Hell Ship

Friday | Sunday


Michael Veitch has put together another one-man show, this time telling the true story of on one of the most dramatic, yet now forgotten chapters of Australia’s early maritime history. Hell Ship is a tale of hardship and heroism; of survival and love.

In the spring of 1852, the emigrant clipper Ticonderoga limped through the heads of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay after a three-month voyage from Liverpool. By the time she reached Australia, she was a floating catastrophe. Shortly after crossing the equator, typhus had erupted throughout her decks, and in just a few weeks, one hundred of her mainly Highland Scots emigrants had perished, hastily buried at sea with what little ceremony could be afforded. Schools of sharks, it was said, had stalked Ticonderoga’s progress across the oceans. 

Forbidden to enter Melbourne, the Ticonderoga was made to offload her human cargo onto a small beach inside the heads where, for the next six weeks, a makeshift quarantine hospital was established. Through the tireless efforts of the ship’s young surgeon, aided by a handful of passengers, including a courageous young Scots woman from the Isle of Mull, many lives were saved, which went on to establish Australian families which thrive to this day. In a subsequent enquiry into the disaster, the young surgeon emerged as the hero of the Ticonderoga story, was briefly feted, then disappeared into a quiet life as a country doctor. As these stories sometimes go, he married the young nurse, and the two lived a long and happy life.

They were also Michael Veitch’s Great-great grandparents, James William Henry Veitch and Annie Morrison. Hell Ship is very much a family story.