Friday, March 25, 2016

BH 2.2 Immigrants from Scotland to Australia - Why did they come? An overview

When we moved to Bracken Ridge in 1972, we had no idea of the historical links that the land held with anything in the past.  For us, it just sort of began when our brother in law moved there.

So when my research discovered the links to the Scottish settlers, my interest level soared!

Could one of my ancestral families have been among these pioneers?  After all the Ferguson name was well known in Bracken Ridge.

My 4th great grandmother was Janet Ferguson, she like many of my paternal family came from the West of Scotland in the area of Argyle.

My family also include McNevin, Drummond, Gillies, people of those names also emigrated to Australia.    My 2nd great grandmother (who was also my 2nd great aunt) and her sister went to Canada, in the late 1890's, their reasons were no different than those faced by both the Irish and the Scots 50 years before.

Lack of food, overcrowding, potato famine all gave rise to a need to reduce the population.  Often 15 or more lived in a one roomed tenement, extended family included.

My grandparents lived in a tenement in Govan, and it was a shock to see how they lived.

Apologies for the poor photo but this was how close the tenements were,
no running water, no sewerage


Islay Stag in Winter   image by Teresa Morris taken
 just before Christmas  on Islay's Glen Road.
According to Teresa this is a fifteen pointer stag which is very special. 

The Argyll region is not on the regular tourist "hot spots".  The Isle of Islay is rather remotely located.  My aunt's farm is across from these snow covered mountains, and she wakes up to the view of the Paps, the snow covered mountains of Jura.

My 3rd cousin still lives at the Laphroaig Brewery estate, the same place that our grandfather worked in 1900 when he was the brewer!

It took me 66 years to find my Scottish family, and to understand why the sound of bagpipes gives me goosebumps!


Researching one's family history has become extremely popular.  Sometimes though it is very difficult to find records for those who left their homelands to begin a new life in a new country.

One thing is certain, those ancestors did not have wings and fly, they all arrived by ship.  Sometimes that journey took 6 months,and many people died along the way.  Conditions onboard were horrible.

Sometimes they were locked below decks, the convicts in chains, and later the free settlers not fearing much better.  While there are numerous records for the convict era, there those of us who have extreme difficulty in locating the arrival records for some of our Irish and Scottish families.

Of all my family, there is just one Irish great grandmother who is included in this category.

But there are between 700 and 800 immigrants from Scotland who arrived in Queensland whose detailed online records may not be available.  The reason?  The Governor at the time didn't think the names should be recorded, and there was a great deal of debate over their arrival.


The Highland Clearances (Scottish Gaelic: Fuadach nan Gàidheal, the "eviction of the Gael") was the forced displacement during the 18th and 19th centuries of a significant number of people from traditional land tenancies in the Scottish Highlands, where they had practised small-scale agriculture. It resulted from enclosures of common lands and a change from farming to sheep raising, an agricultural revolution largely carried out by hereditary aristocratic landowners. The Clearances were a complex series of events occurring over a period of more than a hundred years.[1] A Highland Clearance has been defined as "an enforced simultaneous eviction of all families living in a given area such as an entire glen".

The Clearances are particularly notorious as a result of the brutality of many evictions at short notice (year-by-year tenants had almost no protection under Scots law), and the abruptness of the change from the traditional clan system, in which reciprocal obligations between the population and their leaders were well recognised. The cumulative effect of the Clearances, and the large-scale "voluntary" emigrations over the same period, devastated the cultural landscape of Scotland in a way that did not happen in other areas of Britain; the effect of the Clearances was to destroy much of the Gaelic culture.

The Clearances resulted in significant emigration of Highlanders to the coast, the Scottish Lowlands, and further afield to North America and Australasia. In the early 21st century, more descendants of Highlanders are found in these diaspora destinations than in Scotland


The Highland and Island Emigration Society was a charitable society formed to promote and assist emigration as a solution to the Highland Potato Famine. Between 1852 and 1857 it assisted the passage of around 5,000 emigrants from Scotland to Australia.

In its first pamphlet published in May 1852 the Society set out its rules:
  1. The Emigration will be conducted, as much as possible, by entire families, and in accordance with the rules of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners.
  2. Passages to Australia are provided by the Commissioners, from Colonial funds, for able-bodied men and women of good character.... on production of a stated quantity and description of clothing, and on payment of a deposit ...
  3. The Society will advance the sum necessary to make good whatsoever may be deficient for these purposes.... The emigrants will he required to repay to the Society the whole of the sums advanced to them, which will again be applied in the same manner as the original fund.
  4. The owners or trustees of the properties from which the emigrants depart will be expected to pay one-third of the sum disbursed on account of the emigrants by the Society.
The last rule which required landlords to partially fund the emigration of their tenants was a controversial one.

The emigrants statue commemorates the flight of Highlanders during the Clearances, but is also a testament to their accomplishments in the places they settled. Located at the foot of the Highland Mountains in Helmsdale, Scotland.


There was one man whose name cropped up continually when doing the research.  That was Dr John Lang.   Perhaps if he had not been so enthusiastic in his resolve of creating a "perfect" settlement, thousands of Australians might be Canadians or Scottish instead!

His recruitment of clergy in Scotland, northern Ireland and Germany was made easier by Bourke's 1836 Church Act which provided more liberal government support for religion. Lang obtained twelve Presbyterian clergymen, three Lutheran missionaries and ten German lay assistants, none too many, for he saw the Roman Catholic Church making every effort 'not only to rivet the chains of popery on a deluded people in the Australian Colonies, but to extend the reign of superstition over the neighbouring and highly interesting isles of the Pacific'. 

Lang also greatly stimulated Australian immigration by persuading destitute Scottish Highlanders, vainly seeking government funds to emigrate to Canada, to request government assisted passages to Australia. Over four thousand individuals were thus gained for New South Wales.

The story of Dr John Lang is in a separate chapter.

In 1833 Lang again went to England and during the voyage wrote the first section of "An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales," which was published in England in 1834. He returned to Sydney and in 1835 published a weekly newspaper, the "Colonist."

In those years the law of libel seems to have been harder to infringe than at the present time, but nevertheless the outspoken opinions of Dr. Lang soon involved him in libel actions, in which he conducted his own defence.

The year 1838 saw the establishment by Dr. Lang of the German Mission Station (at what is now Nundah) in the Moreton Bay District. In the year 1834 he had made three successive attempts to establish a mission to the aborigines by means of Scottish missionaries, but without success.

Having ascertained that a body of missionaries could be obtained in Germany, the result was the establishment of the German Mission.


The conditions faced by the Scottish settlers in their homeland can be found at
Chambers's Edinburgh Journal  (ebook available)

"One or two excerpts from the notices of the Skye parishes in the New Statistical Account of Scotland, will help to complete the idea of how these poor men and their families lived in their native island. We quote from the notices of several of the parishes, which are all in the same condition :—" The poor tenants are almost invariably under the necessity of having their cattle under the same roof with themselves, without partition, without division, and without a chimney ; the houses, therefore, are smoky and filthy in the extreme, and, having little either of night or day clothing, and their children nearly approaching to absolute nakedness, they are fully as much without cleanliness in their persons as they are in their houses. No people on earth live on more simple or scanty diet than those in this parish. The greater number of them subsist on potatoes of the worst kind, sometimes with, but oftener without fish"

The inhabitants may be characterised as sober and active, but it must be admitted that they want that persevering industry which is necessary to improve their condition. The able-bodied among them, after their potatoes are planted in the end of spring, go to the south in search of employment. They return again at Martinmas, and their earnings go to pay the landlord's rents, and to support the weaker members of their families. The winter is almost altogether spent in idleness. There is no demand for labour in the parish, and hence there is only occasional exertion on the part of the people. As the summer earnings are spent during the winter, there is seldom or never a fund laid up for sickness or old age, and when either of these comes, there is great poverty and privation"

The Moreton Bay Courier reported in December 1848:

The Fortitude, the first of Dr. Lang's ships, was to sail from London direct for Moreton Bay on the 6th September.

Then the newspaper of the day reported events relating to their arrival in February 1849


When Dr. Lang announced his intention of for-warding emigrants to this part of the colony, it appeared, from his letters, to have been resolved that the emigration should be conducted through the means of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners.

The Doctor's own stated reason for departing from this sensible resolution in the case of the Fortitude, is that any emigration that is placed under Government control, was looked upon as a species of pauperism by a majority of that class of persons which he considered most desirable as colonists.

We do not doubt that such a prejudice really exists ; but, if there were no means of overcoming it, at least all possible care should have been taken to avoid confusion and disappointment to the emigrants.

The difficulties with which Dr. Lang has had to contend, by reason, chiefly, of a want of capital to carry out his views, have doubtless been very great ; and   men of less energy than himself would have abandoned the undertaking in despair ; yet it may reasonably be asked whether it would not have been better that the execution of the project should be deferred than that an unnecessary risk of failure should be incurred ; and whether its total abandonment might not have been preferable to such an attempt at its performance as might bring discredit upon the colony, and possibly deprive the promoter of the confidence of his proteges.

That such a result may follow from the total absence of all preparation or arrangement for the reception of the immigrants is highly probable ; and it is easy to show that a most unaccountable neglect of common business-like precautions has been evinced by Dr. Lang in this matter.

For many months past, we have from time to time seen notices of Dr. Lang's proceedings in the English papers. His plans were unfolded to the British people, and the advantages to be derived from colonisation in this part of New South Wales, were amply delineated.

So far all was well, and the measures taken were admirably calculated to induce the emigrants to embark ; but ever and anon we looked for some indications of active preparation on this side of the globe.

It must be confessed that we have always been obstinately sceptical when persons have expressed their fears that nothing would be done here, and that the first draft of immigrants would be totally unprovided for. Such a thing seemed to be in the highest degree improbable.

We could not bring  ourselves to believe that Dr. Lang—a minister of religion—a member of the Legislative Council—   and a man who, above all others connected with the colony, had possessed opportunities of becoming acquainted with the necessary details of emigration, would neglect to give such information to the inhabitants of these districts, and to make such arrangements with the Government, as were necessary for the success of his undertaking.

The result, however, has proved that the worst anticipations did not go far enough. Not only has no communication been previously made with the colonial Government on the subject of land for the immigrants; but, although aware of the  existence of a local paper, Dr. Lang never availed himself of its columns to inform the persons most interested of the nature of his plans, or of the time when the first arrivals might be expected.

Information upon those points was merely gathered by chance. Instead of sending out the immigrants through the commissioners, Dr. Lang ships them on his own account, and—strange to relate !— commits the whole expense attendant upon their removal and present maintenance to a gentleman whom he had never consulted upon the subject— who has never, we believe, received a line from the Doctor since he left the colony, and who declines the charge committed to him.

Under these circumstances, the Government of course must act, and it may well do so, as the colony is a considerable gainer by the transaction ; but that fact does not exonerate the Doctor from the charge of indiscretion in his arrangements, or rather in the  total absence of any.  

As it is, it will be the bounden duty of every person to do all that lies in his power towards the   prevention of any evil consequences to the colony through this event. For this purpose we recommend to the consideration of our readers the letter of Dr. Lang in this day's paper.

Tardy as is the notice given to the residents in these districts, and although the "evangelical" allusions might, with advantage, have been omitted, yet we trust that on all hands a general disposition will be shown to assist the strangers when they are landed.

Great as is the blunder which has been  committed, it may be in our power to amend it to a great extent; and the immigrants themselves  will, no doubt, have reason to be satisfied with the treatment they receive here.

A statement of Dr. Lang's claims upon the Government arrived with the immigrants, and was transmitted to Sydney by the last steamer. The Doctor asks for funds to defray the salaries of the Surgeon Superintendent, and of the Surveyor who has arrived in the Fortitude ; and also for the allowance of the usual gratuities to the captain and officers of that vessel.

The remainder of the money to which he considers himself entitled for introducing these immigrants free of cost to the Government, he wishes to be expended in the purchase of land, to be selected by the Surveyor.

No doubt instructions will be received upon the subject by next post and it is much to be hoped that a liberal policy will be adopted, for the sake of these districts. Want of space compels us to conclude these observations for the present; but we shall, probably, return to the subject at a future opportunity.  

Initially in 1837 the Scottish were landed at Botany Bay, and then many were sent to the farms in the Hunter Region to work out their sponsorship.

The Late Arrivals.-Sixty-four of the passengers by the ship Fortitude, including children, were brought to Brisbane in the Susan schooner on Wednesday last. The strong southerly winds prevented the return of the-schooner before that day.

Amongst the arrivals are Mr. Pettigrew, the surveyor, and the Rev. Mr. Stewart.

The passengers are at present uncertain as to the immédiate steps they may take for temporary accommodation ; but appear quite competent to decide the question for themselves, with the assistance of such advice as is then fully given where, they demand it.

We gather from the statements made, that no expectations were raised of an immediate possession of land, and that the passengers were fully aware that they must shift for themselves for the present.

A letter of advice from a, gentleman, who signs himself "An Old Colonist," has been forwarded from the country, Through Mr. Richardson, for, the benefit of the strangers.

We are so much pleased at such a manifestation of interest in this matter, that we find it an ungrateful task to object to any portion of this letter but it is our duly to state that the writer, although evidently actuated by the best possible motives, has in some places indulged in observations that are ungenerous in themselves, and undeserved by those to whom they appear in-tended to apply.

In our last number it was stated that the Police Magistrate would for the present allow such of the immigrants as chose to avail themselves of the permission, to erect temporary dwellings for themselves in the suburbs of the town.

The, neighbourhood of York's Hollow was suggested as a fitting place for this purpose.

An OId Colonist" advises the passengers to locate .themselves higher up the river, near to the junction of the Bremer,  in order that, if their claims to land are acceded to, they may be on the spot where they are likely to obtain it. The advice so far is good, and, if practicable, the immigrants would do well to act upon it. But the question is, will permitted to do so?

 An Old Colonist" informs them that the practice of unauthorised occupation is common in the colony and so it is, but not within the settled districts. There can be no doubt that the Commissioner of Crown lands has authority to eject intruders by force if he pleases.

 If authority can be obtained for the immigrants to establish themselves in the locality indicated by "An Old Colonist," or even if a sufferance be tacitly implied, we shall cordially second his recommendation, for such a situation is doubtless much more desirable than that to which we referred last week.

But, in giving this advice, the writer of the letter takes occasion to insinuate that the passengers were recommended to establish themselves near Brisbane in order that they might spend their money in the town. This is an unworthy suspicion, and most unjust. The imputation of evil motives in others is rarely successful in proving the purity of our own. We do not retort the accusation, because we sincerely believe that it would be an injustice to do so. In various caritas.

The inhabitants of Brisbane had nothing to do with the proposed arrangement, which originated entirely with Captain Wickham, in consequence of his desire to do all in his power for the convenience of the strangers.

He could not authorise them to take up land within the jurisdiction of Dr. Simpson ; and even the offer made to them was a stretch of authority on his part. If our new colonists can make any arrangement for temporarily establishing themselves in a situation more favourable to their views than the suburbs of this town, we take it upon ourselves to say that no person will feel greater gratification thereat than Captain Wickham ; and certainly no advice, or assistance of any kind, will be wanting on the part of the inhabitants of Brisbane.

Not-withstanding this ungracious part of " An Old Colonist's" letter, we repeat that it is a source of much gratification to see that an active interest is. taken in the welfare of our new friends, and we hope that the example will not be a solitary one.

The passengers speak in high terms of Captain Christmas, and of the general treatment experienced by them during the voyage. There are not any more cases of sickness amongst the immigrants on Moreton Island. The Susan left Brisbane again for the Bay on Thursday morning last.

 York's Hollow (Victoria Park), Spring Hill

Mention is made of York's Hollow, now days better known as Victoria Park and the area situated around the RNA Showgrounds.   It was initially settled from 1840's.

The numbers swelled with the arrival of Dr Lang's  Scottish settlers who initially camped on the site, 

When they arrived they found that the free land they had been promised did not exist,

They then created settlements close by.   The first of such was Fortitude Valley.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #108131)


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