Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Guest Post: April 6th, at Sea

Guest Post: April 6th, at Sea

By: Mark B. - April 06, 2010

More than five weeks into their voyage, the 425 Saints on the International (including ancestors of at least two of Keepa’s regulars) may have been excused had they found little to celebrate on April 6, 1853. They had sailed from Liverpool on February 25 – if being tugged by a steamer from the dock to the middle of the Mersey and casting anchor for a fair wind could be called “sailing.” Three days later, they were pulled by a steamer 20 miles out into the Irish Sea, but the winds remained unfavorable. The winds were contrary for most of the next month, blowing from the west or north-west on most days. The monotony of such unfavorable winds was broken only by the occasional gale, which one time caused much of the luggage to break from its lashings and roll about in the steerage, and another time broke great quantities of pots and tins. The worst may have been the squall that struck on the night of March 26, which “turned the ship nearly on her beam ends.” [For you non-sailors, that means that the vessel rolled until nearly flat on its side.]

The next day, Easter Sunday, the Saints fasted until 4:00 p.m. “in thanksgiving to God for their preservation.” But, a few more days of unfavorable winds led the Captain to recommend that they shorten rations, the six weeks with little progress in their voyage having put them at risk of running out of provisions before arriving at New Orleans.

The difficulties of the voyage did not, however, stop the Saints on the International from celebrating the 23rd anniversary of the organization of the church in grand style. Festivities began with the firing of six rounds of musketry at 9:30 a.m., and the rest of the morning was filled with the taking of the sacrament and the marriages of four couples. After breaking for lunch, the ship’s company convened again at half-past one, filling the afternoon with “the usual services of prayer and praise; songs, speeches, recitations, instrumental music, &c.”

Then came a feast of every delicacy the ship could afford, and of every pastry her cook could invent, after which the Saints met again on deck for dancing and more revelry. The after-party was down in steerage, where the singing and reciting went on into the night.

Perhaps the high point of the celebration was provided by Henry Maiben, a singer and actor from the English seaside resort town of Brighton, who composed an original song for the event, and sang all 10 stanzas, which brought “enthusiastic bursts of applause from the entire company.”

And now, for your enjoyment 157 years later, is Brother Maiben’s song. He sang it (and so can you) to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”.

On board the “International”
All joyful, and lighthearted,
Bound Zionward, four hundred Saints,
From Liverpool we started.
We’er English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh
Assembled here together;
Resolved to do the will of God,
Whate’er the wind and weather.

Then, sing aloud, ye Saints of God,
In one united chorus;
Old Babylon we’ll leave behind,
For, Zion is before us.

We have a noble President,
You’ll scarce find such an one, Sirs,
He stands near six feet six, in height,
And weighs near twenty stone, Sirs.
But, best of all, he’s full of love,
He’s frank, and open-hearted;
And as sincere as any that
From Bab’lon has departed.

Now, Elder Arthur’s counselors
(I wish you all to know it)
Are, Elder Lyon (from Glasgow),
The celebrated Poet;
And, Elder Richard Waddington,
(From London’s famous city)
Who’s been sick almost all the way,
Which has drawn forth our pity.

And Elders are appointed to
Take charge of wards and sections,
And do all things according to
The President’s directions.
Thus ev’ry regulations made
Which is found to be needed;
So that, there’s not a soul on board
Whose welfare is unheeded.

Then, of such fact, or incident
That’s worthy of remark here;
We have a faithful record kept,
By Elder Sims, our clerk here.
Amongst which you’ll find, two deaths, five bi[rths,]
And twenty-five baptisms.
Likewise (to-day) four marriages,
But no such thing as schisms.

The Captain’s name is “David Brown,”
My muse cannot refuse its
Verse, in reference to him;
He comes from Massachusetts.
Of course, he is “tarnation ‘cute,”
Yet, he is honest, “rather,”
And must, ere long, become a Saint,
And serve our Heav’nly Father.

The first mate’s name is “Alfred Howes,”
The second mate’s “Arch. Campbell,”
The third mate’s is “John Marston,” and
Then, comes a sort of scramble:
That is to say, a motley crew,
Called sailors, or ship-riggers;
Amounting to about eighteen,
Swedes, Germans, Dutch, and Niggers.

The Captain’s “Steward, and his wife,”
Next call forth our attention;
Then “Richard Foulton” Captain’s cook,
I can’t omit to mention.
And last (not least) the carpenter,
“Calle Westerlind,” a Swede, Sirs,
The first of the ship’s company
T’ embrace our Holy Creed, Sirs.

We’ve been on board five weeks and more,
And have endured much sickness;
We’ve also had headwinds and storms,
T’ impede the vessels quickness.
Yet, we have cause, and do rejoice,
Thanks to the God of Heaven!
For unto us, his blessings have
Abundantly been given.

To-day’s the 6th of April, and
We now, are celebrating
The glorious anniversary,
With gladness unabating.
And who? that could but witness now,
Our festive, happy faces;
But would obey the Truth, to share
The joy our Faith embraces.



  1. This was a lot of fun, Mark. Thanks for the post.

    I had to smile at the thoroughly Mormon way those Saints celebrated: six rounds of musketry, taking of the sacrament, and “the marriages of four couples”!

    By the way, that song — with specific references to individual Saints — reminded me of something in my own past. When I was in elementary school, the 5th and 6th graders got to go on an extended field trip each year. One of the teachers had a tradition of taking along her guitar and making up a song at the end of the trip, in which she would devote a line or two to each student. She’d stand there in the aisle at the head of the bus and sing the song about the trip and everyone’s adventures. I’d forgotten about that wonderful memory — thanks!

    Comment by Hunter — April 6, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  2. It looks like 1853 was a popular year to emigrate. I saw that ancestors of mine traveled in this ship as well as the Falcon and the Elvira Owen, thanks to the link to Mormon Migration that Ardis put up a while ago.

    I have lots of questions about this post and the voyage (very nice write-up, by the way, Mark B.) but will only ask one:

    Just how cute was Captain Brown!?

    Comment by Researcher — April 6, 2010 @ 10:42 am

  3. I found Henry Maiben’s Obit in the Des News:,5339999

    ‘genial comicalities’ and ‘graceful gyrations’ are not phrases we see much in Church circles these days.

    Excellent post, Mark, thanks!

    (for a moment there that looked like ‘excellent postmark’, which is of course another thing entirely :-))

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — April 6, 2010 @ 11:22 am

  4. I can’t answer that, Researcher. Sorry.

    There is a picture of Henry Maiben lurking somewhere–if I could figure out how to post that, you could ask (and answer, if you’d like) that same question about him.

    But Cap’n Brown was ‘cute. Which I suspect was an abbreviation for “acute.” The OED’s entry for cute suggests the same:

    cute, a. colloq 1. Acute, clever, keen-witted, sharp, shrewd. [And the usage notes show a whole pile of examples from the mid-18th through the mid-19th centuries.]

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2010 @ 11:24 am

  5. Ah, no need to add the picture here–just follow Anne’s link!

    Thanks, Anne!

    (And, believe me, I’ve been working for years at improving the gracefulness of my gyrations!)

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2010 @ 11:55 am

  6. Great story. I found myself trying out the lyrics to the tune in my head, which was fun. The shipboard marriages put me in mind of my great grand parents who met on a ship coming over from Great Britain in about 1863, IIRC. He was a returning missionary, and she the single daughter of recent converts. They didn’t marry at sea, but the courtship continued, and they were married in Utah later that year.

    Comment by kevinf — April 6, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

  7. You can probably look them up at Mormon Migration, kevinf. I’ve seen a number of missionaries listed among the travelers.

    Thanks for the explanation of “cute,” Mark B.

    Does anyone whether the claim that I’ve read somewhere that most of the crew ended up joining the church is true? Did any of the crew stay with the church and travel to Utah?

    Comment by Researcher — April 6, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  8. I cannot imagine being on a ship as long as our ancestors were, but it looks like they knew how to party and celebrate, much like the overland pioneers did at the end of each day. I enjoyed this post, Mark.

    Comment by Maurine — April 6, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  9. The Saints who sailed on the International spent longer than many others who sailed on other vessels. Some were on board as early as February 21, the ship left the dock on February 25, and they landed in New Orleans on April 23. That’s 61 days on board ship for those who embarked on the 21st, and 57 days at sea (if the three days in the Mersey can be considered “at sea”–they weren’t tied up to the dock, and couldn’t go ashore).

    The captain estimated during the first week of April that they were only 10 days sail from Liverpool–but shortly after April 6 the winds turned and they made good time the rest of the voyage.

    I don’t know whether a seasick and homesick British Saint would have felt better knowing it, but the International was a fine-looking vessel!

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  10. I love singing hymns, but I always have a little stamina problem when the verses exceed four! And this little ditty had 10 verses PLUS the chorus each time. I think the Victorians, without the fast paced tech we enjoy, were more prone to enjoy a nice lengthy song or poem. As i enter the fifth verse little red lights go on shouting “you must endure” “keep going” “just round this corner” “we’re nearly there” “don’t make me come back there and separate you two” “refreshments anyone.. last verse approaching”.
    Having said that, I think the use of the word ‘niggers’ in a song today would certainly keep everyone focused & ready for the fallout.
    p.s. thanks for the post. I’m a sucker for ‘any’ British connection. Love it.

    Comment by peter Fagg — April 6, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

  11. Some prominent names appear in this song. Because clerks don’t often get their due, I’ll tip my hat especially to George Sims, who was a long-time clerk for Brigham Young and who had perhaps the clearest, most legible handwriting I’ve ever seen, God bless him. While returning from a later mission, George drowned crossing one of the western rivers.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 6, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  12. Anyone else who is a sucker for British connections: Do yourself a huge favor and add Peter’s blog “Discovering LDS Britain” (link in Keepa’s sidebar) to your regular reading.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 6, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

  13. George Sims’ handwriting is legendary, I think? I’ve seen reference to it before. Thinks….. aha! Found it- the entertaining story of Sims’ Glaswegian wife:

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — April 6, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

  14. Fantastic post, Mark, sounds like a fantastic celebration to have been at despite the slow progress of their ship. Thanks, Anne, for the background info – I’m a sucker for any Scottish LDS stuff, as you know! 😉 (I already have Peter’s blog in my feedreader)

    Comment by Alison — April 6, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  15. Fun post. My great grandparents–William McAuslan and Mary Muir–were one of the couples married that day. And also my great great aunt Jane McAuslan, who married a William Evans the same day.

    Since crew members were not on the roster, it’s hard to trace whether some indeed did come to Utah. The only names we have besides the captain come from that song!

    Comment by Polly Aird — April 6, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

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