Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (62); Stories, revisions, and research tips.

SOME MORE STORIES, and a bit extra

I wonder should i continue posting orphan stories, limited as they are in their information and reach. But i notice some readers are unaware of the meaning of abbreviations in my Barefoot and on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database, BG., Im. Cor., Register 1, 2, 3., etc.  See below. I’ll try explaining what they refer to, and direct you to where you can find them at the Archives. If i may, I’ll use a few orphan examples to clarify things a bit further. But first, a few introductory comments.

PRIMARY SOURCES

I have often urged people to state clearly the origin of the information they use. It is not just a matter of being honest and acknowledging someone else’s work; it also helps distinguish between primary and secondary sources. For example, something stated by Trevor McClaughlin, Richard Reid, Perry McIntyre, or Ancestry, or on a website, in a book, or on a facebook page, is a secondary source. Inadvertently they only may be spreading an error, merely sharing ignorance. In that ‘native place’ column on that shipping list, does it say Draghin or Drynagh, or is it Inagh? It is always important to go back to the primary source yourself. Hence my plea at the end of the first paragraph in the Sydney Legend below.

When in the late 1970s I consulted the NSW State Records (NSWSR) Board of Immigration shipping list for the Earl Grey, the  first orphan vessel to arrive in Sydney, i found to my distress there were some missing pages. To locate the missing orphan names I went to the Immigration Agent’s shipping list, the list with less information about each orphan girl. There was no mention of parents’ names, for example. It was only much later the missing pages of the Board’s list were found.

I subsequently updated the record on the early version of the irishfaminememorial.org website, and added Lionel Fowler’s discovery of information contained in ‘enclosures’ to the NSW Governor’s Despatches. (See the second par. of my Legend below. CY690 etc. are the numbers for the relevant microfilm in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. I’m trusting this is still correct). These ‘enclosed’ lists told us who had employed the young women, and at what rate of pay. I know for a fact that a good many people, Aileen Trinder and others, searched high and low for similar enclosures for other orphan vessels. But without success. Nonetheless, all this is one more reason for returning to the primary sources. Look what additional information has been discovered since my 1991 Barefoot. More primary source material is coming to light all the time.

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Monument Hyde Park Barracks Sydney. Thank you Bryan Rose. This may be your photograph.

LITERACY

Another thing i’d like to draw your attention to, is my failure to include information about the orphans’ literacy. It is not recorded in my Barefoot but Perry McIntyre has added it to the database. The information about their literacy was recorded on the Board of Immigration shipping lists. That is a great research topic for a university student, don’t you think, the literacy of the Irish orphan ‘girls’ compared with others? I fondly remember studying the spread of literacy among early modern Europeans with my students. There were some brilliant studies that could provide inspiration for our hypothetical student…by Elizabeth Eisenstein, David Cressy, Roger Chartier, Harvey Graff, Rab Houston, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie et al. Clearly, neither the invention of the printing press nor the advent of the Protestant Reformation had led to mass literacy. Mass literacy did not come to Western Europe till the late nineteenth century with the spread of compulsory education. But why did these historians accept an ability to sign one’s name as evidence of basic literacy? Were there instances of women being able to sign their name but refusing to do so on their marriage certificate? Why was that? Were Protestants more literate than Catholics, townsfolk more literate than country dwellers, men more literate than women? Why did so many people think there was no pressing need to become literate? What exactly do we mean by literacy anyway? It is a fascinating subject generally, and would be no less fascinating in the case of the Earl Grey Famine orphans.

Let me introduce you to some of the work i did on this back in the days. In 1979 and 1980 using punch cards and with the help of computer student John Breen, information was fed into a Macquarie university computer to compare the orphans’ literacy with that of other female government assisted migrants. When they arrived, immigrants were asked could they read, read and write, or do neither. This data does not tell us much about the standard of literacy or the nature of literacy of our immigrants. But it does provide a basic, if crude, measure. The computer allowed us to cross tabulate a range of things, literacy by age, by occupation, by religion, by gender, by county of origin, for example. Not all of the results were particularly useful. You may however be interested in these next results. The data relates to the Port Jackson arrivals.

Orphans’ literacy compared with that of other Irish female assisted immigrants

In the period 1848-1851,

  • 22% of all Irish government assisted females, excluding the orphans, were non-literate. (Non-literate is a less pejorative term than illiterate). They could neither read nor write. Presumably the government clerk and the migrant herself understood the question to ask, can you read and write English?
  • 34% of female assisted immigrants could read,
  • and a remarkable 45% claimed they could both read and write (percentages are rounded).

Orphans

  • By contrast, 41% of the orphans were non-literate,
  • 33% could read
  • and only 26% could both read and write. (Hence my figure, in post 2 https://wp.me/p4SlVj-Z , where i said 59% could read, and where one could read she could read to others. I was recognizing the young women’s agency).

Age Groups

If we hone in on age groups, some interesting differences emerge.

  • Of the 10-14 age group
  • 22% of orphans were non-literate,
  • 31% could read
  • and 48% could both read and write.
  • Of the other Irish government assisted female migrants in the same age group, 24% were non-literate,
  • 38% could read
  • and 38% could both read and write.
  • Our youngest orphans were the most literate.

In the 15-19 or 15-20 age group the differences are also striking.

  • Both had a 22% non-literacy rate, but of the other assisted females,
  • 26% could read only
  • and a further 53% could both read and write.
  • By contrast 58% of the orphans claimed they could read only and
  • 20% that they were able to both read and write. The orphans were not quite so literate as their government assisted immigrant sisters.

Other results may warrant further examination;

Regional differences

Mayo orphans, for example, were 66% non-literate,

Clare had only 23% in this category,

and Kerry sat between these two at 58%.

Dublin immigrants were only 11% non-literate.

The spread of the early National Education system in Ireland played a decisive role in all of this, may I suggest ?

Irish National School System

There is an amazing record of the National School system in Irish archives that would allow us to put this to the test. Let’s look at County Clare, for instance. There were 204 schools set up in County Clare between 1835 and 1849. Not all of them got off the ground, some were struck off, and the Famine threw the whole system into disarray. Still, one can surmise how the system impacted upon a young girl’s literacy in English in the years before she sought refuge in a workhouse. Look at the growth in the number of schools, and the increase in attendance. For example, at Carahan school in the parish of Clonlea, there were 70 girls on the books in May 1841 and 74 in December, 153 in May 1842 and 90 in December. [Note the seasonal attendance]. But in 1848 the school was closed. In the north-west of the county, more than 300 pupils on average regularly attended Ennistimon monastery school in Deerpark townland in the 1830s, and just under half that number were girls. At Kilrush female school in 1842, in a room measuring 62 feet by 22, there were 158 girls in attendance in May 1842, and 187 in December. And at SixMileBridge in Kilfinaghty parish in a female school that measured 46 feet by 16, in 1841 there were 110 young girls attending in May and 125 in December. The next year in 1842 the numbers attending were 109 and 144. But in 1846 the teacher Jane Quigley resigned. She planned to emigrate. Before she left, she sold the furniture, the stock and maps of the school.

None of this broaches the questions related to the cultural influence of an gaeilge: living and learning in a culture based in the Irish language, or even one that was increasingly bilingual. That cultural world view would be challenged and threatened, even obliterated over time in the emigrant’s new home. Yet the language question reminds us how inadequate is the measure of whether or not an Irish emigrant could read and write in English. It is not a reliable indicator of how knowledgeable or educated he or she was.  Nor is it of the Irish Famine orphan girls. But it was an oral culture and very rarely a written one.

Máiréad Nic Craith’s chapter in Atlas of the Great Irish Famine will help anyone interested in looking at this. I imagine Aidan Doyle’s chapter on Language and Literacy in the Cambridge History of Ireland, vol. 3 would help too but i haven’t seen this one yet. {Thankyou Aidan for telling me how little the Irish language was written down. Aidan says, “with some very few exceptions, literacy in Ireland, of any kind, was literacy in English”}. Professor Máiréad Nic Craith suggests the 1851 Census of Ireland underestimates the number of Irish speakers: “…the language question…was entirely in English. A monoglot Irish-speaker would not have understood the question and would have been utterly reliant on the enumerator (who did not necessarily have Irish) to draw his attention to this element in the form” (p.583) . She does however provide Census details of those able to speak both Irish and English. Mayo’s percentage  of those ‘with Irish’, including those who could speak English as well, was 65.60, Clare’s 59.78, Kerry’s 61.49 and Dublin’s 1.33. There must have been a large number of the Earl Grey orphans, especially those from the West of Ireland, who were bilingual, yet not able to write in Irish.

SYDNEY LEGEND

But enough of this already. Here is the extract from my Barefoot. It’s now more than 18 years old and some of the references are now out-of-date. I’ll attempt to direct you to their new classification at State Records New South Wales when appropriate.  The map at the end marks the residence of orphans when they registered the birth of their children in 1861. Note too the ordering of the arrival of orphan ships is incorrect. The Tippoo Saib was the last vessel to arrive as part of this Earl Grey scheme. I’ll use the brief histories that follow to explain the abbreviations, and to draw your attention to what Perry McIntyre’s good work adds to the database.

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These next examples are based on my family reconstitutions. Double click or pinch the image to make it larger. The examples are selected from my ‘alphabetical pile’.

Which workhouse?

Among the many beneficial additions Perry has made to the database is one that will interest many readers; she has suggested which workhouse an orphan comes from. In Jane Adderley’s case, Perry names Edenderry workhouse.

You might like to try this exercise for yourself. You can do it online. Type a place name, one that is alongside an orphan’s name on a shipping list, into google maps or google earth, or a similar search engine. Locate where exactly is the place you’re searching for. So, if we type “Clenmore, Kings County” (see below) into a search engine we’ll be told ‘do you mean Clonmore, Offaly’? May i encourage everyone to engage more with geography?

Once you have located your place on a map, you should go to Peter Higginbotham’s magnificent website http://www.workhouses.org.uk/   In the left hand column of that webpage, click on ‘workhouse locations‘, then on ‘Irish Poor Law Unions‘. Choose the county you are after and click on that, in this case Offaly. You may need to trawl through each workhouse Poor Law Union before you find the appropriate workhouse. Luckily in this case Clonmore is named as belonging to the Edenderry Poor Law Union. Just a word of warning, i suspect this may not work in every case.

JANE ADDERLEY from Clonmore, Kings County, per William and Mary

After the William and Mary shipping list, Jane next appears in the New South Wales Immigration Agent’s correspondence. See the ‘Legend’ above from my Barefoot 2.  Im. Cor. refers to State Records Of New South Wales SRNSW 4/4635-4/4641. You will need to go to https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/ to find where these records are now located. I had most success by typing “Francis Merewether Immigration Agent” into  their search box. That took me to Series NRS 5247 ‘Copies of letters sent to miscellaneous persons’. They are now available at microfilm SR Reel 3111. The microfilm of these volumes covers the years 1844 to 1852.

For most of this period F. L. S.  Merewether was the NSW Immigration Agent.  You will need to search for letters sent in March 1851 when Jane went to Bathurst.  Merewether was succeeded by H. H. H. Browne as Immigration Agent in 1851. You may like to compare the correspondence each has left behind. One is from a devoted, hard working and empathetic public servant. The other from a minimalist bureaucrat who was no friend of the orphans. See https://wp.me/p4SlVj-BT

Jane would appear to have married well, to a cabinet-maker born in Birmingham, England. Jane and Francis Beilby were married in Bathurst in 1855. Francis was the brother of her first employer in Woolloomooloo. Together Jane and Francis had six children, three boys and three girls, the couple spacing their births, maybe as a form of family planning(?) Waiting six years before marrying and spacing the births of her children makes Jane very different from  most of the other orphans. Yet her geographical mobility, moving from Sydney to Bathurst, to Wellington, to Orange, to Guyong, to Wagga Wagga, brings her back to the same fold as other orphans. Sadly, before she died in 1908 her youngest son, Frederick Charles had also died,  most likely in a Mental Asylum.

And from the database, http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Adderley
  • First Name : Jane [aka Jane Theresa]
  • Age on arrival : 17
  • Native Place : Clenmore [Clonmore], Kings [Offaly]
  • Parents : Thomas & Eliza (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : William & Mary (Sydney 1849)
  • Workhouse : Kings [Offaly], Edenderry
  • Other : shipping: farm servant, reads only, no relatives in colony; with sister on William & Mary; empl. Edwin Beilby, Woolloomooloo, £8 a year; Im Cor Bathurst 1 Mar 1851, employed by J Jardine, Fitzgerald Swamp at £8 pa; married Francis E Beilby (brother of Edwin) at Bathurst, 1855; husband cabinet maker & carpenter, lived Alloway near Bathurst, then to Wellington, Orange & Guyong; 6 children; husband died 1892; Jane died 1908, Experimental Farm, Wagga Wagga.
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ISABELLA BANKS from Belfast per Earl Grey

It is worth doing the same geographic exercise for Isabella too. She was from the townland of Ballylesson, County Down. See if you can find it on a map. It will help you understand how close her native place was to Belfast workhouse. (You will find more about Belfast workhouse on Peter Higginbotham’s site http://www.workhouses.org.uk/ but under Antrim Poor Law Union. Follow the steps outlined in the paragraph above just before Jane Adderly).

Young Isabella was first employed by Mr Ross of Newtown for two years at a rate of £9 per annum. She would have been subject to the indenture agreement that was legally part of the Earl Grey scheme. It is reproduced at my blogposts 13 and 16. Here’s the link to post 16. https://wp.me/p4SlVj-h8  The female indenture agreement is about half way through the post.

Isabella was not one of the notorious ‘Belfast Girls’ sent directly to Maitland and Moreton Bay instead of disembarking in Sydney. Yet Isabella did live most of her life in the same area as those sent to the Hunter valley. I wonder if any of the Belfasters met each other later in life. Would they have recognized one another? [Mary McConnell, for example, was visiting her daughter in Newcastle in 1892 when she fell down the stairs and broke her neck. See the very end of the post about Mary https://wp.me/p4SlVj-LL ].

Isabella married William Snipe in Maitland (registered in Newcastle?) in March 1854. They had ten children, four boys and six girls, all of them born in the Newcastle area. When registering their birth they were required to state where they resided; Hunter Street, Newcastle, Pitt Town, Newcastle, Australian Agricultural Company’s paddock, Newcastle, Pitt Row, Newcastle, Borehole, Newcastle and finally, William was ‘Banksman’ and then ‘Groom’ living at Lambton, Newcastle when their last two children, Sarah and Margaret were born. Sadly, like so many other young children in New South Wales in the 1860s, three of their daughters succumbed to childhood illnesses. Rachel, Margaret and Isabella all died before they reached the age of two.

blogfoibanksearlgrey

And from the database, http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Banks
  • First Name : Isabella
  • Age on arrival : 16
  • Native Place : Ballillassin [Ballyvaston or Ballyvaston?], Down
  • Parents : William and Sarah (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Other : shipping: farm servant, reads only, no relatives in colony. Empl. Mr Ross, Newtown, £9, 2 years; married William Snipe, labourer, both of Newcastle, in 1854 at Independent Chapel, Maitland; 10 children, lived Newcastle, died 1897.
ulsterfolk
Ulster Folk Museum Cultra

ANNIE JANE BEST from Sherrigrim, Tyrone per Earl Grey

Which Workhouse?

Once again, let us do our exercise in geography. If you type “Sherrigrim, Tyrone” into a search engine you will discover it is a townland in Tyrone on the western side of Lough Neagh. Find it on a map and have a look around. If you follow our suggestion  for Jane Adderly and Isabella Banks, which workhouse do you think Annie Jane and Margaret Best came from? You’d be forgiven for thinking either Cookstown or Dungannon. There were indeed some orphans from these two workhouses on board the Earl Grey, see https://wp.me/p4SlVj-rc

But

in my Barefoot I’ve named Antrim instead of either Dungannon or Cookstown. Why is that? I could be wrong of course. Best is not an uncommon name in the North of Ireland. Belfast City airport is named after a ‘Best’ is it not?

WORKHOUSE INDOOR REGISTERS

You will find how i traced the Earl Grey orphans in Workhouse Indoor Registers in this post http://wp.me/p4SlVj-4X Scroll down till you reach the section “Indoor Relief Registers”. Scroll down a bit further until you reach “Identifying the orphans”. Basically I looked for a group of adolescent young women leaving a workhouse at exactly the same time, about a week or ten days before their ship left Portsmouth bound for Australia. Come to think of it, perhaps this is a way of finding some of the ‘lost’ orphans who arrived in Adelaide by the Roman Emperor. Drawing a long bow perhaps? More information about these orphans has been discovered since i was last in PRONI. Knowing this ship left Portsmouth 27 July 1848 we’d be looking for groups leaving their workhouse say 17-22 July. Anyone going to Ireland?

There is just a brief entry for the Best sisters in the Antrim workhouse Indoor Register at BG/ 1/ GA/ 1 . [See paragraph 5 in the ‘Legend’ above describing BG numbers. They are the prefix to Irish archives relating to workhouses, such as Indoor admission and discharge registers, regrettably in short supply, and Board of Guardian Minute Books which have survived in much greater number. They are the reference numbers I recorded when i visited the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (hereafter PRONI) some years ago. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni I’m having trouble finding my reference on the PRONI ecatalogue. But archivists at the PRONI Titanic Centre have kindly helped me find what I’m looking for. It’s at   https://apps.proni.gov.uk/eCatNI_IE/SearchResults.aspx

The reference I wrote down should be BG/1/GA/1. I had too many spaces in that earlier reference. You may have to copy that and put it into the PRONI search box in the link above].

Beside one another, in that Antrim Workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Register, at number 3942 ‘Margaret Best 17 single Established Church dirty’

and at number 3943, ‘Ann Jane Best 15 single Established Church Craigarogan also dirty, having entered 6 January 1848’.

Both of them left Antrim workhouse on the 26th May 1848, the same date as Sarah Burt, another Earl Grey orphan (see below).

I’m still convinced this is the Best sisters who travelled on the Earl Grey. Antrim is not so far away from Sherrigrim.

It is a reminder about how easy it is to make errors in our linking diverse records.  You will notice I made a mistake with the Australian family details of Margaret Best in my Barefoot, marrying her to someone in Brisbane instead of Thomas Jackman.

The two Best sisters married not long after arriving in Sydney. Annie Jane married William Burtenshaw in April 1849 and together they had had nine children, three boys and nine girls. Annie died in Inverell in 1883 strangled by an umbilical hernia. Her husband witnessed the second marriage of her older sibling Margaret to John Keating/Keaton in 1863. Margaret died at Glen Innes in 1873. It seems likely the two sisters remained in touch with one another for most of their lives.

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And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Best
  • First Name : Ann [Annie] Jane
  • Age on arrival : 17
  • Native Place : Sherrigrim [Sherrigrim], Tyrone
  • Parents : John & Jane (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Tyrone, Cookstown
  • Other : Shipping: house servant, read only, no relatives in colony, sister Margaret also on Earl Grey; PRONI BG/1/GA/1 (3943) Craigarogan, dirty; employed by Mr Andreas, Sydney £10, 1 year; married William Perks Burtenshaw, Sydney in 1849; lived Glen Innes, Wellingrove 30 miles east of Inverell; 9 children, 77 grandchildren; Ann died 1883; husband died 1908; she buried Inverell, he at Gilgai, NSW. Also see Margaret Best, her sister, also per ‘Earl Grey’.

ANNIE’S SISTER MARGARET BEST

  • Surname : Best
  • First Name : Margaret
  • Age on arrival : 19
  • Native Place : Sherrigrim [Sherrigrim],Tyrone
  • Parents : John & Jane (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Tyrone, Cookstown
  • Other : Shipping: house servant, reads only, no relatives in the colony, sister Ann Jane also on ‘Earl Grey’. Antrim PLU BG/1/GA/1 (3942), Craigarogan, dirty; empl. Mr J Steenson, Pitt St South, Sydney, £10, 12 months; Im Cor Register 6 Jan 1849 complaint, left employer; married 1) ex-convict Thomas Jackman in 1849 Sydney, moved to Glen Innes, 3 children; married 2) John Keating (Keaton etc) 1863, witnessed by sister & fellow shipmate’s husband WF Burtenshaw; 3 children; John died at Armidale 1885; Margaret died Glen Innes 1873.

REGISTERS

Registers,1,2,3 in the Legend above refers to the Registers and indexes of applications for orphans at State Records New South Wales. Their reference is (SRNSW) 4/4715-4717 which is available at  Microfilm SR Reel 3111.

APPENDIX

For Appendix J or K or L  in the Legend see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-BT

NANCY BOOTH from Portglenone, Antrim per Earl Grey

Checking a map will show how close Portglenone is to Ballymena workhouse which is where I found Nancy. She was registered as a single 20 year old Roman Catholic residing in Ballymena when she entered the workhouse 10 April 1848. She was discharged 24 May 1848. She was on her way to join the Earl Grey. https://apps.proni.gov.uk/eCatNI_IE/SearchResults.aspx

see PRONI BG/4/G/2 No. 2002

Nancy married a fellow Irishman Brien Molloy in November 1849 at St. Patrick’s Parramatta. Brien/Brian/Bryan was about eighteen years her senior. Together they farmed land at Baulkham Hills where Nancy gave birth to nine children, four boys and three girls. Nancy died in 1884 of pneumonia, her husband just a year later of heart disease.

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And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Booth
  • First Name : Nancy
  • Age on arrival : 19
  • Native Place : Portglenone [Portglenone], Antrim
  • Parents : James & Susan (both dead)
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Antrim, Ballymena
  • Other : Shipping: house servant, reads, no relatives in colony. PRONI BG/4/G/2 No. 2002 Ballymena. Empl. J Acres, Parramatta, £10, 1 year. Im Cor Register, 23 Jul 1849 left service of mistress in Parramatta; 24 Jul 1849 Hyde Park Barracks Daily Report, servant to Mrs Acre of Heywood Lane to depot at 6pm to lodge complaint against her mistress, was permitted to remain on account of distance from employer’s residence and late hour of the day; married Bryan/Brian Molloy, settler & farmer, Parramatta, 1849; 9 children; lived Baulkham Hills; died 1884.

For Nancy’s appearance in the Register 23 July 1849 see SRNSW Microfilm SR Reel 3111.

ANNE BOYLE from Belfast per Earl Grey

Anne Boyle was another ‘Belfast girl’ not banished to Maitland or Moreton Bay. About a year after arriving she married a Welsh born soldier, Thomas James, a private in the 11th Regiment stationed at Victoria Barracks in Sydney. Thomas worked as a soldier, labourer and coal miner at Mt. Keira and Newcastle. The couple had ten children, six boys and four girls, two of them dying before reaching the age of two. Thomas died in 1870, Anne seventeen years later in 1887.

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And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Boyle
  • First Name : Anne
  • Age on arrival : 19
  • Native Place : Belfast, Antrim
  • Parents : James & Anne (both dead)
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Antrim, Belfast
  • Other : Shipping: farm servant, cannot read or write, no relatives in colony. Empl. Mr Drewe, Sydney £10, 1 year. Im Cor Register 22 Mar 1849, letter from JL Drewe, master, refused to pay full wages, said he owed her nothing; married Thomas James, 1849 at Scots Church, Pitt St, Sydney; husband a soldier, labourer & miner; 10 children; lived Sydney, Newcastle & Mt Keira, died 1887.

For Anne’s appearance in the Register 22 March 1849 see SRNSW Microfilm SR Reel 3111.

SARAH BURT from Glenavy, Antrim per Earl Grey

Sarah married Sussex born John Stanford at Appin in March 1851. John was more than twenty years her senior. Together they had nine children, three boys and six girls, one of whom may have been born to Sarah out of wedlock. (yet to be confirmed) John was variously a farmer, gardener and labourer all in the Appin district south of Sydney, County Cumberland.

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The BG number BG/1/GA/1  4276 refers to Sarah’s appearance in the Antrim workhouse Indoor Admissions and discharge register where she is described as female single 16 year old Established Church dirty residing in Crumlin. One can check on a map where Crumlin is in relation to Antrim workhouse. Sarah entered the workhouse 23 March 1848 and left 26 May 1848, the same date as Annie and Margaret Best.

And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

Details of Sarah’s death at Bellambi in 1906 were from Sarah’s descendant Marj. Jackel.

  • Surname : Burt
  • First Name : Sarah
  • Age on arrival : 16
  • Native Place : Glennevis [Glenavy], Antrim
  • Parents : William & Sarah (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Antrim, Antrim
  • Other : Shipping: farm servant, reads, no relatives in colony. PRONI Antrim BG/1/GA/1 (4276) Crumlin, dirty. Empl. Mary Hill, Park St., Sydney £9, 2 years. Im Cor Register 6 Nov 1848, letter from Mary Hill requesting cancellation of indenture on various grounds; 19 Nov 1848 Im Cor transfer allowed to Mr John Duross of Campbelltown; married John Stanford at Appin, 1851; 9 children by 1868; died at Bellambi 1906; buried RC cemetery, Corrimal.

For Sarah’s appearance in the Register 6 and 19 November 1848 see SRNSW Microfilm SR Reel 3111. It explains how she came to be residing at Campbelltown at the time of her marriage.

Meenagarragh Cottier's house? for widow?
Meenagarragh cottier’s house for widow? Ulster Folk Museum, Cultra

ELIZA CONN from Armagh per Earl Grey

On the recommendation of Surgeon Henry Grattan Douglass Eliza was one of the orphans prevented from disembarking at Port Jackson. She was sent directly to Maitland.

“Sent to Maitland” appears beside her name on the shipping list. She also appears with her surname misspelled as ‘Comm’ in the enclosures of a letter from Merewether to the Colonial Secretary, 8 February 1849, ‘List of the forty-seven Female Orphans…whose removal to the country was recommended…by the Surgeon Superintendent…’. The forty-seven names appear in British Parliamentary Papers, Colonies, Australia, IUP edition, vol.11, p.532 and in my Barefoot, vol.1, pp.132-3. As far as we know Eliza didn’t get into trouble ever again.

My family reconstitution form was filled out for me by one of Elizabeth’s descendants in the 1980s, Mrs A. Dreiser. There’s a wealth of information there. Elizabeth married Alfred Horder, a butcher, in West Maitland in 1851 and together they had thirteen children, the last one stillborn when Elizabeth was about 45 years old. She died in 1883, her husband Alfred in 1896. Both of them are buried at Maitland.

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And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Conn
  • First Name : Elizabeth
  • Age on arrival : 17
  • Native Place : Armagh
  • Parents : James & Margaret (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Other : Shipping: house servant, reads, no relatives in the colony. Armagh PLU PRONI BG/2/G/2 (2309) Ballinahone; empl. by Mr Dickson, West Maitland £10, 6 months; married Alfred Horder, an English-born butcher, West Maitland, c.1851; Horder family arrived free on ‘Coromandel’ 1838; 13 children; Alfred Nov 1896; Elizabeth Dec 1883, Wexford St., Sydney.

For the Armagh workhouse Indoor Register in PRONI see https://apps.proni.gov.uk/eCatNI_IE/ResultDetails.aspx

Let me finish by reminding you of the ‘Annual Gathering’ on the 26th August 2018 at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney. It will be the first ‘Gathering’ without the late Tom Power, former Chair of the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee, unstoppable force behind the creation of a beautiful monument to the Great Irish Famine at Hyde Park Barracks. Vale Tom Power. Ar dheis Dé go raibh anam

You will find more about the ‘Gathering’ on the GIFCC facebook page Great Irish Famine Commemoration Memorial

or by clicking on the following link

2018 Final Annual Gathering Invite

“The hardest thing of all is to see what is really there.” (J.A.Baker, The Peregrine)

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Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (44): Barefoot & Pregnant? vol.one, introduction (b) pp.6-11

B&P?1 Introduction (b)

Here is the next installment of the 1991 introduction to my Barefoot & Pregnant? volume 1. It’s pages 6-11 this time.

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I’ll use the occasion to ‘dip my lid’ to the brilliant Jaki McCarrick. Her play “Belfast Girls” is soon to have its Canadian premiere in Vancouver in March this year, having had a wonderful run in London and Chicago already. There is a bit about it on the ‘Peninsula Productions’ facebook page, should you want to find out more.

As with the last couple of posts, I’ll try adding endnotes missing from the original a bit later, once i find the correct reference.

You can make the photographic image larger by clicking a couple of times or ‘pinching’.

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“…you’ll hear

parakeets and lorikeets

flutter round your head,

ancient tribes of the air

speaking a language your wild

colonial heart cannot comprehend” (Louis de Paor, Didjeridu)

SOME NOTES

Page six

The scandal surrounding the Subraon is not well known. However, if you take the trouble to read the very thorough enquiry of the Sydney Immigration Board you will understand more clearly how they would react to the furore associated with arrival of the first official Orphan vessel, the Earl Grey. Have a look at the extracts below.

The Minutes of the Sydney Immigration Board…re the irregularities aboard the Subraon, printed for the use of the Government only in 1848, comprises sixty pages, 75-80 lines per page, of small print. The Board consisted of Francis L.S. Merewether Esq., Agent for Immigration, A Savage Esq, RN Health Officer, and H.H. Browne Esq, Water Police Magistrate, names many readers of my blog will know. We even meet Thomas MaGrath, an immigrant who was schoolmaster on board the Subraon, (pp.15-17). We meet him again re Earl Grey orphan Mary Littlewood in my blog post 9 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-dQ

Page 2 of  the enquiry,

Charges affecting the First Mate

  1. That a young female named Dorcas Newman, who had been sent out from a Foundling Institution in Dublin, and who died on the third day after her arrival here, (whether of fever or excessive haemorrhage consequently on a miscarriage is doubtful,) was constantly in his cabin, and that, even if positive proof be wanting, there is no moral doubt of her having been seduced by him.”

page 20, 5 June 1848

Statement of Patrick Ferry

The girls who acted as servants to the officers spent the most of their time in the cabins of the Captain and Mates, from about seven o’clock in the morning to about eight or nine o’clock at night….Emma Smith was servant to the Captain, Dorcas Newman was servant to the Chief Mate, and Alicia Ashbridge to the second and Third Mates. Alicia Ashbridge was more frequently drunk than any of the girls.Dorcas Newman was improperly intimate withe Mate. I saw him on one occasion sitting with her on a chair kissing her, and putting his hand through the opening in the back of her clothes, and feeling her wherever he pleased…

page 35, 10 June 1848

Statement of Emma Smith,

I was an Immigrant by the ship Subraon. I was one of the twelve girls who came from the Orphan Institution, in Cork Street, in Dublin.”

page 39 10 June 1848

Mr Acret‘s further statement. (Acret was the Surgeon-Superintendent on the  Subraon) .

From the evidence which I have in the course of this enquiry respecting it, I am satisfied that Dorcas Newman had a miscarriage; had I been aware that such was the fact I should have treated her illness differently from what I have done…”.

Later that year, 26 October, the Subraon was wrecked at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. The Sydney authorities had successfully kept a lid on the scandal surrounding the vessel’s voyage to Port Jackson. Both ship’s officers and the Surgeon were in no position to object. It would be a very different matter when the Earl Grey and Surgeon Douglass arrived early in October 1858.

Page 9 There is a history of one of the “Belfast Girls’, Mary McConnell, at my blog posts 32 and 33. Here’s a link to post 33 which seems underused. http://wp.me/p4SlVj-LL

Notes pages 7 to 9

The major source for the documents surrounding the Earl Grey furore is the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council of New South Wales (hereafter VPLCNSW) 1850, volume 1, pp.394-436. (Incidentally, information on the Subraon follows at pp.437-45).

The material in British Parliamentary Papers (BPP), Irish Universities edition, Colonies Australia, vol 11 Sessions 1849-50, pp.417-20 and pp. 510-40, will also provide the names of the ‘Belfast girls’ Douglass accused of bad behaviour. Pages 417-18  reprints Douglass’s letter of 7 October 1848.

I  provided the wrong date for the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) editorial defending Douglass, and the neighbouring column mentioning his appeal to have land restored to him. It should be August 1850 not April 1850. See SMH 16 August 1850, page 2. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12920275?searchTerm=sydney%20morning%20herald%20orphan%20girls&searchLimits=dateFrom=1850-01-01|||dateTo=1850-12-31

Dr Douglass continued to petition the New South Wales Parliament for restoration of his land. See  SMH 7 September and 19 September 1852, page 2 in both instances.

Page 10

Many of the Workhouse Board of Guardian Minute Books have survived for the period we are interested in viz 1847-51. At present, they are held in the local Archives of each county. So, for instance,  if one wishes to view Donegal Board of Guardian Minute Books, a trip to the County Archives Office in Lifford is required. It is best always to get in touch beforehand and tell the archivist your particular interest. You have to arrange a prior appointment here. http://www.donegalcoco.ie/services/donegalarchives/maincolumncontent/researchroomservices/

Sadly very few of the Workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers have done so. Most of them are in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) which is now housed in the Titanic Centre in Belfast. Unfortunately Belfast Workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers have not survived. Again, may I suggest getting in touch before you visit. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni

If in doubt about what records have survived, your first call should be the wonderful website of Peter Higginbotham, www.workhouses.org

RE Mary Campbell Belfast Board of Guardian Minute Book B.G.7/A/7, p.159.


The Minute Books help us put the orphans into historical context. In this same volume, for example, page 27, 1 March 1848, we learn of the diet for able-bodied inmates.

“Breakfast 6 oz meal. One third of a quart of buttermilk

Dinner 1 quart soup 9 oz bread

three days in the week

Breakfast 6 oz meal a third of a quart of buttermilk

Dinner 6 oz rice one eighth quart buttermilk

Supper 4 oz meal one fifth qrt buttermilk

two days in the week

B’fast 6 oz meal one third qrt buttermilk

Dinner 8 oz meal one third qrt buttermilk

Supper 4 oz meal one third qrt buttermilk.

Indian and oat meal used in equal proportions.”  And this was one of the better off workhouses!

Re Sarah Butler, Magherafelt Board of Guardian Minute Book B. G. XXIII/A/2, page 370,
Sarah Butler one of the candidates for emigration to Australia has been rejected by Mr Senior on account of her being affected with itch‘.

Coleraine BG Minute Books B.G.X/A/6, p.165. The Medical Officer, Dr Babington was also asked to provide the emigrants with a medical certificate stating they were healthy. The same page also gives the names of twelve young women from Coleraine workhouse who would travel on the Roman Emperor to South Australia. It is always worth looking at the original sources.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (43): Barefoot & Pregnant? volume one, Introduction (a), pp.1-5

B&P?1 Introduction (a)

I’m still not convinced that this is the best thing to do. But Barefoot volume one is long out of print and for some people, difficult to find. Putting my introduction into the blog also gives me the opportunity to add some references, ‘virtual’ endnotes, as it were. Please remember the introduction was written some time ago and mainly addressed the documents which preceded the Register of Irish female orphans. Not exclusively so, I might add, although my major concern was to ask readers if they agreed with my suggesting the first boatload of Earl Grey orphans “were wrongly condemned from the outset”? It is still worth debating.

Richard Reid, Cheryl Mongan and Kay Caball, among others, have rightly drawn attention to the more positive side of the orphans’ story. I’ve tried to take their work into account in a number of places in my blog. See for example post 7(c)  on The Voyage http://wp.me/p4SlVj-7X

or where i talk about the independent spirit of the orphans, in post 22 on Cancelled Indentures, particularly the section towards the end entitled “Moreton Bay District”. See http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf

My own favourite ‘success’ story is of Bridget McMahon from Limerick. See http://wp.me/p4SlVj-PV

 Given the different backgrounds of the young women, that there were more than 4,000 of them, and that over time, they were scattered the length and breadth of rapidly changing societies in Eastern Australia, we should not be surprised to find their history is a mixed one. It is as complex as the human condition itself.

I’ll insert my 1991 introduction in stages. It will give the reader time to absorb what it says and i hope, respond to my interpretation.

Some may think I’m treating Surgeon Douglass too harshly, for example. Don’t be afraid to say your piece. You may wish to do some research on Surgeon Douglass yourself. He had both an illustrious and not so illustrious career. A google search may be the place to start. Here’s a link to an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/douglass-henry-grattan-1987

But google won’t alert you to the latest reference I’ve found; Douglass’s xenophobic rant in the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1851. It’s reprinted in Mark Tedeschi’s Murder at Myall Creek, Simon & Schuster, 2016, pp.229-30. It first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 1851, p.2. See http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12932367?searchTerm=sydney%20morning%20herald%20Douglass&searchLimits=dateFrom=1851-11-01|||dateTo=1851-11-30

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Keats and Chapman were conversing one day on the street…there passed a certain character who was renowned far and wide for his piety, and was reputed to have already made his own coffin, erected it on trestles, and slept in it every night.

‘Did you see our friend?’ Keats said.

‘Yes’ said Chapman, wondering what was coming,

‘A terrible man for his bier’, the poet said“. (The Best of Myles, Myles na Gopaleen, Picador, 1977, p.187.)

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That will do to start with. If you double click or pinch the pages above, they should become larger and easier to read. I’ll have a look for some references.

Tóg go bog é

Some references.

Page 0ne,

Dunmore Lang’s “dupes of an artful female Jesuit” appears in his letter to Earl Grey printed in the British Banner, 21 November 1849. The link appears in my post 21 towards the end http://wp.me/p4SlVj-q8

see page 34 of the link below

https://ia902606.us.archive.org/25/items/LettersOfDr.JohnDumoreLangInBritishBanner/Letters_of_Dr_John_Dunmore_Lang_in_British_Banner_1953.PDF

Page two,

The best printed record of the various reports concerning the Earl Grey scandal is found in Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, 1850, volume 1, pp. 394-436. Included there (pp. 407-28) is the report  from Irish Poor Law Commissioner C. G Otway, defending the selection process of the orphans. See also British Parliamentary Papers, 1000 volume Irish University Press edition, Colonies Australia, volume 11, Sessions 1849-50, pp. 510ff. which provides the names of the young women only identified by their initials in the Otway Report. SRNSW (State Records New South Wales) 9/6190 Immigration Correspondence, 12 October 1848, has the minutes of evidence of the Sydney Immigration Board re the Earl Grey. I’m unsure if the same numbering system is still in use.

Page two

R. B. Madgwick, Immigration into Eastern Australia 1788-1851, second impression, Sydney University Press, 1969, Chapter X;

Miriam Dixson, The Real Matilda Women and Identity in Australia 1788 to 1975, Penguin, 1976;

Oliver Mac Donagh, “Emigration during the Famine” in The Great Famine, eds., R.D. Edwards & T. D. Williams, Dublin, 1962, p.357.

Disagreement among practitioners is the ‘stuff’ of history. What I was intimating here is even good historians sometimes get it wrong.

Page Five

British Parliamentary Papers, IUP edition, Colonies Australiavolume 11, Sessions 1849-50, Papers Relative to Emigration, New South Wales, Fitzroy to Earl Grey, 16 May 1848, Enclosure 1, pp.131-3. In May 1848, Merewether reported on the Hyderabad (arrived 19 February) the Surgeon was ‘unequal to the office and should not be again employed in this service’; ‘the immigrants as a body failed to give satisfaction to the public’; ‘the single females…proved to be utterly ignorant of the business undertaken by them’; ‘several…did not go into service..or very shortly left…for the purpose of going upon the streets’ (p.131).

Re the Fairlie (arrived 7 August) ibid., pp.145-7, ‘a third of the female immigrants arrived in an advanced stage of pregnancy’ (p.145); ‘filthy songs‘ (p.147).

Re the Subraon (arrived 12 April), ibid, pp.147-51.  I have a copy of the Minutes and Proceedings of the Immigration Board at Sydney respecting certain irregularities which occurred on board the ship “Subraon” Printed for the use of the Government only, 1848. The Board met between May and July 1848. It is a ‘negative’ copy i.e. white text on a dark background which makes me think it was printed from a microfilm. My unreliable memory tells me i got it from what was then the Archives Office of NSW. But for the life of me I cannot find the exact reference. Was it at AONSW 9/6197, pp. 147-61? we’ll need to check.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (21):why did the Earl Grey scheme come to an end?

Why did the Earl Grey scheme come to an end?

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

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

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

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

Returning readers will be aware of recent revisions (June 2017) to this blog post (first published in August 2015). Here’s another go (July 2019). My initial effort constructed its analysis of the demise of the Earl Grey scheme with ideology and Imperial-colonial politics at its base before suggesting the scheme’s innate structural weaknesses ‘doomed’ it from the start. What also worked against it from the start were the scandals associated with the Subraon and the first vessel to arrive in Sydney, the Earl Grey.

In the end, demolition of the scheme came from within the colonies themselves. Mounting opposition in the colonial press maligned the young orphans as ignorant workhouse Irish; they were untrained and immoral girls, sent out to Romanize the colonies.The cry went up that no more young women be sent from Irish workhouses.

About two thirds of the way down my initial post, in the section called “Bad Press” where i invited readers to go to ‘Trove’, I asked,

Were colonists opposed to the scheme because the orphans were Irish, Bog Irish dirty, Roman Catholic, from the workhouse, poorly trained, and immoral? Because there were too many of them and not enough from England and Scotland? Because the scheme belonged to Earl Grey and the British Imperial power? Because they wanted full control of their Land fund and immigration policies? ‘ My intention was to direct readers to ways they might unpick the prejudices against the young Irish female workhouse orphans. Maybe I should have a go at that myself.

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

The larger context: Imperial and colonial politics

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

Perhaps Earl Grey’s personal papers have something to say about his surrender to colonial demands to end the orphan emigration scheme? I certainly haven’t looked at these. What I’m suggesting here, is that there is more to this question than meets the eye.  The ideology that underpins political decisions is worth considering. Things which on the surface do not appear to be linked, are in fact very much part of a whole.

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

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

Let me give you an example to clarify this.

The convict issue and Earl Grey’s attempt to supply labour

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

When the Hashemy arrived in Port Jackson in the middle of 1849, c.4500 people took part in a public protest in the streets of Sydney, precisely when the Irish orphan emigration scheme was in full cry. In June 1849, the protesters presented Governor Fitzroy with a petition asking the ‘exiles’ be sent back to England and Ireland. When he refused, he was presented with resolutions adopted at a public meeting viz. (1) censuring the Governor himself for his lack of courtesy, (2) demanding the dismissal of Earl Grey from office, and (3) advocating the introduction of responsible government immediately! One can see how easy it was for colonists to say “we don’t want your convicts, and we don’t want your paupers”! Reports of “The Great Protest against Transportation” appeared in newspapers around the country: “the injustice they now faced was far more flagrant, far more oppressive than that which had given birth to the American rebellion” (Colonial Times, Hobart 29 June, p.4). Little wonder then, that the Imperial Government in London was ready to listen, and put a stop to Grey’s sending convicts and workhouse orphans. 

By September 1849 Orphan Committees in Adelaide and Melbourne were calling for a reduction in the number of orphans, and by the end of the year or early 1850, that the scheme should stop. [See the documents appended at the end of this post. They were part of H.H. Browne’s submission to the NSW Parliamentary enquiry.] As early as October 1849, for example, the Melbourne authorities were suggesting orphan immigration to the Port Phillip district should be suspended. But it was not until April 1850 that the last orphan ship, the Tippoo Saib, would leave Plymouth.

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

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

Weaknesses of the scheme

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

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

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

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

a ‘collective male mentality’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A troubled beginning. The scandal associated with the first orphan ship,  the ‘EARL GREY’.

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

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

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

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

that expatriation had been held out to them as the reward of the workhouse, and that the professed public woman and barefooted little country beggar have been alike sought after as fit persons to pass through the purification of the workhouse ere they were sent as a valuable addition to the colonists of New South Wales”. 

Two weeks later, shortly after the arrival of the Roman Emperor in Adelaide, a similar letter was sent to the Colonial secretary by Surgeon Superintendent Richard Eades,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial opposition to the scheme

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

Not every newspaper is digitized; I recently was unsuccessful in looking for the Port Phillip Patriot (trying to find out more about William Kerr, the editor of the Argus)  and The Miner and Weekly Star (what happened to poor Mary Coghlan).  Alas nor is the Melbourne Morning Herald. But there are enough newspapers for our purpose.  We might compare how the orphans were treated in South Australia, the Port Phillip district, and the rest of New South Wales, for example. The press coverage in each was slightly different: the ‘bad press’ and ‘scandals’ associated with the orphans were not the same in each district.

Typing ‘Irish orphans’ into the search box will bring up too many items to read. It would be best to ‘refine’ our search terms.  Try typing things like ‘Irish orphans Land fund’; ‘Irish orphans workhouse’; ‘Irish orphans immoral’ into the search box. Maybe set a time limit too: 1849, 1850 would be the years to search. Let me give you a taste of the ‘gems’ we can discover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The contemporary media; a critical refrain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[My own Barefoot & Pregnant? volume 2 pp. 35-78, has lots of extracts from the Melbourne press about the orphans and the great furore that occurred when the Melbourne Irish community took up the cudgels in their defense. See for example the wordy report in the Melbourne Morning Herald, Friday April 19, 1850, “Irish Orphan Immigration. Public meeting. In pursuance of a public notification to this effect, a public meeting of all persons interested in the cause of Irish immigration was held at the St Francis Hall, Lonsdale Street, last evening; the attendance was numerous in the extreme, every part of the building being filled to overflowing“. Alas the Melbourne Morning Herald does not appear to have been digitised and made its way to Trove as yet].

Some positive reports

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

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

[See also Edward Finn’s letter to the Superintendent of Port Phillip at PROV VPRS 116/p unit 1 file 51/95 reporting the motions passed at a public meeting at St Patrick’s Hall, Melbourne on the 9th May 1850 for another taste of that Melbourne furore].

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

  –or perhaps most interesting of all,

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

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

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

Maybe there’s a different kind of culture-clash. That of feisty orphans. Here are some orphan voices from court cases,

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not going upstairs just to please you”. “I won’t eat with a heretic”.

NOT THE WHOLE STORY

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

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

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


By way of an incomplete conclusion

Obviously we need to pull all this together at some stage. The 1859 Report emphasizes opposition to the scheme was largely because the young women came from workhouses and were not domestic servants trained for city living: they were better suited to country living. But was this all of the story?

I’ve suggested ‘far from it’. There are other things in the mix as well: anti-Irish, anti- Catholic sectarianism, class prejudice, a very limited understanding of the famine and workhouse experience of the famine orphans both in Whitehall and in the colonies, a concerted campaign on the part of the colonial press against the scheme, particularly in Melbourne but not exclusively so, constitutional issues such as whether the Australian colonies should have control  of their Land Fund, inbuilt structural weaknesses aggravated by the ‘tyranny of distance’, opposition to Earl Grey himself by his political opponents both in Britain and in Australia.  In early 1850, for example, in the House of Lords, the Earl of Mountcashel repeatedly criticised the scheme for what he called its abuse “of the most disgusting and disgraceful character” of young Irish women, claims which naturally Grey ‘scornfully dismissed’ (Robins, p.218.) Under fire from so many quarters, Grey would call a halt to his female orphan emigration scheme.

Joseph Robins’ The Lost Children: a study of the charity children in Ireland 1700-1900, Institute of Public Administration, Dublin, 1980, has a solidly researched chapter, chapter 9, on “Orphan Emigration to Australia”. It is well worth your attention.

Interestingly, right at the end of this chapter, Dr Robins answers a question i was about to put to you, “How much weight do you put on each of the things I’ve identified in this post?” He says (p.221) “…probably the main influence operating against the scheme was not so much that it related to immigrants who were both Irish and Catholic but that the colonists had now developed an amour propre which rejected the idea that their burgeoning state should continue to be built up on the unwanted produce of the workhouses and gaols of Britain and Ireland.”

Would you agree with this? With all I’ve said in this blog post? I’m glad to say that my analysis of the collapse of the Earl Grey scheme is not totally at odds with what Dr Robins’ writes in his chapter. His analysis concentrates on traditional political sources. He may disagree with my insistence that we attempt to view things from an ‘orphan’ perspective. He may disagree with what I have to say in my next post on “Cancelled Indentures”?  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf

I’ve added (April 2018) some appendices from the NSW 1859 Parliamentary Report to the end of this post. They tell us WHEN exactly colonial officials made clear their opposition to the scheme, among other things.

Reminder

May I remind you of the annual gathering at the monument at Hyde Park Barracks on the 27th August, 2017? [The 20th annual gathering is on 25 August 2019] see www.irishfaminememorial.org for more information.

Just a few more orphan photos to end with; they are in order, Catherine Crowley per John Knox, Bridget Gaffney per Digby, Catherine Rooney per Eliza Caroline, and Eliza White per William and Mary. My thanks to their descendants who sent me these photos to use.

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Catherine Crowley per John Knox
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Bridget Gaffney per Digby
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Catherine Rooney per Eliza Caroline

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from the 1859 NSW Parliamentary Report

A Colonial Government want the scheme to end.

Appendix A is the Report of the Sydney Immigration committee re the first vessel the Earl Grey. These are appendices that H. H. Browne submitted to the NSW parliamentary enquiry. You will notice, page 62, that the Port Phillip Superintendent considered the William and Mary and Mahomet Shah to have brought orphans to Melbourne. These two ships were never recognized as  part of the Earl Grey scheme.

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Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans 7 (c): The Voyage.. with orphan voices

The Voyage (cont.)

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.

Longford Board 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

Railway fares……………………………………………………………………………13.3.6

Lodging and board in Dublin…………………………………………………15.15.6

Cords and cards for boxes………………………………………………………..2.3.0

Fares to Plymouth…………………………………………………………………..40.10.0

Total                                                                                                  £305.4.2

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.

————

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Honora Haydon per Lady Peel

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Bridget Flannigan per Tippoo Saib

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Bridget Flood per Eliza Caroline

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)

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Cathy Fox per Earl Grey

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Eliza McDermott per Tippoo Saib

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Eliza Greenwood per Earl Grey

 

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 Arbuthnot were 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)

Sir,

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…

Miscellaneous

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’.

msmith1

Margaret Stack per Thomas Arbuthnot with grandchildren

honorasheanewliverpool

Honora Shea per New Liverpool

annnelliganpermberton

Ann Nelligan per Pemberton

 

 

Extract from the 1849 Regulations

Appendix 7 to the 10th General Report of the CLEC 6 October 1849

 You can read it at <a title=”Appendix 7″ href=”http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/12723/page/320998“>http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/12723/page/320998&nbsp; Click on the second one.

(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…

Additional Regulations…

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’.

nla.pic-an9537871-v

Dutton, T. G. & Day and Son. (1853). The Constance 578 tons off Kerguelens Land, 20th Octr. 1849 on her passage from Plymouth to Adelaide in 77 days. From the Nan Kivell collection with permission of the National Library of Australia.

Hainesvoyages

Routes taken by ships from Britain to Australia ‘before 1840’ to 1960

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 “attended the 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 breakfast was 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?

http://jakiscloudnine.blogspot.ie/2015/02/the-genesis-of-belfastgirls-at.html?m=1

http://jakiscloudnine.blogspot.ie/