‘Deserving poor’ conveyed from Portsmouth to Canada to find labour

Here we see more of the men who made the bricks that formed our city. (Jim Randall.)

NOSTALGIA: Can you ID Portsmouth brickfields workers?

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With heavy hearts, 175 men, women and children from Portsmouth boarded a troopship, the Crocodile, in Portsmouth Harbour on this day in 1869.

They joined more than 200 other emigrants who were being forced to leave their home country because of unemployment and poverty.

On May 1 a further 776 joined the Serapis. Both ships were bound for Canada where there was a shortage of labour.

The men were mainly skilled dockyardmen who the Admiralty had decided were surplus to requirements.

Many had resorted to selling clothes and furniture to survive and were ‘suffering the pangs of positive starvation’.

The Hampshire Telegraph campaigned for the emigration arguing ‘as we cannot bring remunerative labour to Portsmouth, means must be taken to convey our deserving poor to the places where it might be had’.

It argued that charity was inadequate to finance their passage and the Admiralty eventually agreed to cover the cost.

Large crowds of friends , family, former Dockyard workmates and visitors assembled on the Hard and along the walls of the fortifications and gave a great roar of cheers as the vessels departed.

It was later reported that ‘most, if not all the emigrants did well and prospered in their Canadian homes’ – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.