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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

XII. Emigration

81. Letter from Australia, 1852

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1From the end of the 1840s onwards The Inverness Courier gave more and more space to those emigrant letters that explained the countless advantages of emigration.

2These letters were diverted from their primary function – the communication of news originally meant to be read within the private sphere – to be included in a more comprehensive strategy whose aim was to present emigration as a voluntary choice, without any mention at all of the difficulties and hardships the emigrants faced. The strategy apparently bore fruit since between 1846 and 1857 at least sixteen thousand Highlanders emigrated, with assistance from landowners and the Highland and Island Emigration Society, two thousand six hundred people emigrating to Australia in 1852 alone.

3“Letter from Australia”, The Inverness Courier, 2 September 1852.

We have been favoured with the perusal of a letter written from Melbourne by a young man, a native of Inverness, who emigrated to Australia about four years since. In remitting a considerable sum to his aged parents—a duty always cheering to every right-hearted Scotsman—the writer says:

  • 8 Gold had been discovered in 1851 in the province of New South Wales.

“I have been on the diggings8 for the last three months, and have been very successful, considering the state of the weather and the want of water. Next winter there will probably be a better opportunity. In the three months I have made £ 260, and that is nothing to what some others have realised. People are flocking here in thousands from all quarters of the globe, and as there is not sufficient accommodation for them in the city, they pitch their tents on each side of the river. Employments are put to great inconvenience for want of hands, though very high wages are given. Even shepherds, who have the lowest wages in this country, get from £ 40 to £ 50 a year. What a difference between this country and Scotland! Here we have plenty of everything, though provisions are very dear, and at home you can scarcely get a living! I wish I had my brother James here, and if he had any intention of coming out I would remit a draft sufficient to cover his expenses. I met with three countrymen from the Highlands [here the names are given] and we are to form a party and start tomorrow morning. They have all done well at the diggings, and I expect you will see some of them home shortly with the pockets well lined with gold. Every one seems to be trying to make a fortune as fast as he can. Even lodgings are charged three times the usual price, or 30s. without washing, which is 7s. per dozen, and glad to get it done at that price. Labourers from off the vessels, as soon as they land, are engaged at £ 3 and £ 4 a-week; mechanics from 20s. to 30s. a day. The gold diggers outshine them all when they chance to be lucky. Some make from £ 100 to £ 200 a-month, and others less fortunate from £ 40 to £ 50. A fair average is 10 £ per week. After a few months’ sojourn at the diggings, down they come to town and spend their money as fast as they get it. The publicans are making their fortunes, and in fact everyone in any kind of business seems prosperous. Now is the time for people to come here and they should embrace the opportunity.”


8 Gold had been discovered in 1851 in the province of New South Wales.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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