Thursday, 8 October 2015

A plea for compassion towards Refugees - 1881

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:

Sir, the 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 abundance.
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.

1 comment:

Queen of the Tea Cosies said...

a great beginning to the story.