Tag: New Zealand
Ekwall's The Emigrants (date unknown), the art...
Ekwall’s The Emigrants (date unknown), the artist’s vision of 19th-century transatlantic emigration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The National Emigration Aid Society was conceived and founded for the express purpose of assisted emigration. It was founded by a substantial number of influential gentlemen, and was focused on moving the excess labour force to foreign states. They believed that their efforts were vital to a sound economy at home and productive, cultivated colonies abroad.

The Society devoted serious efforts to pressing Parliament into adopting their proposed “National Policy of Colonial Emigration.” They insisted that “Emigration is eminently good for, and available to all, in every class of society whose subsistence depends on the exercise of skill and labour, but who, unable at home to obtain employment, are reduced to want, and too frequently to a life of destitution and wretchedness.”

To that effect, the Society promoted the formation of “Emigration Clubs” in each city and township. The clubs would be chaired by committees of influential gentlemen, and each club would recruit members and solicit donations.

Any working man who wanted to become a member would be required to make a small payment for himself and each member of his family. The payment would go toward that family’s passage, and would be subsidized by donations. Each local club would in turn pay fees to the National Emigration Aid Society, who would arrange passage and outfit emigrants before travel.

The Society also offered a few free passages to select groups. Single women “of good character who are capable and willing to work as Domestic Servants” were granted free passage to certain cities in Australia and New Zealand. The cities of Victoria and Queensland also offered free passage to a few married farm labourers who met their specifications.

Eventually, the National Emigration Aid Society found itself in a gradually weakened state financially. In order to secure continued State aid, the Society’s committee decided to merge efforts with the Working Men’s Emigration Society.



English: Emigrants on a ship en route to Austr...
Emigrants on a ship en route to Australia, 1900-1910 Man and a young girl on board a ship travelling to Australia in the early 1900s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Working Men’s Emigration Society

The Working Men’s Emigration Society was focused on essentially the same goals; however, it worked almost exclusively with labourers connected to trade unions. Throughout the 1850s, the Society entered applicants into a monthly lottery. The winners of each drawing would be awarded a subsidized fare to Australia in return for a £20 loan.

In addition, the Working Men’s Emigration Society offered “working tickets”. Fare to Australia could be purchased for £15, and the prospective emigrant would make up the difference by working as a steward on the ship for the duration of the voyage.

Unfortunately, the Society was often poorly managed. Some emigrants were indeed sent abroad; however, many were let down.  Some folks who purchased working tickets would turn up dockside, only to be told that there was no record of the ticket purchase. A number of hopeful emigrants even took the cases to court, hoping to get their money back.

The National Emigration League

Once the two Societies joined efforts under the united title of the “National Emigration League”, they represented a combined 800,000+ souls. The League was led by the Duke of Manchester, and the members continued to actively promote the subject of emigration throughout the following years.


Empire Settlement Schemes after WWI

English: A map of the British Empire in 1921 w...
A map of the British Empire in 1921 when it was at its height. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emigration had sharply declined over the course of the First World War. Capitalizing on the potential of Britons wanting to emigrate from post-war England, both Canada and Australia began concerted efforts to encourage renewed immigration. Owing to these efforts, migration gradually increased between 1919 and 1920.

During this time, the British government began implementing schemes of its own – though often in collaboration with the various colonies. A couple of programs were instituted to not only encourage emigration to Australia and Canada, but also to New Zealand, and South Africa as well.

The Overseas Settlement Scheme

The 1919 Overseas Settlement Scheme was passed to assist discharged soldiers returning home from the Great War. The scheme offered free passage to ex-service men and women and their dependents.  This scheme lasted until the end of 1922, and over its duration, over 86,000 migrants were provided assistance. Of this 86,000, 26,560 went to Canada, 34,750 went to Australia, 12,890 went to New Zealand, 5,890 to South Africa, and nearly 3000 ended up in other parts of the Empire.

In Australia, just over 24 million acres was allocated to the settlement scheme. Approximately 23,000 farms were established across the country, and by June of 1924, 23,367 soldiers and sailors had emigrated and settled on the farms. This scheme enabled greater development of land that had been previously uninhabited in territories throughout Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia.

New Zealand saw a dramatic shortage of farm labourers after the loss of 17,000 men in the war. In addition to aiding ex-service men, various private sectors in New Zealand also instituted juvenile immigration schemes. The Flock House Scheme, for example, was initiated in honour of the British Navy and Mercantile Marines, and provided homes for the children of sailors who had been killed during the war. Boys received instruction in agriculture, while the girls were trained in domestic and industrial occupations. Through this scheme and others, approximately 2600 children were brought to New Zealand.

The Empire Settlement Act

King George V with the British and Dominion pr...
King George V with the British and Dominion prime ministers at the 1926 Imperial Conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1922, the Overseas Settlement Scheme was expanded to provide assistance to any “suitable persons” from the general public who might want to emigrate. This scheme was dubbed the Empire Settlement Act.

This act allowed the British government to collaborate with its Dominion governments, as well as with private organizations and public authorities, to develop emigration schemes. Under this act, married couples, single farm laborers and teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 were given free passage, and occasionally, training opportunities. In exchange for passage, the emigrants were expected to settle and remain on the land.

A variety of public and private schemes were instituted under this act, including the “3000 Families Scheme” and the “Dominion-Provincial Land Settlement Scheme” in Canada, and various Australian settlement schemes initiated by Dr. Barnardo’s, the Big Brother movement, and others.

Over its duration, the Empire Settlement Act provided assistance to 212,000 immigrants to Australia, and another 130,000 immigrants to Canada.

Howick’s Settlement of Old Soldiers in New Zealand

In 1845, the European population of New Zealand hovered around 6,500. While the 1840s saw the first substantial wave of British migration, the British remained in the minority compared to the nearly 200,000 Maori. The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi had established British sovereignty; however, there were not nearly enough British citizens for the country to run in a British way.

Howick Historical Village
Howick Historical Village (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advertising campaigns throughout England promoted New Zealand as a great place to live, and this did bring in a trickle of immigrants. Nonetheless, there was still not a large enough population to maintain an effective police or military presence. With the ever present threat of Maori attack, the New Zealand settlements were desperate for protection.

To that effect, Lt. Governor George Grey turned to England and petitioned the government for soldiers to supplement his small force of 1,100 fighting men. In response, the Lt. Governor received a contingent of 900 soldiers from New South Wales, and an additional 702 “old soldiers”.

These old soldiers, or “Fencibles” as they were called, were retired soldiers in their upper 30s and 40s, living on government pensions. A fleet of eleven ships brought the old soldiers, along with their wives and children, to New Zealand.

In return for their military duties, the soldiers (along with their families) were offered free passage and a fresh start in a new land. They were each paid a regular pension and given a cottage on an acre of land. This land would become fully theirs after serving for a seven year term. Officers were given large homesteads and a full 50 acres of land.

The Grey River, Mount Grey, Greytown, Greymout...
The Grey River, Mount Grey, Greytown, Greymouth and Grey Lynn all derive their name from Sir George Grey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Howick Settlement

The Howick settlement was originally part of a claim established by William Thomas Fairburn. Fairburn had purchased 40,000 acres of land at the insistence of local Maori tribes, and had established a mission station at Maraetai.

After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, the government took back 36,000 acres from the Fairburn claim. Some of the land was sold off to settlers and some was returned to the Maori; however, a substantial portion was used to establish Fencible settlements of Howick and Otahuhu.

The Howick settlement was named after Lt. Governor Grey, who was the 3rd Earl Grey and Viscount Howick, as he was largely responsible for the Fencible immigration scheme. Each old soldier was given land with the understanding that they would be called up as a defense force in wartime. Their name “Fencibles” was in fact derived from the word “Defencible”, meaning capable of defense.

While the old soldiers never were called upon to honour that defense contract, they did establish a thriving permanent settlement – some of which can still be seen today in the Howick Historical Village. Many of the old soldiers became successful farmers, and a large number of their descendants still live in the area today. In fact, it is estimated that over 600,000 New Zealanders can trace their roots back to this first group of old soldiers and their families.

Assisted Emigration from Ireland

During the 19th century, Ireland saw a rapid increase in unemployment. Thousands suffered in poverty, and were often regarded as “permanent deadweight”, “feckless”, or a “redundant” population. Because so many were desperate for jobs, employers were able to reduce wages even further – far below the proper acceptable level – leaving even the employed in dire straits.

English: engraving of 'Emigrants leaving Ireland'
‘Emigrants leaving Ireland’ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This left much of the population looking abroad for relief. Most had family or friends in America, and these fortunate folks often had their fares paid. There was a sizeable group, however, that had neither the connections nor the finances to move.

These poorest of the poor turned to England and Scotland for jobs. Before long, however, the English government became alarmed at the prospect of thousands of migrant paupers pouring across the borders and negatively affecting the native labour conditions. The British job market was already overloaded with English workers, and there were simply not enough resources to provide for the Irish influx.

Thus, a plan was conceived to fund assisted emigration programs. The British government and poor law unions along with independent philanthropists and landlords conspired to pay the fares of 300,000 of the most destitute in Ireland. Those sent abroad were typically able-bodied workers who simply could not find employment at home. These primarily included workhouse paupers, single women, and landless agricultural labourers. This group was overwhelmingly Catholic, and made up nearly 10% of the total migration.

A number of schemes were implemented, and each saw varying degrees of success. Some colonies such as New Zealand and Australia were desperate to attract skilled immigrants, and offered money or land grants to any Irish who chose to emigrate. Most, however, were sent to North America.

Conditions varied greatly for the newly arrived emigrants. Many struggled enormously, finding conditions abroad little better than back in Ireland. Some programs, however, were very successful.

A program led by Peter Robinson, for example, stands out as a highly successful venture. A select group of Irish emigrants was chosen from a number of estates in County Cork, as well as a few from estates in the southeast of Ireland. Stringent rules required emigrants to be Roman Catholic peasants under the age of 45.

English: Emigrants memorial, Larne. This statu...
Emigrants memorial, Larne. This statue in the Curran Park, Curran Road, Larne was unveiled in 1992 to commemorate the departure of the first emigrants from Larne to America. They left onboard the ?Friends Goodwill? in 1717. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roughly 300 families were selected, and each emigrant was given 70 acres of land in Canada’s Ottowa Valley. Emigrants would be required to pay an annual quit rent to the Crown at a rate of 2 pence per acre; however, each emigrant was provided with needed supplies, including food, seed corn and potatoes, cattle, and tools for building and farming. Log cabins were even constructed and clearings made on each settler’s land grant.

By contrast, other programs were significantly less successful. Those implemented during the Great Famine created the greatest hardships, as many schemes were enforced by landlords on unwilling evicted tenants. These were poorly funded ventures which generated great difficulty for both the emigrants and the host nations.

Overall, however, a great many of these assisted emigrants went on to prosper in their new homes. Despite the difficulties they faced, many made the courageous choices necessary and established prosperous settlements for following generations.

Relics of Empire: Pitcairn Island

Halfway between New Zealand and the Americas sits one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The tiny volcanic island of Pitcairn is separated from the rest of the world by thousands of miles of ocean, yet it gained surprising fame thanks to its original settlers.

English: House of Fletcher Christian, leader o...
House of Fletcher Christian, leader of mutiny on Bounty, Pitcairn Island ?esky: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The island was first discovered in 1606 by the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros. It was rediscovered in 1767 by a British ship, and named after the crew member who spotted the island. Owing to its size, however, Pitcairn was not suitable for large-scale colonization; thus, it was left alone.

In 1798, the crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied. After setting Captain William Bligh adrift with the remaining loyal crewmembers, Master Mate Fletcher Christian set off to look for a safe haven for himself and his small crew. Unable to properly man the ship with his nine companions, Christian made landfall in Tahiti where he recruited six men and twelve women. Together, this odd group found their way to the idyllic paradise of Pitcairn Island.

The island was uninhabited, warm, and replete with coconut palms and breadfruit. It was the perfect inaccessible hideaway for the mutineers. To avoid discovery and retribution, the sailors stripped the Bounty of her contents, then ran her ashore, and burned her to the ground, effectively erasing any clues as to their whereabouts.

The group of mutineers was led by Fletcher Christian and included Ned Young, John Adams, Matthew Quintal, William McCoy, William Brown, Isaac Martin, John Mills, and John Williams. Each of the sailors took a Polynesian woman for a wife, leaving the remaining three to be shared by the six Polynesian men.

Years went by, and the tiny community lived with alternating friction and peace. Some died, some were murdered, and by 1800, John Adams remained as the only male survivor of the original party, surrounded by ten Polynesian women and twenty-three children.

English: The mutineers turning Lt Bligh and pa...
The mutineers turning Lt Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from HMAV Bounty, 29 April 1789, published by B B Evans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1808, American sealing Captain Mayhew Folger happened upon the tiny colony; however, little interest was paid to the island for six more years. In September of 1814, H.M.S. Briton and Tagus rediscovered the colony. The British commanders were so charmed by Adams’ care and leadership of the community that they felt it would be inhumane to arrest him for his long-passed crime.

The isolation was ended, and a relationship began between Pitcairn and the British Navy. Ships visited regularly, bringing books, tools and practical necessities in exchange for provisions.

Adams soon became concerned about the future of the island, and appealed to the British Government for a successor. Appeals were ignored; however, voluntary immigrants soon arrived, including shipwright John Buffett and Welshman John Evans. By 1828, the population had risen to 66, with the arrival of a few new residents including George Nobbs.

In 1831, the community briefly moved to Tahiti due to diminishing resources on Pitcairn. They were warmly welcomed; however, they were unhappy and many contracted infectious diseases (to which they had little natural resistance). The Pitcairn Islanders returned home just a few months later.

Increasing intrusions by American whalers let the Islanders to feel insecure in their tiny settlement. They reached out to British Captain Elliot of the H.M.S. Fly who provided them with a constitution and code of laws. While Pitcairn officially became a British settlement in 1887, the Islanders consider Elliot’s constitution to signify their formal incorporation into the British Empire.

Throughout the 20th century, the island was governed by magistrates appointed from the Christian and Young families; however, in 1970, governance of the island was transferred to the British high commissioners of New Zealand. Today, many of the islanders have emigrated to New Zealand, leaving the population at no more than 45.

The Female Middle Class Emigration Society

Throughout much of the early 19th century, emigration assistance for women was directed almost entirely toward women working in domestic service. Domestic working women were in high demand throughout the colonies, thus, emigration societies and organizations largely focused their efforts on “matrimonial colonization”, helping women who fit this domestic profile.

English: The Last of England by Ford Madox Bro...
The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown, 1855.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were, however, a substantial number of women in England who had a decent education and were suited for more than basic domestic labour. Unfortunately, these educated women were finding employment opportunities scarce at home. In the colonies, however, there was a dire need for such women.  By the middle of the 19th century, emigration societies began to realize that this neglected group of women was in need of help.

The need came to the foreground when a Miss Maria S. Rye published a paper entitled “The Colonies and their Requirements.” She drew attention to the serious plight of young, educated women who were consigned to English workhouses for want of more appropriate employment. She posed the poignant question, “Are women to perish simply because they are women?” Her viewpoints were soon republished by The English Woman’s Journal, and then printed in pamphlet form by Emily Faithful.

With the help and support of friends, Maria Rye began to act on her convictions. She sent her first group of educated women to Melbourne, Sydney and Natal, where they were met by local supporters and settled in posts of employment. These early emigrants were soon publishing letters of their own in The English Woman’s Journal, pointing to the great success of Maria Rye’s initial venture.

The small success so bolstered Miss Rye’s convictions that she began to appeal to the general public for funds to establish a larger permanent emigration scheme. An appeal was published in The Times, and soon Miss Rye had received over £500 in public support. With the funds raised, Maria Rye launched “The Female Middle Class Emigration Society” in May of 1862.

The Society opened its first and only office at  12 Portugal Street, sharing a building with the offices of The English Woman’s Journal. To approved applicants, the Society offered interest-free loans that could be repaid over a period of 28 months. Correspondents were set up in the various colonial ports where young women might choose to travel, so that wherever the women went, there would be someone there to greet them.

Maria Rye joined the first party which set out for New Zealand in late 1862. She dedicated the next couple of years to studying the conditions in greater depth, leaving her friend, Jane E. Lewin in charge of the Society. By the time Miss Rye returned to England in 1865, she had set her sights on the emigration of children; thus, Miss Lewin ended up running the Society for the duration of its existence.

While the FMCES never became a large or wealthy organization, it did assist quite a number of middle class women in their emigration efforts. In 1886, the FMCES was officially absorbed into the Colonial Emigration Society.


Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his New-Model English Society

Though he was a rather colorful fellow with questionable views on society, Edward Gibbon Wakefield is remembered today as a colonial reformer and advocate of systematic colonization. His writings and actions helped to reform British views on colonial development. He was one of the founders of New Zealand and much of the settlement was based upon his ideas for a model societal structure.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield (* 1796; † 1862), Brit...
Edward Gibbon Wakefield (* 1796; † 1862), British statesman and promoter of colonization of Australia and New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wakefield was a London land agent’s son, born on March 20, 1796, and educated at Westminster. In 1826, he met Ellen Turner, the young daughter of a wealthy silk merchant. Wakefield spirited her away to Scotland where he pressed her into a quick marriage ceremony. When they were discovered, the wedding was annulled by Parliament and Wakefield was sentenced to three years in prison for kidnapping.

During his time in prison, Wakefield turned his thoughts toward corrective punishment and colonial development. From prison, he began to publish papers stating his position on these topics. He strongly promoted the colonization of Australasia and provided detailed plans for how he felt it should be accomplished.

His plan involved the New Zealand Company buying land at a pittance from the indigenous tribes, and then selling it at a high price to “gentleman settlers” and investors. Revenue earned through these land sales would finance the immigration of free settlers; however, since these newcomers would be unable to purchase land of their own, they would make up a laboring class to work for the landowners.

Many members of the New Zealand Company embraced Wakefield’s ideas and put them to use in the colonization of South Australia. While these supporters envisioned the creation of a “perfect English society,” Wakefield viewed their work there as a failure and instead turned his focus toward New Zealand.

In 1837, Wakefield chaired the first meeting of the New Zealand Association, where he was joined by a number of wealthy supporters. A bill was drafted detailing their intentions; however, it was strongly opposed by Colonial Office officials and the Church Missionary Society. The opposition was horrified by claims made in Wakefield’s pamphlets, where he declared his intentions to “civilize a barbarous people” who could “scarcely cultivate the earth.” They took issue with the unlimited power that would be wielded by the colony’s founders, and felt that the indigenous peoples of the region would simply be exterminated.

By the end of the year, however, Wakefield’s association was gathering favour throughout the government, and in December they were offered a Royal Charter which gave them responsibility over the administration of the colony of New Zealand. They soon merged with the New Zealand Company and continued under that name.

treaty of Waitangi version in the museum on th...
treaty of Waitangi version in the museum on the Waitangi grounds, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before the government could impose further control, the Company set out to buy up as much land as possible. By the end of 1839 they had purchased land in Wellington and as far north as Patea, and intended to buy as much as 20 million acres in Nelson, Wellington, Wanganui, and Taranaki. Their ambitions were cut short though, when the government intervened with the Treaty of Waitangi. This treaty allowed only the government to make any further land purchases.

When the government began to question the land titles of the Company, Wakefield campaigned for self-government, though this was easily opposed by the governor, Sir George Grey. In 1853, Wakefield emigrated to Wellington and became involved in the political institution in New Zealand. Just one year later though, his health broke and he was forced to live in retirement until his death in 1862.

While Wakefield’s views were often impracticable due to his lack of first-hand knowledge, he was instrumental in the colonization and settlement of New Zealand. Due to his strong beliefs in modeling the settlements on the structures of British society, many New Zealand towns were established this way. While population growth wasn’t rapid by any means, many were attracted to life in New Zealand and colonies were quickly established. When the New Zealand Company arrived in 1839, there were a mere 2,000 immigrants in the country; by 1852 that number had climbed to 28,000.

New Zealand – Edge of Empire

As 1840 dawned, New Zealand was officially incorporated into the British Empire. A small number of British immigrants had trickled to New Zealand in previous years, and had made their living in sealing and whaling, as well as in timber, agriculture and livestock. The floodgates really opened in 1840, however, with wave after wave of British and Irish immigrants flowing to settle in the newly incorporated territories.

1840 – 1852

A poster of the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line pro...
A poster of the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line promoting Immigration to New Zealand in the 1850s, featuring the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three major streams of migrants made their way to New Zealand between 1840 and 1852. The largest group consisted of assisted immigrants who were brought in to populate the New Zealand Company settlements. This group settled first in New Plymouth, Nelson and Wellington (between 1840 and 1842), and later in Otago and Canterbury (between 1848 and1852).

The second wave brought groups of land purchasers and free migrants. Many of these settlers came from an Irish background, and the majority of this group made their home in the Auckland province.

The third wave began in 1845, and brought a predominantly military crowd. Over 700 men who had been sent to New Zealand during the Northern War (1845-1846) were discharged from the British regiments and chose to stay and settle. Over 2500 men, women and children also travelled to New Zealand as part of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles – a regiment sent to provide military protection to settlers near Auckland. Smaller groups also arrived in New Zealand throughout this time, such as the 514 migrants from Paisley who settled in Auckland in 1842.

1853 – 1870

From 1853 onward, New Zealand saw a dramatic increase in population, rising from around 20,000 to over 250,000 (non-Maoris). The provincial governments offered an alluring prospect to migrants from Britain and Ireland, not only providing assistance with fares, but even offering land grants in some cases. When gold was discovered in Otago in 1861, and then in Westland in 1865, emigration to New Zealand reached its peak as aspiring miners flooded in hoping to make their fortunes.

At the same time, war broke out once more between the settlers and the native Maori tribes. The British government sent a number of imperial foot regiments to resolve the conflict, and subsequently, over 2000 of those men decided to settle in New Zealand once they were discharged from service. Most of these men chose to take their discharges in Auckland, though smaller numbers did settle in New Plymouth, Wanganui and Wellington.

This time period (from 1853-1870) saw the greatest flow of migration. Over 45,000 people arrived in New Zealand in 1863 alone, with English and Irish nationals making up a substantial percentage of the total. From1853 to 1870, over 46% of immigrants to New Zealand were born in Britain, closely followed by approximately 21% who were born in Ireland. Of note, a large number of Highland Scots also made the voyage at this time, and made up a little over 30% of the total migrant population.

1871 – 1890

English: Sir Julius Vogel, ca 1870s

When immigration to New Zealand began to drop off some following the gold rush, New Zealand’s Premier, Sir Julius Vogel answered with an expansionist policy. He proposed deferred payments and guaranteed employment upon arrival for new migrants. He particularly hoped that new settlements on lands taken from the Maori would bring a measure of peace and security.

Some feared that New Zealand would become a “receptacle” for the “refuse population of large towns and cities, composed of beings hopelessly diseased in body and mind, deficient in all capacity for useful labour, vagrant and idle alike by habit and inclination, paupers by profession, and glorifying in being so.” In answer to those fears, Vogel proposed careful selection of immigrants through the Immigration and Public Works Bill.

This bill, in fact, simply allowed the government to bring in the type and quantity of immigrants requested by provincial superintendents. Over the next few years, the scheme expanded to provide subsidized or free passage, as well as the opportunity for settlers to nominate friends or relatives for immigration from England or Ireland.

The London-based Agency General followed and launched an all-out campaign to recruit immigrants. Through recruiting agents and lectures, the agency worked tirelessly to attract immigrants in general, but agricultural labourers and women in particular. The decade from 1870-1880 saw over 100,000 assisted migrants relocating to New Zealand. 1874 alone produced over 32,000 assisted migrants, making it New Zealand’s highest level of annual net migration ever.

Immigration was also encouraged in the private sector. For example, George Vesey Stewart was a gentleman entrepreneur from County Tyrone, who came to obtain 10,000 acres of land in New Zealand. To this parcel of land, he eventually attracted four groups of Protestant families from Ulster County.

Throughout this period, New Zealand’s non-Maori population increased from approximately 256,000 in 1871 to over 624,000 by 1891. A majority of the immigrants to New Zealand continued to come from the United Kingdom, making up approximately 54 % of the gross number.

Emigration from the UK continued to wax and wane throughout this time, and was determined in large part by the economic climate in New Zealand at the time. The depression of the 1880s and early 1890s certainly made New Zealand a less appealing option for migrants – especially once assisted migration was cut during the late 1880s. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that New Zealand once again became an attractive destination for migrants.

Britain’s Child Migrants

Toward the end of the 19th century, Britain was facing significant social and economic trouble. Deprivation, homelessness and neglect were endemic throughout Britain’s overcrowded cities, and child migration emerged as a solution.

1950 Child Migrants
1950 Child Migrants (Photo credit: theirhistory)

Britain was in the midst of empire building and the colonies not only provided enormous wealth and resources – they also provided alternative homelands for the unwanted peoples of Britain. Many Britons emigrated throughout this period of history; yet few know of the many thousands of children who were rounded up and sent abroad. Child migrants became the brick and mortar force on which the Empire could continue to expand.

Children as young as three were routinely shipped abroad – primarily to Australia and Canada – through government-sanctioned child migration schemes. Charities were even established to support the emigration efforts, as children were gathered from across the UK. They were brought to major British ports such as London, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Southampton where they were given a trunk of clothing and shipped off to their new homes. The vast majority never returned to their homeland.

Approximately 100,000 children were sent to Canada, over 7,000 to Australia, and several hundred were shipped to New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia. Prior to 1900, the majority of the children were collected from workhouses, city streets and declining rural areas where they were often found destitute and homeless. After the turn of the century the children were sent from orphanages and children’s homes. In some cases, parents were unable to provide for their children and chose to send them abroad with the migration schemes.

Australian Child Migrants leaving Alverstoke 1950
Australian Child Migrants leaving Alverstoke 1950 (Photo credit: theirhistory)

Many of the children hardly knew what to expect. They faced the future with fear, but also with excitement as in many cases they were simply leaving behind a life of neglect, hunger and hardship. They were promised new sights, new places and the excitement of exploration. They were treated to tea parties and visited by popular entertainers, powerful benefactors, and even by royalty. Each departure was highly publicized to promote the work of the various charities.

The children were actually treated very well in Britain and all throughout the voyages. They enjoyed the luxury of passenger liners, sleeping in comfortable cabins, eating hearty meals, and even enjoying games, swimming and schooling on board the ships.

Unfortunately, upon arrival in their new homes the children were faced with lands completely foreign and often harsh. In Canada, the children were distributed to rural homes where they lived and worked with farming families. Some fared better than others; however the majority faced hard physical labour in a harsh climate, compounded by the loneliness of being with a family but not being considered part of the family.

In Australia the children fared no better. Their smart wardrobes were stripped from them and exchanged for khaki work clothes and bare feet. The children were placed in religious institutions or farming schools where they were subjected to harsh discipline and backbreaking labour. The children were expected to continue in agriculture, and thus received little to no education.

At the height of the child migration scheme, as many as 300 children would travel aboard a single ship, chaperoned by staff from their designated charity. The numbers dropped lower and lower as the 20th century progressed; however, the schemes weren’t officially ended until 1967.

When the Child Welfare Act was passed in 1948, the child migration schemes came under scrutiny. Investigations were carried out and several of the participating institutions received strong condemnation. The schemes continued, however, for another decade. The last group of child migrants was sent to Australia by air in 1967, and the institutions began to close in the 1970s.


Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.