Friday, February 12, 2010

Grass not always greener on the other side of the Tasman

In this age of significant emigration patterns from EnZed to Aussie -- it bears keeping in mind that, like a lot of trends in history, this is also not something new.

The following comes from the NZ Herald, 14 March 1889, deep in the era of the 19th century's Long Depression.



A draper's assistant, an experienced and efficient hand, who went to Sydney some time since, sends to a former employer a letter from which we make the following extracts:-

"It is with heartfelt sorrow that I write to let you know that my leaving Auckland was a great mistake, and in fact the greatest mistake that I could have made. Since I came to Sydney, I have not had one week's work, and yet I've tried warehouses and shops day by day, week by week. You may think what I have suffered when I tell you that at least I got so down-hearted that I raised what little money I could and went over 200 miles up-country.

"When I got there I found things even worse than what I had found in Sydney, and after spending four days in Orange, I started for Bathurst, a distance of over forty miles. From there I had to walk to Lithgow, a distance of some sixty miles. Then by the kind aid of a gentleman I got assisted over to Mount Victoria, for which kindness I was truly thankful, for when I left Orange the only coin I was possessed of was one sixpence. When you think of the distance I had to travel alone in a strange country, having to sleep under the trees at night, some days with a bit of food, other days without any!

"After a long and terrible walk, with a great amount of suffering, I once more reached Sydney, my boots and myself completely worn out. Since then I've tried for work of any description, but so far without results. I regret to say that I have lost all hopes, in fact, my spirit is completely broken ...

"It is terribly hard, after coming here, thinking to have improved my position, to have come to complete ruin; but such is the real truth. Although I am writing this to you, I have no idea if I shall be able to raise twopence to send it to you, but, if possible, I will, because by your influence you may be able to advise others not to come over here, for unless they have influence they can do no good in Sydney. I am glad to say some Aucklanders have done well here, but I came a perfect stranger, and I am only one of many amongst the many hundreds seeking work but unable to get it. When you think that my only work since coming to this beautiful city was for a few days at Christmas as an extra hand up-country!

"I've tried my hardest. No one in Auckland would believe the number of men walking about ... I am getting so completely worn out that I shall have to give up. Should fortune ever smile upon me again, my first £5 would be spent in getting back to dear old Auckland, and certainly if I once could reach it again nothing would ever cause me to leave it."


  1. I believe Australia was affected more by the depression than anywhere else in the world and it would seem that includes NZ. Wonder what happened to him.

  2. The poor sod.
    Yep, Andrew's right, the depression was far worse along the Eastern seaboard of Oz, still bad out west but not as savage.