Landing At Dover from Irish Steam Packet c.1840s
The great tide of emigration, interrupted only by the American War of Independence (1775-83) and the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), continued into
Emigration (The Great Famine 1845-9)
This is the story of how that immense tragedy came to pass. Despite the disastrous state of Ireland before the Great Famine, emigration was slow and sporadic.
The second successive failure of the potato crop in 1846 produced a revolutionary change of attitude; now the Irish people, plagued by starvation and disease, saw emigration as the only escape from a land of death. In 1846, 106,000 people emigrated and this number increased in thousands yearly, reaching 1/4 of a million in 1851. Between the years 1845-55 two million people had emigrated, after which there was a gradual decline. However, emigration has continued to remain a significant social problem up to the present time.
A notable characteristic of the Great Famine exodus was that whole families rather than individuals emigrated, and all social classes resorted to emigration as a means of escape from death and destitution. The poorest cottiers were the first to leave followed by small-holders, then the better off farmers and town and city dwellers.
Tens of thousands of the very poorest emigrants, who could not afford the Trans-Atlantic passage, went across the Irish Channel to Britain. Many, probably the majority, never escaped from destitution. They became the tramps who were to wander around the towns and cities of Britain. They were not only poor, emaciated and unemployable, but often fever-ridden as well. During the period 1836-51 about 3/4 of the emigrants who left the country went to the United States, 19,000 went to Australia and the remainder went to Canada. Not all of them could afford to pay their own fare.
Famine emigrants were offered three types of assistance:
The Orphan Emigration Scheme
According to the report of the Census Commissioners for 1841, the annual average emigration between 1831 and 1841 was 40,346, and from 30th June in the latter year to the end of 1845 it averaged 61,242 per annum. Such, however, was the effect of the potato blight and the warning voice of the pestilence, that the number rose to 105,955 in 1846, after which the emigration seemed to become an epidemic. In 1847 the numbers who left the country more than doubled those who departed in the previous year.
The emigration reached its highest point in 1851, when the numbers amounted to 249,721, after which they gradually decreased to 150,222 in 1854. Long after the extreme poor, the panic-stricken, and the destitute, had passed to other countries, or had found a refuge in the workhouses, or a rest in the grave; one could see the remarkable spectacle of whole families - usually well-dressed, intelligent-looking people - of all ages and sexes, the mere infant as well as the extremely aged, passing through the metropolis on the way to the emigrant vessel.
Not the least peculiar feature in the extensive emigration of this period was the amount of money transmitted to their friends in Ireland by those who had already gone away - remittances which rose from the sum of £460,000, in 1848, to £1,404,000, in 1852, and according to the reports of the Emigration Commissioners, amounted in contributions, either in the form of prepaid passages, or of money sent home by the Irish emigrants, from 1848 to 1854, both inclusive, to as much as £7,520,000 - remittances "which afford so honorable a testimony of the self-denial and affectionate disposition of the Irish’.
This concentration, compared with the dispersion which uniformly occurs when unoccupied land can be had for nothing, greatly accelerates the attainment of prosperity, and enlarges the fund which may be drawn upon for further emigration. Before the adoption of the Wakefield system, the early years of all new colonies were full of hardship and difficulty: the last colony founded on the old principle, the Swan River settlement, being one of the most characteristic instances. In all subsequent colonization, the Wakefield principle has been acted upon, though imperfectly, a part only of the proceeds of the sale of land being devoted to emigration: yet wherever it has been introduced at all, as in South Australia, Victoria, and New Zealand, the restraint put upon the dispersion of the settlers, and the influx of capital caused by the assurance of being able to obtain hired labor, has, in spite of many difficulties and much mismanagement, produced a suddenness and rapidity of prosperity more like fable than reality.The self-supporting system of Colonization, once established, would increase in efficiency every year; its effect would tend to increase in geometrical progression: for since every able-bodied emigrant, until the country is fully peopled, adds in a very short time to its wealth, over and above his own consumption, as much as would defray the expense of bringing out another emigrant, it follows that the greater the number already sent, the greater number might continue to be sent, each emigrant laying the foundation of a succession of other emigrants at short intervals without fresh expense, until the colony is filled up. The Irish Catholic emigrant settled in cities and towns rather than in the open country.
After 1822 emigration to Australia was more attractive than to America due to the fact that it was mainly aid-provided. Convict transportation from Ireland pre-1822 amounted to only 82 people, 9 of whom were females. However between 1821 and 1840, 636 people from County Clare were transported to NSW, principally for petty crime - stealing bread, butter, clothing, killing sheep for meat, all done in the name of survival. More serious crimes, including the stealing of cattle, earned life sentences. These convicts sent home word about the superior kind of life available in the colonies, which set the pattern for subsequent emigration especially from Tipperary, Clare and South East Galway, evoking memories of Whiteboys, Terry Alts and Ribbonmen.
In the 1820's quite a number of free settlers with capital entered Australia. They were mostly the sons of landlords, of merchant and professional classes. Some commissioned officers at British Army outposts such as India, sold their commissions and for the money purchased ranches in Australia. For £1,000 one could purchase more than 2,000 acres of good land. They needed shepherds, stockmen, ploughmen, artisans, miners, and they in turn came from amongst evicted tenants and others as 'indentured' labourers, whose passages were mostly paid for.
'Improving' landlords such as Col Wyndham, offered free passage to tenants and their families to emigrate to Canada or Australia. Many families took up of the offer; their only alternative was eviction. The poor law was enacted in 1838 and the county was divided into Poor Law Unions each administered by a Board of Guardians. Originally, there were only four unions in Clare - Ennis, Kilrush, Scariff and Ennistymon. Each had a workhouse which at Ennis and Kilrush could accommodate 800 inmates while Scariff and Ennistymon were expected to cater for 600. Between 1850 and 1852 other workhouses were provided at Corofin, Ballyvaughan, Kildysart and Tulla. Most of the inmates were evicted tenants and orphans, and others left destitute, by the Great Famine.
The Boards of Guardians discovered that it was cheaper to pay the passage to Australia for an able-bodied inmate, than to maintain him in the workhouse, and very many of those in receipt of poor law aid availed of such offers. At that time also there was an imbalance in the colony between males and females, and the governors were clamouring for greater female immigration. The Boards of Guardians in the Poor Law Unions considered that they should lessen the burden on their finances, by offering free passage to Australia to orphan girl inmates between the ages 14 and 18 years. The workhouses during the period 1840 -1862, were homes for the most destitute children in Ireland. The 'Thomas Arbuthnot" came into Sydney on the 3rd February 1850, with a cargo of orphans, including eighty-two girls from the County Clare workhouses. A number of wealthy citizens in Australia to-day are direct descendants of those girls.
The colonial bounty system, to aid would-be immigrants, came into being in 1837 but was revised in 1840. It granted pecuniary aid under certain conditions to persons bringing into NSW from the UK (including Ireland) agricultural labourers, shepherds, tradesmen, female domestics and farm servants. The sum of £38 would be paid as a bounty for any married man, of the above description, and his wife, neither of whose ages on embarkation to exceed 40 years; £5 for each child between 1 and 7 years; £10 for each child between 7 and 15 years and £15 for each above 15 years; £19 would be allowed for every unmarried female domestic or farm servant not below 15 nor above 30 years, coming out under the protection of a married couple as part of a family.
The Gold Rush of the 1850s brought thousands of emigrants into Victoria, almost overnight. In the year 1856, more than 270 emigrants from Clare arrived on assisted passages into Victoria; Tipperary were next with 206 and it is remarkable that all Leinster including Dublin City only provided 222. Large concentrations of Clare people settled at Ballarat and Bendigo. Emigration to South Australia only began in the 1840's and was much encouraged by Charles Bagot, land agent for Bindon Blood who lived at Rockforest, Kilkeedy and who was supervisor of the Burren road system.
He chartered a boat, the Birman, which arrived into Adelaide in 1840. His son discovered copper at Kapunda. Several North Clare families, probably prompted by Bagot, settled in the district - Kerin, Canny, Linnane, Davoren etc and all have descendants there to-day. Dr Blood, first medical doctor in Kapunda and first Mayor of the town, emigrated from Corofin in 1844. The Clare Valley, the great wine-producing area in South Australia, and the town of Clare are name after the County of Clare in Ireland.
Many of the County Clare people became prominent in the professional and business life of Australia. People such as Michael Durack and his family from Maherareagh, in the Parish of Iniscaltra. They arrived as an 'indentured labourer' into NSW in May 1853. His son Patsy Durack extended his ownership of land over thousands of square miles. Dame Mary Durack now living in Perth, wrote Kings in Grass Castles describing in detail the fabulous achievements of the Duracks. Paddy Hannon born at Gurteen, Quin, on 24 April 1840, son of John Hannon and Bridget Lynch, discovered two nuggets of gold north of Coolgardie on 15th June 1893 and this was the beginning of the fabulous 'Golden Mile'.
A statue of him stands on the main street of Kalgoorlie and a bust of him is to be seen in the DeValera Library in Ennis which was presented to the Clare Co Council in 1988
by the Corporation of Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia.
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