The following story is based upon real life accounts which appeared in the Scarborough Daily Post in 1920 as part of the 'Sea Dogs' stories by Forrest Frank. This story was told by Captain John Helm Gibson.
When we arrived in Mauritius a number of the seamen went down with fever and had to go into hospital, and the rest taking french leave, Capt Harrison had to ship a Lascar crew to take the vessel to Madras.
As the cook and steward was ill on board and the senior apprentice was also sick in the bunk, and the Lascars were not allowed to take the wheel, there was only me and another boy left for the duty, and we two steered the Barque all the way from Mauritius to Madras.
It was a hard experience for a young lad, but those were the days of rosy youth, when nothing mattered. Whilst waiting in Mauritius a fearful hurricane swept over the sea and along the coast, first carrying the topmasts out of the ships as they lay at their moorings and then as the hurricane changed round tearing the ships adrift from their buoys and sending them charging and crashing into each other.
Terrible damage was done. An English barque on our starboard side smashing down upon us, and we had to lash her to our masts, fastening the two ships together, and we had no sooner done this than a French barque attacked us on the port side and had to be made fast in a similar way. By the time the hurricane was over practically all the vessels were lashed in one tier.
There had been great loss of life at sea and as we were making repairs a big emigrant ship bound for Australia with 300 single girls aboard was brought in dismasted and in a bad plight.
The girls were taken ashore and accommodated to the best powers of the authorities, but I remember, though only a youngster at the time, the excitement the arrival of the vessel and her fair passengers created. Jack is ever a squire of dames and in addition to the merchantmen, British and French, present, HM frigate Glasgow and HMS Sloop Sheerwater were in port, and everybody did the amiable.
It took the emigrant ship several months to refit and we had been up the Bay of Bengal and brought a cargo of rice back to Mauritius by the time she was ready for sea. Her departure from that port I will never forget.
The liquid moonlight of the tropic night had magically fostered romantic love in the breast of many a gallant tar and blushing beauty, and as the ship hauled out the rigging and sides of the frigate and sloop were thick with men shouting and waving and throwing kisses, whilst girls swarmed on the bulwarks of their leaving ship.
A small fleet of ships' boats attended the ship, and I could see girls sliding down ropes into them and making for the shore. Three hundred were brought to the port, but I don't know how many went on to Australia.