I had told him that I was from a Seafaring background, as my Grandfather George Wheatley Swaries had been a Chief Engineer with B.I.S.N. Company – British India Steam Navigation Company. George Wheatley Swaries, was born in Calcutta in 1887. As a young man George joined the B.I.S.N Company as he did not want to continue in the long established family business in Calcutta. This business was Peter Swaries & Company - Funeral Undertakers, Sculptors, Stone Mason & Engravers since 1851.
George’s Great Grandfather was one of three brothers who left Portugal as Merchant Adventurers (I say Pirates!!!). George travelled to Glasgow to take his ticket (Engineers qualification) and was told to go to the Hamilton house (Hamilton being my Grandmothers maiden name), as there was always someone away at sea! Hence there were always spare beds in that household. It was here George met my grandmother Jessie Letham Hamilton, who was only 15 years old at this time.
Eight years later in 1917 when George came back for his Chief’s Ticket he married Jessie and following their son's birth months later, she followed George out to India. They set up home eventually in Rangoon Burma where my mother Marjorie was born in 1920.
My maternal grandfather Robert Joseph Hamilton was a Chief Steward on many City Line ships. In 1897 on a return journey from India on the ‘City of Bombay’ where he was accompanied by his wife, daughter (my granny) age 4 and son (Captain Robert Lloyd Ashley Hamilton) age 18 months. His wife died of small pox aged 32 and was buried at sea (Latitude 43.8 north Longitude and 8.53west - Bay of Biscay). She had asked her husband to get his maiden sister Annie to look after the children, not knowing that Annie was engaged to an old family friend and Church of Scotland Minister.
Robert’s good friend Daniel McNeilage was Port Commissioner at Calcutta, and had been widowed with 5 young daughters - he had to find a wife and mother to the children! He came back to Scotland and to the “Hamilton” home. There was a whirl wind romance between the maiden sister Annie and Daniel. Annie left for India married to Daniel and with her brother’s two children to be met in Calcutta with Daniel’s five daughters. You can see there was a strong link between my home and the seafaring men of Calcutta.
My Granny’s father Robert, remarried several years later to an older widow and his children were brought back home to Scotland. It was not a happy situation and as they grew older they grew away from the home. Granny went to stay with the maiden Aunt Nellie who kept home for her sea faring brothers and Grand Uncle Lloyd (the Captain referred to above) ran off to sea at the age of 14. He worked his way up from a Deck hand to Captain and was in both the Royal and Merchant Navy.
I am the first family member to sail from Britain to India (Mumbai) since my grandfather returned in 1939. Grand Uncle Lloyd continued at sea until late 1950. He was Captain on the vessel that laid the telephone link in the Atlantic between Britain and the USA.
I am going onto Fremantle to visit my Mum, sister and family in Perth and friends in Melbourne. At the beginning of May I will be attending my son Alan’s wedding to Katie, an Australian girl who lives and works in Glasgow, (at the Burrell Collection Museum). They will marry in Adelaide her home town.
I had the privilege of obtaining the information from the bridge of the time we would be sailing by ‘great granny’s’ burial place. I got a rose spray from the ship to throw over the side into the sea, said a prayer, and blew kisses as a symbol of the love I have for her and also that of my cousins, who really wished they were with me on this memorable journey.
Mum’s older brother also George became a Midshipman with the Paddy Henderson Line, “Blairspey” and unfortunately in August 1935, he took appendicitis which turned into peritonitis. As no Doctor was on board, he died aged 17. His burial took place in the Caribbean, Gran never got over loosing both her mum (Jessie Urquhart Hamilton who died of small pox as mentioned above) and her son George Charles Swaries.
The Family sailed back to Scotland, from Bombay on the P&O liner, SS Rajputana around 1925. I have my grandfather’s trunk with me with his initials ‘GWS’ on it and all the P&O labels etc, from his many crossings from India to Scotland.
Mr Ghandi travelled on board Rajputana 1931
Avril received a signed card from all of the Headliners Theatre Company which has just made her trip! Best wishes to Avril as she leaves us at Fremantle tomorrow to enjoy her three months in Australia - Lucky Avril. I am so pleased that her GRAND VOYAGE was truly GRAND.
Today was another beautiful day on board Arcadia with perfect sea and sun conditions! Just look at the history with P&O Cruises and Australia - we have been serving these waters for over 80 years. Arcadia will be the largest Cruise Ship to visit Fremantle and Adelaide. The shipping service that we operated between the UK and Australia was the largest planned immigration of people in history. P&O Cruises were very much instrumental in building this great country Australia.
'The divine essence itself is love and wisdom'