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Proformat News
No: 75
May 2012
May seminars
4: Tracing your English ancestors, WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30 to 9:30pm
6: Family History on the Web, WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00 to 1:00pm
7: Finding SA families in newspapers, WEA Centre Adelaide 8:00 to 10:00pm
12: Heritage Walk—Historic Houghton, WEA Centre Adelaide 2:00 to 4:00pm
20: Heritage Walk—North Adelaide Cathedral precinct, WEA Centre Adelaide 2:00 to 4:00pm
21: Bound for South Australia (19th century immigration), WEA Centre Adelaide 7:00 to 9:00pm
23: Pitfalls in family history, Payneham Library 10:00 to noon
25: Tracing your Scottish ancestors, WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30 to 9:30pm
26: Coming to grips with the new FamilySearch, WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00 to 1:00pm
27: Heritage Walk—Port Adelaide heritage precinct, WEA Centre Adelaide 2:00 to 4:00pm

June seminars
7: Genealogy on the Web, Mt Lofty Districts Historical Society, Stirling Library 10:00 to 11:00am
: How to access English parish records from afar, Elizabeth Civic Centre Library 10:00 to noon

See the seminar program for more details and bookings.

May is history month in SA
Many organisations are planning activities for the month including the WEA (see May seminars above) and readers can obtain a program of events from HistorySA and many other venues.

In this issue:
iMay seminars
June Seminars
May is history month in SA

Feature article
Earl Grey's scheme and its impact


Graham Jaunay
Adelaide Proformat

Glandore SA 5037

Tel: +61 8 8371 4465

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Earl Grey's scheme and its impact
In 1848–1851 Earl Grey’s Pauper Immigration Scheme was introduced in the United Kingdom to address problems of labour shortages and sex imbalance in the colonies while at the same time relieving the Poor Law Unions of the expenses related to aiding the poor in their districts.

While individual poor law unions financed sending some of their young poor to South Australia these are difficult to discern in the records, but one particular group stands out—the Irish orphans.

These, mainly girls,were selected from the inmates of Irish workhouses by government officials in areas worst affected by the potato famine of the 1840s as candidates for migration. The orphans arrived in Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart and Port Phillip and from these ports spread out across the country and experienced the full gamut of the good and bad aspects of life in colonial Australia. Some suffered at the hands of their bosses, some were exploited by their pimps and others endured violent husbands. Others found their experience in Australia to be prosperous. Some managed to marry gold miners, landowners, farmers and shop keepers and led happy and fulfilling lives and made a significant contribution to society.





William Stewart

Plymouth: 25 January 1848


Port Phillip: 15 May 1848

Mahomed Shah

Plymouth: 29 March 1848


Port Phillip: 5 July 1848

Earl Grey

London/Portsmouth: 3 June 1848


Botany Bay: 6 October 1848

Roman Emperor

London/Plymouth: July 1848


Adelaide: 23 October 1848

Lady Kennaway

Plymouth: 11 September 1848


Port Phillip: 6 December 1848


Plymouth: 4 November 1848


Sydney: 20 February 1849


London: 11 December 1848


Adelaide: 24 March 1849


Liverpool/Plymouth 16 Decembr 1848


Sydney: 4 April 1849


Plymouth: 29 January 1849


Port Phillip: 14 May 1849


Plymouth: 10 February 1849


Adelaide: 7 June 1849

Lady Peel

Plymouth: 14 March 1849


Sydney: 3 July 1849

New Liverpool

Plymouth: 25 April 1849


Port Phillip: 9 August 1849


Liverpool/Portsmouth: 17 May 1849


Adelaide: 10 September 1849

William and Mary

Plymouth: 25 July 1849


Sydney: 21 November 1849


Plymouth: 22 August 1849


Sydney: 29 November 1849


Plymouth: 6 October 1849


Sydney: 12 January 1850


Plymouth: 13 October 1849


Port Phillip: 10 January 1850

Thomas Arbuthnot

Plymouth: 28 October 1849


Sydney: 3 February 1850


Plymouth: 9 November 1849


Port Phillip: 25 February 1850

Eliza Caroline

Plymouth: 31 December 1849


Port Phillip: 31 March 1850

John Knox

Plymouth: 6 December 1849


Sydney: 28 April 1850

Tippoo Saib

Plymouth: 8 April 1850


Sydney: 29 July 1850


Plymouth: 7 March 1850


Sydney: 29 June 1850


London: 20 May 1851


Hobart: 29 August 1851


Plymouth: 15 July 1851


Hobart: 2 November 1851

Many records suggest Earl Grey was the first vessel but in fact there were two vessels into Port Phillip, the William Stewart and the Mahomed Shah, that preceded this voyage and arrived unannounced much to the angst of local officials.

Four ships came to Adelaide and it is these that are the main subject of this article. They are indicated in bold in the above table. The list of passengers for the Roman Emperor has not survived but attempts have been made to compile a record. The Register newspaper listed many of the girls on the Inconsistant. Passenger lists for the Elgin and Ramilies have survived and can be seen at the usual repositories.

Why was there such antagonism towards these particular emigrants when the Australian colonies were the result of emigration from all parts of the United Kingdom and parts of Europe is a complex matter.

The primary problem lay with the selection process, because it invariably ignored the root problem, namely poverty, and as a consequence this was not resolved in any way. The problem was just relocated and no effort was made to give the girls any serious support in their new country. Clearly, from Adelaide newspaper reports on the behaviour of the girls, it quickly became evident there was a problem.

The problems experienced also rested on the orphans themselves and the preconceived bias of the colonists. Of these there is little doubt that the girls themselves contributed a part of the negativity although more often than not their anti-social behaviour was merely a mode of survival in a society that did little about the welfare of its citizens experiencing difficulties.

To follow the plight of these girls, one can use contemporary newspapers of the day together with 150 years of hindsight to develop a succinct picture.

The process
Typical of governments run by aristocratic arrogant amateurs, Britain did not even bother to advise anyone in Australia of the first shipment of the 51 orphan girls on the William Stewart. Lieutenant-Governor Charles Joseph La Trobe at Port Phillip was taken aback by the whole affair. He protested to his masters in Sydney that, The arrival of these girls being unannounced and unexpected, no steps could be taken for their disposal (or) for the protection of single females forming their first engagement.

The program was primarily designed to remove potential long-term liabilities known as ‘the permanent dead-weight’, a term used to categorise those young people from the Irish Workhouse system who were likely to remain in the workhouse for a long time and relocate them to the other side of the planet and into the responsibility of someone else under the guise that the project was equally of benefit to both parties. To prevent people from entering the workhouse for the sole purpose of obtaining assisted migration, the scheme was limited to those who had previously been resident in the workhouse for at least one year and young females were considered the most suitable candidates. As it turned out, there was of course a better chance of betterment in the Australian colonies than was ever likely in Ireland. There has to be some doubt, that this was thought through and was likely just plain luck! In reality, a simple relocation of a poor uneducated girl to Australia does not change anything and she remains a poor uneducated girl!

Clearly the priority in Ireland was to clear workhouses of orphan girls to save costs, both present and future and, in spite of assurances to the contrary, little thought was given to the skills of the candidates!

Apart from a lack of on-going support, there was an appalling absence of any duty of care by the authorities and it is well documented that many girls were victims to the lustful crews on some vessels, meaning that they arrived in Australia as poor uneducated sluts! No wonder the locals encouraged by the press maligned these children as immoral dregs of the workhouse, ignorant of the skills required of domestic servants. (Irish Famine Memorial Sydney)

Just how out of step the authorities were with community sentiment is best demonstrated by the fact that in 1853, well after the demise of the scheme as far as Westminster was concerned, the legislature in Adelaide was still keen to accept Irish orphans!

The shortcomings of the orphans
The girls themselves had to share the blame for some of the resultant publicity. There were plenty of examples where the girls confirmed the general opinion as there is little doubt that some displayed a disinclination to learn along with a notorious Irish temper. Some with entrepreneurial skills took to prostitution (after all many were already labelled as a slovenly and promiscuous) rather than the more socially acceptable occupations available for unskilled young women.

The girls did have their supporters but they were often drowned out.

There is no doubt that in spite of their background and hardships endured, the bulk of the girls were able to put the past behind them and become contributors to Australian society.

• Mary Clarke 16 and Amelia/Emily Blakely 18, arrived Adelaide on the Roman Emperor in October 1848 sponsored by the Coleraine Workhouse, were listed in the Adelaide prostitute returns of 20 September 1850. (Australian Joint Copying Project CO 13/70-–40)

• Susan Allen 19 arrived Adelaide on the Inconsistant and married Andrew Porter 5 February 1857 Adelaide. She died 14 April 1906 Kent Town, the mother of ten children.(South Australian BDM Registry records)

• Mary Crotty, arrived Adelaide on the Elgin in September 1849, married Owen Gilmore 18 September 1850 Adelaide. (South Australian BDM Registry record)

• Johanna Sheridan arrived Roman Emperor in October 1848, married Edward Jeffers 3 March 1853 Adelaide SA. She is recorded in the Destitute Asylum records 1854 as age 21 of Wright Street Adelaide, minus a husband and with a son, John born 14 July 1853. (State Records: GRG 28/4/0000/1 Register of cases of destitution 1849–57)

Children Apprenticeship Board Office: It has been reported to the Board, through an authentic channel, that there are twenty-one of the Irish Orphans upon the streets of Adelaide; indeed, there appears to be a greater number of Orphans than any other class of females, and it is supposed that this may be traced in a great degree to the want of immediate parental control… (South Australian Government Gazette: 11 October 1849 p467a)

The bias of the colonists
The scheme was relatively short-lived and lasted a mere two years because many groups saw Australia being flooded with Irish immigrants at the expense of capable English people. Some of the more responsible elements avoided the racial elephant in the room, but clearly racism was in the community mind, an unfortunate long term feature of our society that constantly lurks in the background.

Overt racism was evident in both the administration and the community as the different treatment of these girls by the authorities in New South Wales clearly demonstrated. The orphans who failed to secure employment were housed in the Barracks but unlike the Scottish or English women in transit, the Irish orphans were forced in to unravelling old ropes for wadding—under guard. According to immigration agent, Captain HH Browne, whose dislike of the scheme was well known, singling out the Irish girls for punishing work was necessary!

This antagonism continued for years with the orphan girls being confronted with heated local hostility. Their plight was not helped by the widespread knowledge that the Earl Grey supported the revival of convict transportation and this made any program promoted by him fall under a cloud as by 1850, most Australians vehemently opposed transportation.

Many citizens could see no good in any of the orphans. Not only did their youth count against them but their lowly origins, the stigma of the workhouse, their lack of education and their Irishness counted against them. Their lack of any work experience made them difficult to place in employment.

Given that it cost the same to bring experienced immigrants to Australia, many began to wonder if the drain on colonial funds was worth it. This in turn caused resentment that was reflected in the media.


The 2012 Congress conducted at the Adelaide Convention Centre over the last days of March was the best one that I have experienced. The factors that made this so were:
   • the venue facilities and location
   • the large supporting exhibition
   • the mix of speakers.

Apparently the numbers attending the Congress were also at record levels too, demonstrating that the organising committee got the mix right. I was particularly pleased that the speakers included some new faces with new topics. To engage Colleen Fitzpatrick to speak on a very topical subject—using DNA and genealogy techniques to identify an unknown baby from the Titanic disaster to coincide with the centenary of the sinking was sheer genius.

On a personal level, I am particularly chuffed with the success as I was the SA Genealogy & Heraldry Society President who encouraged the Society to nominate to sponsor the Congress in 2002, determined the theme and then successfully won the presentation rights in Melbourne in 2003 against stiff competition from two other groups.

If I have any criticism, it is the failure to attract any involvement by HistorySA (The History Trust of SA). The failure of this government body to be involved in any way was disgraceful and the management should be hanging their heads in shame. The largest history conference in the southern hemisphere this century to date and HistorySA fails to show itself and thereby ignore its charter is very poor indeed. Let’s hope that in 30+ year’s time when South Australia’s turn to present the Congress comes round again that HistorySA supports what is in reality by far the largest grassroots movement in historical research!

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