A letter to the Editor 1881.
Almost 125 years ago a letter
appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald which is as apt today as it was
then. It was a plea to the government and community to show compassion
for a group of refugees escaping poverty in Europe and who had
experienced a terrible fate. These were my Italian ancestors. The
writer’s name was Isaac Ellis Ives, a wealthy businessman (owner of
Argyle Bond Stores fronting Circular Quay) who was later elected Lord
Mayor of Sydney. He wrote:
collapse of the Marquis de Ray’s expedition to New Ireland, and the
terrible sufferings arising therefrom, as depicted in your issue of
yesterday (24th March), are terrible to contemplate.
New South Wales in all matters of charity has always shone as one of the
brightest jewels in England’s crown; the colour of the skin has not
been asked, but it has been sufficient for us to know that
fellow-creatures were starving, and our money has been brought forth in
With upwards of three hundred souls starving at our very
door, shall it be said that we refuse them aid? I think not. This is not
the time to ask if they were right or wrong in giving up their homes to
seek new ones. That they are starving there is no doubt; and, as the
City of Melbourne sails at noon, there should be no difficulty in
raising a sum of money to be forwarded by her towards the immediate
relief of the sufferers.
I am prepared to give towards this object, and have promise of an equal contribution from a friend.
Argyle Bond, 25thMarch
Isaac Ellis Ives
In late March 1881, Henry Parkes, Premier of NSW and Colonial Secretary
agreed to allow this group of Italians to land in Sydney and be granted
permission to stay. A vessel, the James Paterson, was dispatched to the
French Penal Colony of New Caledonia (Noumea) where they had taken
refuge. They arrived in Sydney on April 7, 1881.