The voayage undertaken by Allan Hughan in the schooner 'Pilot' in the period 1868-69 was essentially a pearling expedition along the north-west coast of Western Australia, although general cargo was carried between ports as well to generate extra income.
Shipping records reveal that on October 13, 1868, the Pilot had been "in the river" at Melbourne, loading cargo for Fremantle. She cleared out the next day, passing Port Phillip Heads on October 17. Passengers on board included Allan, Phoebe and their two small daughters, 7 year old Ruth and 20 month old Minnie. Also accompanying them was Gilbert McCallum, the son of Jessie Hughan McCallum, Allan's deceased sister.
Gilbert McCallum, aged 14 1/2 years, wrote to his little sister Ivy McCallum from Fremantle when they arrived. The letter, which exists in part, reads as follows:
November 23, 1868.
My Dear Ivy,
I was very delighted to receive your nice long letter but very sorry you and Roland have been so ill and I trust you both will get strong again. I need not say that I hope Roland is a good boy for I never knew him to be otherwise and such a contrast between his size and little Marion’s but I wish you could hear her sing nearly any tune if you once commence it and she will beat time with her hands. I am very glad to hear that Roland talks so nicely.
I suppose you will not have Miss Hodgkinson with you anymore. I expect she was very angry with me when she heard that her woolwork accompanied us to Western Australia. I expect that you will have a large flock of pigeon before I return and also plenty of fowls.
The ship we have is only a small one but it is a splendid sea boat that is it rides upon the large waves just like a cork and very seldom a wave washes the deck. We have such a nice cabin though it is only a small one with small beds let in at the sides and curtains to draw close. On opposite side of the stairs is a good sized cabin which Uncle and Aunt use for a bedroom.
The ship looked very bad at first for she had not been painted for a long time but we have painted her white inside and the bottom rail of the bulwarks and every place near the deck is blue and the hull is black so that she is quite nice. We are building a storeroom to put the ship’s stores into. Some of the sailors proved very dishonest for they stole a lot of the spirits.
We were very unfortunate for having such bad weather to King George’s Sound but very fortunate to have such fine weather from there to here as Cape Leuwin is a very bad place to pass in stormy weather, but we have passed the bad coast and will have fine weather though it will be in one of the hottest places which are called the tropics.
I am really very sorry that old Ivey is so near death but more so to hear he carries on such bad ways when so near the grave.
But I forgot to tell you what Fremantle was like. It appears to be a very poor place all covered with sand. The glare of the sun in Summer must affect the eyes of the inhabitants very much. I cannot walk down the street without putting something over my eyes for the glare of the white road with the sun shining on it.
King George’s Sound is but a small township but has one of the finest harbours you could wish for. In the scrub surrounding the township grow some of the most beautiful flowers. Some are like scarlet bottle brush and other sorts of which are really lovely.
The pier here is not very large and vessels anchor at some little distance off. There are large sailing boats called lighters that carry about 30 tons which come close to the ship and carry their cargo to shore.
We are going to take several passengers and some cargo to Nichol Bay but I only know the name of two gentlemen- Dr. Mayhue and his wife and Mr. Broadhurst,( rest missing)”.
Dr Mayhue and his wife were being delivered to Roebourne where he was to take up the job of medical officer for the district. Mr. Broadhurst was Charles Edward Broadhurst (1826-1905), who with his wife Eliza (1839-1899) arrived in Fremantle in 1865 bound for the North-West. He became involved in the pastoral industry, pearling, fish canning (at Mandurah), and had guano interests in the Abrolhos Islands. Charles Edward Broadhurst was also later a member of the Western Australian Parliament, and is considered by many to be one of Australia’s first true entrepreneurs. Charles Broadhurst and Allan Hughan were partners in the pearling expedition, and their main mission was to test the first diving suit to be used on the north west coast of Western Australia.
Upon their arrival in Perth, the Pilot was boarded at 2:30 p.m. by Mr. Jackson of the Water Police. It was noted that the vessell's 'draft' was 7' 9", and that her Captain was Isaac Harris. A microfilmed shipping report also states that the Pilot had a crew of seven and four cabin passengers, two mails and 15 consignees' letters. On November 27, 1868, the Pilot left Perth and set sail for Port Walcott.
The newspaper Perth Gazette and Western Australian Times for Friday, November 27, 1868, carried the following advertisement:
"For Nichol Bay- the schooner 'Pilot' will sail for the above port on Saturday ( tomorrow) morning. For freight or passage, apply immediately to T & H Carter & Co, Fremantle, or on board."
The following day Shipping Intelligence reported " Departures: 'Pilot', 73 tons. J. Harris, master, for Port Walcott. Passengers: Mr & Mrs Hughan and the Misses (two) Hughan, Dr & Mrs Mayhew, ans Messrs Anderson, Broadhurst & McCrae. Cargo: 16 cases bottled beer, 42 sacks flour, 14 bags sugar, 5 bags rice, 5 1/2 chests tea, 106 cases and packages merchandise."
Robert Scholl was the Government Resident at Roebourne, near Port Walcott, and his "Journals and Occurence Books" record the arrival of the Pilot at Port Walcott. It reached the port on December 11, and on December 15, Robert Scholl visited the Hughans on board.
" ...we were introduced to Mrs. Hughan, a thin, pale low-voiced woman who with her dumpling two fine children were on board. Mr. Hughan showed me portions of his diving apparatus- French manufactured- and tried to explain it. We had but poor fare on board, having arrived just after dinner. They gave us rum and water and spiced mutton...invited Mrs H and family to our place, but she would not leave."
Later, Scholl reported that he was "engaged in the morning attempting to translate Hughan's French instructions for use of diving apparatus."
Previously during the month of November 1868, Allan’s friend and partner Charles Broadhurst wrote to the Colonial Secretary to request the loan of native aboriginal prisoners from Rottnest Island to accompany him on his pearling expedition. This request is granted on the ‘clear understanding that they are to be well treated while in your hands and returned to Fremantle at or prior to the expiration of the trip you are about to make to test the Pearl Shell Fishery on the North West Coast of this colony.”
On December 23 1868, the ‘Pilot’ sailed out of Port Walcott to go pearling westward among the islands of the Dampier Archipeligo. On December 29-30 1868, two aboriginal prisoners named Johnny and Jimmy, who were loaned by the Government to the ‘Pilot’, were recaptured by police after escaping ashore.
Things did not go smoothly for Allan and the 'Pilot' on this trip...apart from the escaping Aboriginals and inclement weather, they also had to cope with what could have been a dangerous situation at Enderby Island.
On January 23, 1869, Charles Broadhurst reported to Robert Sholl that Hughan’s party had been threatened by the natives of Enderby Island. These aboriginals were infuriated that previous white pearlers had stolen their women, particularly a man named ‘Anthony’ ( also known as ‘Coppido’). The Pilot managed to ecscape the situation, but it would have been a very worrying time, particularly for Phoebe Hughan and her two small girls.