Guide to the Journal of James Espie White (as filmed by AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

White, James Espie
Journal of James Espie White (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
Collection Number
1 item
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Journal 1863 of White's voyage to Australia on the Henry Fernie September-December 1862. Most of the passengers were Irish, and White writes of their attitude to the English and Scottish passengers. He describes in detail conditions on board, entertainments arranged during the voyage, relations between the passengers, marine life observed, and deaths and burials at sea. He writes vividly of the ship's arrival at Melbourne and his first impressions of the city and its people. An appendix to the 153-page journal contains a copy of a testimonial presented to the captain and published in the Argus of 26 December 1862, a table recording the ship's bearings each day and a note of the destinations of his cabin mates Frederick King, Arthur Hiddle, George Samuelson and James Hall.

A foreword to the journal states that the author travelled to Australia in September 1862 'to join his brother, John White, a government contractor … building a breakwater at the Clarence River Heads, New South Wales'.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example:- M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1978 (AJCP Reel: M864). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

Edinburgh Central Library, Edinburgh Public Libraries, Edinburgh.

For further information, see Edinburgh Central Library (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding Aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Clarence River, New South Wales; Hall, James; Henry Fernie (ship); Hiddie, Arthur; Melbourne, Victoria: immigration to; Irish in Australia; King, Frederick; Samuelson, George; Scots in Australia; White, James E.; White, John


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 500, p. 194.

Biographical / Historical

James Espie White (1846-1865), the son of a shopkeeper, was born in Edinburgh. He was educated at the Edinburgh Institution and Edinburgh University. In September 1862 he sailed to Australia to join his brother, John White, who was working as a government contractor on the construction of a breakwater at the mouth of the Clarence River. It seems that James White also spent some time in Queensland and in Melbourne, where he had other relatives. His health declined and he returned to Scotland in 1865. He died in September 1865.

This information was recorded in the manuscript by White's brother, Alexander White of Edinburgh, in January 1900.

Item Descriptions

Reminiscences of James White, 1863 (File)

Narrative by James White of his journey from Edinburgh to Liverpool and his voyage to Melbourne on the sailing ship Henry Fernie, 11 September – 23 December 1862. (153pp. + 11pp. of appendices) The narrative was written in Melbourne in March 1863.

In a dedication to his mother, White wrote that he was one of two passengers in his cabin who managed to keep a journal throughout the voyage. He subsequently used the journal to write his narrative, leaving out references to weather, the seas and the like in an effort to make it 'less dry and monotonous'. He largely omitted dates, so the resulting work is, strictly speaking, not a journal but a general account of life on the ship on the long voyage to Australia.

The narrative is in the form of a book, beginning with a humorous title page and imprint ('Published at S. Yarra, 1863'). There are four chapters:1 Leaving home (p. 1)2 First part of the voyage (p. 15)3 Tropics (p. 64)4 Last part of the voyage (p. 92)

There are a few sketches in the volume and a number of appendices.

The narrative opens with White's parting from his family in Edinburgh, the train journey to Liverpool, and his boarding the Henry Fernie. The account of the voyage does contain occasional references to storms, seas and the sighting of other ships, as in most ship journals. However, the bulk of the narrative deals with the life of the passengers, especially White and the four men who shared a cabin with him. In varying detail, he wrote about the organisation of the messes, daily routines, meals, sea sickness, flooding in the cabin, impressions of the sea and sky at various times of the day, church services, games, concerts, relations between male and female passengers, divisions among saloon passengers, relations with the predominantly Irish passengers in steerage, fighting and threatening behaviour on the part of steerage passengers, the influence of two Catholic priests and their objections to the singing of the National Anthem or Rule Britannia, the sighting of the Irish coast, Madeira and the Brazilian coast, the heat of the tropics, sightings of southern constellations and of sharks, a nautilus and an albatross, the death and funeral of a consumptive girl, a mock trial, speculations about the arrival in Melbourne, and the anecdotes of passengers. The work ends with the first sighting of the Australian coast (22 Dec. 1862), disembarkation at Melbourne, first impressions of Melbourne including the number of Chinese in the streets, and White's meeting with his uncle. Throughout the narrative there are quotations or extracts from poems.

At the beginning of the narrative there is a map showing the route from Liverpool to Melbourne and two photographs of White, evidently inserted at a later date. One was taken before he left Edinburgh in 1862 and the other before he sailed home in 1865. The sketches are mostly unidentified, but include a profile of Madeira.

There are four appendices at the end of the volume:1. Copy of a letter from White to Rev. Sheedy (?), 3 Oct. 1862, written on behalf of the intermediate passengers, protesting at any limitation on the right of passengers to express their loyalty to Queen Victoria.2. Copy of a testimonial presented to Capt. George Brown and published in the Argus, 26 Dec. 1862.3. Table showing daily longitudes and latitudes, 11 Sept. – 22 Dec. 18624. Notes on the deaths of two passengers and the destinations within Australia of White's four cabin mates, Frederick King, Arthur Hiddle, George Samuelson and James Hall.