Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Large Scale Emigration to Australia after 1832


‘Australian Emigration—Fort William’

After some months of expectation and anxiety, Dr. Boyter, the Government emigration agent for Australia, arrived at Fort William on x 8th current. The news of his arrival, like the fiery cross of old, soon spread through every glen of the district, and at an early hour on Monday, thousands of enterprising Gaels might be seen ranked around the Caledonian Hotel, anxious to quit the land of their forefathers and to go and possess the unbounded pastures of Australia. . . . While we regret that so many active men should feel it necessary to leave their own country, the Highlands will be considerably relieved of its over-plus population.

Inverness Courier, 30 May 1838

By 1832 Scotland had entered the most important phase of its Industrial Revolution, and the whole economy was changing rapidly as a result of the wholesale adoption by the iron-masters of the ‘hot-blast’ technique of smelting. Perfected by James B. Neilson in 1828, it was widely applied in the early 1830s, and the process gave the country a new and decisive advantage in the production of pig-iron. By 1835 there were twenty-nine blast furnaces in Scotland, and in 1839 the number had increased to fifty-four. This new iron and coal development overshadowed all other economic projects in Scotland, for, apart from the large share of the British home market secured by cheap Scottish iron, priced about ten shillings a ton below its rivals for nearly forty years, there were extensive foreign markets. By the late 1840s the United States alone was taking no less than 14 per cent. of the Scottish pig-iron output—over 60 per cent. of the total amount of the Scottish export of this commodity—and over nine tenths of the total British pig-iron export was from Scotland.

Cheap iron made rapid industrialization possible, and between 1832 and 1846 a network of railways was constructed, linking the main centres of population, and serving coal-mines and iron works and connecting them with the ports. Linen and cotton mills continued to thrive and increase in size and number as machinery and coal-fuel became cheaper and more readily available. The experimental stages of shipbuilding in iron were reached, and new industries like boiler-making grew up in the iron-producing districts.

In the fourteen years between 1832 and 1846 Scotland was swept by a surge of commercial and industrial activity that made the bold company promotions of 1822 and 1824—5, and the founding of new factories in the previous decade, seem comparatively insignificant. This ‘coal and iron’ phase of development came much later in Scotland than in England, but when it did come it was accompanied by improved techniques that caused it to burst with all the greater impact on the still largely agricultural society in which it was set. Every aspect of Scottish life, and every district, however remote, was affected by the coming of this ‘second stage of the Industrial Revolution’, and it was also to have important repercussions on the Scottish attitude to, and connexion with, Australia. It was in the 1830s, for instance, that leading iron-works like the Carron Company and the Shotts Iron Company were to expand their business with the Australian colonies, their exports of both pig-iron and manufactured goods. It was in the mid 1830s, too, that the large-scale import of Australian wool began, to supply the rapidly expanding woollen mills of the Border districts.

Of even greater importance for Australia than the expansion of mutual trade were the rapid accumulation of capital in the hands of Scottish investors—profits, for reinvestment, drawn from the new industries and from ‘improved’ agriculture—and the movement of population within Scotland as a result of industrialization, agricultural improvements, Highland destitution, and the periodic slumps to which the new industrial economy was liable. The first of these features, the accumulation of capital and the propensity for overseas investment among Scottish ‘capitalists’, large and small, was to lead to the foundation of the second group of Scottish-based commercial ventures in Australia in Aberdeen in 1839—40. The effects of industrialization, destitution, and commercial depressions in promoting emigration to Australia were obvious from the early 1830s, and since, as in 1820-2, the commercial ventures tended to follow the line of an emigration flow, the motivation and quality of the Scottish emigration to Australia in this second phase must first be examined.

The most remarkable feature of the emigration was its widespread nature. No corner of Scotland was unaffected by it. In the 1820s, the south-east (Edinburgh, Leith, Fife, the Lothians, and the Borders) had supplied the bulk of the emigrants, who were chiefly drawn from the middle classes. In 1830s and 1840s the emigration was largely working-class in character, and was drawn from all over the country. Areas like the south-west (Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Wigtownshire, Renfrewshire), the north-east (Aberdeenshire, Kincardine, Banffshire, Moray, Nairn), the central and western Highlands (Inverness-shire, Ross, Sutherland, Perthshire, Argyll), and even Orkney and Shetland, which had all figured to only a slight extent in the emigration of 1815—33, were now well represented. The availability of free or assisted passages to Australia after 1832 was partly responsible, but the wholesale, widespread nature of the emigration can only be explained by the changes that were convulsing the country, breaking down the old pattern of town and rural life. This was a time when emigration generally, to North America as well as Australia, was increasing at a phenomenal rate.

The sheer growth of the population was a striking feature of the time. At no period, before or since, has the increase been more marked. In 1836 the population totalled 2,315,926. By 1847 it had grown to 3,718,316, a figure reached through large-scale Irish immigration as well as by natural increase. In the Highlands the increase was especially problematical, for the means of subsistence were actually decreasing, as a result of the ‘clearances’ of subsistence-farming crofts for sheep-runs, the decline of the kelp-burning industry, and the failure of the fisheries. After 1836, when economic conditions all over the country worsened, the Highlands were especially hard-hit, and it was partly due to this temporary economic set-back in the late 1830s and early 1840s that the flow of Scottish emigration to Australia from both the Highland and Lowland areas reached an unprecedented level.

In itself the depression would not have been sufficient to secure this result, which was realized only because the ‘Government’ and the later ‘Colonial’ bounty systems came into effect, for this was to be largely a working-class emigration, and the considerable proportion of the emigrants who came from the Highlands and islands included many who were near to complete destitution. While many influences and ideas led to the creation of the bounty systems, deriving their funds from the sale of Crown lands, it is interesting to note that in 1833 John Galt, the Scottish writer and colonizer, claimed to have proposed such a scheme in the 1820s as an alternative to Wilmot Horton’s scheme for the voluntary mortgage of their rates by parishes to raise funds for the purpose.

The British Government’s system for assisted female emigration to New South Wales was instituted in September 1831 by Lord Goderich, and was soon extended to mechanics. Between 1832 and 1836 sixteen entire shiploads of emigrants, most of them women, were dispatched from English and Irish ports, and in addition several hundreds of young women went out under the scheme in vessels other than those chartered by the London Emigration Committee. A few in this latter category sailed from Leith, but this early phase of the bounty emigration was not marked by any considerable efflux of assisted emigrants from Scotland. This was to come only in 1837, when the additional scheme devised in 1835 by the Government of New South Wales, to encourage the immigration of skilled agricultural workers as well as unmarried women and mechanics, came into operation. From 1837 this colonial bounty system was to supplement the reformed government system introduced in 1834 and operated by T. F. Eliot as Agent-General for Emigration.

Both assisted emigration and unassisted private emigration increased steadily from 1836 onwards, reaching a peak in 1839— 40, when Scotland as a whole, and the north-east in particular, experienced its second surge of enthusiasm for the Australian colonies as a field for emigration and investment. The increase in the rate of emigration was phenomenally swift, for in 1833 only 253 emigrants sailed for Australia from Scottish ports (as against 5,592 for the North American colonies, and 1,953 for the United States). It is interesting to note that in this year Scots comprised a fifth of the total British emigration to the Canadas and the Maritime Provinces—the traditional Scottish emigration field by this time. In the same year, they made up only between one-fifteenth and one-sixteenth of the total of British emigrants to Australia. This was the time, between 1832 and 1835, when John Broadfoot of Leith was slashing the rates of freight and passage money to Australia for the ships he handled, and sending off emigrant ships to Canada. By 1834 the number of persons leaving Scotland for Australia had fallen even lower, to 134 (as compared with 4,954 to the North American colonies, and 2,880 to the United States). In 1836 the numbers fell lower still. From all Scottish ports in that year, the total number of emigrants sailing for Australia was only 114.

The turning-point came in 1837, when 1,254 persons left Scottish ports for Australia, as against 2,391 for the American colonies, and 1,130 for the United States. Since these last figures show a decline of some 1,500 from the numbers leaving Scotland for North America in 1836, it seems safe to assume that the two bounty systems, in full operation by this time, were diverting at least a proportion of intending emigrants towards Australia, emigrants who would otherwise have swelled the exodus to Canada and the United States. The political disturbances in the Canadas, and the financial panic in the United States, were probably also responsible for this.

In 1838 the flow to Australia increased, and no fewer than nine ships with 2,161 government bounty emigrants cleared from Scottish ports. In addition, 1,054 ‘private’ bounty emigrants and unassisted emigrants took passage from Scotland, making a total of 3,215 for the year. In 1839, the total number embarking in Scotland was 2,238—a seventh of the total number embarking in Britain for all the Australian settlements, including Van Diemen’s Land, Port Philip, South Australia, and Western Australia. Until 1843, when bounty emigration was suspended owing to the economic crisis in the Australian colonies, the Scottish emigration continued on a considerable scale. In 1840 over 1,600 assisted emigrants went out, and in 1841, a record year, no fewer than 4,376 assisted emigrants sailed from Leith, Dundee, and Greenock and its outports. In that year began the massive influx of Irish bounty emigrants (13,704) that lowered the proportion of Scots among the emigrants. Between 1842 and 1847 there were only 907 assisted emigrants from Scotland to New South Wales, as against 4,197 English and 6,367 Irish. By 1846, partly as a result of the improvement in business conditions in Scotland and the fillip given to the economy by large-scale railway building, emigration to all ‘fields’ had slackened considerably, and only 3 emigrants to the Australian colonies are recorded for that year, as against 2,700 to the North American colonies, and 60 to the United States. In 1848 the Land Board reported that it had experienced great difficulty in selecting suitable emigrants for Australia in both England and Scotland because of the demand for labour for railway construction.

The beginning of bounty emigration through the
Scottish outports, 1832—1837

In the earlier part of the period, in the six years from 1832 to 1837 inclusive, Scots emigrants of all categories to Australia made up about a tenth of the British total (2,052 as against 20,664). The proportion of bounty emigrants among the Scots during this period is extremely difficult to assess, for while the Colonial Office records show that the government bounty system did not come fully into operation in Scotland on a large scale until 1837, involving the selection and dispatch of shiploads of people, some casual and small-scale bounty emigration was undoubtedly organized by shipowners and shipbrokers before that date. In February 1835 John Broadfoot, who obviously regarded himself as the doyen of the Scottish—Australian trade (‘for the last fifteen years particularly connected with the trade carried on between the Port of Leith and the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land’), petitioned Lord Aberdeen for restoration of the bounty to unmarried women proceeding direct from Scotland to the colonies, and stated that he had been ‘agent for several vessels employed in carrying out male and female emigrant settlers to these colonies from Leith—but more especially in the year 1832 and in the first three months of 1833 when the Government aid and bounty was extended to married mechanics accompanied by their wives and families and to respectable unmarried females’.

The bounty for the unmarried women had been withdrawn from persons sailing direct from Scotland early in 1834, according to Broadfoot, and restricted to those sailing from London and selected by the Emigration Committee there. Obviously Broadfoot had been acting as a bounty agent in 1832 and the first half of 1833, but no record survives of how many bounties he arranged. The London Emigration Committee was decidedly opposed to Broadfoot’s claims for a share in the Female Emigration Fund, and for extension of the new workers’ bounty system to Leith, but they were prepared by July 1835 to make some concessions. W. Mean, representing the Leith interests, described to Robert Hay at the Colonial Office his ‘long conversations’ with Marshall and Forster, the ruling members of the Committee, and the conclusions they had reached, that ‘our views will be allowed without the appointment of a committee at Leith’.

With the bounty system centralized in London and confined to that port, it was obvious to the Leith shipping interest that they would not secure what they considered their fair share of the bounty traffic, and when John Broadfoot took up the matter he brought out the point that the restriction was checking Scottish emigration. ‘So long as the Government bounty is restricted to the Port of London,’ he wrote, ‘very few Scotch females will venture so far from home to embark on so long a voyage amongst strangers, and, consequently, these colonies will continue to be deprived of their valuable services.’ Broadfoot wrote that he had received numerous applications from suitable women—’Scotch females. . . of unblemished moral character, experienced as dairy and household servants who would gladly avail themselves of the Government’s bounty to proceed there, could it be procured for them when embarking by a ship from the Port of Leith, when, in almost every case, they would be accompanied by relatives, friends or acquaintances’.

To the Scottish shipping interest, especially in the east coast ports, the bounty system certainly opened up pleasing prospects of employment for vessels, and, as James Ballingall of Kirkcaldy observed in a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, ‘the mercantile community of this quarter are taking a deep interest in the subject’. Shipowners like James Thoms of Dundee were writing in to Robert Hay at the Colonial Office to ascertain the position regarding bounties, and attesting to the seaworthiness of the vessels which they intended to send out.

They included several shipping firms which had begun to participate in the Australian trade in the keenly competitive conditions of the late 1820s. Foremost among them were George Young and Co. and George Aitchison and Co., both of Leith. The firm of Buchanan and Davis also sent out ships from Leith, the three firms maintaining the primacy of the port in the Australian trade. A. Alexander and Co. of Grangemouth also used the port of Leith, as did William Henderson and Co., a Glasgow and Bo’ness concern. Glasgow and Greenock also participated, and the firms of Russell and Company, Campbell and Anderson, J. Carmichael and A. Balantine, and McAusland and Hamilton all sent out ships in the 1830s. By this time the Border woollen manufacturers required to import four-fifths of their wool, and most of this came from Australia, so that return freights no longer presented a problem.

The pressure of the shipping interest for extension of the bounty system to Leith and to Scotland generally was accompanied in 1835 by evidences of public interest from other east coast centres. From Aberdeen John Matheson, a bookseller and publisher who was establishing an ‘emigration information depot’, wrote to the Colonial Office asking for data concerning the Australian colonies for an Emigrant’s Guide he was preparing. From Invergordon, further north, A. Mackay, a ‘commercial agent’, wrote asking for information and circulars on emigration to Van Diemen’s Land for the large numbers of interested parties in his district. Influential men like Ludovick Stewart, a retired army field officer and a local magistrate in Banffshire, also wrote in 1835 urging the establishment of another emigration agency in the north, at Aberdeen or Cromarty.

In view of the tendency of the Emigration Commissioners to work through the London Emigration Committee and John Marshall’s London shipping clique in those years, and to restrict the activities of others by withdrawing the bounty privilege from outports, as stated by Broadfoot, it seems safe to assume that only a small proportion of the 2,052 persons who sailed from Scotland in the six years from 1832 to 1837 were bounty emigrants. Even a quarter of this number may be too high an estimate.

In his Sydney newspaper, the Colonist, in January and February 1835, John Dunmore Lang made a bitter attack on John Marshall and the London Emigration Committee, charging them with scouring the streets of London so as to fill their vessels, and implying that Scottish emigration was not being encouraged as it should. This provoked an angry response from Marshall in the form of a pamphlet, stating that ‘a greater proportionate disposition to emigrate does not exist in Scotland than in other parts of the United Kingdom’, and denying that the provision of vessels sailing direct from Scottish ports would encourage bounty emigration from that country.’ Marshall pointed out that the Committee had recently advertised a ship to sail from either Leith or the Clyde, provided that sufficient emigrants came forward, and that the response was so poor that the scheme was abandoned. Lang’s ‘assertions as to Scotland furnishing emigrants at all proportionate to the demand for labour in Australia, or in greater relative numbers than any other parts of the empire, or that equal facilities are not afforded to those who wish to go out from thence’ were sharply denied. In this controversy it appears that Lang, typically, overstated the case for direct sailings from Scotland, and went too far in his personal attack on Marshall. Yet Broadfoot’s petition shows that the grievance about direct sailings was a real one, and the statements in Marshall’s Refutation should probably be treated with as much reserve as Lang’s fulminations against Marshall and his exaggeration of the willingness of Scots working-class people to go out to Australia.

Broadfoot’s representation to the Colonial Office for the renewal of female bounty emigration at Leith was not, apparently, successful, for on 30 June 1835 a Colonial Office return from Leith for the quarter ending on that date stated that the Perthshire, Broadfoot’s ship, had sailed for Van Diemen’s Land, and that nineteen women had been sent on from Leith to London to join the Canton for Sydney. Similarly, in September 1835 twenty-seven women were ‘forwarded’ to London to join the Boadicea for Hobart. Yet some slight measure of extension was won at this time, for in July the Charles Kerr had sailed from Leith to Van Diemen’s Land with fifteen women bounty emigrants.

Until the beginning of large-scale bounty emigration to Australia in 1837, Leith remained the chief Scottish port of embarkation. In 1833, 213 persons sailed from Leith and 40 from Greenock. There were no Australian emigrant sailings from the other Scottish ports, from which the flow to North America went on steadily (5,592 in that year from all Scottish ports). In 1834 the number embarking at Leith was 109, with 13 from Greenock and 12 from Port Glasgow, and in 1836 78 emigrants took ship there, as against 24 from Greenock and 12 from Dundee. These were the lowest annual figures for the decade of the 1830s.

The bounty emigration from Scotland, 1837—1842

Between 1837 and 1846 assisted emigrants, largely working-class people, greatly outnumbered the unassisted emigrants. The Scottish emigration for the ten years numbered about 12,000 persons, of whom about 10,000 were brought out under either the government or colonial bounty systems, so that the proportion of Scots among the incomers rose to about a sixth, as against a tenth in the six years before 1838. For the first time, there was a considerable influx of working-class Scots.

In September 1832 T. F. Eliot, who had been secretary to the Emigration Commissioners during their tenure of office in 1831—2, was appointed to the Colonial Office to promote and extend bounty emigration. Eliot set about bringing Scotland fully within the bounty scheme by establishing agencies there, at Leith and Greenock. Yet until 1837, when Eliot was appointed Agent-General for Emigration, the Emigration Committee, as noted above, was dominated by London shipowners and shipbrokers, who were able to use the bounty system for their own benefit, and they obstructed the extension of large-scale emigration arrangements to the Scottish ports. On Eliot’s appointment as Agent-General the London Committee was wound up, and only then did large-scale operations commence in Scotland.

By this time the need for such operations in Scotland had become acute, and the political changes of 1832 had ensured that no such vested interest as that of John Marshall and his associates could for long monopolize a public fund. When John Broadfoot penned his petition of February 1835 for the extension of bounty privileges to the port of Leith, he had the support of the government emigration agent appointed thereby Eliot in 1834, Lieutenant James R. Forrest, who had agreed that the vessel Broadfoot proposed to send out with women emigrants should be ‘fitted up and provisioned under his superintendence’. At Leith Forrest played an important part in organizing the emigration service that Eliot created between 1834 and 1837, for until July 1834 Scots wishing to avail themselves of the bounty had usually to proceed to London, like the six women who sailed with bounty passages from Gravesend in the Strathfieldtaye in May 1834, with over 200 other women, English and Irish.

It was in April 1834 that Eliot had first appointed two government emigration agents in Scotland, at the two ports from which emigrants principally sailed. Samuel H. Hemmans was posted at Greenock, and James Forrest at Leith. Both were lieutenants in the Royal Navy, with considerable dockyard experience, since one of their principal duties was to survey vessels and certify them as suitable for carrying emigrants. In February 1836 the service in Scotland was strengthened by the appointment (by Governor Sir Richard Bourke of New South Wales) of the able and indefatigable naval surgeon Dr. Boyter as ‘Colonial Emigration Agent’ in Scotland, to operate a new, colonial, bounty scheme, approved by the authorities in New South Wales in October 1835. By June 1837 these three capable men had worked out a useful division of labour. Eliot’s agents saw to the chartering, surveying, and provisioning of the ships and helped with the embarkation of the emigrants, while Boyter concerned himself with their selection, travelling thousands of miles over the length and breadth of the country, and penetrating into districts where travelling conditions were primitive.

Borer showed remarkable enthusiasm and energy in his performance of these duties, and the success of the large-scale Scottish bounty emigration of 1837-4 owed much to his keenness. In March 1838 Eliot wrote to James Stephen at the Colonial Office concerning Borer’s work: ‘He is charged with almost the whole detail of the emigration from Scotland. He has to visit the candidates in their several districts, to suggest the apportionment of the vessels among the different parts of the country that may require them, to superintend the embarkation of each party, and see that there is no apparent defect in the ship or her supplies.

Table VIII

It was Boyter who planned the ambitious programme of 1838-9 - the selection of the ports, located so as to serve the districts concerned, and the allocation of ships to districts. He also set the objectives to be aimed at in his selections—’shepherds, farm labourers, country mechanics, cartwrights etc. from Glenmoriston, Glengarry, Dingwall and the districts of Glenurquhart, the towns of Fort George, Campbelltown and Inverness’. Obviously, within two years of his appointment, he had acquired a considerable knowledge of the Highlands and their people. Because of his special appointment with a ‘roving commission’ by the colonial authorities, and through his tireless activity and travelling, there was no need for Eliot to establish British Government agencies in the northern ports of Dundee, Aberdeen, or Inverness.

In 1837 the bounty system began to operate effectively in Scotland, and there was a dramatic increase in the number of emigrants leaving for Australia. When the system became fully operative in Scotland, in 1837, Leith, with 97 embarking, was overshadowed by Greenock with 830 and Dundee with 327. This was caused by the dispatch of shiploads of bounty emigrants from the latter ports, and the same trend continued throughout the peak years of the bounty emigration, from 1838 to 1841.

Despite these figures, swollen by the sailings of bounty emigrant ships from Greenock and Dundee, the evidence of the shipping lists suggests that for intending settlers paying their own passages Leith remained the chief port of embarkation, just as it remained the principal trading port for the Australian colonies.’ It was to lieutenant Forrest at Leith that ‘numerous enquiries’ came in 1834 regarding land grants to officers and the prospects of settlers in the new colony of South Australia.2

It was fortunate that improved facilities for the selection of emigrants were available by 1837, for Highland destitution created a strong urge to emigrate. By this year, too, the Colonial Office had decided to extend the benefit of bounty to agricultural labourers and married couples, and the new policy fitted in well with the desire to emigrate from the Highlands and from certain Lowland areas where little interest had been shown before in emigration to Australia.

John Dunmore Lang was subsequently to claim that it was through his ‘intervention’ while in Britain in the winter of 1836—7 that the London deputation of the Highland relief committees had successfully put forward the idea of directing a large-scale Highland emigration to Australia to Glenelg, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It is probable that here again, as with the Stirling Castle experiment of 1832, Lang’s energy and determination helped to secure the Highland emigration on the scale on which it was carried on in 1837-9. He certainly took direct action as well, for he chartered the barque Portland in Greenock and returned to the colony with 310 emigrants, a mixture of Highlanders and Lowland craftsmen and skilled agricultural workers. The information he gave to the London deputation about conditions in the colony and about the availability of funds for emigration no doubt prepared it for the interviews with Glenelg, for the deputation had originally contemplated Canada as the destination for the destitute Highlanders, and there is no reason to doubt Lang’s claim that he diverted their attention to Australia instead. Yet with Eliot's appointment as Agent-General, with greatly increased powers and with the problem of Highland destitution becoming more acute, direct emigration from Scotland to Australia on a large scale would probably have eventuated in any case, without Lang’s intervention. Eliot’s policy was to conduct emigration ‘without discrimination against any part of the kingdom’, and, where bounty emigration to Australia was concerned, to provide government ships in proportion to population.

Lang was not the only colonist to urge that Scottish immigrants should be encouraged. James Macarthur, one of the most prominent and influential men in New South Wales, regarded the Scots detachment among the first bounty emigrants to be selected in 1837 as a valuable accession to the colony, and commended their ‘religious disposition, good sense and orderly habits’. Macarthur held that too many Irish labourers were being sent out to Australia, and that Scottish Highlanders would be more likely to ‘furnish the description of families most urgently required in New South Wales’.

In March 1837 the first ship sailed with a full complement of emigrants from Scotland under the government-organized bounty system, as distinct from the shipping out of bounty emigrants by private individuals under licence. This was the John Barry, which sailed from Dundee with 323 emigrants selected by Dr. Boyter, mostly from the Lowlands, and including in their number many craftsmen, especially masons and joiners, and several engineers, farmers, and shepherds. In the next three years twenty shiploads were to be dispatched from Scotland under this system, with more than 5,000 emigrants. The strong Highland element in this emigration is indicated by the fact that, of the twenty vessels, twelve sailed from ports in the Highlands and five more from Greenock on the Clyde—a convenient port of embarkation for people from the Highlands.

It can be assumed that the bulk of the passengers in the ships from the Highlands were crofters, with a few shepherds and very few craftsmen among them. Some were elderly people who were allowed ‘ship-room’ on payment of their passages by their friends or their landlords. In the absence of detailed lists, with ages and occupations, it is difficult to assess the exact composition of the Highland element. Fortunately, one detailed list does exist in the Port Phillip Immigration Registers for a vessel which sailed from Greenock, and this, if typical, does give an impression of the system, in that farm labourers, craftsmen, and women domestic servants made up the main categories. The total of ninety-four was made up as follows:

Table 9

types of emigrants who went out under the government system. The ship was the David Clarke, which left Greenock in June 1839 with 125 people from the Highland counties of Perth, Argyll, and Inverness, and 94 from the Lowlands. The Highland contingent included 50 children, 16 married women, 10 shepherds, 4 ‘farmers’ (possibly crofters), 11 farm labourers (probably some of them had been crofters), 17 craftsmen, who mainly came from the Highland ‘fringe’ area of Perthshire, with its country towns, a ‘farm overseer’ from Argyll, and a ploughman. The Lowlanders in this shipload were probably typical of those sent out under the government system, in that farm labourers, craftsmen, and women domestic servants made up the main categories. The total of ninety-four was made up as follows:-

17 maidservants, 22 married women, 13 farm labourers, 19 children, 4 dairymaids, 2 storekeepers, 1 carpenter, 3 menservants, 2 blacksmiths, 2 tailors, 1 joiner, 2 needlewomen, 2 shepherds, 1 farm overseers and 3 cartwrights.

The David Clarke list is, in fact, very similar to the lists of many of the vessels sent out by private operators under the colonial system in the next few years. There are the same features marking the Scottish emigration under both systems—the presence of a considerable Highland element, of a large number of shepherds and craftsmen and artisans.

In 1838 no fewer than nine vessels sailed, eight of them from Greenock or from far northern ports, with a total of 2,461 emigrants in government ships, making this the peak year of assisted emigration from Scotland. Eliot, in his Agent-General’s report of April 1838, envisaged the dispatch of twelve government ships from Britain in 1839—four from each of the three kingdoms—but five ships were, in fact, obtained for Scotland, and that year saw the departure of 1,178 assisted emigrants in government ships.

In 1840 the system of government ships was abolished, together with the British Government system of bounty emigration (as opposed to the colonial bounty system). Eliot’s office as Agent-General for Emigration was also abolished, and its functions transferred to the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission, but the flow from Scotland continued under the new system, by which the selection of the emigrants was made by private operators.

By 1840-1 an increasing number of Scottish shipowners and merchants were availing themselves of the licences to bring in bounty emigrants granted by the Governments of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. By 31 December 1841 no fewer than 71,315 bounty ‘permissions’ were outstanding for New South Wales, and the government emigration agents were simply supervising the bounty operations of shipowners, shipbrokers and merchants, both British and colonial. These private bounty emigration operations will be considered later, but the problems arising from the predominantly Highland character of the ‘official’ bounty emigration organized by Eliot and Boyter first deserve to be examined in some detail for the light they throw on the nature of this, by far the largest Scottish influx into Australia up to this time, and on the attitudes of the emigrants, of their landlords, and of other sections of their countrymen to Australia.

From 1835 the problems of destitution and over-population in the western Highlands and islands were becoming increasingly acute. The general depression of 1836—8 throughout Scotland aggravated the situation, and the outbreak of disturbances in Canada dimmed, for many Highlanders, the prospect of settlement in their traditional emigration field. By 1837 much of the redundant crofting population had become so impoverished that, for them, even the comparatively cheap passages to North America were out of reach. In May 1837 Dr. Robert Graham, Professor of Botany in the University of Glasgow and an early expert on public health and social problems, sent a report to the Honourable Fox Maule, the active and progressive Member of Parliament for Aberdeen, on the ‘unexampled destitution’ in the western Highlands—’worse than any ever known there before’. Graham cited the reasons for this state of affairs—the poor potato crops since 1835, the reductions in the army, which had closed the door to employment for many, the primitive subsistence nature of the crofting system, and the failure of the fisheries. The only solution, he declared, was large-scale emigration, involving the removal of a great number of the people, of all ages. The newly formed Highland relief committees in Glasgow and Edinburgh were strong in support of Graham’s ‘large-scale emigration’ proposal, and here, it seemed to Eliot and to Boyter, was an opportunity for them to be of some service to both Britain and the Australian colonies.

By 1837 poverty and destitution seemed to be breaking down the traditional aversion of the Highlanders towards Australia. Roderick Millar, surgeon at Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides, wrote to Sir John Hill in Edinburgh in June 1837 reporting that he had been ‘a good deal among the peasantry enquiring of their inclination to emigrate to New South Wales... . I found among them a good deal of timidity about going to Australia, but, on the other hand, a great desire to emigrate to America.' Still, he reported, no fewer than three or four hundred had said they were willing to go out to Australia. This prompted Eliot and Boyter to push on with the selection of emigrants and the arranging of the first vessels to sail from the Hebrides in July and August 1837.

It was in the question of selection that they were to come into conflict with important Scottish interests, for George Grey, at the Colonial Office, had asked Boyter in April 1837 to co-operate with the Edinburgh and Glasgow relief committees in selecting and sending out emigrants, and had suggested that mechanics and skilled agriculturists be selected. The suggestion showed a lack of knowledge of Highland conditions, for craftsmen of any kind were few in the Highlands, and agriculture was primitive. Grey was probably intent on doing his best to meet the needs of the colony for workers of this description, and Boyter and Eliot, while unable to follow his suggestion very closely, were determined to ensure that the emigrants were at least able-bodied, and not likely to be a burden on the colony.

Here the Agent-General and the ‘Agent for Emigration to New South Wales in Scotland’ came into conflict with the relief committees, which included many influential Scots. The committees objected to the cream of the Highland population being shipped abroad, leaving only poverty-stricken, aged, and destitute people in the area. James Stephen apparently asked Eliot for a report on the subject of an ‘extensive’ (i.e. non-selective) emigration, for as early as July 1837, before the first ship had sailed from the Hebrides, Eliot wrote to him ‘on the suggestion that recourse be had to an extensive emigration’. Eliot agreed that ‘to make a deep impression on the case, where seventy thousand people are destitute. . . not only the active and the enterprising, but the weak, the aged and the sickly, must accompany the general emigration’, but he held that the bulk of such an emigration must be to North America.

In April 1837 Boyter had been given special authority by the Colonial Office to select emigrants from the Highlands, and his lists for the two ships that sailed in July and August were regarded by the destitution committees as too selective. The committees believed that Boyter had been more or less given carte blanche to send out persons of all ages and states of health (though Grey had obviously envisaged the dispatch of only those emigrants who would be useful to the colony). In the view of the Committees, Boyter’s selection policy was discouraging emigration to Australia, and against the Inverness Courier’s account of the enthusiastic reception given to Boyter and to the idea of emigration (at the head of this chapter) must be set the statements of John Bowie of the Edinburgh Relief Committee, who had been in the Highlands in the autumn of 1837 to promote emigration to Australia. In November, he wrote to Glenelg: ‘I found not only great ignorance with respect to the colony, but also prejudices of the worst description. . . many who are willing to go to Australia cannot comply with the regulations because they are too old, or wish to take aged relatives.’

In May 1838 the Edinburgh Destitution Committee passed resolutions criticizing Boyter’s selections, charging that many persons of good character in the Highlands had been disappointed in their hope of emigration, and going so far as to suggest that Boyter and the government agents at Leith and Greenock had held out false hopes of free passages to the people. Defending his service (and Boyter), Eliot pointed out to Stephen that the committee’s aim—a ‘wholesale emigration’ regardless of age and condition—was contrary to the whole object of the bounty scheme, which was to provide suitable settlers for the colony, and not relief measures for the whole Highland area. He also made the telling point that the desperate situation in the Highlands was being aggravated by the landlords themselves, who were associated with the relief committees, for they were destroying the houses of the people in order to clear away the crofting system. Another serious accusation brought against Eliot and Boyter by the relief committees was that they were denuding the Highlands of ‘the superior class of emigrants’—such as ‘intelligent shepherds’. As Campbell of Jura, chairman of the Edinburgh committee, affirmed, this would ‘deplete’ the area, and he urged that labourers and other unskilled persons be given the advantage of bounty.

The colonial public and the authorities there, too, were made aware of this strong feeling about emigration among the educated middle class in the north, for in May 1839 Lesslie Duguid, the Aberdeen merchant who had been responsible for founding the commercial Banking Company of Sydney, sent in to the Sydney Herald a letter he had received from C. Munro in Dingwall. Munro, ‘an opulent banker and extensive sheep-farmer in Ross-Shire’, wrote that it ‘sickened his heart’ to see so many of his countrymen emigrate to Australia—’If Boyter were ridding the country of its scum, we should be obliged to him, but he is depriving us of the very flower of the land. I don’t know one bad man he has taken from this country.'

Throughout this controversy Eliot firmly refused to deviate from what he considered to be his duty to the colony. Like Boyter, Eliot co-operated with the relief committees, as the large-scale operations of 1837—9 in the Highlands bear witness, but he never yielded to pressure for an ‘indiscriminate emigration’. If the Scottish Highland element among the bounty emigrants was smaller because of his determination than it would have been otherwise, its quality, and its usefulness to the colony, were all the greater. The Agent-General had to resist continual pressures from Scotland, and some of them were exerted in such a way as to offer tempting solutions to the Highland problem to the Government. In January 1838, Bowie, for the relief committees, offered theft entire funds—about £20,000—to assist the emigration, but Eliot advised Stephen to resist the offer, since it involved ‘discrimination in favour of one part of the kingdom’, and kept to his view that the Australian emigration must be selective, must not become simply ‘the discharge of extensive and over-peopled districts in this country from their surplus population’. He contended that Australian emigration funds were insufficient for a large-scale ‘indiscriminate’ operation, and that the colony would only be embarrassed by such an influx.

Despite the criticisms of the relief committees that Eliot and Boyter were creaming off the useful part of the Highland population for New South Wales and leaving the useless, the emigration scheme was actually administered with considerable flexibility, and concessions were made to the natural family feelings of the Highlanders. As Eliot put it, Boyter ‘has power within moderate limits, not to object to the reception of aged relatives, provided the cost of their passages.. . be paid for by their friends or landlords’. Since the emigration was being carried on in ships chartered by the Government, and under government superintendence, this meant a considerable relaxation of former procedure.

In 1838 the pressure for a large-scale emigration to Australia reached its peak, with a barrage of petitions and memorials from the Highlands to the Colonial Office, to Parliament, and to Eliot. In May, for example, certain ‘noblemen, gentlemen, and proprietors’ in Arisaig, Moidart, and North and South Morar petitioned for the extension of operations to their districts, and Eliot reported to Stephen that Boyter would extend his peregrinations into these inaccessible areas, but he again emphasized that no such general exodus as the memorialists contemplated was feasible or desirable. Other approaches came in at the same time from landowners and district meetings of magistrates and the clergy in Wester Ross, Lochaber, and the islands, but to them all Eliot’s attitude was firm. Boyter would visit the areas and selective emigration would be carried on, but the service could not become simply a means of alleviating local distress.

The urgency of the destitution problem, and the new enthusiasm about the prospects of Australia, resulted in the submission of some remarkable schemes to the Colonial Office at this time. Charles Baird, secretary to the Glasgow Highland Destitution Committee, conveyed to Sir George Grey in January 1838 the proposal of a member of the Committee, ‘himself a Highlander’, who asked that they should be permitted to purchase three or four thousand acres of land at Port Philip or some other suitable locality, on which families from the western islands would be given allotments. The assistance of both the committee and the Government would be necessary, and Baird stressed that the aim was to make emigration by whole families possible. At the same time, and in collusion with the Glasgow Committee, John Bowie of the Edinburgh Committee addressed Grey, stressing the need for family emigration and urging that the whole operation ‘be opened up more extensively’. The two committees had come to the same conclusion—that the emigration was not large enough in scale, and that the Government alone could achieve the great movement of population necessary to solve the problem. Yet another scheme was that of Alexander Jopp, a lawyer and company promoter of Aberdeen, on the fringe of the Highland area, who had a plan for depositing money in Britain for the purchase of land in New South Wales, in order to be entitled to send out labourers. Again Eliot’s reaction was unco-operative— ‘incompatible with the present system’.

James Loch, factor for the extensive estates of the Duchess of Sutherland, had already suggested that ‘Her Grace would be desirous to join with the Government’ in an emigration scheme, and Hugh McLean of CoIl had written several times proposing the establishment of an entirely new settlement in Australia, with a population (‘free of convict contamination’) of 3,000 destitute Highlanders, 300 to be sent out yearly for ten years. CoIl himself would undertake the management of the colony, and suggested that the Government should give him ‘a very large tract’ of land, and advance him £42,000 in passages for the Highlanders. He described himself as ‘a Highland proprietor, who, having lost one-third of his income by the annihilation of the kelp manufacture, has consequently a large surplus population which must starve or emigrate’, and stated that he ‘felt most keenly the responsibility of recommending them going into the almost certain destruction of a convict contact and example. They are themselves aware of this great danger and importune me for location apart.’ If a separate settlement could be formed, Coll believed that Australia would soon match Canada in popularity as a Highland emigration field.

It was to the North American colonies that Eliot suggested the proposers of all these schemes should send their people, and no encouragement was given to them, not even any ‘abatement’ in the passage money to be asked of labourers, who did not come under the bounty scheme provisions. The attitude of the landowners had changed completely since the early years of the century, when the Highland Society, fearful of a draining off in the population, had caused such restrictions to be imposed on emigrant vessels that the traffic, even to North America, because doubtfully profitable. Now the landowners were desperate to clear their lands, and the provisioning regulations were relaxed, but the sheer pressure of demand for shipping space from all over the Highlands created its own problem—because funds for the operations were limited, and, unlike private operators earlier in the century who could make their own bargains with the people, Eliot and Boyter were circumscribed by the selection regulations, and the bulk of the people they had to consider had lost their savings, had little or no ready money, and were often utterly destitute.

By May 1838 the Highlanders’ prejudices against going to Australia, reported by Roderick Millar and by Bowie to Glenelg in November 1837, had largely disappeared, probably because of Eliot’s and Borer’s relaxation of the regulations to permit elderly relatives to go out in the government ships. This was the key to their success in 1837—40 in securing an ample supply of good quality emigrants, and the same enlightened attitude, permitting the emigration of family groups, was to be successful again when the Highland and Island Emigration Society conducted the next large-scale emigration from the north to Australia in the 1850s. The growing popularity of Australian emigration in the north was shown at the meeting held at Fort William on 8 May 1838 with the object of promoting emigration, specifically to Australia, where it was stated that 1,200 persons had pledged themselves to go out ‘under the Colonial Act’ of 1835, and Hew Ainslie, a local merchant, moved that ‘there is no district in Scotland in which the spirit of emigration and enterprise prevails to a greater extent than in Lochaber’. This change in the attitude of the Highlanders was also revealed in the approaches made by William Mackenzie of Muirton, chairman of the Edinburgh Destitution Committee, urging Glenelg to send more ships to the west Highlands, where numerous emigrants for Australia were waiting—this within a few days of the Committee’s attacks on Borer for distributing misleading circulars in Shetland and raising false hopes ‘so as to prejudicially affect the favourable feeling for emigration’.

Misunderstandings were inevitable between Eliot and Boyter on the one hand, anxious to do their best within the limits of the existent regulations (or even beyond these limits), and the destitution committees on the other, appalled by the extent and urgency of the problem.

Eliot’s last concern with Scottish emigration as a member of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission was with Renfrewshire, that particularly distressed area in the Lowlands, from which the ‘working men of Paisley’ petitioned Stanley in May 1841 asking for free passages to Australia ‘rather than remain at home, dependent on charity for subsistence’. A local emigration committee had been formed in the town to further assisted emigration to Australia, and Paisley had sent in petitions, but Eliot’s final reaction was to refuse assistance, since no public funds existed for the purpose of sending out weavers. Eliot refused to relax the regulations in this case, but under the private bounty system considerable numbers (211 people) went out from Renfrewshire in 1838—41, and 74 of these were from Paisley.

Despite the criticisms of the destitution committees for their refusal to countenance a general exodus, Eliot and Boyter’s government operations provided the largest and most concentrated Scottish influx into Australia before 1852. Conditions on the ships they operated were remarkably good, judging by the low rate of deaths and sickness on the voyages. David Waugh, a Scottish settler, writing in 1837, gave Boyter the highest praise for the care and attention he gave to provisioning the vessels. Supplies of wine were carried for invalids, and large supplies of fresh beef and vegetables were laid in whenever possible at the ports of departure, even in the western Highlands. Nothing came of a proposal by Principal McFarlan and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to have clergymen and teachers appointed to the ships, Eliot approving the scheme in principle but pointing out to Stephen that no funds were available to pay such people, and stressing that the complete authority of the superintendent surgeons of the ships might be impaired if this were allowed. Yet a concession to the national diet was made in the provision of supplies of oatmeal in the ships.

The unwillingness of the Highlanders among government bounty emigrants to separate from their kinsfolk and friends was a problem for the colonial authorities, just as it had been for Borer and Eliot when they were being selected. The case of the Midlothian, the third government ship to sail from Scotland, illustrates this very well, for on arriving in Sydney in December 1837 the Highlanders claimed that they had received an undertaking before they sailed that they would be settled as a group in the colony. Their petitions for employment as a group seeming to be of no avail, they were reported to have threatened that ‘no more settlers would ever come from the Western Islands of Scotland’. The problem was solved when Andrew Lang, a Scots settler on the Hunter River, undertook to settle the whole shipload on his estate. The close ties of relationship among many of these people can be guessed from the emigrant list of the British King, which sailed from Tobermory in October 1838. Of 332 people, 146 bore the surname Macdonald.

The Midlothian case was apparently unique in the determined resistance made by the Highlanders to dispersion on arrival, and the fact that the ship was one of the first to sail from the Hebrides was probably in large part responsible for its occurrence. When contingents of Highlanders were already settled, they provided reassurance and a welcome for newcomers, and a surprising number of them soon prospered, though impoverished on arrival. A typical instance, cited by Lang, was John McMillan of Skipness, a destitute Highlander who had been forced by the economic pressures of the 1830s to become ‘a common porter’ for six years in the streets of Greenock. Within seven years of his arrival in Port Phillip in 1840 he had become a farmer, with his own land and 400 head of cattle.

Even before they arrived in Australia the first shiploads of Scottish bounty emigrants made a favourable impression on James Macarthur, a prominent colonial landowner. In his survey of ‘The Present State and Future Prospects’ of New South Wales, Macarthur made several approving references to their quality and conduct, and printed the ‘strict code’ of rules and regulations which the emigrants sailing from Dundee in March 1837 in the John Bar!y had drawn up entirely voluntarily for their conduct on the voyage. These rules made provision for the election of a superintending committee, for the trial of offenders by a jury chosen by ballot, and for the appointment of constables or watchmen in rotation. Swearing, quarrels about religion, and gambling were prohibited, and there was to be ‘public reading’ of ‘strictly moral books’.

The searching investigation before the British Select Committee on Scottish Emigration in 1841 brought out the view of many witnesses that Australia would be a particularly suitable emigration field for both Highlanders and Lowlanders. John Bowie of the Edinburgh Relief Committee described how he had found in Skye in 1837 that two-thirds of the people were unwilling to go there, and that many did not even know of the existence of New South Wales, and how his distribution of a pamphlet with notes on the colony had led to ‘great emigrations’. Bowie stated that the movement had been an unqualified success: ‘Parties who went out without a sixpence write me that they dare not tell me what they have gained, for they think I could not believe them’, and he instanced the Highland settlement in the district of Skye on the Hunter River founded by emigrants from that island as an example of success.

The Reverend Norman McLeod, who had been on the relief committees’ London deputation of 1837 with Bowie and Charles Baird of Glasgow, still differed in 1847 from his erstwhile colleagues in preferring Canada to Australia because of the better shipping facilities in the Clyde for North America, but his namesake and colleague, the Reverend N. McLeod of Morven, believed strongly that ‘the people of the remote glens, a pastoral people, are very well adapted for Australia, or America, but particularly for Australia’, and Charles Baird of Glasgow supported him in the view that ‘no class of persons are more capable for labour in Australia than the distressed persons in the Highlands’. The evidence given before the Committee was so unanimously in favour of emigration that it is interesting to speculate on the effects of a continued large-scale movement from the Highlands. The machinery for sending people out was changing. There were, after 1841, no more government ships, but the newly appointed Land and Emigration Commissioners still had agencies in Scottish ports, and could no doubt have laid on vessels for the Highlanders if all bounty emigration had not been stopped in 1841. Emigration on an appreciable scale under government schemes had been slow to start up in Scotland, and it was halted just when a certain momentum had been acquired.

Private operators under the colonial bounty system, and
Scottish emigration to Australia 1832—46

The earliest private bounty operations carried on from Scotland in 1831 were on a small scale, and they were hampered by the restrictions on outports imposed through the influence of the London Emigration Committee. John Broadfoot and others campaigned in 1835 for the extension of bounty privileges to the direct emigration of unmarried women, mechanics, and agricultural workers, from Leith. Concessions in this matter were difficult to obtain, and no large-scale privately conducted bounty emigration from Scotland developed before 1837, when merchants, shipping agents, and landowners in Australia, acting in concert with Scottish merchants, shipowners, and shipping agents, began to take advantage of the new colonial bounty system.

It is probable that small groups of ‘mechanics’, like the two cabinet-makers, the plasterer, and the engineer who arrived in Sydney as steerage passengers from Leith in December 1832 in the North Briton, were brought out under the bounty arrangements of that year, but there is no evidence of bounty emigration from Scotland on any appreciable scale being conducted by private operators before 1837. The total number of assisted emigrants from the whole of the United Kingdom to Australia in the early 1830s was small, about 3,500 in the five years 1832-36. In 1836 only fifty persons entered New South Wales under the colonial bounty arrangements, but in the following year large-scale operations commenced, and with them began a movement of population from Scotland to Australia which was to come near to rivalling the achievement of Borer and Eliot with their twenty shiploads consisting of more than 5,000 persons sent out in 1837—40.

Professor Madgwick has stated that the colonial bounty system ‘never worked properly’, because London shipowners had their agents in Sydney, who ‘applied in their own names for permits to bring in immigrants’, and this is certainly true of the very large-scale operations of John Marshall and his associates. But there were others besides Marshall, the London shipowners, and their agents, who secured licences and brought out immigrants, and among them Scots were prominent. An outstanding example was the Sydney firm of Gilchrist and Alexander. In 1840, when John Gilchrist corresponded with the Emigration Commissioners about extending his activities in this direction, he had already organized several shiploads of bounty emigrants, many of them Scots. Between 1837 and 1842 a number of Scottish merchants in Sydney and Port Phillip, and merchants in Glasgow, were operating under the ‘private’ bounty system, and while Gilchrist and Alexander may on occasion have been acting on behalf of Scottish and English shipping interests they represented, they and the others were also acting for settlers who required labour.

The composition of these shipments not only showed the sort of workers that settlers wanted, but revealed as well something of the economic pressures in Scotland at the time. The redundancy of artisans in some country towns is an example. Before October 1840, six carpenters from the town of Perth and its district are recorded among the bounty immigrants, and eleven more carpenters from Perth arrived between October 1840 and August 1842, as well as two from Perthshire—a total of nineteen in all for the four-year period. Similarly, from Fife, after October 1840, came ten carpenters, and from Aberdeen five, from Lanarkshire six, and from Edinburgh fourteen more. These figures indicate the decline of Perth as a market on the Highland fringe, and the general slackness of the building trade throughout the country, for from the other towns and districts in the same period came forty more carpenters. The building trades of Edinburgh appear to have been particularly depressed at the time, and ten joiners from that city emigrated, as well as eight stonemasons and other artisans, making this district the largest contributor of building craftsmen to the emigration to Australia.

The number of blacksmiths also indicates the temporary setback experienced by the iron trades. In the period 1837-42 fifteen arrived from Glasgow, thirteen from Edinburgh, seven from Perthshire, four from Dundee, and four from Fife, and thirty-nine others from towns and country districts ranging from Ross in the north to Kirkcudbright in the south. Apart from the concentrations of craftsmen emigrants like those from Perth and Edinburgh, it is the widespread distribution of both craftsmen and agricultural workers throughout the country that is the most impressive feature of the emigration. From small country towns and villages came masons, plasterers, millwrights, wheelwrights, cartwrights, carpenters, joiners, and blacksmiths, as well as engineers, and other skilled workers, who typified the new trades that had developed with the industrialization of the country, as well as the traditional crafts.

The number of artisans and shepherds among the Scottish immigrants is most striking, and is far higher than the proportions for these categories among either the English or the Irish. Craftsmen figured prominently among the people brought in by Scottish operators, who had agents in Scotland in a good position to contact and secure such desirable immigrants. Altogether, there were 363 craftsmen and mechanics among the Scots, apart from skilled agricultural workers, gardeners, and specialized labourers like quarrymen. The prevalence of skilled men was obvious among the shipments arranged by the private operators, and the first large group, the 253 Scots brought out by Andrew Lang in the Portland in December 1837, included:

12 joiners, 1 plasterer, 5 stonemasons, 1 brass-founder, 5 shoemakers, 8 tailors, 4 cabinet-makers, 1 watchmaker, 4 engineers, 1 ship’s carpenter, 3 teachers, 1 bricklayer, 1 iron turner, 1 saddler, 33 millwrights, 1 compositor and 1 carpenter as well as a number of skilled agriculturists, five describing themselves as ‘farmers’, and eight shepherds. By comparison, the 211 Irish who arrived in Sydney in the John Renwick in September 1841, a typical shipload from their country, included only two carpenters and one blacksmith among the almost unbroken lists of ‘labourers’ and ‘farm labourers’. The proportion of craftsmen among the English arrivals was higher than among the Irish, but far less than the proportion among the Scots.

Of 3,416 Scots brought out by the private operators, 2,369 were brought out by Scottish merchants and agents, in Sydney, Port Philip, and Glasgow. The remainder were mostly brought out by John Marshall, of London, who, according to Eliot, had a virtual monopoly of bounty emigration from the British Isles to New South Wales up to the beginning of 1840. The Scottish operators are listed below, with the numbers of Scots immigrants brought in by them. Several of these operators brought in Irish immigrants as well, in mixed shiploads that embarked in Scottish ports.

Of the Scottish operators in the colonial ports, the most active by far was John Gilchrist, who brought out over 900 persons to both Sydney and Port PhilIip. Gilchrist’s Glasgow agent, John Miller, was probably responsible for their selection, and they were brought out both in shiploads in emigrant vessels, and in small groups in general traders. Entire shiploads arrived for Gilchrist and Alexander in December 1838 (238 by the Portland), in November 1839 (56 by the Palmyra), in June 1841 (99 by the Herald), in July 1841 (168 in the William Abrams), in August 1841 (77 by the Percy), in October 1841 (83 by the New York Packet, forwarded by John Miller of Glasgow), and January 1842 (56 by the Margaret, again forwarded by Miller).

Table 10

Other prominent Scottish operators in the emigrant traffic were settlers, including Donald McIntyre of Invermein, George Ranken, G. Bowman of Goulburn Plains, Peter McIntyre of Maitland, and Andrew Lang of ‘Dunmore’. An importation of fifty-seven persons by D. McIntyre in the Heber in July 1839 were nearly all country people from the Highlands, shepherds and labourers and their families. Andrew Lang’s group—the first entire shipload introduced under the colonial bounty system by a Scottish operator—probably reflected the keen interest taken in Scottish emigration by the Lang family. Dick’s importation of a watchmaker, a jeweller, and a silversmith was probably to staff his own flourishing business as a jeweller in Sydney. John Gilchrist acted as Sydney agent for a good number of settlers, on the Hunter and elsewhere, who were always anxious to have dependable workers. Working in co-operation with Glasgow merchants like John Miller, thus enabling them to secure the bounty and so increase the earning power of their ships, made Gilchrist’s shipping agency for them all the more profitable.

From the smaller parties shipped out by A. B. Smith, another Scots merchant in Sydney, it can be concluded that his first consideration was to obtain workers, or to secure them for his clients, and the same probably applied to Alexander Campbell, Thomas Walker, and William Walker and Company, to Alexander Duncan and to the small-scale operators in Melbourne. All of these were shipping agents as well as merchants. Francis Reid, of Glasgow, also participated as a shipowner or shipbroker, interested in securing returns from passage money, and J. F. Beattie’s draft of sixty persons in March 1842 were intended to populate and work the lands which the North British Australasian Company had already secured on the Hunter.

Gilchrist was the leading figure in Sydney in the 1830s in maintaining commercial contact with Scotland, through his shipping agency and immigration activities. The total of 2,369 persons brought in by him, and by the others, is impressive.

The emigrants were drawn from every shire in the country and from the Hebrides, from Shetland, and Orkney. There is no evidence to suggest that the private operators or their Scottish collaborators sent out agents to stimulate enthusiasm, or to interview and select suitable persons, as Borer had done. Probably newspaper advertisements and printed circulars brought enough inquiries from those who were considering the step. A significant feature of the movement was the number leaving for Australia from Glasgow and the West Country, and from the north-eastern counties, Aberdeenshire, Banff, Morayshire, and Nairn. These were all districts where comparatively little interest had been shown in Australia in the 1820s.

Table 11

The substantial numbers leaving Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, and the north-east are an indication of the agricultural changes in these districts following the introduction of ‘improvements’. The high figures for Renfrewshire reflect the depression there due to the change-over from handloom weaving to machine processes. Glasgow, Lanarkshire, and Edinburgh had not as yet, by 1840, felt the stimulus that railway building in many parts of the country was soon to give to the iron trade, and the totals drawn from these places were considerable, 300 from Edinburgh and nearly 400 from Glasgow. The emigration of the late 1830s was not localized in the south-east, like that of the 1820s, and this did not apply only to the assisted emigrants. The middle and upper-class settlers also went out from practically every district. There were Highland lairds, Lowland gentry and farmers, merchants from Glasgow and Dundee, businessmen and lawyers and professional men from Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Table 12

Among the difficulties facing the private operators in Scotland as well as official emigration agents like Eliot and Boyter was lack of reliable information about the colony. In October 1839 David Forrest, a Glasgow shipbroker, complained to the Emigration Commissioners of wholesale ‘desertions’ from some of his ships due to the press reports (‘exaggerated, if not without foundation’) of drought in New South Wales, and asked that ‘good reports’ from dispatches be sent to him for publication, to offset the newspaper accounts. Another difficulty was the need to provide certificates of eligibility for bounty passages at short notice— almost impossible in many cases, due to the fact that most Highland emigrants journeyed down to Glasgow and Greenock to embark.

The suspension of the bounty system as a result of the economic crisis in the colony in 1841—2 brought the activities of the private operators to a halt. While the emigration to North America increased, that to Australia fell off to the slightest figures since the mid 1830s. In the second (spring) quarter of the year 1844, normally the season when departures were most numerous, not one single emigrant left either Glasgow or Greenock for Australia, while the total of departures from the two ports for Quebec, New York, and other North American ports was 2,122. A few months later the bounty ship Herald was repeatedly advertised in an attempt to beat up emigrants for Sydney on the temporary resumption of assisted emigration. As John Dunmore Lang wrote in 1852, much more could have been accomplished under both ‘systems’ if bounty operations could have been started up more quickly, and direct emigration from Scotland carried on on an extensive scale from 1835. But considering Marshall’s ‘virtual monopoly’, and the fact that the government operations of 1837-9 were on so large a scale, it is surprising that the Scottish operators, in Glasgow, Leith, Sydney, and Port Phillip, should have accomplished so much. Their activities helped to bring Australia once again into the Scottish vista.

The Scottish proportion among the bounty Emigrants

Under the government system, as under the colonial bounty system as conducted through private operators, the emigration from Ireland far surpassed that from the rest of the United Kingdom in extent. Eliot’s office maintained no fewer than six agents in Irish ports, as against the two in Scotland, at Leith and Greenock.

It was during the four years of large-scale private operations between 1838 and 1841 that the Irish influx reached the extent that frightened John Dunmore Lang and made the Scottish, and even the English, influx seem by comparison insignificant. Between April 1838 and August 1842 the Scots percentage of those sent out in this way was 9.6, the English percentage was 28.2, and the Irish made up 63.9, or almost two-thirds of the total. The numbers were:

Scots 3,291 - English 10,049 - Irish 22,182

Returns of occupations taken up by bounty immigrants, and wages paid to them, indicate that the Scottish agricultural workers were often employed as overseers, probably because many of them were skilled, and a comparison of the wages obtained for the various types of situation shows that, in the case of the Canton, which arrived in the colony in 1836, more Scots received wages above the average.

Before the government system ceased to operate in 1840, and Eliot’s function became purely supervisory, the Scottish proportion in the emigration had fallen sharply. The record of twenty shiploads dispatched by Eliot and Boyter within three years represents the high-water mark of Scottish emigration to Australia before 1846. Despite Eliot’s brushes with the destitution committees and his resistance to the importunities of Highland projectors, he had risen to the occasion and helped to overcome the problem in the north. Through his co-operation with Boyter, over 5,000 Scots, at least half of them Highlanders, were added to the colonial population. Under the colonial system, conducted by private operators, Scots numbered only 3,416 as against a total of 35,647. The cessation of other than supervisory activity by Eliot and his office may have resulted in a fall in the Scottish emigration, for to many private operators, both in the colony and in the major British shipping centres, London and Liverpool, it was easier to obtain shiploads from the distressed thousands who were crossing over from Ireland.

Professor Madgwick has stated that ‘the standard of living in Scotland continued to fall during the thirties and forties until it was comparable to that of Ireland’. This may be true of certain areas where trades were becoming obsolete—among the numerous handloom weavers of Renfrewshire, for instance—and it certainly applied in the west Highlands, where potato-culture had become the staple of subsistence crofting, but for most parts of the country it is an overstatement. As L. C. Wright has shown, unemployment was never so widespread and intense in Scotland in 1839, 1842, or 1848 as in England. Over most of the Lowlands, the iron industry and the application of machinery in the textile industry kept the economy buoyant. Part of the fall in living standards was due to the Irish influx, and it was the hopelessness of Irish conditions that resulted in the amazingly high propo4ion of Irish sent out under the colonial system by the shipowners and agents, not only from Irish ports, but from Liverpool, London, and the Scottish ports as well.

Unassisted emigration, 1832-46

Unassisted emigration from Scotland was increasing steadily after 1834, but the proportion of Scots going out privately is difficult to determine because many sailed from London. From the passenger lists of vessels sailing from Leith, Greenock, Aberdeen, and Dundee, it appears that the rate of unassisted emigration trebled in 1839, as against the average rate indicated in the customs returns for the years from 1834 to 1836. The proportion of Scots among the unassisted emigrants was the same as in the 1820s— about a quarter of the total, a much higher proportion than that of the Scottish bounty emigrants under the colonial bounty system between 1838 and 1842, which was only between one-tenth and one-eleventh of the total. As in the 1820s, this later Scottish influx was more markedly a middle-class movement than the immigration from England or Ireland.

Although many of the Highlanders who went out as bounty emigrants were destitute labourers, a large proportion of the craftsmen among the incoming Scots, mostly drawn from the Lowlands, had a relatively high status at the time in the colonies. They could command high wages—three or four times those of labourers—and, except in particularly bad times, their services were eagerly sought after. Analysis of the Presbyterian congregations in New South Wales in the 1830s shows that the average proportion of ‘labourers’ in the congregations was very small (9.4 per cent.), that of artisans and mechanics considerably larger (21.2 per cent.), while that of farmers and ‘settlers’ (terms often used interchangeably) was the largest (47.7 per cent.). The ‘professional’ class averaged 6.1 per cent. As might be expected, the concentration of mechanics and craftsmen in Sydney was very high, the proportion of these in the Scots Church congregation there being 54.7 per cent.

The slight Scottish influx of the early 1830s, up to 1837, was composed for the most part of middle-class settlers of the type who had figured so prominently in the movement of the preceding decade—people like Janet Templeton, widow of a Glasgow banker, who sailed from Greenock in the chartered brig Czar with her nine children, some workers and servants, and a small flock of Saxon merinos, with a schedule of capital totalling £2,053.

There were new elements in the emigration, besides the half-pay officers who availed themselves of the concessionary grants of land which had been instituted in 1826. A noticeable feature was the number of young men of good family, sometimes with a professional training, like David Lindsay Waugh, a young lawyer from Edinburgh, or the sons of landed families, like Patrick Leslie of Warthill in Aberdeenshire, and young graduates, like John Rae, fresh from his Arts course in Aberdeen.

The year 1839, especially, was notable for the number of settlers who came out. To mention only a few who ventured out at their own charges, there were William Macleay, nephew of the Colonial Secretary, an intending (and successful) squatter, politician, and scientist; J. F. Beattie, manager of the North British Australasian Company of Aberdeen; and Catherine Spence, the future welfare worker in Adelaide. This was the time of the great influx of Scots into the Port Phillip district from both Van Diemen’s Land and Scotland, when several pastoral ventures like the Clyde Company (1836) and the partnership of Neil Black and Company (1839) were formed. The first was composed of two Scots settlers in Van Diemen’s Land, and five wealthy merchants, three of them in Glasgow, with a capital of £8,400. The second was similar in style, the partners consisting of a farmer’s son, a Lowland landowner, a Scots merchant in Liverpool, and a Glasgow merchant, with a capital altogether of £6,000.

When Neil Black arrived in Melbourne, he found it ‘a Scotch colony—two thirds of the inhabitants are Scotch’, and the preponderance of Scots among the pastoralists of the Western District is shown by a list of subscribers to the League and Resistance Fund formed in 1845 to oppose an attempt by the District Council to impose taxes. Of the fifty-three who subscribed, at least thirty-three were Scots. Many of the Scots listed in this document are shown as in partnership, and many were probably working under similar arrangements as the Clyde Company and Neil Black’s copartnery, with backers in Scotland. For many years their Scottish origin provided another bond to those of the mutually shared interests of a powerful section in that colony’s political life.

By 1844 there existed a Glasgow Association for the Promotion of the Squatting and General Interests of New South Wales, with Alexander Finlay of Toward Castle, a member of the partnership for which Neil Black acted as manager, as its chairman, and this body was able to exercise pressure in Parliament on behalf of the squatters in the vital matter of the land regulations. In 1845 the Glasgow Association memorialized Stanley, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, on behalf of the squatters, condemning Gipps’s ‘forcing stockholders to purchase. . . waste land’, and putting forward the suggestion that had been made, and was to be made again so often, that the colonial Government should ‘repay to emigrants the cost of their passages by grants of land at a fair valuation’. The Glasgow Association acted through their local Members of Parliament and looked also to Lord Polwarth, a Scottish peer, and to Polwarth’s son, the Honourable Francis Scott, M.P., for leadership. Scott had pastoral interests in the colony, and had become the acknowledged London spokesman of the squatters. In May 1845 the squatters’ supporters held a meeting in London, with Polwarth in the chair and attended by a number of Scots, including Scott Donaldson, a shipowner, William Sprott Boyd, of the firm of Jardine Matheson and Co., Archibald Boyd, East India Merchant of Leith, Lennox Boyd of Boyd Brothers and Co., all with Australian interests, and a number of Scottish squatters, home from the colony.

Merchants were another prominent group among the Scottish settlers of the late 1830s. Until about 1837 there had been few Scots merchants in Sydney, as compared with Hobart. Writing home from Sydney in August 1834, David Lindsay Waugh noted that ‘the principal mercantile houses are nearly all Liverpool or London establishments, having little or no connection with Scotland’. Yet by 1839 the mercantile houses of Gilchrist and Alexander, Alexander Brodie Spark, A. B. Smith, Alexander Campbell, Thomas Walker of W. Walker & Co., and Alexander Duncan were flourishing, and at Melbourne there were others, like Craig and Broadfoot, and the agency of Francis Reid of Glasgow. The bulk of these new establishments were set up by men who arrived after 1835.

Alexander Brodie Spark had been established in Sydney from the 1820s. His diaries covering the years 1836—56 give an intimate and detailed account of the social and business ties among the Scottish merchants and settlers, who formed their own social set and circle. Some of the mercantile men were agents for Scottish traders or manufacturers, like the young man sent out by David Guthrie of Duns in Berwickshire in 1840 to open a branch in Hobart for the purchase and dispatch to Britain of wool, tallow, whalebone, and whale oil. Other Scots represented London concerns, an example being George Kinnear, Sydney manager for the Bank of Australasia from 1835. With Lesslie Duguid, founder of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney in 1834, Alexander K. Mackenzie, secretary of the Bank of New South Wales throughout the 1820s, and Thomas McVitie, managing director of the Bank of Australia in the late 1820s, Kinnear helped to exert a strong Scottish influence on colonial banking.

Engineers and ‘mechanics’ also figured among the unassisted emigrants, an outstanding example being the Russell family of Kirkcaldy, who arrived in Hobart in 1833 and proceeded to Sydney in 1836 to avail themselves of the greater business opportunities there. The father and his three sons were skilled engineers and coppersmiths, and their Sydney foundry had by 1846 become the nucleus of the colony’s first engineering works. Through the Russells, steam engines and complicated agricultural machinery from Scotland were steadily imported into New South Wales until, in the late 1850s, the Russell foundry was extensive enough to manufacture such items.

On the cultural side, too, there were some Scottish arrivals who were to make their mark. There were Presbyterian ministers for the new charges in the two oldest colonies, men of the staunch calibre of John Lillie of Hobart and Thomas Dove of Oatlands. A more unusual clergyman was the Reverend Henry Carmichael, a graduate of St. Andrews, who was brought out in the Stirling Castle in 1832 as one of the ‘Professors’ for Lang’s Australian College. Carmichael was a pioneer of wine-production and of adult education. He broke with Lang soon after the college was established, and conducted a normal school with considerable success in Sydney between 1834 and 1838. But it was in trade and commerce, even more than in the increasing pastoral activity of the time, that the renewed Scottish influx was to be most noticeable in the latter part of the decade. Not all of the many Scottish merchants in Sydney came out at their own expense. John Macintosh, a trader and manufacturer, came out in the Asia in 1839 as a bounty immigrant, and there were others who rose rapidly in social position and in wealth. Typical of the new age of large-scale investment that was dawning in the 1830s was David McLaren, who came out in 1836 as manager of the South Australian Company and set it on the road to success as a business venture by 1841, after some heavy losses in whaling operations.

If the unassisted emigration in the peak years 1837—42 is taken as some 8,000, with 1,500 Scots among them, the following categories may be considered as making up the total number of Scots who came out to Australia in the six years of this second phase of sustained Scottish emigration:

Unassisted 1,500
Government bounty emigrants 5,200
Emigrants sent out by private operators under the colonial bounty system 3,300
Total 10,000

On this basis, Scots made up almost a sixth of the total immigration of over 60,000 into eastern Australia in the six years 1837—42. The migration was to have a profound effect on Scottish attitudes to Australia, and was to influence the growing class of investors, who regarded it as a sign that Australia might have a bright future as more than a despised penal colony or a droughty sheep-run from which ambitious adventurers could make quick fortunes.


Return to Scots Australian History | Return to Book Index

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast