Cyrus Davie (1821 – 1871)

Cyrus Davie will always hold the most interesting record regarding our first four ships. He was the only passenger who made the journey on two of them!!! From what I understand though, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Cyrus – as most of the settlers would have done too – took life by the horns when he purchased himself a ticket on the ‘Randolph’. He listed himself as a gentleman, made sure his luggage was secure on board and gave his farewells.
One of those he said goodbye to was his fiancée Emma Ratcliffe Mortimer who was to join him in the unknown a few years later.The ‘Charlotte Jane’,’ Randolph’,’ Sir George Seymour’ and the’ Cressy’ sailed first from London to Plymouth to pick up final supplies and some other passengers. Most of those sailing to Canterbury were aboard their ships for this first short trip…except Cyrus who decided to make this excursion overland by train. He has never said why he did this but it is believed it was so he could spend his last few days with Emma. It was to be a bad decision.It was common place for a ship to decide to sail in a moment’s notice if the wind suddenly became agreeable. It was wise to never stray too far when travelling by sea in those days.
“The utter confusion of sailing as well in Plymouth is indescribable,” Mrs. Emma Barker wrote in her diary of her and her husband’s (Dr. A.C. Barker) experience on the Charlotte Jane.The ‘Randolph’ pulled up anchor and sailed out of Plymouth at midnight on the 7th September 1850 – a total of 6 hours after Cyrus arrived at port to take his place aboard. Well, one can imagine his expression when he realized he had been left high and dry.

After quite a struggle and a lot of begging, Cyrus was allowed to come aboard the ‘Sir George Seymour’ in spite of the Captain arguing how the ship was already at maximum capacity. The ‘Sir George Seymour’ sailed out of Plymouth the following morning with Cyrus literally thanking the heavens – standing in the only clothes he had.

Later, when writing home, he had claimed to have missed the train but didn’t state why and where he had been.

On the 4th October, almost a month at sea, the ‘Randolph’ appeared in the morning light port-side of the ‘Sir George Seymour’. Of course, great excitement rippled through both ships at the sight of each other. The ships managed to communicate to each other by “signals” (flags maybe?) so the ‘Randolph’ learnt of the fate of their missing passenger. A whalers boat was lowered into the sea by the ‘Randolph’ and a team paddled over and climbed aboard.

Recorded in many on-board journals and letters home, there was a great sadness at the loss of Cyrus, plenty of handshaking going around with many a promise to meet again in their new adopted country.

One can only imagine Cyrus’ thoughts as he was brought up beside the ‘Randolph’, glancing nervously up the rope ladder as the salty sea air caused his eyes to sting. But soon, he was back with his baggage and making his introductions to a whole new ship. He was the hot topic for the next few days.

Cyrus’ cabin mate was Charles Joseph Bridges and the two became firm friends. It was happily reported that for the generations that followed these two men, the families remained tight.

Cyrus kept a charming journal of his own, where he recorded his adventures.
On the 18th December 1850, just 2 days after arriving in Canterbury, he was a member of a party that walked to the Deans Farm in Riccarton.
He writes about the heavy laden fruit trees and bushes and how they were served mutton, cheese, bread and butter for dinner. He also records that the Deans had said that would never return to the old country for anything. That night, they slept on the plains, covering themselves with nearby ferns.

On their way to Riccarton, they had crossed paths with some heavily tattooed, spear carrying Maori who offered them tobacco and oddly enough, parsley! He states that the Maori were very friendly and seemed they couldn’t do enough to make them [the settlers] feel welcome.

On the 22nd December 1850, he travelled over to Quail Island and reported with great disappointment that only two quail had crossed his path the whole day.

Christmas day was the last time the settlers were able to return aboard the ‘Randolph’. Many of the passengers gathered there, Cyrus was amongst them. There were goodbyes and swapping of details – it was time to move on.
Cyrus later wrote at how he found the day unpleasant and sorry to be leaving the ‘Randolph’ – finding he had become quite attached to it.
Sadly, the ‘Randolph’ was doomed to sink on the 25th June 1851, never seeing England again.

Cyrus – known as a very keen walker – worked as a map maker for the Canterbury Association; Emma finally joined him in 1854.
He would later gain the title of Chief Surveyor of the Canterbury Provincial Council.

Sadly Cyrus died at the young age of 50 and is buried with Emma at Barbadoes Street Cemetery.

*photo taken by Chris Bulovic*

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