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.

blogsubraon

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.

blogdouglass
blogdouglass2

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

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

The length of time it took for communication between England and New South Wales had worked to the disadvantage of the scheme. It, 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
focathrooneyelizcaroline

Catherine Rooney per Eliza Caroline

foelizawhitewmmary

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 (16):Orphans’ Arrival and early days in Australia

 Arrival and early days

“And after the commanded journey, what?…A gazing out from far away, alone”

(Seamus Heaney, Lightenings)

It looks like I’ll be trying to square the circle once more. Searching for reliable sources that describe the arrival and early days of the Famine orphans in Australia is one thing. Trying to find what the young women themselves thought of the experience, is another. Allow me to keep the training I’ve had as an academic historian. At the same time, please cut me cut some slack when it comes to ‘inventing’ the orphans’ voice. As before, my idea of their voice will appear in blue typeface. I’ll look for other sources too, poetry reading, pictures and the like, so we may imagine the orphans other than through the eyes of officialdom.

LANDING and INSPECTION

Surgeon Strutt’s diary has an exemplary account of the Thomas Arbuthnot arriving in Sydney 3 February 1850, at the height of an Australian summer. The diary appears in full in Richard Reid and Cheryl Mongan’s, ‘a decent set of girls’ The Irish Famine orphans of the ‘Thomas Arbuthnot’ 1849-1850, Yass, 1996.

Buíochas le Dia, Maire Brandon. Tá sé go breá innui.

Chomh te. No, no Bríde Burke. The doctor says we have to speak English. Oh Lord, I’m sweating so. Where’s the sea breeze gone to?

Strutt’s diary recorded his eyewitness account of the official landing process. The orphans and other passengers remained on the ship whilst the Sydney Board of Immigration, consisting of F.L.S. Merewether, Health Officer Savage and Water Police Magistrate, H.H. Browne, along with Robert Hardy, a clerk from the Immigration department, came on board and drew up a Board of Immigration List. The List was to fulfill the requirements of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in London(CLEC). Had the Surgeon, the Ship’s Captain and Officers carried out their obligations satisfactorily? Had the terms of the Charter Party, the contract between CLEC and Shipowner been met? Details such as names of orphans, their native place, their religion, their occupation, parents’ names, state of health, literacy, relations in the colony, if any,  complaints, if any, were all recorded in meticulous detail. Sometimes names and places of origin would go awry, the clerk writing down in a phonetic way what he thought the young woman said. Hiccups such as this notwithstanding, the Board of Immigration Shipping Lists are an unrivalled record  of all the orphans who landed in Port Jackson. See http://www.irishfaminememorial.org

Fakel,[Feakle] Clare

Innesdiamond, [Ennistymon] Clare

Abinachmaigh [Abbeyknockmoy], Galway. Mother at Tume (Tuam)

Listole, [Listowel]Kerry

A similar record, if not with quite the same details, was made at the other two ports of entry, Melbourne and Adelaide. Immigration Agent Patterson at Port Phillip and Captain Brewer at Port Adelaide, accompanied by clerks and representatives from their Orphan Committee went on board to examine the female orphans before they disembarked. Thus Lady Kennaway orphan, 14 year-old Bridget Ferry from Dunfanaghy, when asked if she was in possession of a Bible, could reply Prayer Book and Testament.

Reports

On arrival, Surgeon Superintendents presented a written report to local Immigration authorities. Surgeons were responsible for the well-being and health of the emigrants in their charge. Or as Robin Haines put it in her Doctors at Sea (Palgrave MacMillan), 2005, p.81, “Surgeons supervised the sanitary regime on board, oversaw the distribution and cooking of rations, attended to the sick, and were in control of discipline and the moral tone on board”.

Surgeons were appointed by the Imperial Government and thus only answered to them, and were independent of ships’ officers and crew. They were part of an important system of checks and balances designed to make Government Assisted emigration work well. Had the emigrants not received their proper rations, had the Irish orphans been allowed to mix too freely with the sailors, was the Charter Party abused in any way, then Immigration authorities in Australia conducted an enquiry into the misdemeanours and a report submitted to the representatives of the Imperial government in Australia. One can find extensive and detailed reports for many of the orphan vessels, especially the early ones, the Subraon, Earl Grey, Digby and others. Use the Search Box at the end of the post. Even for the William & Mary that arrived mid 1849, which was found to be “in a very dirty state on arrival“. Surgeon Phillips complained of the “rude and improper conduct of the Captain and his crew“. And that “all the conditions of the Charter Party were [not] fulfilled in respect of proper issuing of provisions, water and medical comforts, nor the prevention of intercourse between officers, crew and single females“.

The report on the Diadem to Port Phillip could not “consider it prudent to have allowed, single women, particularly young Orphan Girls, to remain about the upper deck after dark, and amongst sailors, especially without constables or any efficient guard…it appeared the Surgeon had repeatedly to go forward, and “drive” or send some of them aft…”.

The Melbourne Orphan Committee reported “the period within which the “Orphans” per Pemberton were disposed of, has been longer than in the case of those received by the Lady Kennaway: and we were obliged to be less strict in requirements respecting parties to whom the first named “Orphans” were hired, a greater number of the employers being of a lower class of society than those who engaged the orphans per Lady Kennaway”.

For these early arrivals especially, and before the demand for servants fell– which occurred towards the end of the scheme–prospective and approved employers went on board ship to hire their servant directly. Nonetheless, most orphans were hired from the Immigration Depot in each city.

The advantage of records in the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) is that “Disposal Lists” tell us who first hired the orphans, and how much they would be paid. PROV VPRS 14 reel 3 contains the shipping list for the Lady Kennaway , the list of officers on the ship and the gratuities due to them, and who was employed as Chief Matron, submatrons, constables and hospital assistants. The Disposal List at Book 4B p.1 repeats their name, their calling, their age, their date of admission into the depot and the date of their leaving, the number of days they spent in the depot, the name and residence of their employer, the terms of engagement, and the rate of wages per annum, and whether with or without rations.

The Report of the Immigration Board of Inspection, dated 23 December 1848, says of the orphans by the first vessel to arrive in Port Phillip, the Lady Kennaway,

“…their general aspect indicates good health and gives the impression that they belong to the humbler ranks of life. They are generally of a stout make, rather low in stature, and are endowed with strongly marked Irish Physiognomies…We do consider them… a most sensible supply and acquisition for this city and its environs and hope that we may in future have more importations of a similar kind, and as they come originally from small county towns and adjoining districts they have never seen or been accustomed to witness those demoralizing scenes too frequent in larger towns in many parts of the Empire, and we doubt not but that they will continue to conduct themselves as hitherto and keep in the paths of virtue…they are most anxious to please their employers… during the voyage… some few of them were inclined to be rather noisy and boisterous occasionally, and would not hesitate at times to let out a bit of an oath…”.

It’s a report that may tell us more about its authors than what it says about the orphans.

Attitudes to the orphans by Government officials

It would be worth researching the different attitudes towards the orphans among Government officials generally. Who was sympathetic? In South Australia, Matthew Moorhouse, no; Mrs Murphy, Matron in the depot, yes; Mrs Hill, Acting Matron, no (see below under ‘Immigration Depots’). In Port Phillip, Dr Patterson and Superintendent La Trobe, generally yes: in Port Jackson Immigration Agent Merewether yes, his successor H.H. Browne, no. Mrs Capps, Matron at Hyde Park Barracks, yes.

It is worth asking, too, how the attitudes and reports of Surgeons from orphan ships coloured the way the orphans were viewed and received in Australia. There’s a very marked difference between Surgeon Strutt (Thomas Arbuthnot)  and Surgeons Douglass (Earl Grey), Eades (Roman Emperor), Ramsay (Inchinnan)  and Hewer (Elgin). Surgeon Hewer was to write “I was so disgusted by the behaviour of the orphans per “Elgin”, –so worried by their tricks, simulating fits day after day to procure porter and spirits–so disheartened by their misrepresentation and utter disregard for truth, that I would not come out in another Irish orphan vessel if the Government would pay me £10 per orphan”.

These last four Surgeons were so aware of their own social class, so lacking in empathy and unable to–what’s the word– ‘understand’, ‘communicate’, ‘connect’– with the young women, they distorted the image people would have of the orphans even before they landed. By contrast, Strutt is the Surgeon we’d all like to have today; he has the ‘human’ touch we’d all like to have. It is a subject for further research.

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Here are some pics that will  give us an idea of what the young women saw when they disembarked. The first one is a  sketch of  emigrants landing at Glenelg in South Australia, not that the orphans landed at this particular location. Their ships would dock at Port Adelaide.

Glenelg 1847 courtesy State Library of South Australia
Glenelg 1847 courtesy State Library of South Australia

There is an interesting account of the arrival of the Inconstant orphans in Port Adelaide in 1849. It appeared in the South Australian Register, 13 June 1849 (p.2. Local Intelligence bottom rt of page). Nowadays, with digitisation, research among newspapers has become much easier than before. Here’s the link to the paragraph I’m talking about.  http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/4148476?zoomLevel=1 . The orphans had arrived at Port Adelaide, 8th June, about 14 kilometres away from the Native School on North Terrace, where they were to find “temporary asylum”. Travelling by dray gave them plenty of time to look around at their ‘new’ country. What a sight they must have made.

“On Monday evening an extraordinary procession was seen on the North Terrace Road Ten drays fully laden with Irish female orphans were seen moving along at a brisk pace towards the Native School Location where it is understood they will find a temporary asylum. They all seemed warmly and comfortably clad, and excited much sympathy”.

The next one is of Hobson’s Bay, Williamstown. There are lots of ships in Port Phillip Bay in 1853, more than when the orphans landed 1848-50. The Victorian gold rush was under way.

Hobson's Bay from the signal staff, Williamstown 1853 courtesy State Library Victoria
Hobson’s Bay from the signal staff, Williamstown 1853 courtesy State Library Victoria

This next pic is of Port Jackson. It’s by Oswald Brierly and called ‘Emigrants arriving at Sydney Cove’, dated 1853. Again it’s a couple of years after the Earl Grey scheme ended. There’s a steamer in the background, bottom right of the pic. A steamer was to take orphans from their ship to a landing dock.

with permission of State Library NSW DGV1/7
Oswald Brierly, ‘Sydney Cove Emigrants leaving ship’ ref DGV1/7 courtesy of State Library of New South Wales

On the 8th February 1850 Surgeon Strutt wrote in his diary,

“Landed all the girls in a large steamer and walked at their head to the Depot [Hyde park Barracks]. There was such weeping and wailing at leaving the ship; when on board the steamer an effort was made to give three cheers, but with very indifferent success. I stopped nearly all day at the Depot with them and got them settled as well as I could and saw that they all got their dinner, which unluckily was a meagre one, being a fast day. They will now be visited by the Catholic clergy and nuns for about a fortnight, confessed and persuaded to take the pledge. They will then be permitted to take situations”.

The Irish Famine Memorial website http://www.irishfaminememorial.org has a link to ‘the historical walk the young women took from the harbour to Hyde Park Barracks’ which is well worth a visit. Not that the roads and ‘pavements’ the orphans walked were the same as today.

The Sydney Depot Hyde Park Barracks in the 1840s, from the collections in the State Library, NSW.
The Sydney Depot Hyde Park Barracks in the 1840s, from the collections in the State Library, NSW.

A NEW WORLD

What did the Famine orphans think of this ‘new world’? Did some of them make their way to the Depot, their eyes down, frightened little waifs, still traumatised by their Famine and workhouse experience? Or did some have a sense of freedom, of being liberated from their past, being healed in part by their long sea journey? Undoubtedly there was a wide range of emotions. But it would be a sorry state if we were to deny them the wonder of their world turned upside down when they arrived in Australia.

After the hurly-burly of the harbour and goods being loaded and unloaded at the docks, travelling to the Depot gave the young women a chance to look around.

Hanna Hayes, Hanna Hayes, will ye look at them big white birds? Look, look, watch them swoop. Squawwck, squawwk. They’re wearing a big yellow comb on their head. Lordy, lordy.

Ach no, Kitty Kelly. Look over there. Who’s that man watching over the river? Over there, over there–the tall black man standing straight. He’s standing on one leg. [26 March 1850, Strutt tells in his diary of an Aboriginal man refusing to take Biddy Rabbit as his wife; his wives would be jealous and anyway, she had “too much yabber”.]

Aw Mary Carty, Ellen Dunbar, will ya look at that. Ah go on. I dare ya. Talk to him.

“You observe…He wears a broad-brimmed cabbage tree hat…a check shirt, open at the neck, and presenting a bold front; a blue jacket, and a gay waistcoat. His trowsers…are cut so much to the quick, that your dread of their bursting keeps you in a state of uncomfortable nervous apprehension. He wears an immense moustache…and a red scarf or comforter is tied around his waist”.  (Lurgan etc Agricultural Gazette 4 Oct 1849)

Where’s Mary Power? She knows all her flowers. What’s that yellow flowering bush by the side of the road?

Young Mary Power probably had no idea what it was. The people, the flora, the fauna, everything was so very different to what the orphans knew. Even the sky seemed bluer, and further away than at ‘home’. The light was brighter. The sun shone harder. They were seeing things few people in Ireland had ever seen–wallabies and kangaroos, kookaburras and lizards, and big hairy spiders, bright coloured parrots, wattle and gum trees, red earth and dry dust, and Aboriginal people coming into town. Evelyn Conlon gives her readers a sense of this very different world in her novel about the orphans, Not the Same Sky, Wakefield Press, 2013.

Let me try giving you another yet similar sense of what I’m talking about. My thanks to http://tintean.org.au/ for the link.

Let’s see if this works. It’s part of a trailer for an Irish film called “Assimilation”.  https://vimeo.com/75656628 Louis de Paor is reading from his poem ‘Didjeridu’ (from his Gobán Cré is Cloch). Here’s a verse or two of his poem. An English version appears as subtitles on the video. He’s accompanied by Kev Carmody on Didgeridoo.

Má sheashann tú gan chor

ar feadhsoicind amháin

nó míle bliain

cuirfudh sé   ealta liréan

ag neadú i easc na gcuach

id chlaon fholt cam

              gorma

pearóidí                    dearga

glasa

ar do ghuaillí loiscthe

is cucabora niogóideach

ag fonóid féd chosa geala,

beidh treibhanna ársa an aeir

ag cleitearnach timpeall ort

ag labhairt i mbéalrá

ná tuigeann     do chroí

gall    ghaelach    bán.

This music is not played to lure a snake

from the woven basket of your distended belly

with a heatwave of torrid notes and swooning melodies.

It won’t set your rebel foot tapping on stone

to taunt your straight jacketed intellect with squalls

of hornpipes and twisting

slides.

If you stand and listen for a second

or a thousand years

lyrebirds will nest in the devious loops

of your branching hair,

green blue red

parrots will perch on your scalded shoulders

and a sarcastic kookaburra

make fun of your scorched white feet,

you’ll hear parakeets and lorikeets flutter round your head,

ancient tribes of the air

speaking a language your wild

colonial heart cannot comprehend.

IMMIGRATION DEPOTS

 Hey Mister, Where we goin’?

To the Immigration Depot? How far is it?

Who’s the Matron, do ye know? Hey, Hanna, Mary, Jane…Alice Smith, listen, the matron’s a Cork woman at the Barracks.

Isn’t that the best news? It’s the best news I’ve heard all day, so it is.

The Port Jackson (Sydney) arrivals made their way up the hill to the former convict building, Hyde Park Barracks which had been refurbished to accommodate female immigrants earlier in 1848. The Port Adelaide arrivals would travel to the Native School, behind Matthew Moorhouse’s residence on North Terrace in Adelaide itself. I’m not sure where the Port Phillip (Melbourne) orphans first went. Did the Lady Kennaway orphans go to a building in Williamstown? I doubt they went to any kind of tent city, colonial authorities being ever so concerned these young women were “without natural protectors”.  However, on the 5th January 1849 the Port Phillip Gazette reported that Governor Fitzroy had arranged for “the depot situated on allotments 8 and 9 of section 16 at the angle of William Street and Collins Street has been appropriated as an establishment for the reception of the…female orphan immigrants from Ireland”. That presumably was where the Melbourne Immigration Depot was situated.

Thanks to Kelly Starr we know where the Immigration depot was in Melbourne from this 1855 map.

https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Melbourne_map_1855.jpeg?fbclid=IwAR0M9WPcItoACcMiFxKiLGBa6wLF_YTfQ5uqxXZQ9hDLQ8ift05inKiuTfA

Kelly also has alerted us to an article in the press referring to the hiring of orphans from the first vessel to arrive in Port Phillip, the Lady Kennaway. It is from “The Melbourne Daily News (Vic. : 1848 – 1851) Tue 12 Dec 1848 Page 3 Advertising” .

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For some of the young women, Depot life could be an untimely reminder of their workhouse days. They were once again subjected to an institutional discipline. Orphan ships arrived within months of each other, one hot on the heels of another. With each ship carrying about 200 young women, pressure was put on Immigration Agents and Matrons alike. To cope with such a large body of arrivals, some kind of regimen was necessary–when should the young women go to bed, when should they rise, when they should eat, when should they prepare themselves to meet their prospective employers. And most controversially, should they be allowed to return to the Depot when their indentures were cancelled?

Conflict in the South Australian Depot

Of course conflicts did occur between government officials and the young women. One of the most explicit examples, perhaps not so well-known, occurred in the South Australian Depot at the Native School on North Terrace.

A local newspaper, The South Australian Register, 21 January 1850, published a damning letter written by Aliquis, who turned out to be a Mr D’Arcy (not that Mr D’Arcy!) “…I beg to call  your attention to the existence of a brothel supported at the public expense and to the disgrace of an establishment under the superintendence of a paid officer of the Government. 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…”.

The editor of the newspaper added to the calumny claiming “…the rations of the girls were occasionally stopped, punishments inflicted on trivial pretexts, and that some girls have been capriciously expelled”.

Ever mindful of being seen to do the ‘right and proper’ thing, the Children’s Apprenticeship Board, under Matthew Moorhouse, immediately set up an enquiry to defend themselves and rebut the charges.  Their report is available as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) on microfilm in Australian State Libraries. The original is in the Public Record Office in London at Colonial Office (CO) 13/71, pp.461-485. It is also available in my Barefoot, vol.2, pp.35-43. Do  have a look at the Report if you can. I’d be interested to learn how you read and interpret it.

For me, it is clear some government officials were less than sympathetic towards the Irish orphans. Not that the orphans themselves were totally innocent. They asserted themselves and were combative, refusing to do work they did not want to do, and refusing to be cowed by those in authority. They saw themselves as entitled to food and able to leave an employer and return to the depot if it was in their own best interest. Not everyone agreed. Unfortunately only a few of the orphan witnesses to the enquiry are linked to specific ships, Mary Creed per Elgin, Nora McDonald per Elgin, Mary Ann Murray ex Roman Emperor. Others, not so.

Sometimes matrons themselves defied regulations. Mrs Murphy defied Matthew Moorhouse by allowing orphans to visit her “in defiance of all instructions”, sometimes allowing an orphan to stay overnight.  She was given to a ‘secret harbouring of orphans‘, according to Moorhouse. Mrs Murphy said “she could not have it on her conscience of having refused any girl a night’s lodgings”. But she would lose her job for her troubles.

I’m not filling the water casks, Nora McDonald. It’s not my turn.

She called me a blackguard slut, so she did. I did not. Yes you did. Not. Did. Not. Did.

Lizzie Coogan. Watch out. They’ll stop your tea and sugar.

Some employers’ complaints about orphans who returned to the Depot suggest that an apprenticeship agreement or master-servant contract may well have existed in law. But in practice, things came down to personal relationships, how well master and servant got on with one another. Neither seemed aware of the wording of the contract itself. And the examples in this report are of ones that did not work. Jane Hall was “dismissed for want of civility, violent temper and abusive language”.  “I had great difficulty keeping Margaret Collins within doors of an evening”. “My brother in law who is now dead of relapse said, let her (Eliza Day) go and don’t have another in her place—she is a dirty, filthy, idle wretch, let her go…”.

It is also clear there were clashes between the orphans and Mrs Hill, Acting Matron and Mr Moorhouse. Mrs Hill admitted “to having called the girls “dirty brutes” but I never told anyone to go to the Devil; or called one a blackguard wretch”. Matthew Moorhouse also admitted to calling them ‘brutes’, had seen them stealing stores from native stores, and dismissed Creed, McCarthy and Collins for having refused employment three times. “Had I not dismissed them, we should have had an average of about 100 constantly living upon Government”.

Perhaps the sensibilities of modern day’s readers would be most shocked by the orphan girls’ toilet habits. Was it a case of ‘bog Irish’, or young women frightened of the dark in a strange land, of inadequate arrangements in the Depot, or of our own lack of knowledge of toilet habits in the past?

Mrs Hill deposed to the enquiry, “I have frequently known the girls use their pannicans as night vessels and in the morning dip them into the water cask which we use for cooking. I have also witnessed when rising in the morning the passage made into a water closet and night soil here with ashes thrown over.

Matthew Moorhouse submitted “On the arrival of the Inconstant we had for some time 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. On paying my morning visit, I beheld quantities of human faeces about the verandah and door, and in one instance i saw that one girl had not even taken the trouble to go outside the door, but had soiled the wall against which her bed was lying…These instances of offensiveness and filth being daily before me, caused me to express myself in severe, and probably, in apparent unkind language”.  Culture clash at its most basic?

In Sydney, the orphans who returned to Hyde Park Barracks after their indentures were cancelled, discipline was more severe. They were put into a cramped and poorly ventilated room at the Barracks to pick oakum (unpicking old rope). Only when the Sisters of Mercy intervened did the practice end, and the young women sent to country depots at Wollongong, Parramatta, Bathurst, Maitland, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, and Moreton Bay. [check 1859 Report]

HIRING

The Immigration depots were designed to be temporary accommodation for the Earl Grey orphans, an asylum where they could rest awhile and receive religious instruction from the clergy of their faith. But their primary purpose was to hire out the orphans as servants, indenture those under 17(?) as apprentices and hire out the others under “ordinary agreements”. (See the example of a Female Apprenticeship contract in post 13 https://wp.me/p4SlVj-g4).

foapprentice
Anne Smith’s apprenticeship indenture

Members of the different Orphan Committees vetted potential employees. Anyone with a poor reputation or ran a public house would not be permitted to have an orphan as servant. But rules are made to be broken, and in practice cannot always be enforced. One can follow the approval process, and indeed the employment history of many of the orphans, in the Registers and Indexes of applications for orphans in New South Wales State Records 4/4715-57, and dispersed throughout the Immigration Agent’s correspondence beginning c. SRNSW 4/4635.

Registers of application etc for orphans

1849

No 326 From Adelaide Forbes, Wooloomooloo 5 April 1849 Expresses desire to get rid of Mary Ann Galway (Earl Grey) who entered her service November last. Answer. could only get rid of her by bringing her up at the Police Office or by a regular transfer of indentures

Wooloomooloo sketch 1850 courtesy State Library NSW
Wooloomooloo sketch 1850 courtesy State Library NSW

No. 807 John Armstrong, Surveyor Macquarie Street 24 August 1849 Applying for an orphan female as  a general house Servant under an Indenture 895. Approved for an apprentice.

No 833 Mr J Solomons, Australia Hotel, Clarence St., 5 Sept 1849 Requests permission to have Ann Callaghan per Digby  as general house servant transferred from service of Colin MacLeod. Consent to this request against the rule laid down with reference to publicans.

No 967 Sarah Cullins per Lady Peel, Parramatta Street, Sydney 22 October 1849 complaining of ill-usage from her mistress and requesting to be removed from her service. Ask Dr Gregory to investigate.

My mistress was unkind sur. She called me a dirty papist and wouldn’t let me go to Mass on Sunday.

1850

No 329 Principal Superintendent Convicts 12 March 1850 forwarding application of John Lawrence for permission to marry Rosanna Cartwright per Digby.

Colonial government officials and Orphan Committees were conscientious  in adhering to the letter of the law, at least in the early days. Asking for character references; conferring power of attorney; even asking Police Magistrates in the country for character references from local clergy for prospective employers; arranging for constables to accompany orphans going to country depots; appointing married couples to look after the orphans in country depots were all grist to Merewether’s mill.  Surgeon Strutt personally supervised the placement of ‘his girls’, 100 of whom accompanied him over the Ranges, through Goulburn, Yass and as far as Gundagai. The correct legal procedure for cancelling indentures was also enforced as far as practicable. In contrast, H H. Browne, Magistrate in the Water Police Office, presided over the Sydney court which cancelled orphan indentures. As member of the employer class, he tended to favour employers over the orphans. His prejudices were to come back to haunt him at a later date.

The indenture system did not work so well in South Australia, despite the Governor’s Ordnance of August 1848 (See my blogpost no. 13). As long ago as 1964, Cherry Parkin pointed out in her Honours thesis at the University of Adelaide, that 142 employers had failed to apprentice their orphan servants, objecting to the legal formality of binding the ‘girls’. Whilst as early as January 1849, 32 out of 60 indentured ‘girls’ had left their situations, only one of whom was taken to court. Moorhouse, himself, objected to the expense involved in taking matters to court. (GRG24/6 1849 991 28 March) The problem then arose of how long authorities were obliged to accommodate orphans who returned to the depot after leaving their situations.

But let me to return to the question of cancelled indentures at a later date.

Orphans sent up country

 Immigration Agent’s correspondence SRNSW 4/4635

1848/106 10 August 1848 Military Barracks at Brisbane to be used as Immigrant Barracks

1848/129 Immigration depot to be established at Goulburn perhaps vacant Court House to be rented at £35 pa

1849/111 2 March 1849 the 19 orphans named in the margin to be taken to Parramatta, their binding to be approved by the clergyman of their religion.

Ach Jaysus Sarah Moran here we go again. Where to this time? Will it be any better than before? I’m going to find meself an ould fella to marry. I’ll be workin’ for no one but me.

Merewether in Sydney and Patterson in Melbourne coped with the influx of  female orphans by distributing them throughout the colony. As the numbers increased and it became increasingly difficult to find employers for the orphans, such a strategy became imperative. The usual means of transport was by water. Many an orphan found herself on a boat again, this time on her way to Windsor or Parramatta, Wollongong or Newcastle, Maitland and the Hunter Valley, or to Port Macquarie and Brisbane, all of which could be reached by water. Otherwise, it was a long and probably less comfortable journey by dray over the mountains to Bathurst,  Goulburn and beyond.

Hunter River1853 courtesy State Library NSW collections
Hunter River1853
courtesy State Library NSW collections

Strutt’s diary gives a wonderful account of his travels with 108 orphans from the Thomas Arbuthnot, over the Ranges and well into the South western regions of today’s New South Wales. He took “his girls” via Parramatta to Liverpool and Camden, over Razorback to Picton, across the Bargo River to Berrima and Goulburn, thence to Gunning and Yass. And from Yass he took the remaining 45 young women on a 12 hour trek to Gundagai. His round trip lasted from 18 February 1850 until 29 April.

Monday 18 Started with 108 girls and young women…by steamer to Parramatta

Tuesday 19 Started with 14 drays drawn by teams of horses, from 2 to 4 each. Was sworn in Special Constable on the occasion…Encamped for the night about ten miles beyond Liverpool, I sleeping under a dray, and much more tormented by ants, fleas or some creature that bit like fury.

aeeeeye aaeeeye aaah Wednesday 20…Mary Brandon and Mary Conway were thrown off..and the wheel went over their legs.

The orphans were not the only ones struck by the unfamiliar Australian fauna. Still using the “European’ words he was familiar with–‘forest’, magpies’ and ‘tarantula’–Strutt recorded in his diary,

Monday 25 …The forest was more animated with parrots, large magpies, cockatoos etc., to say nothing of the insect tribe, large ants, which make great hills three or four feet high, and as hard as clay very much sun dried. The people use these hills beaten into a fine paste with water to make floors for their cottages. Biddy O’Dea caught a large tarantula, which she brought to me in her apron…

A similar tactic of distributing the orphans into the hinterland was employed by the Acting Immigration agent in Melbourne, John Patterson and Superintendent La Trobe.  Below is a contemporary map, not drawn to scale which shows where some of the orphans were sent–Salt Water river, Geelong and Portland.

Charles Norton map Port Phillip and around courtesy State Library of Victoria
Charles Norton map Port Phillip and around courtesy State Library of Victoria

 PROV VPRS 32 Police Magistrate Portland Letters-in. Item 4 contains letters from Superintendent La Trobe making arrangements for 37 orphans per Pemberton to be sent to Portland by the steamer Raven accompanied by Surgeon Sullivan and a sub-matron. Two of the major settlers in the area, Henty and Leake, were appointed as their Guardians.

PROV VPRS 34 Police Magistrate Portland Letters-out 1849-52 Item 3

Police Magistrate Portland to his Honor the Superintendent 23 June 1849

The single females have been housed in the Immigration Barrack at the Customs post under the protection of two married immigrants recommended by the Surgeon and a married constable”.

The other major area to receive Earl Grey Famine orphans was Geelong. By the time the Eliza Caroline arrived in Port Phillip–the last orphan vessel, with orphans from Skibbereen on board–finding positions for them in Melbourne was extremely difficult. Many of them would be sent to Geelong.

Geelong in 1850 courtesy State Library of Victoria
Geelong in 1850 courtesy State Library of Victoria
Country house Geelong courtesy State Library of Victoria
Country house Geelong courtesy State Library of Victoria

I’m very much aware what I’ve left out or left undeveloped in this post. There are orphan histories begging to be told: Eliza Taafe per Inconstant designated as ‘insane’ when she arrived in Adelaide. The Surgeon later attributed her strange behaviour on board ship to her Famine experience in Ireland. A local doctor predicted she was not permanently insane: simply in need of kindness and care: Mary Stephens, of Inchinnan fame, whose indentures with J Mackay, in Sydney, were cancelled 20 July 1849 and she sent to Moreton Bay. [It is always pleasing to see the high standard of work being done by others interested in the Earl Grey Famine orphans, for example, on the website www.mayoorphangirls.weebly.com ] Mary Stephens, according to Ray Debnam, was visited in the Brisbane Barracks four times by Dr Ballow, 15 -19 August 1849. Less convincingly, Ray suggests she may have married Thomas Kavanagh in Brisbane RC Church 17 September 1849.

Or, to finish my three examples, Margaret Cumins per Pemberton ‘raped’–‘violated forcibly’– is the term used in her statement, by her employer Patrick Ryan at Salt Water River in 1849. (PROV VPRS 115/P unit 3 49/381. See also  my Barefoot vol2., pp.31-4) “…when her relative was out milking the cows, Ryan violated her forcibly and against her will: she did not tell this to her relative or to anyone else at the time, but went back again to live at Ryan’s, and Ryan had frequently criminal connexion with her since that time…”  Dr Rule told me the case did not go to court, perhaps a conviction would be too difficult. Margaret lived what Dr Rule calls a ‘fairly rackety life’ being convicted of robbery in 1862 and other convictions in the late 1860s. In 1872 she was sent from gaol to a lunatic asylum.

There are other details I’ve omitted from this post, Merewether’s administration of orphans being sent up country, for example; Im. Cor. 49/240 Mr Featherstone to be in charge of the party [to Goulburn]. It will be his duty to keep a strict watch over the females on the road, to prevent them having any communication with strangers and not to allow them to quit his charge under any circumstances’,

which continues, Im. Cor. (49/271)  31 May Merewether to the Police Magistrate Parramatta re the misconduct of draymen who conducted orphans to Goulburn under the charge of Martin Featherstone,

and finally, Im. Cor. (49/328)  18 June Merewether to Police Magistrate Bathurst re the appointment of Martin Featherstone and his wife as Superintendents of the Immigrant Depot at Bathurst. They are to be given two shillings and sixpence per day, a daily allowance of an adult and a female ration, fuel and candlelight, and accommodation for himself and his family at the Depot.

One wonders too if orphans were paid proper wages. Merewether was well aware ‘the orphans were under the complete control of the government’ and could be made to accept lower than the current rate of wages, if it proved expedient. Yet in 1850 (50/341) he replied to the Bench of Magistrates at Wollongong which had tried to reduce the orphans’ wages, “the present wages readily given in Sydney and elsewhere are as much below the current rate for female servants, as the [Orphan] Committee would feel themselves justified in fixing them…”.

And what of the frequency with which orphan indentures were cancelled? Was it higher than usual? How is this to be explained? Was it part of a systemic weakness of the Earl Grey scheme? Or is there more than this? What part did it play in giving the scheme a bad reputation and bringing it to an end? How should the cancellation of orphans’ indentures  be interpreted? Closer examination may uncover some truths everyone may not like to hear. This is something that warrants a closer look, don’t you think?

I’ll need to return to some of these issues when next I examine opposition to and ending of the Earl Grey scheme–soon come, I promise..and if you believe that…

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (13): Government preparations for their arrival

Government Preparations again

I’m not sure how best to proceed. Here’s one possible plan.

(a) Imperial and colonial government preparations

(b) arrival and early days of the young women in Australia

(c) opposition to and the end of the ‘ Earl Grey scheme’

(d) NSW government enquiry of 1858-9.

Maybe start with that.

And after that, what? I have a few ideas–maybe life stories of a number of the orphans, maybe inter-generational family histories of some of them, or an examination of orphans in different regions–the Illawarra and Hunter valley in New South Wales, the gold fields and Western Victoria, the Moreton Bay district, town compared with country, or perhaps something on the orphans in South Australia, about which I know very little. We shall see, what we shall see. Such is life, as one or two Irish-Australians once put it.

It is important that I take this one small bite at a time.

“We must work & play and John Jacob Niles

will sing our souls to rest

(in his earlier-78 recordings).

Tomorrow we’ll do our best, our best,

tomorrow we’ll do our best”.

(John Berryman, The Home Ballad.)

——————————————–

Depending on the sources used, the Earl Grey female orphan scheme will appear in a very different light. Here, I want to look at government’s point of view using British Parliamentary Papers, especially those available in hard copy. (I’ve used the thousand volume Irish Universities Press version, especially the volumes entitled Colonies. Australia, volumes 11 and 12. Sometimes I much prefer holding a book in my hand to reading a digitised text online). Adventurers, though, might want to explore,

http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/12245/page/294969

Viewing the Earl Grey female orphan scheme from a government position is a very different perspective from that of its opponents in Australia, and different again from the young women themselves, or that of present-day family historians.

Government Planning

First then, a government perspective: its interest was to present the scheme as positively as it could. [e.g. Governor H.E.F. Young’s report on the Roman Emperor, 9th General report of Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners (CLEC) Appendix 18, HC 1849[1082]22 1– “the first twenty who entered into service conducted themselves so creditably as to create a feeling as much in favour of the emigrants as it had been before adverse“.]

The British Imperial government was very thorough. Its plan, instigated with the approval of its representatives in the Australian colonies, and despite a long communications turn-around time of six months or more, is testimony to its forward planning skills. Yet no matter how good the forward planning, in practice, the scheme was always a work in progress; who should choose teachers or religious instructors for orphans on board ship? should surgeons on board orphan ships be paid more? where do we get a supply of Douay Bibles? These things were all arranged in piecemeal fashion, as the scheme progressed. How well things worked out in practice, however, would not always be in control of the government.

Grey did not intend ‘imposing’ Irish workhouse orphans on the Australian colonies. His government’s representatives in Australia told him the colonies would welcome an influx of marriageable female labour. His major concern was to meet colonial demands for labour by renewing large-scale government-assisted emigration. The female orphan scheme was but a part of this. In their covering letter to the under secretary for the Colonial Department, 17 February 1848, the Colonial land and Emigration Commissioners CLEC) emphasized, re- the orphans, that “Lord Grey is well aware of the necessity which exists for preserving the proportions of the sexes in any large emigration to a new country. Single men willing to emigrate are to be found in abundance”. This too was a major concern.

Let me further illustrate just how meticulous and detailed Grey’s plan was by returning to two of my earlier posts, posts 2 and 3 in particular, where I outlined the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners’ proposal, dated 17 February 1848. (See the Eppi link above).

Some similarities and some differences between New South Wales and South Australian colonial government arrangements

Remember the colony of Victoria, as it later became, was still part of New South Wales between 1848 and 1850, i. e. during the female orphan scheme; Victoria did not ‘separate’ from New South Wales until 1851. Remember, too, that South Australia was different again: that colony had a different Governor, different laws and different ways of doing things. Grey was obliged to ‘communicate’ separately with them both.

Charles Augustus Fitzroy. Governor of New South Wales

Charles Augustus Fitzroy. Governor of New South Wales in 1855. Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.

Gov H Young1850

Henry Fox Young, Governor of South Australia from in 1850. Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

Gov Latrobe engraving

Superintendent Charles J La Trobe, later Governor of Victoria. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

Here is the extract from the CLEC proposal mentioned above that I posted last August. Allow me to develop these. They are worth a careful reading.

6. The Governor will be directed on the arrival of these Emigrants in the Colony to make such arrangements in regard to their employment as may be most to their benefit, according to their age and circumstances.

7. Every pains will be taken to find the Emigrants respectable Employers– when their age and circumstances render it fitting, they will be bound Apprentices, under Laws which are in force in the Colonies. It will be stipulated that fair wages shall be paid by the Employers, according to the current rate prevailing in the district; and after deducting such portion as may be required to pay for clothes, and other current expenses, the remainder of their wages will be reserved, to be given to them at the expiration of the Contract, or…at their marriage, provided it be approved by the Government, or by the Committee appointed to act on its behalf. A power will be retained of forfeiting the reserved wages of any of the Children who may abscond, or whose indentures may be cancelled for misconduct. 

8. The Governors of New South Wales and South Australia, will be directed to appoint a Committee in each Colony, at which they will request the cooperation of the Bishop of Australia and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, and in South Australia, of the Bishop of Adelaide and the Roman Catholic Bishop, to see that these stipulations are duly observed by the Employers… This might appear to be wishful thinking i.e. giving such Committees  powers which  in practice they could never police to the full. How could they, once the young women went into the hinterland? But they nonetheless went to great lengths to make it work. In a Despatch (Earl Grey to Sir C. A. Fitzroy, Governor of New South Wales, 28 February 1848, even before the Irish Government approved the scheme) Grey expressed his hope that not only prelates of the Anglican and Catholic churches would consent to serve on the Committee “but also some of the leading clergymen of the other denominations”. In addition, he suggested the Committee ask for applications for servants from “the most respectable persons in different parts of the colony”, things which did indeed occur. (I’ll let this earlier comment of mine remain).

Fitzroy reported to Grey in a Despatch of 1 December 1848 that he “lost no time in forming a Committee in Sydney, and desiring Mr La Trobe to form one in Melbourne, composed as nearly as possible upon the principle and for the purpose suggested by the Commissioners”. (BPP Colonies Australia Sessions 1849-50, vol 11, p. 29).

Things were similar in South Australia. Lieutenant-Governor H. E. F. Young forwarded a South Australian Government Gazette to Earl Grey in a Despatch dated 10 September 1848 naming the members of the Irish Orphan Emigration Committee in Adelaide…”in pursuance of the instructions conveyed to me in your Lordship’s despatch No 28 of the 28th February last“. (BPP ibid., p. 330/208). Young was quick to emphasize “the emigration of orphans to South Australia…should include a due proportion of English and Scotch orphans.”  Enquiries were later made in Britain about this but the suggestion was rejected as impractical, for a variety of reasons. 

Things were not totally the same in South Australia. The day before, 9 September, Young told Grey that, on the suggestion of the Orphan Committee and the advice of the Executive Council, he had provisionally appointed Captain Brewer as Emigration Agent for South  Australia. The Executive Council drew up specific instructions for the Emigration Agent that included, “You will consider yourself the guardian of the immigrants; and it will be your duty to advise and assist them in finding suitable employment, taking care, more especially, as far as lies in your power, that the young females do not make any agreements with those who may be known to you as persons of bad character. 

Single unmarried females, without natural protectors on board, and without offers of employment can be provided with lodgings and rations for a short time at the Native Location, where they will be under the care of the matron…”.  Captain Brewer was not a member of the Adelaide Orphan Committee. Note, however, he was told he should consider himself guardian of the immigrants.

10. This Emigration will be watched with the utmost interest by all who are concerned in the Colonies to which it is to be directed; and upon the manner in which it is conducted will depend the power of the Government to encourage its continuance.

The Colonists are desirous of adding to their body, not the idle and worthless, but those whose education and moral and religious training afford a reasonable guarantee that they will become active and useful members of a Society which is in a state of healthy progress; and it will therefore be imperative on the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners to select those young persons whose education has been attended to, and of whose conduct they receive a satisfactory report from the competent authorities. This is a clear statement of the social engineering in which the Imperial authorities were engaged.

Orphan Committees

Let me describe the composition of Orphan Committees in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide; it is basically the same as suggested by Earl Grey and the CLEC. The committees were made up of lay and clerical dignitaries who had a wealth of experience in political, religious, legal, police and immigration matters.

The Sydney committee consisted of

    • George Allen, Solicitor and Member of the Legislative Council and Honorary secretary to the Benevolent Asylum in Sydney
    • Reverend Robert Allwood, incumbent of St James Anglican Church in Sydney
    • Hutchinson Hothersall Browne, Water Police Magistrate and from 1851 Immigration Agent
    • Alfred Cheeke Esq., Barrister and Commissioner of the Court of Requests
    • William Harvie Christie, Agent for Church and School Estates and Secretary to the Denominational School Board
    • The Very Reverend Henry Gregory Gregory, Roman Catholic Vicar General
    • George P. F Gregory Esq., Prothonotary and Registrar of the Supreme Court
    • Joseph Long Innes Esq., Superintendent of Police
    • The Very Reverend John McGarvie D. D., Minister of the Scots Church of St Andrew in Sydney
    • Francis L S Merewether Esq., Immigration Agent
    • Charles Nicholson Esq., Speaker of the Legislative Council
  • Arthur Savage Esq., R. N.,  Health Officer for Port Jackson

If anyone is so inclined, the Australian Dictionary of Biography, will provide more information about some of  these gentlemen. It is available online. It is a great research tool.  Not everyone on the Committee will appear. See for example, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gregory-henry-gregory-2122  and http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/merewether-francis-lewis-shaw-4189 Some of these probably also need updating.

Another great research tool is http://dictionaryofsydney.org/browse/people

The Melbourne committee comprised

  • The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Melbourne, Charles Perry (Anglican)
  • The Right Reverend Dr Goold (Roman Catholic) http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/goold-james-alipius-3633
  • Edward Carr Esq.
  • The Very Reverend P. B Geoghegan, Vicar General (Roman Catholic)
  • The Reverend Irvine Hetheringon
  • Wm Lonsdale Esq., Sub-Treasurer
  • Dr John Patterson, Immigration Agent (former naval surgeon from Strabane)
  • Robert W Pohlman Esq., Chief Commissioner of Insolvents’ Estates
  • James Hunter Ross Esq.
  • Andrew Russell Esq.
  • James Simpson Esq.,  http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/simpson-james-2665
  • The Reverend A C Thompson

Collins St, Melbourne, S T Gill C. 1853  State Library of New South Wales colletions

Collins St, Melbourne, S T Gill C. 1853 State Library of New South Wales collections

The Adelaide committee included

  • The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Adelaide, Augustus Short (Anglican) http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/short-augustus-4577
  • The Right Reverend Dr Murphy, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • The Reverend Mr Haining, Presbyterian Minister
  • The Reverend Mr Draper, Methodist Minister
  • The Honourable the Advocate General, Member of the Legislative Council
  • Hon Jacob Hagen Member of the Legislative Council( MLC), merchant, landowner, and member of the Society of Friends
  • Hon Captain Bagot MLC, retired Military officer, landowner, member of the league for the preservation of religious freedom
  • Samuel Davenport Esq., Congregationalist, landowner, supporter of civil and religious liberties
  • William Giles Esq., manager of S.A. Company and treasurer of the League for the preservation of religious freedom
  • Wm Younghusband Esq., Anglican,
  • Matthew Moorhouse Esq., Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons,Congregationalsist, Secretary to the Children’s Apprenticeship Board , ‘protector’ of Aborigines, Adelaide Native School http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moorhouse-matthew-4239

Any three of whom will be a quorum to transact business.

There is a very good chapter (chapt. 6) in Richard Reid’s book, Farewell my Friends, Anchor Books, 2011, describing the function of these committees. Dr Reid (pp.144-6) concentrates on the Sydney Committee and says it “had wide powers relating to employment, wages, discipline and general moral guardianship over the orphans”. The Sydney Committee took its duties seriously, vetting prospective employers, overseeing orphans’ indentures, providing protection if they went into the country, approving their marriage, protecting them from ill-usage, disciplining them by confining them to ‘pick oakum’ in a special room in Hyde Park Barracks, or  banishing them to work in the hinterland.

My own impression is that there is something ‘pro forma’ or ‘legalistic’ about the Imperial government’s bureaucratic aims. Its concern with establishing an appropriate legal structure for the Earl Grey female orphan scheme was paramount. This is apparent in its directives for establishing local Orphan Committees and in ensuring colonial government Master-Servant legislation was appropriately modified for orphan apprenticeships.

I very much agree with Dr Reid when he claims the day to day running of things devolved upon local colonial government officers; F.L.S. Merewether in Sydney, John Patterson in Melbourne, and Matthew Moorhouse in Adelaide, in particular. No Orphan Committee minute books have survived, to the best of my knowledge. What does survive is a large archive of Francis Merewether’s correspondence as Immigration Agent: it is a tribute to his diligence and his ‘sympathy’ for those in his charge. Readers may have noticed in the case of the Adelaide Committee, any three members formed a quorum. It looks as if this also applied elsewhere.

Matthew Moorhouse, South Australia

Matthew Moorhouse, South Australia Courtesy of State Library of South Australia

F L S Merewether NSW Immigration Agent until 1851

F L S Merewether NSW Immigration Agent until 1851 Courtesy of State Library of NSW

Indenturing orphans

Let me fasten down this interpretation  by looking at the arrangements for indenturing the orphans.

South Australia

The South Australian government took to heart clause 7 (see above) of the CLEC proposal of 17 February 1848  “…they will be bound Apprentices, under Laws which are in force in the Colonies…”, Governor Young issuing an Ordinance ‘with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council’  “to provide by Apprenticeship for the Protection, Guardianship and advancement in Life of Emigrant Orphan Children…”. It is interesting they used the word ‘children’; the Earl Grey orphans all travelled as adults, they being over 14 years of age.

The Ordinance gave the Children’s Apprenticeship Board (three members of which constituted a quorum) power to bind “poor children” in apprenticeships until they reached nineteen years of age, or until they married. It specified in detail what masters and mistresses should provide for their servant–food, lodging, bedding, clothing, medicines–allowing them to attend church service, and depositing a proportion of their wages in the South Australia Savings Bank after two years of service. It permitted servants to be transferred “to any other fit and proper person” with the consent of the Board. If there was no such consent, the master or mistress could be fined £10.  One or more Justices of the Peace could hear complaints from either master, or servant apprentice, and was given the power to fine masters £10 or  send any misbehaving apprentice to a gaol or House of Correction, “there to be kept in confinement on Bread and Water for any time not exceeding Fourteen Days”. The Ordinance made the Children’s Apprenticeship Board the legal guardian of the orphans, with the ‘same power as any guardian lawfully appointed in England’. It is a detailed and comprehensive document covering all the eventualities they could foresee. Appended to it was the “Schedule” or form the apprenticeship should take. (The Ordinance was printed in the South Australian Government Gazette, 24 August, 1848 No.8. It is also available in BPP. Colonies Australia, vol.11, pp. 333-36/211-14).

Máire, Máire Healy, Eliza Roe, céard a dhéanfá? What would ye do?  Holy Mother of God, what does this mean?

“In consideration whereof, the said…executors and administrators, doth by these presents, covenant, promise and agree to and with the said Board and every of them, and their and every of their successors for the time being, and their assigns…”.

Would ye listen to that? Do they not even speak English, Eliza Lynch?

You have to take the job Biddy Kelly. You’re not allowed, you aren’t allowed to say no.

adelaide hindley1849

Adelaide West end Hindley St 1849 courtesy State Library of New South Wales

New South Wales

17 August 1848, the CLEC advised Grey that some adjustment to the New South Wales Apprenticing Act may be necessary. They suggested amendments such as the following,

  • that two Justices of the Peace be required to give their consent to any apprenticeship and at least notifying his or her guardian(s)
  • that some money taken from the apprentice’s wage be placed in a Savings Bank on her behalf
  • and that some provision be made should the master die or become incapacitated.

The Commissioners politely added that these were merely suggestions and they, of course, would defer to colonial authorities, whose ‘ability and local knowledge’ would allow them to do what is best.

29 August 1848, Grey forwarded the CLEC suggestions to Governor Fitzroy and inquired if the existing NSW Apprenticeship Act needed improving, now that so many juveniles were soon to arrive. (BPP Colonies Australia vol 11 pp. 72-3/194-5)

Pitt St1851

Pitt St Sydney 1851 courtesy of the State Library NSW

New South Wales circumstances were more complicated than South Australia. Here, there was a long legal history relating to apprenticing orphans and regulating disputes between masters and servants: Acts of 1828, 1834, 1840, 1844, 1845, ’47,’50, ’52 and ’54 were on the statute books until 20 Vic 28 appeared in 1857, an Act which lasted until 1902. Changes to the legislation had occurred as required, and to correct the mistakes and carelessness of earlier drafting of the laws.

In 1845, for instance, the NSW Legislative Assembly printed the Report of its Select Committee on the Masters’ and Servants’ Act, with minutes of evidence. The sort of thing they focused on included breaches of contract–servants’ “absenting themselves without reasonable cause”, servants’ being “guilty of disobedience or other misconduct” which covered “insolence“, servants’ ‘wilfully damaging property‘. Breaches by employers were also covered; non-payment of wages, failure to provide proper rations, failure to provide a certificate of discharge, for example. But the dice, i believe, was loaded in favour of Masters.

Servants would have been justified in questioning the impartiality of the courts appointed to resolve disputes. Magistrates who sat in judgement were employers themselves and too easily identified with fellow employers. Women proved something of a problem for them. At least they recognized that a female servant might be provoked into being insolent. And generally, law makers were loathe to punish female servants with imprisonment.

The special provisions for the Earl Grey orphans suggested by the CLEC came into force via the Orphan Committees or the members delegated to apply them–have prospective employees apply for a servant beforehand, and their applications vetted; if an employee was out of town then two Justices of the Peace  should oversee her assignment; put part of the servants’ wages in a Savings Bank– for as the CLEC had suggested “the accumulated payment would operate as a great inducement to work out” her “period of service faithfully“.  On the other hand, whether wages paid to the orphans were as fair as originally intended (see clause 7 again) is debatable.

Still, both Imperial and Colonial governments did their utmost to provide a legal framework for the guardianship and employment of the orphans.

Here is an example of an indenture between Anne Smith per Digby and her employer. Take a close look if you can.  [I hope that by clicking on the image it will become larger for you. You may be able to make it even larger by clicking again. If you are using a phone, clicking on the image opens it. You can then pinch zoom to make it larger. Thanks Siobhán.] There is also another original apprenticeship agreement between Anne Deely per Thomas Arbuthnot and Frederick Hudson of Ipswich, in the Moreton Bay District, in State Records of New South Wales (SRNSW) 9/6173. I tried finding an original in South Australia State Records in 1995 without success. Considering there were three copies, one for the orphan, one for the employer and one for the government, I’d hoped for a better result. Maybe one has come to light since then? But see what i have to say in post 16.

Anne Smith's apprenticeship indenture

Anne Smith’s apprenticeship indenture

The interesting thing is the orphans accommodated themselves to work within this system and to work the system to their own advantage. (Here’s an interesting research project for someone: ‘Irish Famine orphans and the Law’. There would certainly be enough material for an Honour’s or Master’s thesis, should anyone be looking for a topic).

In Barefoot 1 (pp.16-18) I suggested that both master and servant were able to ‘work the system’. Masters knew it was a government-run project and thought they could return unruly servants to the Immigration Depot willy-nilly. The young women, learning of better conditions elsewhere–higher wages, a kinder master or mistress, being closer to a male friend–understood that marriage, backchat, or neglect of their duties were a ‘legal’ means of ending their apprenticeship agreement. They might even try to arrange a ‘transfer’. Or, aware that cancellation of their indenture would mean a return to the Depot and the likelihood of their being sent ‘up country’, away from the town, they were still willing to take the risk, anything being preferable to their current position. But more of this further down the line.

More than twenty years ago, Libby Connors said, “perhaps it is time…to take the debate beyond the ‘victim’ stage…We need to start acknowledging and analyzing the extraordinary success of the Irish at thwarting racist migration policies and their achievements in British and colonial politics, whether in the realm of the masculine public world of official policy, or at the personal level of young Irish women defending themselves in their personal relationships”. (Papers at 7th Irish-Australian Conference 1993,  ed. Rebecca Pelan, p.179).

Some of us may need to catch up…