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John Wickliffe and Philip Laing
were the first two ships

The first two ships for the Otago Settlement were the John Wickliffe and the Philip Laing. The John Wickliffe, an older ship of 662 tonnes, had a reputation for speed, and indeed her 100 day passage was the fastest of any of the New Zealand Company ships. She was the supply ship for the advance guard of settlers, and carried only 90 passengers. She departed from Gravesend on 24 November, 1847, but was damaged by rough weather in the English channel and finally set sail on 14 December, after repairs at Portsmouth. Captain William Cargill, leader of the Otago settlement, was a passenger. The Philip Laing, 547 tonnes, left the Firth of Clyde on 27 November, 1847. She carried the spiritual leader of the settlement, Dr Thomas Burns, as well as the first schoolmaster, James Blackie.



The Philip Laing sails into Port Chalmers on 15 April 1848, joining the John Wickliffe, which had arrived on 23 March. (1898 painting by Captain D O Robertson)

Emigrant ship arrivals at Port Chalmers, 1848-1851
(Click on underlined ships to see passenger lists)

  Ship Arrival date Passengers
1. John Wickliffe 23 March, 1848 90
2. Philip Laing 15 April, 1848 243
3. Victory 8 July, 1848 4
4. Blundell 21 September, 1848 145
5. Bernicia 12 December, 1848 58
6. Ajax 8 January, 1849 101
7. Mary 11 April, 1849 2
8. Mariner 5 June, 1849 100
9. Larkins 11 September, 1849 79
10. Cornwall 23 September, 1849 59
11. Kelso 28 November, 1849 13
12. Pekin 5 December, 1849 116
13. Mooltan 26 December, 1849 140
14. Berkshire 12 March, 1850 6
15. Lady Nugent 26 March, 1850 26
16. Mariner voyage 2 6 August, 1850 171
17. Poictiers 4 September, 1850 34
18. Phoebe Dunbar 24 October, 1850 29
19. Eden 27 December, 1850 14
20. Titan 17 January, 1851 18
21. Stately 7 August, 1851 8
22. Dominion 28 September, 1851 13
23. Clara 16 November, 1851 9
24. Simlah 23 November, 1851 33

The prime source for these figures is Joy Robertson’s 1937 MA thesis, 'The Otago Emigrant Ships'. Ms Robertson took her figures from Dunedin newspaper ship arrival notices. These figures can only be regarded as approximate. There is little agreement among historians as to passenger arrival numbers, and some of the New Zealand Company records are confusing. Interpretation problems include adjusting for deaths on board, people who carried on to other ports in New Zealand, and mistakes made by the newspapers. The figure given above for the Philip Laing, 243, compares with 197 from Tom Brooking and 247 from A H McLintock and Dr Hocken. Robertson says 90 people arrived on the John Wycliffe; Brooking, McLintock and Hocken say 97. The Mooltan figures above are somewhat higher than those reported in the ship arrival notice, but have been adjusted by the author, based on separate research.

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