‘Wanted Down Under’ – The Prequel

Graham Hannaford has recently gained his PhD from Federation University, Australia. His thesis explored the impact of emigration advertisements on Scots. He has a Dornoch connection, having gained his Masters from the Centre for History at the University of the Highlands and Islands and has visited the town several times.

If you have been following the many episodes of the TV series Wanted Down Under which explores the attractions of Australia for Brits, it probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that the concept is far from new. The following advertisement, which appeared on page 1 of the Inverness Courier of 14 March 1848, was only one of many in the nineteenth century, and later, seeking to recruit Scots willing to move to the colonies.

FREE EMIGRATION BY GOVERNMENT TO NEW SOUTH WALES, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AND THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.

ALL Persons desirous of availing themselves of the opportunity thus afforded them, are requested to apply to Mr ANDREW RUTHERFORD, GOLSPIE, who will forward to the applicants the proper Form of Application, with a list of such regulations as they will have to conform to. None need apply but Agricultural and Farm Servants, or persons connected with country work, such as Shepherds, Miners, Country Mechanics, Blacksmiths, Wheelwrights, and Carpenters. The most desirable applicants are YOUNG MARRIED COUPLES, with few, or without Children.

YOUNG SINGLE WOMEN, of established respectability, who, though not employed as servants at present, but are desirous of becoming such in the Colony, may apply.

ANDREW RUTHERFORD,

Agent to her Majesty’s Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners.

Golspie, 23d February 1848.

Rutherford eventually acted on his own advice and emigrated with his wife to Australia, both of them ending their days in Melbourne.[1] He was also politically astute for his time, having subscribed half a guinea to the fund for the monument to the late first Duke of Sutherland.[2]

The advertisement made it clear that only agricultural workers and associated tradesmen were wanted by the promoters of the government emigration scheme. These were the categories of employees which had been sought for many years by those with large land holdings in the colonies. Married men were sought since these tended to be more stable in work and behaviour than bachelors who were inclined, it was believed, to waste their earnings and time on drinking. Wives were also believed to be useful in the role of hut keepers supporting shepherds.

A shepherd’s life in Australia, South Australia, 1864 [picture] / W. R. Thomas, National Library of Australia, https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-151835623/view

It is worth noting that the offer of passage was being made to those willing to migrate to the Cape of Good Hope, to South Australia and to New South Wales itself. In doing so, for those hesitant about the voyage, the Cape would have been more attractive and so too, to a lesser extent, would be the voyage to South Australia which was shorter than going all the way to Sydney.

The ongoing imbalance in the genders in the colony was reflected in the announcement that young single women willing to work as servants were also wanted. This was an issue which had been flagged over many years and was still without adequate resolution by the middle of the nineteenth century. Good marriage prospects awaited those seeking a husband.

It is clear from this advertisement that the emigration commissioners viewed conditions in the Cape colony as being similar to those in Australia, probably with the aim of moving surplus population out of Britain as much as finding the workers sought by the colonies. But it is also apparent that work was available for those willing to undertake it on the pastoral stations in New South Wales, whether as shepherds or in the associated trades necessary for operating large properties.


[1] https://www.bayanne.info/Shetland/familygroup.php?familyID=F55730&tree=ID1.

[2] James Loch, Memoir of George Granville, late Duke of Sutherland K.G. (London: S. Woodfall, 1834), 69.

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