During the Victorian years a series of immigrants arrived in significant numbers, above all the predominantly Catholic Irish. The 800,000 or so Irish moved from Ireland during the potato famine of the 1840s. Some came to Canada and found themselves living cheek by jowl with the equally poor Scottish and Canadian working classes.
Western Scotland in the early 1800’s suffered economic depression with stagnating trade, falling wages and a sharp rise in unemployment. Many were weavers who found themselves without jobs after the Napoleonic wartime demand disappeared.Soldiers returning home sought employment in a impoverished economy. Although many attempts were made, the economic distress soon escalated to public demonstrations. All this dissatisfaction led to the demand of emigration to Canada. In 1819 the first Scots petitioned the British Colonial Offices to emigrate to Upper Canada but were turned down. The reasoning was that paupers from the manufacturing areas were poor risks as settlers.
Finally the British government allowed emigration to begin as they had no choice. It would reduce the number of unemployed in Scotland, and increase the proportion of British born-to American born which had been seriously reduced by the rapid rise of immigration to the USA following the American Revolution. And so began “Glasgow Committee for the Relief of the Industrious Poor” in 1820.
If you wanted to emigrate to Lanark County, the British government would pay only for your trip up river and over land from the port of Quebec City. You would also get a grand total of eight pounds, but that money would have to paid back over the course of ten years. The future residents of Lanark County would also get land grant, seed corn, tools.at cost. If you made it to Franktown, that is where the King’s Store was located to get your supplies. To pay for the sea voyage the monies were raised by public subscription or private charity.
In June of 1820– 852 people left bound for Lanark County, and in 1821 over 1800. After that it was decided by the Committee that no more applications should be received for charity, and from now on anyone wanting to emigrate would have to bear the full cost. That lovely trip included 84 days of hanging out a lot below deck. But wait! In a 2 for 1 special you also got both land transportation from Quebec City and provisions thrown in for the one price.
On the the last free ship in 1823, the David of London carried 364 passengers and one of them was 22-year-old James Watt and his 18 year-old-wife Margaret whose son would one would day live in the house on Lake Ave East where Dr. Drake now lives. Their story on that ship was no different than anyone else in your family or mine that chose to come to Canada.
Stay tuned for the trip across the Atlantic that had no resemblance at all to a cruise ship. In fact some did not make the journey. We have to admire how the immigrants had an obvious impact in our country in a variety of ways. In the first place, newcomers helped the industrialization process, whether in the form of working Irish and Scottish factory workers, or helping to build the infrastructure and produce the industrial goods. My Grandfather was one of them, only he chose to settle in the eastern Townships of Quebec. Each one of them worked twice as hard as anyone else and never gave up and made our country what it is.
All of us come from years of immigrants. My mother’s side came from Ireland during the potatoe famine. My father’s side came to Canada from the UK after the first world war and my grandfather helped put up the first Bell Telephone lines in all sorts of bad weather until he opened his own electrical business in Cowansville, Quebec. My children’s grandparents came over from Italy, with their grandfather having been in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp and their grandmother living in a town full of Nazi solders. We are all from families of immigrants and should never forget this.
March 21st 2022
Our first Ukrainian families are coming this week