John Horsburgh

Voyage to America


The November 1946 edition of The Scots Magazine includes an account of a voyage  from Liverpool to New York, undertaken by John Horsburgh in 1855.

This article consists of extracts from John's diary written during the 22 day voyage.  It makes entertaining reading.  It would be good to know if John's diaries have survived and to discover what else he wrote.

Here are some extracts from his account of the voyage:

1  Feb

"We (four young men, ages 19 to 20) met at Liverpool and went on board the sailing ship 'Princeton' with our baggage."

"The passengers, I guess, number 230 to 250, mostly Irish.  They occupy the upper steerage"

"We are in the second cabin and have a room to ourselves  -  four for 18  4 10/- each."

2 Feb

"The Irish are very noisy as 'Patricks' always are, for they have no patience to speak one at a time."


"9am  They are pulling up the anchor and the sailors have commenced singing and working in right earnest.   We have now got a steamer to tug us down the river."

"12 noon.  The pilot left us with the steam tug 'Constitution' and we are now left to the wind, sail, and tide, and, can I forget to say, also Providence.  The Captain now took command."


"We are going slow  -  the wind is not strong and is against us.  In the morning we heard the Irish at their devotions."

6  Feb

"My birthday [his 21st]  -  first thoughts of home and old connections.  Thankful to say we are safe out of the Channel  - borne onto the broad Atlantic."


"Awoke last night with a noise I cannot describe  -  men and women roaring and swearing, praying and invoking mercy from Mary  -  all unfastened goods rolling from one side to the other."

8  Feb

"Wind not quite so strong but still favourable  -  it is warm to-day  -  just like a day in June at home.  Have sailed 162 miles since yesterday."

9 Feb

"Awoke hearing a cock crow  -  got up and made porridge."


"Reaching the top of the stairs I heard the wind roaring and whistling, the masts cracking  -  the waves boiling up and swelling with wrath.  Oh! it was  beautiful!  I rushed downstairs for my waterproof telling the boys to get out of their beds and come upstairs if they wanted full value for their money."

16  Feb

"Storm abated last night. We are in the latitude of the Banks of Newfoundland  -  the sun is hot but there is a cold east wind.  15 sails up and going well."


"Deck covered with ice.  Bows of ship are like pillars of beautiful marble.  Saw a pilot.  Hailed him.  We are 50 miles from New York."

"Had a long dialogue with the first Mate who will be Captain next voyage and well deserves it.  Neither he nor the captain in their united or separate experience ever had such a quick passage across the Atlantic.  Longest time was 8 weeks and we are within 40 miles of New York in three."


"Land Ahoy!!  I was up on deck first.  Extremely cold. (20 below zero).  9.15am.  Hailed a steamer and reefed our sails to which a vote of thanks.  Now in tow of the steamer tug 'Titan'. "

"The coast is beautiful.  Houses and trees in abundance  -  a thin coat of snow covers the ground."

"2.30pm.  Full in Port, 22 days and four hours since we sailed.



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