The Irish in Australia/Chapter 7
IRISH IMMIGRANTS IN THE COLONIES.
CAROLINE CHISHOLM, "THE EMIGRANT'S FRIEND"—HER PROTECTION OF HOMELESS GIRLS—A DIVINE MISSION—CONVERSION OF A GOVERNOR—THE SYDNEY FEMALE EMIGRANTS' HOME—CORRECTION OF A CRYING EVIL—THE "BUSH JOURNEYS" OF MRS. CHISHOLM—WANTED, A TIPPERARY GIRL—WHAT THE IRISH RACE OWES TO MRS. CHISHOLM—ANECDOTES OF HER PHILANTHROPIC CAREER—LORD SHERBROOKE'S EULOGIUM—A TRIUMPHANT VINDICATION OP IRISH FEMALE IMMIGRANTS—OFFICIAL TESTIMONY IN THEIR FAVOUR—LIFE ON AN EMIGRANT SHIP—GENEROSITY AND AFFECTION OF IRISH GIRLS—THE DANGER OF DRUNKENNESS—SOCIAL IMPROVEMENT DURING RECENT YEARS.
If one were asked to name the most genuine, devoted, and unselfish philanthropist that has ever trod Australian soil, the name of Caroline Chisholm would at once rise to the lips.
Her affectionate title of "The Emigrant's Friend"—a title conferred with the unanimous consent of the young nation that profited so largely from her self-imposed mission of love—tells its own story and will ever remain one of the most pleasing phrases in the history of the great southern continent. It was towards the end of the year 1838 that Mrs. Chisholm, with her infant family (one of her daughters is now Mrs. E. Dwyer Gray, of Dublin), first landed in Sydney, the place that was soon to be the base of her benevolent operations. Her womanly heart was sorely afflicted by the crying evils she saw all around her in that young disorganised community. What horrified her most was the hapless fate of so many of the helpless ones of her own sex—the poor emigrant girls who were turned adrift without friend or counsellor in that city of sin, and but too frequently were inveigled into houses of ill-fame in less than twenty-four hours after leaving their ships. Against this monstrous evil Mrs. Chisholm determined to wage a ceaseless combat. The brave-hearted woman commenced her campaign—more glorious in its results than any recorded in the military history of nations—by systematically meeting every emigrant ship on arrival, gathering the unprotected girls around her, giving them sound motherly advice, and, when necessary, sheltering and protecting them in her own house. She often had nine of these friendless girls at a time under her hospitable roof; but, as ship after ship arrived in the harbour, she saw the absolute necessity of establishing an institution large enough to afford protection to the many who stood so urgently in need of a temporary asylum. With a view to arousing the respectable public opinion of the place to the pressing urgency of what she proposed, Mrs. Chisholm contemplated publishing a large collection of letters in her possession, detailing the miseries of young women on their first landing in Sydney, but she was dissuaded from this step by representations of the injury that would be inflicted on the colony by such an exposure. Then she sought the cooperation of a few influential ladies—Lady O'Connell, Lady Bowling, Mrs. Roger Therry, Mrs. Richard Jones, Mrs. Mackenzie, Mrs. Wallen and Miss Chambers—all of whom promised to assist in founding a Female Emigrants' Home in Sydney.
Mrs. Chisholm has left on record a frank confession of her feelings at the inception of the unique philanthropic movement which was ever afterwards to be associated with her name. She says: "I felt convinced the evil which struck me so forcibly, would soon be made apparent to the good people of Sydney; and I felt assured that the God of all mercy would not allow so many poor creatures to be lost, without disposing the hearts of the people to unite and save them. I now considered the difficulties and prepared the plan: for three weeks I hesitated and suffered much. I was prepared to encounter the opposition of some, the lukewarmness or the actual hostility of others, to the plan I might suggest. I saw I must have the aid of the press; for I could only anticipate success by soliciting public sympathy for the cause I had undertaken, notwithstanding which, as a female, and almost a stranger in the colony, I naturally felt diffident. I was impressed with the idea that God had in a peculiar manner fitted me for the work, and yet I hesitated. About this time several young women, whom I had served, advised others to write to me. I did all I could to aid them in their prospects by advice, or recommending them to situations; but the number increased, and I saw that my plan, if carried into effect, would serve all. My delay pressed on my mind as a sin; and when I heard of a poor girl suffering distress, and losing her reputation in consequence, I felt that I was not clear of her sin, for I did not do all that I could to prevent it. During the season of Lent of that year, I suffered much; but on the Easter Sunday I was enabled, at the altar of Our Lord, to make an offering of my talents to the God who gave them. I promised to know neither country nor creed, but to try to serve all justly and impartially. I asked only to be enabled to keep these poor girls from being tempted by their need to mortal sin; and resolved that, to accomplish this, I would in every way sacrifice my feelings, surrender all comfort; nor, in fact, consider my own wishes or feelings, but wholly devote myself to the work I had in hand. I felt that my offering was accepted, and that God's blessing was on my work; but it was His will to permit many serious difficulties to be thrown in my way, and to conduct me through a rugged path of deep humiliation. With one exception every person I wrote or spoke to on the subject acknowledged the need of such an institution, promised to subscribe when one was established, though with few exceptions all declared they thought the thing impossible."
It will thus be seen that the great difficulty Mrs. Chisholm had to encounter, on the threshold of her noble undertaking, was to awaken the people to a sense of the evils that were rampant in their midst, and to communicate to them some of the reforming zeal and enthusiasm that animated herself. The Governor of the colony. Sir George Gipps, did not scruple to describe her as a wild enthusiast, and her letters beseeching his patronage to a movement that he should have been the first to encourage, were merely acknowledged with the severest official brevity. The newspapers contented themselves with mildly debating the project, and the clergy, whilst admitting that the idea was laudable in itself, shook their heads and gravely doubted whether it could be made a reality. But Mrs. Chisholm was not depressed in the least by these prophecies of failure. Their effect was rather to make her work more energetically than ever, and her perseverance was at length rewarded by the Governor granting a reluctant interview to the "lady labouring under amiable delusions," to quote his own condescending phrase. "I expected," said Sir George Gipps many years afterwards, "to have seen an old lady in white cap and spectacles, who would have talked to me about my soul. I was amazed when my aide-de-camp introduced a handsome, stately young woman, who proceeded to reason the question as if she thought her reason, and experience too, worth as much as mine."
Mrs. Chisholm succeeded in converting the Governor so far to her way of thinking, that he consented to give her the conditional use of a government building. True, it was but a low wooden structure; still, it was not to be despised in a city which had a nightly average of 600 homeless emigrant girls. With characteristic energy, Mrs. Chisholm had soon transformed the old, abandoned storehouse—for such it had originally been—into an institution answering, in some degree at least, to the title she attached to it—that of "Female Emigrants' Home." Sacrificing every domestic comfort, she took up her abode in the institution that had been called into being by her untiring exertions, and, every night before retiring to rest, she made it a point to visit every one of the hundred homeless girls that the place was made to accommodate by economising space to the utmost. A number of these poor but virtuous girls—a large proportion of them Irish girls—had, before being admitted to the Home, slept out for many nights in the public parks or in the sheltered recesses of the rocks around the harbour, rather than expose themselves to the dangers of the streets. Nothing was more discreditable than the deplorable want of foresight exhibited by the New South Wales Government at this time, in encouraging female immigration to its shores, whilst making little or no provision for the safety or protection of the girls, either on the voyage or when they landed.
The abuse of power by ship captains, and the immorality of the inferior officers, were considerably checked by a prosecution, which Mrs. Chisholm compelled the Governor to institute against parties who had driven a girl mad by their violence. When Sir George Gipps, hesitating, said, "A Government prosecution is a very serious matter," she answered, "I am ready to prosecute; I have the necessary evidence, and if it be a risk whether I or these men shall go to prison, I am ready to stand the risk." That trial established a precedent, and corrected a crying evil.
Mrs. Chisholm, having now successfully established her Female Emigrants' Home in Sydney, threw all her energies into the supplementary work of obtaining honest employment for her protégés. She saw clearly that, for the most of them, the Home would be but a brief respite from destruction unless, in their unprotected state, they were speedily removed from the dangers and pitfalls of the city, and placed in the way of earning an honourable livelihood in the country. To this end, the indefatigable lady went boldly into the interior, visited every provincial centre, established local Homes as branches of the central institution in Sydney, and formed local committees for the purposes of management and supervision. At first she had some little difficulty in consequence of the natural dislike of the girls to venture into "the bush," as the whole of the back country was called, but her commanding personal influence always prevailed in the end.
Thus was commenced Mrs. Chisholm's memorable series of "bush journeys," during which she travelled through all the settled districts of the colony, accompanied by successive batches of emigrant girls, whom she placed, one by one, in domestic service, chiefly in the houses of respectable farmers. Just as in the city she was invariably under the roof of her Emigrants' Home, so in the country this devoted apostle of her sex never allowed her girls out of sight, many a time sleeping out with them in the wild bush, or occupying the dreary floor of a barn when no other shelter for the night was available. Her contingents of girls varied from 15 to 60 in number, but on one occasion she started from Sydney with the little army of 147 under her command, for all of whom she found suitable places. On one occasion she received a batch of 64 girls from a newly-arrived vessel, and their aggregate wealth was found to be exactly fourteen shillings and three half-pence. And yet, through the instrumentality of Mrs. Chisholm, for every one of the girls who thus landed in such a miserable plight, was found a good place in the country, and the great majority of them married well. "I have been able," she says, "to learn the subsequent progress in life of many hundreds of these emigrants. Girls that I have taken up country in such a destitute state, that I have been obliged to get a decent dress to put upon them, have come to me again, having every comfort about them, and wanting servants for themselves. They are constantly writing home to get out their friends and relatives."
It will hardly be believed that Mrs. Chisholm experienced most trouble in getting places for those of her girls who were blessed with personal attractions, but that such was the case is evident from her own words: "Pretty girls, no matter what their qualifications or characters, were difficult to dispose of; they are not, it appears, liked as servants, though they are preferred as wives. Mrs. —— wanted a servant. I sent one—a good servant girl and a very beautiful girl, I must acknowledge. I thought the place would suit her; no son in the house; no nephews; the cook married; the groom married; in short, quite a safety. In less than an hour the girl returned with the following note: 'My dear Madam,—What can you be thinking of, to send such a handsome girl to my house? Heavens, the place would be beset! Besides, I do not like such showy women in my house. Send me a plain, homely-looking girl, and oblige, yours, &c.'"
It is narrated that on one occasion, just as she came to a solitary point of the road, near a valley, she heard a man shouting to her "Stop, stop!" A stout, rough bushman, clearing a few bushes at a leap, placed his hand on the horse's head, and said "Are you Mrs. Chisholm?" "Yes; what do you want?" "Want—want—why, what every man like me wants when he sees Mrs. Chisholm. Come now, do look up that hill, and see that nice cottage and 40 acres under crop. The land is paid for, and the three cows—oh, it would do you good to see the cows." Then, pulling out a roll of papers, he continued: "See what a character I have got from the magistrates in charge of the district; and look here, ma'am, at this roll of notes. Come now, Mrs. Chisholm, do be a mother to me and give me a wife; the smile of a woman has never welcomed me home after a hard day's work—you'll have pity on me—you don't mean to say No; you'll never be so cruel as to say No. It makes a man's heart light to look at your camp. Now, you don't mean to say you have not got a nice girl from Tipperary. Never mind the breakfast; I could keep the whole party for a week; and what peace of mind it would be to you to know what a kind husband I shall make for one of your girls." The appeal was irresistible, and the lonely bushman, who was so anxious to be mated with "a nice girl from Tipperary," was gratified with his heart's desire.
At the expiration of the first year of its existence, the Female Emigrants' Home, under the guidance of Mrs. Chisholm, had provided no less than 735 young women with temporary protection and permanent situations—a record of good to which no other woman of our century, fighting against similar adverse circumstances, can conscientiously lay claim. Of these 735 unprotected female emigrants, the great majority, 516, were of Irish birth, the minority being composed of 184 English and 35 Scotch. It was the same during the subsequent years of what may be truly called Mrs. Chisholm's missionary career. As a rule, two girls out of every three brought by the emigrant ships were of Irish nationality. By systematically taking these lonely exiles under her protecting roof, saving them from the perils of a demoralised city, piloting them to worthy households in the country, and thus fitting them to preside in the near future over happy homes of their own, Mrs. Chisholm conferred an amount of good on our race that is simply incalculable, and that should ensure for her memory the everlasting gratitude of the Irish people, not in Australia alone, but all the world over. It was she who preserved the purity of the scream at its fountain-head, and there are thousands of Irish homesteads on Australian soil to-day that, in all human probability, would never have been erected but for her loving and practical philanthropy. The government official records credit this wonderful woman with having settled altogether 11,000 souls upon the soil; but that number, large as it is, can only be accepted as a rough estimate, falling far short of the reality. In the later years of her mission, she added to her supervision of the female emigrants the serious responsibility of taking whole families into the interior, and planting them on the fertile areas that only needed to be tickled with a plough to laugh with a harvest. This work needed many, of the qualities that go to make up a skilful general—tact, firmness, courage, foresight, and strong common-sense; but Mrs. Chisholm proved herself equal to every emergency. Here is a characteristic little anecdote, recorded by herself: "When we landed from the steamer and entered the bush, we found there was no water. I had thirty women and children in the party, all tired, hungry, and thirsty, and the children crying. Without saying a word, I sent one of my old bushmen off on horseback three miles to get enough of milk or water for the children. In the meantime some of the emigrants came up and said, in a discontented tone, 'Mrs. Chisholm, this is a pretty job. What must we do? there is no water.' I knew it would not do for them to be idle; anything was better than that in their frame of mind; so, partly judging from the locality, I said to them without hesitation, 'If you will dig here I think you will find water.' Directing the tools to be got out, they immediately set to work, and, providentially, they had not dug many feet when they came to water. This had such an exhilarating effect upon their spirits, that they instantly threw off their coats, began to dig two other fresh holes, and did not leave off till moonlight."
On another occasion, when in charge of a party of emigrants, she reached a river that had overflowed its banks during the night. There was but one means of crossing—a punt that had been moored to the bank on the previous night, but was now separated from the land by a hundred yards of rushing water. It was necessary that she should get her people to the other side without delay, and she was determined to do it. "Pick me up and carry me to the punt," she quietly but firmly said to the man in charge of the ferry. He was astounded at the request, but all his objections were of no avail, and, despite his declaration that it was tempting destruction to do what the lady asked, he had in the end to carry her bodily through the storm-waters to the punt. The whole of her party were soon on board along with her, and they all crossed the flooded river in safety. "Ah! sir, she's a bold woman," was the very natural comment of the puntman, when telling the story in after years.
On many of those journeys with emigrant families, Mrs. Chisholm has been known to travel 300 miles into the interior; but such was the general admiration for the sterling character of the woman and the exalted unselfishness of her colonial life, that, wherever she went, squatters, settlers, and store-keepers vied with each other in extending unbounded hospitality to herself and the pilgrims whom she was guiding to the promised land. As to her paying for provisions, they would not listen to the suggestion, and this helps to explain the otherwise incredible statement that during seven years' travelling on benevolent expeditions to all parts of New South Wales, her personal expenses for the whole of that time did not amount to more than £1 18s. 6d. Sleeping one night in a wealthy squatter's mansion, and on the next in an humble settler's hut, she was equally welcomed and beloved wherever she went.
In the early part of 1846 family reasons induced her, but evidently with great unwillingness, to leave the noble work in which she had so long and so advantageously been engaged, and to return to the home country. Her departure, as may easily be imagined, was regarded as a national loss, for, through the agency of her philanthropic schemes, she had visibly founded a new nation. The farewell addresses and testimonials that were showered upon her but imperfectly translated the gratitude of the whole colony to the high-minded, warm-hearted, sympathetic lady, who, unaided by any force outside her own lofty enthusiasm and unexampled energy, had effected an abiding moral and social revolution.
A general address was signed by members of the Legislative Assembly, magistrates, landholders, merchants and representative citizens. It tendered to Mrs. Chisholm a warm expression of thanks for her zealous and active exertions on behalf of the emigrant population during her seven years' residence in the colony. It was universally acknowledged that the extraordinary efforts which she had made in the cause of practical philanthropy had been dictated by a spirit of the most enlightened benevolence. The address concluded by stating that signal advantages had been conferred on the community by her establishing an Emigrants' Home in Sydney, and procuring the satisfactory settlement of great numbers of the emigrant population in the interior.
Out of the many eulogiums that were pronounced on Mrs. Chisholm's seven years' work in Australia, one is especially worthy of note, as coming from a remarkably close and critical observer. Mr. Robert Lowe, now Lord Sherbrooke, was a young barrister, a prominent politician and a contemporary of Mrs. Chisholm's in Sydney many years ago, and this is his testimony: "One person only in the colony has done anything effectual—anything on a a scale which may be called large—to mitigate this crying evil and national sin, and to fix families on our lands in lieu of bachelors. And, strange to say, that one is an humble, unpretending, quiet-working female missionary—an emigrant missionary, not a clerical one. The singularity of her mission, looking to the nature of her work, is one of the most original that was ever devised or undertaken by either man or woman; and the object, the labour, the design, are beyond all praise."
It goes without saying that Irish immigrants, as a class, and Irish immigrant girls in particular, had their detractors and calumniators in almost all of the Australian colonies. In every quarter of the globe there will surely be found some representatives of that prejudiced and insignificant faction, to whom the name of everything Irish is hateful, and whose chief delight it is to concoct vile charges against the faithful sons and daughters of St. Patrick. At the time when emigration to the colonies was in full swing, these ill-conditioned slanderers did their little best to poison the minds of their fellow-colonists against the Irish immigrants. They were never weary of reiterating sweeping charges of incapacity, dishonesty, and immorality against the Irish girls who were passengers in the immigrant ships. In Melbourne their perpetual mud-throwing prevailed so far as to cause the city council on one occasion, in a moment of weakness, to carry an address to the Queen praying for an immediate stoppage to the immigration of Irish girls. But this unworthy act on the part of the municipal rulers of Melbourne was promptly neutralised by the action of Archbishop Goold and the late Sir John O'Shanassy, who convened a public meeting, at which the reckless assertions of the bigots were shown to be a wilful contradiction of facts and experience. A counter-memorial to the Queen was adopted by that large assemblage of representative citizens, who further pledged themselves to the protection and encouragement of the Irish girls as a highly virtuous and deserving class of immigrants. The discomfiture of the cowardly slanderers was complete when Mr. Edmund Finn, the vice-president of St. Patrick's Society, diligently searched the records of the police-courts, and obtained the evidence of immigration agents, detectives, and constables, with the result that the good name and the fair fame of the daughters of Erin were triumphantly vindicated on appeal to these official sources of information. Mr. Finn laid the results of his investigations before a crowded meeting in St. Patrick's Hall, and the charges, born of malignity and prejudice, were unanimously branded as being without a particle of foundation to rest upon. The disgraceful part played by the city council in the matter was also strongly condemned by the meeting, as a most uncalled-for and unjustifiable abuse of representative power. It sometimes happened that the anti-Irish bigots were summarily silenced by the candid testimony of honest English immigration officers. For instance, Mr. Arthur Perry, secretary to the Tasmanian Female Immigration Association, on one occasion addressed this conscientious and in every way creditable report to Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Denison: "I have the honour to report, for the information of His Excellency, that the conduct of the immigrants by the ships 'Beulah' and 'Calcutta,' whilst in the depot at the wharf, was very satisfactory. All the immigrants by those ships, with two exceptions, have obtained respectable situations and been discharged from the depot. The very large majority of the immigrants were Irish Roman Catholics, and have for years past been brought up in different union workhouses and establishments in Ireland; consequently they knew little or nothing of domestic service; but experience has now proved that very many of these girls are likely to make most valuable servants, particularly in those instances where their mistresses have used kindness and forbearance towards them, and have taken the trouble to instruct them in their new duties. Their aptitude for and quickness at learning how to perform the services required of them is, in many instances that have come under my notice, surprising. The girls sent out are very well adapted for country servants, and, as many of them have gone into situations in the country, their conduct has been so good that many applications have been made to me by the settlers lately with which I could not comply, there being no girls at the depot. I must not omit to mention that the moral character of these Irish girls has not, to my knowledge, in one single instance been brought into question. Some few of the English girls who came in the 'Beulah' from Port sea have, I am afraid, gone astray; but out of nearly 400 single females who arrived in the ships 'Beulah,' 'Australasia,' and 'Calcutta,' I have not heard of more than four instances where the girls have left their situations, and preferred obtaining a livelihood in an improper and immoral manner. If more instances had occurred, I think I should have heard something of them, as many persons here are over-anxious to mark anything amiss or improper in the character, conduct or management of the free immigrants. I consider the arrival of these girls here, and their distribution throughout the island, has been a great public good, and I only sincerely hope and trust that the further supply will not be stopped."
Colonel Mundy, who had special opportunities of obtaining accurate information, declares that in some cases the Irish girls were shamefully treated on board the emigrant ships, and there are certainly cases on record of young women being punished in the most brutal manner for alleged breaches of discipline, at the instance of inhuman surgeon-superintendents. Whilst many of those officials were commendably strict, but courteous, in their relations with the emigrants under their charge, there were others in whom the spirit of the petty tyrant was uppermost, and these, particularly if they had previous anti-Irish prejudices, took a savage delight in wounding the susceptibilities and even outraging the bodies of the Hibernians on board. As a result of official inquiries instituted on arrival in Australia, more than one of the privileged ruffians who thus abused their power and position, were heavily fined and dismissed for disgraceful conduct on the voyage. A perusal of the sickening evidence in these cases, as set forth at length in government blue-books, leaves no room to doubt that fine and degradation from office was too light a punishment altogether for such offences against manliness and decency, as were sheeted home to these "gentlemen" by Act of Parliament. However, it is gratifying to record that the number of such scoundrelly surgeon-superintendents was comparatively small. Colonel Mundy assures us that "the majority of the ships were admirably conducted," and he adds his weighty personal testimony, that many of the Irish girls brought out in them succeeded remarkably well in the colonies. He says he was particularly struck, on visiting the immigration depot, with the cleanly, decent appearance of the Irish girls as a body, as well as by their marked superiority in good looks. There are not very many accessible pictures of life on board an Australian emigrant ship, but a few graphic examples of portrait and character painting may be met with in a charming little collection of "Waifs and Strays, by an Irish-Australian Emigrant." Glancing around for the first time on his fellow-passengers, he says: "It was not difficult to recognise the frank, intelligent face of the Irish Celt; the cold, self-important bearing of the Englishman was equally unmistakable; upon every side resounded the pleasant dialect of the Scot; and scattered here and there might be seen natives of Poland, Germany, Italy and France, still retaining a little of their picturesque national costumes. There was a large number of my countrymen on board, and one of the few real pleasures I enjoyed was to observe the good sense and the good nature by which they were habitually distinguished. Avoiding every unreasonable ground of quarrel, they associated in a kindly brotherhood with their fellow-voyagers of every country and creed; and it was equally novel and delightful to see Irish, English and Scotch doing justice to each other, and avoiding the dismal feuds which originate in the vices of their rulers. But still the exiled Celts seemed proud of their old historic island, and evidently regarded themselves as defenders of her fame. Some stupid insult having been offered to Ireland by a few ignorant malcontents one evening, it was resented in a manner which effectually prevented its repetition. 'Although we have been driven into exile,' observed one of the actors in this scene (a fine young fellow from Cork), 'don't think that we have forfeited our nationality.'"
The departing emigrant was denied the sorrowful favour of seeing his native shores fade away in the distance. "At about eight o'clock a.m. we knew that the dark outline which loomed on our left was Holyhead, but not even thus dimly could we discern to the right the 'green, holy hills of Ireland.' At noon we saw Bardsey Island, bearing south-east, but not a glimpse of the pleasant homes of Dublin or the romantic glens of Wicklow. I had anticipated the sad, sweet pleasure of taking a last glimpse of the Irish coast, and yet, although I knew we were sailing past it the entire day, I strained my eyes in vain endeavouring to pierce the invidious curtain of clouds that intervened."
Of that very important personage on board a ship—the cook—an amusing anecdote is recorded: "All the passengers' food was cooked at the ship's galley—a small dingy-looking apparatus enough, but which executed its enormous task with admirable punctuality. The chief artiste was a negro, named Bill, whose salient characteristic was a decided weakness for rum, and it was often amusing to see him cajole some unsophisticated passenger out of his favourite beverage. 'Massa,' said he one evening to a group of good-natured young Celts, 'Lor' knows, I'm an Irishman myself—only I was born in Demerara!'"
Mr. James Smith relates a touching little incident that was communicated to him by the late Irish-Australian philanthropist, Ambrose Kyte. One afternoon in the leading street of Melbourne, Mr. Kyte's attention was attracted towards a group of his countrymen and countrywomen. They were evidently members of the same family, some of whom had only lately arrived, whilst others had been in the colony for some time. The new-comers had brought with them a little box upon which great store appeared to be set, for, when it was opened, the eyes of the older settlers glistened with tears, and the aged mother of the party devoutly made the sign of the Cross. The box contained a sod of shamrock, fresh and green as when it was first cut from the surrounding turf. "And who," exclaims the narrator of the story, "will refuse to sympathise with the emotion which that simple memento of a far-distant land excited in the breasts of those who were thus feelingly reminded of the emblem of their country and the verdure of its soil?"
Speaking of the strength and the perpetuity of the chain of affection that has always connected the Irish abroad and their kindred at home, the same gentleman once publicly stated from a Melbourne platform: "It is a fact—without a parallel I should suppose in the world's history—that in seven years the Irish in America sent £7,520,000 to their friends and relations at home. The aggregate remittances from the colony of Victoria to Ireland must be something considerable, and the eagerness with which our Irish fellow-colonists poured in their applications and their money for passage-warrants, under the Assisted Immigration regulations, is another and a most creditable proof of the strength of their family affections. I know of three sisters—unsophisticated but warm-hearted Irish girls, domestic servants in this city—who regularly remit one-third of their earnings every year to Ireland in order to support an aged and widowed mother in comfort and independence. Acts on filial piety like these—and they are very common among the class I speak of—say more for the character of the Irish people, and for the depth and durability of the ties which bind them to their kindred, than the most eloquent eulogy which could be pronounced upon them. These are not such actions as court notoriety and obtain applause. They are secretly performed, and spring from a loving impulse, while they are consecrated by a solemn conviction of duty; and believe that no Australian mail is delivered in Ireland this does not carry succour to the destitute, comfort to the aged health to the infirm, a gleam of pleasure to many a solitary cabin, and a sense of solace and companionship to many a lonely fireside."
The Irish emigrant to Australia, who systematically abstained from intemperance and cultivated habits of industry, always attained to success and frequently arrived at affluence. Thousands of such instances might be quoted. On the other hand, it is equally true that some of our emigrant countrymen fell victims to the ever-open public-house and the prevailing sociable conviviality of the colonies. Drinking there is quite a common practice, and what is familiarly known as "shouting" was at one time almost universal, though of late years this peculiarly dangerous evil has been considerably diminished in extent. To "shout" in a public-house means to insist on everybody present, friends and strangers alike, drinking at the shouter's expense, and, as no member of the party will allow himself to be outdone in this reckless sort of hospitality, each one "shouts" in succession, with the result that before long they are all overcome by intoxication. By reason of their characteristic temperament and their superabundant sociable qualities, Irishmen were peculiarly liable to tumble into this pitfall, and whenever they did fail in the colonies, in nine cases out of ten the failure was clearly attributable to this baneful source of temptation in their path. In the middle of 1852, when people were hurrying from all quarters of the globe to the newly-discovered Australian gold-fields, Patrick O'Donohoe, one of the transported men of '48, acted like a true disciple of Father Mathew, and, from his place of exile in Tasmania, addressed an earnest exhortation to his emigrant countrymen to be on their guard against the foul fiend of drunkenness. "Since the era when the standard of temperance was first raised in the green old Western Isle—the Isle of the Saints—at no period, and in no country, was the rigid fulfilment of all the duties connected with teetotalism of such importance as it has now become in the great continent of Australia and the adjacent colonies." He goes on to declare that "very many of the political, social and moral evils of Ireland owe their origin or continuance to the baneful vice of drunkenness," and he pathetically pleads with his fellow-countrymen who were coming out to the new southern land, to live in accordance with the principles of Father Mathew. The only reason, he says, that induced him to pen this well-timed address was the "hope of lending helping hand in the work of regeneration, and thereby laying the foundation of great, free, and united states in te Southern Hemisphere." Looking back at the past history of the colonies, he sees them possessing the incalculable advantages of a pure salubrious climate, a soil abounding in fertility, producing all the necessaries and even the luxuries of life, and covered with flocks and herds and gathered harvests. Then, lifting up the curtain of the future for the benefit of the emigrating Irish thousands, the man of '48 observes: "And in addition to all those blessings of heaven, there are now thrown open mines of the richest metal. Isolated though you stand, deeply embedded in the bosom of the boundless Pacific, you offer to the world an emporium of wealth. You have become a sort of magnet which will attract tens of thousands from the Northern Hemisphere—from the Old and New World to the Antipodes. The progress of the arts and sciences, civilisation, liberty, and independence ought to be the results of those unexampled sources of prosperity, but to secure such desirable results, perseverance, fortitude, and wisdom must lead the way and govern your conduct. In this incipient stage on the highway to your future greatness and renown, all the religious and moral virtues should be encouraged and cultivated. Of the latter class, I hold temperance and the absence of all excesses to be of paramount importance."
Answering the question, what is the cause and source of crime in Australia?—an Irish-Australian judge, in his address at the opening of the first circuit court at Brisbane, now the capital of the flourishing colony of Queensland, gave his personal testimony and experience in very startling language. "I think," he said, "I may claim some authoritative right to answer that question correctly, as a person having had an experience second to few in this or any other country in the administration of criminal law. The result of that experience supplies to the question just asked this answer—Intoxication is the hot-bed from which crime springs. Directly or indirectly, all crime is traceable to it, the exceptions being so few as to establish the general rule. If a dray is stopped and robbed on the highway, what is the first object of search?—the keg of spirits. If there be no spirits, the plundered property is converted into cash, speedily to be spent in intoxication. If a store in the country is robbed, the first plunder is that of the cask or the bottle that contains some intoxicating liquor. A quarrel that after a short time, with a little reflection, would be forgotten by sober minds, is renewed and revived with fresh exasperation in the mind at a moment of intoxication, and a thirst created for the most disproportionate and dreadful revenge. At such a moment, too, the jealous mind, without any real ground of jealousy, converts remote suspicion into certain conviction, and so on through the whole range of the human passions. Indirectly, intoxication is the cause of crime by producing poverty, for in this country habits of inebriety constitute the main cause of poverty, as no man here is necessitously poor who does not spend in intemperance those means by which he should support his family. Poverty in its turn begets crime, and thus from intoxication, as from a parental source, both derive their existence."
These are wise and weighty words, but happily they are not applicable, at least to any appreciable extent, to the Irish-Australians of to-day. Mr. Justice Therry spoke at a time when colonial society was in its incipient stage of development, and when the more animal type of Australian was in the ascendant. Things have changed considerably since then; civilising influences have been at work; settled and well-organised communities have usurped the place of the wild bush; the higher rational life has the most devotees, and the Calibans are only a small minority of the population.
Through giving way to drink, many a clever Irishman has been constrained to earn a livelihood in some menial subordinate position, entirely out of harmony with his intellectual gifts and attainments. Cases of this kind are very deplorable, and are also at times productive of very comical developments. One of the most amusing scenes ever enacted in a colonial court of justice was the direct result of placing an educated Irishman in an office that is ordinarily filled by an illiterate person. In its early days, the best classical scholar that Melbourne possessed was an Irishman rejoicing in the rolling name of Daniel Wellesley O'Donovan. He once held a good position in the colony, but he lost it through his fondness for the bottle. He then sank by degrees in the social scale, until finally he became a groom in the stable of Mr. Justice Willis, an irascible gentleman who prided himself on his classical knowledge, and who invariably opened each session of his court with a pedantic address crowded with Latin and Greek quotations. On one of these occasions of state, the ordinary court crier could not attend through illness, and His Honour, seeing that his groom was a good-looking, well-proportioned fellow, called upon O'Donovan to take the vacant high place in court, make the usual official announcements, and preserve order and decorum in the place of justice. O'Donovan did as he was commanded, and all went well until the judge in his scarlet robes commenced to read his usual grandiloquent address in the presence of a crowded court. For the first five minutes he confined himself to the English tongue, but soon His Honour plunged into an unlucky quotation from Horace. Like the war-horse when he hears the sound of the trumpet, so did the temporary crier prick up his ears at the familiar sounds. The judge negotiated four lines successfully, but in the middle of the fifth he floundered; and O'Donovan, forgetting where and what he was for the moment, yelled out in indignation: "See here, your Honour, you are murdering my favourite author, and I will not allow that to be done by either judge or jury. Just listen to me, and I will give you the only true and correct version." Then, to the amazement and the amusement of the whole court, the crier recited a passage of Horace in the most approved academic style. As for the judge, who was so abruptly, unexpectedly, and scandalously pulled up in the course of his address, he was for a time literally speechless with rage and astonishment, but, as soon as he recovered the use of his voice, he roared to the Sheriff to remove "that scoundrel" from the court and lock him up immediately. O'Donovan was thereupon seized, dragged down from his high perch in the court, and placed in one of the prisoners' cells, the innocent expression of his countenance showing all the while that he was utterly unable to comprehend what he had done to deserve such treatment, and that he could not for the life of him see any crime in correcting an obvious Latin misquotation. Until the rising of the court, poor O'Donovan was left in his solitary cell to ruminate over the perils of exhibiting classical knowledge at unseasonable times. Then he was discharged in a double sense—liberated from confinement and commanded by the infuriated judge never to be seen near his private residence or his stable again. This is perhaps the only case on record of a man losing a situation by reason of his being a good classical scholar.
- Reports to this effect repeatedly occur in the blue-books: "The immigrants, with a few exceptions, were Irish nominees and conducted themselves throughout the voyage to the entire satisfaction of the surgeon-superintendent."
- Lecture on "The Irish Character," by Mr. James Smith.
- Mr. Justice Therry.