Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890
Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.3
Sunday Dec 8th 1889
A fine morning: Brindisi is much warmer than Bordighera: a milder moister air. C & D walked about in part of the queer town with its low flat oriental-looking houses. A busy market going on. The little urchins are trying to talk English, and tourists everywhere. A fine Australian Lloyd boat had come in during the night. Presently our P&O “Hydaspes ” from Venice arrived and later the P&O Ballaarat for Australia, the finest ship of all. The place was very lively. D delighted with all the big ships. After lunch we paid our hotel bills and went on board: A and B had excellent cabins. C in the 2nd class was well off. D the worst on the main deck near the sheep and far away from the saloon. We all walked about again: the old walls and fort are grand and there are some interesting old bits and churches here and there. The wind got up towards the evening but it was full moon and lovely. A big dinner at 7 o’clock, all engloish and Americans about 80 in number and not all yet arrived and all bound for Alexandria. How can we all get in in Egypt? How will Cairo and Luxor and the Nile boats accommodate us all? And for 2 months the P&O boats have been crowded similarly and the other companies have likewise taken large numbers . All promises well for the next days – but when shall I be able to write again? Oh when?
Notes from the editor...
The image shows the arrival of the P&O Indian Mail service at Brindisi in 1875 from a contemporary print.
Norddeutscher Lloyd (sometimes called the Bremen Line) had opened their new Imperial mail line to Australia via Brindisi on July 14, 1886, with the steamer "Salier". The Suez Canal had opened in 1869.
The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O Line) was founded in 1836 and connected through the Mediterranean to India 4 years later. The steamers left London every Saturday for India and fortnightly for Australia and China. Hydaspes (built 1872, 2,984 tons) is listed by P&O as sold in 1898 to F.Gore in Shanghai. The sailing which Bicknell recounts might have been its last outbound trip, or the new owner had leased it back to P&O. Ballaarat was built in 1882, 4,752 tons, sold and scrapped in 1904. It would have arrived from London via Gibraltar.
During the winter of 1889-1890, almost 11,000 tourists visited Cairo, “of whom 1300 went up the Nile” (Hunter, F Robert , "Tourism and Empire: The Thomas Cook & Son Enterprise on the Nile, 1868-1914."