The diary describes a voyage on the “Derwent”. It was written by a midshipman, a Mr F. B. Copland, aged 19. His hometown was Chelmsford in Essex UK. 


I am indebted to Mr David Williams who during his research into the Copland family has identified the diarist FB Copland as midshipman Francis Bigg Copland. The Coplands were prominent in Chelmsford life in the 19th century. Francis was one of ten children of John Albert Copland and his wife Mary, (nee King). John Albert Copland, Solicitor, was the third generation of his family to run Copland & Co, whose law offices at that time were based at the Chelmsford Institute building in New London Road, next to the iron bridge. The family home was "Bellfield" on the corner of New London Road and New Writtle Street. This building remains today having been refurbished for use as offices. Francis was born on 29th August 1865 and died in Jersey in 1894. In the 1891 census he was listed as living in St Helier, working as a general commission agent. It was believed that he never married.


The diary is written in a hard back pocket notebook with lined pages, of similar size to a modern paperback novel.


A scan of two of the pages.




There is also a 13-verse poem at the back of the book entitled “Recitation on the Common Sailor”.


There is no year mentioned anywhere in the diary but with a bit of research it appears to cover the period 1884/5.


Derwent was built in 1884Queen Victoria’s birthday is celebrated. (Sunday May 24th ) The year must therefore fall between 1884 and 1901.

Good Friday is in the diary as April 3rd. Easter only occurs twice between these dates, in 1885 and 1896.

Feb. 29th is not recorded and as 1896 was a leap year one must assume that the year is 1885

Sailing ship Hawkesbury is in Sydney. She was with Devitt & Moore between 1868 and 1888.

It is assumed therefore that when she set sail from Glasgow on Dec 30th the year was 1884 and she was on her maiden voyage.


 One page has been torn out/removed and covers Jan 13th. Some light is shed on this period in the article describing the ship at:  http://www.shipmodelersassociation.org/research/fam9802.htm


The period October 20th to December 5th is not covered at all. This is part of the return journey covering the South Atlantic to the Bay of Biscay.

 Mr Copland visits friends/relatives in Uralla a town in New South Wales, where he stays with a Dr Woods. On my research I contacted the Uralla Visitors Information Centre and thanks to Barry & Morna Sinclair they have supplied a scan of a picture of Dr Woods.






Text in script format is the text as written in the diary; any other typeface is my addition for comment or clarification.


 For convenience the Diary has been split into 8 stages of the Journey:


Glasgow to Spain Dec 24th to Jan 16th

Spain to the Equator Jan 17th to Feb 14th

Equator to Good Hope Feb 15th to March 15th

Good Hope to Sydney March 16th to April 17th

Visit to Uralla NSW April 18th to June 19th

Alongside at Sydney June 20th to Aug 29th

Sydney to Cape Horn August 30th to October 4th

Cape Horn to London October 5th to Dec 16th