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From France, group three on the way

In February 1838 Peter Dillon had met with Bishop Pompallier in the Bay of Islands.[1] He would have heard how the Marists had travelled around Cape Horn. Later that year he left the Pacific, passed through Paris and reached London on 10 January 1839.[2] He immediately started a commercial venture to exploit his knowledge of the Pacific and joined up with a Sydney man, Daniel Cooper, a pardoned deportee, who had built a successful shipping business in London. Dillon had an acquaintance in Paris, a certain Peter Scratchley, to whom he sent a letter that found its way to Father Colin. From his extensive knowledge of the oceans Dillon argued that Cape Horn was about the worst way to go to New Zealand. He recommended travelling through London where his friend Cooper offered passage to Sydney for £ 70, a journey of four to five months at the most. Cooper could also arrange passage from Sydney to New Zealand for a mere £ 10. Mission goods to Sydney cost £ 2 per ton.[3]

As far as we know the superior general did not react at the time, but on 29 April Pierre Colin wrote to Heptonstall, Archbishop Polding’s agent in London, asking for accomodation for five missionaries and begging him to look for a ship to Australia. He may have mentioned Peter Dillon, but, in any case, Heptonstall contacted Dillon who came to a provisional agreement with Cooper and offered bookings for five men on the newly commissioned Australian Packet for 1625 francs (£ 65) per person. Piere Colin accepted the offer by letter of 16 May.[4].

That same week the missionaries were on retreat, followed by the Solemn Mass of Pentecost Sunday, 19 May 1839, and professions. Colin gave them some 2.000 francs in small change for travel expenses and on Tuesday 21 May the confreres in Lyon saw Petitjean and Viard off on the river-steamer leaving Lyon, a lot more comfortable than the former coaches! In all the excitement Pierre Colin forgot to tell the missionaries that their bookings were already arranged through Peter Dillon.

As the ship drew out of the city, they felt the pain of leaving, but the comfort of the ship allowed them to get over it in what Petitjean later remembered as ‘sweet conversation’. They relaxed after the last minute bustle, and reflected gratefully on the eager care of Poupinel and the concern of their superiors. Mutual support carried them along and they enjoyed each other’s company.[5]

They moved up the Saône and via the canals of Bourgogne they reached Paris where they stayed at the Missions Étrangères. The bursar had already bought what was further needed (a list had been sent ahead), and they only needed to pack things. They visited the Ministry of the Navy and with the letter of recommendation from Archbishop de Pins, and the help of Vigneti, who was an acquaintance of Jean-Claude Colin[6] and a secretary at the ministry, they obtained letters of recommendation from the Minister, Duperré, to naval commanders in the Pacific. They visited the Picpus head-house and met with a venerable old priest, an uncle of Fr. Bachelot whose death on the way to Pohnpei had recently become known in Paris.[7] Another steamer took them to Boulogne (although the coach would have been 18 francs cheaper!) where for an extra 1.25 franc they booked a bed on the ferry and reached London twelve hours later, well rested, on Monday 27 May.

Comte, Chevron and Brother Attale left Lyon the 23rd and reached Paris the 25th. They too stayed at the Missions Étrangères and left early the next morning. They made good use of the short time they spent at the seminary listening to the experienced missionaries in charge there, Dubois the rector and Tesson the bursar. The two found the Marists a bit supernatural, trusting too much in Providence. They drew their attention to the importance of the natural sciences, of botany and geology, and invited them to send plant seeds to the botanical society in Paris. Comte listened with some surprise and passed it on to Colin. They went on to Boulogne and crossed over to London where they arrived Tuesday 28 May. On 23 July the departure of five Marists, via London, was mentioned in the Ami de la Religion.[8]


  1. Cf. above, p. 70.
  2. cf. Davidson, op. cit. pp. 280ff.
  3. Dillon to Colin, 18.02.39, APM, 2276/11653.
  4. Cf. Davidson, op. cit. p. 297.
  5. Letters from the third group during the voyage, APM, 1405/20043. CS, doc. 70 [2].
  6. un jeune homme que vous connoissez, vous Monsieur le Supérieur, Petitjean to Colin, 25.05.1839, p. 2. How Colin would have known Vigneti is not clear.
  7. Bachelot and Maigret had sailed from Honolulu in November 1837, Bachelot died 5 December and was buried near Pohnpei, Maigret left Pohnpei in July 1838 and reached Valparaiso in December, a few days after Baty cum suis, cf. above, p. 67. His letters do not mention it, but Petitjean must have heard in Paris that the second group had been in Valparaiso in December. Petitjean to Colin, 25.05.1839.
  8. L’Ami de la Religion, 23.07.1839 (102), p. 152.

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