FIRST WAVE: Introduction

FIRST WAVE: Emigrant Ships to Port Phillip 1839-1845

Table of Contents





       5: THE IRISH

       6: IRISH GIRLS


       8: 'BOG' IRISH



App. 1: Bounty Emigrant Ships

        2: Certificates of Character

The range of illustrative maps and graphs in this study are from my own research into the Passenger Lists from each of the 70 emigrant ships to arrive direct to Port Phillip from Britain. The aim of the work is to produce 'good', numerically based history with simple, colour shaded images that 'lift' the figures from the page.

Chapters 1 to 4 develop a view of the 'first wave' of 13,092 Bounty emigrants as a whole. These people formed a significant, 'foundational' element of the early settlement population in pre-separation Victoria. They were made up of working class families, and single men and women, and were specifically imported to reduce wages and replace the truculent convict labour force from Van Diemen's Land.

However, this 'first wave' of 'free' immigration was also controversial. Existing colonists, particularly the employer elite, opposed the large numbers of Irish who emigrated under the Bounty scheme. Chapters 5 to 9 examine the 7,713 emigrants from Ireland, firstly in relation to their peers, and secondly in contrast to the generally negative comments they were subject to. Each of these chapters take as their starting point one of a number of criticisms levelled at the Irish-born arrivals. 

Chapter 10 concludes the story by looking at the emigrants' actual experience as new settlers in the Port Phillip District. It uses Census results and Court records to indicate their real behaviour once they had disembarked in Australia.

Ordinary people are difficult to 'recover' from the historical archive. Unlike, for example, the extensive volumes of letters and journals left by the 'squatters' and colonial administrators (now in the La Trobe Collection of the State Library of Victoria), the 'masses' rarely leave behind them anywhere near the same quantity of personal correspondence.

Fortunately, in this case, the detailed 'certificates' that the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners insisted upon from each emigrant provide a 'mineable' resource of much personal information. In this study I have tried to 'paint' a series of 'group portraits' from this data, hopefully revealing something of their diversity and humanity.

Bob Thomson
8 Aug 2016


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