Report of the Immigration Board of Inspection - Lady Kennaway
Every emigrant ship that arrived in Australia was met by the Immigration Agent, who interviewed each immigrant and noted their particulars in the Immigration Board Lists (otherwise known as Shipping or Passenger Lists). The Shipping Lists for the three ships that carried Mayo Orphan Girls are examined here.
The Public Record Office Victoria has made available online the Report of the Immigration Board of Inspection for the Lady Kennaway, prepared by John Patterson, Immigration Agent in Melbourne. There were 25 girls from Ballina workhouse on board the Lady Kennaway, which arrived in Melbourne on 6 December 1848. The girls were admitted to the Immigration Depot on 12 December, and most of the girls were employed within a week of arriving in the Depot.
The Report of the Immigration Board of Inspection was made on 23 December 1848, when the majority of the older girls had departed from the Depot, noting that "the applicants for the service of these Females were numerous and that at the present time, they are all hired in respectable places, but three not yet engaged". This number did not include the younger girls, age 14 and 15, who were kept in the Depot until early February 1849 when they were then hired as apprentices.
The report contains some further insights into the Irish orphan girls, including the attitudes towards them.
The report indicates that the girls were in good health, and the impression was that "they belong to the humbler ranks of life". They are described as being "generally of a stout make, rather low in stature, and are endowed with a strongly marked Irish Physiognomies". The image to the right, from the Illustrated London News in 1843 and taken from Views of the Famine, illustrates the perceived Irish physiognomies in the 19th century.
The report notes that the girls "are almost exclusively of the Roman Catholic Religion", which was a point of significance for the predominantly Protestant colony.
Interestingly, the report states that "it would appear that most of them have been in Service of one kind or other, either in Town or Country, previous to leaving their native homes".
The importance placed on the moral status of the girls is highlighted in the statement that, "as they come originally from small country Towns and adjoining districts, they have never seen or been accustomed to witness those demoralizing Scenes too frequent in large Towns in many parts of the Empire", with the belief that "they will continue to conduct themselves as hitherto and keep in the paths of virtue". The report also comments on the role of the Surgeon Superintendent on the ship, "an old Navy Surgeon", in protecting the girls' reputations, in that he "maintained strict order, and to have preserved that moral restraint so very necessary under the particular circumstances of this Case".
The behaviour of the girls on the ship was also of interest, and they were described as "having been generally obedient well conducted during the voyage, and amenable to the rules and regulations established for their observance". Imagining a ship with 191 young women between the ages of 14 to 20 can only raise a smile at the following observation: "Some of them were inclined to be rather noisy and boisterous occasionally, and would not hesitate at times to let out a bit of an oath".
The impression that "They are most anxious to please their employers, and as they have much to learn in the line of their callings, we doubt not but that they will be teachable and make good and useful servants", unfortunately did not become the general perception of the girls a few months after arrival, as described here.
The difference in the passage to Australia compared to the journeys made across the Atlantic to North America, is highlighted by the comment that, "Not a single complaint of any kind, was made by any of them. All expressed themselves satisfied with the treatment they experienced during the passage".
Whilst the report does not mention any individual girls on the Lady Kennaway, it certainly provides an informative image of their journey and arrival in Australia.
© Barbara Barclay (2015)