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Concerning the comfort and protection of emigrants passing through Hull

- REPORTS received by the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board relating to the Transit of SCANDINAVIAN EMIGRANTS
This is the 4th of 5 reports dealing with the conditions of Scandinavian emigrants traveling from Scandinavian ports on the Wilson Line ships, to the Port of Hull. This 4th report is written by W. Cowie., to the Board of Trade in England in 1882. This is a report about the landing and lodging situation for emigrants in Hull. The reports was provided by Debbie Beavis

- No. 4. -

(M. 17,243)

The Principal Officer, Hull, to the Board of Trade.

Board of Trade Offices, Hull,
11 July 1882


When I had the pleasure of meeting you here you mentioned if I observed anything worth reporting in connection with the transit of emigrants through Hull, I had better let you know.

As the manner of conveying emigrants in Messrs. Wilson's steamers has been fully reported, it seems unnecessary to touch upon it, beyond remarking that the sleeping berths exhibit an improvement since last year, but this is confined to the Gothenburg and Christiania steamers.

The steamships from those last-mentioned ports invariably reach Hull either upon (each) Sunday or early Monday morning. The emigrants usually disembark between 5 and 6 a.m. on Monday, but never on Sunday, and the majority of emigrants from Continental ports arrive in Hull on the last-named day. The passengers from the Baltic Ports receive a light breakfast before leaving the ship, but I am not aware if those from Hamburg, Holland, and Belgium do so. They are not so numerous as the Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish emigrants, nor does there appear to be so much attention paid to their comfort on board the steamers.

As soon as the passengers are landed the delivery of baggage takes place. When this is concluded, and examined, it is transferred to the railway wagons alongside the shed; each parcel is kept separate; thereby the luggage for the different Atlantic steamers does not get mixed.

Upon both mornings I visited the docks the landing of baggage was almost completed before 8 o'clock, but prior to this time cargo was being discharged from the fore and after holds, after 7 o'clock; and the Customs officers inform me the stevedores do not wait until the emigrants leave, but proceed with the cargo, regardless of the passengers, although the quay may be crowded with them.

Whilst awaiting the delivery and examination of baggage, as many as can find room remain under the shed, others outside, the emigrants with their boxes, &c, mixed up amongst inward and outward cargo. Dock labourers wheeling barrows among, and in the midst of them, and hawkers selling uninviting refreshments, are not prevented from prosecuting their calling; no attempt is made to reserve any part of the dock or shed for the exclusive accommodation of the emigrants, nor is any consideration shown for their comfort. My visits were made upon fine mornings; during wet weather the condition of these people must be very wretched.

Agents of the Atlantic passenger lines meet the emigrants on arrival, take charge of their respective parties, see to the forwarding of the baggage, and then conduct them to houses, where they obtain breakfast or dinner, as the case may be, and afterwards lead them to the railway, providing each person with a ticket to his or her destination. Those booked of the "Guion Line" are transferred direct from the steamers, and are never entertained at the lodging-houses, so that those people are the greater portion of the day without a meal. This is the only company who treat their passengers in this manner. About 40 left the steamer at 6 a.m., and proceeded by rail at 9.10 o'clock without refreshment.

The steamers "Bravo," from Copenhagen, "Domino," from Bergen, and "Sprite," from Hamburg, arrived to-day at 11 forenoon, with a total of about 210 adults; the two first-named landed their passengers at the Corporation Pier, and they were marched to some houses about a mile away for refreshments, and re-embarked at the same pier at 2 p.m. for Liverpool, via New Holland, per Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. I visited three lodging-houses in Knight Street. The emigrants arrived that morning were having some coffee, and bread and butter; the latter were good; the former questionable. A number for the Cunard Company were having soup, bread and potatoes in another house. I did not sample the soup. The rooms and bedrooms were clean, and no objection could in my opinion be made to the general sanitary condition of the houses.

The emigrants (excepting those already mentioned) were forwarded to Liverpool by North Eastern Railway about noon, and those for Glasgow were to be forwarded in the evening, there being too few of the latter for conveyance by special train.

From the agents I learnt the undermentioned steamers landed the following numbers of adults in this port yesterday:

"Romeo" from Gothenburg550
"Angelo"from Christiania170
"Hero" from Drontheim 102
"Bravo" from Copenhagen102
"Domino"from Bergen68
"Sprite"from Hamburg40

In addition to which I believe the German steamer "Hamburg" from that port brought 40, making a total of 1,072. The accommodation of the German vessel is inferior to that provided by British steamers.

The majority of the emigrants are furnished with an English (and also in some cases with a foreign) contract ticket by the Atlantic companies, whereby they undertake to provide them with a steerage passage to America, a dietary scale being specified. In that case they enter upon their contract at the first place of embarkation, and it appears to me incumbent on the part of the contractors to provide these people with accommodation, and provisions in conformity with the conditions stated on the ticket, throughout the transit.

I was led to understand by some of Messrs. Wilson's captains last year that these emigrants were deck, and not steerage passengers; there is a difference between the two classes.

The steamship owners who bring emigrants to Hull have nothing further to do with them after they and their baggage are landed; the railway fare is paid by the Atlantic Company. With regard to this subject I most respectfully submit some better arrangement than the present might be made, which would increase the comfort and protection of emigrants passing through this town. I think something ought to be done, and I would suggest than an enclosed and covered building be erected of suitable dimensions in the docks for the reception of emigrants, so that necessary rest and refreshment can be had whilst awaiting the landing and disposal of their baggage prior to proceeding by train, and thus avoid the march through the streets, and also the lodging-houses, besides other inconveniences to which they are subjected at present.

I think some such place would be of great benefit not only to the emigrants but also to the agents, were it set apart solely for that purpose, and would greatly facilitate the dispatch of the former. The expense due to the erection of some such place should be borne by those who benefit by the emigrant traffic.

The fare to Liverpool is 6 s. 6 d.; if the number to be conveyed amounts to 90 or 100, they are taken by special train; this also applies to Glasgow. The steamer's fare from Christiania or Gothenburg is 1L. 2 s. 6 d. per adult; time occupied about 48 hours.

I presume the agents here representing the Atlantic Companies hold appointments from their principals, according to Section 66 of the Passenger Act, 1855. I am not aware of any having Passage Brokers' Licenses, nor have their assistants licenses as emigrant runners, and I desire to be informed by the Board whether they come within the definition of the last clause of the 3rd section of the same Act.

In concluding this letter I will merely add that these emigrants being provided with an English contact ticket prior to the beginning of their journey, they appear to be bona fide emigrants under the British Passenger Acts, and it is incumbent upon the contracting companies to convey them in terms of that contract throughout, according to the provisions of the statute.

My information is obtained from the emigration agents and their assistants; that with regard to the lodging-houses from the proprietors, and the remainder from personal observation. Since writing the preceding, I learn that emigrants who arrive in Hull on Sunday, being considered bona fide travellers, have access at all hours to the public-houses; this is sometimes followed by drunkenness, and occasionally loss of luggage. Further, the contract ticket the emigrants receive abroad, before embarking, is a translation of our English one into their own tongue.

I am, &c
(signed) W. Cowie.

The Assistant Secretary,
Marine Department, Board of Trade, London

RETURN to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons dated 14 July 1882;- for,

COPY "of REPORTS received by the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board relating to the Transit of SCANDINAVIAN EMIGRANTS through the Port of Hull, and to the arrangements for Feeding and Lodging them while there".

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