The Maitland

I can see the picture clearly in my mind’s eye, because I remember it so well, even this many years later. I am outside of the home where I was raised. The day is really clear and I am every bit of eight or nine years old.
I had taken chalk and drawn squares to play hopscotch by myself. My neighborhood friends were nowhere to be seen and, being the high energy child that I was, hopscotch was the perfect answer for me that day.
My mind was quite active and my thoughts were traveling a mile a minute as I jumped from square to square. One thought kept coming back to me as I hopped along the sidewalk. I somehow just “knew” that I was going to have three children when I grew up and my intuition on this was coming through very clearly that day. I also “knew” that one of those three children was going to be a girl and, furthermore, I was going to name her after my mother. All of this was known to me when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade.
My mother’s name was Mary Maiteland but, even as a youngster, I wanted to reverse the names and call my daughter “Maiteland Marie.” I wanted to give her my middle name with my mother’s given name. I loved the name my grandmother had gifted my mother with… and I wanted to do the same thing with my own daughter.
My grandmother, whom I called Mama, and my mother’s sister, Rita, had the task of taking care of me. I don’t remember my mother – I really don’t – because she died of leukemia when I was two years old. My family did not talk about her much and, because I was so young, I didn’t think to ask. We were always taught, “Children should be seen but never heard.”
I do know that my mom was my grandmother’s first daughter of ten children and she had auburn hair and hazel eyes, the same as me. She was quite close to Mama and traveled with her often. I have many pictures of them together and you can see much love and affection between them.
When I asked how my mother came by such an interesting name, I was told she was named after a ship called the Maitland and that my grandmother had christened that ship. That was all I knew until the internet made research about this particular vessel so much easier to carry out.
The Maitland came out of Calcutta in 1810 and was converted from a Blackwall Frigate to a barque rigging for its voyage to Australia in 1838 with a shipload of emigrants. Most passengers were being “assisted” to emigrate from England by their parishes who no longer cared to support poor families. These families came from the south eastern part of England, notably Kent and East Sussex.
On this particular voyage, the Maitland departed from Gravesend, on the southern bank of the Thames, in Kent, just west of the river’s mouth. Because of the presence of disease on board, the ship was placed in quarantine at Manly Cove in Sydney, Australia on November 6, 1838. The passengers and crew of the Maitland were dispersed from quarantine as soon as they were assessed as not being infected. It is recorded that the Maitland made other voyages up until 1854, but these were apparently all as a convict carrier.
My grandmother was the Cherokee Indian while my grandfather was the Irishman. It was his family that came from parts of Ireland and England. So it could not have been my grandmother “Mama” who christened the Maitland, but rather my great-grandmother on the Irish side. They were the side of the family who spoke of the Maitland and later immigrated to the United States from Great Britain.
For years I had been under an erroneous impression and it only took a few minutes of Googling to figure out what might have really happened… a generation earlier than I had originally thought. It truly fascinates me what you can come up with when you start a research project like this. Nothing is a coincidence.
For example, my daughter Maiteland now lives out of the country and has been abroad for the past twelve years. She married a young man from Rochester, Kent in England.
The Maitland was docked in Gravesend in Kent which is a hop and a step from Rochester. Maiteland lived in Rochester, Kent last year and I spent time with her there. We visited Gravesend together not realizing, at the time, the family history that had briefly transpired there.
I truly enjoyed the atmosphere at Gravesend and I know I will be going back. This time I’ll open my intuitive portals to see if I can sense the energy of the ship that is so involved in our family’s memories and history. The fact that my daughter was drawn to the region where her namesake was docked 175 years ago sends chills up my spine when I think about it.
In a good way, that is. I figure there is more to the story that I haven’t learned yet. Or more to unfold that none of us has yet foreseen. And I’m just about ready for a new adventure right now. All aboard!