Saturday, July 7, 2012

I is for IMMIGRATION - James Pilgrim

James Pilgrim
On the 20th June 1858, when James Pilgrim was 22, he left his family, job and home town to take a dangerous voyage to an uncertain future on the other side of the world, knowing that he would never see his family ever again.

It was such a long and costly journey in the 1800s, that once you left England; it was unlikely that you would ever return.

James was one of 39,295 people who emigrated from United Kingdom to Australia in 1858, hoping for a better life.  His decision would have been made easier as his elder brother John had immigrated to Australia three years earlier.

The voyage from UK to Australia, which on average took 3½ months in 1858, was fraught with danger and many passengers died.  Sea sickness was a common problem but even worse, gastro, scarlet fever, measles, typhoid and small pox plagued many ships.

The steerage passengers lived below deck in conditions that were most often dark, damp and cramped.  Vermin such as rats, lice and cockroaches infested most vessels. 

James chose to make the voyage on the two year old Lady Milton, which was described as a “first class British Clipper” in the London Times.

The Lady Milton
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Reference Number: NON-ATL-0065
James was an “unassisted passenger” and paid the full fare for his ticket to Australia.  The cost of passage on the Lady Milton was 14 guineas and upward (14 Pound, 14 Shillings), which was equivalent to about six months of wages for an agricultural labourer like James. 

The Lady Milton left London a week late, on the 20th June 1858 and sailed for 113 days, reaching Melbourne on the 10th October 1858.  The ship was fully laden with cargo but unusually, there were only twenty three people onboard; Captain Benjamin Stacey, a surgeon, two other crew and nineteen passengers, including one child. 

It is likely that this was the maiden voyage of the Lady Milton and passengers were reluctant to board the ship until after she had proven her sail worthiness.  In future voyages, the Lady Milton was primarily used for government and assisted passengers with up to 320 immigrants on board.

30 November 1865
The South Australian Advertiser
The choice of the Commissioners certainly fell on an eligible vessel when they selected the Lady Milton for it has not lately occurred that such roomy tween decks have been seen by the officers boarding. They even exceed those of some of the old ships we were wont to eulogise”.

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  1. I find it hard to even concieve of embarking on such a trip - leaving your whole past life and family behind, to start something new. But our ancestors were brave souls, and did just that.

  2. And aren't we glad that they did!

  3. Immigration... what a perfect topic for "Ii" Sharon. I so so admire our Ancestors who made this journey and especially the very pregnant women who often gave birth in horrific conditions. Great post... thanks, Catherine

    1. I agree. It is so hard to imagine what they must have gone through.