Archiver > DUMFRIES-GALLOWAY > 2001-04 > 0986343897

From: "Irene Mitchell" <>
Subject: Re: William Mitchell to NZ
Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 17:29:58 -0700
References: <MABBKMCDDBCACMOMELHHCEMCCGAA.imchad@lineone.net>

-----Original Message-----
From: The Nelson Family [mailto:]
Sent: 01 April 2001 01:28
Subject: William Mitchell to NZ

Hi, David:

I suggest the reason many left Scotland for New Zealand in the 1860's was
the positive reports in letters home from those who had left their homeland
earlier. Word would soon spread of the fortunes being made in New Zealand
and, more realistically, the availability of jobs.

In my family, William Mitchell was the one who remained in Scotland (my
grandfather), while three of his siblings left for New Zealand in the

Elizabeth Mitchell went first, on the Pladda, in 1862. She married in the
Spring of 1863. Her husband, with his father and brothers, had emigrated
from Scotland 10 years earlier and they were well established by the early
1860's. The letters home from Elizabeth and her new husband, convinced
Elizabeth's married brother, John Mitchell, and his married sister, Janet
Mitchell or MUIR, to set sail for NZ, which they did in the Spring of 1864.
Elizabeth's husband and father jointly "sponsored" both families to New
Zealand - in essence giving assurance that the loans for their fares would
be repaid. [Today, I have a few hundred relatives in NZ descended from those
3 Mitchell siblings of my grandfather.]

Here is an extract from a letter written by Elizabeth's husband to her
parents back in Scotland. It is dated July 9, 1863.

"Trade of all kinds is good here at present and will I have no doubt get
brisker as the spring set in. Joiners wages are £4 per week and Masons are
£3. John [Mitchell] was talking in his letter to us of coming out. I have no
doubt he would do well here although I should not like to persuade anyone to
come in case they might be disappointed as some have been who came out with
too high expectations. But there is no fears of a man succeeding here who is
inclined to work. We had all of us to work very hard for some time but we
are now reaping this reward of our labours as we are now independent of
anyone. We have our own farm little estate which will keep us comfortable
for life. I know numbers of men who came out to this Colony about the same
time as us [1853] who landed with only one half crown who is now worth
hundreds of pounds besides farms of their own. There is a liberty and
independence here which cannot be attained in old Scotland. I think it a
great pity to see so many young men and women spending the best of their
days in the Old Country for a mere nothing while if they had the spirit to
come out here might soon gain for themselves an independence here as there
is plenty of room for thousands here yet. There being plenty of land for
sale in the interior of the Country, the upset price is one pound per acre.
You go and apply for (it) at the government office. The application lies for
one month; if there is no application lodged for the same land on the same
day by any other party you get it at this upset price. If there is, it is
put up by Auction. We got a quantity of ours at 10/- but it is risen to £1
now. Even at that price it is very cheap when it is one's own."

Debbie Little, whose family also sailed on the Pladda, told me she has a
copy of a book called "The Maidservants Scandel" written by Olive Trotter, a
Dunedin woman, which explains about the scheme which bought many boat loads
of young women to Otago. She sent me an Extract, which I will include, in
part, below. I will say, from Elizabeth Mitchell's letters home, she was
not one of the "unhappy girls" described in the article. In fact, Elizabeth
was delighted with everything from the moment she landed, and said she would
not exchange New Zealand, for "all Glasgow".

Kind regards,
Irene Mitchell (formerly of Scotland, now in Canada)

Exerpts from The Maid Servants Scandal
- A Page from Otago Early History
by Olive Trotter

The Otago Provincial Council resolved in July 1862 to bring 1200 single
girls from Britain to meet the shortage of domestic servants. The council
supplied a strict application form for the girls to fill in. As well as name
address and age, the girls had to give a medical certificate of sound
health, and character certificates from their last employer and from a

Each girl was supposed to pay eight pounds towards her passage. they were
pledged to repay the money once they had arrived and had started earning.
Maid servants were in tremendous demand in Otago. the goldrush was at its
height, and many miners were pouring in. Many fortunes were being made by
Dunedin merchants, who with their new wealth were able to build impressive
weatherboard mansions which still stud the city. The merchants wives were
desperate for help with the extra housework that these enormous homes needed
and for help too with their large Victorian families. The hotels and eating
houses which sprang up everywhere needed help as well.

During the last four months of 1862, 570 young servant-girls were absorbed
into the population. After the Grassmere, there arrived, in quick succession
the Bombay, the Robert Henderson, the Jura, the Servilla, the Star of
Tasmania, the Chile, the Pladda on 29 December and finally on the 31
December the Sarah M.

In December 1862, Mrs Jessie Crawford from Glasgow was appointed permanent
matron of the Female Immigration Barracks. She had been matron on the
Servilla which had arrived in the November. She was said to be a martinet
but had a kind heart. She vetted all prospective employers; she ensured that
the girls food was served on time, and that any meat they bought was cooked
for them. At nightfall she had the barracks locked up, with all girls

With all her goodwill, Mrs Crawford could do little for the comfort of the
193 unhappy girls who came in the Pladda. the harbour paddle-steamer brought
them from Port Chalmers, and then went back for their luggage and blankets.
By the time returned the tide was out, and the mud-flats would not let the
craft discharge its cargo until 7 pm. By that time the customs officials had
gone home. The Chief Customs Officer refused to release their belongings, so
they had to spend a bleak night without their blankets on bare boards.


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