Here is the entry for Catherine Fox on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database. Some of the information came from her descendant Gwen Etherington in the late 1980s, some from my Barefoot, and some improvements were added by Dr Perry McIntyre.
Shipping: nursemaid, reads & writes, no relatives in colony. Armagh PLU PRONI BG2/G/2/ into workhouse 10 May 1847, aged 17 tolerably well clothed from Armagh town, out 7 Jul 1847; in 10 Jul 1847 (1203) thinly clothed, hungry, Union at Large, out 24 May 1848; empl Mr Hutchinson, Sydney, £10, 12 months; married widower Archibald Graham, Sydney in 1852; lived Dapto & Wollongong; sponsored her brother Bernard Fox from Glenmore, on ‘Commodore Perry’ 1856; she raised 6 surviving children her husbands first marriage, 12 of her own & 2 of her stepson’s children; died 1920.
The PRONI BG numbers refer to Armagh workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers.
You may notice Catherine’s husband was also from Armagh but she and Archie, who was eighteen years her senior, were of a different religion. I seem to remember Gwen telling me there was sectarian tension not just in the marriage (how were the children to be raised?) but also in Dapto and Wollongong, in the Illawarra, where the couple lived from the early 1850s. Catherine was, or became, a staunch defender of her religion against her Protestant neighbours. That Catholic-Protestant sectarian divide was certainly a feature of Australian history that is nowadays often forgotten. The country has moved on.
Catherine Fox per Earl Grey
Ann Nelligan from Mallow per Pemberton
Ann and her younger sister, 17 year-old Eliza, were part of the Mallow (County Cork) contingent (about fifteen in all) on board the Pemberton. Eliza had been Superintendent of Work in the Union workhouse, something which worked to the sisters’ advantage when they were offered a place in the Earl Grey scheme.
Ann’s husband, John Baker, was a Parkhurst ‘exile’ from Birmingham. Together they had eight children, two boys and six girls. But Ann died relatively young at 39, of chronic nephritis.
Here is the family reconstitution form for Ann’s sister, Eliza Nelligan who married Joseph Midolo a sailmaker from Sicily. He was about eighteen years older than Eliza but she too was to die relatively young at 42, like her sister, of nephritis. Nephritis is inflammation or infection of the kidneys. I doubt there was effective medical treatment for Ann and Eliza in the early 1870s. Do correct me if I’m wrong.
The names of descendants researching the family history of these two orphans have changed considerably between Barefoot volume I and those now on the database. It is testimony to how strongly their families feel connected to their Irish orphan forebears.
Eliza and her husband travelled throughout New South Wales. Look where they were living when their twelve children were born; Sydney, Yass, Tumut, Steiglitz, Victoria, Wattle Flat, Sofala, Pipeclay, Tallawang, Slapdash. Imagine carrying your brood all that way in those days. Both Eliza and John are buried in Gulgong. There are some magnificent photographs of Gulgong in the photograph collections of the State Library of New South Wales.
Women in Gulgong photo courtesy of the State Library New South Wales
Bridget Gaffney from Butlersbridge, Cavan, per Digby
Another example of “Not Before the Altar”.
Sometimes you will notice discrepancies in our record. One of the ones here is my failure to count properly. There are five male children not four that I noted. Even so, two more have appeared on the database. My default position nowadays is the database rather than my early work. Helen Watts supplied information about Bridget and her sister Catherine and updated it for the second volume of Barefoot. Her update would account for the discrepancy.
There is a good report on the Digby voyage in State Records of New South Wales. The reference I have is SRNSW (State Records new South Wales) Microfilm reel 2852 Reports1838-49, 4/4699. The Digby arrived in Port Jackson 4 April 1849.
Colonial authorities were adamant that the terms and conditions of their charter parties, or contract, with shipping agents were met. The early orphan vessels were particularly subject to their scrutiny. The Surgeon Superintendent of the Digby, Dr William Neville kept a ‘private log’, or secret record, which he forwarded to the Colonial Secretary upon his arrival in Sydney. The consequence was an Immigration Board of Enquiry which found against the Master of the vessel, Captain Taber
‘..he did against the Government Regulations defraud the Emigrants of a large portion of their rations…
the provisions and condiments etc. were not of the quality contracted for by the Government or such as ought to have been placed on board for the Emigrants “consumption”…(the Sydney Board comprising Merewether, Savage and Browne even went so far as to sample some of the provisions themselves! If only our present day so-called regulators were as keen).
Dr Neville further charged the Master with having “permitted the sailors to be too familiar with the female Emigrants in opposition to the authority on board and clause No 20 in the Charter Party…”
The Board recommended the ship’s officers should not receive their gratuity, and that Captain Taber should never be employed on an Emigrant ship ever again. None of which was much consolation for the orphans who had to accept what they were given every day of their 109 day voyage.
Other : shipping: house servant, cannot read or write, no relatives in colony; sister Catherine also on Digby; Register 10 Nov 1849 complaint; 18 Dec 1849 Sydney, transfer. Appendix J No.128. 17 May 1850 indentures with JB Wathen cancelled, disobedience and neglect of duty; married Nathaniel Lawrence at Bathurst 13 Jan 1851; 13 children; husband a labourer, shepherd and bushman, lived Wallerwaugh, Mudgee, Bathurst & Wellington area; she died 27 Nov 1899, buried Stuart Town cemetery.
Bridget and her husband Nathaniel
Honora Shea from Callan, Kilkenny per New Liverpool
Another ‘mixed marriage’. Honora married George Walmsley within a year of her arrival at Port Phillip. George was a Wesleyan and later, Baptist. They had thirteen children, seven boys and six girls. She probably travelled with her older sister Bridget but as neither could read or write they may have parted ways once they were married. Chrissy Fletcher who has a Facebook page for the Port Phillip orphans has asked how many orphans married ‘exiles’.
Chrissy has created a closed group for the Port Phillip arrivals on Facebook.
We might also ask how many orphans married former convicts; how many married older men; how many married someone of a different religion from their own; how many married Irishmen; how many married Englishmen; how many ‘married’ more than once? These are all interesting questions. Maybe you can think of others?
Honora Shea per New Liverpool
Rose Sherry from Carrickmacross, Monaghan per John Knox
My choice of orphan stories in this post is determined by the availability of photographs. Not everyone is lucky enough to have them.
Native Place : Carrick Cross [Carrickmacross], Monaghan
Parents : Patrick & Catherine (both dead)
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : John Knox (Sydney Apr 1850)
Workhouse : Monaghan, Carrickmacross
Other : Shipping: laundress, reads only, no relatives in colony; married William Alexander Chamberlain, 29 Oct 1851, St Marys, Sydney; 11 children; died 12 Mar 1899, from injuries caused by a fall, aged 66, lived Clara Terrace, off William St., Double Bay; William, a fisherman, died 6 Nov 1902, aged 73, both buried South Head Cemetery. Margaret: margkenstephens[at]bigpond.com; Kim: k.connor92[at]hotmail.com; Pamela: p.wittingslow[at]gmail.com; Judy: ronjudyhinkley[at]bigpond.com others without email contacts
There are plenty of others we might include. Just a taste more. Let me see if I can find one not so well known.
Rebecca Cambridge from Ballyreagh, Fermanagh per Diadem
Here is the entry for Rebecca on the Irish famine memorial database, from my Barefoot vol.II, p. 357. She was in the Enniskillen workhouse records. Enniskillen sent a relatively large number of orphans by the Earl Grey scheme. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Enniskillen/
Surname : Cambridge
First Name : Rebecca
Age on arrival : 17
Native Place : Ballyrag [Ballyreagh], Fermanagh
Parents : Not recorded
Religion : Church of England
Ship name : Diadem (Melbourne Jan 1850)
Workhouse : Fermanagh, Enniskillen
Other : shipping: house servant, reads & writes; Enniskillen PLU PRONI BG14/G/5 (841) Ballyreagh, entered workhouse 9 Apr 1849, left 3 Oct 1849. Empl. Mr George Moulds, baker, Collingwood, £8, 6 months; married Samuel J Harvey, 11 Oct 1854; 11 children; husband gold digger, labourer & woodman; lived Morang, died 25 Jun 1905, buried Yan Yean. She left 10 acres of land & cottage in Separation, valued £100 & 5 cows & furniture worth £40
As you can see, Rebecca married an Englishman, Sam Harvey who was variously, a gold miner, labourer, woodman, and owner of a small farm. Together the couple had eleven children, three boys and eight girls. Two of their girls and one of their boys died in infancy. Sam and Rebecca are buried in Yan Yean cemetery.
I am constantly uplifted by the high standard of research being done on the Irish Famine orphans, especially by family historians. See for example Aileen Trinder’s work in blog post 48 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-2
You may wish to view another brilliant effort, about Bridget Donovan per John Knox from Middleton, county Cork. It’s author Rowena has found fascinating new material to add to her WordPress blog. I’m looking forward to reading it there.
This post needs your help.Are these families, orphan families? What do you think? Like some other orphans who went to Queensland, they did quite well for themselves. Readers, i hope, appreciate how much the reconstruction of the orphans’ lives, both in Australia and Ireland, is a cooperative effort. These examples draw attention to some of the pitfalls involved.
I had hoped to include details about Margaret Hardgrave nee Blair per Earl Grey. But I seem to have lost the documentation that would confirm this particular individual was an Irish Famine orphan. My entry for her in Barefoot, and on the website, was that she was a sixteen year old Presbyterian from Ballymena, County Antrim who married a shoemaker, John Hardgrave in Brisbane, 29 July 1850. She died 1 August 1924 at the age of 92! I suppose that is possible. If this is correct, Margaret was one of the most materially better off orphans. Her husband’s estate was valued at £9450 at the beginning of the twentieth century, much of it suburban real estate in the West End of Brisbane. When she died at home in Petrie Terrace, the “Hardgrave Estate” was “situated on a fine rise of land, with a 260 foot frontage to the tramline at West End” and “comprises three substantial residences and two splendid building sites”.
Here is an extract from John’s will and codicil, ‘signed sealed and delivered by Margaret Lydia Hardgrave in 1908’. Could someone please put my mind at rest; was she an Earl Grey Orphan? This Margaret Hardgrave was born in Antrim too. She spent one year in New South Wales and seventy-five in Queensland, at the time of her death. Her estate was valued at £2107.05.07.
Here is another example that needs verifying, Bridget Muldoon per John Knox.
Kerryn Townsend wrote to me from Ipswich in January 1994 but her letter and its enclosures did not come to me until much later. How I managed to neglect her interesting carefully researched material I just do not know. She even offered to send me a photograph of Bridget and her husband, an offer I obviously failed to take up. Is this one an Earl Grey orphan? Her death certificate says she was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh but the John Knox shipping list has her as coming from Drumkilla townland in County Cavan. The two are not so far from one another. Bridget was 91 when she died, but again that is not impossible. Kerryn was convinced she was an Irish orphan. Here is what she told me.
Bridget’s husband, native born John Ingram had an Aboriginal mother called Maria. John was described as Aboriginal when he was baptised as a twenty year old in West Maitland, 15 October 1851. The couple had sixteen children, ten sons and six daughters (one not on the form below) three of them lost at a very young age.
Like many of the orphans, Bridget and her family were geographically mobile. You may wish to use google earth to follow in their footsteps. They gradually moved north from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales via Myall Creek where John their third child was born, to St Clair, Falbrook, still in New South Wales, where Mary Anne was born. About 1863, Bridget and John and their six children moved to the Maryborough District of Queensland where they were to stay for the next fifteen years. Then about 1878, taking the younger children with them, they moved to Yeulba in the fertile Western Darling Downs where they were to remain for the rest of their lives. John died in 1892 and Bridget in 1925, aged 91 or 92, another long-lived orphan!
Kerryn , are you out there somewhere? Did you confirm the names of Bridget Ingram’s parents were Patrick and Betty? What do readers think? Is this an Earl Grey orphan? Thankyou for replying Kerryn. Please see Kerryn’s comment at the bottom of this post.
Here’s an illustration of how little time some of the orphans actually spent in an Irish Workhouse. Note that less than twenty percent of inmates gave “Union at Large” as their place of residence. Bridget was very specific about her place of residence.
These next two I’m fairly certain are Earl Grey orphans.
CHRISTIANA WYNNE per Digby
Among my family reconstitution forms I found another well-written letter from D. R. Mercer in Clayfield, Brisbane, dated 19 September 1988. It concerned a young nineteen year old Dubliner, Christiana Wynne. The letter writer supplied me with information I entered alongside Christiana’s name in the first volume of Barefoot (p.48). Alas, there was no response to my request to enter their name in the second volume of Barefoot, ten years later. Christiana may have travelled to Brisbane on the Eagle on that infamous voyage described by cuddy-boy James Porter (John Oxley Library Manuscripts Mss OM 68-18). She already had something of a reputation for in June 1849 she charged her master with assault. See case number 11 in the list of cancelled indentures at the Sydney Water Police Court http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf
But she married well, to William Darling in Brisbane, 20 May 1850. William was a canny Scot originally from Fifeshire. The family owned a farm on the banks of the Brisbane River, possibly employing Kanak labour. When she died in 1892 she left an estate valued at £3313.00. Here is part of her will which shows the names of some of her children and how careful she was with her money.
Note the names of some of her married daughters, Margaret McGuire, Christiana McWhiney, Annie Tandevine(?), Cecilia Hockings, and Jessie Mercer.
CATHERINE MADDEN per Tippoo Saib
Information about Catherine Madden also came to me through correspondence with one of her descendants, in May 1991. Unfortunately I only have her first name, Jacqui. She was living in Windsor, Brisbane at the time.
My Barefoot had Catherine as a sixteen year old from Glascoreen (Glasscarn townland?) County Westmeath. Jacqui told me she was born and baptised in Mullingar in February 1834, the daughter of James Madden and Catherine McLoughlin. I wonder if we can confirm this on the National Library Of Ireland website ? There is a great collection of parish records for Mullingar: whoa, there she is http://registers.nli.ie/registers/vtls000639815#page/59/mode/1up
According to Immigration Correspondence in the State Records of NSW, she was sent to Moreton Bay, 2 September 1851.
Two years later she married native born James O’Donnell in Ipswich (23 September 1853). James, son of a convict, worked on a property called Rosenthal near Warwick. It was there that most of their twelve children were born. Jacqui’s research showed there was often a gap of several months between the children’s date of birth and their baptism. Later in life Catherine bought land, and was licensee of a hotel in Warwick called Rose Inn. In her will she is described as a Boarding House keeper. Perhaps this is how she managed after her husband died? Catherine herself died 4 April 1898 of ‘Dengue fever, Cerebral Haemorrhage and convulsions’. Her son, twenty two year old, George, the sole beneficiary of her will, was the informant. He thought his mother was only 56.
I’ll stop here for now.
“Let us go then you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;” (T.S Eliot)
Present day celebrations commemorating the coming of the Irish Famine orphans to Australia occur each year at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney on the last Sunday of August, and at Burgoyne Park in Williamstown usually on the third Sunday in November. (We’ll need to check this closer to time). Maybe someone would be kind enough to tell me if there are any such ‘gatherings’ elsewhere, Adelaide or Perth perhaps?
PORT PHILLIP ARRIVALS
Here are some more potted demographic histories of Port Phillip arrivals. Since the pertinent Victorian shipping lists do not provide parents’ names, it is sometimes hard to believe, Yes! I’ve found an Irish Famine orphan. These ones I’m pretty certain about. But do tell me if I’m wrong. You may wish to tell readers how you established your link to one of the orphans. Please feel free to share.
Cathy Tyrell, from Donegal, per Lady Kennaway, married a young man from Bedford, England in 1854 , five and a half years after she disembarked. She was only sixteen when she arrived. She and her husband lived in North Melbourne and together had seven children, three girls and four boys, one of whom died in infancy.
Bridget Watson (or was it Watt?) per New Liverpool was also only sixteen when she arrived from Kilkenny. As with other orphans, she was sent by the Raven to Portland where she married her first husband, a Scot, James Gibson, in early 1851. Together they had twelve children in Portland. Her first four daughters died at birth. Bridget was only forty when James died. He left her an estate worth £209, containing a bush hut and land of “very inferior quality”. Bridget married her second husband John McPhee in 1878, not mentioned on the form below. She died in 1907 and is buried in Footscray.
Mary Saltry per Lady Kennaway may have travelled with one of her sisters from Sligo, a younger sister called Sarah who died in Melbourne in 1850 only seventeen years of age. Mary married a market gardener of East Brighton, Joseph Thorne, originally from Middlesex, with whom she had seven children. She had twenty four years of widowhood.
Margaret Wardper Pemberton is recorded on the shipping list as a fifteen year old from Tipperary but you will notice below that her descendant says she was from Mallow in Cork. Is there a controversy here? Do we have the correct Margaret Ward? She married William Smedley a former convict from Derbyshire with whom she had sixteen children, all of them born in Kilmore, one of the places in Victoria where many Irish settled. Below is a photograph of Margaret and William at their diamond wedding anniversary in April 1910. Thanks to Louris Loughland who provided the photo.
The last Port Phillip arrival for now, Catherine Perkison also travelled on board the Pemberton. She was to marry an Englishman, Joseph Nixon, at St Francis’s in Melbourne and went off to search for gold. Joseph a former mariner became a miner in Ballarat and lately a saw sharpener or grinder. He died in 1876 of chronic lead poisoning.
SOME PORT JACKSON ARRIVALS
Ellen Wade came on the last orphan ship to arrive in Sydney, the Tippoo Saib. She married an Englishman of a different religion from herself. She had seven boys and four girls. Her husband was a stockman in New England. She is buried in Ben Lomond. I was able to add some precise dates for the birth of their children.
Ellen Tighe per Panama from Creagh, Kilkenny married six months after her arrival. She married an Englishman by the name of Smith but such is the detail of New South Wales Board of Immigration shipping lists, and so good are the birth, death and marriage records, what became of her is not difficult to find. Ellen gave birth to ten children, five boys and five girls. Her husband Arthur worked as a labourer in St Leonard’s, Sydney before the family moved to the Shoalhaven district south of Sydney. Arthur described himself as settler, then overseer and finally farmer when registering the birth of his children.
Sixteen year-old Mary Shanahan per Lismoyne came from Adare in Limerick. Her mother was still alive and living in Rathkeale. When she arrived she went to John Byrne, her uncle at Lachlan river. In Bathurst, five months later, she married Patrick Neville, himself a Limerick man, older than Mary, and now a farmer of Fish River. Together they had twelve children, nine girls and three boys. Three died of diptheria before they reached the age of nine. Mary sponsored her mother and sister to come to Australia in 1856. (We should check that they did come). After her husband died, she remarried to Michael Cashman. She died in 1909 and is buried in Bathurst.
There is a record of young Teresa Rourke, who arrived by the Digby, in South Dublin workhouse. When she was just ten years old, she came into the workhouse in September 1844 for eight months. Her dad had died and her mum had deserted her. She entered the workhouse again when she was twelve, in October 1847, wearing workhouse clothes when she arrived. She was to marry Henry Quinn in Bathurst in 1853. Together they had twelve children, nine girls and three boys. Henry was a farmer of Rockley, near Bathurst. Teresa predeceased him by eleven years, dying of pythisis , better known as tuberculosis.
(See Patrick Neville’s ’cause of death’ above).
Mary Ann Reilly per Lismoyne was also from Dublin. She had her indentures cancelled in 1850 in the Water Police Office court. See number 120 in the tables of cancelled indentures in blog post 21. http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf In 1854 she married Thomas Caton in East Maitland. Thomas was a former convict, horse breaker and gold-digger. They lived in Dugworth, Sugarloaf, Boonoo Boonoo, Tenterfield and Timbarra. Thomas was to die in the Gladesville Hospital for the Insane in 1883. I wasn’t able to find a death record for Maryanne.
Bridget Quigley arrived on the Tippoo Saib when she was only sixteen. There’s a brilliant family history on the www.irishfaminememorial.org
Here’s my family reconstitution form…do have a look at the riches Aileen has added in her story above.
Some Moreton Bay Orphans
Obviously Dublin orphans did not have the same experience of the Famine as those from Ennistymon in Clare or Dingle in Kerry. But their destitution was no less real. Cathy Geary would have been aware of this from the stories told her by her shipmates from Galway and Clare and Kerry on board the Thomas Arbuthnot. Cathy was a factory girl living in Grange Gorman Lane in Dublin, close to the women’s prison, when she entered the North Dublin Workhouse, 1 February 1849. She left 30 October 1849 to join the others at Plymouth before embarking. Sent to Moreton Bay in 1850 she married Joseph Russell from Nottingham. Researchers at Queensland BDM records told me they found only four children for the couple. Both Cathy and Joseph are buried at Pine Mountain.
Jane Kirkwood was literally one of the “Belfast Girls” sent to Moreton Bay. Her husband Harry Skinner from Kent had also came to Australia on board the Earl Grey when it was a vessel transporting convicts, in 1838. They had seven children, four boys and three girls, two of them dying young, when they lived at Kangaroo Point,Tweed River, Brisbane and Ipswich. Harry died in 1862, and Jane remained a widow for nigh on forty six years! She is buried in the Presbyterian section of Toowong cemetery.
Bridget Cannon per Lady Peel from Carrick on Shannon in Leitrim, like Maryanne Reilly above, had her indentures cancelled at the Water Police Office see number 41 at
The digitised newspapers at Trove are a national treasure.
When her husband died in 1896 he left an estate valued at under £621.
Mary Creagh or Crae per Tippoo Saib from Listowel in County Kerry. (See Kay Caball’s lovely book The Kerry Girls which you can buy on Kindle). Mary married Thomas Taylor in Brisbane in May 1851. Her husband from Tyrone was a sawyer and they lived in Fortitude Valley and Moggill Creek. Their first three children died in infancy. Were they difficult births related to Mary’s Famine experience? They had five more children,two girls and three boys.
Mary Carriggper Thomas Arbuthnot came from Ennis in County Clare. She married James Winn from Cornwall in 1851 in an Anglican church in Brisbane. They had nine children together before Mary died at a relatively young age. She is buried in the Bible Christain section of Toowong cemetery.
I’ve long had an interest in historical geography and historical atlases in particular. I remember well the impact a good map had upon my uni students in Jamaica. A map of the Atlantic Slave Trade and one showing the spread of Jesuit colleges in Europe during the Counter/Catholic Reformation were two of my favourites. Maybe that’s why I admire the work of cartographer, Mike Murphy, in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Cork, 2012.
These days, living in a ‘Computer Age’, the creative possibilities are exciting. The map below shows the location of some of the Irish Famine orphans in 1861, that is, according to the birth registration of their children.
But maybe that’s too ambitious for the uninitiated. Could we do something simpler instead, such as clicking on the dots in the map above to bring up all the information we have about the orphan who resided there at that particular time?
We may be lucky enough to have a photograph.
Rose Sherry per John Knox
Rose was living in Clare Terrace, off William Street, in Double Bay, Sydney, in 1861.
Or a record of her marriage. This is Jane Troy‘s, in Portland,
Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria
Maybe there are some probate records. I wonder how common it was for an orphan or her husband to make a will. I’d be surprised if even 30% of them did so. Here are a couple of examples, extracts only I’m afraid. I’m unsure about permission to reproduce such things. These are from Victorian records.
Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim
That was a sad story. The orphan, Jane Liddy, from Leitrim, married well but she and her husband died at a young age. Their considerable estate vanished in the maintenance and medical care of their nine children.
The man knew his livestock, even by name, Boxer and Diamond and Fagan and Dandy.
Let me demonstrate how this map business might work. Here is a map of the orphans in Queensland c. 1861. I’ve entered a few numbers. If we had an interactive map, what might appear if we clicked on numbers 1 and 2, at Ipswich?
It may only be a family reconstitution, no other material being available. If you click on the images you can make them larger.
So, number1 is for Cicely Moran per Thomas Arbuthnot,
Cicely Moran from Galway
Number 2 is for Mary Casey per Digby
Mary Casey from Longford
Can you find numbers 3 & 4 on the map?
Number 3 is for Bridget Murray per Lady Peel who was in Brisbane in 1861.
Bridget Murray from Roscommon
Number 4 is for Jane Duff per Earl Grey
Jane is from Newtownards and is at Condamine in 1861.
Number 5 is for Celia Dempseyper Digby(?)
Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire). She is in Dalby.
Number 6 is Margaret Plunkett per John Knox
Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry
The Armagh/Newry contradiction appears on the John Knox shipping list. She was in Cadargo in 1861.
Now where is number 7? It’s forBridget McQueeney(ie) per Lady Peel
Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim
Bridget was in Laidley in 1861
Number 8 is for someone we’ve met already, the spirited Margaret Stack from Ennistymon per Thomas Arbuthnot.
Here is a photograph of that feisty 14 year-old later in life, as formidable as ever.
Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare
It looks as though she was at Baramba Station in 1861? My thanks to her ancestor who sent me this information.
Number 9 is for Mary Ann Prendergast, once again per Thomas Arbuthnot
Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway
Mary was at Toowoomba in 1861.
I’m sure it would be possible to create interactive maps such as these. But we’d need a website and a number of helpers. I wonder what resources the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee has these days. Probably nowhere near as much as they would like. Imagine tracing how far the orphans travelled in Queensland (and elsewhere). Maybe one could invent an app. to allow people to map the geographic movement of their orphan ancestor? —-for a fee of course, or a contribution to one of the GIFCC Outreach programmes, http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/filer_private/2012/08/09/brochurenew_detailsprint.pdf
I suppose it’s a case of “tell him he’s dreamin”. (Hope you’ve seen the Australian film,’The Castle‘).
I’m not sure how best to proceed. Here’s one possible plan.
(a) Imperial and colonial government preparations
(b) arrival and early days of the young women in Australia
(c) opposition to and the end of the ‘ Earl Grey scheme’
(d) NSW government enquiry of 1858-9.
Maybe start with that.
And after that, what? I have a few ideas–maybe life stories of a number of the orphans, maybe inter-generational family histories of some of them, or an examination of orphans in different regions–the Illawarra and Hunter valley in New South Wales, the gold fields and Western Victoria, the Moreton Bay district, town compared with country, or perhaps something on the orphans in South Australia, about which I know very little. We shall see, what we shall see. Such is life, as one or two Irish-Australians once put it.
It is important that I take this one small bite at a time.
“We must work & play and John Jacob Niles
will sing our souls to rest
(in his earlier-78 recordings).
Tomorrow we’ll do our best, our best,
tomorrow we’ll do our best”.
(John Berryman, The Home Ballad.)
Depending on the sources used, the Earl Grey female orphan scheme will appear in a very different light. Here, I want to look at government’s point of view using British Parliamentary Papers, especially those available in hard copy. (I’ve used the thousand volume Irish Universities Press version, especially the volumes entitled Colonies. Australia, volumes 11 and 12. Sometimes I much prefer holding a book in my hand to reading a digitised text online). Adventurers, though, might want to explore,
Viewing the Earl Grey female orphan scheme from a government position is a very different perspective from that of its opponents in Australia, and different again from the young women themselves, or that of present-day family historians.
First then, a government perspective: its interest was to present the scheme as positively as it could. [e.g. Governor H.E.F. Young’s report on the Roman Emperor, 9th General report of Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners (CLEC) Appendix 18, HC 184922 1– “the first twenty who entered into service conducted themselves so creditably as to create a feeling as much in favour of the emigrants as it had been before adverse“.]
The British Imperial government was very thorough. Its plan, instigated with the approval of its representatives in the Australian colonies, and despite a long communications turn-around time of six months or more, is testimony to its forward planning skills. Yet no matter how good the forward planning, in practice, the scheme was always a work in progress; who should choose teachers or religious instructors for orphans on board ship? should surgeons on board orphan ships be paid more? where do we get a supply of Douay Bibles? These things were all arranged in piecemeal fashion, as the scheme progressed. How well things worked out in practice, however, would not always be in control of the government.
Grey did not intend ‘imposing’ Irish workhouse orphans on the Australian colonies. His government’s representatives in Australia told him the colonies would welcome an influx of marriageable female labour. His major concern was to meet colonial demands for labour by renewing large-scale government-assisted emigration. The female orphan scheme was but a part of this. In their covering letter to the under secretary for the Colonial Department, 17 February 1848, the Colonial land and Emigration Commissioners CLEC) emphasized, re- the orphans, that “Lord Grey is well aware of the necessity which exists for preserving the proportions of the sexes in any large emigration to a new country. Single men willing to emigrate are to be found in abundance”. This too was a major concern.
Let me further illustrate just how meticulous and detailed Grey’s plan was by returning to two of my earlier posts, posts 2 and 3 in particular, where I outlined the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners’ proposal, dated 17 February 1848. (See the Eppi link above).
Some similarities and some differences between New South Wales and South Australian colonial government arrangements
Remember the colony of Victoria, as it later became, was still part of New South Wales between 1848 and 1850, i. e. during the female orphan scheme; Victoria did not ‘separate’ from New South Wales until 1851. Remember, too, that South Australia was different again: that colony had a different Governor, different laws and different ways of doing things. Grey was obliged to ‘communicate’ separately with them both.
Here is the extract from the CLEC proposal mentioned above that I posted last August. Allow me to develop these. They are worth a careful reading.
6. The Governor will be directed on the arrival of these Emigrants in the Colony to make such arrangements in regard to their employment as may be most to their benefit, according to their age and circumstances.
7. Every pains will be taken to find the Emigrants respectable Employers– when their age and circumstances render it fitting, they will be bound Apprentices, under Laws which are in force in the Colonies. It will be stipulated that fair wages shall be paid by the Employers, according to the current rate prevailing in the district; and after deducting such portion as may be required to pay for clothes, and other current expenses, the remainder of their wages will be reserved, to be given to them at the expiration of the Contract, or…at their marriage, provided it be approved by the Government, or by the Committee appointed to act on its behalf. A power will be retained of forfeiting the reserved wages of any of the Children who may abscond, or whose indentures may be cancelled for misconduct.
8. The Governors of New South Wales and South Australia, will be directed to appoint a Committee in each Colony, at which they will request the cooperation of the Bishop of Australia and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, and in South Australia, of the Bishop of Adelaide and the Roman Catholic Bishop, to see that these stipulations are duly observed by the Employers… This might appear to be wishful thinking i.e. giving such Committees powers which in practice they could never police to the full. How could they, once the young women went into the hinterland? But they nonetheless went to great lengths to make it work. In a Despatch (Earl Grey to Sir C. A. Fitzroy, Governor of New South Wales, 28 February 1848, even before the Irish Government approved the scheme) Grey expressed his hope that not only prelates of the Anglican and Catholic churches would consent to serve on the Committee “but also some of the leading clergymen of the other denominations”. In addition, he suggested the Committee ask for applications for servants from “the most respectable persons in different parts of the colony”, things which did indeed occur. (I’ll let this earlier comment of mine remain).
Fitzroy reported to Grey in a Despatch of 1 December 1848 that he “lost no time in forming a Committee in Sydney, and desiring Mr La Trobe to form one in Melbourne, composed as nearly as possible upon the principle and for the purpose suggested by the Commissioners”. (BPP Colonies Australia Sessions 1849-50, vol 11, p. 29).
Things were similar in South Australia. Lieutenant-Governor H. E. F. Young forwarded a South Australian Government Gazette to Earl Grey in a Despatch dated 10 September 1848 naming the members of the Irish Orphan Emigration Committee in Adelaide…”in pursuance of the instructions conveyed to me in your Lordship’s despatch No 28 of the 28th February last“. (BPP ibid., p. 330/208).Young was quick to emphasize “the emigration of orphans to South Australia…should include a due proportion of English and Scotch orphans.” Enquiries were later made in Britain about this but the suggestion was rejected as impractical, for a variety of reasons.
Things were not totally the same in South Australia. The day before, 9 September, Young told Grey that, on the suggestion of the Orphan Committee and the advice of the Executive Council, he had provisionally appointed Captain Brewer as Emigration Agent for South Australia. The Executive Council drew up specific instructions for the Emigration Agent that included, “You will consider yourself the guardian of the immigrants; and it will be your duty to advise and assist them in finding suitable employment, taking care, more especially, as far as lies in your power, that the young females do not make any agreements with those who may be known to you as persons of bad character.
Single unmarried females, without natural protectors on board, and without offers of employment can be provided with lodgings and rations for a short time at the Native Location, where they will be under the care of the matron…”. Captain Brewer was not a member of the Adelaide Orphan Committee. Note, however, he was told he should consider himself guardian of the immigrants.
10. This Emigration will be watched with the utmost interest by all who are concerned in the Colonies to which it is to be directed; and upon the manner in which it is conducted will depend the power of the Government to encourage its continuance.
The Colonists are desirous of adding to their body, not the idle and worthless, but those whose education and moral and religious training afford a reasonable guarantee that they will become active and useful members of a Society which is in a state of healthy progress; and it will therefore be imperative on the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners to select those young persons whose education has been attended to, and of whose conduct they receive a satisfactory report from the competent authorities. This is a clear statement of the social engineering in which the Imperial authorities were engaged.
Let me describe the composition of Orphan Committees in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide; it is basically the same as suggested by Earl Grey and the CLEC. The committees were made up of lay and clerical dignitaries who had a wealth of experience in political, religious, legal, police and immigration matters.
The Sydney committee consisted of
George Allen, Solicitor and Member of the Legislative Council and Honorary secretary to the Benevolent Asylum in Sydney
Reverend Robert Allwood, incumbent of St James Anglican Church in Sydney
Hutchinson Hothersall Browne, Water Police Magistrate and from 1851 Immigration Agent
Alfred Cheeke Esq., Barrister and Commissioner of the Court of Requests
William Harvie Christie, Agent for Church and School Estates and Secretary to the Denominational School Board
The Very Reverend Henry Gregory Gregory, Roman Catholic Vicar General
George P. F Gregory Esq., Prothonotary and Registrar of the Supreme Court
Joseph Long Innes Esq., Superintendent of Police
The Very Reverend John McGarvie D. D., Minister of the Scots Church of St Andrew in Sydney
Francis L S Merewether Esq., Immigration Agent
Charles Nicholson Esq., Speaker of the Legislative Council
Arthur Savage Esq., R. N., Health Officer for Port Jackson
Any three of whom will be a quorum to transact business.
There is a very good chapter (chapt. 6) in Richard Reid’s book, Farewell my Friends, Anchor Books, 2011, describing the function of these committees. Dr Reid (pp.144-6) concentrates on the Sydney Committee and says it “had wide powers relating to employment, wages, discipline and general moral guardianship over the orphans”. The Sydney Committee took its duties seriously, vetting prospective employers, overseeing orphans’ indentures, providing protection if they went into the country, approving their marriage, protecting them from ill-usage, disciplining them by confining them to ‘pick oakum’ in a special room in Hyde Park Barracks, or banishing them to work in the hinterland.
My own impression is that there is something ‘pro forma’ or ‘legalistic’ about the Imperial government’s bureaucratic aims. Its concern with establishing an appropriate legal structure for the Earl Grey female orphan scheme was paramount. This is apparent in its directives for establishing local Orphan Committees and in ensuring colonial government Master-Servant legislation was appropriately modified for orphan apprenticeships.
I very much agree with Dr Reid when he claims the day to day running of things devolved upon local colonial government officers; F.L.S. Merewether in Sydney, John Patterson in Melbourne, and Matthew Moorhouse in Adelaide, in particular. No Orphan Committee minute books have survived, to the best of my knowledge. What does survive is a large archive of Francis Merewether’s correspondence as Immigration Agent: it is a tribute to his diligence and his ‘sympathy’ for those in his charge. Readers may have noticed in the case of the Adelaide Committee, any three members formed a quorum. It looks as if this also applied elsewhere.
Let me fasten down this interpretation by looking at the arrangements for indenturing the orphans.
The South Australian government took to heart clause 7 (see above) of the CLEC proposal of 17 February 1848 “…they will be bound Apprentices, under Laws which are in force in the Colonies…”, Governor Young issuing an Ordinance ‘with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council’ “to provide by Apprenticeship for the Protection, Guardianship and advancement in Life of Emigrant Orphan Children…”. It is interesting they used the word ‘children’; the Earl Grey orphans all travelled as adults, they being over 14 years of age.
The Ordinance gave the Children’s Apprenticeship Board (three members of which constituted a quorum) power to bind “poor children” in apprenticeships until they reached nineteen years of age, or until they married. It specified in detail what masters and mistresses should provide for their servant–food, lodging, bedding, clothing, medicines–allowing them to attend church service, and depositing a proportion of their wages in the South Australia Savings Bank after two years of service. It permitted servants to be transferred “to any other fit and proper person” with the consent of the Board. If there was no such consent, the master or mistress could be fined £10. One or more Justices of the Peace could hear complaints from either master, or servant apprentice, and was given the power to fine masters £10 or send any misbehaving apprentice to a gaol or House of Correction, “there to be kept in confinement on Bread and Water for any time not exceeding Fourteen Days”. The Ordinance made the Children’s Apprenticeship Board the legal guardian of the orphans, with the ‘same power as any guardian lawfully appointed in England’. It is a detailed and comprehensive document covering all the eventualities they could foresee. Appended to it was the “Schedule” or form the apprenticeship should take. (The Ordinance was printed in the South Australian Government Gazette, 24 August, 1848 No.8. It is also available in BPP. Colonies Australia, vol.11, pp. 333-36/211-14).
Máire, Máire Healy, Eliza Roe, céard a dhéanfá? What would ye do? Holy Mother of God, what does this mean?
“In consideration whereof, the said…executors and administrators, doth by these presents, covenant, promise and agree to and with the said Board and every of them, and their and every of their successors for the time being, and their assigns…”.
Would ye listen to that? Do they not even speak English, Eliza Lynch?
You have to take the job Biddy Kelly. You’re not allowed, you aren’t allowed to say no.
New South Wales
17 August 1848, the CLEC advised Grey that some adjustment to the New South Wales Apprenticing Act may be necessary. They suggested amendments such as the following,
that two Justices of the Peace be required to give their consent to any apprenticeship and at least notifying his or her guardian(s)
that some money taken from the apprentice’s wage be placed in a Savings Bank on her behalf
and that some provision be made should the master die or become incapacitated.
The Commissioners politely added that these were merely suggestions and they, of course, would defer to colonial authorities, whose ‘ability and local knowledge’ would allow them to do what is best.
29 August 1848, Grey forwarded the CLEC suggestions to Governor Fitzroy and inquired if the existing NSW Apprenticeship Act needed improving, now that so many juveniles were soon to arrive. (BPP Colonies Australia vol 11 pp. 72-3/194-5)
New South Wales circumstances were more complicated than South Australia. Here, there was a long legal history relating to apprenticing orphans and regulating disputes between masters and servants: Acts of 1828, 1834, 1840, 1844, 1845, ’47,’50, ’52 and ’54 were on the statute books until 20 Vic 28 appeared in 1857, an Act which lasted until 1902. Changes to the legislation had occurred as required, and to correct the mistakes and carelessness of earlier drafting of the laws.
In 1845, for instance, the NSW Legislative Assembly printed the Report of its Select Committee on the Masters’ and Servants’ Act, with minutes of evidence. The sort of thing they focused on included breaches of contract–servants’ “absenting themselves without reasonable cause”, servants’ being “guilty of disobedience or other misconduct” which covered “insolence“, servants’ ‘wilfully damaging property‘. Breaches by employers were also covered; non-payment of wages, failure to provide proper rations, failure to provide a certificate of discharge, for example. But the dice, i believe, was loaded in favour of Masters.
Servants would have been justified in questioning the impartiality of the courts appointed to resolve disputes. Magistrates who sat in judgement were employers themselves and too easily identified with fellow employers. Women proved something of a problem for them. At least they recognized that a female servant might be provoked into being insolent. And generally, law makers were loathe to punish female servants with imprisonment.
The special provisions for the Earl Grey orphans suggested by the CLEC came into force via the Orphan Committees or the members delegated to apply them–have prospective employees apply for a servant beforehand, and their applications vetted; if an employee was out of town then two Justices of the Peace should oversee her assignment; put part of the servants’ wages in a Savings Bank– for as the CLEC had suggested “the accumulated payment would operate as a great inducement to work out” her “period ofservice faithfully“. On the other hand, whether wages paid to the orphans were as fair as originally intended (see clause 7 again) is debatable.
Still, both Imperial and Colonial governments did their utmost to provide a legal framework for the guardianship and employment of the orphans.
Here is an example of an indenture between Anne Smith per Digby and her employer. Take a close look if you can. [I hope that by clicking on the image it will become larger for you. You may be able to make it even larger by clicking again. If you are using a phone, clicking on the image opens it. You can then pinch zoom to make it larger. Thanks Siobhán.] There is also another original apprenticeship agreement between Anne Deely per Thomas Arbuthnot and Frederick Hudson of Ipswich, in the Moreton Bay District, in State Records of New South Wales (SRNSW) 9/6173. I tried finding an original in South Australia State Records in 1995 without success. Considering there were three copies, one for the orphan, one for the employer and one for the government, I’d hoped for a better result. Maybe one has come to light since then? But see what i have to say in post 16.
The interesting thing is the orphans accommodated themselves to work within this system and to work the system to their own advantage. (Here’s an interesting research project for someone: ‘Irish Famine orphans and the Law’. There would certainly be enough material for an Honour’s or Master’s thesis, should anyone be looking for a topic).
In Barefoot 1 (pp.16-18) I suggested that both master and servant were able to ‘work the system’. Masters knew it was a government-run project and thought they could return unruly servants to the Immigration Depot willy-nilly. The young women, learning of better conditions elsewhere–higher wages, a kinder master or mistress, being closer to a male friend–understood that marriage, backchat, or neglect of their duties were a ‘legal’ means of ending their apprenticeship agreement. They might even try to arrange a ‘transfer’. Or, aware that cancellation of their indenture would mean a return to the Depot and the likelihood of their being sent ‘up country’, away from the town, they were still willing to take the risk, anything being preferable to their current position. But more of this further down the line.
More than twenty years ago, Libby Connors said, “perhaps it is time…to take the debate beyond the ‘victim’ stage…We need to start acknowledging and analyzing the extraordinary success of the Irish at thwarting racist migration policies and their achievements in British and colonial politics, whether in the realm of the masculine public world of official policy, or at the personal level of young Irish women defending themselves in their personal relationships”. (Papers at 7th Irish-Australian Conference 1993, ed. Rebecca Pelan, p.179).
I’m going to have a go at this; an historian’s view of the female orphans’ voyage to Australia interspersed with, and in a blue typeface, imaginary voices or snippets of conversation from the young women themselves. I promise not to go ‘overboard’ with this (that’s a terrible pun). There is a great variety of possible ‘voices’-over 4,000 individual ones in fact. The psychological effects of the Famine, the loss of loved ones, their varied workhouse experiences and the different strategies they used to cope with life’s setbacks are all in the mix. So too must be the ebullience of young women setting out for a new life. I’ll do my best to immerse myself in the sources and not just pluck something out of the air. What I put into their mouths may be very different from what readers think they would say. But the benefits, I believe, outweigh the negatives; it helps us see the young women’s voyage differently and it gives them something they haven’t had before; a voice of their own, however inadequate that imaginary voice may be. At least it makes us view and think about the famine orphans from a different perspective.
Some very talented writers have had a go at this already. Kirsty Murray’s Bridie’s Fire, (Allen & Unwin, 2003), Evelyn Conlon’s Not the Same Sky, (Wakefield Press, 2013) and Jaki McCarrick’s play, Belfast Girls scheduled for Artemisia Theater in Chicago in May 2015, show just how stimulating this approach can be. For example, Jaki McCarrick treats the voyage as a liminal space, a world– between the world they have left– and a world they have yet to see. http://www.theatreinchicago.com/belfast-girls/7557/
Reflect on this. The long, three to four month, voyage was a transforming experience for the young women; for many it was the first time they had gone outside their small familiar world and met people and cultures other than their own. Friendships and alliances they made on board ship might be short-lived and fluid, or last well into their new Australian home, at least until they married. Virtually all of them lacked the family support that other Irish migrants had; thus their shipboard alliances became crucial to their survival and well being–ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine. (Under the shelter of each other, people survive).
Historians, in their own fashion, have long appreciated the importance of the voyage to Australia. Emigrants generally, “when at last they landed…were by no means the same people who had boarded ship months before” (Charlwood). What occurred was ‘a gradual and complex adjustment’ that sheds light on their subsequent behaviour (Campbell). Maybe they felt remorse at leaving Ireland, some becoming ultra-Irish in Australia, some “deliberately severing bonds with home, wishing to vanish and hear of it no more” (O’Farrell). Unwise of us, then, to dismiss the voyage as being of little significance, don’t you think?
At the end of post number three (3) http://wp.me/p4SlVj-2p I outlined some of the arrangements Guardians of different workhouses made, outfitting and conveying to Plymouth the female orphans in their charge. The outline is clear enough–the clothes, the wooden boxes and other necessities–and the carts, Bianconi coaches, and trains that carried the young women to an Irish Port and thence to Plymouth. But the details often escape us.
Were the orphans’ clothes cut to the same style and shape? Were they of a dull grey and black or dark green colour? Some seamstresses we know used gingham. And at the International Irish Famine seminar in Sydney in 2013 one of the speakers talked of the availability of inexpensive, usually blue-patterned, cloth in mid nineteenth century. Exactly what were the clothes the young women wore? Were they tight-fitting, full length, allowing little freedom of movement? Were some of the young women wearing their own fitted shoes for the first time, or even wearing underwear for the first time? How did they wash? What toilet facilities were available to them? Maybe our concerns would not have been their concerns?
The orphans must have been quite a sight moving through the Irish countryside, making their way to a local train station or to a local port where they could catch a steamer to Dublin or Cork. What kind of cart, or coach, or train, did they travel in? How fast did it move? How comfortable were they? What did they do if it rained? “Aw Mr Donovan, Mr Donovan, what’ll happen if it rains? Be quiet Bridie Ryan, ye’ll do as ye’ve always done, get wet; and dry out as ye’ve always done.”
I never cease to be amazed at how little I know about these things, and about the private lives of the Earl Grey female orphans. It may be worth thinking about this a bit more, sometime in the future. In Ireland, was their family and their village the focus of their private life? Did communal living in a workhouse afford little time for solitude, or developing self-awareness? Did that experience make them eager to create a family life for themselves once they arrived in Australia?
Board of Guardian Arrangements
Apart from Edward Senior’s assembling orphans from a number of different workhouses, in Belfast, in May 1848, generally it was left to individual workhouses to arrange transport of ‘their own‘ orphans to Plymouth, the port of embarkation for all Australia bound Famine orphans. Most of them, it would seem, went first to Dublin where they boarded a steamer to take them to Plymouth.
A comprehensive survey of Board of Guardian minute books might tell us how many orphans departed via Cork. Kay Caball, for instance, reports in her Kerry Girls that orphans for the Elgin and John Knox, from Kenmare and Killarney, left from Penrose Quay in Cork. (The thirty-five young women from Killarney for the Elgin went first to Liverpool and thence to Plymouth, poor things). However, the orphans from Listowel and Dingle by the Thomas Arbuthnot and the Tippoo Saib left from Dublin. Síle Murphy, in Coppeen, tells me that orphans from Dunmanway and Skibbereen in West Cork also left from Penrose Quay in Cork. We know, too, from the Clonmel Board of Guardians’ Minute Books, that at least one group of women went to Cork, and others by rail to Dublin. Perhaps it all depended on who was available to examine the young women before they left Ireland.
LongfordBoard of Guardian Minute Book 29 November 1848
The following orders of the Poor Law Commissioners were laid before the Board and directions given thereon, as follows:
Dublin 24th November 1848 Enclosing a list of the Female emigrants selected by Lieut. Henry and directing that they arrive at Plymouth on the 4th December the day named for the sailing of the Vessel for South Australia and the necessity of their being in Dublin on Saturday 2nd December before 12 o’clock for the Duke of Cornwall steamer to take them to Plymouth.
[Then follows the names of 50 young women, ranging in age from 15 to 18 years.]
Resolved that Mr Doyle the Master do proceed in charge to Dublin and pay the necessary charge and expense…
Rossgrey (Roscrea) Board of Guardian Minute Book (Oct.1848-July 1849)
30 December 1848 A letter was received from Lt Henry, emigration officer, directing the Master to have the 60 girls who had been selected for emigration, in Dublin on the evening of the 9th instant. The Master stated that he would require a person to assist in escorting the emigrants to Dublin and a cheque for expenses. Ordered and a cheque for expenses to be drawn…
17 February 1849 The Clerk having reported that the cost of the 60 emigrant girls forwarded from this Union was as follows:
Outfit of clothing and necessaries……………………………………..£228.12.2
Master and Assistant’s expenses escorting them ……………………5.0.0
Lodging and board in Dublin…………………………………………………15.15.6
Cords and cards for boxes………………………………………………………..2.3.0
Fares to Plymouth…………………………………………………………………..40.10.0
Clogheen (Tipperary) Board of Guardian Minute Book
7 July 1849
Resolved that the Clerk be directed to write to the Superintendent of the railroad station at Dublin requesting he will direct that the 3rd class carriage may be attached to the day mail train on Wednesday the 18th instant for the conveyance of the 26 females proposed for emigration to Australia or that he will give direction that they be permitted to travel in a second class carriage at the rate of fare paid for the 3rd class and to request an immediate answer.
Resolved that the Clerk be directed to write to Mr Bianconi requesting he will state on what terms he will provide for the conveyance of 26 females and that the person in charge with 26 boxes 2 feet long, 14 inches high and 14 inches wide from the Clogheen workhouse to the Dundrum Gold’s Cross railroad station on the morning of the 18th instant in time for sufficient for their further conveyance too Dublin by the day mail train…
Resolved that the Clerk be directed to purchase from Mr Hackett, stationer, Clonmel 26 prayer books and 26 Bibles (Douai) for the females proposed for emigration and that he be further directed to purchase any necessary articles which may be required for which provision has not already been made by the Guardians.
My thanks to all the descendants of Famine orphans who sent me photographs to use.
Crossing to Plymouth
Clearly, getting to Plymouth could be a complicated and expensive task. In the late 1840s Ireland’s railway network was limited. There was only about 120 miles of track in 1847 but things were improving so that by 1853 Dublin was connected by rail to Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Belfast (MacDonagh, Pattern, 1961). Still, many an Earl Grey orphan must have risen very early in the morning and travelled by cart, often in the dark, to join the mail train at a station closest to their workhouse. And what of those from remote parts, from Ballyshannon, from Ennistymon, from Listowel and Dingle, for example? Did they travel all the way to Dublin by cart? How good were the roads? Such conditions added hours, even days, to the initial stages of the orphans’ voyage.
One of the advantages of the unholy row concerning the ‘Belfast Girls’ who came by the first ship, the Earl Grey, is that we find detailed information about their voyage to Plymouth in the government enquiries that ensued. (The documents in the first volume of my Barefoot…? are all about that ‘unholy row’). Surprisingly, Edward Senior, Poor Law Inspector for the North-East of Ireland, wrote in defense of his choice of orphans that even “when their friends and relatives were crowding on the pier endeavouring to press into their ship, their conduct was exemplary…”. We sometimes forget the orphans had friends and relatives too. The letters orphans supposedly sent back from Brisbane and Sydney mention sisters and aunties and a step-mother to whom they wished to be remembered, and from whom they’d like a lock of hair: more than just the orphans themselves were affected by the Earl Grey scheme.
One can well imagine the scene when the young women left other workhouses, perhaps ‘keeners’ coming together in Irish speaking areas. Oliver MacDonagh (Pattern, 1961, pp.167-8) writes of ‘the piercing experience of parting’ for many an emigrant at this time: “some of the women would fall fainting when they saw any person going, others would hang out of the car to keep back the departing one; but when it would go, the whole lot, men and women, would raise a cry of grief that would wrest an echo from the peaks”. The young women on board the Thomas Arbuthnot, for example, fell to keening as they rounded the Cape of Good Hope on Christmas Day 1849, mná caointe literally letting their hair down, in small groups, moving rhythmically, perhaps registering their protest and renewal, defining themselves… Their keening was not about ‘mercenary tears’. According to one witness, “…circle after circle rapidly formed, and the shrieks of grief and woe resounded through the good Thomas Arbuthnot from stem to stern”. (Reid and Mongan, ‘a decent set of girls’, p.123).
S ariú! Agus méliom féin Dá mbeitheá go moch agam… Agus och! och! ochón airiú! – gan thú!
(And now I’m on my own,
If I had you at the break of dawn…
Agus och! och! ochón airiú! – without you!)
Or maybe this one farewelled those going to join the Lismoyne in August 1849; it’s called Slán le Máigh. It’s associated with localities near the River Maigue.
Och, ochón, is breoite mise gan chuid gan chóir gan chóip gan chiste gan sult gan seod gan spórt gan spionnadh ó seoladh mé chun uaignis.
(Alas, alas! ’tis sickly I am,
Without possessions or rights, without company or treasure,
Without pleasure or property, without sport or vigour,
Since I was sent into loneliness.)
(my thanks to Tom Power and Síle ní Murphy for this caoineadh)
But back to the Earl Grey orphans: it was more than a week after leaving Belfast before they could board their ship at Plymouth. Their first journey would be long and uncomfortable. On the night of 24 May 1848, the young women from Dungannon, Cooktown, Armagh, Banbridge and other outlying workhouses slept in an auxiliary Belfast workhouse building in Barrack Street where Poor Law Inspector Senior called the roll.
Sarah Arlow Heer, Sur
Isabella Banks Here sir
Susan Barnett Here, sir
Annie Best Sur, here
Margaret Best Sur, here (This is not the way, me trying to reproduce dialects. I should stop that.)
The next day they joined the orphans from Belfast workhouse and later that day, all 185 of them, made their way through the streets of Belfast to join the steamer Athlone at the docks. It was quite a parade, a long line of young women in the charge of James Caldwell, Ward Master, accompanied by Poor Law Inspector Senior, maybe some other Workhouse officers and members of the Board of Guardians, and ‘friends’ of the orphan emigrants, all of them making their way from Belfast workhouse (now the City Hospital) across town to the pier at the docks. Their boxes would have preceded them and been put on board in the hold before they arrived. Maybe the sun was shining that spring evening or a light drizzle fell on their faces? Maybe there was a lot of crying? Maybe there was laughter and banter? The next morning they arrived in Dublin, 26 May.
Other emigrant families joined this first shipload of female orphans in Dublin. But the orphans had to stay on board while Lieutenant Henry inspected them. Then they waited till the steamer left for Plymouth the following evening, the 27th. It was yet another 42 hours before they arrived at Plymouth Depot, at 2 o’clock on Monday 29 May! The following days were spent in the Depot being checked by representatives of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners and being organized into messes. James Caldwell later reported to the Otway enquiry (Barefoot…?, vol. 1) that one orphan had lost a shoe in landing and another lacked “two bed gowns and one petticoat that she had not been furnished with; I bought material to make her two bed gowns and one petticoat and gave it to her; the clothes of the Belfast girls were numbered, and a card, with a list of their clothing, nailed on the inside of the box…”.
Crossing by steamer from Dublin or Cork to Plymouth was probably the most uncomfortable part of the orphans’ long voyage. The steamers were known as ‘deckers’, that is, there was little protection from the elements. Our orphans may have slept lying down on the deck in crowded conditions, making do with the meagre supply of food they carried with them. There was plenty of time to be sea-sick, or be drenched by the rain. Ach Jeez Mary Boyle will ye move over and let me lie down? Eliza Carroll’s just been sick. I don’t want to sleep next to her.
The Plymouth Emigrant Depot
In October 1849, Surgeon Charles Strutt, the best Surgeon the orphans could have wished for, saw that orphans intended for the Thomas Arbuthnotwere in a miserable, bedraggled, soaking-wet state when they arrived in Plymouth. He organized a bath for over a hundred of them. One can only hope that other surgeons were capable of such kindness. Many an Earl Grey orphan appreciated a good meal and a decent night’s sleep in the Emigration Depot before boarding the vessel that would take her to Australia.
The Emigrant Depot in Plymouth was also the place where well-meaning members of parliament, clergymen and naval officers saw prospective emigrants for the colonies. They were quick to express their opinions and prejudices to the Commissioners. Thus the “girls” by the first two vessels (the Earl Grey and the Roman Emperor) “did not show any peculiar absence of cleanliness, yet, with some exceptions, they were wanting in that orderly and tidy appearance which characterize many of the female emigrants from Great Britain. Though generally short and not at all well-looking, they did not appear weak or unhealthy; they seemed good-humoured and well-disposed…” (Mr Divett M.P. August 1848). Or, “I would say that they were better calculated for milking cows and undergoing the drudgery of a farm servant’s life, than to perform the office of a lady’s maid” (Rev. T. Childs, August 1848). Meanwhile, that same month, Lieutenant Carew R.N. commented sympathetically, “In one respect they are very inferior, viz. in personal appearance and physical development, caused, I believe, by a life of poverty, and having from infancy been always ill-fed. Could these girls, however, be seen after having been six months in Australia, after having, during that time, enjoyed the fresh air and plenty of good nourishing food, with a feeling of independence, I believe the change would be so wonderful that it would be difficult to recognize them…”. (from British Parliamentary Papers, 1,000 volume Irish Universities Press edition, Colonies Australia Sessions 1849-50, Despatches from the Right Honourable Earl Grey, Secretary of State, vol.11, pp. 351-2).
The Plymouth Depot was the first and only place, on English soil, that representatives of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners (CLEC) actually met the orphans. They would examine their papers; check their boxes; see that each had the outfit required; and check they were in a good state of health. That the CLEC paid such meticulous attention to the Earl Grey scheme is the reason the orphans’ death rate was so low; less than 1%! It is worth repeating; the female orphans who arrived in Australia did not experience the tragic death rates of the Irish who went to British North America in 1847-8. Australia did not have a Grosse Isle or a Partridge Island or the grief that extended all along the St. Lawrence River.
Regulations for the Voyage to Australia
Britain’s 1843 Passenger Act and the modified 1847 and 1849 Acts may have imploded under the sheer weight of Irish numbers fleeing to British North America. But they worked well for the Earl Grey female orphans who went to Australia. The Australian scheme was very well organized, which is not to say it didn’t have its problems. The Passenger Acts, like the Earl Grey scheme itself, were a work in progress; it would not be until the 1855 Act that the British government was satisfied they had things the way they wanted. My impression is that the earlier regulations and charter parties, (i.e. contracts between CLEC and shipping companies or their brokers), focused particularly on ships’ conditions, space for emigrants, their dietary, and prevention of intercourse between female migrants and crew members. It was not until early October 1849 that a detailed regulation of the emigrant’s day was written down and given an official imprimatur. That’s something worth checking since it implies the orphans who sailed before October 1849 were not subject to the same detailed guidelines as those who sailed after that date.
Extract from Charter Party of Thomas Arbuthnot 18 August 1848
(not carrying orphans this time but it did carry Surgeon Strutt)
We hereby tender to Her majesty’s Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners the above Ship, rated A1 at Lloyds, for the conveyance of Passengers to Port Adelaide, Port Phillip or Sydney at the rate of £13-15- Pt Phillip, £13-17-6 Pt Adelaide, £13-7-6 Sydney for each Adult passenger, subject to the stipulations contained in the Charter Party hereto annexed…
4. That the said Ship shall at all times during the continuance of this contract be fitted in the between decks with proper bed places for the accommodation of he passengers, and with a separate Hospital for males and females, fitted up with bed places and two swing cots; and that the said Ship shall also be fitted and furnished with with sufficient water closets, a head pump, a good accommodation ladder for the use of passengers in embarking and disembarking; and, also for the exclusive use of passengers, with such cooking apparatus as may be approved by the said Commissioners…of good coals, wood, and coke; of scrapers, brooms, swabs, sand, and stones for dry rubbing, four to be mounted; together with whatever else the said Commissioners or their Agents, be thought necessary for the cleanliness of the Ship, and the comfort and safety of the passengers in addition to the following mess utensils viz.–For each Mess of six persons.
One mess kit, with handle,
One tin oval dish–About 14 inches long and 4 inches deep,
One mess bread basket–About 14 inches long, 6 1/2 inches deep and 10 wide with handles,
Two three-pint tin pots, with covers and bar hooks, for boiling water,
Two water-breakers of two gallons each, properly slung for use,
One potatoe bag,
One pudding bag,
with an addition of one-fifth to provide against loss or breakage…
19. And it is hereby mutually agreed that the Commissioners have the right to appoint a Surgeon, who shall be entitled to a cabin, to be approved by their Agent, with an allowance of forty cubical feet of space in the hold for luggage, and shall be dieted at the Captain’s table, on condition of his taking the medical charge of of the Officers and Crew of the Ship.
20. That the Master is strictly to forbid and prevent on the part of the Crew or Officers any intercourse whatever with the Female Passengers on board, and also the sale of spirituous or fermented liquors to the Passengers.
Which is not to say such conditions were rigorously adhered to; one of the ‘mistakes’ of the Surgeon (?) of the Earl Grey was to make the messes too large, about twenty five orphans together, instead of a much smaller, more easily controlled, number. He and the Matron would get into a heap of trouble with the ‘Belfast Girls’.
Extract from the 1849 Regulations
Appendix 7 to the 10th General Report of the CLEC 6 October 1849
(You may have to type the reference into your browser and ‘go to’ page 46)
1. Every passenger to rise at 7 a.m. unless otherwise permitted by the surgeon, or, if no surgeon, by the master.
2. Breakfast from 8 to 9 a. m., dinner at 1 p.m., supper at 6 p.m….
8. The passengers, when dressed, to roll up their beds, to sweep the decks (including the space under the bottom of the berths), and to throw the dirt overboard…
11. Duties of the sweepers to be to clean the ladders, hospitals, and round houses, to sweep the decks after every meal, and to dry-holystone and scrape them after breakfast…
18. On Sunday the passengers to be mustered at 10 a.m., when they will be expected to appear in clean and decent apparel. The day to be observed as religiously as circumstances will admit…
1. The emigrants are to be divided into messes…
3. The surgeon-superintendent will appoint from among the emigrants a sufficient number of constables for the enforcement of the regulations, and of cleanliness and good order.
4. The constables will attend daily at the serving out of the provisions, to see that each mess receives its proper allowance, and that justice is done…
7. If there be no religious instructor on board, or schoolmaster appointed by the Commissioners, the surgeon-superintendent will select a person to act as teacher to the children.
The Route Taken
In post 7 (a) there is a picture of the Constance as it made its way to Adelaide. I’ve reproduced it here. Have a look where Kerguelens Land is on the map below, which is from Robin Haines, Doctors at Sea, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, p. 3, with permission of the author. It’s just above where it says ‘Southern Ocean’.
The Captain’s decision to take the recently discovered Great Circle Route meant the Constance arrived in Adelaide in record time, after only 77 days. But she had to sail through the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, dodging pack ice, and endangering her passengers. (There were a number of deaths on board the Constance). The Commissioners were furious but eventually they recommended a modified route for emigrant ships sailing to Australia, according to the time of year. Fortunately, no ship carrying orphans went so far south. The Earl Grey was to take 123 days but somewhere along the way it lost its yardarm and mainmast which slowed its progress considerably. The Thomas Arbuthnot, in contrast, took only 88 days, according to the unidentified witness quoted above (re keening). By my count the figure should be 96 days. According to my calculations, the average length of the voyage between Plymouth and Adelaide for Earl Grey orphan ships was c. 101 days; for Port Phillip, c. 98 days; and for Port Jackson, c. 108 days. No matter which ship the orphans boarded, it was a long time to be at sea.
How did they pass the time?
Regulations such as those above, and Instructions to Surgeons, give us some idea how the orphans’ day was planned; when to rise; when to open and close scuttles and hatches; when to eat; when to sweep and clean; when to knit or sew; when to go to school, or when to go on deck, and when to go to bed. But remember, the Commissioners were not on board to oversee how well their regulations were applied. As I’ve said before, there is often a difference between how things should be and how things are, in practice. There were, in fact, lots of variables involved.
How well did a Surgeon relate to young women, and they to him? Was the Surgeon’s relationship with the ship’s Captain and Officers to their mutual advantage? What if the Captain was uncooperative and irascible?
How strong a personality was the Matron? How caring was she? Could she explain to an orphan having her first period what was happening? Help! Help! There’s blood all over my legs. What’s happening to me?– Shush now, Ellen. Here, come here, my wee pet. Some of the young women on the Roman Emperor began having their first period, only to find the Surgeon unprepared for the eventuality. There were not enough ‘cloths’ on board to go round. The main illness recorded by the Surgeon of the Earl Grey was amenorrhoea. Either ovulation was suppressed by severe physiological hardship and stress, or some young ones were beginning to ovulate in a stop-start sort of way.
What were the dynamics of adolescent interaction between themselves, and towards authority figures; Surgeon, Matron or Sub-Matron, Master of their vessel or First Mate? How did young adolescent women relate to other members of the crew? Mary Madgett, Mary, Look at the young fella with the scarf on his head? Isn’t he lovely? Isn’t he busy? And what happened if unforeseen events occurred– blustery stormy sea-swelling weather when a mainmast broke, and came crashing down–how scary was that for someone who had not been to sea before? What excitement and chatter there was when they stopped at Tenerife or the Cape of Good Hope for ‘wood and water’, saw an albatross or shark, or were invited by King Neptune to join him in Davy Jones’s locker when they ‘crossed the line’.
The Commissioners, however, had a weapon in hand. Surgeons were required to keep a diary and a medical journal. When the ships arrived in Australia an Immigration Agent and his assistants inspected the ship and interviewed the migrants. If anything was remiss, if the conditions of the Charter Party were found to be unfulfilled, then gratuities for the Master and his Officers, and for the Matron and the Surgeon were withheld, and they would never again be employed on an emigrant ship.
On the second vessel to Sydney, the Inchinnan, there was short issue of rations and maltreatment of some of the orphans by the Surgeon, Mr. Ramsay. See http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1512513?zoomLevel=2 The young women on board were gutsy enough to complain about and redress the short issue of rations. They were gutsy, litigious young women prepared to stand up for their rights. Mary Stephens/Stevens from Mayo even took the Captain to court for throwing her on the deck, for kicking her and beating her with a stick. An account of the case was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald 8 March 1849. You can read about it here, in a report from the Central Criminal Court http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1512481?zoomLevel=1
On the Digby, the orphans were also defrauded of a large portion of their rations. The Immigration Board in Sydney (Merewether, Savage and Browne) submitted a detailed report to the Colonial Secretary based on the Surgeon’s private log. It provided overwhelming evidence that the Captain was “utterly unfit to command an emigrant ship”. “Dr Neville further charged the Master with having ‘permitted the Sailors to be too familiar with the female Emigrants in opposition to the authority on board and clause No 20 of the Charter Party'”. (The reference I have is State Records NSW Reel 2852 4/4699 Reports 1838-49 but it is an old one).
Or again–in November 1849 Francis Merewether, the Immigration Agent, informed the Master of the William and Mary that gratuities to himself and his Officers were being withheld. The Matron was to receive only half of hers and three of the sub-matrons nothing at all. The Captain and his Officers were rude, insulting and interfered with the Surgeon when he tried to perform his duties. And they had not issued the emigrants with their full allowance of rations and medical comforts. Dysentery, diarrhoea and amenorrhoea were the principal diseases on board.
Not that these examples are typical of the whole Earl Grey scheme. But it’s worth searching for such reports, if only for what they tell us about the orphans’ voyage. The Surgeon of the Roman Emperor to Adelaide reported that “to establish discipline, preserve good order and prevent moral evil, I experienced much difficulty…The excitement caused by arrival which naturally prevails, inordinately affects the Irish of the class to which these emigrants belong”. The Inconstant to Adelaide also had its troubles; matrons visiting the Captain’s cabin; the Captain reputedly striking the Surgeon; crew members’ dissatisfaction with their Captain. Becca, Johanna, Did you see that hussy go off with the Captain? Will we tell the others?
For the sake of balance, here are a couple of examples from ships arriving in Hobson’s Bay, Port Phillip: Isabella Browne, acting as a nurse and in charge of the Hospital on the Diadem, arranged nocturnal visits (i.e. at 2 .am.) for occasional crew members. Yet “it appears that the Surgeon Superintendent used much vigilance in endeavouring to prevent communication or intercourse between the girls and crew, seldom retiring from the deck to his Cabin before 12 o’Clock at night, and sometimes 1 or 2 o ‘Clock in the morning”. To modern eyes, middle class Victorians certainly had a fixation about keeping the sexes apart.
And from the report on the Derwent, “9. The Board cannot conclude without remarking upon the very indifferent success attending the School established on board…” although the greater part of the orphans “attendedthe school regularly throughout the voyage, very few had learned to spell their own names or the most simple words”. It would appear Northeners were adept at bucking the system.
Let me finish this by comparing two very different voyages, that of the Earl Grey and that of the Thomas Arbuthnot. They illustrate some of the things I’ve been talking about. But they are like chalk and cheese. The Surgeon of the Earl Grey, Henry Grattan Douglass was a fifty-eight year old member of the Protestant Irish Ascendancy. He had little sympathy for the young women in his charge, especially the ‘Belfast girls’, and even less understanding. They clashed early in the voyage, barely two weeks out. “The first eight or ten days most of the people were sick, and I did not pay much attention to the language used by them, but when they recovered, the difficulty I had with them for the first month was extreme, as they used the most abominable language. and actually fought with each other”. (See my Barefoot…? vol. 1, or Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council of New South Wales 1850, vol. 1 pp.394ff).
On the 16th June Douglass found two orphans fighting, one of them armed with a fork,– maybe Catherine Graham or Catherine McCann? I’ll have your bloody guts with this, ya wee shite. Douglass ordered her to be put on the Poop where she was bound to be reviled, insulted and mocked by the crew. (The Surgeon of the Inchinnan would later be chastised for using such a punishment. Not so Dr Douglass). The Belfast ‘girls’ objected to Douglass’s authoritarianism and rose in revolt demanding Cathy’s release. As you’d expect, there’d be only one winner in such a clash, the one who held most power and who was backed by the Master of the vessel. Maybe they reached an uneasy truce. The women, some of them undoubtedly worldly-wise, street smart, and all too familiar with the school of hard knocks, set down their markers. We’re going to swear as much as we like, ‘borrow’ each others clothes as much as we like, No, I’m not going to mend my bonnet. It’s torn. I’ll wipe my boots with it if I want to, stop anyone else coming into the Belfast ‘mess’, talk with members of the crew when we’re on deck, tell the Matron what we think of her. Helsfuckenbells. Piss off Banbridge. Back to where you came from.
In evidence taken by the Sydney Orphan Committee, in December 1848, the Matron was asked, “32. Was there any improper conduct on the part of any of the crew in connexion with these females?”“I wished to stop all intercourse between the immigrants and the crew, and to prohibit the girls speaking to them, but the Doctor thought this was impossible…”. Maybe the Belfast women won some minor victories after all? Hey Mister. Come and talk with us. What’s that? You have to wait till eight bells. You have eight bells? Woo-hoo
But Douglass was scathing in his criticism of the orphans once he arrived in Sydney. The orphans “were early abandoned to the unrestricted gratification of their desires…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”…”one woman was married, and had run away from her husband…the women frequently charged each other with having had children…they were for the most part addicted to stealing, and to using the most obscene and gross language…” . He was to single out, and name, 56 orphans who were sent to Maitland and Moreton Bay, instead of landing in Sydney.
Hey Gina, Are you gonna give Mr Fancy pants, Mr Smellunderthenose, a dose? Fuckoff Black. Shut yer bake. Where’d ya leave yer wee dick of a husband anyway? Were you and yer Ma on the game, or not? She was a right hoorbeg.
The voyage of the Thomas Arbuthnot would be very different indeed. The Surgeon, Charles Strutt was a thirty-five year old unmarried Englishman. (He was later to marry Bridget Ryan from Ennis, in Geelong–Reid & Mongan, decent, p.169) His diary has survived, as has that of Arthur Hodgson, politician and Darling Downs squatter who also travelled on the Thomas Arbuthnot at this time. Richard Reid and Cheryl Mongan also reproduce, in their decent set of girls, (pp.115-26) an essay entitled ‘Female Emigration’, author unknown, which is a most useful account of the voyage.
Whereas Douglass knew little about the young women in his charge–he claimed the orphans from Cavan were well-behaved but alas, no Cavan orphans were on his vessel–Strutt would refer to “my people”, and when asked if any would accompany him to Yass, “130 at once expressed their wish to go any place that I might be going to”. Where Douglass had shaky support from an English born Matron, Maria Cooper and her daughter–“if I made a remark to any of them, all I had in return was “Thank goodness, we shall not long have her to bully over us”— Strutt had Mrs Murphy, a 42 year old widow from Dublin, and her daughter, to support his efforts to apply ‘detailed’ regulations. They made school lessons work especially well, “with patience, kindness and care”.
Strutt empathized with his charge. He was kind; he improved ventilation through the hatches and personally mended lanterns; he arranged salt-water baths in warmer latitudes; issued lime juice and plum pudding, and let ‘his girls’ stay up a little longer on deck. But he applied discipline; he made his charges work, and he made them work hard. “Friday 7 December My girls have become much more orderly and tidy under the constant steady pressure I keep up against holes, rags, tatters and dirt”. He allowed them their play. Meg, Mary, Bridget, Ann, Let’s give this handsome Walter Davidson a couple of pinches. You first Biddy. See if he can catch us.
Strutt allowed the young women from Galway, Clare, Kerry and Dublin to express themselves in song and dance, taking their turn with their reels, slipjigs and quadrilles, –maybe a South Galway set or step dancing, St Patrick’s Day, The Blackbird and Three Sea Captains–dances the orphans would know–beating out their own rhythm, learning new moves, glad to be alive.
Let me finish with an extract from the essay on “Female Emigration’ mentioned earlier. It is an account of the Arbuthnot voyage seen through rose-tinted glasses but it demonstrates how, in the right circumstances and with the right people, the Commissioners’ regulations could work.
“The berths settled, and duly taken possession of, the next thing was to arrange the messes. Each mess consisted of eight persons, and a card was given, showing the provisions that were to be delivered out each day of the week, with the quantity on each day”. In addition to their mess kit, “the Commissioners added, for each emigrant, a new mattress, bolster, blankets and counterpane; a large canvass bag, for holding linen and clothes, a knife and fork, two spoons, a metal plate, and a drinking mug—all of which articles they were allowed to retain upon landing…
As the regular routine of the day was now fully established, our readers may be interested in learning its details. By half past seven all the Emigrants who were in good health were expected to be washed, dressed, and in a neat and fitting order to present themselves…When breakfastwas ready the cook reported it to the officer of the watch…the ship’s bell was rung, and the breakfast served out in regular rotation, to the respective messes…
Immediately after breakfast the berths, tables, lockers and ‘between decks’ were swept clean; well scraped, and polished with holystones and sand; the ladders were brought on deck, scraped and washed, the mattresses and bedding neatly folded up, and everything made clean, dry and comfortable. In the early days of the voyage there was a lot of dampness until caulking of the leaking timbers was completed. Maggie, Maggie, don’t open that side port. Oh hell we’re soaked.
At half past ten the Surgeon Superintendent, generally accompanied by the master of the carpenter, took his rounds of inspection…a girl with her hair unbrushed, holes in any part of her attire, or dirty hands never escaped reprimand. In general, however, his commendation far exceeded his censures…
At eleven the various classes of the school commenced…The classes succeeded each other throughout the day, when the weather permitted, and the pupils made a regular, and some of them a rapid advance, in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Neither were needle-work and knitting neglected; industry was the order of the day, and it was rare to see any of the girls unemployed, for any length of time…
Whilst the morning classes were going on the Surgeon attended in the Hospital…After this he…investigated grievances, heard complaints on both sides, rebuked quarrelling or negligence, and endeavoured to reconcile differences, when they occurred… Doctor, Harriet Carmody won’t let me brush her hair and she’s taken my comb. Tell her to give it back.
At half past twelve the cook gave the welcome report that dinner was ready; and the officer of the watch having tasted it, and pronounced it to be dressed as it ought to be, the ship’s bell was rung…and immediately served to the messes in due order; one person from each mess attending to receive it, and to take it down to the rest. After dinner the school was resumed till half past five, when the ship’s bell announced that tea was ready, and it was served out with the same regularity as had been observed with respect to breakfast and dinner. Thus regularly and methodically were the wants of two hundred passengers provided for day by day, whilst those of the crew, nearly fifty in number, the captain, mates and fourteen cabin passengers were all attended to with the same punctuality…
We left our large party at tea, but sounds of gaiety are heard, and we find the remainder of the evening is to be passed in singing; dancing, and other innocent amusements…At dusk, lanterns were hung on deck to light the dancers, and equally between decks, for…those who preferred remaining below. At eight, or a little later, according to the weather, all the girls retired to their quarters, the between decks were swept clean…the Surgeon-Superintendent paid his last visit at half-past nine; all the lamps were extinguished, with the exception of three, and the doors were closed until half-past five the next morning.
…We are now approaching the end of the voyage…’we ranged cables, took a pilot on board, entered the Heads, and cast anchor near Garden Island about dusk…The Health Officer came on board, was much pleased with the condition of the ship…The following morning we came into the Cove, and were inspected by the Colonial Secretary, the Agent for Immigration, the Health Officer of the port, and several other gentlemen. They were highly satisfied with the order and regularity on board, the good health, fatness, and deportment of the girls, the cleanliness of the decks, berths, tables, pots and pans, etc., and to do the poor girls justice, they deserved the praise, for they had exerted themselves to the utmost, and spared no trouble or labour’.
This account is well worth examining. It’s reprinted in full in R. Reid & C. Mongan, ‘a decent set of girls The Irish Famine orphans of the Thomas Arbuthnot 1849-1850, Yass, 1996, pp.115-126. (update: thanks to the great detective work of Karen Semken we know a slightly earlier version appeared in the Daily News, London, Wednesday 6 November 1850, under the heading, ‘Emigration and the Colonies’. It’s looking increasingly likely that it was written by Strutt himself.)
Did an orphan’s voyage experience affect her life in Australia, do you think?