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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (C)
Stuart Crichton

The Scottish Background of a Pommy in Australia.

Well Alistair I received your email about writing to you and telling the story of our Scottish roots and while I did not initially think it would apply to me, I did send off an email to a “Cousin” of mine in America.

His name is Lawson Stevenson and I know he has sent a biography off to you, so now I thought I would do the same.

What can an English born Australian raised yobbo have to offer? Well my family history is quite interesting, with a Coal Miner ancestry from the Midlothian area (The Crichton’s) that have spread all over the world, from Scotland to Australia , Canada, Hawaii, Ecuador and the United States of America and from some of the information we have found I think we can add South Africa to that list.

With Crichton Family as diverse as, Authors (Not Michael Crichton), Servicemen, Lawyers, Politicians, and many other different occupations.

The search began with the uncommon family name of Lawson Crichton and it has grown so large it is amazing.

While that is interesting I can go further into the Scottish migration thing with my mother’s family, you see my Mother is an Aussie born and bred with the fine Scottish/English name of Wilson but she is descended from The Stuarts and the Frazer’s, originally from around the Isle of Skye of Scotland.  The most interesting thing is that some of her original family arrived in Australia in 1852 on a ship called “The Ontario”. “The Ontario immigrants were brought to Australia under the Government-contracted successor to Rev John Dunmore Lang’s original Bounty Scheme.”

This ship has the dubious honour of being the subject of a health enquiry into the bringing of immigrants into Australia. Below is a copy of an article about the event.

The Ontario Emigrants from Skye

The Ontario was built in Quebec in 1851 for George Provost, a Liverpool merchant. It was a ship of 598 tons unladen (burthen 694 tons), had 2 decks + a poop.

Length was 125.7 feet, breadth 29.3 feet, depth in hold 20.7 feet. It was a barque sailing vessel, that is, three-masted, standing bowsprit, square rigged, carvel built, no galleries and with a woman's figurhead in the bows. The framework and planking were of wood and she was registered in Liverpool 1 July 1852.

(And don't ask me what any of that means, I have no idea!)

The ship was registered to carry 273 immigrants, however, she sailed for NSW from Liverpool on 3 August 1852 with 309 Scottish immigrants from Skye and one other passenger (plus 300 tons of coal, 20 tons of salt, and other cargo). It was her maiden voyage. The Master's name was Jonathan Jackson. He died on the voyage, of typhus fever/typhoid, which also killed 36 passengers and 2 other crew by the time the ship reached Sydney. The fever struck one month out of Liverpool. 170 cases of it (more than half those on board!), were reported by the surgeon superintendent Thomas Barker M.D., when the ship arrived at Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) on 26th November 1852. The ship was kept in quarantine until 15th December, during which time a further 8 people died of the disease and were buried at North Head Quarantine Cemetery.

The ship's NSW arrival documents can be found on NSW Government Archives Authority Microfilm reel no. 2136.

The Ontario appears to have made several other voyages to Australia. Her career was short, however. She foundered 10 years later (1863) attempting to enter Port Phillip Bay (Melbourne).

The ship's passengers were mostly Clearances victims, some of whom were in dire need. Many, if not most, already had relatives who had preceded them to Australia in the 15 years since the first assisted passage ships left Scotland in 1837. The Ontario immigrants were brought to Australia under the Government-contracted successor to Rev John Dunmore Lang's original Bounty Scheme.

The Ontario voyage probably highlights that concerns that Lang began to express ten years earlier, had still not been fully addressed. Lang in 1841 railed against the consequences of what we would now call 'economic rationalism' caused by the privatisation of the immigration process. Under Lang's scheme in 1837-40, immigration agents who travelled to Scotland to fill the Bounty Scheme ships were directly in Government employ, with no vested interest. They were often clergymen and of good character. They chose prospective immigrants on the basis of need and also of how useful their skills would be to the Colony. The ships sailed from Scotland, from near where the destitute highlanders were, and were well-victualled, with strict health regimes, their own clergyman onboard and generally of high morale. When the scheme was privatised by the government, however, immigration agents had different agendas based on profit. They were less scrupulous in their choice of both ships and migrants. Their prime criteria were based on profit margins rather than on what was perceived as the best for NSW, Britain, or the migrants themselves. Instead of scouring the whole British Isles for the most needy and appropriate groups of people to emigrate, they set up shop in the large ports only (particularly London), and often didn't go far afield. That's why the Ontario passengers, unlike their relatives 15 years earlier (who left from Skye), had to travel from Skye with their families to Liverpool to embark. At least Liverpool was better than London, so some improvements had been made, but it still involved a risky voyage from Skye in small boats, along with all the extra hardships and expense this involved.

Lang also complained in 1841 that the profit-hungry agents put too many passengers on each ship, cut rations, bought inferior provisions, and took on cargo as well in order to make more profits. These practices contributed to the discomfort of the passengers, and fostered the rise of disease. It is noteworthy that the Ontario was carrying nearly 40 more people than she was registered for, and  took on a cargo of coal, salt, etc.
Other sources available:

A family history booklet about the arrival of some of the passengers on this and a couple of other immigrant ships from Scotland, called "Caithness to the Clarence," was written and published by the late Alan Angus Munro, in 1983. National Library of Australia book no ISBN 0 959 0641 0 9. It contains passenger lists and information on several other Bounty ships.
There is a passenger list that shows the families of Donald Frazer and Margaret Shaw who were to become some of my ancestors.

An interesting note is the family story about the family being classed as undesirables because they could only speak Gaelic and not English. This story was proven correct, when that statement was found in the official notes from the Health enquiry stating just that.

I myself am the son of a Coventry born Crichton, who’s Grandfather migrated from Scotland, with his family to Coventry for a better life.  My Father in turn joined the British Navy and travelled the world until he met and married my Aussie born and bred Mother, they then returned to England where I was born before returning to Australia, for a better life. Therefore, you see the Scots of my families have traversed the world both directly from their homeland and indirectly from the lands, they set down their roots, and this goes to show how influential the Scots have been around the entire world.

I know that this story will not be the most interesting one you will ever hear, but it is my story and I am proud of the Scottish Ancestry that I have.
Stuart Crichton 

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