Hardship for Warwickshire Emigrants to New Zealand

Lyttleton Harbour (near Ashburton) in New Zealand.
Photo by Anne Langley

The letter below paints a vivid picture of the traumas of the long voyage out to New Zealand and the hardship and exploitation suffered by the emigrants when they arrived. The parallels with the ongoing problems faced by refugees and economic migrants today are poignant. This letter is reproduced by kind permission of the Warwickshire County Record Office. Full stops, absent in the original, have been added to assist the reader; the spelling is original.

A letter from the Warwick Advertiser October 17th 1874

The following communication has been received by Robert Jeffs, a labourer, residing at Eatington, from his son, who, with several other married men, recently emigrated to New Zealand, and is now at Ashburton, in that colony:-

Emmanuel Jeffs June 28

Dear father and mother sister and brother i write theas fu lines to you hoping to find you quite well as it laves us all wel thank god for it. Dear mother we had a good voige over the sea i was never sick at all but the children was very sick my wife was very sick all over fred. Berey lost his child it was scalded on the bosom. Taylor lost theare child. we are now at the barracks at ashburton thears 10 of us in one room about as big as our pantry was at home. tel no one to come out heare that as eny famely for they wont employ you. it is single men and girls that they want for thear no place for you to get in and they talk of making us pay six shillens a weak in the barracks. we cant get no place not so good as our hovel under ten and 12 shillens a weak, William Petty and ruben Kite is hear and works on the railrode with fred and Taylor and me. every think is very Dear besides muten and beef & bread that touf and 3d apound. it is Diferont to wat we expected to find it for we have had to walk for miles and got no work but singel men get fiftey 2 pound ayear and is grub. Jack Drinkey as 45 pounds. pleas to tell them not to belave they union papers. william Petty and his wife Ruben Kite and his wife are all well. we gets 8 shillens for 8 hours. it very cold sharp frost. please to remember thomas Hobs and all my enqiren ferends. now about egs 2 shillengs a dozen. no trees of no sort.

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