Diary reveals all manner of ship debauchery

VIOLENCE, drunkenness and all manner of debauchery featured on a six-month voyage on a migrant ship bound for Australia 170 years ago, a newly discovered diary reveals.

The raunchy tale is recorded by a junior officer, James Bell, aboard The Planter, which sailed to Adelaide from Deptford in east London in 1838.

Acts of “great violence” involving officers, mates and even the ship’s doctor are all recounted.

In the journal, Bell tells how the captain regularly entertained two of the 11 daughters of a doctor- preacher from Liverpool called McGowan.

He wrote: “Our captain of course could not want a mistress till he returned to his own in England, but made love to two of McGowan’s daughters ... The Capt was allowed to keep the daughters company at all hours, and during the whole time of our being in warm weather our bed on deck sufficed for all three.”

Bell’s diary goes up for sale at auction in London after being bought in a market stall for a pittance.

Bell told how the crew took up with prostitutes. He called the women “natives of some obscene alley, in some obscene street, of that renowned city, London, and who are conveying in themselves all the filth of the place of their nativity, to Adelaide”.

“With all this whoring and drunkenness,” he wrote, “it is amazing this ship ever arrived in Australia.”

The diary is expected to fetch £2,000-£4,000 (€2,300-€4,500) at a sale on March 23.


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