant records show the name of the master as Capt. A Annal in Melbourne’s Argus newspaper and Capt. W Annal elsewhere, however, it is believed that this person was in fact James Annal. (Mis-spellings and errors were common, especially in newspaper reports of that era, a situation little different from what we find even today.)
The ship left London on 22 August 1854 for the voyage to Western Australia, carrying slates and lead as ballast but no passengers. James was only 23 years of age. After a voyage of 109 days, the vessel berthed in Melbourne on 6 December 1854. (Source: Shipping Arrivals and Departures 1846-1855 by Marten Syme.)
The reason for docking in Melbourne is not known. Perhaps the ship sailed too far south in the Roaring Forties and missed the coast of Western Australia. This often happened to vessels in that era because there was no accurate means of determining longitude. Another possible explanation is that because of its relatively small size and for safety reasons, the ship sailed closer to large landmasses, ie via India, Singapore, and south around Australia’s east coast. (This does, however, seem less likely given the sailing time of 109 days.) The ship departed from Melbourne on 13 February 1855 carrying only ballast and arrived in Adelaide on 19 February. It did not reach Fremantle until 15 March 1855. The reason for the three-month delay between Melbourne and Fremantle cannot be definitely explained, however, it is quite possible that the crew jumped ship to join the “gold rush”. This was a common occurrence when ships arrived in Melbourne. In the meantime, James would have had a good opportunity to look over Williamstown, Melbourne, and Adelaide.
For interest, some details of Les Trois Amis appear in Steamships in Colonial Western Australia by Ronald Parsons, Magill, S. Aust. 1980.
“This ship was built in 1854 at Northfleet, east of London on the Thames River. It was classed as an iron screw steamship with a 14 horsepower steam engine. Its dimensions were 62.7 feet long, 11.9 feet wide and 7.1 feet deep with a rating of 28 tons net and 42 tons gross. On its maiden voyage it carried a ballast cargo of slates and lead. It was built as a ferry for use on the Swan River between Fremantle and Perth and was registered as Number ON40477 by the Registrar of Shipping in Fremantle. It was the first iron screw steamship to be inscribed in the Register of Ships.
According to the Perth Enquirer and Perth Gazette newspapers, the ship proved to be unsuitable for work as a ferry, having a draught of five feet, which was too much for most of the existing jetties in the river. Attempts were made to adjust that problem but by December 1858, the engine was removed and she was used solely as a sailing vessel.”
James would have been impressed by his first visit to Melbourne. Williamstown was rapidly becoming a hub of shipping activity due to the start of the gold rush and availability of cheap land. During 1853 and 1854 it was common for 300-400 ships to be anchored in Hobson's Bay at one time. In addition, each of these ships would have had at least one workboat (or lighter) in the water ferrying people or goods to Williamstown or Port Melbourne. Confusion and mix-ups occurred frequently. Ships leaving the port to return to England generally left empty in the early days and had to take large quantities of ballast in addition to water and food supplies, all delivered to the awaiting ships in small lighters. The general pandemonium can easily be envisaged by the following description found in Michael Cannon’s book Melbourne After the Gold Rush. (Loch Haven Books 1993).
“On one day in October 1853, no less than 340 ships were using Hobson’s Bay and the river. This total included 106 barques, 92 schooners, 76 brigs, 62 fully rigged three masters, and several steamships. Since all the sailing ships needed considerable room to manoeuvre, confusion reigned. Further chaos was caused as each ship lowered boats to fill casks with fresh water ‘under the spout at the Port Melbourne watering-place’.
In the midst of this excitement, incoming migrants were at the mercy of hard-bitten boatmen who for the first time in their lives could see the chance of making large profits. Where they had previously been content with a shilling or two to land a passenger and his luggage, the minimum price soon rose to a guinea”.
Many ships stayed in port for long periods. Captains and shipping agents had a difficult time recruiting seamen to replace former crewmembers who had jumped ship for a better life on the land or in the goldfields. Indeed, in 1851 and 1852 desertions among seamen (and sometimes even captains) were at such a level that at one time 468 ships lay idle off Williamstown. The large difference between the numbers of inward and outward-bound vessels was due to the shortage of crewmembers and the subsequent breaking up of ships. The government subsequently confiscated many of these vessels for use as floating prisons or quarantine ships.
It is not hard to imagine how the sights impressed the young James Annal. Noting the intense economic boom in Williamstown and Melbourne, he would quickly have identified the superior employment opportunities compared to what was available in Fremantle. Perhaps rather than returning to his former job as a police constable, he was attracted to a sea life in circumstances that would allow him to continue living with his family on-shore. What is certain is that this small family moved to Williamstown from the other side of the continent. They arrived in 1855 and immediately rented accommodation a few hundred yards from the Williamstown piers.
James started working almost immediately as a "boatman", earning a wage of around three shillings per day. The name “boatman” was a name generally given to men who sailed/rowed small boats between ships anchored in Hobsons Bay and either Williamstown or Sandridge, ferrying newly arrived immigrants and their belongings to shore.
With his maritime experience he had no difficulty in soon getting a job with the newly formed Department of Public Works. This Department was responsible for the development of new shipping and port facilities. During the next 21 years, James was appointed master of several harbour dredging ships, including Griper, Alligator and Bunyip.
James had eleven children from his marriage to Margaret. She died in 1872 at the age of 39, following a difficult labour with the last child. Only eight of their children were still alive at that time: Ann Jane (1853), Alexander James (1855), Mary Matilda (1857), Margaret Jessie (1860), Walter George (1862), John Arthur (1863), Caroline Emma (1868) and Henrietta (1870).
Having a large family to look after and being away at sea six days every week, James employed Mary Ann Sweatman as a live-in housekeeper and helper. He later married Mary in 1874. (In the meantime in 1873, he had also fathered an illegitimate son named William with an unknown lady. This birth was presumably registered in the mother's name, with no reference being made to the father. William adopted his father's surname in later years. After a short period of war service during the First World War, William’s trail has ‘gone cold’.) Mary bore James another seven children: James William - my grandfather (1875), Leslie Walter (1877), Edith May (1878), Grace Marion (1881), Marion Melrose (1885), Norman Alexander (1888) and Gordon Ernest (1890).
James Annal had been the senior master of the Melbourne Harbour Trust’s newest dredge Bunyip, (built on the Clyde River, Glascow in 1878) for four years until Saturday 20 October 1883. On this day he arrived for work at 7.30am in an intoxicated state, thereby placing the vessel and its crew in danger. An official enquiry into the circumstances followed, with particular emphasis on the competency of the master. What followed was a humiliating end to an otherwise proud career.
James Annal conducted his own defence and cross-examination of the witnesses, who were mostly his own crewmembers. He stated in his own defence that any unusual behaviour that day was due to a severe bout of bronchitis for which he had a Doctor's Certificate dated 11 October 1883, nine days before the incident. He also had obtained the permission of the Resident Engineer to be absent from work. But there is little doubt from reading the transcript that James had been drinking prior to arriving for work that morning, and may have had a drink problem for some time.
Minutes of Meetings and the transcript of examination by the Special Committee appointed to examine this matter are held at the Public Records Office of the State of Victoria (VPRS 7989/P/0001 Unit 000001 Type V2, Special Committee Minute Book). These records reveal:
Three meetings were held in November 1883 to “enquire into and report upon the charge preferred against Captain Annal, of the Bunyip, of being intoxicated while on duty on 20 October 1883”.
The Special Committee summarized their conclusions as follows:
A subsequent meeting of the Committee determined that Captain Annal should be dismissed from the service of the Trust with immediate effect without the offer of a demotion.
Following the loss of his job, he applied for similar positions in the ports of Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle, Hobart and even Auckland in New Zealand, all without success. Many references and testimonials given by the chief harbour master, fellow masters and other people have survived. These make clear that he was highly regarded as a reliable and capable man. However, he never worked again as a master mariner. He was, however, accepted back into the Melbourne Harbour Trust a few years later to work on its dredges as a watchman, then senior winch man and quartermaster.
Throughout the years in Australia, James Annal kept in touch with his relatives back in South Ronaldsay. He regularly corresponded with his younger brother Alexander. Two of Alexander's letters have survived. They were difficult to read and understand, particularly due to the odd spelling, odd words and unusual writing style. In some cases, words simply could not be understood. The text has been deciphered as far as reasonably possible and appears below.
Copy of Letter from Alexander Annal to James Annal
April 17 1892
My dear brother and sister
Yours to hand of 25 February.
And we are happy to find that you are still in the land of the living and the Place of Hope. Dear brother we have had a very course winter this season winds and snow always.
We are sown part of our oats and set our potatoes and it is frozen all covered up with snow and frost. I have been up all night with one of my mares that is now 9 days past her 11 months but she is not foaled yet. I sit up the one night and my man the other. The lambs is coming thick. I am getting 3 with 1 ewe and if they all keep well I will have a plentiful supply of sheep. There has been a great loss here this winter of sheep owing to a bad disease and the consequence of the weather. But I have saved all mine as yet.
Dear brother I have little news to tell you only there are been a great lot of deaths this year here. Most of all your acquaintances is dying away and it will come to our turn soon our brother. William has been keeping his bed this last 2 months with rheumatics and I have had my share of this through the winter.
I have just received the likeness's (photos) of three of his sons taken in America. William has been in America this last 8 years and James 4 years and his youngest Robert is on the Mail Steamer Torninta sailing Betirisch (?) to Liverpool and America. They all three meet in America and had their likeness taken. They are all doing well. William is an engineer and has 16A ? day. James is a temperance hotel and Robert has 4 pounds 10 per month in ? Torninta.
John poor thing keeps his bed he is a poor cripple and I don't think he can continue long now for his body is rotting away.
Our sister Mary has a son William and Jane in America. They are both doing well. She has three daughters married ? . Our sister Ann is still in the house she got after her husband William Laughton. She has had a lifetime of it and I think she has taken up one hundred pounds on the ground (?).
Dear brother if you see John Swannie you might let him know that his mother is quite well. She has a room in my house. Please let him know that I bought the Wild Duck 2 years ago and is to try the fishing this season yet if spared. I made plenty of herrings last year but lost a great part of my drift. I shopp (?) 45 nets on the Stronsay coast and may get 12 pieces of nets and 14 chain ropes. We got 86 crans of herrings in that I got a fill. I would not cared so much for the loss of my nets there would been between 3 and 4 hundred crans in my Fleet on drift ?.
I think the Wild Duck would take more in 2 hundred crans. I always thought to get a fill but I have never managed it yet.
James L (?) my little name son is been so long ill but is happy to find he is getting better. The only remedy I get for rheumatics is plenty of new flannel well laid over with dry mustard and that rolled about the place where the pain is most.
Dear brother I think I will sell off all the fishing gear, boats and nets and ropes after I make this seasons fishing. I am not sure yet whether I will go to Shetland or Stromness to this early fishing this season.
Our Aunt Bell and John Wards of the Dykend (?) is still alive. They are two poor creatures now their son William got the house from them and then he kept them on the Proghil (?) Bird (?).
Dear brother I will send some papers. I will be glad to give you any information you would like to have from home.
My wife joins with me in sending our love and best wishes to you all and believe me to be your loving brother and sister.
Copy of letter from Alexander Annal to James Annal.
Sept 24 1894
My dear Brother & Sister
I have been so long in writing you that I am almost affrinted (frightened ?) to do it now. I am happy to say that we are all wagging along in the usual way hoping this will find you all well.
Dear Brother I commenced the Stromness fishing in the first of April and in the first of May went to Shetland and fished there until the 10 July. Came home and has been fishing at Halmtite (?) the 6 of September. I have just got all things dried and housed. And our crops is well through with the cutting. We will be done in two days if our reaper keeps right and gets plenty of hands to cuss the horses at work.
So you can see that there are no rest for the wicked such as me.
Dear Brother I have fished a great load of herrings this year about 400 crans. But the price is very low and material very dear so that it will not be sutching (such) a big job after all. The lowest price I got was 6 shillings per cran and the highest was 15/9 per cran. I commenced with 50 nets and will not have 30 that will ever go to the fishing again. The herrings has all been got from 40 to 60 miles southeast of Capensay a long piece away and when I sail south a whole day it was too far to run back. And I generally shoot (?) my nets and some times the sea washed them out of the ropes. I would like to sell boats and nets and stop at home but there are very few with us that could buy them or could pay for them.
I am sorry to say that I am almost done with rheumatics and is only crawling on the face of the earth. I am very bad in walking. Every joint in my body is done with completely.
When I come home on a Saturday my men fetched me and on Monday sent me off with my (?) so you will think that it is time for me to stop at home.
Dear Brother I have to let you know that our last Aunt died away on the 18 of this month Aunt Bell of the Dykend - John Wards wife. John is still alive but a very poor creature. They gave their house to their son William and they was drove to an outer (other) hol (house) to live in and is been both on the roll (?) Paroghial (?) Bird(?) this some years.
I have also to tell you about our sister Mary's daughter Margaret. She is also died. She married some sort of a drunken creature in Kirkwall and it is said that he is the cause of her death. She leaves 2 daughters.
Our sister Mary's eldest son William is got married in America and has a son James. Is (?) his health in America and is not been (?) to work this long time. Jane is there and doing well a good support to her parents.
Our brother William is doing little or no work buying a shop in a time and going through the (Joland?) and selling it and getting a spree on the profit. His son William is married and has 2 sons. James is also for America the youngest Robert that was so long quartermaster on one of the American Linnards (liners?, Cunnards?) there are no word from him since the first of March.
Our brother William has just an ass and the cart that he goes through the island selling herring and mutton and that is his whole means in this world. As he will never be fit to buy a Baish (?) and sell any beef as he puts the whole in the hole (house ?) below the (?) .
My dear Brother I would like to know how you are all getting on. Let me know how all your family is and what they are doing and if you are fit to do anything yourself yet.
Kindly let me know if Alexander is growing a fine lad and if he is clever and what you think he is inclined to do. If you think he will incline the sea or the land. Kindly let me know how you are all getting on. Peter Swannie is getting very stiff now. He is still going to the fishing but not fit to steer his boat with course weather.
My dear brother we have plenty of corn on the fields this year about as much as I ever saw. But the (?) is not much account and the turnips is only half of a crop. But if health we will manage very well for a season.
Dear brother if you wish to know anything from your native home I will gladly let you know I will send you some papers.
Dear brother if you was here you would know very few as much of the people that you knew is all dead and gone.
We will join with our best wishes to Mrs Annal and family and not forgetting yourself and believe me to be your sincere brother -
James Annal didn’t get to read the second letter. He died on 26 August 1894 from heart disease.
Among his personal papers is the following poem. It is interesting to note that he spelt the surname Annal as ‘Annall’.
Steal not this book for fear of shame
for in it is the owners name
And if you go and steal this book
the Lord will say
where is that book you stole away
And if you answer you do not know
the Lord will say go down below
When I am dead and in my grave
and all my bones are wrotten
this little book will tell my name
when I am quite forgotten
At the time of his death in 1894, only eight of his nineteen children were still alive:
Of the eleven male births, only five sons survived to adulthood. Only two of the three sons who married had male children. Little wonder that there are so few ANNALs from our branch in Australia in 2005.
James William Annal, born in 1875, was my grandfather. He started work at the age of 14 years,
initially with a stout and ale manufacturer. He later began a career with Arthur Wyebrow & Co,
a boot and shoe manufacturing business in Collingwood, working his way up to the position of
Norman Joseph Annal was my father. In 1934 he married Anette Agnes Trew (1909-1985). They operated a mixed business and delicatessen in Port Melbourne and raised four children:
Norm (1945), Peter (1943) and Graham (1941), Photograph 2001
Revised March 2005
© Norm Annal
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