Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Literary conceits and ship’s kit

One of the things that has been repeatedly mentioned to me is that settlers in this area were mainly Prussian, not from Marburg, Germany. I had thought that perhaps choosing to make the Jaeckels from Marburg was a bit of a literary conceit. I have however been reading through the family history that I borrowed from the historical society on Sunday and have discovered that one of the prominent antecedent families in this area, the Raabe family, was from Münchhausen, Hessen which is twenty kilometres north of Marburg. I love these kinds of little discoveries – I think it is the historian in me rather than the writer.

The Raabe story is a fascinating family history because it lists many details of the trip to Australia (on the Beausite) and of conditions on arrival. Of particular interest to me was that families on assisted passages had to pay £8 per adult and child over twelve and £4 per child under 12. In addition they had to pay a pound each for “ship’s kit” which would become their property on arrival.

Ship’s kit consisted of:
A bed and a pillow
1 pair of blankets, 1 pair of sheets and a counterpane
1 water bottle
1 wash basin
1 plate
1 pint drinking mug
1 quart drinking mug
Knife, fork and two spoons
1 pail
3 pounds marine soap.

Assisted migrants had to pay the cost of their passage within twelve months of arrival. In return, they would then receive entitlement to select 40 acres of agricultural land per adult and 20 acres per child in the one to twelve years age bracket. 80 acres of agricultural or 160 acres of pastoral land could also be rented for five years at 6 pence an acre (for scrubby land, 9 pence for good land with water). If conditions (such as land clearing and building a residence) were met, this land would become freehold.

Details like these are manna to writing. I can begin to visualise the things that will flesh out the Jaeckels’ journey. Even better, I have found many accounts of the actual sea journeys.

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