Although my mother's family had lost heavily by him, her mother gave us 500 pounds to make a start in South Australia. An 80-acre section was built for 80 pounds, and this entitled us to the steerage passage of four adults. This helped for my elder sister and two brothers (my younger brother David was left for his education with his aunts in Scotland), but we had to have another female, so we took with us a servant girl--most ridiculous, it seems now. I was under the statutory age of 15. The difference between steerage and intermediate fares had to be made up, and we sailed from Greenock in July, 1839, in the barque Palmyra, 400 tons, bound for Adelaide, Port Phillip, and Sydney. The Palmyra was advertised to carry a cow and an experienced surgeon. Intermediate passengers had no more advantage of the cow than steerage folks, and except for the privacy of separate cabins and a pound of white biscuit per family weekly, we fared exactly as the other immigrants did, though the cost was double. Twice a week we had either fresh meat or tinned meat, generally soup and boudle, and the biscuit seemed half bran, and sometimes it was mouldy. But our mother thought it was very good for us to endure hardship, and so it was.
There were 150 passengers, mostly South Australian immigrants, in the little ship. The first and second class passengers were bound for Port Philip and Sydney in greater proportion than for Adelaide There was in the saloon the youthful William Milne, and in the intermediate was Miss Disher, his future wife. He became President of the Legislative Council, and was knighted. There was my brother, J. B. Spence, who also sat in the Council, and was at one time Chief Secretary. There was George Melrose, a successful South Australian pastoralist; there was my father's valued clerk, Thomas Laidlaw, who was long in the Legislative Council of New South Wales and the leading man in the town of Yass. "Honest Torn of Yass" was his soubriquet. Bound for Melbourne there were Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, of Melrose, and Charles Williamson, from Hawick, who founded a great business house in Collins Street. There were Langs from Selkirk, and McHaffies, who became pastoralists. Our next cabin mate, who brougut out a horse, had the Richmond punt when there was no bridge there. All the young men were reading a thick book brought out by the Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge about sheep, but they could dance in the evenings to the strains of Mr. Duncan's violin, and although I was not 14, I was in request as a partner, as ladies were scarce. Jessie Spence and Eliza Disher, who were grown up, were the belles of the Palmyra. Of all the passengers in the ship the young doctor, John Logan Campbell, has had the most distinguished career. Next to Sir George Grey he has had most to do with the development of New Zealand. He is now called the Grand Old Man of Auckland. He had his twenty-first birthday, this experienced surgeon(!) in the same week as I had my fourteenth, while the Palmyra was lying off Holdfast Bay (now Glenelg) before we could get to the old Port Adelaide to discharge. My brother saw him in 1883, but I have not set eye on him since that week in 1839. We have corresponded frequently since my brother's death. In his book "Poenama," written for his children, there is a picture of the Palmyra, with an account of the voyage and the only sensational incident in it. We had a collision in the Irish Sea, and our foremast was broken, so that we had to return to Greenock for repairs, and then obtained the concession of white biscuit for the second class for one day in the week. Sir John Campbell's gift of a beautiful park to the citizens of Auckland was made while my brother John was alive. Just recently he has given money and plans for building and equipping the first free kindergarten in Auckland--perhaps in New Zealand--and as this includes a training college for the students it is very complete. These Palmyra passengers have made their mark on the history of Australia and New Zealand. It is surprising what a fine class of people immigrated to Australia in these days to face all the troubles of a new country.
The first issue of The Register was printed in London, and gave a glowing account of the province that was to be--its climate, its resources, the sound principles on which it was founded. It is sometimes counted as a reproach that South Australia was founded by doctrinaires and that we retain traces of our origin; to me it is our glory. In the land laws and the immigration laws it struck out a new path, and sought to found a new community where the sexes should be equal, and where land, labour, and capital should work harmoniously together. Land was not to be given away in huge grants, as had been done in New South Wales and Western Australia, to people with influence or position, but was to be sold at the high price of 20/ an acre. The price should be not too high to bring out people to work on the land. The Western Australian settlers had been wellnigh starved, because there was no labour to give real value to the paper or parchment deeds. The cheapest fare third class was from 17 pounds to 20 pounds, and the family immigration, which is the best, was quite out of the reach of those who were needed. The immigrants were not bound to work for any special individual or company, unless by special contract voluntarily made. They were often in better circumstances after the lapse of a few years than the landbuyers, and, in the old days, the owner of an 80-acre section worked harder and for longer hours than any hired man would do, or could be expected to do.
An Autobiography -by- Catherine Helen Spence