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The Kennaway Trail looks at

Preparations for
the Voyage

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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By mid-August 1857 arrangements for sending the female emigrants to British Kaffraria were well under way.

The Lady Kennaway had been selected for the voyage, the required party had been completed to the maximum that the ship could carry and it had been decided that they would sail not later than the end of the month.

Attempts had been made to obtain unmarried women from among the ordinary working population in Northern Ireland but the inducements were not sufficient to obtain the required numbers within the appointed time.

The Emigration Commissioner was forced, therefore, to select women from among the inmates of the Union Workhouses. They were chosen from the "four or five of the principal unions" in Northern Ireland and were all between the ages of 18 and 35. A few "respectable married couples" were also selected to assist in taking care of the women during the voyage.

Surgeon-Superintendent Mr Henry Lannigan was to accompany them. Lannigan had already made two such voyages to Australia and would receive a gratuity of 12s. "for each person landed alive" provided his duties during the voyage were performed to the satisfaction of the local Government. He would receive a further 60 for his return passage.

The full complement for the Lady Kennaway was eventually obtained by selecting some English artisans and their families. A few Irish agricultural families and about 20 more single women "from the ordinary population" of Ireland were also enlisted.

There was, however, a last minute hitch. Just as the ship was about to sail, some of the Irish women realised that there might be no Catholic priest where they were to be settled. They decided to withdraw rather than face such a challenge to their faith.

To prevent the extra expense incurred by detaining the ship in port, it was decided to fill the vacant places with emigrants of what was termed "the usual class".

The Lady Kennaway duly sailed from Plymouth Sound just before noon on Saturday, 5 September 1857, bearing her load of 231 emigrants. Of these, 153 were single women (the "Kennaway Girls").

There were also 42 artisans, with their wives and children. Some of these children were already grown up and had themselves become artisans.

But the time the ship dropped anchor in the East London roadstead on Friday, 20 November, the passenger list had been increased by one, a baby born at sea.

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