Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.
Truly, a peculiar reception
Martha arrived in Fremantle on the 8th October 1889 aboard the SS Nairnshire. But before she and the other girls could go ashore the “[o]fficer of Health came on board and inspected the women. Once this formality was over they were able to disembark.” Martha must have felt excited and somewhat overwhelmed by the chaotic proceedings but arrangements for their arrival were less than adequate.
|Figure 1 189?, Early Fremantle harbour [picture] / Shaw Brothers, photographers, Leederville, W.A http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-143445880|
The experience of girls arriving was vividly described in a local paper. “On the wharf, a crowd of men stood waiting to stare at us, as if we were prize cattle. I never saw a shabbier collection of men before (that's quits, anyhow), and the remarks some of them made about us caused my ears to tingle. Then a gruff official ordered us to get into order, and off we were marched in charge of a couple of policemen, like prisoners, the crowd following to gaze at us.”
The girls were taken to the immigration depot. “The building at present in use as a Depot at Fremantle is quite unsuitable. It is exactly opposite to a public-house and too much exposed to observation. There does not appear to be any possibility of keeping the girls inside the enclosure (I do not think there are even gates which could be locked); nor do the caretaker and his wife seem to be vested with sufficient authority to compel obedience to rules.”
It caused such an uproar that the “Associates of the Girls' Friendly Society ... made urgent representations to the Colonial Secretary to make better arrangements for the reception of the expected immigrant girls.” Most of the newly arriving girls were relatively young and many had never been away from parental protection, or adult supervision. “The girls have been inveigled into public houses, they have been known to drink both wine and spirits there to excess, nor has the depot been sacred from the intrusion of drunken sailors, who refuse to depart.”
I wonder what Sarah and her sister Kate wrote home to their parents about their experiences on the ship and arriving in Fremantle ...
To Read more about Martha's life for articles previously posted for the A to Z Challenges click the Letters below:-
 ERICKSON, R. (1992). The bride ships: experiences of immigrants arriving in Western Australia, 1849-1889. Carlisle, W.A., Hesperian Press.
 1891 'ST. GEORGE'S CATHEDRAL PARISH.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 11 April, p. 3. , viewed 14 Mar 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3141885
 F. Goldsmith, ‘CORRESPONDENCE. FEMALE IMMIGRANTS. To THE EDITOR.’ The West Australian, Saturday 28 February 1891 p 3