Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (32)

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)

——————————————

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…‘.

—————————-

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)

—————————————

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

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)

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?

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

(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!

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 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

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (24)

Some more orphan family reconstitutions

I used to own a number of books on historical demography–by T.G. Hollingsworth, E.A.Wrigley, R. S Schofield at al.–from the days when I taught early modern European history. Students were always interested in ‘sex and death’. But wouldn’t you know it? These were the very books I gave away when I was trying to reduce my library. I thought I’d never go back to that stuff. They would be very useful now: I could use them to tell you more about the family reconstitution method used by historical demographers. Nonetheless, such are the wonders of the modern world that all we need do, is type ‘family reconstitution method’ into Google. And lo, there is a link to E.A. Wrigley’s English Population History from Family Reconstitution 1580-1837, CUP, 1997. Large sections are available to read for free. We can see what he has to say about family reconstitution in his introduction.  https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=oFQBvre0xoMC&oi=fnd&pg=PR12&dq=family+reconstitution+method&ots=6JefQO9N8e&sig=nDXcqQbL9gHov9s_pTxphVUwvng#v=onepage&q=family%20reconstitution%20method&f=false  It may be more than you ever want to know.

Anyways, here are some more reconstituted orphan family charts from my original files. Click on the image to make it larger.

 

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Alice Gorman per Tippoo Saib   

 

Ann Dowd per Tippoo Saib

Ann Dowd per Tippoo Saib 

 

Ann Dowd again

Ann Dowd again. This gives more details about her husband’s arrival. 

 

 B Penrose per William and Mary

Bridget Penrose per William and Mary 

 

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Catherine O’Donnell per Tippoo Saib 

 

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Emma Kelly per Earl Grey 

 

Eliza Geoghagan per Digby

Eliza Geoghagan per Digby 

 

Eliza Roughan per Thomas Arbuthnot

Eliza Roughan per Thomas Arbuthnot

 

 

Jane McGarry per Earl Grey

Jane McGarry per Earl Grey 

Mary Prendergast per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Ann Prendergast per Thomas Arbuthnot  

 

 

 

Mary Green per Inchinnan

Mary Green per Inchinnan 

Mary Jane GAalway per Earl Grey. Did she marry again?

Mary Jane Galway per Earl Grey. Did she marry again?

 

Mary Weatherall per Lady Peel

Mary Weatherall per Lady Peel 

 

 

Mary Fitzgibbon per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Fitzgibbon per Thomas Arbuthnot

 

M. Plunkett per John Knox

Margaret Plunkett per John Knox

 

Mary Power per John Knox

Mary Power per John Knox 

 

 

Mary Roughan per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Roughan per Thomas Arbuthnot  

Finally, a couple of graphs which put the orphans into a larger immigration context. They were drawn a good while ago.

The figures are percentages

The figures are percentages 

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As always, my sincere thanks to the kind people who sent me information and photographs to use. The photograph at the head of the post is of Catherine Elliott nee Moriarty from Dingle, County Kerry. She is with her family in Queensland c. 1886. See Kay Caball’s The Kerry Girls.

The link to the contents of my blog is at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE  I made a mess of posts relating to the orphans’ voyage. There are three at 7(a), 7(b) and 7(c). 7 (c) is the substantive one.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (22)

CANCELLED INDENTURES

One of the first things I learnt as a history student many, many, years ago, was to examine the source I was using–where did it come from? How authentic was it? Was it reliable? If it was a document, who wrote it, and why? What was its purpose, what barrow was the author pushing, what axe did he or she want to grind? There’s no such thing as an unbiased source.

I’m beginning this post with Appendix J Return of Cases of Orphan Female Apprentices whose Indentures were cancelled, by the Court of Petty Sessions, at the Water Police Office [in Sydney]. It is part of the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Irish Female Immigration, 1858, pp. 373-450. The Legislative Assembly also ordered it to be printed in February 1859. I know some people may have trouble finding it, so I’ve scanned the whole of Appendix J. I’m sure a librarian in your State Library will help you too, should you wish to see more of the evidence.

Appendix J is a submission made by Immigration Agent H. H. Browne to a New South Wales Parliamentary Enquiry. The Enquiry was a result of a Petition by the Celtic Association complaining about the Agent’s remarks in his report for 1855, concerning Irish female immigrants. Browne had claimed Irish female immigrants were “most unsuitable to the requirements of the Colony, and at the same time distasteful to the majority of ‘the people'”. In other words, the ‘Return of cases of cancelled indentures’ is part of Browne’s defense. It would be worth a close scrutiny at some later date.

Below is the Appendix in full. You should be able to read each page in turn by clicking, or doing whatever you do with tablets and ipads. There are eight pages, listing 254 cases in all. Browne did not become Immigration Agent until mid 1851. Before that, he was a member of the Sydney Orphan Committee and Water Police Office Magistrate. In other words, he was the Magistrate who presided over the cases listed here. As the observant Surgeon Strutt noted in his diary, on Friday 3 May 1850, Went to the Water Police Court to hear the complaints made against the orphan girls. Six of them were summoned and one mistress for harsh treatment, but the tone of the Magistrate was against all the girls…”.

Appendix J

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Newspaper reporters of the day were strongly influenced by the political ruckus surrounding the Earl Grey Scheme. No doubt they were influenced too, by gossip, rumour, and innuendo, some of which came from the Water Police Office late on a Friday afternoon, after Browne had finished with the orphan cases. Petty sessions court reports, a standard feature of major colonial newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald or the Argus in Melbourne and even local, country, newspapers, were full of stories about individual female orphans in 1849, 1850 and 1851. The Sydney cases listed above were not reported in the Herald as often as cases from other Courts of Petty Sessions, in Parramatta, Windsor, and Penrith, for example.

Let me examine one particular case. It may alert you to different ways of interpreting evidence. Remember, just as there were specific legal requirements before a person could be incarcerated in a mental asylum, or before a divorce would be granted, so too, there were specific legal grounds for cancelling indentures. “Insolence” or “disobedience”, “improper conduct”, “absconding” and “neglect of duty” on the part of the apprentice, or servant, were permissible legal reasons. Have a look at the ‘nature of charge’ column in the lists above. See also the apprenticeship agreement at the end of my blogpost 13, http://wp.me/p4SlVj-g4 for information about the obligations of both master and servant.

Against the Grain

Here’s the case I want to examine; it’s a report of proceedings at the Court of Petty Sessions in Parramatta, from the Sydney Morning Herald, 4 January 1850, page 3.

Irish Orphan Girl—FRANCES TEARNEN (Tiernan),

apprenticed to Mr John Kennedy, appeared

before their Worships, Mr Hardy, P. M., and

Dr Anderson, J. P. The girl’s behaviour be-

fore the Bench clearly indicated her character.

Mrs Kennedy deposed that the girl was impu-

dent in the extreme, and informed her (Mrs.

K.) that she would not stand at the wash tub

unless she was allowed to wear patent leather

shoes; she was in the habit of beating and ill-

using the children, and with showing her mis-

tress sundry five-shilling pieces, stating she

had received them from single men; also, that

Frances had expressed her determination to be

married, and be her own mistress. Mr Ken-

nedy stated he cold not keep the girl, and the

indentures were cancelled.

Putting aside the reporter poking fun at Frances’s desire to wear inappropriate shoes at the wash tub, what do we see? Surely, you might say, Frances was guilty of ‘improper conduct’ and her indentures should have been cancelled.

Now what happens if you read the report ‘against the grain’, not as the reporter wants you to read it but if you put yourself in that young Famine refugee’s shoes? What stands out? I’m going to get married and be my own mistress”. I won’t have to submit to this life of drudgery or obey your stupid commands, your bossiness, and your snotty children who deserve the smack around the ears I give them. I have men friends who want to marry me. I’ve never before had money to spend on myself and buy what I like. You don’t know what it was like in Longford when there was no food, and the workhouse was so crowded people were dying like flies. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Longford/ I swear you have no idea what happened on board our vessel, the DigbyThe Captain was a right bastard. I had to protect my poor wee sisters all the time.

If, now, you stand back a little, what else do you see…a superficial and ignorantly insensitive reporter, lacking in compassion, (unfortunately all too common) who could not be bothered to find out more about Frances? Who was she? Where did she come from? What was she fleeing?

I’m suggesting there are different ways of reading the evidence. To counteract the ‘official’ ‘establishment’ view, I’m suggesting, put yourself in the shoes of  the Famine orphans, see things from the viewpoint of the young women themselves.

Some time ago, in the introduction to Barefoot vol.1, I wrote the following,

‘…indentures cancelled on grounds of the orphans’ absconding, insolence, misconduct, negligence or disobedience are not simply evidence of the orphans being ‘improper women’ ‘unsuited to the needs of the Colony’.  Such evidence might also reflect the young women’s resistance to being treated as drudges by ‘vulgar masters who had got up in the world’. [Archdeacon McEncroe at the 1858 Government Enquiry] It might reflect the young women’s ‘culture shock’…

Undoubtedly, too, both master and servant tried to work the ‘system’. The protection offered the young women by colonial officials encouraged employers to complain the more. Masters thought they could return their unruly servants to… Barracks, forgetting that they were already compensated for the orphans’ ignorance of domestic service by the low wages they paid. Masters’ dissatisfaction was also fuelled by the bad press the young women received. “They had been swept from the streets into the workhouse and thence to New South Wales’; they were ‘Irish orphans, workhouse sweepings. ‘hordes of useless trollops’, ‘ ignorant useless creatures’,  a drain upon the public purse who threatened to bring about a Popish Ascendancy in New south Wales…

In turn, the young women, hearing of better conditions elsewhere–higher wages, a kinder master or mistress–knew full well that insolence or neglect of their duties was the means of terminating their employment. Cancellation of their indenture by the Magistrate at the Water Police Office in Sydney, a return to Hyde Park Barracks before being forwarded up the country to Goulburn, Bathurst, Bega, Yass or Moreton Bay may have been preferable to remaining in their current position. It was a gamble many were willing to take’.

Now if I had the energy, or the talent, I’d unpick this argument and develop it some more. To repeat, I’m trying to insist we view what was happening through the eyes of the orphans themselves. What helps explain the orphans’ relatively high rate of cancelled indentures? 

Let me try to develop something I mentioned briefly in that quote above, viz. the culture shock the young women must have experienced. What kind of culture clash upset their well-being? In the example I used in that quotation from the introduction to Barefoot 1, I drew attention to the anger, and anomie, and frustration, of young Mary Littlewood. (See my  post 9 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-dQ )

But there were other things as well, things that every migrant experiences to a greater or lesser degree–how to feel your way, how to keep your identity, and yet adapt to your new society. Our young Famine orphans, however, were different from this. They felt the usual uprooting and confusion more acutely than others. They were first and foremost refugees, refugees fleeing a society torn apart by a tragedy of monumental proportions. They were young females without the ‘normal’ support of family and ‘friends’. They were adolescents whose religion and ethnicity was at odds with many members of their ‘host’ society. The figures in authority who were to give them guardianship and support–Orphan Committees, Sisters of Mercy, Matrons in Immigration Barracks–were not always people with whom the orphans could easily communicate. They more likely trusted their shipmates.

What do youse think you’re doin’, dressin’ up like a wee tart Ellen Lynch? Where’d ya get those clothes an’ those silly flowers?

Jealous Missus? Your old man has nuthin’ for ye. He just loves the drink. I’m goin’ to see ma frens an ye can’t stop me.

C’mere ya cheeky wee hussy. I’ll box yer ears. You’re going nowhere. C’mere. C’MERE. ELLEN. I’m warning ya.

I’ll tear yer guts out, silly old sow.

Sydney Morning Herald 18 January 1850 Ellen Welch… appeared before the Court, dressed in the latest fashion, her face was encircled with artificial flowers of the most choice selection, and her general appearance was certainly not that of a servant…

Sydney Morning Herald 19 December 1849 Judy Caerney…appeared before their Worships…charged with refusing to do her work. The bench ordered the indentures to be cancelled and Judy to be returned to barracks. In an hour or two afterwards she was seen walking through the town smartly dressed, and apparently in good spirits at having received between two and three pounds balance in wages. There is not a doubt but that was more money than the girl ever possessed before…

It’s not hard to imagine how excited young workhouse famine orphans were, at receiving wages, having money in hand, money to spend on new clothes. And excited, too, by the gifts and attention of male admirers. Or the feeling of independence, they had rarely known. Their mistresses and masters may well have been concerned, even jealous of their charge. Such displays as those of Ellen and Judy could lead to disapproval, words exchanged, quick wit, cutting repartee, impudence, and absconding on the part of orphan servants. The young women also may have resented their ‘inferiority’ in the household, and having to work harder than they’d ever worked before.

Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser 23 January 1850 Yesterday, Mr James Quegan applied to the bench to cancel the indentures of Bridget Kearney…[who] had latterly become insolent to her mistress and had refused to obey her orders. Kearney also wished to leave her service. The bench cancelled the indentures.

Ties formed on the long sea journey to Australia could be incredibly strong. The orphans made new friends and crafted their own moral code, doing what was right by each other, even if it meant breaking the law.

Sydney Morning Herald 22 April 1850 Irish Orphan Girls.–One of these girls, in the service of a family no great distance from the Emigrant Barracks, committed a robbery on her mistress. The articles consisted of a variety of baby linen, which were not missed till after the girl had left her service, when suspicion falling upon her by her mistress, search was made among the girls in the Barracks, and the articles found in the boxes of two other girls. It was ascertained that the object of the girl committing the theft was, to supply the anticipated necessities of the two girls, whose early accouchement is expected.

For some who were finding their way in their new land, it would involve a loss of sexual innocence. {All this makes me realize how little I know about Irish attitudes to work, the depth and extent of religious belief, and female sexuality before the Famine. I’m fairly confident their sex lives were not as repressive or as puritanical as they became in post-Famine Ireland}.

Sydney Morning Herald 19 September 1850. Page three provides an account of a case against Captain Morphew of the Tippoo Saib  for a breach of the Hired Servants Act, he having harboured Julia Daly, a runaway from the service of A. H. M. McCulloch, an Elizabeth Street solicitor. Early in August Mr McCulloch had hired two orphans, Julia Daly and Mary Connor. By the end of the month they had absconded and gone to a hotel. Mary acted as witness in the case, stating “…they went to a furnished house at Newtown: there were two bedrooms in the house, one of which was occupied by her and the other by Julia and the Captain…she left Mr McCulloch’s because Julia would not stay, and she would go any where with her rather than stop alone… Other witnesses, including the owner of the house in Newtown, stated that Captain Morphew “represented Julia Daly as his wife”. Morphew was convicted, and fined £20, with costs.

Moreton Bay District

One of the most interesting aspects of this whole saga of cancelled indentures is the freedom and skill with which orphans in the Moreton Bay district used the law to defend themselves and to ‘contest the hostile environment they found themselves in’. The history of the orphans’ cancelled indentures is a lot more complicated than Immigration Agent Browne would have us believe.

Some details of the story are in my Barefoot 2, Section 5 ‘Feisty Moreton Bay Women’, pp.112-23. Maybe your library has a copy? I didn’t learn about the court appearances of these young women, most of them from Clare, Galway and Kerry, until Dr Connors’s brilliant conference paper, at the 7th Irish-Australian Studies conference, in the University of Queensland, in 1993.

Dr Connors examined the cases concerning orphans and the cancellation of their indentures that came before the Brisbane Court of Petty Sessions, in 1850 and 1851. Sometimes orphan apprentices initiated prosecution of their employer. Sometimes an employer was the plaintiff. The orphans, Dr Connors argued, were willing to assert their ‘legal rights and privileges’ and to contest ‘wage and employment issues’. Even as defendants, they ‘readily resorted to counter-claims of religious or ethnic discrimination and moral impropriety in the face of strong evidence of their own misbehaviour’.

Thus, for example, 2 August 1850, when Mary Byrnes from Galway complained to the court about her employer using “improper expressions“, she was awarded the wages owing to her; she had her indentures cancelled; and court costs were shared equally.

Likewise, 22 October 1850, Mr Windell, the master of feisty young apprentice, Margaret Stack from Clare, found her more than a redoubtable opponent in court. Windell presented evidence of Margaret’s persistent impudence and neglect of duty. She has for some time conducted herself in a most insolent manner…when sent to the butcher’s for meat, she took off her muddy shoes, and placed them in the basket, on the meat, which was consequently covered with filth; and when remonstrated with, and asked if she did not know better, she replied, NO I Do Not! He beat me and boxed my ears–many times. 

A master did have a legal right to beat his apprentice, Dr Connors explains, but the Brisbane authorities, given the controversy surrounding the orphans, could not afford ‘any allegation of impropriety’. Margaret’s indentures were cancelled and she lost the 8 shillings in wages owing to her. But when an orphan had her indentures cancelled, she oftentimes considered herself to be the victor.

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Margaret Smith Ni Stack and family

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In 1851, when Thomas Hennessy complained of the absenteeism and misconduct of young Mary Moriarty  from Kerry, Mary countered with allegations of sexual harassment and beatings. Hennessy used to come to the sofa every morning and make uses of expressions I cannot repeat and because I laughed he struck me and kicked me down. Mary’s indentures were cancelled and she received the £1.2s.8d wages owed to her.  For more information see Kay Caball, The Kerry Girls. Unfortunately we do not have the accent, or the intonation, of the young women recorded. Perhaps you would like to add that yourself? (See below for details of the origins of these particular young women).

Catherine Elliott Ni Moriarty and her family. Mary's sister.

Catherine Elliott Ni Moriarty and her family. Catherine was Mary’s sister.

Whether the Moreton Bay District was unique or whether the orphans were as feisty and combative elsewhere, has yet to be discovered. There were, however, exceptional Moreton Bay circumstances we need to acknowledge. Setting aside the spirit and determination of the young women themselves, Dr Connors alerts us to a bureaucratic loophole that allowed them some freedom of movement. Because there was no Orphan Committee in Brisbane, she says, all orphan master-servant, master-apprentice contracts were sent to Sydney for approval, a delay the orphans were not slow to exploit. “They found themselves without legal restraint and took the opportunity to go from one job to another, residing at the barracks in between” (Connors, ‘Politics of ethnicity’, Papers delivered, 177).

It was an intolerable situation that should not be permitted, according to the Moreton Bay Courier,  25 August 1849 p. 2 column 4, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/541372?zoomLevel=1

When one of those immigrants is engaged as an apprentice, the indentures are prepared in triplicate, signed by the employer, and transmitted, by the local Immigration Agent, to Sydney, for completion by the signatures of the guardians there. In the meantime, the servant is taken home by her master or mistress, who is not long in discovering that the young lady has full consciousness of her freedom from any restraint to bind her to her service. She will work if she pleases, but, if not,she returns to her idle quarters kn the barrack, and by the time that the indentures are signed and returned from Sydney the apprentice” is perhaps making trial of another service, to be vacated afterwards in a similar manner. This is clearly an evil that calls for remedy…we cannot recognise their claim to greater immunities, and it is certain that in ordinary cases, an apprentice would not be permitted to exercise the wilfully independent spirit which has been evinced in some instances by these Government “Orphans”. During the past week we have heard of a case where one of these gentle dames left her service for the avowed reason that she “would not eat the brad of a heretic”, and this is not a bad sample of some of the excuses given by others”.

Hurrah for the young women’s ‘wilfully independent spirit‘ that occasionally tipped the scales in their favour is all I can say.

Another ‘exceptional circumstance’ working in the young women’s favour was the ‘village’ scale of Brisbane. People knew each other, and each other’s business. The orphans met regularly and gave each other support. The Courier even reported the local Catholic priest, the Reverend Father Hanly, having a quiet word with the Bench, in favour of the feisty young Margaret Stack.

And if I may add something more…here are the orphans who appeared before the courts in Brisbane over breaches of Master-Servant legislation. What strikes you?

Mary Byrnes 15 year old from Ballynakill, County Galway per Thomas Arbuthnot

Catherine Dempsey 17 year old from Castlehackett, County Galway per Panama

Margaret Stack 14 year old from Ennistymon, County Clare per Thomas Arbuthnot

Catherine King 14 year old from Loughrea, County Galway, per Thomas Arbuthnot

Alice Gavin 16 year old from Ennis, County Clare per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Moriarty 16 year old from Dingle, County Kerry per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Connolly 14 year old from Kilmaley, County Clare per Thomas Arbuthnot

Jane Sharp 15 year old from Cavan per Digby

Apart from their tender years, and their origin in the West of Ireland, what struck me most is the name of the vessel they sailed in, viz. the Thomas Arbuthnot. If we could hear these orphans talk, what might they say? Perhaps “Thankyou Surgeon Strutt. God Bless you. You treated us with kindness and compassion. You believed in us and you made us believe in ourselves. You told us we, too, had rights, and we should stand up for ourselves”. (Every teacher knows that praise and positive encouragement are  the best skills they can have).

MARRIAGE

Finally, the single most important reason for ending an orphan’s indenture was her marriage. Remember Frances Tiernan’s, “I’m going to get married and be my own mistress”. For marriage, permission from Orphan Committees had to be sought, and if the proposed spouse was a ticket-of-leave holder, from the Superintendent of Convicts as well. But this was usually granted: once the orphan married she was no longer the legal responsibility of her Guardians. I suspect most of the older ones did not bother seeking permission. From my family reconstitutions, an Earl Grey orphan married when she was just over nineteen years of age, and within two and a half to three years of her arrival. There are examples of my family reconstitutions in earlier posts. See, for example, http://wp.me/p4SlVj-gb  [It follows that ‘orphans’ marrying’ is where I should go for the next post. Maybe I’ll do it later. I would like to take a closer look at the 1858 NSW Government enquiry first. Who knows]?

MARY COGHLAN

Allow me to finish by drawing attention to how much of a lottery an orphan’s marriage could be. The Moriarty sisters mentioned above, married well, and raised large families. Their story is told in Kay Caball’s lovely book,  The Kerry Girls.

On the other hand, the ‘lottery’ was a disaster for Mary Coghlan from Skibbereen. I wonder if the Skibbereen orphans, badly traumatised by their experience of the Famine, found it harder than others to settle in Australia. Mary was a 17 year old when she arrived in Port Phillip on board the Eliza Caroline in 1850. With a number of shipmates–Mary Driscoll, Ellen Collins, Mary Donovan, Julia Dorney–also from Skibbereen, she was sent round the Bay to Geelong, where she was to meet her husband, James Walton. The pair quickly took off for the gold diggings at Ballarat. We know that Mary, returned to Geelong to baptise her first two children, Mary and James, in the St Mary’s of Angels Church.

It wasn’t till 1857 that we hear of them again, when both of them were on trial for the murder of Edward Howell in Ballarat. The report of the case in the Miner and Weekly Star, 1 May 1857, shows that alcohol played a part. Mary claimed Howell had called her a whore which provoked her to hit him on the forehead with a wooden batten. But what killed Howell, was not that blow but the head-kicking he received from James. A witness spoke in favour of Mary, The male prisoner [James Walton] was under the influence of liquor but he understood what he was about. I know the prisoner [Mary Walton] to be a hard working woman, and at the time the occurrence took place her husband was bound over to keep the peace towards his wife. At the end of the trial, after Mary was acquitted, the Judge, Mr Justice Molesworth, turned to Mary’s husband, James Walton, You appear to be a man addicted to liquor and using violence to your wife, and that violence perhaps led to her violence to the deceased. This, your violence has resulted in the melancholy loss of the life of a human creature. The jury with one exception, have recommended you to mercy, and I shall pass a more lenient sentence than I otherwise should do. The sentence of the Court is that you be kept to hard labor on the road for eighteen months.

 It would be short-lived respite for Mary from her drunken, abusive husband. A few years later, before she reached 30, she was dead, and her husband on trial for her murder.

Once again it is the Miner and Weekly Star 4 April 1862 that provides details of what happened. Luckily a more accessible copy of the report from the inquest is available in The Star Ballarat, 31 March 1862, Supplement, page 1, under the headline “Brutal Outrage in South Street”. You can view it at http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/6455284?zoomLevel=1 You will need to zoom in closer.

The inquest tells us more about what happened to Mary. Evidently, she suffered badly from domestic abuse. Her husband beat her physically and cruelly abused her psychologically. In mid March 1862, she was about a month short of full term when her husband assaulted her. After being thrown out of their tent into the cold, at night, from 7 p.m. till the early hours of the next morning, semi-clad, and having been “shoved and kicked about” by James, Mary lost yet another of her babies. Mary claimed he had made her lose four others by ill-treating her the same way. Before she died Mary made a deposition to the Police Magistrate in Ballarat, Stephen ClissoldHe pulled me out of bed and shoved me one way and then another. I was stupid and taken in labor after he beat me, and I can’t tell half what he did to me… The child was born dead. Prisoner struck me with his hand and his foot. He struck me all over. He struck me with the point of his foot. I was tumbling on the floor. My daughter was in the house when he beat me. He ill-used me from the Saturday till the Friday, when the child was born. Sometimes he’d up and give me a shove or a slap.

Jane Skilling, a neighbour, deposed While I was undressing, I heard her repeatedly asking to be let in. He refused, and she was still outside at two o’clock, when I had retired to my tent and fallen asleep. While sitting on the children’s bed, she told him that he had killed four children to her, and that he was trying to kill the fifth…The witness said that their 11 year old daughter had seen her father beat her mother on several occasions.

Margaret Mickison, another neighbour, deposed…During the nine months they have resided near us, the woman was a hard working woman, especially when her husband was in prison. While he was in prison I have once seen her intoxicated. She seemed to have taken drink at other times, but did her work. They were decent-like for a fortnight after he came out of gaol. She was never actually drunk, and kept her children very respectable during the time her husband was in prison. She was always working hard, and went out to wash.

After a brief period…the jury returned the following verdict:- “Her death took place…in the Ballarat District Hospital, and was caused by typhoid fever and enteritis brought on by a miscarriage, and such was occasioned by the ill-treatment of her husband, James Walton”. The prisoner was then removed to prison on the charge of manslaughter.

Poor Mary Coghlan, a victim of the Famine in Skibbereen. Indentures cancelled. Brutalized in Ballarat.  Life ended.

And death shall have no dominion

no more gulls cry at their ears

or waves  break loud on the seashores; (Dylan Thomas)

Post script.

As always, my thanks to family historians who provided me with documents and photographs.

Thanks also to Judith Kempthorne who did brilliant work as my research assistant (in late 1987 was it, whilst still an undergraduate?) working professionally through  newspaper microfilm uncovering references to ‘Irish orphans’. Thanks heaps Judith.

Finally, a link to a post that lists the contents of this blog. I hope it will help us navigate our way around it.

 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

For information about the annual gathering at Hyde Park Barracks and other events, see www.irishfaminememorial.org

 

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (21)

Why did the Earl Grey scheme come to an end?

As per the ‘About’ page of this blog, you’re not forced to accept anything I say. Please, feel free to let me know your take on why the Earl Grey scheme came to an end. History has always been about discussion and debate.

“‘Uncertainty in meaning is incipient poetry‘-who said that?” (Brian Friel, Translations)

One of the problems we have is that the most accessible sources that have survived–government enquiries, parliamentary papers, newspaper articles and the like–were written  from the vantage point of the upper and middle-class establishment. It would be a shame to let that decide for us what is important and accept what they say at face value. It would give us a one-sided history.  But sometimes, as in this case, they are very important. I just hope we don’t lose sight of the young women themselves, or at least, make sure we come back to them.

I’ve always found that writing something down is a good first step.  More than one draft is always needed.

Maybe we can start by looking at Earl Grey’s relationship with the Australian colonies, that is, the larger context of the Orphan Emigration Scheme.

The larger context

What political issues formed the backdrop to the Earl Grey Scheme? For example, who controlled Imperial and colonial finances? Where was the money to come from, to pay for government-assisted emigration? Were colonial ‘Crown Revenues’ completely under the Crown’s control, to be used and spent as Earl Grey wished? Did Earl Grey arbitrarily charge colonial crown revenues for continued convict transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, and for his underhand renewal of convict, or ‘exile’, transportation to New South Wales?

Perhaps Earl Grey’s personal papers have something to say about his surrender to colonial demands to end the orphan emigration scheme? I certainly haven’t looked at these. What I’m suggesting here, is that there is more to this question than meets the eye.  If I may be allowed to make a contemporary political analogy, poor Federal funding of public education is not something totally unrelated to the present Australian government’s favouring coal mines, at the expense of renewable energy schemes. Or even unrelated, for that matter, to silencing medical and other staff at so-called ‘refugee detention centres’. The ideology that underpins political decisions is worth considering. Things which on the surface do not appear to be linked, are in fact very much part of a whole.

At base, the Irish Famine orphan emigration scheme is linked to a number of sensitive matters: colonial labour supply and the expansion of government-assisted emigration; Grey’s attemp to continue Lord Stanley’s renewal of convict transportation to New South Wales; control of the Land fund and colonial revenues generally; and how Imperial Government and Colonial legislatures would handle approaching constitutional reform.

If I may illustrate this further, at an early stage of his administration, Grey accepted pastoralists’ demands for access to lands that Governor Gipps had previously denied. But he had little faith in New South Wales pastoralists’ ability to govern in the best interests of the colonies. The whole issue of constitutional reform for the Australian colonies, which was to lead to ‘Representative‘ and later ‘Responsible‘ government, was a burning issue for Grey’s administration. As my good friend Professor Frank Clarke puts it, “Grey always harboured the most serious mistrust over the ability of squatter-dominated colonial legislatures to administer the land revenues in an impartial fashion. He thought they would more often than not treat the land funds as loot to be distributed among themselves. He appeared to have a fine understanding of the mindset of most colonial conservatives“. Some may argue that constitutional reform lay in the future. But it was nonetheless there, and not always in the background, as opposition to the orphan emigration scheme unfolded in Australia.

Let me give you an example to clarify this.

Even though convict transportation to New South Wales had ceased in 1840, Grey ‘smuggled in’ a number of convicts between 1847 and 1849, without consulting colonists. For him, it was another way of supplying labour. The Joseph Soames, Adelaide, Randolph, Havering, Hashemy and Mount Stewart Elphinstone arrived in Port Phillip, Port Jackson and Moreton Bay carrying convicts, or ‘exiles’ as they were euphemistically known. The ‘exiles’ were given tickets-of-leave immediately on landing, and dispersed throughout New South Wales. Some were forwarded to Sydney from Port Phillip because they were not wanted there. Others were farmed out to Maitland, Newcastle, Clarence River, and the Moreton Bay districts.

When the Hashemy arrived in Port Jackson in the middle of 1849, 4 – 5,000 people took part in a public protest in the streets of Sydney, precisely when the Irish orphan emigration scheme was in full cry. In June 1849, the protesters presented Governor Fitzroy with a petition asking the ‘exiles’ be sent back to England and Ireland. When he refused, he was presented with resolutions adopted at a public meeting viz. (1) censuring the Governor himself for his lack of courtesy, (2) demanding the dismissal of Earl Grey from office, and (3) advocating the introduction of responsible government immediately! One can see how easy it was for colonists to say “we don’t want your convicts, and we don’t want your paupers”! Reports of “The Great Protest against Transportation” appeared in newspapers around the country: “the injustice they now faced was far more flagrant, far more oppressive than that which had given birth to the American rebellion” (Colonial Times, Hobart 29 June, p.4). Little wonder then, that the Imperial Government in London was ready to listen, and put a stop to Grey’s sending convicts and workhouse orphans. By September 1849 Orphan Committees in Adelaide and Melbourne were calling for a reduction in the number of orphans, and by the end of the year or early 1850, that the scheme should stop. The last orphan ship, the Tippoo Saib, was to leave Plymouth in April 1850.

At the risk of repetition, let me quote something I wrote earlier viz. “Grey’s larger concern, providing the Australian colonies with labour, was to draw him into the quagmire of renewed transportation, ‘exile-ism’, and the emigration of convict families, political issues that would tarnish his name and from which he never really recovered. Not helped, of course, by his own high-minded attitude to colonials. Grey’s principal means of meeting colonial demands for labour was the renewal of large-scale government-assisted emigration. And of this, the female orphan scheme was but a part.

Yet, as Grey responded to pressing colonial demands for labour, he failed to resolve the long-standing differences between colonist and Imperial authority over the question of how government-assisted emigration should be funded and run. In fact he aggravated these differences by insisting that Britain keep control over land funds, and hence, emigration policy. His opponents would seize on the Female Orphan scheme as a means of embarrassing him and of pursuing their own political claims. In turn, some of the odium attached to Earl Grey rubbed off on the female orphans. Whether the orphans, themselves, were aware of being pawns in this larger political contest remains to be seen, it is clear their immediate fate was inextricably bound up with the name of Earl Grey”.

Weaknesses of the scheme: was it doomed from the start?

In some respects it was. Some of the scheme’s weaknesses were ‘structural’ or ‘systemic’ weaknesses. Even before the first orphan ships had arrived, South Australian government officials were advocating the scheme should include a proportionate number of female ‘orphans’ sent from workhouses in England and Scotland. But that was always difficult to arrange. Young people in English Parish workhouses were sent into service at an early age, 14 or 15 years, was the response, when the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners (CLEC) enquired about the possibility. [There were c. 80, in fact, sent from English workhouses to different parts of Australia, including some on the Ramillies]. From a purely organisational point of view, it was easier for the CLEC to bring young women from Irish workhouses. Nonetheless, the cry that there should be young women sent from England and Scotland, in proportionate numbers, was something critics of the scheme in Australia could and would use to their advantage.

The CLEC became a victim of their own organisational skills. Once the ‘production line’ of orphan ships was set in motion it was difficult to stop.  Commissioners sent too many, too soon–that is– from an Australian point of view, not an Irish one. By early 1850, there was an oversupply of Irish female servants in Melbourne and Sydney. It became more difficult to find employers the Sydney and Melbourne Orphan committees approved of.

Similarly, organisation of the scheme in Australia–Orphan Committees, master-servant regulations, children’s apprenticeships and the like–would come back to bite colonial authorities. South Australia, for example, stepped around the master-servant apprenticeship arrangements the Imperial government had asked for (except for the very young)–they were too expensive to administer. Only to find the Irish orphans could exploit this weakness. Some of the orphans, knowing authorities were obliged to ‘protect’ them, returned to immigration depots when things were not to their liking: the orphans were a lot more savvy than people often give them credit for. But it was also an unwelcome expense authorities had not foreseen.

After the scheme had ended, the Irish Poor Law Commissioners were to “ascribe much of the misconduct of the Irish orphan girls, to the mistaken injudicious leniency and indulgence shown to them by the [Children’s Apprenticeship] Board…whilst they were allowed to resort to the Depot from the country and from their employers, and to the absence of sufficient discipline and control whilst they were at the Depot on their first resort to it…“. Grey himself agreed: “...in my opinion the Irish Poor Law Commissioners have succeeded in showing that a considerable part of the causes which led to the failure of the plan is to be found in the injurious though well-meant kindness which was shown to the orphans by the colonial authorities” (Grey to Governor Young 24 Feb. 1851, British Parliamentary Papers Colonies Australia vol.13 Session 1851-2, p.348). See the same place for the full Report of the Irish Poor Law Commission, pp.348-52.

Also working against the scheme, was what we might call a ‘collective (male) mentality’ towards single female emigrants who dared travel “without natural protectors”. Here’s something from my Preface to volume one of Barefoot and Pregnant? to clarify what I mean.

It is worth making the general point that contemporary attitudes towards females were inimical to any easy acceptance of the orphans. Single female immigrants to Australia were too often looked down upon by religious leaders and members of the upper and middle-class public in both Britain and Australia for much of the nineteenth century. It was as if the language of ships’ captains and surgeons, who were uncomfortable if not downright hostile to women convicts and female paupers in their charge, was the accepted way of saying things. Their condemnatory language was repeated parrot fashion by a succession of commentators on female immigrants as a way of attracting attention. The hostility of the early days towards convicts, and the paupers of the 1830s, for example, was to forge images and condition attitudes towards later female migrants, not least the famine orphans from Irish workhouses. Virtuous single women just did not emigrate to such a faraway country as Australia ‘without natural protectors’. Therefore those who did, could not have been really virtuous. George Hall put it to a South Australian Parliamentary enquiry in 1856 that one ‘could never expect to derive such girls of good character from such a source’, as Irish Poor Law Unions. Such a propensity for prejudging the young women led to the condemnation of them all, not just a few, as prostitutes, ill-disciplined and promiscuous during the voyage, and ill-suited for work in the colonies. The stereotype, once fixed, became very difficult to remove”.

No doubt there are exceptions to such generalisations. Surgeon Strutt comes immediately to mind, and no doubt many male commentators were well-meaning; they saw themselves as guardians working to improve the morals of the lower classes. Their fear was that the orphans would easily be led astray, and fall on ‘evil courses’. All they required, however, was one or two examples of ‘misconduct’ and their prophecy became self-fulfilling.

Thus for example, the Presbyterian Reverend Robert Haining accepting his appointment to the Orphan Committee in Adelaide, and before any orphans had arrived, suggested the young women be allowed “as little intercourse with the town of Adelaide as possible until they obtain situations and never if it can be managed, without some sort of surveillance for otherwise they will undoubtedly be thrown into the society of evil disposed persons who will both lead them into much harm and hold out inducements to them to withdraw themselves from under all control whatsoever and thus defeat the object which the government at home has in using that of indenturing them to respectable colonists who will look to their welfare and morals…“.  (State Records of South Australia GRG 24/6 1287, 22 August 1848).

Or, from the Sydney Immigration Board, on the scandal associated with the Subraon which arrived shortly before the Earl Grey. 

“a party of 12 female orphans had been put on board from a foundling institution in Dublin. The ship had not long left Plymouth when some of these girls were taken to wait on the officers and surgeon. A connexion of the worst kind sprung up between the first and third mates and some of these girls; and it is difficult to doubt that the same was the case with the captain, whose conduct and language to the girl who attended upon him is described by her as of the most improper and corrupting kind…the girls were repeatedly seen intoxicated with liquor given them by the captain and mates…several of these girls are now pursuing in Sydney the evil course into which they had been initiated on the voyage by the misconduct of the captain and his officers”. (Minutes of the Proceedings of the Immigration Board at Sydney respecting certain irregularities which occurred in board the ship “Subraon”. Printed for the use of the Government only, Bent St., Sydney, 1848) The enquiry into what happened on the Subraon occurred in May and June 1848.

blogsubraon

The first orphan ship,  the ‘EARL GREY’ ,  sets the scene

Shortly after the Subraon scandal came the shock of Surgeon-Superintendent Henry Grattan Douglass’ report on the first vessel of the official scheme to arrive in Sydney, the Earl Grey. In a letter to the Colonial Secretary, dated 7 October 1848, only a day after the ship arrived in Port Jackson, Douglass claimed, that in the selection of orphans,

“gross imposition had been practised upon the Land and Emigration Commissioners;

that instead of girls educated in the orphan schools in Ireland (as the Secretary of the Emigration Board in London had led him to expect) the females placed under his charge had been early abandoned to the unrestricted gratification of  their desires, and left to conceive as erroneous any idea of the value of truth as of the necessity of personal restraint;

that there are not wanting among them those who boast of the prolific issue of their vices;

that expatriation had been held out to them as the reward of the workhouse, and that 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”. 

Two weeks later, just after the arrival of the Roman Emperor in Adelaide, a not dissimilar letter was sent to the Colonial secretary by Surgeon Superintendent Richard Eades,

the moral education of a great number of the emigrants was neglected, erroneous or vicious, careless of the opinion of society, possessing little self respect, and less self control, they were governed by their passions and impulses. Hence I experienced much difficulty in preventing moral degradation and in establishing and preserving good order…I gave several lectures on the cultivation of moral virtues“. (GRG 24/6  1763 CSO letters received)

The rationale of sending mainly Protestant northerners in the first vessels had backfired on the Imperial government.

But it was Surgeon Douglass’s report and the ensuing Sydney Immigration Board enquiry that was to prove the most damaging.

blogdouglass

blogdouglass2

It was to take a year and several other enquiries–one by the Sydney Immigration Board, one by the Irish Poor Law Commissioners led by C. G Otway in Belfast, and one from the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, in London,–before Grey made his own views known, viz.

 Dr Douglass made charges of too sweeping a nature; …I think it is to be lamented that he had not been more scrupulous in specifying the persons he felt justified in describing in such unfavourable terms, instead of casting a general and indiscriminate stigma upon a large body of young women, several of whom must be presumed from the present evidence to have been undeserving of such blame.

The length of time it took for communication between England and New South Wales had worked to the disadvantage of the scheme; it was, one might say, a victim of the ‘tyranny of distance’.

A BAD PRESS

The immediate cause of the scheme coming to an end was colonists in South Australia and New South Wales demanded it end. And Grey acceded to their demand. One advantage of the ‘electronic revolution’ of the last forty or fifty years is that we can read about, and explore, the opposition to the scheme by means of http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper The National Library of Australia has digitized, and made available online, lots and lots of newspapers. May I invite you to explore this great resource for yourself?

Not every newspaper is digitized; I recently was unsuccessful in looking for the Port Phillip Patriot (trying to find out more about William Kerr, the editor of the Argus)  and The Miner and Weekly Star (what happened to poor Mary Coghlan).  But there are more than enough newspapers for our purpose.  We might compare how the orphans were treated in South Australia, the Port Phillip district, and the rest of New South Wales, for example. The press coverage in each was slightly different: the ‘scandals’ associated with the orphans were not the same.

Typing ‘Irish orphans’ into the search box will bring up too many items to read. It would be best to ‘refine’ our search terms. Were colonists opposed to the scheme because the orphans were Irish, Bog Irish dirty, Roman Catholic, from the workhouse, poorly trained, and immoral? Because there were too many of them and not enough from England and Scotland? Because the scheme belonged to Earl Grey and the British Imperial power? Because they wanted full control of their Land fund and immigration policies? Try typing things like ‘Irish orphans Land fund’; ‘Irish orphans workhouse’; ‘Irish orphans immoral’ into the search box. Maybe set a time limit too: 1849, 1850 would be the years to search. Let me give you a taste of ‘gems’ we can discover.

I’ll start with the rabid sectarianism of the Reverend John Dunmore Lang who was in England between 1846 and 1849. Here’s a link to some of the letters he wrote to the British Banner while he was in England.

https://ia902606.us.archive.org/25/items/LettersOfDr.JohnDumoreLangInBritishBanner/Letters_of_Dr_John_Dunmore_Lang_in_British_Banner_1953.PDF See page 8 in particular for the following well-known quotation,

…I am as confident as I am of my own existence that these young women (Orphans from the Union workhouses in the south of Ireland) who are almost exclusively Roman Catholics, from the most thoroughly Romish and bigotted parts of Ireland, have been selected as free emigrants for Australia, expressly with the view to their becoming wives of the English settler and Scotch Protestant shepherds and stockmen of New South Wales, and thereby silently subverting the Protestantism and extending the Romanism of the colony through the vile, Jesuitical, diabolical system of “mixed marriages”.

The views he expressed here were later taken up by one of his acolytes, William Kerr, editor of the Argus newspaper in Melbourne, and in letters to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.  See the letter in the Herald from “A Looker-On’ on page 3, 1 March 1850, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1511476?zoomLevel=3

Kerr’s attack on the Irish orphans in the Argus and in the Melbourne City Council was to give rise to a furious debate in the first half of 1850. This link will take you to a passage that is often quoted about the orphans’ lack of domestic skills–I’m sure you know it already, the one about ‘distinguishing the inside from the outside of a potato‘, and ‘chasing a runaway pig across a bog‘–page 2 of the Argus 24 January 1850. It also reiterates the views expressed by the Reverend Lang above, and criticises migration policies that neglect the ‘braw lasses of bonnie Scotland‘ and ‘the rosy cheeked girls of  England‘. Do have a look.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/4771328?searchTerm=argus%2024%20January%201850%20irish%20orphans&searchLimits=l-title=13

The South Australian denunciation of the orphans took a different turn, even though the underlying issues were much the same.  I’ll call this one ‘culture clash‘.

Aliquis (hiding behind a pen-name is obviously not the prerogative of present-day social media) wrote in a letter to the  South Australian Register 21 January 1850, page 3, column 5, under the heading “The Government Brothel at the Native Location”, 

I allude to the depot at the Native Location for the reception of the female orphans landed upon our shores, where the most disgusting scenes are nightly enacted. I will not attempt to portray the Bacchanalian orgies to be witnessed there every night…

 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3932031?zoomLevel=1 

The accusations were so pointed that Moorhouse organised an enquiry to show they were without foundation. (You can read the evidence collected at the enquiry, in my Barefoot vol. 2 pp.35-43 ). What came to light, however, is how fearful some of the young orphans were, left on their own, in a strange place, not knowing where the toilet was. Or maybe they were just what Moorhouse accused them of being, ‘dirty Irish brutes” .

On the arrival of the Inconstant we had for some time from 70 to 100 girls in the Depot. Their habits were insufferably dirty; we had ample water closet accommodation, but they were too lazy to cross the yard, to use this convenience…(ibid. p 42)

And to defend himself against calling the orphans ‘brutes’, he told of the orphans assaulting one of the matrons, Mrs Kelly. They were obviously hungry for food that reminded them of home. Maybe another kind of ‘culture clash’?

There were 110 girls in the Mess Room, and as soon as they saw the potatoes, they rose, en masse, seized the Matron, tore some of her clothes off her back, and got possession of the potatoes. (p.42)

The Register later concurred with the Board that the allegations made by Aliquis were groundless. But continued criticising the orphan migration scheme. See page 2 column 5 and particularly page 3 column 1 of this http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3932169?zoomLevel=2

[The young and friendless orphans from Ireland] are provided with situations sometimes, and occasionally retain them with credit and character. Those who have not been debauched on board ship by the men, in some instances,  from the Captain downwards to the cook, of course have a good chance of a quieter and a happier home than poor Ireland can give.

A CRITICAL REFRAIN

By early 1850, the refrain of the major Australian newspapers was the Irish orphans were ‘useless trollops’ who did little for ‘their’ colony. They were sent from the workhouse, without any skills, imposed upon them, using ‘their’ money when that money could be better spent on bringing others from England and Scotland. There were just far, far, too many of them flooding into the country. The Sydney Morning Herald stated its objections in its editorial of 13 March 1850. See page 2, beginning column 2, near the bottom of the page,

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3932169?zoomLevel=2

Instead of a few hundreds, the girls are coming out by thousands. Instead of mere orphans, we are being inundated with Irish paupers. Instead of a temporary expedient,…we behold a settled system of poorhouse deliverance which, if not checked by colonial remonstrance, bids fair to go on as long as the Irish parishes have girls to spare, and the colony the means of paying for their emigration…

Of British female orphans we do not complain that we have had a disproportion, but that we have had none at all. This new species of immigration is altogether one-sided–it is exclusively Irish, and exclusively Roman Catholic…It is not an immigration of mere labour, but of sex; of females, and of young females. The destiny of these girls is understood by everybody…

The ground, then, upon which the colonists complain…is not simply that Ireland monopolises too large a share of their emigration fund, nor that Irish paupers are thrust upon them under the name of orphans; but that their unmarried youth are coerced into matrimonial alliances with Irish Roman Catholics.

To which the Argus added its own besmirching commentary; ‘their [the orphans] coming amongst us has not tended at all to raise the tone of colonial morality’ (editorial 22 December 1849): ‘…they hang on hand at the depot till a very considerable proportion of their number join the ranks of prostitutes infesting the more public streets of the city’ (15 March 1850 editorial):

and from a correspondent, ‘Adsum‘, 24 April 1850,

The females of this class can neither wash nor bake, they can neither attend to household wants nor field labour. They refuse in general to go into the country, and when placed in town they refuse either to work, or to learn those parts of their business of which they are ignorant. They lose their places, -and they have no friends to fall back upon–the brothel is open, and it receives them–and there amid unhallowed orgies, that youth, and strength and beauty, is spent and ruined…

Positive reports

Sometimes one reads a positive newspaper report about the orphans–the arrival of 105 orphans in Yass along with Dr Strutt, in the Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser, for example,

http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?q=yass+irish+orphans&l-state=New+South+Wales&l-title=364 

–Or of their compatriots taking up their defense, the St Patrick’s Society of Australia Felix, in the Melbourne Morning Herald, 11 May 1850, 24 May and 6 June– against the Argus and the Melbourne City Council.

–or from letter-writers who were at pains to point out the young women entered agreements with their employer to be taught the trade of domestic servant. For this they were to be given food and lodging, and wages below the current rate for servants. Give them a chance and they would learn.

  –or perhaps most interesting of all,

orphans who, in the Moreton Bay district, in the words of Dr Connors, “appropriated the politics of law to defend their rights and status”. It is as if some orphans had heard the young woman in Brian Merriman’s  Cúirt An Mheán Oiche. I like to think some of the orphans in Brisbane courts did indeed channel that particular young woman.

Tar éis bheith tamall don ainnir ag éisteacht
Do léim ina seasamh go tapa gan foighne,
Do labhair sí leis agus loise ina súile
Is rabhartaí feirge feilce fúithi:

http://midnight-court.com/tmc-part-iv.html

Maybe a different kind of culture-clash?

“I worked twenty days for James Kelly the defendant at 3 shillings a day about four months ago which he now refuses to pay”.

“I couldn’t carry the water. I left because I couldn’t stand the abuse”.

“Mrs Williams caught me and put me out of the house–and I slept at Mrs Baldwin’s. I want my agreement cancelled”.

“She called me a bitch and ordered me out of the house…and held up a stick as thick as her arm to beat me with…I had to sleep on the dresser and buy soap to wash my own clothes”.

“What quality do you expect on Sunday that ye must have the knives cleaned?… No, I don’t know any better”.

“I’m not going upstairs just to please you”. “I won’t eat with a heretic”. These are extracts from Orphans’ court cases.

NOT THE WHOLE STORY

Clearly the press campaign against Earl Grey’s Irish orphan scheme is not the whole story. But it helps explain why the scheme was so short-lived. The first vessel arrived in early October 1848, the last one, twenty-two months later, at the end of July 1850. Advice from the Governors of South Australia and New South Wales–based on requests from each of the Orphan committees in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney–may have been enough to persuade Earl Grey; a clamouring colonial press and ‘awkward’ questions in the British Parliament convinced him he should bring the scheme to an end. Thereafter, he simply may have re-directed other orphans from Irish workhouses to a different destination within the British Empire, Canada perhaps?

Some readers will have noticed that i have not made use of the “Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, Report from the Select Committee on Irish Female Immigrants..together with Minutes of Evidence, 1858-59, Ordered by the Legislative Assembly to be printed, 2 February 1859 (78 pages)”.

I intend looking at this separately. Indeed, there is much in the minutes of evidence about the Earl Grey scheme. It reminds us there would be further repercussions at a later date. But it is first and foremost about the Celtic Association in Sydney petitioning against the prejudices of the Immigration Agent, H.H. Browne. Browne had made adverse comments about Irish female immigrants in his Immigration reports for 1854 and 1855. He was allowed to attend the enquiry, able to put direct questions to witnesses, and given every opportunity to defend himself. The evidence he was allowed to present, as valuable as it is for the history of the  orphans, is heavily weighted in his defense. There would be no rocking of the boat. Moreover, the witnesses, in talking about the orphans were relying on memories more than eight years old, a memory whose reliability may be questioned. I look forward to studying it more closely. See http://wp.me/p4SlVj-BT


By way of an incomplete conclusion

Obviously we need to pull all this together at some stage. The 1859 Report emphasizes opposition to the scheme was largely because the young women came from workhouses and were not domestic servants trained for city living: they were better suited to country living. But was this all of the story? I’ve suggested ‘far from it’. There are a number of things in the mix: anti-Irish, anti- Catholic sectarianism, class prejudice, a very limited understanding of the workhouse experience of the famine orphans, both in Whitehall and in the colonies, a concerted campaign on the part of the colonial press against the scheme, particularly in Melbourne but not exclusively so, constitutional issues such as whether the Australian colonies should have control  of their Land Fund, inbuilt structural weaknesses aggravated by the ‘tyranny of distance’, opposition to Earl Grey himself by his political opponents both in Britain and in Australia. And did opposition differ from district to district, or colony to colony? Was South Australia different from the Port Phillip district and different again from Port Jackson and the Moreton Bay district? The reception given to the orphans certainly differed from region to region, class to class, religion to religion. Maybe we should look at this too.

How much weight do you put on each of these things?

It’s certainly worth thinking about some more.

Reminder

May I remind you of the annual gathering at the monument at Hyde Park Barracks on the 27th August, 2017? see www.irishfaminememorial.org for more information.

Just a few more orphan photos to end with; they are in order, Catherine Crowley per John Knox, Bridget Gaffney per Digby, Catherine Rooney per Eliza Caroline, and Eliza White per William and Mary.

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Catherine Crowley per John Knox

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Bridget Gaffney per Digby

focathrooneyelizcarolineCatherine Rooney per Eliza Caroline

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