John Weymouth was born 28th August 1802 in Gampton, England and died 7th June 1887, in Coromandel Valley South Australia. He first married Mary Ann Pitts on 23rd July 1820 in Malborough, England, daughter of Thomas Pitts and Catherine (no details on her passing). He later married Jane Shanahan 20th September 1858 in St Patricks, Adelaide, SA, daughter of Michael Shanahan.
John was a bricklayer in England. John and Mary Ann lived in Honeybourn Court, Langport, Portsea, Hants. He applied for emigrant passage on 13th March 1838. At that time he had seven daughters aged 17, 16, 12, 10, 6, 4, 2, and one son aged six months.
The family left England on 29th May 1838 aboard the Pestonjee Bomanjee, on what would have been an eventful and arduous journey.
The following information has been taken from letters and diary records of the journey, which are held by the Mortlock Library of South Australia.
The passengers and crew all helped to stow all of the gear, then on Monday 28th May 1838 at 3pm a steamer began towing the Pestonjee Bomanjee on the first leg of her journey to the new colony of South Australia. Govenor Gawler was among those making the journey.
Approximately two hours later she was anchored off Gravesend. The following day was spent in loading fresh provisions and cleaning up the ship.
Wednesday 30th May saw the ship leaving Gravesend, but not without incident. A man was knocked overboard, but was safely picked up by a nearby boat. Soon after this, the pilot left the ship, now in sight of Dover and Deal.
The ship anchored in Plymouth on 6th June and the next few days were spent loading fresh provisions, luggage and of course the emigrants who had been waiting there (including our Weymouth family).
The voyage began in earnest on 11th June 1838 at 4pm. At first all aboard had to get their sea legs. Many were unwell due to fierce winds. Once a week there was fresh meat day. At times meat was scarce and this was cancelled, much to the disgust of all on board. Once the Captain ordered two pigs to be killed and a nourishing soup was enjoyed by all.
There were many trials to be endured during the long voyage and a few joys, too. On 19th June an emigrant woman had a baby, which was called Pestonjee Bomanjee. The child died two days later and was buried at sea.
On Sundays there were prayers and Sermons twice a day. These would have been conducted by missionaries who were among the passengers.
A visit to Santa Crux for fresh provisions provided a welcome break for all. On the 22nd July the ship crossed the Equator and the usual hilarity ensued, with the Captain getting out his telescope for the ladies to “see the line”.
Another baby – one of the intermediate passengers this time.
Many whales were sighted throughout the voyage. Several times albatross were caught, which were a welcome addition to the meat supplies: these birds having wingspans of around 6-8 feet.
The visit to Rio Harbour was not quite so uneventful as the visit to Santa Crux. An American Whaler dragged anchor and ran foul of the Pestonjee Bomanjee causing considerable damage and costing the Whaler’s Captain 35 pounds and a stopover of nine days for the repairs. Ten days out of Rio, squally weather damaged a spar and sails, slowing the ship’s progress to 9 miles per hour.
A wedding on board between one of the crew and one of the young ladies of Governor Gawler’s party was cause for great celebration, and all on board endeavoured to aid in the preparations. No grog was allowed.
The death of a child a few days later meant another burial at sea.
Due to it being the wrong season, the ship had to go around the Cape without calling in. The next break in monotony was the trial of a man who had ill-used his wife and family. He was put into irons, but on pleading for mercy was let off. A fight about milk between two on board led to an enquiry.
Two of the emigrants’ children died and another baby was born.
On 4th October, Land Ho! Ship was in sight of the Coast of New Holland, near Cape Leeuwin. Several days later Kangaroo Island was sighted and the ship headed up the Gulf toward Holdfast Bay. The passengers had to be enlisted to help sail the ship as about half of the crew were suspended due to drunkenness.
One hundred and twenty one days after leaving Plymouth, the Pestonjee Bomanjee finally anchored off Holdfast Bay, seven miles off shore. The anchor dragged sending her another three miles out in the wind. On 13th October the passengers finally disembarked (being rowed to shore in the ship’s boats). On 14th October Governor Gawler and his party disembarked to a 21-gun salute from the ship with a return of the same from the shore.
Those who wanted to go to the fledgling township of Adelaide had to walk the seven miles in hot, dry, dusty conditions, only to find there were only reed or mud huts or holes to live in. Food was scarce and expensive; as by the time the ships arrived they had used most of their provisions.
The summer of 1839 was very hot. Those who wished to farm had to clear land and learn to farm in the differing seasons and conditions from those with which they were familiar. Some of the names on the Passenger List are still familiar today.
The 1841 Census shows John Weymouth and his family living in Gouger Street, Adelaide. Little is known of his early years in the colony, but it is assumed that he began his craft of stonemason as soon as he was able. He may have, in fact, helped to build some of the city’s early buildings. It is known that he went to work in the general area of Coromandel Valley from the mid-1840s as the following excerpts from a letter by Mrs Joan Kernot show:
“Early in 1849 my father commenced to build the house on Hurd’s Hill and there were great works going on. Quarrying stone and burning lime for the masons and it was all soon got ready. All hands had to go to work in earnest to get all in order to make a good start on our new house. The mason’s name was John Weymouth and a good builder he was. My father then heard of them living at Hindmarsh near to Adelaide. He soon came to the Valley to live as he found it too far to travel from his home back to his work every week”.
This is the third dwelling that we know of that John built in the Coromandel region at this early date: the first being “Craiglee” in 1844.
John took up land off Ackland’s Hill Road (formerly Sandy Lane, now Weymouth Road) Coromandel East. It is believed that he built the house in which he, his wife and family lived, and which is still in use today. On the property there, he pursued his livelihood of yeoman farmer and builder, quarrying stone from very near to his house. The stone was used in many buildings both near and some as far as Hawthorn down the hill in later years. The stone was quarried out with pick and cross-cut saw and carted by bullock team to wherever it was to be used.
John's son-in-law, George Hinchliffe, was a lime burner, so it is quite probable that George worked on some of the building sites with John, until he left for the Victorian gold fields in the 1850s.
Another son-in-law, Charles Sheldon, learned the trade of stonemason from John.
Helen Nichol and Helen Weymouth, with contributions by various other Weymouth descendants.