Given names: 
Given address: 
Beach Road Oamaru
Sheet No: 301

Biography contributed by Cheryl Joy Olds Amys

Annie Olds (nee Osborne) was born on 6 September 1856 in Cornwall. On 19 June 1882, with her husband James Olds and 3 small children, she sailed from Plymouth, England to Port Chalmers, New Zealand aboard the Ben Nevis. She kept a diary of this voyage which was so informative it was later transcribed into a play and performed in London to celebrate the millennium. It was titled Flying Fish and the Cook's Hat.

Annie struggled during the voyage with homesickness and seasickness, and all the while breastfeeding her baby. She became so thin ('I suckled my boy 8-10 times a night') that the Captain recommended port wine to give her strength but she refused. This may be because she was breastfeeding or possibly she was a teetotaller, or both. Instead she agreed to a cup of tea, aware that no one else got one.

She was a skilled and innovative seamstress who found time to do sewing and mending for the crew. 'The cook saw me with my needle and gave me two towels with red list (sic) and fringe to make two caps for him. So I put the red stripes for a brim and the fringe for a tassel and it pleased him well, so he promised to mind us with little things for the children and also to bake bread for us all the way out!'  He did indeed bake fruit cakes, jam tart and rice pudding to supplement their meagre diet. The 2nd Mate was grateful for his mended trousers and supplied the family with filtered water as the ship’s water was nasty. 

While rounding The Horn in rough weather, this stoic woman wrote 'If things were no better at least they were no worse'. Every night she thanked God for his mercies and deliverance.

Annie went on to have nine more children and remained a devout Methodist. It was said she was 'naturally of buoyant spirit'. The family later moved to Christchurch but it was while living on Beach Road, Oamaru that she signed the Suffrage Petition in 1893, aged 37. She died on the 15 March 1929 in Christchurch, aged 72.


Click on sheet number to see the 1893 petition sheet this signature appeared on. Digital copies of the sheets supplied by Archives New Zealand.

Community contributions

No comments have been posted about Annie Olds

What do you know?