The Farthest Promised Land — English Villagers, New Zealand Immigrants of the 1870s
3 Agents and Emigrants, 1871–73
3 Agents and Emigrants, 1871–73
LIKE THE UNION movement of the Revolt, the New Zealand emigration drive was untidy, improvised and disunited. The methods of the two organisations provide interesting parallels, although, as one would expect, their fortunes in the field tended to follow an inverse pattern. A brief surge of heightened industrial activity in Britain in the early 1870s favoured the rural unions, while hampering emigration. The village labourers saw their wages rise by about twenty per cent, and there were plenty of tempting offers for those prepared to migrate to the cities. With a rising optimism as to their prospects in their homeland, most of them turned a deaf ear to the persuasions of the New Zealand agents, and the colony's recruitment drive dragged badly. However, the New Zealand authorities used these disappointing early years to steadily bring their policies more into line with the social realities of rural England, and to improve their recruitment organisation. When the tide turned against the rural unions, the farm labourers would find New Zealand ready with an emigration programme well attuned to their needs.
When he accepted the newly-created position of Agent-General for New Zealand in the United Kingdom, in March 1871, Dr Featherston had just returned from an official visit to London. He had been one of two commissioners sent there in 1869 to negotiate with the Imperial Government, for the retention of two British regiments in the colony, as a counter o the continuing Maori threat in the North Island. The commissioners failed on this their primary mission, as the British Government was determined to disentangle itself from further involvement in the colonists' wars, but they were able to induce the home government to guarantee a £1,000,000 loan for roads to open up native districts. The commissioners also made enquiries concerning immigration, and went beyond their instructions to arrange for the immediate recruitment of a small number of Scandinavian immigrants, whom they considered would make ideal pioneer settlers for the North Island bush. Featherston therefore combined the experience of a New Zealand settler and administrator with an up-to-date knowledge of homeland affairs relevant to his new task. He wrote promptly on 3 March 1871 to C. R. Carter, who was in England, with the request, ‘If you have nothing better to do – will you enquire about offices at the West End, and also about a house a short way out of London, and near a rail.’1 Featherston left New Zealand in May, reaching London late in July, and with Carter's help had soon taken a furnished villa at Croydon and established the headquarters offices of the New Zealand immigration drive in eight rooms leased at 7 Westminster Chambers.page 37
Isaac Featherston 1813–1876
The assignment which Featherston now took in hand was no simple one. To the task of finding suitable immigrants were added staff problems in England, and difficulties in maintaining liaison with the authorities in New Zealand. The division of authority in the Colony between the general and the provincial governments was a recurrent source of friction and confusion. By the 1870 Immigration and Public Works Act the General Government could only conduct immigration requested by the provincial superintendents. Featherston left New Zealand without any specific directions on immigration, and it was many months before the despatches he received began to add up to a clear picture of the colony's requirements. Fortunately he did not delay but, as he wrote in a despatch of 16 November 1871, proceeded to act ‘more from my knowledge of the mind of the Ministry than from any positive or definite instructions.’2 As there was no emigration going on, ‘except in miserable driblets to Canterbury and Otago’,3 Featherston employed agents to ascertain what emigration might be depended on from England and Scotland, and on their reports proving discouraging, turned his immediate attention to Germany and Scandinavia, where he made encouraging arrangements which, however, did not in he event live up to their promise. In any case, colonial public opinion would not have accepted anything but a predominantly British immigration flow.
Featherson soon began to give his main attention to perfecting his page 38 recruitment organisation in Britain. Here his lot was greatly complicated by the failure of the General Government to insist that the provincial governments inform their emigration agents that they no longer had any powers to recruit for their provinces except as authorised by the Agent-General.4 Thus Carter's recruitment campaign of September-October 1871 in Cornwall owed much of its frustration to the absurd situation of being in competition with a Canterbury agent, offering better terms than Featherston had authorised Carter to give.5 This situation was eventually tidied up, particularly by the passing of the 1871 Immigration and Public Works Act, in November, empowering the General Government to take the entire control of emigration.6 Former provincial agents provided valuable members of Featherston's staff, and to them he added other men, such as Carter, with experience of New Zealand's needs. On 1 and 9 December 1871, Featherston called the principal members of his staff into conference. They agreed unanimously that an emigration drive of the scale contemplated by the New Zealand Government was impossible unless a uniform system was adopted, and that it was utterly beyond the power of the desired class of emigrants to meet the cost of their passage in cash, so that a promissory note system was a necessity. Featherston accordingly drew up uniform regulations,7 basing them on various provincial regulations already issued by the Governor,8 and including provision for promissory notes where the passage money could not be met in cash. In doing this, Featherston was aware that he was exceeding his powers, but was gratified when shortly after, he received a despatch authorising this very course of action.9 He reported that the emigration agents condemned his regulations as illiberal, while he himself regarded them as too liberal. He considered, however, that a temporary generosity was necessary to start a stream of emigration.10 Once it was flowing he thought increased contributions towards passage money should be required, to make the scheme largely self-supporting. Featherston's optimism failed to be justified by the recruitment results of 1872 and 1873, and the cabinet, which initially had received his regulations with approbation, responded to growing impatience in the colony by sending from time to time instructions to liberalise the terms.
The inadequate flow of immigration provided fuel for provincial rivalries. A major and clearly acknowledged aim of the immigration and public works policy was colonisation of previously unoccupied parts of the North Island, so that the growing strength of the European population would effectively counter the Maori threat, and relieve the colony of heavy defense expenditure.11 Although nearly two-thirds of the European population was in the South Island, the colony had in 1869 accepted a largely North Island cabinet, because these men put forward a policy which seemed to offer hope of an early solution of the ‘native difficulty’. In line with this policy, Wellington and Hawke's Bay, the two provinces which had suffered most in the wars of the late 'sixties, received far more than their ‘share’ of assisted immigration in the first years of the scheme. page 39 The other provinces became restive when the meagre immigration flow proved quite inadequate to their needs. In mid 1871 the Otago Provincial Council voted £12,000 for the despatch of immigrant ships independently of those arranged by the Agent-General,12 and later in the year Thomas Birch and James Seaton ‘two settlers with many years' residence in Otago’ were appointed by the General Government to go to Britain as perambulating home agents, on the recommendation of the Superintendent and Provincial Council of Otago.13 On 17 May 1873 the Canterbury Superintendent wrote to Vogel complaining that his province's interests were not sufficiently looked after, as ‘emigrants choose their own Provinces, and their advisers are North Island men’.14 The Canterbury request for permission to send home an agent to act for the province under direction of the Agent-General, was granted. The appointment went to Andrew Duncan, a provincial council member, who had begun his colonial career as a labourer, and worked his way up to become a successful seedsman and shopkeeper.15 Among other colonists sent home as emigration agents was William Burton, a Taranaki settler, appointed by his province's executive in June 1874. Featherston considered that some of the agents sent to him from New Zealand were of little use, but Duncan and Burton proved very effective, and as New Zealand emigration moved into closer association with the rural unions, their ability to establish an easy rapport with the village labourer proved a valuable asset.
In its developed form Featherston's immigration organisation consisted of three main elements, the London office staff, several peripatetic full-time agents, and over a hundred part-time local agents. The London office, under Featherston's immediate supervision, was responsible for the central direction of the campaign, including widespread advertising, the directing of accepted emigrants to their ships, the inspection and chartering of vessels, and their despatch from the ports. The peripatetic agents, such as Duncan and Burton, visited likely districts and gave public lectures, drawing on their personal knowledge of the colony. They were commonly empowered also to approve applications on the spot, a useful arrangement for speeding up the paper work, and especially valuable in the particular circumstances of rural England, where quick decisions facilitated the rapid despatch of large parties from a district, while delay allowed interests opposed to emigration to undermine and frustrate the work. C. R. Carter held an exceptional position, being both one of the most useful of Featherston's office staff, and also one of the most gifted of the itinerant agents. He described his duties thus:
I had to deliver oral lectures on New Zealand: making out the quarterly emigration returns fell to my lot: sometimes I acted as Despatching Officer to our emigrant ships sailing from London, and once, one from Hamburg: I had to assist in preparing the Charter Parties for emigrant ships the Agent-General contracted for, and see them properly signed: Sometimes I had to correspond with the Local Agents: often I had to select and approve of large bodies of emigrants: and finally, the control of the printing and advertising was entirely in my hands.16page 40
Finally there were the local agents, people such as school teachers, booksellers, drapers, and estate agents, working on a commission basis. They distributed advertisements and application forms in their areas. Featherston considered them an essential intermediary between his London office and the intending emigrant; the New Zealand Government considered them an unnecessary expense.
Despite this impressive organisation, for more than two years the results achieved were, as we have seen, quite disappointing. In the circumstances of 1872–3 the most liberal of terms would probably not have greatly helped recruitment. When the Colonial Office learnt that the colony was asking Featherston to find 8,000 emigrants during 1872, Lord Kimberley, the Secretary of State, commented:
It is not easy I imagine to catch 8,000 English emigrants just now. It is curious to compare hypothesis with fact: the hypothesis being that there are a vast number of half starved Englishmen who would make good colonists; the fact that paupers are utterly unfit for colonists, and those who are fit are generally well employed at home, and don't want to go abroad.17
Though the colonists got nowhere near their 8,000 emigrants for 1872, within a year or two events were to prove that their hypothesis was nearer the truth than Lord Kimberley's version of the social facts. In the meantime the generous terms of Brogdens' recruitment offer tested the emigrant market fairly effectively, though of course not all intending emigrants wished to engage themselves as navvies. During 1872 Featherston despatched 6,292 assisted immigrants. 3,682 of them were English, but more than half of these were Brogdens' recruits. Featherston had therefore found only half of the 8,000 he had been asked for, and this the New Zealand government pointed out to him when it began to face increasingly vocal criticism in the harvest months of early 1873. Featherston's reply18 pointed out that Brogdens had proved such formidable competitors to his own recruitment that he had placed the whole of his staff at their disposal in order to get their contract disposed of and out of the way. Furthermore the government had hampered him by instructions not to land emigrants in the months of June, July and August (the southern winter), while it was difficult to get emigrants to move over the northern winter months of December, January and February. As a result, his effective emigration season was limited to the seven months from May to November. He was confident, however, that the future prospects of emigration were good. Interest in New Zealand was increasing daily in Britain, and the number of applications from intending emigrants, which had been 20 to 30 a day when he first arrived, had grown to between 120 and 150 by April 1873.19
Featherston was asked to find about 13,000 immigrants in 1873 and although the stream was certainly beginning to strengthen, New Zealand's hunger for labour was growing even faster, leading to ever-increasing impatience. A flood sufficient to satisfy the demand could hardly be expected while the British labour market remained buoyant and North page 41 America continued in active competition for emigrants. Nevertheless, something could be done about lesser obstacles, and over these years New Zealand public opinion and government policy moved steadily towards more liberal terms for immigrants, and finally to acceptance of free immigration. The facts of English rural poverty, repeatedly pointed out by Featherston's agents, were forcefully presented to the New Zealand public and government from other quarters also. Thus in May 1872 the Revd. G. C. Cholmondeley, of Heathcote near Christchurch, put his views on the subject to William Reeves, a member of the New Zealand cabinet, and at Reeves's request prepared a memorandum which Reeves forwarded to Featherston.20 Cholmondeley had served for abour fourteen years as curate of a large parish in Norfolk, had done a little recruiting for Canterbury Province in Gloucestershire in 1859, and had served as chaplain on an Australian emigrant ship. From his own knowledge of the eastern counties of England he maintained that the great majority of the working people would be quite unable to afford the fare from their parish to the port of embarkation. He also wrote of
… their ignorance, and, as a result of this, their fear of moving from their native place. The farmers, who are the chief employers of labour, are not slow to take advantage of this timidity. Lest immigration should cause a rise in the price of labour, they discourage it as much as possible, infecting doubts into their workmen's minds as to the possible motives of emigration agents.
Cholmondeley recommended that the colony carry out more effective propaganda among the working class, and that wherever necessary emigrants should be advanced the fare to the port of embarkation. On 5 June 1872 Featherston was directed to pay the cost of reaching the ship, and other expenses, in all cases where these proved a barrier to the emigration of desirable persons, and these instructions were repeated in despatches of 4 September and 23 November, 1872.21 Featherston was also directed on 6 July 1872 to relax the age limit of 45 for married men, where this would help to get desirable families; he replied that he was already doing so.
In May 1873 Dr R. H. Bakewell, recently returned from a voyage as Surgeon-Superintendent on a New Zealand immigrant ship, wrote three letters on New Zealand immigration to a London newspaper. These letters were promptly forwarded to the colony's Immigration Department.23 Bakewell first pointed out the many advantages which the United States and Canada enjoyed over New Zealand in the recruitment of immigrants, and then developed his main recommendation for the colony:
As to passage money, it is perfectly certain that you will never get any large immigration unless you pay the whole passage money. Even then New Zealand would hardly be on a level with the States, because the additional outfit for a long sea voyage, and the dread of the voyage itself would more than counterbalance the small payment required for emigrating to America.page 42
Bakewell pointed New Zealand to the example of Trinidad, where he had served as health officer of shipping, and examined all the immigrant ships arriving from India. Trinidad was providing free passages, including free outfits, to Indian coolies. The cost per head was as much as it took to bring an Englishman from England to New Zealand, and the result of the policy had been to take Trinidad from depression to prosperity.
The same message was contained in a letter to the Lyttelton Times, written on 24 September 1873 by James Jenkins, a citizen of Gloucester, whose willingness to assist the colony's emigration campaign was made use of a month or two later. Jenkins maintained that in England:
… people of the class who have to do hard and rough work, get so badly paid that they can, by no means of their own, hope to get money to better their condition by emigrating to your colony or elsewhere. They are helplessly wedded to the soil of old England, unless means can be provided, not only to take them away free but to induce them to see that the exchange will benefit them; and your colony, nor any other, will never be benefited by the wealth which would result from their labour could you obtain it….24
Jenkins then gave a number of examples from his area of working men who had had to abandon intentions of emigrating to New Zealand. One, a gardener of good character, with a family, had accumulated ten pounds by careful saving over a period of time, but was told that he must find fourteen pounds, and so had been unable to go. Jenkins claimed that he could multiply examples such as this.
It may be asked why the government's repeated instructions to Featherston to meet any expenses that were hindering worthwhile emigrants, had not been implemented in cases such as these. The simple explanation is probably that Featherston's emigration organisation was not sophisticated enough to handle such matters. Short of a thorough examination of the means of individual applicants, there was no way of deciding which were deserving of special consideration. Unless thoroughly administered, the widespread granting of concessions would create opportunities for dishonesty on the part of local agents, and lead to various anomalies which would cause hard feelings on the emigrant ships. There was really no simple half-way house between a uniform system of assisted immigration, and free immigration. Featherston hesistated to take the plunge, and make the terms completely free, though he apparently considered that he had been empowered to do so by clear instructions from New Zealand that he should make his terms as liberal as those offered by any other government. He wavered briefly in March 1873, and, in his own opinion ‘very unadvisedly offered not only free passages as far as money payments were concerned, but to abolish the system of promissory notes altogether’. Having promulgated new regulations to this effect on 10 March, he quickly decided that he had committed a grave blunder, and cancelled them on 17 March. His principal reasons were that the step would have given justifiable grounds of complaint to Brogdens, and to the page 43 firms he had contracted with for emigrants in Germany and Scandinavia, and that it would have rendered it difficult for the New Zealand Government to collect the promissory notes already given by immigrants.25 This vacillation of Featherston's is possibly to be accounted for by a severe illness he suffered in the early months of 1873.26 It was now clear that he would require unequivocal instructions from the government before he would introduce free immigration. Before we see how the New Zealand cabinet came to take this step, we must return to the unions of the Revolt, for their changed circumstances were encouraging their voices to become among the most potent of those calling for this very policy.
As we have seen, in the early stages of the Revolt, union attitudes to emigration were coloured by hopes of a new order in the homeland. Emigration agents, however, hopefully canvassed the unions, and unfortunately for all involved, among the most successful were those of the Brazilian Government. By means of extravagant promises about 1,000 emigrants were induced to leave for Brazil between May 1872 and February 1873. Most of these came from Warwickshire where the Brazilian Government early secured two local agents, one of them a delegate of the National Union; and a good number were from Gloucestershire, where somewhat later the secretary of the Gloucester district of the National Union was enlisted as a Brazilian agent. In Brazil the emigrants were sent to poorly-administered, isolated colonies in an unhealthy humid climate, and many of them died. When the facts became known in England, the National Union formally dissociated itself from all Brazilian emigration schemes. Most of the emigrants eventually moved from Brazil to the United States, or returned home to England with financial help from well-wishers both in England and Brazil.27 The dampening effects of this episode on all emigration recruitment among the unions can be imagined. James Jenkins, the Gloucester friend of New Zealand emigration, commenting in September 1872 on the sufferings of the labouring families that had left his neighbourhood for Brazil, wrote that their misfortunes were ‘sure to have, on the uneducated minds of the English agricultural labourers, a deterrent effect as to emigration in general’.
However, better news was coming from emigrants who had gone elsewhere. Queensland was the only British colony offering free passages in 1872, and in September 1872 both the National and the Kent Unions officially endorsed this scheme.29 The National's executive resolved to pay railway fares and provide outfits for members emigrating to Queensland as part of a policy of assisting surplus agricultural labourers to emigrate and they indicated that if other British colonies offered free passages, similar help would be given to their recruits from the union. By May 1873 the Kent Union had assisted fifty-five members to emigrate to Australia, twenty-nine to the U.S.A., and two elsewhere.30 The Kent Union continued to end further small parties to Queensland over the following years, while others were sent to South Australia when it began offering free passages late in 1873.page 44
The National Union's changed attitude to emigration found expression in a memorial from its executive committee to the Legislative Assembly of New Zealand, dated 15 May 1873, and signed by Joseph Arch as chairman, and three other committee members.34 The memorial first depicted the English farm labourers' condition thus:
Their homes have, in many cases been wretched in the extreme; their wages insufficient; and their food scant and unwholesome. It has been impossible for them to educate their children; to avoid the miseries of debt; or to make provision for old age; - and the result has been that after years of hopeless toil, during which they have had largely to appeal to public charity, they have been compelled to end their days as paupers in the Union Workhouse.
The memorial proceeded to tell of the formation of the National Union, with the aim of redressing these grievances. It stated that emigration had been found to afford the speediest solution of the many difficulties, but that unfortunately many English labourers were going to settle among ‘people who are aliens in customs, language, and religion’ in Brazil and other countries giving free passages. The committee felt that this was undesirable when there was an urgent need for them ‘in a land where their own tongue is spoken and their own government and customs prevail’. The memorial concluded by making its petition:
It is, however, vain to expect that the labourer will, unaided, find his way to the English Colonies; and we therefore appeal, through you, to the country you represent urging that free passages from an English port, if not from their homes, be provided for all eligible labourers and their families who are willing to seek your shores; and further, that provision be made for their reception and for their transfer to fields in which their labour may be most in demand. Should it be possible for your Government to meet our wishes, and so to attract to its own land the tide of emigration now flowing to Brazil and other countries, our Committee will do all in their power to see that only proper parties are allowed to avail themselves of your privilege.
On 5 July 1873, probably before this memorial was received, O'Rorke, the New Zealand Minister for Immigration, had written to Featherston page 46 authorising him to provide passages to and from the colony to representatives from ‘societies and organisations the members of which are fitted for emigration’. ‘Organised bodies’ of agricultural labourers and small farmers were singled out for special mention.35 There was no chance of persuading Arch to visit New Zealand at this stage, as he had decided early in the summer to accept an invitation from the Canadian Government to visit their country. He sailed for Canada on 28 August 1873 and arrived back in England on 18 November 1873. The initial New Zealand response to the memorial was a short note, dated 29 July 1873, from the Under Secretary for Immigration, asking the union to communicate with the Agent-General in London, who would inform them as to the terms of New Zealand emigration.36 This useless, low-level reply was justly criticised in the colony. There was as yet nothing to induce any officer of the union to make the long journey to New Zealand.
But a new day was about to dawn for New Zealand immigration. On 5 September 1873 a committee of the Legislative Council appointed to make a thorough examination of ‘the practical working and results of the immigration policy of 1870’,37 reported that although in general they considered that a system of immigration should be largely self-supporting, and that part payment of passage money in cash served to guarantee, as a general rule, an emigrant's eligibility as a new settler, yet in view of the urgent demand for labour in the colony and the competition for immigrants in the Home labour market, for a time free passages should be offered to immigrants. Meanwhile the New Zealand Premier had come to the same conclusion. This was Julius Vogel, who had first held cabinet office in June 1869, and whose meteoric rise to a dominant position in New Zealand politics was a direct result of his being the main spokesman for the immigration and public works policy. He had become premier on 8 April 1873, and with a desperate labour shortage threatening the success of his development policy, he took over the Immigration portfolio on 11 October 1873. His impact on the recruitment drive in Britain was immediate.
To overcome the slowness of mail communications, Vogel decided to make maximum use of the cable facilities available from Melbourne. The day he took over the portfolio, he cabled Featherston. His message began, ‘Am Immigration Minister. Correspond direct. Address telegrams “Vogel, Melbourne”, forwarding arranged’. A series of staccato instructions followed. Free passages were to be introduced immediately. Emigrants ere to be assembled in depots in advance of sailings, so that all ships could be despatched with a full complement. If possible, two fast steamers were to be chartered to sail early in December. (This would get extra labour to the colony in time for the harvest). If possible, twenty thousand emigrants were to be despatched in the ensuing six months. The message concluded, ‘Suggest try obtain cooperation of organization Joseph Arch connected with’.38 The importance of seeking the cooperation of the unions, and especially of Arch, was further emphasised in the despatches which followed the telegram. On 22 October 1873 Vogel himself wrote a page 47 second reply to the National Union's memorial, advising that free passages to New Zealand which they sought were now available. Vogel assured the union that every industrious immigrant blest with good health could rely on success in the colony and that ‘the position of a prosperous farmer is open to the immigrant who lands on the shores of New Zealand, no matter how poor he may be, if he is only gifted with temperate habits, frugality and industry.’ Arch was invited to visit New Zealand at the colony's expense, or to send his nominee.39 Vogel's letter was published in the Labourers' Union Chronicle of 17 January 1874.
Under Vogel's energetic direction the path of emigration to New Zealand was made as smooth as possible. To spur recruitment an order in council of 15 October 1873 introduced a system of free nominated immigration, under which any New Zealand resident could nominate friends or relatives for a free passage. The application forms, which were freely circulated throughout the colony, included a form letter which nominators were to address to their friends or relatives, with space provided in which they could, if they wished, add particulars of their own success, or other arguments in favour of emigrating to New Zealand. It was hoped that the receipt of such personal invitations, accompanied by that of the Agent-General, would greatly augment the flow of desirable persons offering themselves for selection. Vogel himself undertook the writing of a propaganda pamphlet on New Zealand. Featherston was directed to arrange for depots at the ports, not only to ensure full ships, but also because ‘allowing them to find lodgings anywhere must frequently entail the loss of some of the most desirable emigrants.’40 The earlier inhibitions about immigrants landing in New Zealand over the winter months seem to have silently disappeared.
Not only had the New Zealand administration begun to take all possible measures, but it seemed in these closing months of 1873 that all the stars in their courses had also begun to favour New Zealand immigration. In the United States the worst depression of the nineteenth century was heralded by the collapse of the great investment house of Jay Cooke and Company on 18 September 1873. News of the resulting hard times and unemployment had an almost immediate effect on British emigration to America. Andrew Duncan, who began work as Canterbury's immigration agent in Britain in mid-November 1873, reported in a letter from Glasgow, dated 26 November, that he had ‘arrived in good time to have the pick of men as trade is very bad in America, and every steamer arriving in England is loaded with people returning’.41 The number of emigrants leaving Britain for the United States declined yearly from 1873 to the end of the depression in 1878, falling from 89,500 to 22,150. Inevitably New Zealand's recruitment drive benefited from the wilting of its chief rival. This development was followed quickly by others of great significance, affecting rural England. Between Christmas 1873 and April 1874 the price of wheat fell by six shillings a quarter, and beef and mutton by two shillings a stone.42 The farmers now had additional cause for wishing to crush the rural unions, but they appear to have waited for the outcome of the general page 48 election of February 1874. When the Liberals were defeated and the Conservatives returned with their first handsome victory since 1841, the farmers had no further need to hesitate for fear of the political consequences of a frontal attack on a popular movement.43 On 21 March 1874 the farmers of Newmarket locked out all union men. The lock-out spread over much of eastern and southern England, until perhaps 6,000 labourers were thrown out of work. In Lincolnshire the Labour League came to a compromise agreement with the farmers, but the National fought on till 27 July, when the state of funds forced the executive to advise the men to return to work to gather in the harvest, while at the same time it reaffirmed its policy on migration and emigration. The lock-out had greatly weakened the National Union, but by rendering a strike policy impracticable it gave added impetus to emigration. Featherston, reading the signs of the times in April 1874, wrote:
It is infinitely easier to procure 40,000 emigrants, now that the Agricultural Unions have taken up emigration, than it was to obtain 5,000 when they were opposed to it. All the Unions are working heartily with me, being convinced that they can only hope to succeed in their present struggle by shipping off the surplus labour … The stream thus set flowing will not easily be stemmed, especially if the reports sent home by emigrants to their friends continue as favourable and encouraging as hitherto.44
Under the changed conditions Featherston had no cause to complain that English villagers could not be coaxed from their homes over the winter months. While in the three months December 1872 to February 1873 he had despatched from English ports only six ships with 675 emigrants, over the corresponding months of 1873–4 he despatched fifteen ships with 4,973 emigrants.
We will now return to the beginning of this new day in emigration to New Zealand, and follow the fortunes of the first large party of rural union recruits, to see how the new union-colonial government cooperation worked out in practice, and to gain further understanding of what the experience of emigrating meant in human terms. Vogel's telegram of 11 October 1873, inaugurating free passages, reached Featherston on 22 October, and he must have acted upon it promptly, as the news was published in the Labourers' Union Chronicle of 1 November 1873. Henry Taylor, the National Union's secretary, expressed his particular pleasure in making the announcement, owing to the numerous enquiries he had been receiving about emigration to New Zealand. On 4 November C. R. Carter attended a meeting of agricultural labourers at Milton-under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire, at the express request of Christopher Holloway, chairman of the Oxford district of the National Union. The villagers had received flattering reports on New Zealand from emigrants who had gone there over the previous eighteen months, and the meeting was a great success, with eight heads of families making applications at its close.45 Carter found that Holloway was interested in selecting a party of several hundred emigrants, page 49 and accompanying them to New Zealand, so that he could bring back a report on the colony. Carter reported back to Featherston, and a letter dated 6 November 1873, was sent to Holloway, making a firm offer. In conjunction with Taylor, the union's general secretary, Holloway was to select a large party (at least 200) of agricultural labourers and their families. He would receive a free passage to New Zealand and back, one pound a day for travelling expenses while in New Zealand, and subsistence money would be paid to his family at the rate of twenty-five shillings a week while he was away. These were generous terms to a man who had been earning only eleven or twelve shillings a week as a farm worker before the founding of the union the previous year. Holloway promptly arranged to see Featherston in London on 9 November. At this interview he accepted the terms, and an agreement was reached for special advertisements and handbills to be issued.
The New Zealand authorities were fortunate in the man they had enlisted. Carter reported that ‘the position that Mr Holloway occupies amongst the agricultural labourers appears to me but second to that of Mr Arch, who is now on a mission in Canada’.46 Holloway's background was very similar to Arch's.47 He was born in 1828, in the Oxfordshire village of Wootton, in a farm labourer's cottage. He grew up to become a farm labourer in the same parish, and married a local gloveress in 1850. Like Arch and many another of the union's leaders, his leadership talents were developed in the Methodist chapel. He was appointed a trustee of Wootton Chapel in 1864, at the relatively youthful age of 35. He had also become a local preacher, and, from 1870 at least, began to represent his chapel at the Oxford Methodist Circuit local preachers' meetings. He was also one of the chapel's class leaders. He was obviously an intelligent man, of good physique and considerable drive. To better himself, he cultivated an allotment which he rented at sixteen shillings and eightpence per annum from the Duke of Marlborough. In 1867 his first wife died, and he was left with one 14-year-old son, several other children having died. Shortly afterwards he married again, to a 28-year-old dressmaker from the nearby village of Enstone, and a son was born to them in 1869. When in 1872 the Oxfordshire farm workers began to follow those of Warwickshire and form unions, Holloway was well placed to take the chairmanship of the Wootton branch. Apart from his natural gifts and Methodist training, he was not overburdoned with dependants, both his parents being dead, and his own family small. He rose quickly in the union, being elected chairman of the Oxford district when it was formed in October 1872, and became a full-time union delegate the following year. He thus became widely known and respected among the agricultural labourers of Oxfordshire. He also represented his district at the meetings of the Nation Union's Executive Committee at Leamington.
Featherston told Holloway that he might take his party by the steamer Mongol scheduled to sail from Plymouth on 15 December 1873, if he could recruit them in this short time. Holloway was confident that this could be page 50 done. The Mongol was a new ship, about to sail for New Zealand to inaugurate a mail service between the colony and San Francisco. Featherston had no success in chartering a second ‘fine fast steamer’ in line with Vogel's request. The New Zealand run was not yet economic for steamships, and Vogel's insistence that any steamer chartered must be absolutely forbidden to call at any Australian port, disposed of any interest the steamship owners might have had.48 The reason for Vogel's prohibition was the danger of losing immigrants to the neighbouring colonies. The rapid acceleration of New Zealand recruiting throughout Britain, and news of an eager response to Holloway's campaign, led Featherston to schedule the sailing ship Scimitar to leave Plymouth on the same date as the Mongol.
Most of Holloway's recruitment meetings went unreported, and many of them must have been primitive gatherings under the stars ‘in the highways and byways and open fields’.49 C. R. Carter found time for another visit to Oxfordshire on 25 November, to address ‘a very large number of labourers’ in a tent at Charlbury.50 The previous evening the Burford branch of the union had held a ‘capital meeting’ in the Primitive Methodist chapel, and among the speakers was Holloway, to give ‘a stirring address on emigration to New Zealand’. The Labourers' Union Chronicle gave Holloway every assistance. On 15 November it published a summary of Carter's lecture at his Milton-under-Wychwood emigration meeting of 4 November, supplied by Holloway; a long and enthusiastic letter from a Warwickshire man who emigrated under Brogdens' scheme in April 1872; and an account by the secretary of the Hampshire District of page 51 the union of a journey to the docks with a party of New Zealand emigrants. The latter made emigrating sound almost a gay experience:
… it would do a person good to see with what spirit they left the shores of Old England. Some say they must feel it, so they did, but with joy, saying they felt at last free, and should be able to hold their heads up. One of the women was so pleased that she kept singing - “The ship is ready, and the wind blows fair, And we shall soon be free.”
On 17 November Holloway put his scheme before the union's National Executive, which endorsed it, and issued directions to district secretaries throughout the country to give their support, and especially to encourage emigration from places where farmers seemed likely to take advantage of labourers during the winter. The Executive's support was reported in the Chronicle of 22 November and a week later the editor issued a clarion call, in a leader entitled ‘Labourers, Away to New Zealand’:
Not a farm labourer in England but should rush from the old doomed country to such a paradise as New Zealand…. The exiled labourers will be requited for their ages of suffering as a class in the Eden of New Zealand, and avenged for all the spoliation they have suffered from the plundering landed aristocracy, and a mean, thoughtless set of farmers by leaving them …, by taking themselves off as fast as ships and steamers will take them to the land of promise; - A GOOD LAND - … A LAND OF OIL, OLIVES AND HONEY; - A LAND WHERE IN THOU MAY'ST EAT BREAD WITHOUT SCARCENESS: THOU SHALT NOT LACK ANYTHING IN IT….
Away, then, farm labourers, away! New Zealand is the promised land for you; and the Moses that will lead you is ready.51
Holloway's campaign was thus well under way by the time Arch returned with a good report from Canada on 18 November 1873. During the northern winter Canadian emigration was in recess, but doubtless the influence of Arch's name led some intending emigrants to opt for Canada, and delay their departure till the spring. Arch did, however, give his full blessing to New Zealand emigration. The Chronicle of 6 December 1873 announced that Joseph Arch and others would deliver farewell addresses to Holloway's party. This issue gave details of the arrangements for the train journey to Plymouth, and printed a letter from another Brogden emigrant, who was rejoicing that ‘A working man can have as good a joint of meat as his masters’, and exulting in the plenitude of wild pigs, cattle, goats, rabbits, pigeons and ducks in New Zealand.
The news of large schemes of emigration to New Zealand, Canada, and other colonies, was beginning to cause a little stir in the land. From Oxfordshire came reports that the farmers were beginning to cry out that they would lose the best of their men. The Times, in a rather patronising editorial of 28 November 1873, warned that this large-scale shipping off of men, women and children needed as much forethought and careful preparation as a major military operation, and was firmly of the opinion page 52 that it was ‘an affair … to tax the intellect and experience of more practised administrators than Messrs Arch and Clayden’. The writer wondered whether the colonial authorities and farmers were indeed prepared for ‘the sort of material they will find on their hands’. He warned that the English labourer, though ‘the best servant in the world’ in his native village, was not ‘self reliant, or trustworthy, under novel conditions’. He pictured the rural labourers as ignorant of the outside world, mere minors in discretion, and in ability to handle the simplest of business arrangements, and he could not envisage them adapting to the make-shift of frontier life. Time was to prove him wrong both as regards the pioneering abilities of the majority of the emigrants of the Revolt, and the organising talents of their leaders.
The arrangements for assembling Holloway's party and their journey to Plymouth were made by Henry Taylor. Before becoming general secretary of the National Union in May 1872, Taylor had been a carpenter. As a member of the Leamington Trades Council he had given help to Arch's movement from its beginning.53 In December 1873 he was an energetic young man of about 30. By means of a circular he had arranged for the emigrants to assemble at various stations on the Great Western line between Leamington, and Didcot in Berkshire, on Saturday, 13 December 1873. From among the individuals and families caught up in the excitement of departure on that day, we will select a few to illustrate our account. Taylor arrived at Leamington railway station at 7.15 a.m. to assist and direct the emigrants, and among those who joined him there by the scheduled time of departure, 8 a.m., would have been Joseph Johnson, a 37-year-old shepherd from the village of Grandborough, his wife Louisa, and his five daughters, aged 5 months to 11 years. Possibly some of the Johnsons' warm friends in the Grandborough Primitive Methodist Chapel were among the dense crowd on the platform. After some delay, caused by the stationmaster's failure to make adequate provision for this special occasion, the train pulled out ‘amid the shouts and good wishes of the friends and the hurrahs of the emigrants’.54
At Banbury, in north Oxfordshire, a large number from the south Warwickshire village of Tysoe, and its neighbourhood, joined the party. The Tysoe contingent of forty-three souls included one family of ten — that of William Philpott, entered on the Scimitar's passenger list as a farm labourer of 43 years. The 1871 census of Tysoe, however, gives his age then as 49, and his wife Mary Ann as 39, (38 on the passenger list). The family included farm labourer sons aged 12, 16, 19 and 23, a daughter of 21, and three younger boys. This obviously qualifies as one of the ‘suitable families’ for which Featherston had been instructed to extend the 45 years age limit for married men. There is no indication of when, or by whom, the age was adjusted in the immigration papers but similar lowerings of the recorded ages of older immigrants are quite common.
At Oxford station Holloway joined the train, with the main Oxfordshire contingent, including at least fourteen souls from Holloway's own village page 53 of Wootton. These included Henry Lammas, a 28-year-old labourer, his wife and three young children. The circumstances of another family, from a hamlet in west Oxfordshire, suggest another social factor contributing to emigration. The father, a farm labourer, was a 42-year-old widower. He was accompanied by a daughter of 21, sons of 17, 15 and 11, and two youngsters of 4 and 1. Holloway's diary in recording the death at sea of the one-year-old, notes him as the illegitimate child of the 21-year-old girl, and the 1871 census records the other youngster as the widower's granddaughter. This hamlet appears to have shared in the circumstances contributing to the high level of rural illegitimacy - field work, domestic service, and cottage overcrowding. The hamlet had also become strongly Methodist. It is not difficult to imagine some of the pressures and incentives behind this family's decision to emigrate. Also from Oxfordshire was John Hudson, a 35-year-old sawyer, his wife, and three children aged 8 to 14. Hudson was a Methodist lay preacher, and therefore probably an old acquaintance of Holloway's.
As the journey continued through the winter countryside, reports circulated in the immigrants' carriages of farmers offering ‘prizes and other inducements’ when they realised that their best men were departing. At midday Didcot junction was reached. Here it was found that the railway company had failed to make the expected arrangements for the party to proceed by the fast train scheduled to reach Plymouth by 5.30 p.m. In the packed waiting room the emigrants disposed of the lunches they had brought with them, after which Taylor helped them to pass the time, playing lively music on a concertina borrowed from one of the party, and then leading a community hymn-singing session. Later Taylor had to take his leave and return to Leamington, while Holloway with one or two others proceeded to Plymouth on the fast train, to make preparations for the arrival of the rest. When the main party reached Plymouth at 11.30 p.m. Holloway had waggons waiting for their baggage. The immigrants followed the waggons through the night and at 12 o'clock reached the depot, where they were at once given refreshments.
The party had been scheduled to sail after a brief weekend in the depot, but now the hazards of winter emigration began to come into play. The Mongol (and possibly also the Scimitar) was detained in the London docks for five days by one of the heaviest London fogs for years.55 Both ships reached Plymouth a week later than Holloway's party, but there was further delay for engine repairs to the Mongol. The immigrants spent nine days in the badly overcrowded depot, their stay rendered the more irksome by persistent wet weather. Colds and catarrh were prevalent, the bedding was damp, and there was a dank smell about the place, caused largely by people continually going out into the rain and getting their clothes damp.56 With measles and scarlet fever widespread in the country, there was cause for foreboding. Even in the best of weather it would have been a challenging task to keep the nearly 700 emigrants crowded into the depot occupied and happy. As over 300 of them had been recruited by the page 54 National Union, Taylor left his other duties and went to Plymouth to assist Holloway. He found the emigrants ‘very uneasy for want of occupation’, but reported that, ‘Sergeant Holloway is looking things up a bit, and appears to have the confidence of all’.57 On arrival Taylor heard the curious story of the harassment of the Cullimores, an emigrant family recruited by the union. Feeling it should be given publicity, he had an affidavit prepared for publication in the Chronicle.
Joseph Cullimore, a 39-year-old farm labourer from near Windsor, decided to join Holloway's party and emigrate with his wife and seven of his children. Two sons, Job aged 16, and Fred, aged 14, were hired by a Mr Vidler of Clever, near Windsor. On 6 December Cullimore informed Sawyer, Vidler's steward, of his plans, and arranged that the boys be allowed to leave. In the course of the following week the steward forbade the boys leaving as they were busy with the horses, and sent a letter to the father to this effect. At 5 a.m. on Friday, 12 December, the boys left their lodgings near the steward's house, and went to Maidenhead – apparently starting a day earlier than the rest of the family in order to escape. The steward overtook the boys at Maidenhead station. Job escaped and travelled to Newbury, but Fred was caught on the railway stairs. He was taken to the police station, locked up for three hours, and then taken back to Windsor, where he promised to go back to work, and was allowed to do so. He was rescued by William, an elder brother who was not emigrating, acting on instructions from the father. They were pursued and recaptured by the farm's carter and the steward's wife, but managed to escape again. Meanwhile Job, who had gone to Newbury, was arrested at the railway station there, on the strength of a telegram from the steward, and locked up. On Saturday morning the father arrived and had Job taken before the Mayor of Newbury at his private house, but the Mayor said he could not act without another magistrate, and that the boy must go to Windsor. However, the police first took Job to his master, Vidler. Vidler refused to discharge him. In Windsor Job was collected by Vidler's son, and taken to the farm. Finally, about midday on Sunday 14 December, the master relented, and told Job to go after his father. Holloway and Taylor both witnessed the statement signed by Job, Fred and their father. Both boys signed the affidavit with their marks, and the father's literacy may not have extended far beyond signing his name.59 This incident illustrates both the vulnerable position of the illiterate or semi-literate labourer, and the persistence among rural employers of an outlook that regarded labourers as little more than serfs.
Taylor and Holloway obviously taxed their ingenuity to help the party to while away the days. Holloway was best at sermons, which he provided both on Sundays and midweek. Taylor was more versatile, and fostered singing, dancing and even leapfrog. One evening he was able to borrow a magic lantern with slides on ‘numerous witty and humorous subjects’. The depot manager subsidised a visit to a Christy Minstrel entertainment, and the depot chaplain supplied each emigrant with a small packet of tracts.60 page 55 But while time was thus being passed in one way or another, the silent spread of infection was preparing the way for tragedy for many families on the voyage. Later investigation showed that emigrants families from both Jersey and Ireland brought scarlet fever into the depot, and that measles was also present. Owing to overcrowding, the depot's hospital had been filled with emigrants, and when scarlet fever appeared there was considerable delay before accommodation was found for the sick outside the depot. The emigrants embarked on Monday, 22 December. The surgeon-superintendents of both ships were obviously apprehensive, especially on account of the unusually high proportion of children in their care. Two families were sent ashore from the Scimitar, one of them with an advanced case of scarlet fever which the parents had succeeded in concealing up to this point,61 and another two families were sent from the Mongol with scarlet fever infection.62 The Mongol sailed on 23 December with 313 emigrants, 125 of them being children under 12.63 The Scimitar sailed the following day with 430 emigrants, 165 of whom were children.64 Holloway's party of 327 was divided between the two ships.
The experience of the Mongol's emigrants on the voyage is comparatively well documented. The Labourers' Union Chronicle published a diary of the voyage kept by James Dixon Gore, a single man of 25, a painter from Leamington,65 emigrating with a family party whose other members were Henry Gore, 21, a gardener, and Alfred Gore, 31, gardener, with a wife and two young children. Holloway also kept a diary, and although he travelled saloon, he kept close touch with the emigrants. The evidence given by a number of the emigrants to the Royal Commission appointed to investigate the deaths from sickness during the voyage, is also available.66 Finally, a well-written account of the voyage was supplied to a New Zealand Anglican journal by the Revd H. M. Kennedy, who acted as ship's chaplain.67 Kennedy had been curate of the Irish parish of Toughboyne the rector of which was a brother of Sir George Bowen, Governor of New Zealand from 1868 to 1873. When he decided to emigrate to New Zealand, many of his parishioners decided to accompany him. As chaplain he took an active interest in the emigrants, assisting with the school, and helping to nurse the sick. Holloway and he cooperated well on the voyage, but between the lines of Holloway's diary one senses something of a feeling of rivalry with Kennedy.
Holloway was laid low with sea sickness for the first four days, and was unable to attend the Christmas day service conducted by Kennedy. By Sunday, 28 December, Holloway had found his sea legs. Having attended a morning service conducted by Kennedy for the emigrants and crew, he decided to make a move in the interests of nonconformity. He pointed out to the captain that there were a goodly number of dissenters on board, and gained permission to hold a Sunday evening service for them throughout the voyage. On New Year's eve Holloway did not feel at ease among the merriment and dancing of the saloon passengers, so retired to his cabin, and in good Methodist tradition passed the events of the previous twelve page 56 months in review, and closed the old year ‘by asking forgiveness of Almighty God’. Not all of his party were of Holloway's frame of mind. In his diary James Gore refers to the ‘grand ball’ which the cabin passengers kept up till two in the morning, but regrets that ‘they had a sail across, so we could not see them’. However, Gore and his companions spent a pleasant New Year's eve, being amused ‘by a little Jersey fellow spinning yarns’. Next morning they were chortling over an escapade of the engine-men. While the ship's officers were at the ball, these worthies had stolen a pig which the butcher had just killed, together with a sack of potatoes, and had a feast. On New Year's day Holloway arranged with the captain and Kennedy that there should be a week-night religious service, to be conducted alternately by himself and Kennedy. Holloway held the first such service that same evening, and James Gore loyally attended it.
By the time the Mongol had been at sea a couple of days it was apparent that the infection of both measles and scarlet fever had been brought aboard. The first cases occurred among the single women, but on 26 December Alfred Gore's 5-year-old daughter Emily went down with scarlet fever. The surgeon found that the measles infection was spread throughout the ship so no attempt was made to isolate it. However, all the early cases of scarlet fever occurred in the after compartment, occupied by the single women and a few families. On 26 December the surgeon therefore arranged for this area to be isolated from the rest of the ship, and the school which had just commenced was broken up. Emily Gore and the other scarlet fever patients made good recoveries, and as no new cases appeared, the isolation was relaxed on 10 January, and school was recommenced. The schoolteacher, Edward Wright, was a civil and mechanical engineer. He was assisted by the Revd Kennedy, who thus came to know the children very well.
James Gore's diary provides various glimpses of the day-by-day life of immigrants and crew. He had decided by 5 January that the captain was ‘such a stingy fellow’. On the 6th he saw two sailors put in irons. They had been down the hold all day getting up coal, and eventually refused to continue without extra rations, which the captain would not grant. On the evening of the 10th the emigrants gave a grand concert amidships, which Gore voted a great success. He contributed two songs. Saloon passengers paid a shilling each to attend, and the singers and musicians spent the takings on a supply of Bass's bitter beer. Next morning Gore enjoyed the parson's ‘first-class sermon’ on temperance. On 13 January the emigrants had their boxes up from the hold, to equip themselves for the long easterly run in the southern latitudes. On the 14th Gore averred that ‘the captain dare not put in at the Cape, for he would lose all his firemen and sailors if he did so’. On the 15th he recorded that he and his mates had been 'as black as tinkers' for three days, as the sailers were getting up coal from under their compartment. Sunday the 18th was sunny and dead calm, and Gore with a twinge of home-sickness, wrote:page 57
I feel I should like to be in Old England, to have a roll among the hay, or sitting under a shady tree whispering a soft tale to a girl that was rather affectionate. It was an awful bore to be stuck for'ard, and all the single women aft, and not allowed to speak to one another…. We saw a shoal of sperm whales basking in the sun.
Meanwhile the measles epidemic continued, with over fifty cases in the first four weeks. The first death was that of the infant son of Henry and Catherine Lammas, from Holloway's own village of Wootton. In those days of high infant mortality this death and that of a 2-year-old on 9 page 58 January would be accepted as in no way out of the usual. But from 18 January the death rate accelerated, by the 21st scarlet fever was prevalent in the forward compartment, and by the time New Zealand was reached there had been fifteen child deaths and one adult. It is clear that there were various causes of the low resistance of the victims, including the original ill-nourished condition of the farm labourers' families, and the damp conditions at the depot. Unfortunately the damp bedding was repeated on board. The Mongol's upper decks had been inadequately caulked, and despite complaints this was not attended to for about three weeks. Until then a great deal of water leaked on to the bunks of the married quarters from the crew's daily washing of the upperdeck. The ship's provisions were also ill adapted to the large number of children, and many of them did not take well to the basic diet of preserved meat and hard ship's biscuit. Supplies of food suited to the sick were quite inadequate.
On 22 and 23 January the Lammases lost both their remaining children, and Holloway was doing his best to comfort the heartbroken parents. The following day the Cullimores lost their youngest, a boy of eighteen months. In telling of these child deaths, Kennedy wrote:
the most heartrending, perhaps (was) that of Mrs. S 's children, two fine boys, general favourites, both of whom died of malignant scarlet fever. The death of the second was most painful: the mother who was fairly frantic, drove off the sailors and would not allow them to remove the body, nor can I say that I had much better success, when sent for.
Kennedy also wrote of two other cases which were extremely painful to him. They were two 10-year-old girls Annie Johnson and Emily Hewitt, who regularly attended his Sunday School class, and led their companions for him at the singing class. Emily was one of the eight children of Daniel Hewitt, a 35-year-old groom and coachman from Warwickshire, who was to have a successful career as a small farmer at Woodend in Canterbury. Annie was the eldest daughter of Joseph and Louisa Johnson, the shepherd from Grandborough. Holloway's diary records her death on 29 January:
Mr Johnson (a very intimate friend of mine, & one who has helped me materially in holding our services) lost his eldest daughter, Annie, by death today, a most interesting girl of ten summers. This is the ninth death on board. Mr Johnson speaks in the highest terms of the attention the doctor has given his family.
Apart from the unusual number of deaths, the voyage was proceeding most satisfactorily for the captain, who was trying for a record run in his new ship. To conserve coal, he did his best to delay the use of the condenser by reducing the emigrants' water allowance. Once the cooler southern latitudes were reached he transferred the serving of water to the emigrants from the carpenter to the fourth mate, and reduced the daily issue even further below the regulation allowance. He told the mate to ignore complaints. After receiving many complaints on the matter from members of his party, Holloway took the issue up with the captain, and part of the cut was restored. On 22 January, after rounding the Cape, the main yard page 59 was hoisted on the main mast, so that sails could be rigged, and the engines assisted by the westerly winds. Towards the end of the voyage the fourth mate warned the captain of the need to start the condenser. The warnings were ignored until 10 February, when the tanks were pumped dry. The emigrants had to wait till early afternoon before the condenser provided enough water for them.68 The captain had his reward when the Mongol steamed into Port Chalmers on 13 February, after a record passage of 51 days. The ship was immediately placed in quarantine, and the immigrants transferred to Quarantine Island.
From this quarantine period the Revd Kennedy had a touching incident to relate, concerning Joseph Johnson's second daughter, 8-year-old Mary Jane. The Johnsons had lost their third daughter, 6-year-old Emma, only three days after the death of Annie. When the ship reached port, Mary Jane was sickening with scarlet fever, and she died shortly after landing on Quarantine Island. One calm evening, some days later, Kennedy was standing on deck looking over the side of the vessel when the following episode occurred:
one of the quartermasters (W), a hard, weather-beaten old sailor, came up to me very quietly. I knew him well: it was he who sewed up the dead bodies and held the plank from which they were committed to the deep. A grim looking man he was, and, I thought, quite callous; and it appeared strange to me that the children liked him and called him ‘uncle.’ On this occasion he looked quite changed, his usually harsh voice was soft and low and his face kind and gentle; he asked about the little girl that had died on the island. ‘Was it’, said he, ‘her as used to wear the red cloak and call me “uncle”, with black eyes and hair’. I told him that it was. ‘Ah! poor lassie, I am sorry for her, I am sorry for her,’ said he, and then continued, ‘But I'm glad she didn't die on board.’ On asking why he said ‘Well, you see, at first the children didn't like me because 'twas I buried them, and the little lass caught hold of my hand one day after her sister had died, and asked me would I throw her into the sea too if she died, and then began to cry, and said “Uncle, sure you won't throw me over”. ‘So,’ said he. ‘I promised her I page 60 would not, neither I would, and yet you know, as with the rest, somebody should do it, and ‘twas my duty; I carried them in my arms as gently as their own mothers could, and wrapped the Union Jack about them so softly that if they were asleep they would not feel me — now, didn't I? But’, said he, abruptly, ‘this is no way for me to talk. I am glad, though, the lassie didn't die on board – that's all’, and then he went off without giving me time to say a word.
The Johnsons also lost Ada, aged 3, on Quarantine Island, and were left with only infant Ellen. However, four daughters and two sons were to be born to them in New Zealand.69 Joseph and Louisa entered vigorously into the opportunities offered by the new land. On 28 October 1874, Louisa wrote home to her friends at Grandborough, from Careys Bay on Otago Harbour:
We were pleased to hear that you were getting on so well at the chapel, and to hear good news of all our old friends…. Joe says he wishes someone would pay him to come over for some of you. He is going sixty miles in a steamboat today, up the country, shearing. I shall feel very lonely while he is away, but I do not mind if he gets along well; he has plenty of work. The land is dear here. He will see the country by going. He earned £2 15s. last week, and said he had worked harder in the old country for 15s. If you want to come out of bondage into liberty come out here. I was out waiting on a poor woman last week, and she gave me 30s…. I have done some sewing and always got twice what I charged for it. I made a plain skirt and charged 1s for it, and they sent 2s. You would get 10s for making a dress…. I wish a lot from Grandborough would come. Joe says he would get you all such a meal as you never had at home. Come and try him…. If you ever come, start about the time that we started, as it is still then. We never had a storm all the voyage. We should have come over beautifully if it had not been for the fever. You would never think you were in a foreign country if you were here…. We have not received any papers. We felt sadly disappointed, as we wanted to know how the Union was going on…. I am so pleased to hear you are so strong in Union. Joe thinks of sending £1 to the Union, but he wanted to see the Chronicle first, as you said the lock-out was to be settled. We have Reynolds paper sometimes and see a little news from home….70
Joseph's shepherd skills were an asset in a land whose staple export at this time was wool. Assisted by his industrious wife he was able to save the money to take up bush land near Ngaere in Taranaki, and carve out a successful small farm for himself. The other members of Holloway's party on the Mongol named in this chapter also made good in New Zealand. Arthur Hitchcock, an Oxfordshire man who settled in Dunedin, swagged the countryside doing harvest work in the autumn of 1875. In Oamaru he called on Henry Lammas from Wootton, and found him with a nice home of his own, and a section of land. John Hudson, the Oxfordshire lay preacher, wrote to relatives on 28 October 1874 that he was renting a hundred acres at Careys Bay, Port Chalmers, and already had a mare with a one-year-old colt, 27 head of cattle, 5 calves, 12 pigs and 50 poultry. He was working easier and living better then he had in the old country, and page 61 enclosed a circuit plan to show that he was going on with his lay preaching.71
Before we leave the Mongol's emigrants, two men in her Warwickshire party, not hitherto noticed, merit a brief mention. The Labourers' Union Chronicle of 23 August 1874 printed two letters written a month or two earlier by Richard Harwood, a 21-year-old gardener, who had taken work in Manawatu, near Foxton. Both letters were to his father and brothers, urging them to join him. He had never had such a good place before in his life, and was revelling in shooting pigs, pigeons and ducks, and fishing for eels, the latter under Maori tuition. He was saving money fast, and told how his master had become a prosperous small farmer in ten years. Eli Smith, the other Warwickshire man, emigrated as a 26-year-old farm labourer, with a wife and three children. After a number of years of labouring, mainly as an overseer in railway construction, he became a successful pioneer bush settler at Tawataia in the northern Wairarapa. He had long service as a member of the Wairarapa North County Council, and was made a Justice of the Peace.72
We now turn briefly to the voyage of the Scimitar, bringing the rest of Holloway's party. She too made a record passage, arriving at Port Chalmers on 4 March 1874, seventy-one days after leaving Plymouth, a time which was not bettered by a sailing ship for over twenty-five years. She was a roomy iron ship, clipper rigged.73 She was in every way ideal for immigration service, being 8 feet 6 inches between decks and well fitted. She was also well run, with a considerate captain and an efficient surgeon-superintendent. Yet there were twenty-six deaths on the voyage, mainly from measles and scarlet fever. Except for a girl of 17, all were children. In all other respects the Scimitar seems to have been a happy ship. A good account of the voyage was sent home to his grandmother by George Philpott, the 23-year-old son of William Philpott of Tysoe. The ‘Mark’ referred to in the following extract is probably Mark Fessey, a 29-year-old farm labourer, the ‘Alfred is William's 3-year-old brother.
… We have one of the best captains that ever crossed the ocean. I have not heard a bad word from him all the voyage. The first mate is a particularly pleasant man, and all the sailors, too; they often come down and join us in a spree at night, when they are not on watch. We have had several concerts while on board, at night…. Charles Fox is our captain's name, and a good man he is; it grieves him very much to lose so many children, all small ones; he has got no children himself, his wife is a nice woman, too. The captain has given the children tea and cakes a time or two, and brought plums and nuts out to scatter among them. Anybody who thinks of coming out here need not be afraid of having a short allowance of grub, for there is plenty of victuals, quite as much as you can eat; there is pudding three times and rice twice a week…. I had a good ducking one morning before breakfast; it swilled me nearly all across the deck, and you would have laughed to have seen me hold on by the things on deck; the sea comes over, when the wind is sideways to the vessel, in tons, so that it swilled the children from one side to the other, and back. Oh, what a laugh. And then there is the page 62 sailors' songs, which they sing while pulling the ropes, and we pull and join in the chorus. ‘Now, my boys, a pull at the New Zealand rope’, says the first mate, and to Mark he says, ‘Come along, my infant.’ Mark is like another man since he came to Plymouth, he is getting so fat. There is a library and school, too, on board…. On Wednesday we came in sight of New Zealand, and we sailed into harbour on Thursday morning, to their great surprise. We made the quickest passage ever known, three days shorter than ever before made by a sailing vessel…. We are now laying at anchor, and what beautiful sights we see, here a house, and there a house, one on a hill and another in the valley beneath; and bush and trees studded all over. Yonder we see a house and a green patch of grass, with two or three cows and sheep, and horses; perhaps the owner was once a poor man, but now a respectable landowner. We are up in the morning, and hear the birds whistle like nightingales, and see the bullocks drawing up the hill…. Alfred is jolly and as happy as a king…. We now get some of the New Zealand beef that we have long looked for – good beef too.
George's letter was published in the Labourers' Union Chronicle of 16 May 1874, along with one which his father had written home to a former workmate. William's letter was brief. He told his friend that ‘we have had more beef since we started from England than we had all our lives before’. His letter ends on an almost lyrical note, aimed no doubt at arousing the stay-at-homes:
‘P.S. — I have seen the whales and sharks having their larks across the mighty deep’.
William Philpott settled with his family at Waikiwi, near Invercargill, and took up an 18 acre bush section.74 With his boys he cleared the bush, by cutting it up for firewood for sale in Invercargill. Though most of their neighbours were Presbyterian Scots, the family were able to maintain their connection with Methodism by attending fortnightly services held on the farm of a neighbouring Englishman.
The voyages of both the Mongol and the Scimitar were the subjects of Royal Commission enquiries, because of the number of deaths. The reports of these commissions guided the New Zealand authorities in improving their immigration arrangements.