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H.M.S. Crocodile, Captain George Willes Watson, from Portsmouth April 20th 1869, arrived at Quebec May 6th 1869

This was the first emigration of unemployed Admiralty Dockyard Workers. The passengers for this trip were from Woolwich and Portsmouth. The Canadian arrival list can be seen at the Library and Archives of Canada website, however, there are some missing pages for the Portsmouth pages. A colleague, Patricia Lovell, searched many newspapers and found an informative article about the 1869 emigration, which included the names of the Portsmouth emigrants.

In 1869 and 1870 there were five such trips from Portsmouth to Quebec carrying the discharged Dockyard workers aboard British Troop ships ; one trip for Serapis, one for Simoom, one for Tamar and two for the Crocodile.
see a picture of the Crocodile ; see an article about the 1870 emigration ; see the 1870 passenger list

       1869 emigration |        Woolwich passengers |        Portsmouth passengers
sources: Hampshire Telegraph April 21st 1869 submitted by Patricia Lovell | Library and Archives of Canada Microfilm C-4523 | Montreal Gazette April 28, 1869 & May 6, 1869 | the image is not original to the news item, but has been included to illustrate the article
First Emigration of Discharged Dockyard Employees
The separation of friends and the severance of family ties and home associations are in themselves affecting events even when they are combined with the possession of means adequate to the provision of comforts during the emigrant's passage, and the certainty of employment on arrival at the land of his adoption. But how additionally impressive when those effects are aggravated by poverty, by a continuous and unavoidable demand upon the scanty store, and when emigration is resorted to as an alternative between possible starvation or a long career of temporary suffering ! And the statement cannot be characterised as overdrawn when we say that there have been a few scenes in this immediate neighbourhood so impressive as those which occurred at the embarcation of the distressed families on board the Crocodile on Monday.
CrocodileIt is needless to review the circumstance by which the local distress was mainly produced. It is to be hoped that the men were discharged in the interests of the public service, and, also, that in the interests of the men's future prospects they have been induced to emigrate. The proceedings of Monday, however, point to a conclusion which will in no respect clash with these, presumedly, established propositions — the fact that additional Government aid must be forthcoming before the existing difficulty can be firmly and adequately grappled with. In order to prevent the separation of man and wife, and to provide against the chance of a man's endeavouring to escape from the responsibility of maintaining his family in the land whither he is bound and leaving them chargeable to the parish which he has left, it was a condition that no married man should be permitted a passage unless accompanied by his wife and children. Nor was the condition wholly superfluous, for during the day a few applications were made by men for permission to sail alone, which were, of course, invariably refused. Towards the comfort of those who took passage as discharged dockyard workmen from Portsmouth, the local committees, with the assistance of several of the inhabitants, contributed greatly. The appeal for the supply of warm clothing was liberally responded to, and the poor people themselves and their friends were thus greatly relieved of concern as to their wants on the passage.
For some days past it has been generally known that the whole of the emigrants and what luggage they were fortunate enough to possess, would have to be on board before Monday evening, and this circumstance, probably, will account for the large concourse of idlers who thronged the Common Hard throughout the day. The term " idlers " we apply to those who were only actuated by motives of curiosity, and not to the many whom personal attachment and family ties prompted to defer pronouncing the word " farewell. " And to many, indeed, a bitter and sorrowful parting it proved to be. The tottering sire, the infirm and enfeebled mother there met to bid their son and his offspring God-speed ; parents of middle age, with a hopeful realisation of prospective greatness and a possible participation in a happy re-union — friends from a distance, desirous of expressing sympathy with those who remained and words of cheer and encouragement to those who were soon to go, congregated around those in whom they were immediately interested, and thus contributed to a scene which could only be adequately realised by those who witnessed it. This however, was but a partial view of the painful picture. There were, even after the first pangs for the emigrants themselves and not a few which must have been painfully suggestive to the sensitive bystander. With what ease many a once well-to-do mechanic conveyed that all remained of his former earthly possessions ! And yet how lingering and faltering his pace ! Many who were known as decent mechanics now met their former associates in some instances imperfectly clad, whilst others had evidently been the recipients of temporary assistance to provide against the inclemency of the weather.
And thus, singly, or in family groups, the party wended their way to the landing-place from which they were to embark, and by the side of which lay a stately vessel which was selected to convey them to their new and far off home. But with few exceptions, the emigrants from Portsmouth were on board by mid-day, and partook of the substantial meal provided for them by the Government ; and the interest was then centered in the approach of the remaining emigrants who were to embark on Crocodile from Woolwich, and who were expected to arrive by the side of the railway jetty in the yard by about one o'clock. The party left Woolwich by about nine o'clock, and the scene in and near the station is described as being equally impressive, and if anything, more demonstrative than that which characterised the earlier separation from friends at Portsmouth.
A delay was experienced in the arrival of the train, and it was not until close upon two that the signal whistle was heard from the extreme end of the yard near the factory gates. The visitors thereupon flocked to visit the newcomers. The train, which consisted of three luggage vans and six travelling carriages, was directed by Mr. White, the Superintendent of the Landport railway terminus, and the party was under the personal superintendence of Captain Phipps, a member of the Woolwich relief committee, who subsequently displayed considerable assiduity and kindness in attending to their wants. Large groups of workmen congregated in different parts of the yard, and in one or two instances encouraging cheers were given and responded to as the train proceeded towards the jetty. There the men, women, and children alighted, and a more pitiable and deplorable sight than was presented by many of them can scarcely be imagined. The whole, like those who preceded them, underwent a superficial medical examination, and by half-past three the great majority were on board partaking of the refreshment which they so much needed, and which, ready dressed, awaited their arrival.
When the whole of the emigrants were on board many of the visitors, amongst whom were officers of distinction of both services, inspected the quarters, with the condition of which none could fail to be contented. As with the troops — when any are on board — so with the emigrants. The married people were distinct from the single, with select apartments for each sex respectively, and one provision was made for children and infants. Before six most of the party had prepared, judging from appearances, all that was requisite before proceeding on the voyage, and each appeared comfortable and thoroughly contented. May, indeed, were then either dressing or lounging, and those who remained about the deck were almost without an exception, in company with their children, contemplating the new scene that was spread before them.
We should not omit to mention that Admiral Mends, the inspector of transports, Mr. Murdoch, Emigration Commissioner, Admiral Sir James Hope, G.C.B., Rear-Admiral G.G. Wellesley, Admiral Chads, and the Vicar of Portsmouth (the Rev. E.P. Grant), evinced considerable interest in the proceedings throughout, and that a large number of the leading inhabitants and tradesmen visited the ship and inquired into the arrangements as the ceremony of embarkation proceeded. By a singular coincidence, during the forenoon the Crocodile was decked from the mizenmast-head with variously-coloured signal flags — a circumstance which was at first believed to be intended to counteract the depression which naturally prevailed ; but upon inquiry we found that they were merely suspended for purpose of being dried, preparatory to the vessel sailing on the following day. It will not be without interest to our resident readers if we here append a complete list of those of the men and their families who went from Portsmouth. They are as follows (and include nine men recently discharged from the Gun-wharf) :— ...............
:: list of passengers transcribed and added to Portsmouth passengers ::

............... The gross number of persons who embarked on board the Crocodile on Monday was 391. Of these, from Portsmouth there were 74 men (including nine from the Gunwharf), 40 women, and 61 children ; and from Woolwich there were 216 — namely, 101 men, 52 women, and 63 children. Towards the expense incurred for the conveyance of those who left Portsmouth the Local Relief Committee will have to provide the sum of £426, or at the rate of £2.5s. per statute adult.
In accordance with arrangement the emigrants were all on board and in readiness for sailing on Tuesday morning, and as the hour arrived when the Crocodile (4173 tons, Captain George W. Watson) was appointed to leave the jetty a large concourse of spectators gradually congregated in the immediate neighbourhood. During the early part of the forenoon several members of the Portsmouth Relief Committee, with their ladies, and most of the naval officers in command at the port, proceeded through the vessel and questioned the emigrants as to the accommodation provided. The emigrants appeared in every respect comfortable and — the sense of strangeness having worn off — for the most part, contented. The Mayor (E Galt, Esq.), the Vicar of Portsmouth (the Rev. E.P. Grant), the Rev. F. Baldey, Admiral Chads, and Mr. C. Binsteed were amongst the most prominent of those who interested themselves in their welfare, and by some of these, with the assistance of Mr. Blackah, the scripture reader at the Seamen's Mission Home, Portsea, and several ladies, copies of the bible and testament were given to each of the adult emigrants, in addition to collections of selected tracts and leaflets. About eleven o'clock there was an intimation that strangers would shortly have to leave the vessel, and a group of the emigrants being congregated at one end of the second deck, in close proximity to several members of the Portsmouth Relief Committee, the Vicar of Portsmouth expressed, in the name of the committee, a desire to say a few words at parting. The company at once closed round the rev. gentleman, who in a few kind and affectionate words, said that it was the wish of many of his friends that he should offer one or two parting suggestions before they were called upon finally to say " Good bye ! " He could assure them all — and he hoped those who were listening to him would communicate it to the others — that those who were interested in their future welfare stood before them that day with mingled feelings of regret, and yet with feelings of joy. They regretted that circumstances should have arisen which rendered it necessary for them to leave their native land and their friends to seek a home in a stranger's land, but at the same time they had the greatest hope that they would in the end realise happiness and prosperity in the land for which they were shortly about to sail. He believed, with all his heart, that they would find work within a short time after their arrival. He had been desired by one of the Emigration Commissioners to advise them to accept, without delay, any work which presented itself, and that if they did that and persevered they would soon get on, which he (the Vicar), with all earnestness, hoped they might. In a very few moments they would be called upon to say " Good bye ! " to Old England ; and although they were leaving the English shores they should never forget, wherever they might go, that they were still Englishmen, and that they were of those who were subject to the laws of their country. He must not forget that he was addressing them as a minister of the Gospel, and here he would remind them, that they were leaving a country where they could read their bible, where they could attend their church or chapel, and where they could worship their God according to their individual creed ; and he should also remind them that the same advantages and the same privileges awaited them in Canada. Englishmen should never forget their duty towards God and their Sovereign, and if they observed these duties honestly and faithfully, they might expect God's blessing to rest upon them. In the name of all who had been working for them, and in the name of their mother country — England — he " Farewell ! God bless you. May you have a prosperous voyage, and may every success attend you. "

There was considerable sobbing throughout the company as the earnest and impressive words of the vicar fell from his lips, and as he pronounced the benediction several fervently responded with a touching " Amen. " The Mayor also briefly addressed the emigrants and in the course of his remarks urged upon them the importance of perseverance and industry in the new sphere of their choice. They were going, his worship remarked, to a very beautiful country, where there was an abundance of work of every description, and, as the mayor of the town, he was pleased to be in a position to wish them prosperity and happiness. He was there to tell them that arrangements had been made for their comfort and reception by the Canadian Government ; and so satisfied was he with what he knew of the country that he firmly believed in less than 24 hours after they arrived they would be in a position to obtain active and remunerative employment. He wished them, in conclusion, every prosperity, and that hoped that in their new homes they would be as happy as they had been in England. Mr, C.H. Binsteed followed with a few appropriate remarks, expressing regret that in consequence of short notice Mrs. Binsteed had been compelled to obtain bibles of various descriptions wherever they could be collected in the town, and that, but for this circumstance, they would have each received one of similar pattern. This was the concluding feature of the proceedings of the morning on board, and the order for " all strangers to leave the ship " was then enforced, the emigrants clustering around the visitors towards the gangway, and renewing their expressions of heartfelt thanks to those who had contributed so much to their happiness as, one by one, they left for the jetty. The appearance of the wharf was now one of particular interest, and to those who had been occupied amongst the emigrants the scene was startling. A drizzling rain had not deterred the inhabitants from coming forward in large numbers to witness the first embarcation of emigrants from the port. Extreme elevations — and, notably, the balconies of the semaphore — were selected by those who could not find room in the immediate neighbourhood of the vessel, and throughout the whole line of the Common Hard, down to the water's edge of the beach and the extreme of the logs, could be discerned clusters of spectators, watching the Crocodile's movements. As the final arrangements were proceeding a slight diversion was afforded by several of the bystanders throwing oranges and apples to the people on board. The amusement this occasioned, however, was of brief duration, — the sonorous " E-a-s-y " preceded the shrill and sharp " Let-go ! ", the bow-spring or hawser splashed over the ship's side, and slowly and majestically the head of the Crocodile swerved towards the entrance of the harbour, and for the first time, perhaps, both those on shore and on board realised the real trial of a final separation. From the jetty the cry rose. " Give them a cheer ! " but ere the response could be elicited a ringing cheer proceeded from the men on board, quickly followed by a similar outburst from the spectators, accompanied by the waving of handkerchiefs. As the Crocodile proceeded further towards the harbour ringing bursts of cheering proceeded from either shore and the various vessels passed on the line of route, and the same degree of enthusiasm was observed until the vessel reached Spithead, where, for a time, she came to an anchor. The Crocodile, however, remained but a short time at Spithead, and then proceeded direct seaward.

The Serapis, 3, iron troopship, the second vessel selected by the Government in which to afford assisted passages to distressed mechanics and their families, will sail from Portsmouth on Tuesday next. A notification has been received from the War-office, that any of the workmen lately discharged from the Gun-wharf Factories who are willing to emigrate to Canada, and who wish to avail themselves of the Government offer of a free passage, are to make application as soon as possible to Lieut.-Col. Fraser, R.A., the superintendent of that establishment. The Admiralty authorities have described the class of emigrants who can proceed in the same vessel from the dockyard. It is confined to all labourers and hired men who have one year's service in the yard, and who have been discharged within the last twelve months. According to present arrangements no established hands will be allowed to sail in the Serapis.


Montreal Gazette, April 28, 1869 - copied from a Liverpool paper of around April 15.


On Monday the executive committee of The British and Colonial Emigration Society held a meeting at their offices. It was reported that the society had 3,500 [UKP], in hand, and that its liabilities were 500 [UKP] for Queensland emigrants, and 1,000 [UKP] for 200 statute adults who sail for Canada on the 22nd inst, leaving 1,500 [UKP] to be dealt with. It was stated that the Crocodile would sail on the 20th inst, with upwards of 500 statute adults, and that the Serapis would take out a similar number on the 27th; the cost of each emigrant being about 2L 5S. Mr. Alderman Salomons, M.P., as representing Greenwich, and the Rev. Canon Brown, Woolwich, informed the committee that the Government were willing to take out artisans from the arsenal as well as dockyard labourers, and a letter was also read from the Rev. J. S. Ruddach, of Woolwich, to the effect that the distress was largely increasing, that the funds were all exhausted, and there were at present 500 men out of work, most of them having wives and families. The committee, on learning this state of affairs, made a further grant of 1,000 [UKP] to arsenal labourers, thus completely exhausting their funds.


Montreal Gazette, May 6, 1869

The CROCODILE (now at Quebec) with its crowd of emigrant passengers, left the jetty at Portsmouth for Canada on the 20th ult. During the morning the inhabitants of the town, and the men still at work in the dockyard there, showed great interest in the vessel and her unusual freight. When the Crocodile was seen to move, the efforts of the policemen on duty to keep the workmen in their several sheds were entirely in vain. The men swarmed by hundreds along the face of the jetty, and, wherever a view of the departing ship could be obtained, joined in rounds of hearty and prolonged cheers with those who were before on the jetty. Those on board acknowledged these cheers - men women and children hurrahing and waving hats and handkerchiefs. As the ship passed down the harbour, crowds of people who had assembled on the hard at Portsea, along the Common Hard, at the Albert Pier, at Point, at Victoria Pier, and at Southsea, all cheered lustily. During the early part of the morning, members of the Relief Committee were on board, and gave the emigrants substantial evidence of their desire to make the voyage to Canada as pleasant as possible.

H.M.S. Crocodile brought out 175 men; 75 married women; 19 girls over twelve, and 124 children. Before leaving Portsmouth the paymaster of the transport received 250 [UKP] for distribution among the immigrants as soon as they have landed in this country.

Hansard Record - HC Deb 07 June 1869 vol 196 cc1297-8

       1869 emigration |        Woolwich passengers |        Portsmouth passengers


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