Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Brig Fanny and Gold Prospector Charles Ring

A Brig
" Beyond all outer charting
We sailed where none have sailed,
And saw the land-lights burning
On islands none have hailed;
 Our hair stood up for wonder,
But, when the night was done,
There danced the deep to windward
Blue-empty 'neath the sun!"
                                               From The Merchantmen by Rudyard Kipling

 A Gold Prospector
Part of the past of New Zealand History, the brig Fanny arrived in Australasian waters in 1849. The 171 ton brig was also known to have  two passengers aboard the San Francisco run – Sydney to San Francisco via Auckland who gained the reputation of first European Settler discoverers of gold in New Zealand – Charles Ring and his brother Frederick. They also, in later years, gained the reputation of being of the "forty niners"- those who present at the discovery of the new  "Californian Eldorado" on the goldfields in 1849.
Charles Ring In Cyclopaedia New Zealand, Auckland Province, 1902 
Shipping Gazettes and Australian newspapers in January – March 1849 recorded the arrival at Sydney, via Adelaide and Port Phillip, having sailed from Calcutta, Captain Harold Lewis, owner and  master and the brig Fanny up for sale.

The Sydney Morning Herald Friday 30 March 1849 Page 4 
Courtesy Trove Newspapers, National Library Australia

John Macfarlane (AKA McFarlane) was recorded as the buyer of Fanny. Macfarlane was co - owner of the shipping line of Henderson & Macfarlane – Thomas Henderson Senior, being the other owner. According to records, purchase price was £1485. The master who sailed Fanny for Henderson & Macfarlane was Captain Francis Owen Leathart (in some records Leathhard).

Thomas Henderson 
In The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited. Bold Century. Auckland: The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited, 1959.
Fanny for her first voyage as part of Henderson & Macfarlane shipping, was placed on the San Francisco run. Sheppard & Alger were the Agents in Australia.   W Coombes advertised as Agent in New Zealand.
 The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 19 March 1849, page 1

Courtesy Trove Newspapers, National Library Australia

Amongst the passenger list, recording her departure to the San Francisco Gold fields via Auckland from Sydney (April 1849), were Charles Ring and his brother Fred Ring. It is said that "the brothers purchased a whale boat from Mr. Scott of Epsom with which they intended to prospect the Californian Rivers".( Cyclopaedia NZ, 1902).
Along with a mixed cargo of supplies Fanny sailed for San Francisco, arriving in August 1849. On arrival at San Francisco crew deserted the brig Fanny to seek their fortunes on the gold fields - as was done for the many ships anchored in the harbour. The Ring Brothers evidently lost their whale boat to the deserters also.
San Francisco rebuilt after earthquake of 1906 In The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited. Bold Century. Auckland: The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited, 1959.

The brig Fanny sailed from San Francisco in September 1849 , still with her unsold cargo of mainly foodstuffs, sundries and bricks. Via a short stopover at Honolulu, Sandwich Islands , Fanny arrived back in Auckland, with the cargo and ship advertised for auction in November 1849.

According to the Daily Southern Cross (04/12/1849), the brig Fanny was purchased by Mr. Joel Samuel Polack for the sum of £1600. At first it was advertised that a Captain Lilewall would sail the brig Fanny. An advertisement also appeared for calkers and riggers wanted immediately.
Page 1 Advertisements Column 1 Daily Southern Cross, 14 December 1849, P 1 Courtesy Papers Past, National Library New Zealand
Following repairs and refit, Fanny, with Captain William Twohey, not Captain Lilewall at the helm, set sail for San Francisco on another voyage. This brig now loaded up with timber, bricks and sundries. The timber consisted of house lots - early pioneer prefab buildings. This voyage was to prove eventful. On leaving the Port of Auckland, encountering a heavy storm and springing a leak, Fanny entered Coromandel Harbour for urgent repairs. 
Coromandel Harbour 1970's Photo by J.M. Stewart
Resuming the voyage the brig Fanny on reaching Honolulu, according to The New Zealander, was to change ownership to a Mr. Samuel Brown. Departing from Honolulu in June 1850 this brig was not to reach Auckland, the destination for which she then sailed.
The brig Fanny was shipwrecked on 7 July 1850 at Fortuna -  A reef about forty-five miles distant from Somo-Somo, one of the Fejee Islands( today known as Fiji).Captain Twohey and crew spent a harrowing time in the jollyboat and longboat moving from island to island until rescued by the yacht Sylph. From accounts of the shipwreck it could also be said their rescue was very timely and a welcome alternative to probable death.
Boats and Fiji Islands 1940's photo by Helen Stewart
Charles Ring on return from San Francisco aboard the Dutch brigantine Ceres, also experienced shipwreck in July 1852 at the “Feegees.” As in the instance of the crew of the shipwreck Fanny, Ring too spent time in a long boat which set out with the intention of heading to Moreton Bay for assistance. Fortunately from accounts read, they were rescued when sighted by the whaling brig Daniel Watson.
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