Thousands of head of livestock, made the journey between Australian and New Zealand ports aboard the Wimmera. Unlike the special live–export trade vessels of today, the livestock conveyed on Edwardian steamships were held in [wooden] stalls on the ship’s deck. Livestock included horses, sheep, goats, cattle and red deer. Both news articles and shipping reports of imports and exports reveal the Wimmera‘s support of this domestic and trans-Tasman trade.
A wide variety of breeds were imported and exported aboard the Wimmera, including Border Leicester, Corriedale, English Leicester, Lincoln, Merino, Romney Marsh and Shropshire. In addition to flock animals these often included both stud rams and ewes.
Romney March Sheep. – By the s.s. Wimmera yesterday Messrs. Murdoch Bros. received five Romney Marsh sheep (four ewes and one ram), bought by Mr. A. Headlam, Lemont, Oatlands, of Mr. B. Seth-Smith, New Zealand. The sheep were landed in perfect condition, and should form a valuable addition to Mr. Headlam’s well-known flock, as it is well-known this breed of sheep are practically proof against fluke. Farmers having fluky properties should cross their flocks with this strain.
The Mercury, Saturday morning, January 14, 1905
Dalgety and Co., Ltd., report that they have just imported an important consignment of Romney Marsh sheep, on account of Messrs. G. And C. Hebden, of Errowanbang, Carcoar. By the steamer Wimmera, which reached here last Wednesday there arrived 151 stud ewes and 36 very high class stud rams from Dunedin. These were bred by Mr. C.W. Reid, of Balruddery, Mr. John Reid, of Elderslie, and Mr. W. Scoular, of Pukerau, and were selected by Mr. David Murray, a well-known New Zealand judge of Romneys, who describes them as a fine lot of sheep, a very level lot, heavily woolled and showing quality.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 21 September 1906, p5
One of largest number of sheep and lambs to be carried by the Wimmera on any one voyage was 965 and these were landed in Hobart from Sydney on 12 October 1914.
The smallest number of sheep carried on any single voyage was three. This number were shipped on several occasions, all being stud rams.
Unfortunately, livestock also suffered from the effects of adverse weather conditions experienced by the ship and passengers.
WIMMERA’S ROUGH VOYAGE.
Not having reached the harbor until 8.10 p.m. on Monday evening Messrs. Huddart, Parker and Co.’s steamer did not steam alongside her berth at Queen’s Pier til 8 o’clock yesterday morning. She departed from Sydney wharf at 5.50 p.m. on Saturday and reached Gabo at 11.13 a.m. the following day. From the outset stormy weather was encountered, the worst half being as far at Gabo. A south-westerly gale made the seas very heavy, which added much to the passenger’s discomfiture. Frequent downpours of rain also fell, but after Gabo was negotiated a slight change was experienced, and the atmosphere cleared considerably.
During the Wimmera’s trip across she was rolling so badly that Captain Kell decided to slacken her speed for three hours on account of the fact that there was a consignment of prize sheep aboard.
Daily Post 15 July 1914, p4
Although on the above occasion it was possible to mitigate the effects, on another voyage there were disastrous consequences to a number of the stock aboard.
EXPERIENCE OF THE WIMMERA.
FIFTEEN SHEEP KILLED.
The Huddart, Parker steamer Wimmera arrived from Sydney yesterday at 4.30 a.m. She left Sydney at 8.30. p.m. last Saturday, and experienced fine weather until midnight on Sunday. The wind then changed to the south-west, and gradually increased to a gale, accompanied by high seas.
The first sea that broke on board, during Monday afternoon, did considerable damage. Several hundred cases of fruit were swept overboard. Some of them fell into a pen of sheep that were stowed, in the fore-part of tho steamer. Of a total number of twenty-six merino flock rams, that were consigned to Messrs. Wright, Stephenson and Co., Dunedin, by Messrs. Dalgety and Co., Sydney, fifteen were killed by the falling cases of fruit.
The vessel had to hove-to on the Monday night, and, as the gale did not moderate, the same course was necessary again on Tuesday morning. The storm was then at its height. Another sea broke aboard, and swept some cases of fruit away and damaged the gangway railing.
The weather. moderated on Wednesday morning, and continued fine for the remainder of the voyage.
Captain Wylie remarked that it was one of the roughest trips across the Tasman Sea his vessel has experienced. The Wimmera’s behaviour during the height of the storm was very good, and she certainly passed through the ordeal well, and proved her sea-going qualities.
Dominion, Volume 1, Issue 20, 18 October 1907, Page 7
Less frequently carried were cargoes of goats.
Early in her career, nine angora goats were shipped by the Wimmera from Hobart to Wellington (via Lyttelton and southern ports) in March 1905.
SHIPMENT OF GOATS.
A rather unusual shipment was made by Messrs. Murdoch Bros. per s. Wimmera to-day. This firm consigned nine Angora goats on behalf of Mr. Thos. J. Fleming, Brighton Junction, to Mr. D. Ritchie. Chief inspector of Stock at Wellington. The goats were selected by Mr. T. A. Tabart, Chief Inspector of Stock here.
Examiner, Saturday 25 February 1905, page 8
A further four Angora’s were landed at Lyttelton on Friday 1 June 1906. The two rams and two does were purchased from the flock of Mr E. A. Scammell, [of Roonka, South Australia] and were destined for the South Canterbury station of Mr Frank Gardiner of Puran. A brief account of Scammell’s flock and the importation of Angora goats into New Zealand was published in the Adelaide Register several years earlier:
EXPORTATION OF ANGORAS TO NEW ZEALAND.
The one-time industry of rearing the Angora in South Australia appears to be reviving, and enquiries which are continually coming to hand for rams and ewes from the federal flock must be encouraging to Mr. E A. Scammell. The Federal flock was founded at Roonka, near Blanchetown, some years ago by Mr. Scammell on careful selection from Sir Samuel Wilson’s noted flock in Victoria and the Castambool flock of South Australia, originally owned by the late Mr. Price Maurice.
Elder, Smith, & Co., Limited, have shipped, on account of Mr. E. A. Scammell, for transhipment at Sydney on Saturday, August 9, to the Department of Agriculture, Wellington, New Zealand, 20 Angora ewes and five rams at satisfactory prices.
On the same day as these left Port Adelaide a draft was also forwarded to Fremantle on account of a Western Australian buyer. Other important sales have been effected for forward delivery, and the demand for Angoras at the present appears brisker than for a considerable time.
Register, Friday 8 August 1902, page 4
A single bull was among the imports of the Wimmera into Melbourne from New Zealand ports, via Hobart on Sunday 2 September 1906. It wasn’t the only one. Although its specific breed is unknown, a number of breeds are known to have been shipped between Australian and New Zealand ports by the Wimmera, including Ayrshire, Hereford, Red Danish and Shorthorn.
Some of the first cattle to be shipped aboard the Wimmera were destined for exhibition at the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales’ Easter show in April 1905:
The Southland News states that Mr D. McCallum, a well-known breeder of Ayrshire cattle, shipped by the Wimmera 28 head of his herd, consisting of bulls, cows, and heifers, which are to be exhibited at the Sydney show, opening on the 19th inst. By the same vessel Mr Robert Allan ships 12 head of superior animals, carefully selected by him from standard breeders. The stock will afterwards be offered for sale at Sydney.
Otago Witness, 12 April 1905
Dalgety & Co., Ltd., imported by the Wimmera from Denmark, two Danish red bulls on account of Messrs Anderson & Donald, of Featherston. These are said to be the first bulls of Danish strain to be imported into the colony.
Bay of Plenty Times, 29 June 1906, p2
The s.s. Wimmera is taking six Shorthorn bulls to Sydney to-day, shipped by Messrs Pyne and Co. The steamer takes also a filly, by Seaton Delaval—Cantatrice, shipped by Mr J. B. Reid.
Star, 22 March 1906
“Thirteen shorthorn bulls and four draught entires were shipped to Sydney from Lyttelton by the s.s. Wimmera on Friday. …
Seven shorthorn bulls and four draught entires, shipped by Mr J. Small, of Tinwald, and six shorthorn bulls and two shorthorn heifers, shipped by Mr W. Nixon, of Killinchy, left Lyttelton on Friday last by the Wimmera for Sydney.”
Otago Witness, 28 March 1906
On the 11th of March 1907 the Wimmera arrived in Auckland from Sydney. Among her cargo on this trip were four red deer. No doubt imported by one of a number of acclimatisation societies in the Dominion or a landholder for their private stock, the deer would have eventually been subject to the seasonal hunting.
© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021