Allan's agreement


Out in Newfoundland, Tanya searched for all mentions of Allan's name in the archives. She emailed us to say that she'd found SS Virago's Log and Crew Agreement for the 1871 voyage but not those relating to his final voyage in 1872. However, she found the 1872 Log for Bertha, the ship he died on.

SS Oceanic 1871 We paid our fee and soon received our photocopies. In SS Virago's Crew Agreement, Allan agreed to be Chief Engineer on the voyage to India, signing the entry in a clear flowing hand as Allan Carmichael Wylie. He gave his age as 38, born in Greenock, and named his previous ship as the Oceanic of Liverpool. The Agreement listed the places where the crew agreed to go, ranging from the China Sea to the West Indies and just about everywhere else in the world. In reality, they signed to go wherever the owners and master wanted.

Virago Log Book 1871 According to the Log, life aboard was anything but easy for Allan. In Malta, 12 days into the voyage of 1871, three of his firemen decided to abscond and the local police had to find them - they'd received a full month's pay in advance so maybe they'd been on the razzle! They then refused to work in the engine room but eventually gave way when it was pointed out that they'd signed an agreement and they'd better do as they were told! The police were given 5 shillings for their trouble. But this wasn't to be the end of the matter. On their return through Port Said, one of the three troublemakers got drunk and had to be dragged on board at 5.0 pm and clapped in irons by the master until he'd sobered up. He was released the following day when they were safely at sea.

Allan must have been feeling the pressure of keeping his dozen stokers in order because 4 hours after the Port Said incident, when he was off duty, he was seen by the master, "going about the decks drunk, the 2nd engineer being in charge of the engines at the time. Wylie went staggering down below and ordered the engines to be stopped which order was not obeyed by the 2nd engineer. After persuasions of the 2nd engineer he went to his room. At 4am the following morning, being sobered, he took charge of the engines."

His drunken misbehaviour is a bit of a surprise given that the Crew Agreement banned spirits on board and, more importantly, because of Allan's background. He'd married in Free St Enoch's church which had broken away from the Church of Scotland in 1843. The new church had very high moral principles. Either Allan or Isabella must have been closely connected to this group because when the family moved to Liverpool, they worshipped in a Scottish Presbyterian church; in normal circumstances, Allan was probably an abstemious man.

Use the links in the right-hand column to see the original Crew Agreement from 1871.

Next: Allan's final voyage