Journey by steamship

By: Lyn Johnston

A current project for the Albertland Museum involves transcribing unpublished manuscripts from our Edwin Stanley Brookes (Jnr) collection.  The following is an edited excerpt from

“A Trip to the Bay of Islands, Whangaroa and Mangonui”.

On 4 April 1892, Edwin went to the Auckland office of the Northern Steamship Company and booked a passage to Russell.  Asking for a guide to the district, he was unimpressed to be told there weren’t any, but there were “views on the wall”. Edwin believed such a historic place as the Bay of Islands should be a major tourist destination.
Carpet bag in hand, Edwin wended his way to Queen Street wharf looking for SS Clansman, having been told he’d find her at the wharf.  It was nearly time to leave, the last of the north-bound cargo, including horses, being shipped aboard.

Edwin Stanley Brookes’ pencil sketch of Waitangi, 1892. Copyright Albertland Heritage.

Passengers arrived with their luggage and a warning whistle announced imminent departure.  Lines were cast off, the propeller brought her round and she steamed down Waitemata Harbour in the moonlight.   

Edwin described Clansman as a fine vessel, with a saloon and smoking cabin on deck.

Officers were courteous to passengers. Tourists found good accommodation plus a stewardess for the ladies. Most passengers were northern settlers and storekeepers, though there were some steerage passengers with their gumdigging gear and a Maori group on their way to a major meeting at Waitangi.

Passing Tiritiri lighthouse, Clansman took a course to the east of Kawau. Edwin wrapped up in a top coat walked the deck until it got chilly then went below. His little cabin had every convenience, which made travelling very pleasant.

The ship rounded Cape Brett at daylight and headed to Russell some 16 miles away. Edwin wrote, “Russell is a very pretty place looking at it from the Bay.”  He noted historical associations with the Flagstaff and Church.

Interested in helping transcribe these manuscripts?  Phone Peter Marsh at the museum, 423 8181 or 0274 979 290.

Lyn Johnston, Albertland Museum


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