The Fight on the Beejapore (1995) – SOLD

Available at: SOLD

Detail photos for this Artwork

In this entertaining charcoal drawing by Hugh Sawrey, the artist records an incident on the large passenger ship “Beejapore”, a massive full-rigged clipper that was built in the United Kingdom at Saint John, New Brunswick in 1851.

The Beejapore displaced 1.652 tons for a keel length of 55 meters (the same keel length of the restored tall-ship James Craig, now anchored at Sydney’s Maritime Museum), with a beam of 11 meters, a draught of 8.8 meters, and 22,000 square feet of sail.

“The Fight on the Beejapore” drawing was created in 1995 during a trip that Hugh Sawrey and journalist Lawrie Kavanagh made sailing up the Queensland coast aboard the government survey vessel, the Trigla.

Sawrey and Kavanagh made a number of trips together through Queensland in a unique collaboration where Lawrie wrote the stories from the communities they travelled through, and Sawrey illustrated the stories with drawings.

The stories and drawings were published in Kavanagh’s regular column in the “Courier Mail” in Brisbane, and also published in a series of books released by Kavanagh and Sawrey.  The stories preserve some of the tales and history from the places they encountered on their tours that took them from one end of Queensland to the other, and from east to west.  In the photos above, you can see Lawrie Kavanagh’s newspaper column with his story about the “Beejapore” accompanied by Sawrey’s illustration that was published in the “Courier Mail” on 23 August, 1995. This article is fixed to the rear of the frame on the artwork.

Sawrey’s charcoal drawings show his natural talent and skill at drawing. The drawings capture with confident line, the humour and character of the people and places Sawrey encountered along his journeys, and are reminiscent of the sketches he made using scraps of paper he carried in his saddle bag in the years he moved on horseback from camp to camp during his droving days.

These wonderful charcoal drawings rarely surface for sale on the open art market. Over the years, being a specialist in Hugh Sawrey’s work, I’ve had the pleasure of offering a handful of these delightful drawings, including “The Fight on the Beejapore”.

The “Beejapore” ship made three trips to Australia in 1853, 1857 and 1863, transporting immigrant passengers from the UK. The 1863 voyage was the Beejapore’s third trip to Australia, carrying more than 700 immigrants, which was most likely the largest single cargo of passengers that ever landed in Queensland.  The passengers were colloquially known as “Be-japers.”

In “The Fight on the Beejapore”, Sawrey portrays a story from Lawrie Kavanagh’s family – that of the Kavanagh family’s first immigrant arrival into Australia, Lawrie’s great-grandfather, Martin who arrived in Keppel Bay, near Yeppoon on 28 June 1863 aboard the Beejapore.

Lawrie’s great grandfather, was amongst the 700 immigrants on the Beejapore that arrived in Keppel Bay, before they were taken on smaller vessels up the Fitzroy River to the then fledgling settlement of Rockhampton.

Many of the people about the Beejapore in Keppel Bay belonged to a group whose passage had been paid for by church and government immigration schemes that transported young people to the Australian colony to work.

The Beejapore, (despite being a very fast vessel, which took only 93 days to sail from Liverpool to Keppel Bay), came with a notorious reputation of overcrowding, bad hygiene and woeful lack of medical supplies, despite the ship’s doctor doing his best under the very difficult circumstances. During the  Beejapore’s 1863 sea voyage from the UK 36 passengers died at sea, 33 of them children.  On previous voyages to Sydney, the Beejapore also recorded several deaths.

The Beejapore had 3 decks of berths, with two dormitory steerage decks between decks with a height of eight feet to accommodate up to 1,000 passengers, livestock and provisions for a three months’ voyage.

The assisted emigrants travelled in steerage in conditions dramatically different from the cabin passengers. Cabin passengers enjoyed strolls on the poop deck and meals in a windowed saloon with a maple ceiling, stained glass-panelled doors, windows boxed out in perforated zinc to permit natural ventilation and ornamented with gold picturesque scenes, pilasters ornamented with silvered glass, coins of many nations studded around as decoration, and upholstery of embossed crimson velvet.

The assisted and government sponsored passengers in steerage were placed in berths that were just over 6 square feet, with four to six people per berth. The two steerage decks were divided left and right between men and women, with the insufficient ablution facilities at the rear. To make matters worse, the ship was chartered to carry twice the usual complement of steerage passengers, crammed into the dark belly of the ship, lit by few lanterns due to the risk of fire, and with little ventilation.

There was little privacy and scant security for the women aboard the Beejapore with the partition separating the single women on board from the men being likened to the door of a dilapidated hen house. The ship’s doctor was compelled to place a  guard over the door day and night to enforce the necessary separation of the sexes.

Sawrey’s drawing captures a flash point moment on the Beejapore while it was anchored in Keppel Bay. Trouble had been brewing within the crew during the voyage and it erupted at Keppel Bay.  A fight ensured when the drunken third mate, a very powerful Irishman was walking around the deck with one of the female passengers. A male passenger spoke to the third mate, most likely reprimanding him for fraternising with a female passenger, and a fight broke out, with the male passenger flattened and falling to the deck.

The ship’s master Captain Drenning strode on deck to order the third mate be clamped in irons, only to discover that about 25 members of his crew were in mutiny, seizing upon the ruckus created by the third mate and attempting to take control of the ship.

The group attacked the captain, but he was saved by his first, second and fourth mate who rushed to his defence. The third mate was duly clamped in irons until he sobered up, and was permitted to return to duty on the proviso that he desisted from trying to seduce the women passengers!

After leaving Keppel Bay, bound for South America, the Beejapore was lost  at sea without a trace and her fate remains unknown.

No pictures survive of the Beejapore, but  there are many of her identical sister ship, the Marco Polo, which was celebrated as the fastest ship in the world at the time, after making a return trip from Liverpool to Sydney in under 60 days in 1862.

Charcoal on Paper
31 x 25 cm
49 x 54 cm
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

More by this artist


Back to All Art for Sale