The Journeys of the William Peile, 1843-1851


by Edmundo Murray



The William Peile (also spelt Peele or Peelle) was a typical mid-nineteenth century barque, which sailed a few times to the River Plate in the mid-nineteenth century. The first journey was in September 1843, followed by other  voyages the following years, all with cargo and emigrants. In 1851 she sailed again through the southern seaways and arrived in Buenos Aires with forty-eight emigrants. According to the Whitehaven Herald (20 May 1843), she was 'a handsome new barque called William Peile in honour of the senior partner of that firm [Peile, Scott & Co.]'. Seemingly, the last South American journey of the William Peile was in November 1860. About a day run to the south of Rio de Janeiro, she encountered bad weather and was driven by the storm during the night towards the shore, foundering on the rocks - fortunately near enough to allow the passengers and crew to eventually land.

William Peile's arrival of 11 February 1845
announced in the British Packet
(Maxine Hanon)

The captain decided to make it to Rio de Janeiro and they started out to tramp. For three days they wandered over sandy country when in exhausted condition they arrived at a Brazilian ranch. Here they were welcome with total kindness and after five days of rest they found enough carts to enable them to continue their journey to Rio de Janeiro and later to Buenos Aires.

The following lists of passengers were compiled from Eduardo A. Coghlan's El Aporte de los Irlandeses a la Formación de la Nación Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1982), and from the British Packet paper. Sources used by Coghlan included the files of the Archivo General de la Nación Argentina ('Libros de Entradas de Pasajeros' 1822-1862). Coghlan selected the names which he presumed of Irish origin and sorted all entries alphabetically. He did not include passengers with other nationalities than English or Irish. Most of the additional data for individual immigrants has been obtained from the second major work of E. Coghlan, Los Irlandeses en la Argentina: su Actuación y Descendencia (Buenos Aires, 1987), as well as from M.G. & E. T. Mulhall's Handbook of the River Plate (Buenos Aires: Standard Printing-Office, 1869).

The William Peile was a small barque (or bark) of 279 tons burthen built in Workington, Cumbria (Northwest England). A barque is a three masted-vessel, square-rigged on the fore and main masts, and fore-and-aft rigged on the mizzen mast. The Peile was launched on 13 May 1843. Her maiden voyage was from Workington departing 28 June 1843 for Cádiz, where she called on 20 July, Montevideo on 12 September, and arriving in Buenos Aires on 14 September 1843. Captain Joseph Sprott was in charge, and the cargo included salt and coal to John Best & Bros. Capt. Sprott (b.1804) of Harrington, was a veteran of the North Atlantic and Pacific seaways. There were forty-nine passengers on board, most of them Irish. The Peile then returned to England, with Liverpool as her first port of arrival, which she reached on 26 February 1844. 

On 21 April 1844, the William Peile weighed anchor at Liverpool again under captain Joseph Sprot's command (a). Mate was William Scott (b.1823), and second mate John Bell (b.1826). In addition to the master and his two mates, the crew was composed of a carpenter, six seamen and two apprentices. The William Peile called on 13 May 1844 at Saint Jago (Cape Vert Islands, about 620 km off the west coast of Senegal). She was 'becalmed in mid ocean for three weeks' (b) and, after crossing the South Atlantic Ocean, she probably called on Rio de Janeiro and finally arrived in the River Plate on Sunday, 25 June 1844 (c). 'In those days, sailing vessels anchored far out in the river, from there they came as far as possible in rowing boats and then on in carts. When the tide was high, the boats came in as far as the Merced Church, and were tied up to iron rings to the wall of church. For many years after, those rings were still there' (d). What did the immigrants find in the Buenos Aires? 

Those were violent times for the Argentine provinces. The internal conflict between unitarios and federales (led by strongman Juan Manuel de Rosas) was mounting to a higher level, with consequences in Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile. British and French war vessels sailed up the Paraná River and fought against local armies. General Oribe, loyal to Rosas, blockaded Montevideo. However, in spite of the official disagreements between the British and Argentine governments, the local bourgeoisie was remarkably anglophile and admired the British lifestyle and products. In this way, the Irish newcomers were warmly welcomed in Buenos Aires as ingleses. When arriving at the port, since they were subjects of the British crown, all the Irish immigrants travelling on the William Peile were recorded as British citizens. Two months later, the William Peile weighed anchor at Buenos Aires on 31 August 1844, sailing back for Liverpool. 

The third trip in 1844 was recorded by the British Packet of 15 February 1845 (thanks to Maxine Hanon for this information). The Peile departed from Liverpool on 23 December 1844 and arrived in Buenos Aires on 11 February 1845 with captain Joseph Sprot and sixty-six passengers on board, and general cargo commissioned by John Best & Bros. From the last voyage, we know that she sailed out from Liverpool with John Bell as master, and arrived in Buenos Aires on 10 February 1851. In this voyage, there were forty-eight Irish immigrants recorded by Coghlan.


Passenger Lists:

Arrival of 14 September 1843

Arrival of 25 June 1844

Arrival of 11 February 1845

Arrival of 10 February 1851

a/ Lloyd's List & Index 1844, kindly provided by David Asprey (London, 2001)

b/ Murphy, Emily?, Private papers from Mary Anglim collection (Kilmore, Co. Wexford, 2002)

c/ According to E. Coghlan, the date of arrival of the William Peile at Buenos Aires was July 4th, instead of June 25th, 1844. The difference (ten days) may have been the time required by the local authorities to register the passage and other data of the ship.

d/ Murphy, Emily?, Private papers from Mary Anglim collection (Kilmore, Co. Wexford, 2002)

Other sources: (i) The National Archives (Kew), Richmond, Surrey BT 107 / 290, Transcriptions and Transactions, Series I; (ii) Lee, James, Dana's Seamen's Friend, New edition revised and corrected, and with notes (London and Liverpool: George Phillip & Son, c1860).

Acknowledgements: I am thankful to Jorge Fox and David Asprey for their valuable help, and to Derek Ellwood who provided important information on the construction and journeys of the William Peile. Thanks also to Maxine Hanon for the clips from the British Packet.


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