Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Living the Life of an Outcast; They Were the Black Sheep of the Family, Sent to Australia with a Pension and Told Never to Come Home. Historian Di Millar Recalls the Remittance Men

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Living the Life of an Outcast; They Were the Black Sheep of the Family, Sent to Australia with a Pension and Told Never to Come Home. Historian Di Millar Recalls the Remittance Men

Article excerpt

Byline: LOOKING BACK Di Millar

BRITAIN once regarded the large expanse of land that became the Australian colonies as a good dumping ground where what was considered to be human rubbish could be conveniently disposed.

The first male and female prisoners convicted at the assizes in Britain and sent across the seas for a period of time that varied from seven years to life were brought ashore in New South Wales in 1788.

The last shipment of convicts disembarked in Western Australia in 1868.

Another group of outcasts that arrived in the colonies from Britain were the remittance men.

The family black sheep's condition of exile included a regular allowance paid to him on behalf of his family so long as he remained on the other side of the world away from his kin who were prepared to publicly disown him by placing an advertisement in all the reputable newspapers if he should dare to return home.

The fate of a remittance man depended on whether he was able to redeem himself in the eyes of his family or continue to live in an aimless manner.

While the stories of the men who made a success of their lives were hardly ever told, reports on those who came to an unhappy end often made it into the public domain.

One Saturday in September 1897, an unfortunate 73-year-old man by the name of Alfred Sykes was found dead in his bed at Austen's Royal Standard Hotel in Little Burke St, Melbourne.

The man had not been seen alive since the previous Wednesday but, because he was in the habit of going to bed for days at a time, little notice was taken when he failed to appear.

A hotel employee found Sykes' body, which was taken to the city morgue. It was reported aon excellent authoritya that Alfred Sykes was a relative of an English baronet, Sir Tatton Sykes, and received a regular remittance of four pounds a month.

In early 1897 a relative had died leaving him a legacy of more than 200 pounds and police found that he had a sum of about 250 pounds in a city bank. Sykes, who spent his four pounds within a few days of receiving it, was reported to be slovenly in his habits and appearance and to drink to excess.

Not all remittance men were lucky enough to die in bed.

In April 1900, Samuel Carlisle, aged 57, was found floating in the bay near the Victorian town of Geelong.

He was generally understood to have held a high position as a banking official in Ireland and had come to the colonies about 20 years earlier. Carlisle gradually sank on the social scale and his last employment was that of a rouseabout at a local hotel where he had been seen alive the day before his death.

Carlisle received 160 pounds a year from his brother's estate but at the time of his death only a three-penny piece was found in his pockets.

aFound drowneda was recorded at the magisterial inquiry into the lonely death of Samuel Carlisle who had expressed the opinion that he would be better off out of the world. …

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