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FIRST WAVE: Unlucky Ships

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FIRST WAVE: Emigrant Ships to Port Phillip 1839-1845

Chapter Seven: UNLUCKY SHIPS

An insult commonly levelled at bounty emigrants from Ireland was that they were dirty and diseased. They may have been unwashed and dishevelled, an understandable reflection of their subsistent-peasant backgrounds. The more serious accusation, however, was that their poor standard of personal cleanliness was directly linked with the killer-fevers of the age. Their untidy appearance provided grounds for assuming they were also carriers of devastating diseases like typhus and cholera.

All emigrants who gathered at British ports for colonial destinations such as Port Phillip had to overcome several legitimate fears about the journey that lay ahead of them. Principal among these was dying from illness contracted during the voyage. In the case of Port Phillip bound ships, fatalities from sickness averaged 3.5% of those who embarked. In real terms this meant that of the 13,092 emigrants who landed safely, another…

FIRST WAVE: Irish Girls

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FIRST WAVE: Emigrant Ships to Port Phillip 1839-1845

Chapter Six: IRISH GIRLS

On the 13th of December 1840, the 560 ton barque Orient anchored at Port Phillip. She had departed London on the 2nd of August and left Plymouth on the 11th of the same month, making it a relatively swift passage of 95 days at sea.  The Orient was one of John Marshall's well-appointed London ships. She was not flying the yellow fever flag as she sailed up the Bay to Melbourne.The local Immigration Board was not expecting any trouble.

Captain Wales duly reported to the harbour authorities that the barque's manifest included 18 cabin passengers, 3 stud Durham cattle, and 216 bounty emigrants. The Surgeon-Superintendent advised that no deaths had occurred on the voyage. It looked as though the processing and disembarkation of the 39 married couples with their 39 children, the 40 single males, and 59 single females would be prompt and without incident.

The Orient girls

However, according to the rather superci…

FIRST WAVE: The Irish

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FIRST WAVE: EMIGRANT SHIPS TO PORT PHILLIP 1839-1845

Chapter Five: THE IRISH

 The Irish 'problem' in emigration, as seen through colonial eyes, was that 'the Irish' represented one, indistinguishable mass of 'alienness', that threatened their vision of peaceful and profitable pastoralism. A number of negative characterisations of 'Irish-ness' were lumped together to form a single generalised 'mob' of objections in the squatters' minds. All Irish bore these attributes in the colonists' imagination. 

The arrival of many thousands of Irish emigrants was interpreted as if it were the approach of a massive storm front, a wall of mounting black cloud, that would deluge the existing small society of 'British' settlers in social disruption and disorder. 

Chief among their fears was the supposed religious fanaticism of Ireland, the Irish people's adherence to one universal Catholic Church ruled by one absolutist Roman Pope. The Irish popu…