The British King



Joseph Liggins and his family emigrated to New Zealand on board the "British King". They sailed from Gravesend on the 15th March, 1884. They arrived at Cape Town on the 7th April and did not land again until they reached Auckland on the 5th May. They finally reached Wellington on Saturday the 10th of May.

Apparently when ships were chartered to carry emigrants they did not enter harbour but stood off Gravesend and some photographs show small boats alongside unloading emigrants and their luggage onto the ship. Ships like the "British King" besides being driven by steam also had sails so that if the wind was favourable they would be set and the use of steam would be reduced to a minimum. Presumably the ships travelled via Cape Town, although the Suez Canal was open by this time, so that they would save the passage charge through the Canal and could make use of the prevailing winds along the route.

The total cost of the fare was 75 of which Joseph paid a third, 21-15-0, and the New Zealand Government paid the remaining two thrids, 53-5-0.

According to "Lloyd's Register of Shipping 1889-90", she was built by Harland and Wolff of Belfast in 1881 and the owners were the British Shipowners' Co. Ltd. of Liverpool. It would appear that all this company did was to charter their ships to others and so in 1881 she was chartered to The American Line and then:-

In 1883 the "British King" and the "British Queen" were both chartered to the New Zealand Shipping Co. and the Shaw Saville and Albion Line for four round voyages from London via Cape Town to Wellington and Lyttleton in New Zealand.

According to the "North Atlantic Seaway" she was chartered (1885-1886) by the Guion Line (Liverpool and Great Western Steamship Co. Ltd.) for "one round voyage across the Atlantic".

In 1889 she was renamed "Werkendam" and the new owners were Nederlandsche Americk Stoom Moats (Known since 1897 as the Holland - America Line) registered in Rotterdam.

In 1900 she was sold to the Russian owned Chinese Eastern Railway and renamed "Harbin". In March 1904 when Russia was at war with the Japanese she was scuttled by the Russians to block entrance to Port Arthur. Port Arthur was a fortress on the Southern tip of the Liaotung peninsula, Manchukuo (now Korea) and was formerly a Chinese naval arsenal at a most important strategic point commanding the Gulf of Pe-chi-li and the Yellow River's entry into the Gulf. It was captured by the Japanese in 1894 and leased to the Russians later. The Russians surrendered it to the Japanese on 1st January, 1905 after a stubborn siege and it was during this stage that the "Harbin" was scuttled at the entrance to the harbour to try and prevent the entry of the Japanese.

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