Arrival of the orphan children


An artical from The West Australian Newspaper, Perth, WA, Friday 4 July 1913, refering to the second group of children that made the voyage to Fairbridge.





   After a passage of 44 days, the White Star liner Belgic, carrying 1,441 people, the greatest number of immigrant passengers ever brought to this State by a single ship, came to anchor in Gage Roads yesterday morning at a quarter past 8 o’clock. All these people were bound for Western Australia, and most of them were nominated passengers-wives, children, and friends of Britishers already in the State. For them all it was the longest day of the passage. The work of checking and identifying the passengers was carried out by the Immigration Officer at Fremantle, Mr. R. Crawcour, and his assistants, Messrs. Taylor and Cumming-from 10 o’clock in the morning-after the medical inspection by Drs. Williams and White, the Port medical officers, until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when the Belgic entered the harbour.

A Wonderful Reunion.

   In the dining saloon before the three immigration officers, the passengers came in turn, answering to their names and signing the cards of identification. They filed out then at the other end of the saloon to make the final preparations for departure, or to pass the time by gazing at the long north beach, at the harbour mouth, at the town beyond, and the swift motor boats that would come up, circle round the vessel once or twice, and go away in a white sputter of foam. All this was by way of introduction to the new Commonwealth of which they were so soon to become citizens. Certainly they did not seem to regret the decision which had brought them 10,000 miles from home to a Dominion of which they had received so many glowing accounts. Afterwards at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. the welcome given them by the big crowd on the wharf, thronging, bustling, swarming about the barriers, and bursting into cheers as the Belgic slipped up to J Shed, was most remarkable. An answering cheer broke from the ship, the people laughed as if for no reason at all, pocket handkerchiefs were waved, and cries of re- cognition rent the air. There were between 4,000 and 5,000 people on the Quay, and it was a very wonderful reunion.

English, Irish, and Scotch.

   Officially – that is to say, so far as the Western Australian Government was concerned-the Belgic carried 1,381 passengers, 1,174 being nominated and 207 assisted. There were, besides, 59 others working pas- sages, and one stowing away, and who, when brought before the captain confessed that he wanted to land in Australia. This he was allowed to do. One child, a girl, was born on the voyage, so that the Belgic, losing none of its passengers by sickness or mischance, landed one more than it had shipped. The assisted passengers were:- 22 married couples, 40 children under 12, 94 single men (males over 12), 7 single women, and 22 boys under 12 years of age. Under the designation of nominated passengers came:-116 married couples, 117 wives (to join husbands), 371 children under 12 years of age, 259 single men (males over 12), and 183 single women. Eleven others paid full fares. Every county in England was represented. A Shropshire farmer, young, married, and capable looking, said he had been attracted by the advertisements concerning Australia published in the provinces. He was bringing out his wife and family of three, and intended to settle on the land as soon as he had increased his capital of £100. A fair proportion of families possessed some little capital. Another, a young unmarried man, was a native of Gloucestershire, and also an agriculturist. He was coming with his brother to take up land. Nearly all the assisted passengers were of this class. Some were on the list as farm labourers, others as dairymen, one was a farm bailiff, another had described himself as a small holder, and two others, less ambitious, as ploughman and cowman respectively. A variety of occupations was represented among the nominated passengers. Here was a leavening of shop assistants, and at least one insurance agent, fitters, plumbers, stone- masons, cabinet makers, weavers, electricians, labourers, printers, quarriers-all manner of tradesman, in fact-and one solitary “gamekeeper.” From almost every county in the United Kingdom they had come.

Babel of Tongues.

   Unfamiliar dialects smote the ear. Mothers and their children were whispering as if in a strange tongue. The Shropshire farmer confessed to a somewhat natural be- wilderment. “Half the time,” he said, “one doesn’t know what the next man is saying.” There was not much chatter on board the ship during the morning. They were all too eager to be on shore, preoccupied with a thousand intimate concerns at the end of a long voyage, listening in silence to the shouting of names as they were called by the immigration officers, packing up for the last time, or shepherding the children. The number of children was astounding. They outnumbered the grown-ups by three or four to one, and were neatly dressed, clean looking, and healthy. The youngsters watched the shore even more eagerly than their elders. To them it was a promised land, and they were busy only with wonder. They had no doubt been told very marvellous tales of Australia, and perhaps they were waiting for the fulfilment of some of the stories which they had carried to sleep and made wonderful in their dreams.

   Most interesting of all The Child Immigrants were 22 orphan boys who have come from parish homes in Great Britain to be farmers in Australia. They have come under the auspices of’ the Child Emigration Society, which was founded in 1909 by Mr. Kingsley Fairbridge, with the assistance of other Rhodes scholars. Mr. Fairbridge is the manager of the Society’s farm at Pinjarra, where all the boys are being sent. There they will receive training in farming, and when they are of an age to begin farm labouring they will be placed with reputable farmers in various parts, of the State. It is a sort of compensation that the Rhodes Scholars, in return for the advantages with which the generosity of an Englishman has endowed them are giving these orphan children a start in life such as they could not otherwise obtain. These 22 boys form the largest contingent of children sent out by the Society. They have been selected from various institutions as far north as Stirling. and as far south as Taunton, in Devon. Ten of them have come from Teddington Orphanage, in Middlesex. Bright eyed, eager youngsters, they gathered round Mr. H. W. Narroway, who has looked after them during the voyage, and asked him if they would soon be home. They all call him “Dad.” “Oh yes,” he says, ‘Home is, not very far away-just over there-you can’t see it very well from here. Soon we will be there.” To-day they will be the guests of Messrs. Boan Bros. on the roof of their premises. The lads will assemble there at 10 minutes past 3, and will be entertained. Afterwards they and some members of the Child Immigration Advisory Board will be driven round King’s Park, and Mrs. Barber, the hon. secretary of the Board, asks all members of that body to attend. On Monday the little folk will go to Pinjarra to begin to learn how to be farmers. Their names and ages are:-John Darnell (9), Thomas P. Quartermaine .(10), Frederick Quartermaine (9), John Thomas (10), Walter Allen (9), Frederick (10) and Frank Rogers (7), John Pearce (8), Edmund Davis White (13), George Pothicary (10), Charles Pothicary (8), Ernest Willis, Robert Dickson (10), John Mitchell (8), John McPhee (10), Edwin Lawrence (10), Henry Lawrence (9), Frederick H. Holt (7). Horace Britton (8), Herbert Bloomfield (9), John Truelove (10), George Pearce (8).

Healthy Immigrants.

   The spreading of infection from an outbreak of chicken-pox was promptly checked before the vessel reached Capetown. Nine cases that were discovered were isolated, and during the remainder of the voyage only four children fell ill. One of them is now convalescent and the other three are still under treatment. The fact that the number of “contacts” among the 200 children who formed portion of the passenger complement was so small is a testimony to the excellence of the arrangements on the steamer and the care of the surgeon, Mr. D. G. Robertson, and his assistant, Mr. A. J. Kelsey. One case of pneumonia has been reported, and one man suffering from a disease of the blood is to be treated as a prohibited immigrant. Captain Thornton speaks in high praise of his passengers. He said: “Considering the large number of immigrants, they are an exceptionally fine lot of people. We had practically no sickness, no deaths at all, and one birth. Between the Cape and Fremantle we had a couple of days’ bad weather and the passengers had to be confined below. During the trough weather two boats on the main deck were damaged and part of the gangway was carried away by the seas.”

Government and Shipping Company Thanked.

   Among a certain section of the passengers complaint was made that the food was neither properly cooked nor served. As a reply to the complaints, the following petition was drawn up and signed by the members of the entertainment committee and others: “To Captain Thornton the Officers and Crew of the S.S.Belgic. We, the members of the entertainment committee, hereby wish to express our thanks and appreciation as to the entire conditions existing on board. We have found them such that we have been enabled to organise all and every pastime which appealed to the passengers. We would thank you to convey the context of this letter of appreciation to the Western Australian Government and to the White Star Company.” By 9 o’clock the last of the nominated passengers had passed through the hands of the immigration officers. About 60, whose friends had not arrived, were taken to the Home.

Placing the New Settlers.

   Altogether there are 116 men among the assisted passengers. Sixty of them are to be sent on Saturday to the immigration homes at Katanning, Wagin, and Narrogin; work will be found for the married couples on farms in the country districts, and the remainder will be placed through the Government Labour Bureau.


   Tomorrow (Saturday), at 8 o’clock, a public welcome to all new arrivals by the S.S.Belgic will be tendered in the Perth Town Hall by the Northumberland and Dur- ham Association. There will be a musical programme and short addresses.


   In a letter to the Premier the Agent General (Sir Newton Moore) stated that he went to Liverpool to see the embarkation of the immigrants, and was specially pleased with the type of the people. They all had to pass the scrutiny of three doctors, who, after the inspection, congratulated him (the Agent-General) on what they considered was the best shipment of people that had ever left the old country. Sir Newton Moore added that it was gratifying to find that not one individual was rejected owing to physical disability.

SOURCE: National Library Australia