Devonport Steam Ferry Company

From 1912 till 1915 he was employed by the Devonport Steam Ferry Company as master of most of their ships at one time or another, all of which were steam, and it is here where I as a four year old son of the Captain contribute to an incident that caused him some annoyance. In those days the family residence was in Buchanan Street, Devonport, also referred to as the Shore.

This was a return to old haunts for the Captain who had by now got a position as master, initially a tug master and then skipper in the Devonport Steam Ferry Company whose manager, Alex Alison, became a friend. He stayed as master in this company from about 1912 to 1915, and was highly regarded by it and its many regular passengers.

My father at this stage was Master on one of the daily ferries operating from Devonport to the City and my mother used to make up his `crib’ which I was despatched with to meet my father on his return to Devonport where we were living at the time.

C Daniel chara - Copy

A caricature of Captain Charles when working for the Devonport Steam Ferry Company.


In this instance my mother despatched me with the Captain’s lunch or crib duly wrapped up in a cloth to the Shore terminal where the Captain would duly receive his crib per his son. However, on arriving at the wharf I was met by the ticket collector who, on being informed that the bearer of the lunch crib was Captain Daniel’s son, volunteered to pass on the lunch crib when the ferry, due in a few minutes to berth, tied up.

All unsuspecting and on the assurances of the ticket collector, I handed over the crib and left for home. Well, of course, the inevitable occurred, the collector forgot to give the Captain his lunch which rather upset him. Anyway, the next day the same procedure of lunch crib was put in motion, the big exception being that on no account was I going to hand over my Dad’s crib to a stupid ticket collector, it appears that I left the ticket collector in no uncertain state as to whose responsibility the delivery of the said crib resided in, embellished with a few fruity phrases as to the stupidity of the said ticket collector. I believe that was my first impression of the family language which so aptly describes a fool.

Naturally all the ferry passengers, all Shore”ites”, had a lot of fun out of this slip-up to brighten up their work day world which the lack of levity makes duller. Apparently and according to some of the printed cuttings in the papers relative to this saga, the Captain was well thought of, a popular and well-liked man and above all a “Shore” identity.

We lived in a couple of places on the Shore of which I have a vague memory, one of which, Buchanan Street, was right in Devonport and handy through the park on the Esplanade to the Ferry Wharf there.

We must have lived in Devonport for some time and it was there that my youngest brother Charles died of spinal meningitis. I remember Buchanan Street but little else of the locality, and somewhere about this time father decided to join the Public Service as a Signalman at Hokianga Heads.

The following appeared in the local paper;

Skipper Charles Daniel, whose burly form is so well known in the wheelhouse of the Devonport Ferry Company, is slowly recovering from shock. The bulky mariner commands the dreadnought that takes the crème da la crème of Stanley Bay to town in the mornings. The other morning Charles consulted his chronometer. It wanted a few seconds to eight o’clock. Charles looked up the long sheep race which does duty for a wharf, and it was bare of people. Everybody was aboard. Charles asked a passenger who sets the tides and the moon by his watch what the time was. The passenger and he compared dials. The skipper’s watch was right. The skipper held his cheese-cutter in his massive right hand thrumb and dexter finger and scratched his head.

“Can’t make it out,” he announced. “Everybody’s aboard on time!”

Then he almost made a speech. As he dived for the wheelhouse and telegraphed the engines to get to work he was paler than usual.

“I never knew eight o’clock Stanley people so punctual before!”

Stanley people (who never joke because it’s not aristocratic) almost smiled. One man half tittered, but Brother Chadband reproved him, and he became a mass of gloom.