The Doric Columns
Scottish Emigration was no new phenomenon. From the 13th century on there had been a steady flow, mostly to Germany and Scandinavia. In the 17th century, during the 30 Years War, maybe 60,000 Scottish soldiers fought as mercenaries and many other Scots went to Ulster in the same period. From 1700 to 1815 up to 80-90,000 may have left Scotland for overseas, including about 20,000 Highlanders and Islanders leaving for North America between 1763 and 1775, and another wave after the failure of the potato crop in 1782/3. At this time Highland landlords were dead set against emigration: they wanted people for the collection of kelp (seaweed, burnt to make soda), for fishing and to serve in family regiments in the Napoleonic wars. It was only after 1815 that migration came to be seen as a safety valve for the Highlands and Islands, most particularly in the period of the great potato famine, 1845-56.
Scotland never suffered the huge mortality that hit Ireland because only 200,000 were affected by poverty and hunger, compared with 3M Irish. Thanks to the efficiency of the relief effort the Scottish figure had dropped to 70,000 by 1848. But by then what we have come to call ‘donor fatigue’ was also setting in. Landlords could see little improvement to the economy as a result of the relief works they had instigated and calculated that the closing down of the Central Board of Management for Highland Relief would mean a great increase in the poor rates that they would have to pay. There was much talk of chronic ‘Celtic laziness’, backed by dubious racial theorising and a fear that continued relief would merely perpetuate dependence. Profits to be made from black cattle were down, while sheep farming was looking up. Several large estates were virtually insolvent and the trustees running them, accountants and lawyers in Edinburgh and Glasgow, were responsible in law for a rigorous adherence to the bottom line.
There was undoubtedly coercion, with the many in arrears over their rent being offered a choice of a free passage or eviction from their crofts. Between 1841 and 1861 the population of the West Coast above Ardnamurchan and the Inner and Outer Hebrides went down by a third: Lewis, the Uists, Barra, Tiree, Mull and Skye lost most. After that, though emigration continued apace, it was largely from the Lowlands, driven not by destitution but by the prospect of better opportunities. A peak was reached in the 1920s, with 363,000 leaving for the US and Canada in that decade, and hundreds of thousands going to England, too. The Canadian Pacific Railroad Company had actively promoted Canada as a destination ever since it had been allocated 25 million acres between Winnipeg and the Rockies in 1880. It needed a steady flow of Scotsmen and women to open up this vast area.
From 1846 to 1855 over 2M people sailed across the Atlantic to the West. This amounted to nearly half as many as in the 70 years from the time of the Independence Declaration to 1845. Most of these immigrants were impoverished people without civil rights. They fled from political upheavals and famine in the hope of starting their new life in a homeland, worthy of human beings. But business people and tourists made this journey too.
For most of the passengers this sea journey was to become a time of hard tests and great misery. On the mail boats there were so many people pressed together that undernourishment and illnesses occurred more and more frequently. This state of affairs improved only with the introduction of the Steamships which with effect from the middle of the 19th century enticed the passengers away from the mail boats. As long as the immigrants crowded on the mail boats the crossing became a real nightmare for many. On average such a journey took 35 to 40 days, but often twice as long in bad weather. The immigrants were accommodated between decks, normally up to 800 people on a 1000 ton ship. One has to imagine the steerage as a dark smelly room which due to the large number people caused agoraphobia. The ships bottom was sometimes positioned so low within the cargo space that water could freely ingress through the planks. Rats were a familiar sight and fresh air came only through the hatches. However bad weather these hatches were frequently tightly closed causing stench due to lack of ventilation. The hygienic devices, of which there were hardly any or very few, the generation of the smell became even worse.
Even whilst asleep, the steerage passengers were not able to forget the daily inconveniences. Sleep hardly came into consideration on 1.80 metre long bunks, which were arranged in 2 or 3 tiers, one on top of the other. The bunks were 45 centimetres wide, or also 1.80 metres wide, whereby more than four passengers often then had to be accommodated in one bunk. As the main deck was off limits during stormy weather, the conditions became even more aggravated. To make matters worse, clothing and the bedding was, for the most part, wet through, as the hatch covers were not closed in time when the storms began and waves lashed into the steerage area. Generally, nothing dried until the end of the voyage, so everything remained damp and smelt accordingly. After the conditions in the steerage area and the situation of the passengers leaked out to the public by various investigations. Parliament felt compelled to pass the Passenger Ship Law of 1848. A minimum space requirement was now stipulated for each passenger. However, Shipowners and Captains took no notice of this law for economic reasons. Precisely at a time when rigid rules were laid down for relationships between sexes, on the majority of the emigrant ships there was not even separate areas for men and women.
With crowds of people pushed together in small spaces, smells and dirt could not be avoided. On one occasion a Canadian Government Inspector found during investigations on the mail boat "Lady MacNaughton" that the few vacant spaces between decks were filled with ship biscuit leftovers, bones, rags and all types of rubbish, all rotting and full of maggots. The stench was considered to be worse than the filth as one could shut ones eyes in order not to see the dirt, but the stench was ever present. The smell of rotting wood and that of earlier and new cargo intermingled with the odour of hundreds of people producing an unbearable stench.
Hermann Melville, the author of Moby Dick remembers his time as a crew member on a transatlantic ship. When one week after sailing "one put one's head through the front hatch one could believe that one was placing one's head into a suddenly opened cesspit.
But not only stench and dirt caused the passengers between decks much trouble. For their health the completely inadequate food was surely more detrimental with which they had to exist for weeks and months. A shipowner admitted openly that the normal diet was adequate to prevent dying of starvation but not to survive and thrive." Small wonder therefore that on some ships ten percent of the passengers died on the sea. The surviving passengers were almost always undernourished when they finally set foot on land.
At the beginning of the flood of immigrants the passengers had to bring their own food for consumption on board, but later a law was passed to ensure minimum rations were available. The Shipowners and Captains, however, found many ways to evade such legislation. It was for instance customary to have the required provisions on board at the time of sailing but to send back to land after sailing a large part of the provisions on with the help of escort vessels. It also happened that food was sold to the immigrants at cut throat prices instead of being distributed free of charge as prescribed. A further difficulty was the preparation of food. On nearly all ships the cooking facilities were totally insufficient for the number of passengers. Often the facilities could not be used at all in bad weather. It can be taken from a contemporary report that often only six cooking facilities were available for 400 passengers. A constant battle raged over the preparation of meals. Women travelling on their own often had no choice but to starve for days on end. Sometimes the ships cook would prepare meals for the immigrants but demand payment for the privilege. Thus bribery became the only means of acquiring several meals per day. Poorer passengers without the required financial resources had to make do with one warm meal per day or even one meal every other day.
An equally big problem was the drinking water supply. A law stated that each adult passenger was entitled to 3 litres of fresh water daily. Many ships. however. obtained their water from rivers and this was often not fresh. Furthermore the storage of water in barrels left a lot to be desired. According to legislation water was to be kept in clean barrels provided for the purpose, but in actual practice this did not occur. Consequently the water was often putrid and practically undrinkable upon distribution, and led to diseases such as cholera, smallpox and typhoid.
On some ships these diseases spread to such an extent that a captain recorded the following:- "it is a miracle, indeed, that so many survived the journey." Of course the immigrants were medically examined before going on board the ships, but these examinations were more than superficial and correspondingly useless. Feared more than other diseases was typhoid. This disease was widespread whenever many people stayed together and it became known as "jail fever or camp fever". When the wave of immigration reached its climax and the number of typhoid cases on the ships increased dramatically, the disease was called "ship fever".
Despite all the difficulties, migration continued across the Atlantic to the land of promise. America. without diminishing. Fortunately the journeys were not always difficult. On some mail-boats the immigrants formed self-help groups in order to cope with the adversities of the journey. They cared for the sick, attempted to protect themselves against theft and helped women who travelled alone to resist encroachment from the crew and other passengers.
Around the middle of the 19th century some 0.25M people crossed the Atlantic on average and up to 0.50M during peak periods. The mail boats transported ambitious cargoes ranging from rails for railways to French wine. With the introduction of steam ships to the traffic across the Atlantic mail boats became less viable. By 1863 steam ships had gained a 45% share of the passenger traffic and by 1866 the percentage had grown to 81% The mail boats managed to remain competitive for a while carrying heavy cargos such as grain and coal. By 1878 however 3 of the 5 major lines had been shut down, namely the Red Star Line, The Blue Swallowtail Line and the Dramatic Line. The trail blazing Black Ball Line ceased trading after the summer of 1878 and most ocean-going mail boats were turned into cash. On the 18th May 1881 the last mail boat arrived in New York. She was appropriate named "NE PLUS ULTRA" - No Further."
Canada rose as a nation out of British North America. The nation was born when 4 of the larger regions (Québec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) joined together on 1 July 1867. ‘Co-Chaidreachas’ (confederation) is the Gàidhlig term used to describe when provinces join together to create a new country. Through time the other provinces joined them. Newfoundland was the last province to join Canada, in 1949.
"Free settlers" such as farmers and traders also emigrated to Australia seeking new opportunities, or assisted by emigration societies encouraged by colonists to help with the labour shortage. This was especially the case in the mid-19th century during the Irish famine, and also large numbers of Scottish emigrants from the Highlands (1851-1859) were assisted by the Highland and Island Emigration Society. Emigrants made a variety of new lives for themselves in Australia and New Zealand; they found work on farms, in industry and building railways. Emigration to Australia peaked during the 1850s when many people hoped to find their fortune on the newly discovered goldfields.
Child emigration was undertaken by religious and charitable organisations with Canada and Australia being the main destinations. The Children's Friend Society, established in 1830, sent out its first party of child migrants to Australia in 1832. In 1844 the Ragged School Movement began, and sent out 150 children to New South Wales in 1849. In 1850 Parliament legalised Poor Law Guardians to fund emigration of children to the colonies.
QUEEN OF NATIONS.
- the Queen of Nations was described on her arrival at Auckland in 1874 as an Aberdeen Clipper built in 1861. She made only one voyage to New Zealand. She sailed from the Mersey on March 17, and proceeded to Belfast to take in a full complement of immigrants, and finally sailed on March 21, under Captain Donald. She carried light winds and fine weather to the Equator, which was crossed on April 23. On the 22nd of the following month the meridian of the Cape was passed. She experienced a succession of south-east gales, which ran the vessel down to 54 degrees south. A few days before sighting the Three Kings, on July 2, the vessel was in company with the James Wishart, and the 2 ships sailed in company until arrival at Auckland on July 5. Three deaths occurred during the voyage. The passage occupied 105 days from Belfast, and the James Wishart took 106 from Gravesend.
About a week before the arrival of the Queen of Nations at Auckland great excitement was caused by a false report being circulated that the ship had been wrecked and all the passengers and crew had perished.
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