Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (37):can we create interactive digital maps?

DIGITAL MAPS?

I’ve long had an interest in historical geography and historical atlases in particular. I remember well the impact a good map had upon my uni students in Jamaica. A map of the Atlantic Slave Trade and one showing the spread of Jesuit colleges in Europe during the Counter/Catholic Reformation were two of my favourites. Maybe that’s why I admire the work of cartographer, Mike Murphy, in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Cork, 2012.

These days, living in a ‘Computer Age’, the creative possibilities are exciting. The map below shows the location of some of the Irish Famine orphans in 1861, that is, according to the birth registration of their children.

Irish Famine orphans in Eastern Australia in 1861

Irish Famine orphans in Eastern Australia in 1861

I wonder how difficult it would be to create an interactive map? If we were really ambitious we should try something like the projects at Stanford University, http://web.stanford.edu/group/spatialhistory/cgi-bin/site/projects.php

But maybe that’s too ambitious for the uninitiated. Could we do something simpler instead, such as clicking on the dots in the map above to bring up all the information we have about the orphan who resided there at that particular time?

We may be lucky enough to have a photograph.

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose was living in Clare Terrace, off William Street, in Double Bay, Sydney, in 1861.

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Or a record of her marriage. This is Jane Troy‘s, in Portland,

Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria

Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria

You may remember Jane from an earlier post http://wp.me/p4SlVj-Di

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Maybe there are some probate records. I wonder how common it was for an orphan or her husband to make a will. I’d be surprised if even 30% of them did so. Here are a couple of examples, extracts only I’m afraid. I’m unsure about permission to reproduce such things. These are from Victorian records.

Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim

Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim

That was a sad story. The orphan, Jane Liddy, from Leitrim, married well but she and her husband died at a young age. Their considerable estate vanished in the maintenance and medical care of their nine children.

Another one,

Interesting effects

Interesting effects

The man knew his livestock, even by name, Boxer and Diamond and Fagan and Dandy.

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Let me demonstrate how this map business might work. Here is a map of the orphans in Queensland c. 1861. I’ve entered a few numbers. If we had an interactive map, what might appear if we clicked on numbers 1 and 2, at Ipswich?

blogqldorp61

It may only be a family reconstitution, no other material being available. If you click on the images you can make them larger.

So, number 1 is for Cicely Moran per Thomas Arbuthnot,

Cicely Moran from Galway

Cicely Moran from Galway

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Number 2 is for Mary Casey per Digby

Mary Casey from Longford

Mary Casey from Longford

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Can you find numbers 3 & 4 on the map?

Number 3 is for Bridget Murray per Lady Peel who was in Brisbane in 1861.

Bridget Murray from Roscommon

Bridget Murray from Roscommon

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Number 4 is for Jane Duff per Earl Grey

blogjdu

Jane is from Newtownards and is at Condamine in 1861.

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Number 5 is for Celia Dempsey per Digby(?)

Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire)

Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire). She is in Dalby.

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Number 6 is Margaret Plunkett per John Knox

Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry

Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry

The Armagh/Newry contradiction appears on the John Knox  shipping list. She was in Cadargo in 1861.

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Now where is number 7? It’s for Bridget McQueeney(ie) per Lady Peel

Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim

Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim

Bridget was in Laidley in 1861

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Number 8 is for someone we’ve met already, the spirited Margaret Stack from Ennistymon per Thomas Arbuthnot.

See the section ‘Moreton Bay District’ towards the bottom of  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf 

Here is a photograph of that feisty 14 year-old later in life, as formidable as ever.

Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare

Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare

 blogmstackIt looks as though she was at Baramba Station in 1861? My thanks to her ancestor who sent me this information.

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Number 9 is for Mary Ann Prendergast, once again per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway

Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway

Mary was at Toowoomba in 1861.

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I’m sure it would be possible to create interactive maps such as these. But we’d need a website and a number of helpers. I wonder what resources the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee has these days. Probably nowhere near as much as they would like. Imagine tracing how far the orphans travelled in Queensland (and elsewhere). Maybe one could invent an app. to allow people to map the geographic movement of their orphan ancestor? —-for a fee of course, or a contribution to one of the GIFCC Outreach programmes, http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/filer_private/2012/08/09/brochurenew_detailsprint.pdf

I suppose it’s a case of “tell him he’s dreamin”. (Hope you’ve seen the Australian film,’The Castle‘).

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May I remind readers of the annual gathering at Hyde Park Barracks on the last Sunday in August, the 28th this year? See http://irishfaminememorial.org/

Scroll down that page for information. The Guest speaker is Tim Costello, a brilliant choice.

The featured image is ‘Bullock Dray Melbourne 1851’, courtesy of the Dixson Library, Sydney.

And for a link to the contents of my blog see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (35):some notes from PROV Victoria Superintendent letters inwards

A few more snippets

http://prov.vic.gov.au/

Here are some of my research notes. They are barely legible. Please get in touch if you cannot decipher something you want. They were made on one of my research trips to the Victorian Public Records Office when it was out at Altona, i.e. before Spring Street, and before moving to North Melbourne. I can remember taking a train and a bus and a walk before getting there. But it was worth it; the people there were extremely helpful. I cannot thank them enough.

These are notes i took when i perused PROV VPRS 115, 8 boxes, Superintendent Inward Registered correspondence. They’ll be useful for anyone interested in the Port Phillip orphans, I hope. Maybe worth another trip to the archives? You’ll notice I’ve occasionally recorded stuff not directly related to the Earl Grey orphans; remittances, people nominating others for a government-assisted passage, or the death of a baby, as you do. There’s even mention of one of the children who earlier was offered a passage on the Edmund Parry,  and who had refused. “1 March 1850 Catherine Minnihane niece (11 year old) to John O’Keefe from the Parish of Killaloe, townland of Kilcredan, nominated by Thomas Budds Payne“. I wonder did she make it here after all.

What strikes me is the ‘duty of care’ reflected in these letters to Superintendent La Trobe. Sure, there is desire that regulations be administered properly but there is also a very human(e) touch, providing soap for the Pemberton orphans “to enable them to wash all their things and to disembark comfortably” VPRS 115, vol.1, 49/85. Or to help Mary Darcy who had lost use of her limbs from an injury aboard the Pemberton,“the poor girl must be cared for somehow. I must leave the Police Magistrate to suggest in what manner and at what cost” VPRS 115, vol.1, 49/340 .

Anyways have a rummage through these. See what you can find. Note for example, the tenders for an Immigration Barracks; reference to orphan ship reports viz Pemberton, ‘the females were orderly and obedient’ and the ship ‘well fitted out’ ; Diadem, Derwent and New Liverpool, ‘the orphans from Clonmel were refractory, insubordinate and extremely troublesome’; letter from the Police Magistrate, Portland, re what he was doing for the arrival of the orphans by the Brig Raven, and individual cases, Mary Darcy,Margaret Gorman, Eliza Armstrong, Isabella Browne, causing them concern.

PROV. Superintendent correspondence-in 1849 VPRS 115 vol.1

PROV. Superintendent correspondence-in 1849 VPRS 115 vol.1

VPRS115i

VPRS115ii

VPRS115iii

VPRS115iv

VPRS115v

VPRS115vi

VPRS115vii

VPRS115viii

Happy hunting. I don’t think a lot of this made its way into my Barefoot & Pregnant? or on to the website. http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/

Here’s a list of the contents of my blog. Just click on the http address http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (34):applications for orphans

Another Aside

Ah! The wonders of my filing cabinets. Having moved rooms at work a number of times, thrusting stuff quickly into folders, and into boxes when I retired, I shouldn’t be surprised if nowadays ‘lost’ research turns up in the most unlikely places. I’ve just found a report from another excellent research assistant, Margaret Burgmann which I’d like to share with you.

I was preparing the first volume of Barefoot & Pregnant? at the time and was looking at reasons for the brevity of the Earl Grey scheme. I wanted to test the claim it had become increasingly difficult to find suitable employers for the orphans. In the words of Melbourne officials, “…the orphans by each succeeding ship have been disposed of to parties of a lower rank, and less desirable class than those preceding”. Or as Archdeacon McEncroe put it, …the cause of dissatisfaction was with some vulgar masters who had got up it the world. Those who had got money by the gold discovery are the most overbearing towards their servants”. 

I asked Margaret to examine the Registers of applications for orphans 1848-51 held in the State Records of NSW. (nowadays NRS 5240, formerly 4/4714-17). See https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/publications/now-then-enewsletter/now-then-67-april-2014

And to look for the applicants in local commercial directories. Here’s her findings;

Applicants for orphans 1848

Applicants for orphans 1848

foempl48ii

Applications for orphans February-July 1851

Applications for orphans February-July 1851

foempl51ii

foempl51iii

Margaret used W & F Ford, Sydney Directory, Sydney, 1851, Francis Low, The City of Sydney Directory, 1844-5, Sydney, 1844 and his Directory for the City and District of Sydney, 1847, as well as Sands and Kenny, Commercial and General Sydney Directory for 1858-59, (first year of publication). With some qualifications, her conclusion was that yes indeed, 84% of the 1848 applicants were from the upper middle class. In 1851 only 52% of them were. Margaret reminded me that “applicants in 1851 were harder to identify. There were many more applicants from outside Sydney. Further, the directories concentrated on white-collar and well-off blue-collar members of Sydney society. Only occasionally was an entry classified as ‘gentleman'”.

If i was to do a similar exercise again, my starting point would be the people who actually employed the orphans. Since the 1980s, we have been able to identify many more of the orphans’ employers. See the website http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/orphans/

I hope this will encourage people to find out more about the masters and mistresses of their own particular orphan servant(s). What directories and other sources could we use?

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (32):a “Belfast girl” Mary McConnell

Some Unfinished histories (1)

Mary McConnell

I’m not sure how this will go. I’ll try getting in touch with some of the orphans’ descendants who sent me material in the past. Maybe together we can give an outline of a family history that may be of interest to others, even if it’s just to suggest possible lines of enquiry. I’ll attempt some of the things I’ve suggested earlier, such as make our own presence felt, find something about the orphan’s Irish background, as well as what happened to her in Australia. And I hope, put her in some kind of historical context. I’m sure you know all this already. You are welcome to make a suggestion about the things we ought to include. 

This time, I’ve chosen to write something about one of the infamous ‘Belfast Girls’, Mary McConnell. I’ve been in touch with one of Mary’s descendants, Mrs Pat Evans, for more than twenty-five years; she herself has been working on Mary for more than thirty. Tricia has provided lots of information about Mary’s history. She tells me that she is emotionally close to her orphan descendant. After all, she is her great-great grandmother. It took her a while to reconcile herself to some aspects of Mary’s life but she understands her, and admires her resilience. Tricia says, ” I am able to accept that my Mary was not what we would call a good girl today and at the same time extremely thankful of what she did to survive in the harshness of the day”.

We both are very grateful to a renowned local historian, Brian Andrews, who helped us put Mary’s life into context, in the Hunter Valley of  New South Wales. Unfortunately I lost contact with Brian some years ago. But I see, via the web, he was awarded an OAM for his work as a local historian. Congratulations and well-deserved, Brian. Brilliant work.

I’d like to keep this post in an unfinished form to emphasize that orphans’ family histories are constantly being revised. The ‘facts’ can change so quickly.

Tricia rightly suggests that if she was writing Mary’s history outside and independent of this blog, she’d provide a summary of the Earl Grey scheme, something like this,

“Lord Earl Grey, the British Secretary of State, thought he had the magic answer for several problems facing the English Parliament. He could rid the Irish workhouses of the orphaned paupers by supplying the Colonies with female labour and females to correct the imbalance of the sexes, which were both needed in great numbers in the Colony of New South Wales. This scheme was called the ‘Earl Grey Scheme’ and was to remove about 4,000 female Irish orphans from the disgusting workhouses throughout Ireland. The scheme was to survive for only two years.

See http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Belfast/

 
From the Belfast Workhouse, Mary, with the other ‘Belfast Orphans’, left Belfast traveling to Plymouth by the Steamer ‘Athlone’ under the supervision of wardmaster James Caldwell. The ‘Belfast Girls’ and many others then left Plymouth on the 3rd June 1848 per ‘Earl Grey’ to Sydney Australia where they arrived after 122 days at sea on 6 October 1848.
 
Whilst on this voyage each girl was given daily rations of ½ lb meat, ¼ lb flour, raisins, peas, rice, tea, sugar, butter and biscuits. Each girl was also outfitted with 6 shifts, 6 pairs of stockings – two worsted & 4 cotton, 2 pair of shoes, 2 gowns – one of woolen plaid, 2 short wrappers, 2 night wrappers, 2 flannel petticoats, 2 cotton petticoats, 1 stout worsted shawl & a cloak, 2 neck and 3 pocket handkerchiefs, 2 linen collars, 2 aprons, 1 pair of stays, 1 pair of sheets, 1 pair of mitts, 1 bonnet, day & night caps, 2 towels, 2lb of soap, combs & brushes, needles, threads, tape & whatever other little articles (such as a few yards of cotton or calico) the Matron may know young females to require. They were also given a Bible and Prayer Book suitable for their respective religions. Then they were given one box – length 2 feet, width 14 inches, deep 14 inches, with lock and key, to be painted, & the Emigrant’s name painted on the front, & a catalogue of the contents pasted on the inside of the lid. The box was ordered to be strongly made, so as to bear a long voyage & besides being locked they should be strongly corded.
The first ship to arrive in The Colony was ‘Earl Grey’ on the 6th October 1848 into the harbour of Port Jackson. The last ship carrying it’s live cargo entered Port Phillip, Melbourne on 31st March 1850 and she was the ‘Eliza Caroline’.  There is also known to be four ships that sailed into the Port of Adelaide in South Australia.
 
The ‘Belfast Girls’, per ‘Earl Grey’, as they were referred to, were classified as refractory. One of the girls (I must admit was not one of the good girls)  was my Mary McConnell”.
In her family history, Tricia would also say more about the voyage itself, and about Surgeon Grattan Douglass’s condemnation of the ‘Belfast girls’, and the subsequent enquiries that followed his report.
I’m not going to do that here, for my purpose throughout my blog, is to give a more detailed picture of the scheme and of the Irish Famine orphans themselves, than is usually the case. Tricia’s comments have prompted me to ask how many Earl Grey descendants have read the report of C. G. Otway, the Irish Poor Law Commissioner? It’s in my Barefoot & Pregnant? volume 1, which should be available in your local library. Why do you think it has had such little impact?
May I invite anyone writing their orphan family history, especially if he or she wants to delve deeper, to think about what I’ve said in these thirty-odd blog posts; about the origins of the scheme; about how the plan may belong more to the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners than Earl Grey himself; about how Irish Poor Law Commissioners and Boards of Workhouse Guardians arranged things at the Irish end; about Charter Parties and the regulations that applied to every government assisted voyage; about the orphans’ arrival and early days in Australia, and above all, about the ways we might try to put ourselves in an orphan’s shoes and view things through her eyes?
Here’s a link to what my blog contains, http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE  If you wish to use any of it in a fuller family history of your own, please feel free. But also please acknowledge your debt in the conventional academic way. I believe that goes something like this,  my name, name of the blog post and the date you accessed the site. My thanks in advance.
Mary McConnell
At last, to Mary.
A recently posted family reconstitution form gives us a brief synopsis of Mary’s life. And already our ‘facts’ have changed; we find the form needs revising. There is a big question mark over the names of Mary’s parents. James and Fanny are the names Mary gave to Belfast workhouse. So I’ll call them James and Fanny McConnell. 

Tricia recently informed me that William Ashton‘s details are also incorrect. He was not a Bounty migrant who came by the Brothers in 1841. Rather, he was a convict found guilty of highway robbery at Liverpool Quarter Sessions in July 1838. He arrived in New South Wales on board the Theresa in 1839. Tricia discovered this through Maitland gaol records and the Maitland Mercury which linked William and Mary’s name together. We should also remove William’s parents’ names and his birthplace and date from the form, and change his occupations to ‘brickmaker, sawyer, labourer, and bushman’.  The other details are correct.

fomarymcconnellearl grey

 

 

Among descendants of the Famine orphans, the story of the “Belfast Girls” is relatively well-known. Surgeon Douglass described the ‘Belfast girls’ as “notoriously bad in every sense of the word“.  “The professed public woman and barefooted little country beggar have been alike sought after as fit persons to pass through the purification of the workhouse, ere they were sent as a valuable addition to the Colonists of New South Wales”. It was a stain that’s been very difficult to remove.

A detailed enquiry by Irish Poor Law Commissioner C. G Otway rebutted Douglass’s claims –as might be expected– and was supported by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in London–as also might be expected– but it was never enough to restore the good name of the rebellious ‘millies’ (Mill workers) and “gurriers” from Belfast. As far as the Surgeon, Captain, and Matron of the Earl Grey were concerned, Mary McConnell was “a professed public woman”. She, and the other ‘Belfast girls’, should not be allowed to land in Sydney. “Considering that the landing of the Belfast girls in Sydney, would assuredly lead to their final ruin, and being also impressed with the importance of separating them from the remainder of the Orphans, the Committee [the Sydney Orphan Committee] acceded to the proposal of Dr Douglass, that they should be at once forwarded into the Country” .

Let me mention in passing, how much I enjoyed Jaki McCarrick’s recent award winning play, Belfast Girls“, not as a nitpicking historian but for its dramatic sensibility, its contemporary relevance, and above all, Jaki’s sympathetic treatment of the young women.

Ellen (with renewed resolve) …Remember, this is what you’re to be wed ta. Your books. Your learnin’. For Molly’s sake — let none of us waste this journey an’ all we’ve learned. You — in here (points to her head) are a great gift to Australia, an’ don’t ya  forget it. We all are an’ must none of us forget it.

(Belfast Girls by Jaki McCarrick © Samuel French Ltd. London. All rights reserved

Reprinted by permission of Samuel French Ltd. on behalf of Jaki McCarrick)

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We are lucky the Otway Report has survived: it has specific information about Mary McConnell. (For more details, see Disc 2 of Ray Debnam’s CD set, Feisty Colleens).

In the report, two Belfast Detective Police Constables, DC John Cane and DC Stewart McWilliams testified that none of the Belfast girls accused of prostitution by Surgeon Douglass was known to them as such.

Stewart McWilliams,  Police Constable sworn:

I am one of the detective police;…I have been so employed for the last eighteen years; from the nature of my duties, I have a knowledge of all the houses of ill-fame, and the persons frequenting them in Belfast; all of the prostitutes I mean. I do not think there is a prostitute in the town I do not know…

From my knowledge of young persons working in mills and manufactories, I know they are generally unguarded in their language and mode of expression, and use unchaste language, though they may not be unchaste in person, or prostitutes.

I have read over the names on the list of the females sent in the first vessel from Belfast, and there is not the name of a single person that I ever knew or heard of as being a prostitute amongst them.

Look at the name whose initials correspond with Mary McCann, No. 45 I had no knowledge of her as a prostitute or person of bad character, and she could not have been well known in Belfast as a prostitute without my knowing it.

Look at Mary McConnell, No.55 I give the same answer… (Barefoot vol. 1, pp. 106-7.)

Given the circumstances, theirs is the kind of evidence we might expect? I leave you to decide for yourself. My view is that people today are not so quick to adopt the high moral ground; they understand how someone may depend upon prostitution to survive and others might use it for their own empowerment and material security. Maybe Surgeon Douglass too quickly accepted as truth the insults and obscene language the Belfast orphans hurled at one another.

More interesting than the Constables’ evidence is the testimony of Catherine McKevey who lived with her husband, a Pattern Maker, in Laggan Village. She had known Mary personally for the six years before she left for Australia.

Catherine McKevey sworn statement to C. G. Otway

Catherine McKevey sworn statement to C. G. Otway (Barefoot, 1, p.123)

This has an authentic ring to it, does it not? Mary’s parents were ‘decent, hard-working people‘. Mary had lived and worked with Mrs McKevey for about a year when she 14 or 15 years of age, as ‘a thorough servant‘ (i.e. doing everything). Her dad had died three years ago (in c. 1845-6) and her mum two (in c. 1846-7); ‘she was an orphan‘. ‘I heard (gossip) she was in the penitentiary and had not behaved herself as she ought‘. After Mrs McKevey’s, Mary had gone first into service, and then to work in Mr Montgomery’s mill. ‘I…advised her as to conducting herself well where she was going…‘.

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Good-bye your hens running in and out of the white house

Your absent-minded goats along the road, your black cows

Your greyhounds and your hunters beautifully bred

Your drums and your dolled-up Virgins and your ignorant

dead

(Louis MacNeice, Valediction)

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Sometimes family historians need to make an educated guess about what happened to a descendant. We’ve done that in some of what follows.

Mary was born in Tyrone, the daughter of James and Fanny McConnell, and baptised a Presbyterian. Surely she had siblings? Maybe a brother or sister died before she and her young parents went to Belfast, in the early 1840s. ‘Jummie’ McConnell, a weaver, part of the declining domestic-putting-out system in Tyrone, and like an ever increasing number of others, was told there’d be a job and hope in Belfast. It was a city built on mud flats, and already growing into Ireland’s major manufacturing city.  But in the 1840s, it was a mere fledgling of what it was to become later in the nineteenth century.

The young family went across Queen’s bridge to Laggan Village, down near the Short Strand and the bottom of Ravenhill Road, in County Down.  It was part of Ballymacarrat, a largely working-class and Protestant area, with its Iron Works, Vitriol Works, Rope Works and Textile Mills.  Tricia was informed by a Senior Research Fellow at Queen’s University that Laggan Village was on the South Bank of the Lagan River, a Protestant working-class area that included Ballarat Street, Dungevan Street and Bendigo and Carrington Streets. The map Tricia has is a fairly modern one; it includes Albertbridge, one of the bridges crossing the Lagan but that bridge was not finished until 1890.  In the recent ‘Troubles’, the area was a ‘narrow ground’, a battleground for sectarian conflict. It has since been rebuilt. I doubt if Mary would recognize it, if she returned today.

 “I never saw a richer country, or, to speak my mind, a finer people; the worst of them is the bitter and envenomed dislike which they have to each other. Their factions have been so long envenomed, and they have such narrow ground to do their battle in, that they are like people fighting with daggers in a hogshead” (Walter Scott 1825)

Mary appears not have carried any of that ‘venom’ with her. Her common-law husband, William Ashton, was a Roman Catholic and her children were baptised in the Church of England.

Her parents, Jimmy McConnell and his wife, Fanny, were ‘hard-working, decent people’. But Belfast would be no earthly paradise, and Laggan village would be their deathbed. 

Tricia, I’ve tried to find out a bit more about Belfast during the Famine years. I haven’t bought this book, just seen bits of it via Google; Christine Kinealy and Gerard Mac Atasney, The Hidden Famine. Hunger, Poverty and Sectarianism in Belfast, 1840-50, Pluto Press, 2000. (The authors also have a chapter in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine). They explain Belfast did not escape ‘the devastation triggered by’ the Famine which is something not widely recognized by historians. Nearly 1500 people died in Belfast workhouse during 1847 (Mary would have seen many of them die). In the three months between late December 1846 and March 1847, during a very bad winter, nearly 280 thousand quarts of soup and 775 cwt of bread was given to the hungry through Belfast’s soup kitchens. “By the end of March, over 1,000 “wretched-looking beings” each day were receiving free rations of bread and soup at the old House of Correction“. The Belfast Relief Committee knew that more than food was needed.”There are to be found a vast number of families…who have neither bed nor bedding of any description–whose only couch is a heap of filthy straw, in the corner of a wretched apartment”. 

Now imagine you are 17-18 year-old Mary McConnell in late 1846, early 1847. Your dad died a year ago and you and your mum have survived, only just. In that desperately cold winter, your mum died too. You lost your job in the Flax Mill. What would you do? What do you think Mary did? Fight tooth and nail, as a street kid? Become a prostitute, at seventeen years of age? (that is still uncertain). Develop an obscenely sharp and cutting tongue to protect herself from rivals and predators? “That’s my fucken crust of bread, wee lad. Touch it and I’ll cut yer balls off”. Use soup kitchens; there was one in Ballymacarrat. Get into the workhouse when the cold months came. She was in Belfast workhouse “16 months previous to her emigration“, that is since early 1847 (Barefoot, 1, p.71).   But then she learned of the Earl Grey scheme, and with other street-wise young inmates, decided Australia was the place to go. Some of her shipmates, the Hall sisters, Rose McLarnon and Eliza Mulholland also had an association with Ballymacarrat.

 None of Douglass’s ‘troublemakers’ was allowed to disembark at Port Jackson. All of the orphans had to stay on board whilst the Sydney Orphan Committee called Surgeon, Matron, and Ship’s Master before them. They decided the feisty, rebellious, pilfering, potty-mouthed Belfasters should be kept separate from the others and sent immediately into the hinterland. Mary would be sent by steamer to Maitland, with eleven others, Ellen Rooney, Eliza Conn, Mary Black, Anne McGuire et al. Another thirty seven would be sent to Moreton Bay. Did Mary ever meet any of the others again? Would she have recognized them if she had passed them on the streets of Maitland in the 1880s?
One wonders too if the recalcitrant Belfasters suffered the same punishment as those observed by James Porter when he travelled to Moreton Bay as cuddy-boy on board the Eagle towards the end of 1849. “There (sic) hair had been cut short…consequently they were afterwards called ‘short grasses’. Their dress consisted of a plain cotton gown with white spots which hung loose from the neck to the feet. They were covered with heavy hob-nailed shoes. Each girl if she had any idea of adornment had no means of carrying it out”. It was a common punishment for convict women.
To be continued
We’ll take up the story of Mary’s life in the Hunter Valley, next time.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (31):family reconstitutions-family histories 

Family reconstitutions-family histories

Just to complete my previous post, here are some more family reconstitutions for your perusal.

(See  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-zv for more information about this ‘revolutionary’ demographic technique. Scroll down the link to the “Introduction” of Professor Wrigley’s book).

Some Port Phillip arrivals; double click or ‘pinch’ to make larger

fofallon

Bridget Fallon per Pemberton 1849

foharenewliver

Sarah Hare per New Liverpool 1849

 

fomaroney

Ann(e) Marony per Eliza Caroline 1850

 

fonelligan

Ann Nelligan per Pemberton 1849

foenelligan

Eliza Nelligan per Pemberton 1849

 

foobrienpemb

Sarah O’Brien per Pemberton

Fanny Young per Tippoo Saib

Fanny Young per Tippoo Saib

Some who went to the Moreton Bay district

 

fodowdqld

Bridget Dowd per Thomas Arbuthot 1850

 

 

fofitzgibbonqld

Mary Fitzgibbon per Thomas Arbuthnot 1850

 

fokingqld

Bridget King per Panama 1850

fomcgarryqld

Jane McGarry per Earl Grey 1848

 

 

blogmoriarty1

Catherine Moriarty with husband Tom Elliott and other family members c. 1886. Thanks to Mike Vincent.

fomoriarty

Catherine Moriarty per Thomas Arbuthnot 1850

foweatherallqld

Mary Anne Weatherall per Lady Peel 1849

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (30): what’s involved in writing orphan stories

IMPLICATIONS

 

St Stephen's Green, Dublin: Famine sculpture detail

St Stephen’s Green, Dublin: Famine sculpture detail

 

I wonder why we need to assess the contribution of the orphans to Australia. Is it just something historians do, deluded fools that we are? There have been a number of attempts already. The orphans were workhouse refuse/deadwood tipped out on poor unsuspecting colonists by British imperialists. Or were they ‘mothers to the Australian character’ whose ‘descendants enjoyed opportunities unheard of in Ireland’? There’s a great array of views about the orphans’ history on the Irish Famine memorial website that are worth pondering, at http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/events/  I wonder if speeches made at the Melbourne annual gathering in November are also available. Does anyone know?

I’ve even dabbled a little myself in the past, in the introduction to Barefoot and Pregnant?, volume one, in the magazine, History Ireland in 2000, and in the description of the Earl Grey scheme on the Irish Famine memorial website. See for example the penultimate paragraph at http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/history/earl-grey-scheme  I’d probably still hold to these views. Elsewhere, I’ve suggested we be wary of too sentimental a treatment of the orphans’ lives.

As Tanya Evans reminded me, I even posed one of those intractable questions a long time ago; ‘were the orphans disproportionately represented among the criminal classes, in suicide records, or among the inmates of destitute and mental asylums’? One might surmise that since the orphans lacked the same family support networks as other immigrants, they were more at risk of falling on hard times. Their demographic history, too,–many of them married older men and had long years of widowhood–may have increased their chance of ending up in an institution, later in life.

On one of my research trips to Melbourne, financed by Macquarie University, i searched for orphans among prison records. In the Public Record Office of Victoria there was a Central Register of Female prisoners at VPRS 516 and a Prisoner’s Personal Description Register at VPRS 521. They were in a very fragile condition and soon became only available on microfiche, thank goodness. Here’s the sort of thing I noted down,

PROV VPRS 521 vol 1  No 7 Catherine Ellis Lady Kennaway 1848 b. 1835 5’1″slender fair complexion dark brown hair grey eyes received into gaol 1 January-14 January 1851

ditto No 129 Amelia Nott New Liverpool 1849 b. 1827 Free three convictions drunk slender fresh complexion dark brown hair grey eyes neither read nor write two small scars on bridge of nose b Jersey RC married servant 20 October 1854 For medical treatment

ditto No 133 Susan Stewart Pemberton 1850 b. 1834 two previous drunk stout fair brown hair hazel eyes reads and writes imperfectly 5′ 2½” scar upper lip and right hand Ireland Catholic single idle and disorderly 1 calendar month 15/2-15/3/1856

ditto No 833 Mary Ann Tyrell Roman Emperor 1848 1835 once before 4″8½” Ireland Catholic married

You will appreciate the kind of problem this poses. Did some orphans deliberately provide false information or genuinely forget details of their arrival? What if we find no record of their marriage? Can we be sure this really is an Earl Grey orphan? Some of the examples above would appear to be so. But how many overall went to gaol? What percentage of the total? Were they in gaol only for a short period of their lives, or often, over the years?

If we go looking for orphans in institutions, in prisons, benevolent asylums, mental hospitals and the like, of course we will find them. But what we do here, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, is add the bias of expectation to the bias of the sources we use. We distort our view of things by focussing one-eyed on this aspect of the orphans’ history.

Still, it is important that we get an idea of how many orphans experienced such a life. I encourage anyone working in this area to continue doing so. If i remember correctly, Julie Poulter is researching orphans who went to Darlinghurst gaol in Sydney, in a thesis she is doing at the University of New England. Maybe people looking at these things will be willing to share their findings? I could include what you want to say in these blog posts. At least I think that is possible. I’m not sure how many people actually read the comments at the end of each post.

FAMILY HISTORIES

A similar caveat applies to my own painstaking family reconstitutions. They are weighted towards the orphans who generally lived in stable, life-long relationships here in Australia. That too may be a distortion of how we perceive the orphans’ contribution to Australian society. Nonetheless I shall continue using them. I intend appending more to this post. They are an important means of helping us write orphan family histories. And the more family histories we have, the greater the empirical data we have to assess what happened to the Earl Grey orphans in Australia. They will ‘thicken’ our description, an anthropologist might say.

SOME ETHICAL ISSUES

The common ground between family historians, professional genealogists and academic historians is sometimes a tricky one to negotiate. I particularly admire those who treat each other with tact and sensitivity. And worry that my own steel-capped boots will damage too many metaphorical shins. Yet for Earl Grey orphan histories to flourish, may I suggest cooperation is essential? Tanya Evans treats some of the issues I have in mind in her recent Fractured Families and resolves them with what she calls ‘shared authority’. Her book is well worth a read.

Let me outline some of my own concerns.

  1. What’s the best way to ask family historians how they confirmed there is an Irish female orphan in their family? There was, after all, an enormous number of young Irish females arriving in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in the early 1850s. Are you sure ‘your’ Mary Kelly, Cathy Kennedy or Mary Ryan  is the one who came to Port Phillip in 1849 on the Pemberton and you’re not just making a leap of faith?

And to extend this a bit further, how do we know that this second or third or fourth marriage is our orphan’s? Can we be sure that this is her changing her name more than once? Reading orphan descendants write about frequent remarriages and name changes has really interesting implications. Did women at the exposed and vulnerable end of Australian society in the nineteenth century have to use these survival strategies, or life strategies, in order to get by? What kind of life must they have led? My not having read much about this sort of thing before may simply be a fault of my own. Has much/anything been written about it already, does anyone know?

    2. What if I discover something a family historian may not like to hear, that that orphan descendant beat his wife relentlessly, that that one molested children or that daughter was locked away in a mental institution for more than forty years? What other disturbing factor could there be…that she was constantly drunk and abandoned her children to an Industrial school?…that she committed infanticide? Maybe you can accept and acknowledge these things. As Alison Light put it, we don’t have to like our ancestors. But what if one person in the family objects to such things being publicized in their family history? Or perhaps there is disagreement over an interpretation you’ve made. Does that mean it should be censored or even shelved? I’d love to hear your view.

  3. Or what if it is as simple as someone objecting, “You can’t say that. No ancestor of mine was ever in a workhouse.” It has happened before.  It may even be an objection to something you include about the Famine. “The charge of culpable neglect of the consequences of policies leading to mass starvation is also indisputable.” (Peter Gray quoted in  D. P. Nally’s Human Encumbrances, p 226). Should one therefore cut that bit from the family history?

‘On you go now! Run, son, like the devil

And tell your mother to try

To find me a bubble for the spirit level

And a new knot for this tie.’  

(Seamus Heaney, The Errand in The Spirit Level)

I saved some material on my computer sent to me by orphan descendants some years ago. I must try getting in touch again, if they are still with us, D.G., as my friend Tom Power would say. I could begin by putting together a draft of a family history, ask for their input, and  show them the draft. If they gave their consent, I could then put it into the blog. I have a sense of these orphan family histories as more of a beginning than an end.

In the meantime I’ll put up some more FAMILY RECONSTITUTIONS. I’d like to return to them at a later date to suggest ways they can be used in a family history. I’ve made a selection of orphans who went to South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. And in order to emphasize the need for cooperation, I’ve gone back to some originals where orphan descendants filled out one of my forms as best they could, and I was able to add a bit more information.

First some family reconstitutions from New South Wales and South Australia. More to follow. Double click or pinch to make these larger.

fotierney

foboyleearlg

fobanks

fomarymcconnellearl grey

fobooth

foburt

fomdevlin

fobellromanemp

fohellenelgin

fotaafeinconst

To be continued…

key to blogs is at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

EARL GREY’S IRISH FAMINE ORPHANS (29):Where to from here? Telling orphan stories and some issues involved

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Dublin Famine sculpture

Dublin Famine sculpture

 

When I came to the end of my last post I wondered if I should write a conclusion to the whole series. Maybe something on the Earl Grey Irish Famine orphans’ contribution to Australia. Was H. H. Browne correct in his assessment? Were the orphans of little use, and ‘distasteful’ to the majority of colonists ? Or did they make an valuable contribution? Along with convict women, they became ‘mothers to the Australian character’?  However, if they are set in context beside the c. 9,000 single Irish females who immigrated to New South Wales in 1840-41, the 5,000 who came to South Australia in the mid 1850s, or the 70% of female government assisted migrants to Victoria in the 1850s, we might gain a more realistic picture of where they stand. This is not to deny the orphans their unique position as destitute famine refugees. Nor the particular hardships they faced.  To do this might require me going back over everything,– to reorganize, rewrite, polish, and rewrite again. Maybe a publisher would be interested in  a small print run.

But then I remembered what I’d written in earlier posts (4, 13 and 19) about histories of individual orphans. Could we reconstruct their experience at local level in Ireland and match it with the same detailed local history in Australia? Could we put together life histories of individual orphans, maybe even inter-generational family histories? Or compare their experience in different regions–the Illawarra and Hunter Valley in New South Wales, around Ipswich in what was to become Queensland, the goldfields of Victoria or Clare Valley in South Australia, for instance? And what do we do with the ‘lost’ souls, the Mary Littlewoods or Georgina Mulhollands or the Mary Ryans we cannot find?  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-p7 outlined some of the problems we’d face.

How to tell the orphans’ stories raises all sorts of issues: properly navigating copyright issues and acknowledging one’s debt to others; how best such family histories might be integrated into a larger historical context. I particularly liked the way Kay Caball wove orphan family histories into her Kerry Girls. Elizabeth Rushen and Perry McIntyre put information about individual Red Rover (eary 1830s) women into an Appendix in their Fair Game (Anchor Books, 2010). Doing something similar would only enhance my little history of the Irish Famine orphans–should I have the talent or the energy. But don’t hold your breath. I wouldn’t want to trespass on people’s privacies.

——

One work I’ve lately been taking inspiration from, is the delightful Common People by Alison Light (Penguin, 2015). Let me try to understand why. It’s a book that shows me just what family history can be, maybe even should (?) be like.

I’m a sucker for good writing whether it’s Ames talking to Jack Boughton at the end of Gilead (Marilynne Robinson); or a black crow and Morrigan at the end of Gun Street Girl (Adrian McKinty); or whether it’s lyrical writing, full of pathos, or hard-headed, clear, honest and direct as it is in Common People. Here’s how Alison Light writes about the death of her great-grandmother Sarah Hill, in Netherne Asylum, in 1911.

The Register of deaths confirmed the information on her death certificate: she died on 18 June from ‘exhaustion’ after sixteen days of mania…

There were far more questions than answers. ‘Mania’ is deemed a ‘mood disorder’, generally characterized as a state of wild, feverish elation, a hyperactive state of restlessness and often irritability, which leads to sleeplessness. But in the nineteenth century ‘mania’ was an umbrella term…In fact nothing about Sarah’s mania or her death ‘from exhaustion’ could be taken for granted. If she died of heart failure after a fortnight’s frenetic activity and no sleep, she was also likely to be near starvation. Those who were raving were hard to feed, words pouring out of their mouths so that they could take nothing in. Might Sarah have survived in a private asylum in her own comfortable, quiet room with the special care of the best doctors…? As with her sojourn in the workhouse as a child, the adult Sarah had arrived in a public institution at perhaps the worst time in its history.” (pp.166-67)

Her transparent, in your face, honest presence throughout the book is a real breath of fresh air for someone like myself who was trained to distance oneself and write history essays and theses in the third person. We were taught objectivity may not be achievable but it is always worth striving for. Laudable aims, I’m sure. Yet Alison Light’s presence–she’s everywhere–makes her work very personal. It gives a piquant sharpness to her book which makes it interesting to readers other than her immediate family and like minded ancestor hunters.

I…hoped that my speaking voice would anchor the reader as we moved through time (p.xxiv)…I find that her people had long been on the move (19)…I need a larger-scale atlas as William travels back into his childhood (19)…In the wake of my father’s death I took to tinkering about in the Portsmouth Record Office (70)…I feel tender towards those who refused to conform…cocking a snook…at squire and parson (117)…If anywhere can claim to be my ancestral home it is the workhouse. Somebody in every generation fetched up there (233)…I now know that nothing about a graveyard can be taken at face value (252)”.

What lifts her book to a wider audience still, is her self-reflection, and examination of why so many people research their family’s past. A reader must be made of stone not to stop and think about her ‘meditations’.

My first instinct in writing Common People was to find the people who had been missing from my past. I wanted…to rescue them…from sheer oblivion (p.xxv)… When my father was very ill with cancer, I went in search of his mother’s grave. It was an odd, possibly morbid thing to do. Family history begins with missing persons—missed in both senses of the word. But when do we register an absence as a loss? (p.11)…Family is never one organism but fissiparous, endlessly dividing itself. In a family tree everyone seems connected, but in life families ‘fragment’…People want to know where they came from but they also want to know where they could have gone and why their branch of the family did not go there (93-4)…Genealogy has long fostered grandiloquent forms of family romance and been a source of reassurance to antiquarians, cranks and snobs…humble aspirants elevate themselves…believing there was once a family pile or manor in the past…If the creation of a nation rests on its ‘foundation myths’, family legends too, handed down the generations, are also the stuff, like dreams, of which we make ourselves (130)”.

Can you see yourself in any of this? Common People is full of such reflections challenging readers to ask themselves what exactly do they want, and why?

What appeals to me most of all about her book is how she does her damnedest to put her family into historical context. She is willing to cast her net widely, not only into nooks and crannies but over the big-picture historical context, as often, and as much as she can. Sure, in any family history there are dead-ends and blind alleys and people you’ll never really know but if you merely want a family tree, lives shrunk between dates in brackets, you’re missing the sweetest thing of all.

Any family history worth its salt will go further and ask questions about ‘economic forces’, politics, religious and social conditions, and the like. Alison Light invites us to take ourselves into ‘history’, with its different interpretations and debates and argumentative soul; make our family members more than ‘singular’ and unique but representative of something larger. Her book is also about working-class Britain ‘on the move’ during industrialisation in the nineteenth century; her ancestors act as ‘intermediaries between the living and the dead’ charting an unglorious story of poverty throughout much of the twentieth as well. (Many of these phrases are hers. I do them less than justice).

——–

We may regret that we don’t have the same wealth of resources at our disposal in Ireland or Australia–not the same access to census data, or county histories, or a tremendously rich array of local social histories, as Alison Light had for Common People. But don’t despair. I’m sure there’s plenty we can use. I’m not the best person to ask about this. Maybe others can make some suggestions?

I was pleasantly surprised when I had a quick look at my books, a library that’s been brutally downsized in recent years. I’d consider myself a very limited Australian historian but look what I found…some brilliant histories of ‘localities’,

Grace Karskens, The Rocks. Life in early Sydney, Melbourne U.P., 1997,

Don Watson, Caledonia Australis. Scottish Highlanders on the frontier in Australia, Vintage, 1997,

Mark McKenna, Looking for Blackfella’s Point. An Australian History of Place, UNSW Press, 2002,

 

a couple of fascinating ‘primary’ sources,

J. S. James, The Vagabond Papers, ed M. Cannon, Melbourne U.P., 1969,

William Kelly, Life in Victoria 1853 and 1858, Lowden, 1977,

 

and a couple of others you may need more than once,

G. Blainey, Black Kettle and Full Moon. Daily Life in a Vanished Australia, Viking, 2003 and

Gerald Walsh, Pioneering days. People and innovations in Australia’s rural past, Allen & Unwin, 1993.

 

I’m sure there are plenty more. Your local librarians, local historians and Archivists will be only too pleased to help you. See for instance two recent ones I mentioned in an earlier post, Libby Connors, Warrior, Allen & Unwin, 2015 and Tanya Evans, Fractured Families. Life on the margins in Colonial New South Wales, UNSW Press, 2015. Tanya with the help of family historians skilfully recounts the history of Jane Kelly per Digby in chapter five.

And what if we approached from a different direction? By travelling in the footsteps of the people you’re interested in? Here’s a link to Peter Higginbotham’s great website.

http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Ireland/

Go to Ballyshannon workhouse or whatever is left of it today and make your way to Dublin’s North Quay. Then, since there is no longer a boat to Portsmouth, take the ferry from Rosslare to Holyhead. You are experiencing a similar route to the one your orphan ancestor took. I travelled on that ferry a few times many, many, years ago. I’m not sure what it’s like today.

And in Australia, it may be impractical to travel as orphans did with Surgeon Strutt, by cart, over Razorback, southward to Yass and Gundagai. But you get the idea. Take the journey nonetheless.

Go to the workhouse ‘your’ orphan came from and travel to Dublin or Cork. Follow her footsteps as much as you can after she arrived in Adelaide, Sydney or Melbourne. It’s an experience worth having; you are trying to relive her ‘history’. Is that too crazy? I’m sure you will have other and better ideas. Perhaps you’d share them?

I travelled to a distant town

I could not find my mother

I could not find my father

I could not hear the drum

Whose ancestor am I?

(Edward Brathwaite, The New Ships in Masks, Oxford U. P. 1970)

My thanks to the late Lionel Chapman for the family photograph at the head of this post. It has Johanna Kelly in a wedding photograph in 1907.

 A link to the contents of my blog http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (28):H.H.Browne and the 1859 NSW parliamentary report on Irish female immigrants 

H.H.Browne

and

(Votes and proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales)

1859

REPORT on IRISH FEMALE IMMIGRANTS

A while ago I alerted readers to the importance of this Parliamentary report for the history of the Irish Famine orphans. If you remember, NSW Immigration Agent, H.H. Browne, made such disparaging remarks about Irish female immigrants in his 1854 report he provoked the Sydney Irish community to lobby for a parliamentary enquiry. (See my earlier blogposts, 26, “A NSW Parliamentary Enquiry”  at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-BT,  and  comments I made at the end of post 21 on ‘why the Earl Grey scheme came to an end’, at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-q8 ) As the enquiry got underway, Browne did a quick twostep and claimed he never meant to include all Irish female immigrants, only the orphan ‘girls’. You will thus appreciate why the report, its minutes of evidence and appendices are so important for a history of the Irish Famine orphans. Whatever its limitations, and there are plenty, it is a very important, near contemporary, primary source.

Careful readers will notice I’ve already used the report in a couple of my earlier posts; Mrs Capps, not long after she arrived from Cork, became Matron at Hyde Park Barracks. In her evidence presented to the committee of enquiry, and she was generally sympathetic to the orphans, she recounted the punishment meted out to Barracks ‘returnees’; they being locked in a small room spending their days picking oakum. This was briefly mentioned in post 13, ‘Government preparations Again’, at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-g4. Likewise, some of the sad history of Mary Littlewood, in post 9, at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-dQ, comes from Appendix L; and post 22, concerning the cancellation of orphan indentures, at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf , is inspired by the report’s Appendix J.

The information for the last two items comes from the bulky collection of documents that Immigration Agent Browne presented to the enquiry. There were seventeen (17) Appendices attached to the Report, all from Browne, and a number of ‘Addenda’ relating to South Australia’s difficulties coping with a large influx of Irish women immigrants in the mid 1850s. All this material was presented to the enquiry by Browne, to defend himself, and to support what he said when he appeared before the committee.

Historians are very grateful for such important ‘primary’ sources, even if they are biased. I’m reminded of something I said earlier about not accepting everything you read at face value; I’m reminded too of my very first term at Trinity College when the renowned medieval historian J. Otway-Ruthven, told the class, “for every ten minutes you spend reading, spend at least half-hour thinking about what you’ve read”. I can still mimic her voice. Good advice, I think, in these days of  ‘instant’ social media. It’s important we read this particular report with our critical antennae twitching. I wouldn’t want to accept everything presented to the enquiry as gospel. Certainly not take it as a true measure of the orphans’ worth. That requires a separate investigation.

Extract from H.H.Browne's evidence

Extract from H.H.Browne’s evidence

Let me illustrate what I’ve just said about the need to be critical of primary sources. Browne made sure he handed the committee the first report of the Sydney Immigration Board in 1848 concerning the first vessel to arrive, the Earl Grey. You may remember it was the vessel that carried the infamous ‘Belfast Girls’. His only comment, about a third of the way down the extract above, was, “Fortunately there were no other ships to be compared with that.” Yet, somehow he completely, or conveniently, forgot to mention the report of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners on this matter. Nor did he provide any of the details of C. G. Otway’s report from the Irish Poor Law Commission, a printed copy of which appeared in NSW parliamentary records in 1850! [check date]  Nor did he mention Earl Grey’s admonishing Dr Douglass for being too quick to jump to conclusions about the young women in his charge.  Strangely, none of the committee members mentioned any of these either. Memories are often short-lived and selective, are they not? Maybe we construct the memories we are comfortable with.

Similarly, Browne carefully selected the individual cases he put before the committee. They were cases where employers had asked ‘to be released of their charge’Mary Littlewood from Armagh, Betsy McCormick from Galway, Hannah Mack from Mayo, Cathy Conlon from Leitrim and Ellen Maguire from Cavan–because the orphan was a thief, disobedient, intractable, wild, ‘having been found in bed with an apprentice boy’ or given to running away. It is hardly surprising he should ‘select’ cases he thought would justify his remarks that the orphans were “distasteful to the majority of colonists”. Too selective by far, one might suggest. Somehow, too, it escaped him that Mary Littlewood had previously been smashed in the face by her employer on Sydney’s North Shore.

Nonetheless, there is much that is valuable in the material Browne submitted. He gathered together and presented to the enquiry [Appendices C to H] minutes from Orphan committee meetings in Sydney and Melbourne, and letters from his predecessor, Immigration Agent Merewether, and Superintendent La Trobe in Melbourne. These demonstrate the most clearly how early were the official moves to bring the orphan immigration scheme to an end.

As early as April 1849 [remember the scheme only ran from 1848 to 1850] the Sydney Orphan Committee, under the chairmanship of Francis Merewether, warned the Colonial Secretary the ‘Earl Grey orphans’ would be a greater drain upon the public purse than ordinary female immigrants (Appendix C, p.58). And in October of the same year, Superintendent La Trobe, at the request of the Melbourne Committee, urged the Colonial Secretary to send ‘English orphans concurrently’, and to reduce the total number being sent: “the demand for the orphans has sensibly diminished”; “by each succeeding ship” they were “disposed of to parties of a lower rank, and less desirable class…“; that there was a preference for other migrants “on account of the inexperience and incapacity for household work of the orphan girls”; and because they had to follow the regulations of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, the orphans’ “cost to the Colony” was greater than that of ordinary immigrants. By early 1850 both committees unanimously resolved to recommend “to the Government that the emigration from the workhouses in  Ireland should for the present be discontinued“.

Clearly, the orphan committees in Melbourne and Sydney, and indeed in Adelaide as well, played an important part in bringing the Earl Grey Scheme to an end. I have  tried to put this ‘official’ position into broader context, elsewhere ( blogposts 21 and 22). Neither Browne nor members of the 1858 parliamentary committee mentioned other factors that helped bring the scheme to an end; the vitriolic, sectarian and blatantly political battles played out in Melbourne newspapers, for example. Nonetheless it was an astute move on Browne’s part to remind both Archdeacon McEncroe and Francis Merewether of this ‘official’ position: both were members of the Sydney Orphan Committee, and both would be called to give evidence before the Parliamentary enquiry in 1858. It not only helped them construct their memory of the scheme but allowed them to tell the enquiry that orphans were paid a lower rate of wages; that they were better suited to rural employment; and that employers should have made greater effort training them as their certificates of indenture required.

Browne was to make much of the large number of cancelled indentures he dealt with as Water Police Magistrate.  But  members of the enquiry reminded him it was precisely because he was responsible for the Irish orphans that he heard so much about them. There was no such requirement by the colonial government to regulate English, Scottish or other Irish domestic servants in quite the same way. [See also http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf ]

The modern observer will be surprised by the privileges allowed Immigration Agent Browne and the ways the enquiry conducted itself. At the very first meeting of the Parliamentary committee, 6 July 1858,  Browne was invited to attend all their meetings, and if he desired, put questions to the person being asked to give evidence. His would have been a disconcerting presence to say the least. He  absented himself when members of the Celtic Association gave evidence.  Surprise, surprise. But he was present at all the other meetings, including those abandoned for want of a quorum, and including those where his pointed questions to Archdeacon McEncroe, Daniel Egan and Mrs Capps  undoubtedly worked to his advantage.

At the request of Captain Browne, who was present during the examination, the following questions were put to the witness–

(p6) The Ven. Archdeacon McEncroe 6 July 1858

87. By the Chairman: Were you, Mr Archdeacon, a member of the Orphan Immigration Committee? Yes…

88. You attended, I believe, very regularly,? Pretty much so…

90. After eighteen months experience, you were one of those persons who were of the opinion that orphan immigration should be discontinued? I don’t recollect that.

—–

 At the request of Captain Browne, the following question was put to the witness by the Chairman–

(p.31)  Mrs Capps 4 Nov. 1858

25. By the Chairman: During the period that this immigration was going on, do you know of some hundreds of instances of those girls being returned to you as being unsuitable for their employment? Yes but in some instances it was the fault of the employers; they were very hard upon them. There was always some explanation…

Browne continued to put questions to the witness through the Chairman, George Thornton.

28, 29; Were not some of them so excessively bad that they were placed under the charge of a sergeant of police, in a sort of hard labour department in a building adjoining the depot? Yes a few of them were unmanageable—about twelve altogether.

Did they not sometimes amount to upwards of a hundred, who were occupied in picking oakum to keep them employed? I never knew there was so many as a hundred…

Mrs Capps was not as malleable as Browne would have liked.

—-

I wonder what kind of answers the orphans themselves might have given, had they been asked to appear before the enquiry.

Would they have been all “Yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir” when they were questioned by powerful, authoritative males? Or do you think they stood up from themselves? 

Mary Black; So you couldn’t find the money to look after us famine refugees? Ya never tasted the milk of human kindness? Yer heart not big enough? Nothin’ much’s changed, has it, ya fuckers?

Mary McCann: I’d four kids to look after by 1858. Me and my husband took no notice of any bother. We didn’t know what was in the papers. Himself couldn’t read anyway. We were off to the diggins at Kangaroo Gully.

Bridget Harrington; There was always a crowd of fellas outside church on a Sunday, not all of them young fellas neither. None o’ them found us ‘distasteful’.

—-

Sometimes I think the main purpose of parliamentary enquiries such as this one is to pour oil on troubled waters. In this case, allow Browne to save face, give the Celtic Association an opportunity to air its grievances, and reach a compromise regarding the orphan ‘girls’.

On 19 August 1858, representatives from the Celtic Association, Jeremiah Moore, William Davis and James Hart were given the opportunity to express their disgust at the tenor of Browne’s remarks about Irish female immigrants and to defend the honour and good name of the orphans. But in their polite way of doing things, they insisted they were moved by ‘no personal hostility towards Mr Browne‘. Previously, in July, John Valentine Gorman, a notable Sydney merchant and auctioneer, and signatory to the Association’s petition, told the enquiry, he thought, as per the petition, that he would be giving evidence about Irish Female Immigration generally, and ‘not any particular class of it’, viz. the orphans. Some of the petitioners’ thunder had been stolen. Politics can be a sly and dirty business, can it not?

The enquiry stumbled forward, until nearly three months later, in early November, its committee met again. But now it had become smaller; Donaldson and Parkes no longer attended. On the 4th and 5th November it interviewed the Honourable Francis Merewether Esq MLC and Mrs Capps and Pawsey, both of whom kept  Female Servants’ Registry Offices in Sydney. It would be another forty seven days and five attempts to reach a quorum before H.H. Browne himself was called. He had been given plenty of time to prepare himself and gather documentation for his own defense. Despite being closely questioned by Daniel Deniehy who exposed  contradictions in his statements, Browne always managed to wriggle free and save face.

(p.51) 22 December 1858  57. By Mr Jenkins: In your replies to the questions of Mr Deniehy, when he wished to obtain from you the meaning you attached to the word “distasteful” , I understood you to say that the word referred to the system—that of apprenticeship?  The system had a great deal to do with it; because under the agreement the employer could not get rid of a servant without going before a Police Bench, and he would rather submit to inconvenience than submit himself to annoyance.

58. Apart from the system of apprenticeship, do you think orphan female immigration as desirable as other female immigration? Certainly not; I would not have recourse to any workhouse immigration. I think it is not a desirable class.

Thereafter the committee retired to consider the evidence it had gathered. In late January and early February 1859 they convened again to draw up their report. It was now in the hands of a small, intimate, in-house committee, consisting of only four or five men; George Thornton, Mr Deniehy, Mr Faucett, Mr Rotton and Mr Jenkins.

What decision did these five come to? What did their report contain?

You might like to read it for yourself. It is available via Trove in the Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 1859, page 5 col.6  http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1492527?zoomLevel=1

Here is a brief summary.

  • The Immigration report [1854] petitioners complained of, it should be noted, was signed not just by Agent Browne but by two other members of the Immigration Board as well.
  • An expression used in that report which was complained of by petitioners, referred not to all Irish female immigrants but to Irish Orphan Immigrants alone. The expression was not specified in the Report.
  • Petitioners also complained of the slur made against the moral character of Irish female immigrants. At the beginning of the enquiry, Agent Browne denied intending any such slur. The Committee  believed this to be true. And asserted ‘the character of Irish Female Immigrants’ was ‘equal to any other class of female immigrants’.
  • Many Irish females may not have been suited to upper-class urban domestic service when they arrived but trained properly they could aspire to that service.
  • The Orphans in particular may not have been suited to urban domestic service but they were sent out ‘at a season of particular want and affliction in Ireland‘ and ‘accepted by the local government as apprentices to the vocation of domestic servants‘, and paid a much lower rate of wages than other servants. And because they were indentured, any cancellation of their indenture was required to be officially noted.  They thus appear more prominently in the records.
  • Finally, the committee recommended the establishment of depots in Southern, Western and Northern districts to which suitable immigrants might be sent in the future.

 

Not everyone would be satisfied by their Report. Some would have preferred H. H. Browne be censured. But yes, that sound you hear is of hands being washed and the Famine orphans being consigned to history.

 

 

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (27): I’ve found an orphan!

I’ve found an orphan!

Let me give you an example of my search for an ‘Earl Grey Irish Famine orphan’ in Australia. My experience was not the same as someone looking for such an orphan in their family tree. I came at the task from the other direction, that is, from the information provided on the Pemberton shipping list and “Disposal List” in the Public Record Office Of Victoria, not backwards, researching the family line. Much of the work with Victorian shipping lists and disposal lists was done by an excellent researcher, Ada Ackerly. To whom we are all eternally grateful.

In the 1980s, I made several trips to Melbourne where I had the privilege of working inside the Victorian Birth, Death and Marriage Records. I think the records were then in Queen Street. Is that correct?

Here is an example of the process involved. I was searching for what became of 16 year old Jane Troy from Roscrea, County Tipperary. (If I was to take this further my first port of call would be the excellent Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, edited by John Crowley, William J Smyth and Mike Murphy, Cork University Press, 2012, where there is among other treasures a chapter on Roscrea workhouse by William J Smyth, pp.128.44).

                                                                           “…the line which says woodland and cries hunger

                                                                             and gives out among sweet pine and cypress,

                                                                            and finds no horizon

                                                                            will not be there”. (Eavan Boland) 

Jane was sent on to Portland not long after she arrived in Australia in May 1849. She appears on the ‘Disposal List’ as being employed by J. Eares of Portland, as a servant, employed at the annual rate of £10. What I did have in common with most family historians, I hope, was the desire to get it right. Maybe you have read Kay Caball’s recent blog post  http://mykerryancestors.com/sharing-your-kerry-ancestors/ ? There’s some good advice there.

I was working then using ‘cards’. The electronic ‘revolution’ of recent times had not hit home to workaday historians. And I had to use pencil. So I hope you can decipher my hieroglyphs. Double click, or finger pinch and stretch the images below, and they should become more readable.

I may have started with early church records (ECR) but it looks as though death certificates provided the confirmation I was after. Jane you can see was George Smith’s second wife. George was 44 when he married 17 year old Jane, and had two surviving adult sons. He’d spent eight years in Tasmania. I wonder if he was a former convict?

fojanetroycrd1

fojanetroycrd2

fojanetroycrd3

All of which would lead to this,

fojanetroypemb

that is, one of the family reconstitutions that inform my work on the orphans’ demography.

I still have the 1859 NSW Parliamentary report in my sights. Soon come.

A link to the contents of my blog again http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

May I offer my best wishes for the ‘Gathering’ at the Famine Rock in Williamstown 22 November? See https://tintean.org.au/2015/11/12/irish-ambassador-at-famine-rock-commemoration-2015/

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (26): a NSW parliamentary enquiry, 1858-9

A NEW SOUTH WALES PARLIAMENTARY ENQUIRY 1858-9

I’m thinking writing about this will involve more than one post. May I suggest that anyone interested in the Earl Grey Irish Famine Orphans should get hold of a copy of the NSW Legislative Assembly’s Report and read it for themselves? If you are in Australia, perhaps ask for help in your State Library. Here’s what I’m talking about. There are 78 pages in all.

blog1859report

 Despite its title, the Report and its minutes of evidence, is largely concerned with the Earl Grey female orphans. The NSW Immigration Agent’s Report for 1854 [H.H. Browne, he of ‘Cancelled Indentures’ fame] asserted, “the single females were, I regret to say, the most inferior that have, since the Orphan Immigration, come under my observation…”. His nose had been put out of joint by the arrival of the Lady Kennaway, 8 December 1854, carrying a large number of single females from the Cork Union Workhouse. Here is the link to a shipping list held in the State Records of New South Wales, http://indexes.records.nsw.gov.au/ebook/list.aspx?Page=NRS5316/4_4791/Lady%20Kennaway_8%20Dec%201854/4_479100349.jpg&No=4   …Bridget Savage, 18 year old needlewoman born City of Cork, daughter of William (decd.) and Margaret (in Cork), Roman Catholic, cannot read or write; Eliza Crowley, 20 year old housemaid, born Killcreagh, County Cork, daughter of Mark and Mary, both dead, Roman Catholic, able to read; Margaret Dennehy, 16 year old, never in service, born Mallow, County Cork, daughter of William and Mary, father dead, mother in Mallow, Roman Catholic, could neither read nor write, a traffic that had supposedly ended in 1850.

Matters became worse when it was found “certain irregularities” had occurred during the voyage. Under the chairmanship of Browne, the Immigration Board’s report on the ‘irregularities’, dated 5 February 1855, finished with the insulting comment, “orphan immigration having been so distasteful to the inhabitants of this colony, the Board did not contemplate the arrival of any fresh draft of that class of immigrants“.  And urged the Governor-General, Sir W. Denison, to tell the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in London “not to continue this description of emigration, it being most unsuitable to the requirements of the colony, and at the same time distasteful to the majority of the people”. See http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1493153?zoomLevel=1 Sydney Morning Herald 7 July 1858, p.3 cols.4 & 5.

It was a pot slow in coming to the boil. I wonder why the Sydney Irish community took so long to organize a defense of its young females? Browne’s next report, his 1855 report, which talked of the “uselessness of the majority of the single females” and the way Irish families ‘defrauded’ the current immigration system, only appeared in the colonial press in late 1856. Browne’s antipathy encouraged others. Have a look in the Empire 3 and 5 November 1856, a newspaper which was far from sympathetic to the Irish. And again, in the same paper, 15 July 1857, p.6, col.2,

The proportion of the sexes must be kept up, and as the English and Scotch girls will not emigrate, the Irish are the only ones left to apply to. The alternative, we have no doubt, is not a pleasant one to the colonist, who has set his heart on having a nice, tidy, English maid-servant to rub his furniture and make his beds, and has in her place a half wild nymph from Tipperary, whose nearest approach to the domestic service has been driving bullocks or feeding pigs. No contrast could be greater.

Perhaps the reason for the delay was the Sydney Irish were preoccupied with political matters, such as the coming of Responsible Government and with it, new immigration/remittance policies? In time, all the arrows and mud slinging became too much, even for the most conservative among them. The sheer number of insults thrown at young Irish women should have been enough to spur them to action. But add bad publicity about Irish immigrants, generally, that appeared in both the colonial and Metropolitan press: the London Times even mentioned Governor Denison’s despatch to George Grey with its threatened reduction in the number of Irish immigrants. And someone eventually took up the cudgels. At last, by late 1857, the Australian Celtic Association began to organize a petition against “the officious and unjust censure of Irish orphan girls”.

The Celtic Association was an esteemed body with well-known members. The former Attorney-General John Hubert Plunkett, [ http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/plunkett-john-hubert-2556 ] who had pursued and twice brought to trial those responsible for the Myall Creek massacre, was its President. Whether Plunkett was present at the petition meetings is uncertain. Archdeacon John McEncroe was certainly there, and played a leading role at the meeting on 19th April, 1858 when the petition to present to the Legislative Assembly was at last drawn up. Their petition reads as follows,

“To the Honourable the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales,

the humble petition of the undersigned, Members of the Australian Celtic Association,

Respectfully showeth,–That the Immigration Agent has, in their opinion, misrepresented the Irish female immigrants as being most unsuitable to the requirements of the colony, and at the same time distasteful to the majority of the people.

That he has thereby misinformed his Excellency the Governor General, and thus attempted to overrule the instructions sent by this Government to the Emigration Commissioners at home, “to apportion the emigration from the different divisions of the United Kingdom to the population of each”.

That to your petitioners apprehension the Legislature is alone competent to determine the description of emigrants, as well as their relative proportion from each country to the population of the United Kingdom, that should be brought out at the expense of the land fund of the colony.

That your petitioners humbly request that a committee of your honourable house be appointed to enquire into the conduct of H. H. Browne Esq., Immigration Agent, regarding his communications to the Colonial Secretary, marked Nos. 1 and 13, referred to by his Excellency the Governor General in his despatch to Sir G. Grey, dated Sydney, 2nd March 1855; and that the proposed committee should also take into consideration what further steps ought to be taken to render the emigration department more efficient in supplying the inhabitants of the interior with female servants, than at present it is found to be. 

And your petitioners will ever pray.”  [ http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1494483?zoomLevel=2 ]

It was not the best or most aggressively phrased petition: it left plenty of room for compromise. But it achieved its purpose.

One month later, on the 28th May, George Thornton, former Mayor of Sydney, moved in the Legislative Assembly that the petition be referred to a Select Committee of the House: and that its members should be,

Mr Daniel Deniehy, Mr Stuart Donaldson, Mr Peter Faucett, Mr Owen, Mr Henry Parkes, Mr Murray, Mr Williamson, Mr Henry Rotton, and himself, the mover, George Thornton.  [It is worth consulting the ADB (Australian Dictionary of Biography) to learn more about these men].

from the collections of the State Library of New South Wales

Daniel Deniehy c. 1859-60 from the collections of the State Library of New South Wales

Stuart Donaldson c. 1860 from the collections of the state Library of New South Wales

Stuart Donaldson c. 1860 from the collections of the state Library of New South Wales

Henry Parkes c. 1853 from the collections of the State Library of New South Wales

Henry Parkes c. 1853 from the collections of the State Library of New South Wales

George Thornton’s proposal was accepted. The Select Committee was to meet on several occasions between  6 July and 22 December, 1858, before drawing up its report in early 1859.

What it had to say about the Earl Grey Famine orphans will be the subject of a later post.

Post 18 has table of contents http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE