The immigrant ship Utopia sailed under a Captain Wilkinson arriving at Portland in 1854.
Stacey Longstaff, Captain Wilkinson's great-great-grandson now living in Germany had inherited several items with associations to the Utopia.
These included Captain Wilkinson’s sword; a decorative cut-paper memorial card acknowledging Captain Wilkinson’s death from cholera in Calcutta in 1855; an 1854 insurance certificate for Utopia; and a ship’s cabinet reputed to have housed the ship’s log. With no direct descendants to pass these items on to, Mr. Longstaff was looking for a suitable future home for them.
Mr Longstaff found Glenelg Shire’s museum listings on the Culture Victoria website where he contacted Eleanor who in turn contacted us. Mr Longstaff decided that Portland was an appropriate home for the objects and negotiations commenced to transfer them to Portland and for their subsequent donation to Glenelg Shire Council’s Cultural Collection.
The items were sent in two consignments - the sword, card and certificate initially, and once they had arrived in Portland, Mr Longstaff forwarded the cabinet. All items were sent at his own expense. During the time the parcels were in transit, emails were sent back and forth between Mr Longstaff and myself as we tracked the progress of the parcels from Rahden, Northern Germany to Portland.
Utopia was one of the 37 ships that brought assisted immigrants to Portland in the 1850s. From 1851 to 1857, 11,395 immigrants first set foot on Australian soil at Portland.
Arriving in Portland Bay on January 25, 1854, Captain Wilkinson was publicly praised by the passengers for the safe and speedy passage aboard the Utopia to Australia. Three testimonials written by the passengers appeared in the Portland Guardian on January 26.
Also, making the Utopia’s arrival in Portland a memorable event, 13 of crew deserted ship and headed for the Victorian goldfields. Only two were captured by the local mounted police near Mount Clay, north of Portland. During the 83 day passage from Liverpool (UK) to Portland there were 5 births and 5 deaths aboard Utopia.
The sword, certificate and memorial card will be exhibited at Portland’s History House in Cliff Street in a revamp of the display relating to assisted immigration into Portland in the 1850s. The ship’s cabinet will undergo conservation treatment before going on public display.
"This has been a thoroughly interesting and rewarding process, and Mr Longstaff has been extremely generous, and helpful all along the way," said Trevor.
Here at Culture Victoria we are happy our website has been able to play a role in facilitating the initial contact between Mr Longstaff and the Glenelg Shire team.