Sunday, 11 October 2015

A shipboard romance aboard the SS Ballaarat

After my great great grandmother Ellen Jane Cavenagh-Mainwaring, formerly Mainwaring, née Cavenagh inherited the family property of  Whitmore in Staffordshire  in 1891, the Cavenagh-Mainwaring family sailed for England in 1892 on the SS Ballaarat to take possession of the inheritance. The family surname had been changed in 1891 to assume the name and arms of Mainwaring in addition to Cavenagh in acknowledgement of the inheritance. Of the nine surviving children, the six daughters and the youngest son, Hugh, travelled with their parents. The oldest daughter, Eva, was 24. The youngest, Gertrude, known as Kiddie, was 10.

SS Ballaarat
The Ballaarat arrived in London on 8 June 1892.  Mr and Mrs Cavenagh-Mainwaring and their children were on the passenger list. The ages on the list are mostly wrong.

from Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Series BT26. Class: BT26; Piece: 32; Item: 17 Month: 06. Retrieved through
Wentworth Cavenagh-Mainwaring was born in 1822. On arrival he was 69 not 43 as stated. His wife, born in 1845, was 46 not 39. Eva was 24 not 19. May (Mabel) was 23 not 15. Kathleen, my great grandmother, was 18 not 14.

On 4 October 1892 the eldest Cavenagh-Mainwaring daughter, Eva, married Herbert James Gedge, a naval officer.

Eva Gedge née Cavenagh (1867 - 1941) in about 1907
The wedding was reported in Australian newspapers, including the Adelaide Advertiser of 7 November 1892, the South Australian Chronicle of 12 November 1892, and 26 November 1892,  the Melbourne Punch of 17 November 1892, the Adelaide Express and Telegraph of 19 November 1892, Melbourne's Table Talk of 25 November 1892, and  the Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser of 10 December 1892.

Family Notices. (1892, November 25). Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 - 1939), p. 19. Retrieved from
Herbert James Gedge (1859-1913), the son of a clergyman, entered the navy at the age of 12. He graduated from the Royal Naval College in 1879.  On 15 February 1882 Gedge was promoted to Lieutenant. In the mid 1880s Gedge was posted to the Australia Station, the British naval command responsible for waters around the Australian colonies. The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser in their report of the 1892 wedding mentioned that Lieutenant Gedge had been on the Australian Station for five or six years, serving as Lieutenant of HMS Nelson and Dart.

I think for most of his posting Lieutenant Gedge was stationed in Sydney.  I checked the passenger list of the Ballaarat for his name. He was a passenger from Sydney together with five other Lieutenants in the Royal Navy, two naval doctors, and two other naval officers.

from Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Series BT26. Class: BT26; Piece: 32; Item: 17 Month: 06. Retrieved through
I assume Herbert Gedge and Eva Cavenagh-Mainwaring met aboard the Ballaarat on the trip to England in 1892. I have found no evidence their paths crossed earlier.

Related posts

Saturday, 10 October 2015

1892 journey on the Ballaarat

Portrait of Wentworth Cavenagh, Commissioner of Public Works of South Australia from 4 March 1872 to 22 July 1873 from the State Library of South Australia

Browsing the National Library of Australia's 'Trove' digitised newspaper collection recently, I came across a shipping departure notice which gives a succinct family history of my Cavenagh and Mainwaring great great and great great great grandparents. The Cavenagh-Mainwaring family were about to sail for England on the Ballaarat.

The Ballaarat was a P & O ship of 4752 tons built in 1882, designed for service between the United Kingdom and Australia. The P&O history site remarks that "Her dining saloon was considered particularly fine, and patent iron beds replaced bunks for her first class passengers."

Ballaarat – 1882 Greenock retrieved from

Latest News. (1892, April 27). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), p. 2 Edition: SECOND EDITION. Retrieved  from
Lots of information to follow up and facts to check.

Until I came across this information I did not know that James Gordon Cavenagh, my great great great grandfather, an army surgeon with the Royal Staff Corps, was at Waterloo. He is listed on page 20 in the list of officers as a surgeon in the Royal Staff Corps in John Booth's 1816 book of The Battle of Waterloo. He is also listed in The Bloody Fields of Waterloo: Medical Support at Wellington's Greatest Battle by Michael Crumplin published in 2013.

I also didn't know very much about his son, my great great grandfather, Wentworth Cavenagh. It appears that he was educated at Ferns Diocesan School in Wexford, Ireland. When he was 18 years old he went to Canada, Ceylon, and Calcutta and from there to the Bendigo diggings.