Tuesday, 30 October 2012

New insight into an early arrival

Until a few days ago, I believed that our 3xgreat grandmother Margaret HEATHWOOD arrived in Queensland on December 3 1861. That is the date written at the top of the passenger list of the Persia, and so it is the one included in the index created by the Queensland State Archives.

The recent availability on-line of the images of many passenger lists for voyages to Moreton Bay provides an ideal opportunity to revisit some things that we thought we knew. And it is proving a very interesting exercise.

The second last line of the list for the Persia includes a surprising reference to "Arrived Port Curtis".

It is extremely unlikely that the whole complement of more than 400 immigrants would have sailed on to Central Queensland after berthing in Brisbane. Was the Persia one of the first vessels to enter Queensland through Torres Strait so that its first landfall was not Moreton Bay as I had assumed?

A search through The Moreton Bay Courier for December (and then November) 1861 revealed that the answer was "no" and "yes". After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, the Persia had followed the conventional route south of Australia but then by-passed Port Phillip, Port Jackson and Moreton Bay and sailed directly on to Port Curtis. She dropped anchor off the township of Gladstone in the morning of Saturday 16 November 1861.

Approximately half of the immigrants disembarked there and secured employment in the surrounding districts. It was reported that agents for employers in Rockhampton were offering a £10 premium on annual wages to induce servant girls to move on from Gladstone where the going rate was only £25 per annum plus board and lodgings.

Margaret HEATHWOOD was apparently unmoved by these offers and she was among those (mainly Irish) immigrants who remained on board for the trip south to Moreton Bay arriving to begin her new life, as I had always known, on 3 December.

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