Charles Hammond

Artist & Photographer of Melbourne, Australia

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The following article appeared in the publication 'SPRINGBOARD' p82, 83. All the artwork is by Charles Hammond from his Pictorial Diary.


A Schoolboy at Large


(Actual experiences of Mr. Hammond after he had run away to sea at the end of the last century)

1887: While wandering among the big sailing ships that lined the piers at Sandridge (now Port Melbourne), a man hailed me with, 'What Ship Jack?' When I told him I was looking for one he seemed pleased, and said he had a good one for me. Crews were very hard to find for any ships at that time, American ships in particular having a bad name among sailormen as being 'slave drivers.' There were many ships at anchor, or alongside the wharf, waiting for cargo or crew, both of which were hard to find. Captains were paying boarding-masters good prices to find men for their ships, drugging and shanghai-ing being resorted to when men were unwilling to ship of their own free-will. It mattered little to the boarding-masters or the captain whether they were sailors or not, so long as men could be placed aboard. The mates would soon straighten them out and make sailors of them.

Port Melbourne
The Ship 'Great Admiral' at Sandridge Port Melbourne
27 April 1887. 'What Ship Jack?'
The runner from the 'All Nations' takes me in tow.
Old Town Pier, Port Melbourne
Charlie remembers in April 1944. All that remains of the Old Town Pier,
Sandridge (Port Melbourne) from which I shipped in the American Ship
'Great Admiral' in 1887 bound for Hong Kong. When this Pier was lined
on both sides with square riggers from all parts of the world.

Click on all the photos and drawings to see an enlarged version.

Shangaiing, Port Melbourne
Saturday night. Shangaiing the crew for the Boston Ship
Great Admiral from the All Nations, the notorious boarding house
once known to every sailor as The Chausan.

The man who addressed me was a 'runner' for one of these notorious houses, although I did not know it. He lied to me that he 'was going mate of her,' and would 'look after me all right'; that 'she was a good living ship,' and so on. But I needed no persuasion - like Barkis, I was willin'. So, hiring a cab, we drove back to the boarding-house where my new friend was employed. Never shall I forget the next few days I spent there. Here was a mixture of nations, such as I had not met before, smoking vile tobacco, drinking and gambling.

The Great Admiral
The Great Admiral (Boston)
Bound for Hong Kong Sunday May 1st 1887


Straightening out the crew.
mate straightens out crew
April 1887 At 4 bells (2 o'clock) Sunday morning:
The mates knock '8 bells' out of the drugged crew.
The mate was a great 'pick-me-up'.

The day after my arrival at the boarding-house we were taken aboard the American ship 'Great Admiral' to sign on. She was a full-rigged ship and looked huge to me, although she was but 1,500 tons. Having only ballast in her holds, her black wooden walls towered high above the wharf. Some gentlemen sat at the cabin table, and one of them rapidly read the articles; but for all I could hear he might have been reading prayers or our death sentence. I was then handed an advance-note of £1, which the boarding-master took for my three days' board and lodging. On the third day (Saturday) we were taken aboard in boats, as the ship was then lying at anchor, so that no man could escape when once he was placed on deck. The boarding-master said he would fetch our kits, but I never saw him again. There I was, bound for a foreign country, with no money, no oilskins, and very little else but what I stood up in. There was a rush for the best bunks in the fo'cas'l, but I stood aside and let the others choose theirs first. I was further rewarded by finding a golden sovereign among the dust and straw as I cleaned it out.

All hands were at once set to work to clean up and get her ship-shape. The mate soon sobered up the doped sailors; he was a good 'pick-me-up' - a long thin Yankee, with beetling brows and a voice like a fog-horn. At eight-bells the anchor watch was set, and I turned into my bunk and slept soundly.


At four-bells (2 a.m.) on Sunday morning all hands were called to heave up the anchor. Capstan bars were shipped, and round and round we went, the mate barking and snapping like a cattle dog when he thought we were not pushing hard enough. Fathom after fathom we wound in. The cable seemed endless. A sailor started to sing a chanty, and we all joined in. That cheered us somewhat, until the anchor was 'catted' and the tug took us in tow. We boys were then set to stowing the cable down into the chain locker. I started badly with a painful accident. My finger got jammed between the heavy links, which crushed it and tore off the nail.

weighing anchor
Sunday morning, 5 bells. 2.30 am
Heave up the anchor

After everything was cleared up, watches were picked by the first and second mates, in much the same way as boys pick sides in a cricket match. I was in the second mate's watch, and after breakfast went below till noon. The port watch remained on deck to 'fish' the anchor and set the sails. When the starboard watch came on deck again we were outside the Heads, and the tug with the pilot aboard left us to our fate. With all sail set we headed for Hong Kong. (The Heads are about forty miles from Melbourne.)


steering the ship
Charlie takes the wheel.

In the middle of the afternoon watch I was sent to relieve at the wheel, taking it from a big Norwegian sailor who gave me the course 'full and by,' which I repeated after him in sailor-like manner. We were steering by the wind, not the compass. Just keeping the sails full. Alas! my luck was out. In the early morning a heavy mist hung over the bay, but as the day dawned the sun broke through, turning into one of those glorious Australian summer days - not a cloud in the sky, and a soft warm breeze scarcely raised a ripple on the sea, or kept the sails from flapping idly against the mast as the ship rolled lazily on the ocean swell. Seagulls soared on out-stretched wings, and dipped with plaintive cry into the water after fish. The captain, chief mate and the port watch were dozing on the main deck out of sight. I was alone on the poop. (I seemed to be alone on the ship.)

I had been steering for about an hour, when a drowsiness came over me that I could not shake off. The strong sea air, the soft summer breeze, and the gentle motion of the ship were lulling me to sleep. My eyes closed for a few seconds, then opened with a start; drooped again for a minute, then opened again with an anxious look aloft. I never fought so hard with Nature - but she was too strong for me. I dozed again for a minute; then I heard footsteps ascending from the captain's cabin. I awoke with a start. The sails were aback. I gave the wheel a spin - but too late. The captain was at my side. Not much harm done; but had there been a stronger wind it might have been serious.

Soloman Islanders
Soloman Island Natives


My life aboard the Great Admiral, April 1887.

On Sunday morning the bos'n took us boys around to show us the ropes, and how and where to find the bunt-lines, cluelines, leechlines, lifts, down-hauls, braces, and all the rest of the complicated gear; also how to know them on dark nights by touch. Some were thin, others a varying thickness; some were new and hard, others old and soft; each having a separate belaying-pin to which it was made fast. This was very useful information, as there were no lights visible on deck at night. A man was not allowed to even strike a match, otherwise the lookout could not see tiny specks of light on the horizon when other vessels were approaching. We thought the bos'n was a jolly good fellow, and yet at times he would fly into a violent temper and rave like a madman. He would throw his cap on deck, jump on it, curse the ship and every man aboard and the men who made her, blaspheming and foaming at the mouth. Then, a few minutes later, he would be smoking his pipe and cracking jokes with the men.

boson heaves a hook
Bo'son heaves an iron hook at me which would have meant
serious injury had it struck a few inches lower.

He might easily have killed me on one occasion, through no fault of mine. We were chipping rust off the bolt heads 'tween decks with iron hooks. The bos'n called down through the open hatch, 'Port fore brace!' Immediately we jumped up and ran to carry out the order. I happened to be the farthest away from the ladder and was the last to go up. The second mate stopped me, saying it did not want all hands for that, and to go back to my work, which I did. The bos'n came to the open hatch a minute later, saw me at work as before, and thought I had disregarded his order. He instantly flew into a rage, wanted to know if I belonged to this something ship, and heaved an iron hook at me to remind me that I did. It sent my cap flying and grazed my scalp. I don't like to think of what would have happened if he had struck a few inches lower! The last I saw him was in Hong Kong after a night out. He had knife marks near his heart, and his shirt had a long cut in it. But he was joking. I don't know what the other fellow had to show, but I did not envy the man who drew a knife to our bos'n, who could use his fists to some tune.

mutiny at sea
Mutiny at sea.

The cook was another bad-tempered brute, who would throw boiling water or a knife at a man who put a foot inside his galley. The whole crew was a striking contrast with the good-natured fellows I had previously met. There were two nice boys among them, but both were in the mate's watch, so I seldom saw them, except during the 'dog watches' when all hands were on deck. The men were of all nationalities, good sailors but rough; they could not have stood such a life year after year had they been otherwise. The mate was a typical Yankee slave-driver, and had them all scared for a while. There was no walking when he gave an order; we had to run. But one day he 'struck a snag'. We were going 'about ship,' and after the yards had been braced, some of the men were going to haul over the headsheets. A big German sailor was the last to climb the ladder to the fo'cas'le head. He was walking instead of running, so the mate gave him a kick to hurry him on. The mate followed the sailor up, and when he reached the top the German swung round and hit the mate between the eyes, knocking him down to the deck below, then followed him down and jumped on his chest. The second mate, bos'n and bos'n's mate ran to the mate's assistance, while the men went to help the sailor. Things looked pretty serious for a while. It was rank mutiny. But when the captain came up with his rifle the men quietened down again. There was no one badly hurt, and the German, instead of being put in irons, was treated with more respect by the mate for the rest of the voyage. I did not see this little incident, for I was lying badly injured in my bunk a few feet away. I had fallen down the hold in the dark on the previous night on to the stone ballast below. I had been brought up unconscious, and was suffering great pain in my back and head, and felt as though all the bones in my body had been broken. But there is no room for a sick man aboard ship, and very little sympathy.

From Charlie's Pictorial Diary, he describes the incident again:

One day I was sent 'tween decks for a coil of rope. The hatches on top were on, which made it pitch dark below. The hatches 'tween decks were off and in groping about in the darkness I put my foot over the edge & fell down on the stones below.

Charlie falls 'tween decks.
Unconscious on the ballast below.
The Bo'son & Carpenter fetch me up from below.
The Mate's Sympathy
'None of yer shinaniken aboard this ship.'

I had to turn out with the watch as usual, and although unable to walk or stand, I managed to get about by holding on to everything for support. I did light work for a few days until I could go aloft again.

My Life Aboard the Gt Admiral

at sea, aloft
Fore-upper-tops'l carries away.
hold tight aloft
'Hold tight when aloft' Old Harry's advice saves me
from a fall from Jacob's Ladder between the Royal &
Skysail yards on a dark night.

Through having no oilskins, I probably suffered more than I otherwise might have done. In bad weather I had to go aloft in blinding rain and howling wind in wet clothes. One night I went up with nothing on above the waist and very little below it. A wet and cold singlet clinging to my body was worse than none at all. So I took it off. Old hands, clad in oil-skins, sou'-wester and seaboots, asked if I wanted to die. Yet I felt no ill-effects, however, but turned into my bunk of straw like a good dog, and slept soundly till eight bells struck, when we all turned out to relieve the wheel and lookout, and go about our usual duties. We ordinary seamen had a far harder time than the a.b.'s, because the lighter sails on top, royals and skysail, were more often furled or set than the lower ones, and it was always the boys who had to go up to loose or stow them. It seemed a long way from home on that skys'l yard, but I was told that some American ships carried several sails higher than that, called 'star-rakers', 'moon-grazers', and 'heaven-disturbers'.

We spend an awful time aloft in the pitch darkness with the wind howling and blowing through the rigging and the rain pouring down in icy cold torrents. We retire for our disturbed sleep, wet, cold, hungry & exhausted. Turn out on deck with nothing to eat or drink to warm us.

drinking rain water
Short of Water. Drinking rain water off the decks
during a heavy storm in the China Seas.
misery at sea
Misery at Sea
Alls well
'All's Well!'
Lookout on the fo'cas'le head

It was rather an uncanny sensation to be up there on a dark night and watch a thunderstorm approaching; to see the flashes of lightning in the black sky far away on the horizon, while below, the ship looked so small, moving through the phosphorescent water; and to hear the roar of wind and rain coming nearer and nearer. But before it reached us all the light sail would be securely furled, and we on deck again.


Eventually the 'Great Admiral' arrived in Hong Kong harbour where Charlie was signed off the ship. His narrative above had come to an abrupt end but Charlie continued to paint...
Hong Kong Harbour
Hong Kong Harbour
Sunday June 19th 1887.
(sketched from the ship.)
Hong Kong Sailors' Home
June 1887 (Queen Victoria's Jubilee) Sailors' Home, Hong Kong.
Main Street Hong Kong. June 1887.
Hong Kong

A ride in a Jin-Rickshaw

Hong Kong harbour
The view of Hong Kong Harbour from my room.

At Hong Kong on the 7th July 1887, Charlie signed on as an ordinary seaman on the SS Propontis bound for Liverpool, England.'

SS Propontis
Charlie sails for England on the SS Propontis.
Charlie loft
Removing the signal at Port Said
Monsoon in Manilla Bay
Monsoon in Manilla Bay.

They arrived in Manilla, Phillipines on 14 July 1887. The NW monsoons had been blowing for six weeks and they were unable to load.

Port Said
This photograph of Port Said was in Charlie's Diary
together with his artwork of this journey.

The White Cliffs of Dover, Channel
Sunday Morning, Oct 5th.

They arrived in London on 5th October 1887 where Charlie wasted no time in visiting his family.

Charlie visits his mother
       's grave
Sunday 5th Oct 1887, Visit Mother's grave
at Nunhead Cemetery with sister Bess.
'In Loving Memory of Emma Louisa Lowe Hammond
Who died Sept 19th 1885
Aged 59.'
Charlie visits Uncle Tom
       's grave
Visit to Wickham Road, Lewisham to see Uncle Tom and Aunt Emma Fry.
'The last to see me off, the first to welcome me home again.'

From London they sailed to Liverpool where Charlie was discharged on 7th Oct 1887. He records that in Liverpool 'I spend the most miserable time of my life.'

Port of Liverpool
Port of Liverpool from the Mersey
Discharge papers
Charlie's Discharge papers from SS Propontis.

The last leg of Charlie's journey takes him to Leicester in Lincolnshire, to the home of his Aunt Augusta nee Hammond and her husband Uncle William Henry Bates. Here Charlie's favourite sister, Emma Marguerite Hammond, known variously as Daisy or Tina was living with the Bates family and their cousins Altie and Kate. Daisy meets him at the station and drives him to St Marys Fields, home of their kindly Uncle and Aunt Bates. The contrast between life at the Bates' opulent home and his rough life at sea could not be greater, and Charlie shows in his art that he is keenly aware of this.

Charlie arrives in England
My beautiful bedroom. What a contrast with the tough life at sea!
Click on all the photos and drawings to see an enlarged version.

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